It’s no secret that Ceara Lynch is deliciously intelligent. So it was a great pleasure when, earlier this week, I had an opportunity to chat at length with Ceara about her job, her travels, her life, and any number of other things. (You can find the entire conversation posted to her podcast Sub Space here.)
One of the things we chatted about was the subject of my last blog, Finding a Meaningful Life. We talked a little about how chasing happiness is over-rated and how there’s more to life than just being happy. I’m not going to rehash the entire conversation here, but instead invite you to tune in her podcast when you have an hour or two of listening time available.
Anyway, Ceara and I were instant messaging back and forth a bit earlier this evening; I was telling her about my canoeing adventures with one of my dogs, Clyde, back in 2006. Clyde passed away in 2011 so I really hadn’t thought about him for a while. Funny thing though; later tonight I did think about him. A lot. And in particular, I thought about what I had learned from him, and how that related to our ‘finding a meaningful life’ discussion.
You see, Clyde was a rescued beagle. When I adopted him, he was already 8 years old. A senior dog. His early years were a mystery. No one knew why or how he came to be found one day alongside a road in Ohio with a sister beagle, Bonnie. But found they were. And turned over to a rescue organization where they were fed and cared for until adoptions could be arranged. Bonnie and Clyde were split up in the adoption process; Bonnie went first, I adopted Clyde shortly thereafter.
It didn’t take long for me to develop a theory as to how Clyde came to be lost. You see, I live in a mostly rural area with lots of open farmland, fields, and forest nearby for a beagle to roam and explore. And, of course, in those fields and forest are rabbits. If anyone should know one thing about beagles, it’s that they were bred to hunt rabbits. And chase rabbits is exactly what Clyde did. It was clear to me right from the first romp in the woods that Clyde was trained for rabbit hunting. He was relentless in his pursued of the little gray critters. And so I figured both Bonnie and Clyde probably were out hunting one day with their owner when they got separated and lost. I’m told that happens a lot with hunting beagles.
Anyway, I would take Clyde out ‘hunting’ daily. It wasn’t really hunting, per se. I didn’t carry a gun. It was more about letting the old dog get some exercise running after rabbits. I would let him run and ‘hunt’, while following his loud and passion-filled baying when he was on scent. It was a sound that never failed to make me laugh out loud. The joy in his bay … the joy in his chase … was contagious. I loved hearing Clyde sound after a rabbit. I loved watching him work through the tall grass, the underbrush, and downed timber. I loved it because he loved it.
And when Clyde got too old and arthritic to chase rabbits, I took him to the park where the grass was shorter and the work easier. And he’d chase after squirrels. And the sound of his bay, his passion and enthusiasm never waned. He loved the chase. He loved having a purpose. And the people that walked nearby would do what I found myself still doing; they’d smile and laugh out loud too. Because his joy … his pure joy … was still contagious.
And so tonight I thought once again about Clyde. And I remembered the gift he gave me. He taught me a lesson about life I hadn’t learned in my previous 55 years of living. He taught me that there’s joy in the simplest of things. And that life’s purpose doesn’t have to be noble and important to be fulfilling. He taught me joy is way better than happiness. And that finding joy isn’t complicated.
And so, with that in mind, I re-listened to Ceara’s podcast once again. And I heard something in Ceara’s voice I hadn’t recognized before. Her conversation was more musical. There was a joy beneath the words. There was a joy that said, “I like people and I like talking with them.” And maybe that’s all it takes to find joy. Something as simple as having a nice conversation. Or listening to an old beagle chase after rabbits.