The Advent Walk (Guest Co-Author, Rorie the Dog)
First you get yourself a dog.
Then you go out the door.
Then you walk.
The greatest thing about an Advent walk is that it's not much different than any other walk.
Except it's in Advent.
Maybe, at first, you'd think that this would make it a little less special, less meaningful.
But that's silly.
This is the way we Americans like to ritualize our special days.
We get into the holiday spirit by shopping, listening to the same music over and over again, eating a lot, and watching sports on T.V.
See, you just do what you normally do, and put an adjective in front of it.
Of course, Advent isn't a holiday. It's really supposed to be more of a time of preparation and reflection and even repentance as we . . . .
Awww, who are we kidding?
It's 25 extra days of Christmas, added to the original 12, because, as citizens of the richest and greatest nation on the earth, we are sure that anything God CAN do to stimulate our economy, God must WANT to do.
And we will fight to the death any liberal who resists stretching Christmas from the day after Halloween to Super Bowl Sunday.
But, as I say, everyone can do an Advent Walk. It's almost as easy as opening an Advent Calendar and eating a chocolate prophet or angel.
All you really need is a dog. named. Rorie.
It helps if you get home rather late from work because then Rorie will be all jumpy and ready to go.
So you get out the door, and she goes.
It also helps if you have a light dusting of snow. Too much snow and Rorie gets the old ice-packed stomach thing happening.
And then you walk.
If it's December 9th, you won't see the moon or any stars. You will, instead, see clouds that look like more snow is on the way.
Of course, it's cold out, no colder than you are thinking right now unless you are in Montana.
That's good, we can make that cold symbolic of something. Maybe we can even name one of the Advent candles "the cold candle."
But not too symbolic. You don't want your symbolism to be uncomfortable.
So wear your brown Ecco scarf made in "West Germany," your Notre Dame wool cap, and those cheap gloves you bought in Central Park the day Noel died. That already have holes in them.
Rorie likes to walk on the snow-covered grass and leaves more than on the snow-covered asphalt. This is at it should be for in ancient Israel dogs never walked on snow-covered asphalt.
She also likes to chase rabbits, and, if she is lucky, as she was tonight, she will see several darting through the snow. I must admit, neither of us get tired of that sight. I mean, I'll bet old Saint Francis saw bunnies in the snow on his Advent walks back in . . . the Saint Francis days. Anyway, the similarity ends there, since I have no desire to run after the rabbit, break its neck with my jaws, and shake it back and forth until it dies. Rorie. is. weird. that. way.
The main thing obviously on the Advent Walk is to see all the bright and even increasingly noisy Advent decorations in the neighbors' yards. Of course, they call them Christmas decorations, but they don't know everything. They probably would say that I'm just walking the dog too. How little they know about the liturgical year.
Well, it turns out that my next-door neighbor has "Happy Holidays" projected on his garage somehow. Well, that's pretty cool. In a projected kind of way. I mean, my mom used to make my dad drive 100 miles up the Texas/Mexican border to find tumbleweed so she could "flock" them (I said "flock" which apparently means spray-paint) and make a snow man in our front yard since it pretty much never was under 60 degrees. But, like I said, you can't argue with a projected "Happy Holidays" on your garage. With a projected wreath in the middle.
And some of the other neighbors have inflated Advent characters like the Grinch and Reindeer and Frosty. But the ultimate is down a couple of blocks where they have one or two of just about every thing--inflated, lit-up, animated, flashing, AND with music. It's either the best house decorations ever or a bad imitation of those strobe-light Advent light shows that were all the rage back in the Bush years. Whatever, I will give them this much credit. Rorie. stood. there. in. awe. For a moment. Then she crawled under their pickup truck and hid until I finally dragged her out.
But maybe where you walk there won't be any garish Advent decorations or "Happy Holiday" projections. Ha. Just joking. Maybe if you lived on the moon. But let's say, for discussion's sake, that there aren't any. You could still have a perfectly fine Advent walk if you have a dog named Rorie leading you. I think the most important part of the Advent walk is moving and following. It's not like you really get any where. You end up back where you started. But you moved. And you followed. And, maybe, if you are like Rorie and me, you pondered.
Sure, you already know that I pondered plenty about that projected "Happy Holidays." But don't you see it got me thinking about my mother and father and our happy and not-so-happy Advent days of yore. And my gloves had me pondering Noel, whom I miss every day, and will more and more as we move towards his birthday and Christmas.
And of course, Rorie is pondering too. Probably thinking about how mean Jenny is for not taking her out in the morning when she needs to go. And how mean Lauren used to be for the same reason. And how nice I am. Or maybe she remembers her early days as a tiny puppy in an Amish puppy mill. Or she dreams of carrots. Or she remembers, with deep regret, the day her dreams came true, the day a perfectly yummy squirrel actually fell out of a tree practically into her mouth in Memorial Park on one of our summer Advent walks. And she was so surprised she let her get away.
She had her. And she let her get away. I can relate to that. I've done some deep Advent pondering on that particular topic. And lots of time thinking about my early days on the puppy mill. And how mean I was to Jenny, and to Lauren, and to so many other people I've lost count but sometimes their faces rise up before me like that horrible Frosty inflated thing at the corner of Church and German. And every awful regret that makes me want to just stop walking or stop following or let Rorie take care of her own damn self.
But I won't do that. I kind of like following someone on a walk. On the pilgrimage, having someone out in front always gives you a goal. If it's the right person, it might even be symbolic. Anyway, it gives you a direction.
Lead on Rorie dog. Lead on past your funny little paw prints in the snow. Past my massive Doc Marten tracks. Past the final bunny running across German Street on this the 9th day of Advent, and up the unsteady steps and into the kitchen.
One MilkBone for you. Herbal tea for me. And now, we are ready. Before you slip off into your well-earned snoring, how about feeding me some ideas for our next Ironic Advent Meditation. What's that? Tell. About. The. Giant. Lights. . . . Sure. Will do. And. Say. I. Caught. A. Rab. . . . . Yeah sure, good night Rorie. Sweet Dreams. Happy Holidays. Jenny is coming home tomorrow.