Green Wizardries: The Three Wise Men


I recently met one of my neighbours down at the ferry landing.  I went over to him to ask after his little dogs and he was very happy to introduce us and explain their situation.  His oldest puppy had lost the use of her back legs and he had feared he would have to put her down but thought he would try one more thing first.  He bought her a little chariot for her back legs to ride on.  

The smile on his face was dazzling as he told how she had been so depressed by her immobility that he feared she would never be happy again.   But once she got her chariot, she perked right up and was zooming around with the greatest verve.  He said his puppy would fall over a lot at first but quickly learned what sort of slope she could navigate.  He still has to keep an eye on her and right her from time to time but her happiness at her independence has given her a new lease on life.  

I should explain that my neighbour has, in the last few years, endured enough personal tragedy to fill up a Russian novel.  He has endured great loss.  I tell you, his smile did me a world of good and surprised me.  

My neighbour explained that he has found solace in his spiritual life and has read the bible twice through but does not claim to remember it all.  He was on his way to town to help out at his Church’s program of providing meals to people in need.  He said the people they serve are really beautiful, gentle and generous people who have helped him a lot.  I was kind of amazed to hear a crusty old soldier talk like that but was delighted for him.   

I am not a Christian but I believe that almost any spiritual tradition, pursued honestly, will give great benefits but you have to do the work.  That means reading sacred texts, praying, meditation and good works among many other practices.   Developing a spiritual life is a long, slow process that I find to be very similar to my learning to play the cello.  Daily practice is essential if you want to get anywhere.  

One of my friends was married for fifty years to a very dashing woman who illuminated his life.  I didn’t know how he was going to manage without her when she died of cancer but at least, he had the dogs.  Then, not long after the loss of his wife, one of the dogs suffered a devastating injury and had to be euthanized.  

My friend bravely carried on only to lose the other, much younger dog, last autumn.  Then, he was prevailed upon to take in an old cat who needed a good home.    The cat died of liver cancer after a few weeks of cuddle time.  My friend feels death is pursuing him but he sees this as his work now.  

His wife and pets could not have been in better hands when they were ill and needed him.  He also ministers to many people who know his situation and come and tell him their own stories of sadness and loss and he comforts them and tells them how to live through the sharpest sorrows.  

The last wise man is a tough old homicide detective and yes, he too lost his beloved wife to cancer recently.  He nursed her at home until the end; the hospice nurses came out to them where they live in England.  He too has some little dogs and a family of adult children and beautiful grandchildren who he felt he had to be strong for.  

I think he felt at loose ends until he got the news that a very old friend of his has cancer and will need to be cared for and protected.  My cop friend calls the man’s wife, “useless,” and is planning to be the main caregiver.  

He gave me a little speech saying how his friend is a Church of England Vicar and in with the snobby set of rural gentry, “but who will be looking after him when the chips are down?  Muggins here, that’s who!”

To serve and protect is kind of his calling.  That and his deep faith in the Roman Catholic Church, no less, gives him the power to go on in the certain knowledge that his time away from his wife will be slight and they will see each other again.  Indeed, she drops in on him from time to time and that is a great comfort to him.  

We may all need to be strong and to be there for our loved ones.  I feel troubled times are coming.  We could do worse than to emulate these three wise men.