Monday, July 9, 2018

We Will Miss You, Black Cat!

Shortly after moving to this neighborhood 17 years ago, we became aware of two black cats who seemed to be the most ubiquitous residents of the area: one scruffy, long-haired, bad-ass looking tom; and one round-bellied, smooth-haired, comfort-seeking guy who we thought at first was a female, and then realized he was a neutered male.  Every time we looked out a window or took a stroll around the neighborhood, one or the other of these two was in evidence. We dubbed them “Book” and “End.”  Bookends. 

“End” was never a friendly sort, and though he would hang around the yard and mark his territory all over my bushes, fences and doors, he would slink away from any chance encounter with humans.  I never could entice him to hang around long enough to start a relationship.

“Book,” on the other hand, seemed to be an affable sort.  He would stay around the yard…sleep in the shed or the greenhouse, consume food I put out for him.  He was not OUR cat for a good long while…but he was around, so we looked after him when we could.  And we learned his story:  A neighbor across the street had moved away and left him behind, probably just after we moved here in 2001.  He had to learn to fend for himself…and he did.  It was a while before we understood how WELL he had learned.

As he grew older and more in need of the comforts of life, we made him a home in our greenhouse.  We installed a kitty door, which we would shut and lock at night to keep him inside and safe from predators.  We kind of believed he had become “our” greenhouse cat.  But he maintained the disconcerting habit of disappearing for days or a week, then showing up back on the greenhouse deck one night as if nothing had happened, waiting for his meal. 

Eventually, we learned that “our” Book was called “Sunny” by the neighbors around the corner; and who knows how many other names by other neighbors who fed, petted and protected him.  He was the neighborhood cat…the Cat About Town.  Everybody loved him.  He loved everybody.

He loved laps.  I would go out to sit on my “coffee deck” in the morning, let the cat out, and he would climb up into my lap for a “pet session.”  This was the morning ritual.  He would get rather miffed if I went out of town or for some other reason didn’t have time to sit with him.

He loved catmint.  In my now defunct fountain garden, I would plant catmint for him every year.  He actually loved one or two of those plants to death.

He loved fried chicken.  We would go out to our favorite local cafĂ© once a week or so, and I would squirrel a chicken strip into my purse to bring home just for him.  I’ll never forget the time I left my purse sitting on the front porch step for a moment, and looked up to see Bookie trotting away from the scene with a fist-sized white prize in his mouth…  “What the hell has he got…OH!  The chicken!”  Well…it was for him, and he knew it.  I did track him down and take the napkin off it, though.

As he got older and more frail, we moved him into our garage.  Eventually, when he got quite old, he didn’t go outside at all anymore.  He was stiff and sore from old outside-cat injuries, and we didn’t think he could save himself from cars or nasty neighbors or coyotes or mean dogs.  He slept in the garage and spent his days sunning in front of the patio doors. 

About 18 months ago, he became very ill, developed such terrible diarrhea that he was nearly incontinent, lost a ton of weight…basically looked like he was done with life.  We knew he was already quite old—had to be at least 14 or 15, which is amazingly old for a cat who had spent most of his life outdoors.  So…we took him to the vet with the idea of helping him on his way to the Next Thing.  But, evidently, it wasn’t his time. 

Instead of saying goodbye, we came home with a couple of vials of last-ditch medicines to try to get his intestinal issues under control. 

Lo and behold, they worked.

We fed him the special food and medicated him daily…with an eye toward hopefully giving him a couple more months.  Long enough for him to see one more spring.  He surprised us all by hanging in long enough to see 2 more springs.  We were able to allow him a peaceful and comfortable old age, King of the Garage, Lap-Sitter Extraordinaire.

Two weeks ago, his old heart began to fail him.  He stopped eating.  His lungs and abdomen began to fill with fluid.  At last, it was his time. 

We said goodbye to him Saturday morning.

