In Praise of Black Dogs
I am in favor of personal superstitions.
Not the kind Granma mumbles
Or the stuff of fright-night moves
But the ones that grow on you
When you notice which incidents in a day
Are shadows cast by something ahead
And get to know which clues from the world
Are reliable road signs.
I think a black dog, if friendly,
Is always a good omen
And could be a god traveling in disguise.
Some days you don’t have to figure this out.
At the door of possibility on San Francisco Bay
A black dog crossed my path.
His walker, a ruddy man in a red pixie hat,
Told me the dog’s name is Pollo,
Short for Apollo.
I have a black dog of my own.
His name is Nubie, short for Anubis.
He lives on my dreams
And takes on many bodies in the world.
Black Dog sightings
When I arrived in St. Louis at the end of last week, I was met at the airport by a man with a black dog called Bear in the back of his car. I immediately sensed that all would go very well in the days of media interviews, lectures and workshops that lay ahead - because for me, a friendly black dog is always a good sign. Indeed, the St. Louis trip unfolded beautifully. In a building where Lincoln slept in 1847, I talked with a lively TV host, Carol Daniel, about how Harriet Tubman used the aerial maps from her dream visions to guide escaping slaves to freedom and how it's common for pregnant mothers to dream of giving birth to baby animals. Erin, the events person at Left Bank Books - a store renowned for supporting creative rebels, artists and dreamers - gave me one of the most eloquent introductions I have ever received, before an enthusiastic crowd of 75 people. In the weekend workshop in an arts building on Delmar, in the city's colorful Loop, we traveled deep into the imaginal realm and collected secret handshakes from the universe while feasting on spicy Thai food during the lunchbreaks.
I've noticed again and again over the years that in my life the appearance of a friendly black dog, especially under unsual circumstances, often presages something good. My feelings may be related to the fact that I shared my home for many years with a couple of big, sloppy black dogs; one of them returned to me in dreams, after his death, as an impeccable friend and guide.
In the midst of a rather difficult phone conversation with a powerful producer who had not quite been "sold" on doing a certain show with me, we were interrupted repeatedly by the barking of a dog. Finally I asked, "What kind of dog is that?" "It's a black lab," the producer explained. It turned out she was sitting a friend's dog for the day - a black dog. I knew in that instant that the conversation would turn out just fine. I proceeded to tell the producer a couple of stories about black dogs who have given me messages (a couple of these are in The Three "Only" Things) - and the producer did not waste another second before agreeing to put me on the show. "How soon can we book you?"
On my way home from leading another workshop, I stopped for essential groceries. When I came out of the supermarket, I noticed that the car parked beside me had a decal that read: "Black Labrador Taxi Service." Yes, the rest of the evening was just lovely.