Back in 1988, E.P. Dutton published The Tao of Pooh. It was about that silly bear, Winnie-the, and how he exemplified the Way of the Tao.
I'd like to take that one letter shorter. This blog is about the Tao of poo.
When he was a baby, I always enjoyed changing Josh's diapers. (Changing another kid's diaper, on the other hand, not so fun.) I looked down at him, and he looked up at me from the changing table. It was a focused time that we spent in each other's presence, without effort or distraction. On the changing table, he learned "wiggle-wiggle-wiggle." I wrapped my hands around his chubby little body and jiggled him, saying, "wiggle, wiggle, wiggle!" Soon, when I gave the command, he would wiggle all by himself. I smiled down at him and said, "hi!," over and over again, every day. Soon, he smiled back at me and mouthed that little word.
The changing table was a happy place, but Josh never minded having a diaper swapped out wherever we happened to be. I could change him on my lap. I could change him on a table. Our hearts and minds could still share that one activity with total mindfulness. And that is my understanding of the way of the Tao.
Dog poo is different from diapers, of course, but it also has a Taoist as well as Christian aspect. (The first shall be last; the least shall be mostest.) The stink of poo focuses my thoughts on the swift completion of my task. The poo is yin; the walk is yang. I walk the middle path, tethered to the dogs in the one hand, and the bag of poo, in the other. Freedom and responsibility.
Poo reminds us that we are earth-bound creatures whose soil is as fetid as any earthly muck. Our thoughts may be abstract; we may soar through the sky in planes; yet our waste is as stinky as the foulest swamp.
Not since Josh was in diapers has my life been so dominated by poo.
I have two horses, three dogs, and four cats. Each horse poops forty pounds of poo per day. I'm thinking two goats, rather than a third horse, might be best: Goats not only eat weeds, they also poop pellets--small, innocuous pellets. Therein lies the irony of the goat, that comical, indiscriminate eater, devour-er of cans, weeds, and all manner of inferior cuisine; yet he poops charming little pellets. The ridiculous goat, yet he poops like an angel.
When I think about the majestic horse, I must also consider the forty pounds of poo that goes with. Though I bask in their reflected glory, yet I must also troll the pastures with barrow and fork. I must wake up early every day to clean their muck. I don't mind doing it; in fact, truthfully, I enjoy it a lot.
I have a fork, (like a pitch-fork, but lighter, with more tines). I stab into the muck, and toss it into the air like a pizza, separating wood shavings from poo. It takes a certain technical virtuosity that can only be achieved with mindfulness. It's no good to hurry; better to leave it undone and come back later, when I have time. If I try to hurry, I'll only drop poo and make a mess.
So, if your life is full of poo, like mine, rejoice! I count among life's little pleasures the sifting of cat litter through a miniature rake. Who invented clumping litter? I'd like to thank them.
Cleaning up poo: The cats appreciate it. The horses appreciate it. The dogs don't give a crap, but everyone who walks the path they poop on appreciates it...though I won't receive their thanks. But that's not what it's about. It's not about me. It's about caring for others. It's about being a good custodian of the path. It's about getting my head out of the clouds and remembering that we are all physical, earthly beings; producers and purveyors of poo; caught between heaven and earth; between ingestion and waste; between nature and nurture; between dry and humid; between poetry and poo.
Mindfully, I walk the middle path, bending down to bag the poo along the way.