This morning I’m pleased to have my friend Susan Warren Utley’s guest post on the nature of love. When you’re done reading her lovely post, check out my post on Filling the Well over at Creative Procrastination. And now here’s Susan.
This morning as I sit before my keyboard contemplating love, the writing topic of the day, my muse is at my feet. I stare down at her and pose the question, “When you think of the word love, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?” The four year old Jack Russell Terrier stares up at me and tilts her head as if contemplating my question. Then in an instant she jumps up and is gone. I call after her as she heads off toward the living room, “Thanks a lot Lucy. You’re a big help.”
A few moments later I hear the clicking of her nails upon the wood floor as she reenters the studio. She has something in her mouth. It is Duck. Or rather, it was Duck. Now it is just a slobbery mess of shredded brown and orange fabric not a single piece of stuffing remaining inside it’s formless body. I’m fairly certain she ate the squeaker. This is the fate of all stuffed creatures that enter this house. They must be skinned alive, their pelts carried around as trophies for weeks until one day they mysteriously disappear. On that day Lucy sulks and paces in front of the trash as if to say, “You had no right. I killed it. It belonged to me.”
She approaches with caution and lays the coveted remains at my feet. “I don’t have time to play,” I say. “I have to write. I have a deadline,” I insist.
But she is persistent. She picks up the irreparable fowl, shakes it vigorously between her jaws as if going for the overkill and tosses it once again at my feet.
I sigh. “Duck’s days are numbered, you know.” I reach for the remains. Just as my fingertips hover above the mutilated carcass she snatches it away again, tossing it over her head. She proceeds to roll around on the flattened toy, her tail wagging as she wiggles her body back and forth embedding the scent of the fibers in her coat.
I watch her play for a few moments and then I get it. This is her answer. It’s just a shredded duck but it belongs to her. Love is an attachment, a connection we feel to all the things we become accustomed to over the years. Things we can’t bear to part with even though they might not be as perfect as they once were.
I am reminded of a fuzzy bear who has lost most of his fuzz, the one the girl wouldn’t go anywhere without. A collector bear worth thousands, but priceless to her, so she keeps it. Or the sweatshirt, ripped and faded, the one you agreed was not good enough to donate but argued that it was still too good for the trash. It reminds you of home, so you keep it. Or the man whose hair is a little thinner and eyes a little older, but they still look at you with the same expression you saw for the first time so many years ago. It’s a look that says he’d do anything for you, so you keep him.
I stare down at the white dog, the one who challenged me as a pup with sharp teeth and an angry snarl. The one who steals from the nativity scene making me chase her around the house screaming “Drop the baby Jesus!” The one who destroys anything with a face. Here she stands holding in her mouth the shredded remains of a stuffed duck made of indestructible fabric. She eyes me suspiciously and takes a step backwards. “Don’t worry,” I say, “you can keep it.” A tilt of her head and a wag of her tail, and I know this is love. She may not be perfect and on occasion she can be the cause of all that falls apart at the seams, but I’ve become attached to her. She’s my muse, so I keep her.
Susan Warren Utley began her writing endeavors around the age of eight years old with the chronicles of a pair of houseflies named Charlie and Freckles. She went on to stories about an invisible blind cat who ran into furniture and a giant talking turtle who stalked her in the basement. Now that she’s all grown up, her roles as daughter, sister, wife and mother have taught her that the unexpected twists and turns of real life are at the heart of every good story. Still, the child within embraces the origins of her writing and she never underestimates the power of a talking turtle. She blogs at Creative Procrastination, and talks writing and life on Twitter.