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project hot air balloon

9 minutes

By 1:03 AM ,

I walked with Bootsie for an hour around Stowe Lake and came upon an expansive green valley just a few yards from the car. I decided to lose myself to the calm and breezy Friday for a few minutes more, before getting back to the day. I found a shady patch away from others in which to land.

Not too hot, not too cool. Perfect. I looked at my watch.

"Okay. I can lay down for 9 minutes and not move, not think, just be. It's only 9 minutes, not 10. I can do this." In other words, meditate.

It's laughable that 9 minutes of stillness is worth noting. But for me, right now, these days, it's a lot and I'll take it.

I stretched my legs out and put my head down.
Deep breath.

[I think I sat on a wet patch.]

[Should I be watching Bootsie...]


[Has it been 9 minutes.]

That's when I heard the incoherent babble of a toddler and the patient adult guiding her nearby. I sensed them slowly closing in on my personal space like a grizzly approaching a camper's tent. Stay still. Don't make any sudden moves; they might continue on.

[Don't even think of getting up. You are not at 9 minutes yet.]

I heard Bootsie circle me and sit by my feet.

The little girl saw her and squealed "oggie!"


Then the footsteps of her unsteady gait negotiating the lumpy lawn landed next to me.

[Honestly, we've got a football size field here, people. Golden Gate has over 1000 acres of national park space. Couldn't your tot have pitter-pattered by that other row of trees?]

I continued to play dead, resisting the urge to bolt up to make sure that my dog wasn't too welcoming.

Intently staring at this patch of sky I heard the guardian say,

"Don't pet the doggie without asking the lady,"

[It's happened. They've arrived.]

I slowly pick up only my head, as if the rest of my body was pinned to the earth like Gulliver. Down by my feet was a little black girl with pom-pom pigtails and a pink sundress squatting in front of my pitbull. I didn't want to admit yet that my quest for 9 minutes of solitude was magnificently being squelched by this Lilliputian.

Her twinkly eyes asked for permission to come closer. Geez. How can I shun this dear girl. For all I know this could be the first encounter she has with a dog or an unwelcome sunworshipper. Do I really want to scar her?

Her grandmother gave me a look of apology and asked "can she pet your dog?"

"yes..." I nodded, finally sitting up to admit total defeat.

Bootsie willingly obliged the affection showered upon her. I watched the pair coo and giggle over their interaction as they stepped in and out of the sunlight.

I walked for over an hour and not a soul crossed my path, yet ironically I situated my solitude squarely in somebody else's social course. Is this the law of attraction. You will attract that which you resist. I was flummoxed and should have been annoyed.

But strangely, I wasn't.

She was delightful, the little girl. And Bootsie equally sweet. She's not the kind of dog that would rip the face off of a child. The grandmother was pleased to witness the affection between beauty and beast. I may have tipped her off by not engaging in conversation, but she was getting ready to move on and stood up.

The grandma directed the tot, "Now give her one last hug and thank the doggie for playing with you."

I watched to see if my dog would allow for that, but the little girl looked up and waddled past both her grandma and Bootsie and headed straight towards me. Then she wrapped her short arms around me. Some kids don't hug well with their noodle arms. This one was a champ. She's clearly gotten a lot of quality hugs in her short life. The ease with which this girl hugged an aloof (initially resistant) stranger with such warmth tickled me. I saw the grandmother laughing. We looked at each other and smiled. It was a little Mentos moment.

As they walked up the grassy knoll I looked down at my watch and it was 2:00PM - 9 minutes exactly.

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