This reflection/blessing was from Micah Bucey's “Blessing of the Animals” service at Judson Memorial Church, New York City, on October 14, 2018 — which was drowned out by the glorious sounds of animals and children that morning.
I wanted to write a blessing with just enough whimsy,
With just enough light to lift us out of this present darkness.
I wanted to write a blessing for animals I’ve never met,
For humans I’d like to impress.
I wanted to write a blessing that thanked you,
Carl Thomas Dean,
For everything you’ve brought to my life,
Every snuggle, every lick, every adorable nip and nuzzle.
I wanted to write a blessing that thanked you for being
Nothing but a holy blessing to me.
So I nestled myself in this expensive armchair,
And opened up my expensive laptop,
And I sat down to write this,
And you, my little perfect possession, my piece of puppy property,
Came prancing out of my bedroom,
With an unholy disaster hanging from your mouth.
I don’t know how you got ahold of it,
Or why you like the taste of decades-old, smelly paper,
But you, you destroyer, you devil, you demon, you thief,
You somehow found the one thing in this house
That I wanted to protect more than anything,
And you, you mangy mangler of all things good,
You did what you do best:
You destroyed it,
Just like when you destroyed this armchair by vomiting on it, twice,
Just like when you knocked this laptop off my desk corner, twice,
And left Carl-sized stains and nicks and reminders that you’ve been there,
And that you’ll be back,
Just like you’ve maimed and destroyed what was once my own leisurely daily life.
Now, some might say I shouldn’t be spending wads of cash
On such a simple thing as a book,
Actually, many might say that.
But you just don’t understand: This is a rare book.
This is a book that is so hard to find that it barely ever shows up on eBay.
This is a book that was disowned by its author
And banished into obscurity decades ago,
And I, an avid reader, an avid collector,
I waited for years, I saved for years, I bided my time and pinched my pennies,
And when the calendar and my wallet lined up, for once,
I bought it and never looked back.
And that book, that expensive,
Beautifully-bound human adult toy now hangs from your wild jaws,
A victim of your basest, animal instincts.
Saint Francis, deliver us.
You might not know this
(As I don’t really know how information travels in canine circles),
But there’s this guy, Saint Francis, who supposedly talked to animals.
And I don’t mean the four-letter words
You made me shout a few moments ago.
This guy Francis spoke words of blessing to beasts, words of love,
Words of creative consecration.
He started with birds, then he moved to rabbits, lambs, fish, donkeys,
But the animal I’m most interested in at this very moment,
The untameable animal whom Francis is said to have tamed,
Was a wolf.
Because that’s what you are, Carl Thomas Dean, in this dreadful moment,
You are a wild wolf lurking in beagle’s clothing.
I trusted you. I fed you. I bathed you. I anthropomorphized you!
I even named my Wifi network after you!
And you’ve betrayed that trust with a swipe of your puny paws
And a gnashing of those tiny teeth.
How can I look at, let alone bless, you now?
And you, you little charlatan,
You look at me and set your prey down.
Your brow furrows into a curious curl,
And your jaw hangs open in a perplexed pout.
I have raised my voice and I have shouted words
And from my widened eyes to my flaring nostrils to my grimacing mouth,
My face is a fusion of fever and fury, my voice a horrific howl,
And you let out one, sorrowful whimper,
And with that one sound, with that one look,
You say to me, “Now, who’s the animal here?”
And as your eyes focus in on mine,
As you hold my stare in silent sympathy,
I suddenly remember everything,
Every animal I’ve ever known.
Our black lab Chopper, who protected me as a toddler,
Our marmalade cat Morris, who never quite took to me,
Our cocker spaniel, Marsh, who never lifted his leg to pee,
Our dalmatian Bumpus, our border collie Fergie,
And Parker, and Flannery, and Oscar, and Harper,
And Priscilla, and Ben Franklin, and Petunia,
And Spud, and Spencer, and Sassette,
And Cat Stevens, and Little Wonder,
And Samantha, and Bo, and Sandy,
And Terry the turtle, Mrs. Lovett and Sweeney Todd the fish, Nero the Newt,
And the dozens of praying mantis babies I once stole from a tree.
I look into your quizzical stare, Carl,
And I remember the fish I once caught who looked at me, incredulously,
As it breathed its last breaths, as if it were saying,
“Really? You’re the ugly thing I get to look at as I die?”
I remember the turkeys and cows and pigs on my grandparents’ farm,
All speaking their own languages in that Ranch of Babel.
I remember every beast who has brushed my leg,
Every critter who has cuddled my chest,
Every unknown being who has filled my plate,
And I think: “I’m an animal. You deserve so much more than me.”
In your face, Carl, I see the faces of every living thing,
Every creature, great and small, ornery and obedient,
Obstinate and affectionate, all things bright and beautiful,
And I think: “What would Saint Francis do?
What would Saint Francis say?
How would Saint Francis pick up the pieces of this mangled moment?”
See, no matter what, no matter how much I say I laud you,
No matter how much I say I want to bless the animals,
When the pet poop hits the fan, I want to be the one in the right.
I want to be the one who offers or denies the blessing.
I think you’re the animal,
And that I’m the magical “human” who knows what’s best.
No matter how much I long for your love, or treasure your smell,
Or laugh at your endlessly-cute shenanigans,
At the end of the day, I want to be in control.
I think you’re a wolf who needs to be tamed,
While I think I should be allowed
To wildly stalk this world and bend it to my whim.
But you know better than I do, don’t you?
You ate that book because you wanted to taste
Something I so prized and cherished.
You didn’t do it to hurt me. You did it to make a connection.
You did it because you saw it in my hands last night,
Because it smelled like me,
Because you want to know why we humans focus on material things so often,
When the mysteries of the world are so much more interesting.
And even if you didn’t do it for any of those reasons,
It’s so much more fun to imagine it that way.
We could call it teething, but I’d rather call it loving,
And I’d love to believe that we can learn to love better together,
You getting a bit better at chewing on things meant to be chewed,
And me getting a bit better at knowing
That this world wasn’t made for me to simply chew up and spit out.
Saint Francis would look at you and beg you for a blessing.
Because you are the ones with the power to bless us.
We think we hold the keys to the kingdom,
Because we created an industrial age that’s suffocating us now,
Because we created technology that keeps our heads buried in screens,
Because we created farming systems that strip you of your dignity,
Because we groan and grieve the death of the earth,
But keep killing it, instead of recreating it.
But you are the creators, you animals who bless us every day.
You remind us how simply sublime the garden was before we humans humanized ourselves and dehumanized everything else.
I know, I know.
You had to hear me yell and now you’re getting a lecture.
But I promise: It’s not a lecture, it’s a confession.
It’s not a diatribe, it’s an apology.
It’s not a berating, it’s a blessing.
You are a blessing to me because you remind me
That I’m an animal.
You are a blessing to me because you remind me
That being an animal comes with responsibility.
You are a blessing because you remind me
To not take myself, my plans, my human-ness too seriously.
And when I do dip into self-seriousness,
You are there to lovingly chew up my most-prized possessions
Just to bring the point home.
So, as you hold my stare in this mangled moment,
I ask only for this:
Chew up my plans for tomorrow and bless my nervous now.
Remind me that Saint Francis listened more than he spoke.
Dig holes into my ego,
Sniff out my human assumptions,
Feed me freedom I have never dared to taste,
And remind me to belong to you as I so want you to belong to me.