It’s early November, and I find myself on a street in downtown Milwaukee, holding my friend’s dog on a leash while she goes inside a shop to buy something to eat for lunch. Less than a minute has gone by, and I suddenly find myself in a conversation with a man who tells me abouthis dog, a golden retriever who lives (he claims) to be nineteen years old. We laugh together and talk about dogs for a few minutes before parting ways. I feel a warmth that has nothing to do with the November air.
We trade off this duty, my friend and I. Because she travels with a dog, one of us has to attend to it at all times, whether in the city or in the hotel. I don’t mind. I really don’t. Having the dog opens doors: people smile at us, talk to us, offer unsought-after compliments, and swap stories about their own pets. Sometimes, it amazes me. Through the dog, we make instant human connections. Initial impressions, unfair assumptions, and social barriers fall away, allowing us to talk and see each other in a kinder light.
In her poem “Parallax,” Lara Niedermeyer provides the following definition of parallax: an apparent difference in the position of an object when viewed along different lines of sight. She begins by writing “I cannot see the end clearly.” And it is our own (mis)perceptions, our limited points of view, that prohibit us from making these kinds of connections and the proverbial bigger picture. Lorraine Jeffery also explores this theme in “Fog,” where she ruminates on an experience where her own limited perspective led her to making an unfair assumption about a group of young men, rather than seeing something beautiful. Finally, Johnna Ferguson’s “We All Hate to Be Alone” contemplates the importance of human connection, a mother to her child, and the child to its mother.