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Kathy Bradley
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By the time Lily and I got started on our walk on Saturday, the sun was already well over halfway up the sky and streaming through whatever is left of the ozone like a wide-angle laser. The wet air settled on my arms and the curls on the nape of my neck the minute I walked out onto the porch. The faint drone of bugs of every sort warned me that I would soon become someone’s lunch.
    August in south Georgia. It’s why the sissies move to Atlanta.
    About half a mile from the house, headed up the hill toward the crossroad, we came up on one of our neighbors, his truck and those of his companions loaded with deer stands.
    “It’s that time of year again,” Bruce said in greeting.
    “Yeh, and you couldn’t pay me money to be sitting in a tree stand in this kind of weather,” I told him, understanding, of course, that this is only one of many reasons why I’d never make much of a hunter.
    It was then that I noticed the little girl. Seven or eight years old, I’d guess, she’d stepped out of her daddy’s truck and was looking at Lily. She reached out her hand, palm up and Lily moved over to sniff. The little girl stood very still while Lily nuzzled her fingertips.
    “You know how to make friends with dogs, don’t you?” I asked.
    She didn’t say anything, just turned her hand over to rub it across Lily’s black head and my usually manic dog sat down in the road, panting quietly, as the little girl’s gentleness and innocence came pouring out in the light strokes of her fingers.
    For a moment, I was oblivious to the heat, the humidity, the hum of the insects around my face. For a moment, all the irritations and uncertainties and sadnesses that had crept onto my shoulders for the last few days seemed weightless. For a moment, the sun and summer and time stood still and all there was was a little girl and a dog looking into each other’s eyes.
    I asked and she told me her name was Brin. At least I think that’s what she said. She spoke in a soft voice, almost a whisper, and she didn’t look up at me for more than a second. It was Lily that interested her.
    I said my good-byes to Bruce, waved to Brin’s dad in the truck and started back down the road. Lily reluctantly followed.
    Earlier in the morning the radio had reminded me that it had been 10 years since the nearly simultaneous deaths of Mother Teresa and Princess Diana. Much had been made at the time, and was being made again on this anniversary, of the vast divide between the lives of two women who, in life and in very different ways, had touched the lives of millions and who, in death and surprising similitude, had taught us all lessons about connectedness.
    Princess Diana’s gift, a commentator noted, was being able to create a sense of intimacy between herself and whoever else was present — be it a crowd of paparazzi or a single AIDS patient — and it was that ability that endeared her to anyone who ever met her. Mother Teresa did that with the poor and dying with which she chose to be surrounded, offering intimacy to those who had never known the healing power of relationship.
    Both of them, like all of us, were haunted by the pain and affliction of a less-than-perfect existence and from that pain and affliction had grown to understand the dependency of all creatures on each other. And both of them had learned the lesson that Mother Teresa articulated in these oft-quoted words: “I have found the paradox that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.”
    Something about the encounter with Brin made me think that she had already, somehow, learned that lesson herself and that my own knowledge of that truth would grow, somehow, deeper and truer as a result of that chance meeting.
    In the stickiness and sultriness, Lily and I walked almost all the way to the highway. On our way back, we found tire tracks and footprints in the powdery red dust at the top of the hill, the only evidence of our visitation by an angel in blue jeans and a camouflage baseball cap.
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