I don’t know why the tears keep coming.  He was old.  He had a decent, long life.  We helped as much as we could.

I told a friend that I don’t believe in that Rainbow Bridge stuff.  I don’t believe that there are animal spirits who are “assigned” to be eternal pets of human spirits.  What I do believe is that there are spirits that are eternally connected, who meet again and again as they return to the Creator and are released to new adventures.  Bookie is out there among the stars, now…  Or he could already be somewhere where we will be together again.

I told the same friend:  We have cohabited with a parade of over twenty cats and four dogs over our nearly 42 years of marriage.  The thing we trade for their unconditional affection is that they are bound to leave this life long before we do. 

We lose a loved one every couple of years.  You learn to accept it, but it never gets easier.

We will miss you, Bookie. 

Until we meet again. 

Friday, June 29, 2018

A Slightly Less Poplular Thing to Never Forget

The murder at the Capitol Gazette was a horrendous tragedy; amplified by the fact that the massacre was as much as called for by #45 and his neo-Nazi henchman, Milo Yiannopolous. This is what our nation has become since 2016.  There should be much wailing and gnashing of teeth.  Sack cloth and ashes should cover us as we weep for these five fine people, and for the United States of America. 

But I'm a little disturbed by the move toward all but canonizing the murdered journalists, and with them, journalism as a genre--as it is practiced in 21st-century America.

Let's not forget that the press has been more than complicit in the mess we are currently in. The kind of "Old School" journalism which might deserve to be hallowed no longer exists. Instead we have opinion-as-fact, news with definite political slant, rush-to-publish without vetting, and a constant stream of hype. Not to mention billions of dollars of free exposure for the most outrageous politicians, who have quickly learned how to take the best advantage of the gift.

Now, I'm not saying this gives the massacre at the Capitol Gazette one molecule of legitimacy. I'm just saying that we should not let our shock and grief over the incident blind us to the foibles of the current journalistic culture, or cause us to lessen our resolve to hold our press to higher journalistic standards. 

So now I'll start hearing from people who think me heartless and heretical... 

Monday, June 11, 2018

Our Hateful Leader Mouthing Our New Anthem

Take out the part about being a Russian tool, and the sentiment of these words is EXACTLY what American represents now...

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Suicide is Painless

Since the news about Anthony Bourdain, many people are composing little treatises on depression, “personal struggles” and self-love.

I personally think there are two kinds of people in the world: the ones who don’t know why or how a person could kill herself, and the ones who know. 

The Ones Who Know may not have made the attempt, may not ever do so.  But we have contemplated it.  And to us, it isn’t a rash, desperate decision brought on by an emotional crisis.  It’s a long considered, rational thought process that is finally acted upon after the body of incontrovertible evidence that life is too difficult, and one’s permanent absence would only benefit those left behind, has reached a tipping point.

Those Who Don’t Know inevitably make judgments about people who do carry out the act.  Judgments that are mostly about them, and not about the one who has ended her life.  They opine that the person was ill, desperate, in pain, and why oh why didn’t she come to me, go somewhere, get help?  Or, why didn’t I know?  Or, how could she have been so selfish?  Or, how could she have hated herself or her loved ones so much?  I can only impart this message to these well-meaning, hurting folks: 

It’s not about you. 

At least, not in a selfish or unconsidered way.  It isn’t as if the person who ends her own life is thinking only of herself and is lost in deep pain.  She most likely has considered the other people whose lives touch hers most closely, and has made the decision that her absence will ultimately be best for them; because she can’t continue to be the prime source of worry, irritation, frustration, annoyance, desperation…pain…in the lives of the people she loves.  Ending her life might be the least selfish act she has ever contemplated.  “I will take this step into the Great Unknown because I just can’t keep hurting people anymore.”     

