It seems that whenever my turn comes around to write the Board of Trustees blog entry, there are some really important things going on at UU Asheville that I feel obligated to comment on, lest I shirk my responsibilities as Board president.  Well, true to form, important things falling into that “must write about” category are before us once again.  But this time around, mainly to give my lighter side some equal time, I’m limiting my discussion of those things to the next (short!) paragraph.  Please read that.  These things are truly important to our community.  But for something more whimsical, probably somewhat hackneyed, but still in a way spiritual, read on beyond that next paragraph.

(1) If you haven’t yet contributed to the Meet the Moment campaign, please seriously consider that, and make whatever contribution you feel motivated to give.  Information about Meet the Moment is in the last four eNews mailings.  (2) Your Ministerial Search Committee is really getting serious now.  I hope that you were able to fill out the congregational survey.  Coming up, there are opportunities for cottage meetings and focus groups where you can help shape UU Asheville’s future.  Please sign up and speak up!  (3) The 8th Principle, along with UU Asheville’s broader efforts on racial justice and equity, will be a theme this year, and likely for a while beyond that.  Please get involved in whatever way you can to help us get closer to achieving our vision of Beloved Community.

Now for the whimsy.  Iris and I got Rosie, our yellow Labrador Retriever rescue dog, in April of 2020, just as the pandemic was starting in earnest.  She was then 3½ years old, but she had lived all her years in one loving home.  In fact, the day we officially adopted her up in Bristol, TN, the rescue representative was accompanied by Rosie’s previous owner, who had asked to be there specifically to demonstrate to us Rosie’s one true love – fetching!  She just loved to retrieve virtually any ball-like object thrown in her direction.  And she was pretty darned good at it.  Cool – a fetching dog!

When I asked Rosie’s previous owner how often he played fetch with her, he told us that he tried to do it twice a day for 20 minutes at a time.  Hmm.  Every day?  Twice?  Really?  I thought, okay, let’s just give it a go – we’ll see how it all works out – but I certainly hope this doesn’t become a chore.  Well, after a week or two of keeping up this regimen, we started to get into a rhythm.  We found much more joy than duty in our quotidian routine.  Rosie soon learned that we went certain places to fetch.  Also, she figured out our typical fetching start times, and learned visual cues that “The Fetch” was about to begin – like putting on shoes or grabbing a poop bag.  She would get as excited about our fetching adventures as just about anything, even including the rare event of getting chicken scraps in her food.

So, every morning and every afternoon at about the right time, she assumes that “isn’t it time to fetch now?” pose and gaze.  She’ll try that with both me and Iris, looking plaintively for the most likely fetching buddy.  Eventually, one of us will volunteer, almost always quite happily.  (Today’s blog, however, is only about my own experiences with this daily ritual.  I’ll let Iris write her own blog…)

For me, it is indeed a ritual.  At first, I didn’t recognize it as such.  I was too busy rejuvenating my too-long-dormant throwing arm, and feeling out as best I could how Rosie liked to fetch:  what ball to use in which fetching venues; throw-then-go or go-then-throw; in the air or on a bounce; high arcing lob or the grounder.  Over the weeks, months, and now years, we’ve gotten our dance down pat.  It has a structure that we follow, but we improvise as the spirit moves us.  “The Fetch” has matured into – dare I say it – a spiritual practice for me.  It gets me out into the fresh air each day.  It is solitary in that I’m the only human involved.  It affords a break from whatever I’m working at or worrying about at the moment.  It is meditative, in that Rosie and I can get into a rhythmic back-and-forth where my mind and spirit are free to do almost anything they need to do – from charting out my day to bathing in the Big Questions about this wide universe and my place in it.

I’m amazed by the fact that this member of a different species has helped me on my continuing journey to grow spiritually.  I’m pretty sure, though, that Rosie doesn’t know she’s helping me write my own credo!  Conversely, having only “human” perceptions, I can’t truly know the canine being and Rosie’s take on The Fetch, just as she can’t understand mine.  But Rosie’s love of and excitement about our routine makes me believe that she gets something out of this whole game, too.  What a great partnership!  Rosie has added so much to my life.  She’s gotten me through the pandemic.  She’s gotten me through tough places during my tenure on the Board.  Her constant companionship is constant support.  And indirectly and inadvertently, she is a spiritual teacher to me.  Thanks, Rosie!  Now, let’s go play fetch…

Clyde Hardin, President, UU Asheville Board of Trustees