Someone recently asked me for a list of favorites - favorite sound, favorite scent, favorite music - and the answers that immediately came up for me were inspired by some of my most intimate moments and memories. As much as I love - and encourage - big dreams, great leaps and a healthy practice of daring-do, I am moved most often by the smaller details, the tiny bits of my day-to-day that exist only under my own roof. When responding to my friend's query, I gave a detailed description of my favorite sound, a story that started with Tilda, our chocolate lab.
Tilda is four years old. For most of her life, the rule in our house was that our bed was off-limits...until last spring, when I got sick, wanted her company, and encouraged her to lay down next to me while I watched movies and slept. Just like that, a precedent was set, and from that point forward one of her favorite napping spots was - you guessed it - our bed. While it was tempting to firmly and forcefully dissuade her from continuing this habit, my husband and I couldn't resist her squirmy, stubborn resistance anytime we tried coaxing her off the bed. Once she experienced the expansive comfort of our king-size Temper-pedic mattress, all bets were off. And she looked so happy and relaxed! So we let it go, and set a new rule: Our bed was off-limits once it was time to go to bed.
This rule made sense. It might be a king-size bed, but she's a stocky, 60 pound lab who loves to stretch out. On the few occasions we've broken this rule ("She's not feeling well," or "I'm leaving town tomorrow"), it actually hasn't worked very well, and half the time she ends up in her own bed anyway. Whether she decides to curl up in her bed in the middle of the night or not, as soon as I wake up in the morning I smile in anticipation of a new family ritual that started not long after we opened the borders to the kingdom of our bed.
As the sun peeks in through our shades, we hear Tilda start to wake up. She gets up, shakes, and then makes her way to our bed. In one quick leap, she's on the bed, ready for us to start the day. One of two scenarios then happens - if we're ready to wake up, she sees our eyes open and dives right in for kisses. She's wiggly and happy and eager - every single morning. In the other scenario - if we're not ready to wake up - we gently hold her back with eyes half-closed and tell her to lay down. She obliges pretty quickly, and then we all fall back asleep.
This is when we have to be careful, because after we've all enjoyed a little more slumber time, we don't dare open our eyes until we know for sure we're ready to get up. If we stir or re-adjust, it has to be done with eyes closed. If she sees our eyes open, it's all over. The good news is that if she sees us awake, it means I'm in for my favorite morning ritual, which involves her tail, and my favorite sound. It goes like this: Tilda is laying down and lifts her head to look at us. Seeing open eyes - seeing us give her the look that says, "We're awake!" - her tail starts immediately wagging, which creates a soft whomp whomp whomp whomp whomp on our bed. If we smile, the wagging and whomping gets louder and more frequent. It is this sound - in the midst of chirping birds and the morning bells from the Santa Barbara Mission - that makes my heart stir every single time. It is this sound I savor most of all. The whomp whomp whomp of a dog - our dog - thrilled that a new day has begun every single morning without fail.
The whomp whomp whomp reminds me each day is a gift and every moment is to be cherished. It reminds me how blessed I am to wake up everyday next to my husband in a home we love, with a dog we adore. It reminds me to celebrate every ounce of joy available to me, and to leap into each day with gusto. It reminds me to keep dreaming big and pursuing my passions, but not at the cost of this - of quiet moments with my family, relaxed mornings in bed, and the whomp whomp whomp of Tilda's tail. Without those "little" things, the "big" things don't matter. WIthout these joys, the successes mean nothing.
Bella Grace is a new publication from the beauties who create Somerset Life, Somerset Studio and Mingle magazine, devoted to discovering magic in the ordinary. It is thick, beautiful, and inspiring, and I am honored to have my byline in their premiere issue. Leave a comment here to be entered in a drawing to win a FREE COPY, delivered right to your doorstop.
UPDATE: We have a winner! Thank you so much to everyone for your wonderful comments. I love reading about everyone's dogs and cats and morning routines!!