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Claim your poetic license

Picture of the author, his brother, father and first dog
Me, my big brother, my father, my first best friend - Cheeko

I’ve found David Whyte’s “Consolations - The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words” to be inspiring in many ways of late. The form of writing is particularly intriguing. The reflections on 52 familiar words is somewhere between a collection of short, didactic essays, and poetry. Whyte explores, extols, and illuminates aspects of everyday words that usually go unnoticed. He takes us deeper into relationship with these words and how they describe aspects of our lives. I’ve been enjoying them in small bites, reading no more than one new entry a day, while reviewing the previous day’s entry as well. They take 5 minutes to read, and yet all day to absorb.

Recognizing these as meditations on experience, and that writing in this way would be an opportunity to challenge myself to think more deeply and creatively than I might without making the effort, I decided to give it a go. Reflecting on the sense of adventure arising as I thought of exploring this new way of writing reminded of my decision to be try out vegetarianism several decades ago. My initial motivation was merely to liven up my diet. I realized that I just kept going back to the same old staples, even though, having moved to Seattle, I was having opportunities every day to try new and different things. Forcing myself to only eat vegetarian had a huge impact on my diet and opened me up to so many delicious experiences. Although I’ve given up that restriction, I have not given up the tendency to eat the dish less familiar.

In that spirit, I offer a reflection on loyalty. It’s my attempt to tap into a way of reflecting and communicating in a way that is thoughtful and spontaneous. It is in no ways meant to be comprehensive, much less “accurate” - I claim poetic license. I’ve definitely enjoyed practicing this past week on a variety of words. Looking back to Monday’s exercise today confirms the exercise was worth the effort for my internal needs of fulfillment.


Is what we project onto our dogs. For good reason. Loyalty is what we cannot accept from our lovers, our siblings, our children, our parents. When it manifests, through caring words, bold actions of protection, through tender presence, or silence, we are touched deep within our souls. Often the power is too much to take in. We squirm our way out of accepting that another person could truly care for us deeply enough to stand with us in times of need, in times of shame. Perhaps we fear that we could not reciprocate such a gift.

On the other hand, our desire to be loyal, to see ourselves as loyal, can drive us to do foolish things. Like standing by a beloved while they drink themselves into hell. Never challenging (silence), cleaning up the social chaos, defending the violations of morality, we are ready to go down with the ship. Our loyalty will take us all the way down to the bottom.

What an odd thing, that we struggle to accept loyalty and so easily give it where it may not be what is needed most.

Being loyal to ourselves in moments of peril is the truly hard task. The burden of maturity is to know when to hold them, know when to fold them. The problem is that we don’t know that we are enmeshed in an internal, unconscious battle for our souls. Our childhood and ancestral wounds lie deep in the shadow. Our loyal soldiers always standing guard to assure we not be harmed again. Never doubt, the soldiers are brave and stoic, they can endure picking at the scab, twisting of the arm, suffocation.

Thank god for dogs.

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