journeys

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geese
I hear them
coming over the tops of trees
I begin to see them
the long, trailing vee
so high
wings waving
over the silent snow
I lift my hand toward them
I wish you well, wise ones

more come, another vee follows
and then another
wave after wave
my breath is in the air
the sky fills with hundreds of geese
my heart breaks to watch them leaving
I yet standing
now with my hand on my heart
awed and bereft
all the while knowing

I fly with you
I watch for you
I will lift my hand and
welcome you back home

be amazed

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I know dogs get all the credit, and I don’t begrudge them that, but when it comes to unconditional love, this dude right here is all over it. Honest to Pete, he’s an angel and a teacher with love from the tips of his ears to the point of his tail. His eyes sparkle with love when he looks into mine. So grateful for this little fella. Just wow.

Hey, happy Winter Solstice all! Be amazed!

the book biter

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My beloved cat, Biddo, was a book biter.

Biddo loved to rip up paper, any kind of paper – usually in the middle of the night. Didn’t matter if it was the newspaper, business papers, or, his true love, books.

veru12_16_18eI tried packing the bookshelves tightly, but Biddo still seemed to be able to get whatever he wanted off the shelf. And just forget it if you left a book laying around.

I lost my wonderful Biddo about a year and a half ago, and I miss him dearly. I delight, however, every time I stumble across his bite marks in my library. I got to thinking about it lately, and perused my shelves.

Turns out, Biddo was a discriminating biter. For example, George Orwell. Biddo did a good job of biting up the cover of 1984. He entirely ripped off the back cover and several pages of Animal Farm. At the same time, he left Huxley’s Brave New World entirely unscathed. What’s up with that?

Stephen King’s On Writing suffered Biddo’s wrath, but all three copies (can you have too many?) of The Elements of Style were untouched.

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A Course In Miracles and the accompanying meditations both drew Biddo’s ire. Sharon Salzberg’s LovingKindness drew a few bites. There’s just some gentle nipping on Louise Hay’s work.

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Stephen Hawking’s A Briefer History of Time, as the picture shows, sustained a prolonged onslaught on the outer cover – seeing as how little damage could be done to the hardcover, I suppose.

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There’s not a single bite in any of my works by Shakespeare. Chaucer was safe, too. Hmmm.

Biddo always left the inside pages pretty much intact, except for corner bite marks. The only exception was Animal Farm, where you’ll have to go elsewhere to read the ending.

This is just a sampling. I frequently lay hands on a book with bitemarks. Biddo left quite a legacy for me.

I’m not sure whether Biddo was biting approval or distaste in my books. Biddo was nothing, though, if not intentional.

It was a little upsetting in the moments when I discovered yet another ripped up book, but gotta say, I love to find them now.

Another item he thoughtfully left all bitten up? My yoga mat.

Miss you, buddy.

a bigger picture

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As a vegan, it is my policy to tread gently with others. I have been where they are – for most of my life. I understand that the concept can feel weird, uncomfortable, and threatening.

At the same time, I feel no reason at all to be apologetic for my own perfectly valid, considered, non-harmful lifestyle choices.

So, recently, when the topic of bacon came up during a casual conversation with a friend, it took an interesting turn.

Now, I understand how deeply committed to bacon many folks are. I get that this is a love affair.

Thus, when the topic was introduced by my friend, I innocently and with a chuckle observed that all that bacon eating might not be such a healthy thing. I did not launch into an impassioned vegan rant, I was just making conversation.

Nevertheless, one thing led to another with an increasing level of challenge and defensiveness on my friend’s part – despite the fact I was not challenging them for their choices.

To my dismay, in the space of about ten sentences – it was a brief discussion – my friend managed to become all upset and wanted to know why I would choose to distress them.

And then I was distressed. I had no intention to distress my friend, nor was I judging them. Neither did I feel good about being challenged and judged for own my personal, reasoned choices.

Inasmuch as someone else can unabashedly proclaim their love of bacon, how can it be somehow inappropriate for another to gently demonstrate their thoughtful abstinence of it?

And how in the world is it that those who choose to quietly act on compassion for animals should be ridiculed or judged negatively for that?

But I have observed this phenomenon before.

It comes from a gut knowing that causes an uncomfortable dissonance in a person. They don’t like to confront the conflict – the conflict within themselves. It is inherent compassion coming up against known cruelty – and not being able to reconcile that. 

Most of the time it’s not a problem, because we simply keep it hidden from ourselves.

There is no blame in this. Our culture demands this dissonance of us. It tamps it down by normalizing everything and hiding the evidence.

Every now and then, though, it can rise to the surface and we see it for what it is. And that doesn’t feel so good.

Those are the moments that offer possibilities, though – ones that ask us to look at the world with a broader perspective – opening our eyes not only to difficult practices in our culture and our world, but to the beautiful depths of our own compassion. The implications go way beyond food.

