I’ve had plenty of opportunity to think about kin these past months.

I left a church that had woven its heart into my own. We became Spirit kin and moving from them left me wobbly.

I arrived at a new place of making life, soul and ministry and have found kindreds who share hunger and thirst for hope and grace. We are making ourselves known to each other in the breaking of bread and the sharing of song and story. I preach and lead worship with pores open, seeking to hear their hearts and feel their questions. We are learning what it means to be kin.

My children by birth and by marriage have been surrounding their clergy parents with support and love and ground during this time of transition.

Cooper and I are learning a new town and new topography and a life without traffic jams and abundant concrete. The land here speaks in cadences of corn and curve.

We are listening to our lives.

On this day my children by birth are gathering at our cabin. They are celebrating a “sib fest”.

In their midst will be my eldest daughter’s dog. Chela came into Leah’s life in Denver after having roamed the streets. She has been Leah’s steadfast companion during times when her dog heart grounded my daughter in ways life saving. Sometimes I felt like Chela was my heart, able to companion and ground my daughter when I could not.

Said dog is very sick.

I pray body wisdom for my Pit-Bull granddog and heart ease for her mother.

And on this day my heart is sounding wonder about the vastness of love.

Love claims and and companions the making of life and it stretches hearts to the aching place.

We wobble, listen, weep and grow.

We are held by kin who walk on two legs and those who walk on four.

Blessed be.

dogs and houses

We are readying our house for sale.

This house energetically reached out and grabbed me from the moment I first entered her front door.

Home for the last nine years is a grand old foursquare Victorian. She has gleaming wood and stained and leaded glass windows and she has held us with such grace. Parties – those I know about and the many I do not – to celebrate graduations and weddings and college leave-takings and returns and room to settle when life threw curves and coffee pots drained and cards dealt and meals shared and flotsam and jetsam accumulated through nine years of merging and setting out; all these things live in this place.

We are readying her for her next work.

And we are having to do our own work of celebrating and marking and mourning that which was and that which will be no more as well as that which will always be.

It seems I tell my life through dogs and houses.

I mark my days and ways of being according to the dog love and the house that conspired to hold me.

This house has held me and mine with such grace.

It is the house of Zoe, Mick and Ball and an Olm Wiggen Macaulay clan made flesh under her roof.

Good work.

dog friend

We waited (and waited and WAITED) for the right time to find a dog friend.

Our old black lab still lives largely in our hearts. We wanted to give some time for grieving to be. Truthfully, Cooper was much more attentive to the wait business than I was.

So we began to look. We fell truly in love with a black lab/great Dane mix at the Animal Humane society in Minneapolis. We were at the sign the contract stage when we discovered that she already had been claimed by another family. That was hard.

We waded through the considerable angst of Jameson’s illness, found ourselves with a week at the cabin and decided that we would check out the local dog scene.

There was a lab/great Dane mix in Cloquet, so we drove there and were ready to fall in love.

We did fall in love, but not with the dog we expected. That dog was HUGE and not too interested in anything but jumping.

We walked through the shelter. There were many dogs. But the one that caught my tender husband’s heart was a flat-out mutt with the most soulful eyes in dogdom. His name was “Carl”. He looked the part (no offense to any Carls out there!).

He is a mix of Pit Bull and Retriever and Cooper swears Foxhound (ask him why that is so. His imagination is boundless). He is a little over a year, has known two different owners and was, from the behavioral signs, mightily abused.

During our discernment time we were able to spend time with him out of his cage. He crawled on his belly to meet us, his eyes full of love and his body not sure that anything but misery was coming his way.

Of course he went home with us.

We spent the night trying to convince him he could not move into our skin. He is huge of heart, needful of training, and our dog.

What is it about being a dog household? Somehow heart is expanded exponentially and hearth is furred and grounded in ways mysterious and real.

Mickey is home. We have much to learn together but this I know:

Mickey is home.


I’m learning this new life; a life without Zoe.

The smallest things lurch my heart.

When arising, we had a ritual of greeting.  We’d have a conversation about whether the night on the couch was to her liking (I know, dogs on furniture are anathema to some but she was old and creaky and I could deny her nothing in the comfort department).  She would gaze into my eyes as I appreciated the silk of her ears.  Her fine dog smell graced me before I moved to the second grace smell of morning:  coffee!

