for the love of our four legged friends….

“Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.”  Mary Oliver

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There are a few people that can tell a fishing story so well that they quite literally hook you in. It is a rare gift to be able to relay a story with the perfect balance of humor, exaggeration and believability. My friend Greg is a master at this and has left me in tears several times….even out funny-ing Jason Segel when he was sharing an idea he had about a comedy once.

Me, I am not one of those people, but perhaps better at the one liners. And I usually think of the perfect one liner about 3 or 4 days after I should have said it.

Last week, I got to pretend to be 23 again, see Neil Young blow my mind and then become a groupie for a day to travel to see Promise of the Real play in MA. because they impressed me so much. I ordered a “Cheriokee” machine and I have been singing loudly around the house, maybe not so much to the delight of my children and husband. Music…the great releaser …

This week, however, I’ve toned myself down a notch and gone a little more inward. I have been thinking a lot about Cecil the Lion, and our other four legged and feathered friends. While I realize that animal stories are better to be experienced than shared, the best that can come out of the sharing is deeper appreciation. And so I share to move the heart into valuing the precious animals in our world. There will be no exaggeration or size comparisons.

While I once somehow got totally busted by accidentally forwarding an email of mine to the “reservationist” at Uchi in Austin calling him a douchebag….which he totally isn’t at all.. actually , he is a sweet, handsome, asian country singer, and we ended up getting a long great…but nonetheless, one of the few times I used asshole language, I got busted. And so even though there is a lot I would like to say to Dr. Walter Palmer, I do try to keep my language positive. ( Another reason, I may not be the best story teller)  even though my daughter now has $8 in her 11209405_10153449657438571_4675438380613366062_n  for this month.

My  heart hasn’t ached like that for an unknown being that I have never met in a long while. Like many people, I have to sometime detach myself from all the horrible daily tragedy in our world to function and keep my peace. I choose the aid I am capable of giving.

This act of murder, however, shook me up.

It is irksome to me that people complain about or judge others’ grief…What is that? I think maybe those people have been blocked sometime in their life by shame or guilt, something got lodged in their psyche, and they have a hard time allowing others the space to express their sadnesses. I think it is important though that we allow ourselves the moments to grieve just as much as we delight ourselves.

What I take out of this is that we need to cultivate a deeper appreciation for life in its myriad forms.We need to teach our children to reconnect to the butterflies, zebras and yes, moon beams. And the way to do that is by connecting ourselves to the beauty that we co-habit the Earth with. It is as simple as spending time in Nature.

Almost all of the animals we have ever allowed to own our hearts have come to us…from Winston (may he rest in peace) who was given to us by our old roommate who couldn’t care for him so gave him to us as a puppy.

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to Lucky who showed up at our doorstep one day and who for some odd reason my mother and I tried to hide in the pantry for a couple days because we were scared that my husband wouldn’t let us keep him. Of course he did, it was winter time and he can never refuse me anything that I love.

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to these (three) sheep that we were told were pets of the farmer’s daughter and she didn’t want them slaughtered.  We were also told that they were escape artists and we took them anyway and spent years patching our fence.

When my mother gave her green thumb skills to the growing of a particular herb, I gave the male plants to the black sheep and then would watch him chill. It is kind of wicked starring in to sheep eyes whose pupils are rectangular. There are all kinds of galaxies awaiting discovery in the pupils of animals. P.S>These days we keep it clean and legal around here. My mother was just experimenting with her growing talents.

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Technically speaking, Darryl won these two geese when he donated money to the radio station Wjff. But they came along with a beautiful duck named Una who we discovered had imprinted on them and was grieving so we had to go back and pick her up too..Though I think she was eaten by a hawk a few months after we brought her here. Sorry dear Una.

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to our pair of black bunnies from the Ruffalo family. They use to chase our rooster around. I couldn’t tell if they were stupid and thought they were hens, or if they were smart and were having a gas at the rooster’s expense.

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Even our chickens were brought to us in the beginning by our old neighbor who has since passed.Everyone who has the space for chickens should raise them at least once. Look at this super Mamma hen!

As Toni Morrison writes in her Chicken Chronicles:  “Once I stopped moving about quite so much my interest in chickens, and memory about that particular chicken, asserted itself. I realized I was concerned about chickens, as a Nation, and that I missed them.” There is a lot to learn from these delicious poultry. Think of all the sayings that have to do with chickens alone…Better not to count your eggs before they have hatched. 6 eggs in one, half a dozen in the other, etc.

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The chinchillas above lasted only a spell as my kids weren’t helping out with their care as much as I would have liked and then there are the wild ones who come in and share some moments with us.388209_10150468330643571_775747368_nDSCN0477   DSC01204

The only animal we pursued was our horse Seven, whom my husband sold to a more worthy owner and has since taken up bicycling, a much cheaper hobby..

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The thing is, we love country life and have the space to keep animals, but truly one doesn’t have to even own land to nurture relations to them. I have a song I sing to the eagles and hawks that fly overhead and they often show up, especially when we hold ceremony on our land. I shit you not, we had 7 eagles flying over head during a sweat lodge ritual to honor the fall here. I use to ask for signs from animals, ask for them to show up for me and then meditate on what they represent. For example, we had a bear come during a prayer to stop power lines coming into our area…during the ceremony my neighbor saw him and said it was the biggest bear he saw in his whole 70 plus years of life. Before the ceremony to pray for children, a baby fawn was spotted near our ceremonial grounds. A frog appeared on our sweat lodge wall the day before our water prayer against fracking…and even today a flock of chickadees appeared in the tree above the stone wall while I was preparing for an upcoming sweat for my women friends. I have been told by a friend that to his people chickadees represent faithfulness as their song stays always the same. So many more sightings, but the point being that anyone can have them for themselves. I no longer have to ask for their arrival, I simply have to open my eyes.

If we simply “pay attention” as Mary Oliver urges in her simple instructions for living a life, we will notice the background and what a huge detail animals are there. The birds flit here and there, often squabbling about their differences. The turtles exist to exist, often sunning themselves on whatever rock or crocodile back they can find. The squirrels simply can’t make up their  minds which way to run. Our whales cry for us. Cry for the missteps of our humanity.

So if I cry, along with the whales,  for what a beheaded and skinned lion represents to me, and for the loss of his cubs, it doesn’t mean I don’t think other issues should also garner public notice. It doesn’t mean I hate all hunters. I support hunting for food. And I love eating meat! It simply makes me sad to think that someone would want to kill such a magnificent beast without offering anything: tobacco, prayers, grief, or gratitude in return.

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