Last year I adopted a small, black-and-white terrier-poodle mix with one ear that points straight up like a SETI radio telescope listening for space squirrels and one that flops down. Her name was Leah, and I made no attempt to change it. She already had an identity, and I respected that, although when I walk her in the neighborhood, the most frequent comment from strangers is, “He’s just the cutest little boy!”
Leah kisses these fools indiscriminately.
She was a mix of many breeds, so out of curiosity, I had her DNA decoded. The result was sixteen pages of proclivities based on the variety of breeds she represents. This test also revealed that Leah has a brother, Frodo, living in College Park! I immediately felt we should pack up the car and go visit the rellies. She has other sibs too: Petey and Pip, JoJo and Brinkley, Daisy, and let us not forget, Lucy Penrod, who’s digging life in Florida. Siblings are a gift, and Leah’s were an unexpected find, but another surprise was in store.
You know I am intrigued by those with the ability to tap into a field of consciousness that is available to all but inaccessible to most. The energy field researchers at Duke University have determined we don’t access primarily because we don’t know it’s there.
We don’t seek what we think isn’t possible. We don’t see what we’re not looking for. We live with the lid on.
But last summer, I had a session with an intuitive who has cultivated this ability for many years and out of the blue he said, “I see a yellow dog around you. A big dog.”
“I had a yellow lab,” I said, “Kaya. She died 5 years ago.”
“She’s still near you,” he said, “but I see a small dog with you now. Black and white.” I thought, “Holy cow,” but I said, “Yes, Leah, I adopted her last year.” He was quiet a minute as if listening, then said dispassionately, “I’m hearing that Kaya sent you Leah.”
Could this be true?
I’d been walking dogs as a volunteer at the SPCA in an effort to do something good in this world within my limited skillset, although whether I was an asset as a dog walker is debatable. Those EZ harnesses! Getting one on was like roping a calf on steroids, one leaping the height of my head and spinning like a happy dolphin in a 5 by 8-foot kennel run. More than once, I had two of the dogs’ legs in one hole, and there was the time, out on the trail, when I felt the lead go limp, looked down, and saw I’d been walking an empty harness. The dog I thought I was walking was standing 20 feet away on a narrow wooden bridge over a stream, just staring at me. We froze mano a mano, like two gunslingers in a Western, equally confounded by the dog’s sudden change in fortune, each wondering who would be the first to act on it.
So by “sent,” I theorized, my dog in spirit had prompted me to notice a very sick, ratty little rescue in the darkest part of the kennel, sporting stitches on her belly, parasites in her bloodstream, and a cone on her head.
And maybe choosing to walk Leah out of the barking pandemonium of 50 much rowdier inmates was also a response to a nudge. Perhaps impulsively adopting her after five years of volunteering was a choice divinely inspired as well. Who can say in what form inspiration manifests? Maybe sometimes it shows up as an inordinately pretty yellow lab sending her empty owner someone new to love.
Once you open the door to the idea that there is a source of divine wisdom in constant conversation with you, an unlimited host of help is at your disposal. For me, it’s learning to pay attention to what draws my attention.
I have read that you can actually choose a sign that will be your signal from someone you love on the other side. Over breakfast one morning after Mr. Oliver’s lovely, brilliant mother died, we decided the sign of her presence should be the appearance of goats in unlikely places. She had raised goats on the down-low in an upscale suburban neighborhood, making her own cheese and yogurt for several years. We agreed on the sign, laughing at the unlikelihood of seeing it, as I said aloud, “Mary Jane if you want us to know you are present, make goats appear.” I put my coffee cup in the dishwasher, climbed the stairs to my office, and turned on my computer. To my astonishment, thirteen goats appeared on the screen, standing amidst the branches of an argan tree. Shockingly out of place (goats in a tree?) I discovered they climb for the berries in this drought-plagued part of Morocco, and the image was a commercial stock photo. I’d never seen it before.
So, I’m currently at an impasse in two important family relationships, important because your relationships with your brothers and sisters are the longest of your life. They have been with you from the beginning. Your years together in this world predate your children and for most of us, outlast your parents. As I write of this rift, a promotional email from Barnes and Noble has popped up on my screen. Because it captures my attention, I pay attention.
“Explore the complexities of sibling relationships, resentments that threaten to tear the family apart,” it says. Coincidence? Maybe. I read the rest of the message. “The Complexity of Family. Learn more.” There was a time I would have dismissed that as meaningless. Now I’m not so sure.
I was walking Leah down by the park the other evening, listening to a book by James Van Praagh through my airpods, when I noticed a Mini Cooper parked beside the sidewalk. As I approached, I saw a sign in the back window—not a bumper sticker– a sign that said, “Please. Be patient.” There was no context like “new driver” or “baby on board.” Just a quiet request.
That behest would benefit my life in general, but I needed more specific help with this current conflict.
The next night Leah was trotting down the same road to the park, and the car was gone. But on the way back to the house, my attention was drawn to a Subaru parked near where it had been.
Bizarrely, it, too, had a sign in the back window–not a bumper sticker– but a sign placed at eye level. Leah was in a squirrel standoff, so I gave the leash a tug to get closer. This sign, again, without context, read, “You are never alone.” I was smiling now, so very sure this is true, as my conversation with spirit continues to evolve.
As Leah and I headed home on this sweet indigo summer night, James Van Praagh said in my ear, “Family is the river through which the soul flows.”
Where will we go, I wonder?
Laura J. Oliver is an award-winning developmental book editor and writing coach, who has taught writing at the University of Maryland and St. John’s College. She is the author of The Story Within (Penguin Random House). Co-creator of The Writing Intensive at St. John’s College, she is the recipient of a Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award in Fiction, an Anne Arundel County Arts Council Literary Arts Award winner, a two-time Glimmer Train Short Fiction finalist, and her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her website can be found here.