Now, I know people whose loved ones have died of suicide will probably be offended by my analysis.  And I know that Those Who Don’t Know will be apt to dissect my conclusions and judge them to be the ravings of one who has serious emotional issues.  They will say my view is poisoned by my own psychological problems.  Anyone who can “rationalize” suicide must be mostly unbalanced herself.

I’m not rationalizing anything.  I’m not advocating killing oneself as a solution to anyone’s issues.  I’m simply saying I have been this close to carrying out the act myself, so I know that it can feel like...perhaps even BE… the best action one can take when all things are considered.

Each person ultimately has her own life in her own hands.  And if someone chooses to end it when she feels the time is right, who are we to judge? 

If Those Who Don't Know need some direction as to how to keep someone from performing the ultimate act of self-determination, I would suggest this:

Tell the people you love, especially the ones who may be struggling, that they are important.  Don’t waste your breath on “I love you.”  “I love you” is really a pretty selfish pronouncement, when you get right down to it.  It makes the whole relationship about YOU, about YOUR needs.  Any sentence that begins with “I” is by definition about the person who utters it.  It comes with an unspoken “so…”  “I love you, SO you need to _________.”  Stick around.  Not go away. Be in my life.  Not die.   Fill in the blank.    

Try communicating to your loved ones this way:  “YOU are important.”  “YOU enrich my life, or someone else’s life, in this way” and be specific.  Tell your loved ones WHAT you value about them.  Tell them in no uncertain terms how the world, how the family, how YOU benefit from their unique gifts/input/existence.  From my perspective, the best thing anyone can do for a person who believes her existence is only burdensome to those around her, is to make her understand the positive contribution she makes…to anything.  To everything.  To YOU.  To the universe.  It can make a great deal of difference to know there is SOME good thing that will no longer happen if one is not around to MAKE it happen. 

And even THAT is not guaranteed to redirect a person who has made the decision to end her life. 

In the end, that decision is in the hands of the person who owns the life. 

To those left behind, and to Those Who Don’t Know:  It’s not your fault. It’s not the fault of the person who has gone.  It’s nobody’s fault.  Don’t look for fault.  Don’t look for blame: Don’t blame yourself, don’t blame your departed loved one.  Grieve, because you must, but know that grief is essentially about the living.  Those who still inhabit the earthly plain loved a person, will miss a person, understand the width and breadth of the hole left behind by a person who is now permanently absent.  But I would beg you to honor that person you loved, enough to acknowledge that her life was hers to live and her decision to end it was based upon her best judgment of the options available.  Consider that the decision was not based on illness, or lack of courage, or selfishness. 

Do not regret the life of your loved one who has taken her own life.  Celebrate her, and move on as best you can…as you would if her death was from any other cause.  Life ends in an almost infinite variety of ways, but it always ends. 

Some souls are just more accepting of that fact than others.      


Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Name That Midterm

I'm hearing the 2018 midterm touted as "the most important election of our lifetime."  

The same hyperbole was thrown around about the 2016 presidential election.

And we fumbled THAT so badly that it went over the wall and out of the ballpark.

Maybe we should come up with a different slogan...

Monday, June 4, 2018

A Time For Change

“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.” --Martin Luther King

King was referring to the "change" of equal rights for African Americans. But we can...we MUST...take these words of a wise and inspired leader and apply them to what is happening in America today.

Many of us were blind-sided by the horrific results of election 2016. We could not believe then, and can hardly assimilate now, what Americans have inflicted upon themselves with the election of this "president." We have been so worn down by the ensuing swift and inevitable destruction of our nation--our values, our constitutional liberties, our relationship with other peoples of the world, our moral compass, our ability to discern right from wrong--that we have at times chosen to turn away and weep one would turn away from the scene of a bloody massacre.

Perhaps this is allowed. Perhaps we SHOULD each take a moment to block out the carnage, to collect ourselves and mourn. But we can not then walk away and mutter, "I can't watch this. I can't do this. History proves that these situations will resolve themselves in time; I'll come back when the pendulum swings in the other direction." No. We must turn around and walk back into the fire with minds set on salvation; with hands prepared to help and heal.

