I left work early last Friday to go for a hike. Sometimes the best elixir for the travails of life is to clear one's mind in the pristine serenity of nature. So, I threw on my hiking boots and headed out. The afternoon was clear and the cool air refreshing. With each step, twigs and leaves beneath my boots would crunch and crack.
As I ventured deep into the woods, the canopy of tree foliage above cast long, deep shadows across the pathways. Sunlight fought through the canopy in slender streams, like extended light sabers from the sky. The ground below was moist now, and I spied lichen, moss and mushrooms on the ground around me. Also, there was a strange kind of electricity in the air.
I stopped for a moment and took a swig from my Nalgene water bottle. I closed my eyes and heard birds chirping and wind rustling leaves over head. So peaceful and calm. It was like the noise, stress and tension of the week slowly dissolved and melted away. I felt like I could breath again. Renewed and restored. Until the bushes ahead started to shake and stir.
These parts were home to countless deer, and deer are a top menu item for mountain lions. I cursed myself for neglecting to bring bear spray or a suitable weapon. Wouldn't that be just perfect? Leave work early for some nature rehabilitation, only to become an dinner for some famished cougar.
I looked closer at the bushes moving along the path ahead. And then I saw the strangest damn thing. A beige and striped blanket emerged from the bushes! It seemed to be floating across the leaves and dirt and onto the main pathway. Even stranger, it stopped in front of me and a swath of sunlight illuminated the blanket. "What the hell?" I thought to myself.
Just for the record, I don't do drugs and hadn't been drinking. I wasn't sleepy, unfocused or day dreaming. I was completely in my right mind, which is why what I'm about to tell you is going to sound like complete lunacy. But I don't care, because the message is worth the risk of appearing like a crazy person. For you see, the blanket spun around and fell away at the top. And there, staring back at me like some twisted, canine version of Yoda, stood a most stoic pug.
We stared at each other. I looked around for his owner or some practical joker filming with a smart phone. Nobody. Just me and this blanketed pug. And just when I thought it couldn't get any weirder, the pug spoke.
"We have bigger houses, but smaller families; more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees, but less sense; more knowledge, but less judgements; more experts, but more problems; more medicines, but less healthiness. We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but have less communication. We have become long on quantity, but short on quality. These are times of fast foods, but slow digestion; tall man, but short character; steep profits, but shallow relationships. It is a time when there is much in the window, but nothing in the room."
I stared in disbelief. And then I said, "Seriously? You're posing as some kind of mystical pug prophet, and then you plagiarize the Dalai Lama! Did you really think I hadn't read The Paradox of our Age?"
The pug licked his muzzle, blinked and then passed gas. With that, he turned and managed to disappear beneath the blanket again. The spotlight of sun above him receded, and he appeared to float back into the undergrowth and thickets from where he came.
I sat down on the ground, probably in shock over what happened. Suddenly I remembered my iPhone. "Why didn't I take a photo of him? No one will ever believe this!" I thought to myself. I tried to call my wife, to tell her all about this insane encounter with a mystic pug. But there was no reception in the woods.
I put the iPhone back in my pocket. Best that I not tell my wife. She'd only have me committed. So I picked myself back up and turned around, thinking the entire way back about what had transpired. "Why a pug?" I thought. "And why the Dalai Lama quote?" So many questions.
Days passed and I couldn't shake the experience. I longed to tell everyone about this fantastical, plagiarizing pug in a Yoda get up. But seriously, who would believe me. So I took to the Internet to research sitings or other accounts. Nothing.
I was about to give up when I stumbled upon this cool photography site, Unsplash.com. The site has amazing photography and visitors are free to download and use any photo for free. You don't even have to attribute the photos to the website or photographer if you don't want to.
So, I'm scanning through the photos on the site when I encountered this image.
"Holy smokes!" I thought to myself. "It's him! It's him! I'm not crazy! That's the Yoda, pug mystic!" My heart was racing and I felt a surge of validation and vindication. I wasn't crazy after all! This photographer named Matthew Wiebe must have encountered the pug mystic, too! But then the next photograph I found was this one.
No mysterious blanket. No upright stance. No vacant gaze conveying some kind of ancient pug wisdom. The pug, apparently, was nothing more than a costumed amusement for this (admittedly talented) photographer.
I shut off the computer, poured myself a glass Sauvignon blanc and never said a word about it to my wife. To this day, I don't know how that damn pug dressed up and appeared like an apparition in the woods. Or how he talked to me.
There was only one sliver of a suspicion I had left. It had to do with our dog. His name is Chug. My son named him that, because he's part chihuahua and part pug. Maybe Chug had answers?
I looked into Chug's eyes and asked him, "Is there something you're not telling me. Do pugs talk? I have to know. Are pugs really some kind of mystic beings, sent here to earth to impart wisdom and hope on the rest of us? Tell me, Chug! Tell me! Tell me!"
"Sweetie, how much have you had to drink?" I looked up. There, in the doorway to my art studio, stood my wife. And without missing a beat I said to her, "Not enough, honey, not enough."