May 4, 2014
Annie’s nose is very small—no larger than the tip of my finger—and it is very pink. She uses it every waking moment, and, I suspect, uses it also when she is asleep. To startle Annie, you must be able to get past her ears and her nose.
Annie uses her nose to study history. Did Gizmo, a highly disliked dog-type acquaintance, have the temerity to lie on the couch on Annie’s blanket while visiting? Wash the blanket immediately!!
She uses it to predict the weather. When Annie senses a storm approaching she turns away from the door, collects a treat as her wage for service as house weather-cat, then in an immediate, business-like manner, goes upstairs to ground in her “cave” under the bed.
Annie uses her nose for people study. As a people watcher, I am baffled (and impressed) by Annie's accuracy in assessing visitors. She outscores me by embarrassingly large margins. It’s much easier to fool me than to mislead Annie’s clinically sensitive nose.
And Annie uses her nose to speak love—in times of quiet, gentle safety Annie will sometimes climb on my shoulder then touch my cheek softly with her small cool nose.
When my friend observed me standing for some time, holding the door open for Annie, my friend thought that Annie was simply doing a “duchess” act, and requiring me to wait respectfully until she decided if Her Grace was going to spend the morning “in” or “out.” This was not the case, however.
Annie was using her nose to respond to every nuance of spring in the early morning air. She would inhale a delicate sample of air with her nose high to the right. Then she would inhale a second sample taken with her nose lower and to the left. Then a sample from center, then again from the right but from a lower point this time. Watching her, I thought that any researcher would be compelled to admire her careful random selection of data.
And here, I thought too, was Annie, God’s small creature, recognizing and enjoying the world of her Creator with sensitivity, discernment and appreciation that registered at a level beyond my skills. When in whatever way “wonderful” registers in Annie’s brain Annie and God share a moment of mutual joy in which I can be only an observer participant.
So—was waiting as Annie sampled the morning air an act of “spoiling that cat” or something closer kin to humility?
If, as I have suggested, humility entails placing oneself in context, then, odd as it may sound, what I was doing in that moment lay closer to humility than unwise Annie indulgence.
In that shared context, I experienced a moment of insight. Annie’s gift of discernment lay beyond mine—she could “know” the complex nuances of spring in ways I can never know. I sensed too, that I can know that I know spring in a way that lies forever outside Annie’s capacity. Without question, Annie has the nose, but my consciousness and language lie beyond her. And in some way that defies language itself, it takes both Annie and me to tell God “Good morning,” and add, “This is an incredible, glorious morning with green and spring and new turning toward life in every breath we breathe.”
Whatever else humility involves it certainly requires the act of placing oneself in the context of God’s story. In doing this, we see that we are certainly not the only character in the story, and other characters serve roles we cannot fill.
As Annie and I stood motionless in the doorway sampling spring and rejoicing, my friend was buttering the cinnamon-raisin toast, and celebrating breakfast.
Humility requires a profound acknowledgement of inter-dependency.
Life is a gift that we receive together—it took us all to have that spring morning—God, the Giver of new life, in whose design the tiny leaves unfold, the gift of my friend making breakfast, the smell of the cinnamon-raisin toast, my love of knowing with words, and Miss Annie’s nose to identify what some of us could sense in part but she could more fully know.
Because you are, I am.
Isn’t acceptance of this reality the heart of humility?
Grateful today that you are so that I may be (Miss Annie, you too).
See you next week.