For those of us over 60...those of us who were once part of another great political upheaval in the direction of positive change: My friends, if we do not become the change we want to see, we may not live to see the change. What kind of legacy will we be handing to our grandchildren? Can we live out the rest of our lives peacefully in light of it? Do we really want to spend our "golden years" in the country we're living in today?

“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.”

We have been challenged to save our nation, to march forward with the banner of decency, righteousness and freedom; every bit as much as the fallen heroes disrespected by our "president" a week ago on the day we set aside to honor them.

Welcome to the struggle. Embrace it. Do not shirk it or walk away. We have work to do.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Santa Fe


Patience or Persistence?

One of my spirit guides is Heron.  Heron is, in fact, my power animal.  Though I know I have not delved as deeply as I might into the details of the mystical relationship between a person and her power animal, I do feel a special affinity for Heron.  And I feel that Heron can guide me in areas in which I am particularly needy.

In the morning, when I do my salutation to the Four Directions, I call on my spirit guides to guide me through my day.  Heron is one of the first that I salute, when I face the rising sun in the east.  Heron guides toward balance, and for many months, when I began to realize I was obsessively focused on one thing or another, I would call upon Heron to guide me to balance. 

About a year ago, when we acquired a new family member whose stubborn, willful personality was proving to be a nettling challenge, it was whispered to me that perhaps another of Heron’s characteristics might be desirable.  Think of a heron, standing for long stretches of time in a field or shallow water, waiting for a meal to present itself.  Patience! I thought.  That is patience.  And if there is one thing I need, whether it’s in the framework of my relationship with the new family member or just in general, it’s patience. 

So I added “patience” to my morning request of Heron.  It is no secret that patience is something I have lacked my entire life, and whatever small quantity of that commodity I had been given originally has been thinning almost apace with my hair, here in my golden years. 

Applied to my relationship with the puppy…I asked for patience because the training methods we were using seemed to be having zero effect on her, and she was driving me crazy.  And I was guided in patience, when I asked…I didn’t kill her, or decide that she was not for us and attempt to re-home her.  

Lately, though, I’ve been feeling led to reevaluate the “patience” message.  Yes, certainly Heron spends many hours practicing stillness in order to feed itself.  But is that patience…or is it persistence?  “Patience”  implied if I kept at it the way I was going, things would ultimately work.  That was when I realized that perhaps persistence, rather than patience, was really what was needed here.  Define the goal and keep angling to get there, trying different things if the first one or two or six don’t work.   

The two concepts are certainly related.  Perhaps they are the active and passive  characterizations of the same concept.  Both involve a certain amount of projecting toward a future goal, rather than instant gratification.  But “patience” implies…waiting.  Quietly, almost zenlike.  Being content to bide one’s time until the desired outcome occurs.  “Persistence,” on the other hand, is more about actively pursuing what it is one wants to achieve…  Sticking with it, not giving up…but not just sitting there waiting for it to drop into your lap. 

And I’ve realized that persistence is more my style than patience…always has been.  Anyone who knows me knows that I cannot in any way be accused of being “passive.”  Ever.  And in this late stage of my life, I've found there are times one needs to embrace what one is; think of your ways in a positive light rather than always trying to purge from your personality those persistent things that for years you have rued as "negative."  These days, there is a certain amount of understanding of when I am setting myself up to fail.  And who needs that? 

Patience? To set myself the task of sitting quietly and waiting for something to happen…well, that just isn’t going to work. I’m not going to idle around and twiddle my thumbs til the goal arrives on my doorstep.  That is just not me.

I’ll wait, I’ll hold out for the ultimate goal.  But I'm going to be looking at it from different angles and trying new approaches in the meantime.  That is persistence.  

So now, I turn to the east in the morning, and ask Heron to guide me to balance and persistence.  It feels so much more right.