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When dogs and water are smarter than we are



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June 03, 2014 | 05:02 PM
I was walking the dog along the lakeshore path last winter.

Admiring the white, snow-filled horizon.

When I approached the entrance to the Riviera Beach, I saw a familiar face.

It was a contrarian — one of the city’s good government vigilantes.

We exchanged pleasantries.

As I gloried in the horizon, he was staring at the signs that pretty much cover the entryway to the beach.

Too many signs, he said. And he’s right. There are more signs at the beach than on our parking meters.

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He focused on one in particular which says the beach is closed when there’s no lifeguard on duty.

Is it closed or not? he asked.

I shrugged my shoulders.

During the summer kids tend to congregate there after hours to throw Frisbees, toss footballs, flirt and do whatever kids have always done. The sign stands guard but no one notices.

As I walked away, I couldn’t help but think he was right in a way. There are too many signs. The “closed beach” sign is misleading.

It took me a few seconds, and then it occurred to me.

I was focused on the beauty of the lake. He was focused on the signs.

He didn’t see the forest for the trees.

I didn’t see the trees for the forest.

We both make our points.

We both live our lives and express ourselves with a different view of things.

We’re both right in our own way. We’re both missing things.

As for the dog — well, he was just happy to be out on his walk.

Sniffing. Sauntering. Doing what dogs do on walks.

“Nice dog,” the contrarian said.

“Yes. He is,” I said.

As the dog and the contrarian exchanged pleasantries, the dog was totally unaware of our differences.

Guess that’s one of the differences between dogs and men.

***

Every morning.

Spring. Summer. Fall. Or winter.

There are a handful of cars and trucks parked by the lakefront.

In the summer the drivers might be standing next to their vehicles or walking nearby.

In the winter, they’re staying warm inside — huddled with their thoughts.

No matter what time of year, they’re doing one thing.

Watching.

I know the feeling. There’s something about just watching the lake that’s such a simple pleasure there really isn’t a name for it.

I’m not sure anyone is looking for anything in particular.

In fact, a stray bird or a fisherman headed out might even be a distraction from the real reason for being there.

Just to watch.

Water and fire are the two natural phenomenon that are made for watching.

It’s a time to gather your thoughts or forget a few. But all that is accidental. Beside the point.

Just watching water is a pleasure in itself. A retreat from the world by getting a little closer to it.

Like the dog, water doesn’t care.

And maybe that’s the point.

It doesn’t care about the co-worker you were mad at today.

Or the fact that your head is full from a cold.

Or anything else worldly.

It just does its thing — watch back at the watchers.

***

Two peas in a pod, this contrarian and I.

Two visions of the world, but the same world.

We are not one kind. Not him. Not I.

We’re the variety pack.

The first I knew about this contrarian, the Regional News reported about how he walked around every morning picking up trash.

Under the radar. Without reward but the reward that comes with it.

Since then there have been some bitter struggles.

Between he and I. Between he and the world we call Lake Geneva.

But before the sparks and the brittle disagreements, he was another thing.

And still is.

A man picking up trash. Quietly. Unassumingly. With only its end in mind.

Like all of us.

We’re double headers — one day we’re this, the next day we’re that.

But we all have one thing in common.

We stand at the edge of the water.

Seeing different things.

And trying to make sense of them all.

Halverson is editor and general manager of the Regional News.

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