What a marvelous sight to see the fuzzy, goofy, crazy white dog that lives at our house cavorting around the field behind us. Her hair is shaggy, her mouth opened in as big a grin as can be grinned. Her smile lopsided but ear-to-ear with her tongue flapping out the side as some dogs do when they run. And run she does, like the wind -- she bounds up and down like a pony would on a spring day. Nothing can keep her down -- she is as free as it can get for a dog’s life, these days. She’s clever enough to stay within the confines of the field so she is without a leash. This makes her happy. Hence the wide-open Tyrannosaurus Rex toothy grin, as well as it made her name: Happy. A mix of golden and poodle. Poodles don’t smile, goldens do.
She comes immediately when called and lives to be scratched, patted and endlessly appreciated. Therefore, she has earned a ton of freedom on home turf. That allows her to launch cruise-missile-style flights after squirrels, birds, rabbits, chipmunks, moles, vols and even chickens. Quixotic all, as she never catches them. Birds gotta fly, critters gotta burrow and squirrels go up their trees. But she never quits trying or smiling about it.
While watching another of these futile launches- - me, wearing a grin almost as large as Happy’s -- an epiphany struck, piece by piece. How would we ever live without her someday as our constant companion? Our constant inspiration? Dogs only live so long and she is already almost 9. It is so easy to just roll with the day-to-day punches of our lives, the politics, the disappointments, the striving, the hassles and schedules. Sunrise, sunset, as the song goes. So easy to let time just roll on past every day -- it’s called living. We’re barely just keeping up with life, financial and work obligations, cars, possessions, driving, meetings, screen time, TV, meals, trips, the news, relatives. Time is flying and your seat was booked years ago. The seat is comfortable enough to look out the window for a minute or two but then ZAP!, a few years have gone by. Then five, 10, more. Suddenly you find yourself looking back to the past, parents, little kids, teachers, departed friends, old neighbors, Christmas plays, softball games, races, shows, walks, meals, holidays, acting roles, bands, cars, boats, choirs, houses, dogs. Precious images of great times. “Those were the days,” you think, sighing, remembering.
But watching Happy bound across the field toward us, the thought “No, these are the days” washed over me. It made me think of everyone who is close to us: friends, relatives, kids, especially grandchildren. Someday, we’d be looking back on today, thinking “those were the days.” The littlest ones were still little, the dogs still frolicked, Gloucester was still Gloucester.
Boats still sailed, neighbors still lived here, friends called, older relatives or parents were still here. No, people, stop for a second and realize that these are “those” days.
It is so important not to let them fly away as they happen. To realize what is going on. We have so many thousands of days allotted but so few to sit down, grab hold of and hug them to you.
Last year, sitting in church, I had a momentary similar reflection, thinking about those wonderful congregation members that had been there before but had moved or passed on. But looking to the right of me and to the left of me, like watching Happy, I realized then too that “these were the days,” the old days and people I would someday miss. And look what happened: the virus sped up time, broke the congregation apart in a cyclonically short period of time. Haven’t seen most of them in a year, wonder if we will ever be in the same warm club the same way.
So, carpe diem. Today is that day to seize. And tomorrow. Forgive those who have transgressed you. Bury those grudges. These are the days. Your enemies, rivals, friends, even politicians are all part of the world that will become “the old days.” Someday, you’ll look back at them and miss them, miss the past. Especially the ones who are gone -- friend and foe alike. We’re all part of a world that is Gloucester but won’t be this way for long. Hug it and them to you like it was a precious piece of art that you took for granted and above all, stop and remember: These are the days.
Gloucester resident Gordon Baird is an actor and musician, co-founder of Musician magazine and producer of “The Chicken Shack” community access TV show.