I am grateful to my friend for reminding me of all this, for reminding me of my why, for helping me to keep my eyes open and to look at the bigger picture. Maybe my friend is seeing it, too.

kindred spirits

veru11_30_18I enjoyed a happy moment yesterday with the discovery of a kindred vegan spirit.

Chance threw us together. We were making friendly small talk. As time passed, we discovered more and more shared likes and experiences.

Finally, as the conversation somehow turned toward food, he quietly started a sentence, “ I’m a vegan, so…”

I stopped him right there. “Wait. You’re vegan?”

“Yes,” he replied with a tentative nod. He was probably bracing for the inevitable well-how-do-you-get-your-protein question.

Instead, what he heard was a very delighted, “So am I!”

With a look of happy surprise, up came the hands for a high five.

Gotta admit, despite the fact the vegan population is definitely on the rise, coming across vegans in the wild is a pretty rare experience for me. Wandering as a vegan through the heart of meat and potatoes country can be a rather lonely and sometimes alienating experience.

The alienation has its roots in the defensive posturing that some people feel compelled to launch once they discover you’re vegan. Sadly, it’s also the case that sometimes you fly quietly under the radar just to avoid to the predictable, tiring challenges that you are occasionally forced to gently work through with insecure, heels-dug-in meat-and-dairy eaters.

So when you chance upon a kindred soul, it’s a pretty cool thing.

Then, you can happily chat about fave dishes and books and apps and oh, just all the other doors this shared choice opens up. Because the choice to be vegan is not fundamentally about food. It is a very deliberate, practical choice toward exercising compassion. It is an ethical stance about animals, people, and planet.

All the healthy side effects of such a choice are icing on the cake, so to speak.

Online, I see that there are more and more folks on the vegan bandwagon all the time. In the stores, it is clear that corporations are working to tap into this growing market as more vegan processed options keep popping up. Restaurants, too, seem to have a budding awareness with more of them including a vegan, or at least vegetarian, option on their menus.

Estimates in the United States indicate that the vegan population might be roughly three percent. Who knows, though? I think some other countries are definitely ahead of us in this lifestyle.

The numbers are still scant. Working through those uncomfortable conversations is worth the effort when you have the energy for it, since you might touch another soul in a way that winds up mattering some day.

But when you actually discover a fellow traveler out there, there’s just a little moment of heart sparkle. You find both recognition and connection, and, even better, inspiration.

hibernation

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There’s a lovely darkness surrounding me right now. It’s still moon and stars time as I sit comfortably and cozy, this Saturday morning needing to get ready to go nowhere in the cold and snowy world outside my windows.

I love this kind of time. It’s a time to appreciate the warmth of my home space, the other being in it, and the simple things that sustain us.

There’s something to that whole hibernation thing some of our fellow animals have going. We’re supposed to be the ones with all that brain power, but sometimes you have to wonder.

Just the other day, as I headed homeward about quarter to six, I marveled at the icy conditions and helter-skelter “rush hour” traffic. Cars were creeping and sliding along on the dangerous roadways in what was already fully night.

It occurred to me just how nuts it is. Rather than coordinate with and respect the very real difficulties of winter conditions, we just go full bore on our capitalist economy driven schedules – even to the point of imperiling life and limb. No one gives it a second thought.

Oh sure, the time will come when there is simply too much snow on the roads, and things will close down for maybe a day. For the most part, however, everyone just continues the daily grind for all the dark months of winter come hell or high water.

There is something to respect in that, I suppose: a sort of gritty determination that teaches people to have battery cables in their trunks, and decent wipers on their windshields. People adjust to simply coping with the conditions, bundling themselves up, shoveling, salting.

Almost all of those activities happen literally in darkness for so many working people, too. In order to get to work on time, they’ll get up early to do all the work of clearing their steps, sidewalks, driveways, cars. They leave extra time to make a slow drive in treacherous conditions.

The daylight hours then are spent at the toil of jobs that may or may not be meaningful for workers. As darkness falls, the exercise of combatting the elements resumes.

What if we approached the season a little differently, say, cutting back working hours during winter – acknowledging the realities of all the extra prep time for the commute and the very real dangers often experienced? What if winter working shifts were more like, I dunno, six hours, instead of eight? Imagine if corporations raised pay or offered premiums during winter to accommodate all the expense, difficulty, and danger of just showing up.

Just a thought, and I don’t really know where it goes. I know it’s crazy in our current context, but I maintain the context is not immutable.

I just can’t help wondering what a world that sought less to combat nature and more to be in sync with it would look like. I imagine that up here in the north, at any rate, during the winter that would involve slowing down, staying home more, and spending more time with family and home activities – a little hibernation, if you will.

a dark season

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Opening day.

The excitement is in the air. Everyone has been planning for this for weeks. By yesterday, the atmosphere was thick with it. Many have arranged for time off from work. And today’s the day.

Deer season.

Yes, the guns have been cleaned. There’s plenty of ammo. And don’t forget the beer.

