Relationships with border collies and broccoli

Posted by on 10.19.09 | 2 Comments
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Once apon a time….say last April….there was a lady who had experienced significant loss. Her heart was hurting and she felt lost and alone in a familiar world. She said to herself, “I just need to be alone for it is there – by myself – where the healing is”.

As Spirit would have it, that very day, she was given the opportunity to bring home a dog that was in a very unhealthy situation…a dog she had loved and prayed for and for whom she had desperately wanted a better life. For her, the timing couldn’t have been worse but she found herself the answer to her own prayers.

In the coming weeks, it was amazing to her how their relationship healed each other. She could count on her new companion to always reflect her best to her, to listen without judgment and to cuddle her through her sorrow. He could count on her to be responsive, to teach him appropriate behavior and to be patient with his intense fears.

Now, five, almost six month later, both the lady and the dog have shed their dark shells. The lady is so much more capable of standing in her boundaries with grace, of laughing at herself, of doing things without a human companion that she wouldn’t have done without a human companion before. And, he is an entirely new dog. Before, he was so very timid and reserved and looked like hell. Now, he is stunningly beautiful, gregarious and trusting. Theirs’ has turned out to be a mutually beneficial relationship.

Tonight, when I look at the border collie asleep at my feet, I can’t help but think about all the symbiotic relationships Nature created. Relationships like the fungus which helps the root to absorb nutrients from the soil and the root which gives the fungus its’ fix of sugar in return. Relationships like the fruit which feeds the animal and the animal, in-turn, helps the fruit propagate outside its’ shadow. Relationships like the lady who rescues a dog from a life of hell and the dog who releases the lady from her own grief.

The thoughts of how wonderful Nature is almost immediately led me to thinking about relationships which aren’t so quaint. In fact, I quickly realized the opposite of symbiotic is abusive and before I knew it had started “gauging” all relationships on an imaginary scale between the two.

At first, the results were quite unremarkable but after digging deeper and deeper and looking at relationships further and further away from me, I’m not only shocked by the results but really upset by them.

The first thing I realized is that it was easy for me to evaluate the relationships “in front of me”. I can see that my relationships with Mom, Dad, partner, job, old dog, young dog, best friend A, best friend B, garden and house plants are indeed on the symbiotic end of the scale.

The ones which aren’t quite so close – such as the relationship with the food I buy at the grocery store or the fish in the river which provides the power for my computer – aren’t so obvious yet I wonder if they’re not equally as important.

Take vegetables, for example. When I buy regular old broccoli from Food 4 Less, it came from a factory farm where the plant was given only what it absolutely needed to survive and sprayed with poisons. It was then shipped half way around the world and repeatedly sprayed with ice-cold water before being put in a plastic bag and steamed to mush. I then call it “food” and expect it to give me something.

This is not what I’d call a balanced relationship and begs the question, “Is eating food that has been treated this way less hurtful to me then someone yelling obscenities at me?” If I am what I eat, then the logical conclusion is that eating abused food is abusive. This is where we get to the upsetting part.

Over the years, I have essentially said to myself, “so this broccoli probably isn’t the world’s best but hey it’s still a vegetable and it’s better than a box of mac n cheese”. This is a radically different philosophy than “when I eat this broccoli, I’m swallowing unlove-ness”. Yuck. Who wants to do that?

The upsetting part is that it will take radical changes in my life to move this one relationship further toward symbiosis. I work hard at eating as healthy as I already do and am not sure I want to work even harder at it. The epiphany in this new thinking, however, is that it motivates me to find out how my eating something that is only half organic (of life) impacts me.

The tricky part is that I have been eating de-natured food since the day I was born (yep: formula only) and I know I don’t come any where close to recognizing its’ ill-effects on me. I wonder how I would feel if I ate only alive foods for a couple of weeks? Then, would I look back and go “OH MY GOD!!”?


It gets even more upsetting if I look at my relationship with the fish in the river, the trees in the forest and the beaches of the world…in ways, they seem so far away and in ways, what I do, has enormous impact on both of us.

Who knows where this new “symbiotic to abusive relationship indicator” (the SARI, as I so affectionately refer to it) will take me. After thinking about my relationship with the poor broccoli, I did have Mexican Food (which I thoroughly enjoyed, btw) but I also bought organic whole oatmeal, made a pot of organic beans and choose a sweet-potato over a steak.

So, here’s to all the symbiotic relationships in my life and here’s to moving all the others in that direction and here’s especially to the poor puppy-dog who started this whole process.




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