Scraps of food in this house are no more cause for canine celebration.  We throw them away without being able to hail the dog with great good news of treats.

There is no click of nails on the floor or jingle of collar or nudge of nose when a petting is due.

There is no welcome when we come home and no barking salvo when anyone nears the fiercely and loudly protected domain of her house.

The space left behind is immense.

I’m left pondering the mystery of dog companionship.  For fourteen years she raised children, comforted the lonely and found her pleasures in bread and fishing.  She asked for little.  In return for food and loving she gave and gave and gave.

I’m missing that giving.  I breathe my thanks for her being.  I apprehend the vast space she has left behind.

I’m humbled by the power of grief and gratitude, both.



Zoe Mackenzie Macaulay Wiggen Olm

We first met Zoe when she was one of eight puppies living under a trailer outside of Duuth.

We had just gone to look (yeah, right).  We had been without a dog for all of two weeks.  Our house didn’t feel like home without a dog.  So off we went.

How we decided on Zoe is family legend.  Rachel chose her and after trying to mind-meld with the wiggly black puppy with white socks around compatibility, we agreed that she would join our family.

Cute is a small word.  Zoe was that and she was also immensely spirited when it came to shredding furniture and most anything else her imagination decided it wanted to engage.

She almost didn’t last.  There were deals made over and over again until she reached that lovely age of three or so when it seemed she grew a conscience and some sense of self-preservation.

She grew to be a dog steadfast of heart.  Always Zoe greeted us with enthusiasm.  Always she had time to commune with the brokenhearted.  Always she responded to the rustle of bread bags and pizza delivery persons.

She was a devoted fisherwoman.  She spent hours at the cabin walking two feet or so out in the water.  Her tail broadcast her joy and her sure conviction that those fish were hers to manage.

For fourteen years, Zoe has been heart touchstone for our family.

We have watched in the past year as she has struggled with aging.  We knew that she would let us know when it was time to say goodbye.

Yesterday she couldn’t much walk without falling.

It was time.

Today was gentle goodness.  We had the day off so there were many opportunities to snuggle up next to her and smell the good of her.  Her beloved children came home for quiet loving.  She let us lift her and carry her to the car.

At the vet, as preparations were made, she laid in our laps and seemed to be ministering to us through the ways she lived trust and love until she breathed no more.

Oh, to have shared life and heart with the best dog in the world.  The house echoes lament; my heart grieves for the wanting of her.

But the dog who companioned us all through so many shifts and changes and comings and goings is free.

It was time.






moment by moment

It was one of those cherished oasis times in the midst of much.

Cooper and I were sharing coffee this morning.  Around us was the detritus of young adults moving out – Rachel today and Jameson tomorrow.  It was a breathing time.

Until I let the dog in and she was going nuts.  She kept trying to get out of her own skin and she took her misery into the living room where Cooper was sitting.  At first I thought she had gotten into a wildly improbable patch of burrs.  I couldn’t figure it.

And then I realized she was covered in angry hornets.  Twenty or more of them.  Bedeviling her for all they were worth and can I just say this:  Cooper is deathly allergic to hornet stings.

So there we were, this trio of the consumed.  Zoe was consumed by misery, Cooper consumed by the desire to help and the desire to flee, both, and I was consumed by the need to protect my beloveds from the terror of the angry hornets.

I shooed Zoe out into the yard again, figuring it would buy me some time to be sure that Cooper was not stung.  The hornet killing commenced inside but oh, when I looked at my sweet girl she was again covered with even more of the hornets.

I tried swatting them off of her but they turned their anger on me and were not too interested in leaving their fur hostess, so I got out the hose and even then they would not let go so it was a drench and pluck technique adopted by this pajama-wearing mama.

After a trip to the vet and a shot of Benedryl, Zoe is fine, I hope.  I’m to watch for hives.  An exterminator is even now at the house dousing that nest of death with move-out enticements.

But oh, the agony of it all.  Into the midst of the idyllic, misery can swarm in and deal terror.  My beloveds are safe on this morning.  I can laugh at the tableau of a dancing woman in her pajamas wielding a hose on her terrified dog.  I can give thanks for the ways the swarm is vanquished and the back yard made safe again.

But, as poet Jane Kenyon so powerfully states, it might have been otherwise.

We are safe for this moment.  Thanks be.