This is a time of year to which I have never grown accustomed. The sight of deer carcasses slung across cars, casually driving around town, really bothers me. Or how about the car dealership that has some kind of contest, where there will be a long line of carcasses hanging from a pole, easily visible from the street.

No, although many eagerly look forward to this time, it is not a season I have ever enjoyed. I do not understand the drive that makes a regular person want to get out to shoot and kill deer or any other animals. I have yet to meet a person who does it because they actually need to kill deer to survive. And venison is clearly an acquired taste.

The frenzy over the hunt pervades the entire community. I am clearly in the minority in my distaste for it. It’s more than distaste, though. It disturbs me how people get wound up and passionate about this activity of killing. I know I am the odd one in this feeling.

For me, I much prefer those magical moments of spotting a deer and simply savoring its beauty – of honoring our kinship as beings sharing this earth. I see deer as members of families, parents and children, struggling to survive on this changing earth. I am delighted even to simply come across deer tracks in the snow, wondering about the mystery of their lives.

Spare me the arguments about the need to control the deer population. I think there is a lot at work here in the social psyche that creates this strange holiday and the way people behave related to it. For all the gung ho, festive, all-American patina to it, this sacred ritual strikes me as a dark season.

I’d just like the shooting to stop.

snow magic

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I get up in the dark, head down the hall, get the coffee going – no lights. The beloved cat winds across my ankles, purring loudly. Everything is dark, quiet. We head back to sit in bed, sip coffee, think, dream.

I snuggle in the covers. The cat nestles against me.

Everything is warm. Quiet. Soft.

Something’s different. I feel it.

It’s the hush.

I can feel the cocoon about my space, the soft muffle surrounding me.

I sip my coffee, savoring this hush, wondering.

My eyes take in the darkness all around me. Nothing here has changed. But, this hush. 

I slowly grow more and more conscious. 

Then, suddenly knowing, I get up and walk to the window. Pull the blind aside and look out.

Snow.

veru11_10_18bLots and lots of fluffy, still falling snow. The tree branches are laden with it. The glow of the porch light shows the air filled, filled with flakes.

It is a magical scene. Like a fairy tale. 

I turn around and gently pluck the cat off the bed because I know, just know, he wants to see this.

Heads together, we peer out the window, eyes wide with curiosity.

We are both quiet, just watching the falling snow, feeling safe and happy in the hush.

best friend

veru11_1_18aSometimes – often, in fact – my very best friend in this world is the cat with whom I share my home. He’s really a pretty amazing guy.

For one thing, he is always, always present to me. He clearly wants to be with me and to be my friend. He purrs A LOT.

He follows me from room to room without demanding attention. If I’m sitting in the living room, so is he. If I’m laying in bed, so is he. If I’m taking a shower, he’s right on the other side of the shower curtain. He makes it damned obvious that he wants to be with me.

At the same time, he’s independent. He clearly has a mind of his own. He’s tuned into things. He’s alert and observant. He’s filled with curiosity about the world. He’s very creative, too, always inventing new ways to pique my interest.

He’s completely non-judgmental about whatever it is that I’m doing or thinking. I can tell him anything. Anything. And he understands.

When I sing songs to him, he does not make any jokes about my voice.

In fact, he never makes any caustic remarks about anything I do – ever. That includes cooking, cleaning, employment, driving, social interactions, or big decisions.

And he absolutely does not care at all what I am wearing or how I look.

He takes me seriously. When I’m alarmed, he’s alarmed. When I’m upset, he is, too. He has been known to come to me and gently stroke my face when I’ve been crying. He also loves a good laugh with me.

He listens to anything I have to say. He not only understands my need to read to a lot, to write, and to sew and be creative, he absolutely appreciates it. He is demonstrable in his appreciation, sprawling across whatever sewing project I may have in the works, or cuddling up with me and a book.

He loves to have simple fun. He has a sense of humor. He can be sneaky. He likes to make surprises. His eyes are usually sparkling with joy. He loves dancing with me. He’s affectionate, always.

He’s a total coward – often hiding under the bed or in the closet if someone new enters the premises. That said, he’s totally courageous. Just watch him leap fearlessly into the air to snag a flying mouse toy.

He’s epicurean. He loves food. He loves hanging out in the kitchen. He loves pretty much anything I dish up for him.

He loves sunshine, butterflies, birds, and bugs. He loves warm. He loves rain and snow. He loves trees. He loves anything that moves, slightly.

He’s expressive. He’s intelligent. He’s not afraid to ask for help. He really loves a good stretch.

It makes me happy to make him happy. I love being around him. I love playing little games with him, and surprising him with toys. I love it when I make a comfy spot for him, and he jumps right in.

I love arriving home to his warm welcome.

Old soul, playful sprite. Confidante, partner, witness, hero. Midnight raider, ministering angel. Visionary, realist.

Yup, my best friend, my buddy. So grateful!