Religion Magazine

When the Animals State the Obvious

By Marilyngardner5 @marilyngard

From Fridays with Robynn

Sometimes the obvious has to be stated before it resonates.

I learned this the hard way.

In 2009 Lowell had the unfortunate and momentous task of returning to India to retrieve our things. We had made the painful decision to not return to India. But there was the issue of our junk, our stuff, our years of accumulated goods. We booked the trip to coincide with another side trip he was doing in the region. We also booked it to overlap with my mom and dad who were also on a trip to Asia. They had generously offered to help Lowell sort and pack (Heaven knows they have experience!).

I had made detailed lists. I had racked my memories and our children’s childhoods. I had sifted and sorted and I had written it all down. These were the things I wanted them to find and bring back to us. Of course there were countless things I forgot. But the marvel of modernity meant that Lowell could call me and ask. I received several such calls from my mom. She knew better what a woman might wish she had.

I’ll never forget the day Lowell came home! He couldn’t bring all of our claimed trophies with him but he brought as many as he could. The rest would come later. The Rubbermaid tubs he brought were better than secret treasure found in an exotic location. They contained our secrets, our treasures from our own place, our home. It was a trip back into our past. Each prize was carefully unpacked and remembered. We cried, we laughed, we reveled, we remembered.

And oh how it all stunk! Mildew and mothballs, mold and dust, smoke and spices—all had journeyed with our things from our old world into our new. The aromas of Asia, unleashed in America, were suddenly permeating our present. It was astounding.  And, admittedly, a little overwhelming!

When the joy of discovery and memory were over I began the work of sorting it all again and finding new places for these things, suddenly so out of context, and yet so powerful and poignant to our family.

I stacked books on to our bookshelves. I placed my old favourite dishes and plates in with the assorted collection I had begun to accumulate. Table clothes, bedding, towels were all thrown into the laundry basket to be laundered.  Our girls cried when I pried stuffed animals out of their arms. The animals reeked! They needed to be washed before they could join their families of other stuffed animals.

Different types of stuffed toys

I threw the zoo in to the washing machine and then into the clothes dryer. When I started the dryer a terrible banging noise started up. The girls were in the living room playing. They wondered out loud what the horrible noise was. I was washing dishes and started to laugh, “Oh the animals are wanting out!” As soon as I said it I somehow knew. Suddenly a chill ran up my back. The animals want out!

I raced over to the dryer and opened it. There in the middle of stuffed rabbits, elephants and the odd bear sat our real life cat, Canyon! I gently removed him from the dryer. He couldn’t have been in there more than 2 minutes, but already he was very warm and his breathing betrayed his anxiety. Poor poor cat! I gave him over to our daughter, Adelaide, his favourite human. She held him and consoled him and comforted him. It took about thirty minutes for his breathing to return to normal, for his hair to stop standing on end, even longer for him to forgive me.

To this day our cat has never jumped back into the dryer. He learned an important lesson that day. And I did too. Sometimes the obvious has to be stated before it resonates. It wasn’t until I said it out loud, “Oh the animals are wanting out,” that it occurred to me: THE ANIMAL WANTS OUT!!

This is true of less amusingly traumatic things as well. Sometimes the truth has to be stated before I can learn it. I walk blindly, dimly in the dark until suddenly the light is turned on and I can finally see what’s been real the whole time. I have to acknowledge something, the truth of it, the reality of it before my soul catches on.

I am fully known.

I belong to Jesus.

I am truly loved.

Canyon, the cat, taught me that day–with his raspy irregular breath, and the hair on his back standing on end!! Sometimes the truth just needs to be declared for it to be truly heard.

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