The Dogs I know

When I experienced the Durga Festival in Kathmandu my senses were rendered senseless when I saw the dogs of that night.
The dog being killed by the car and then being taken aside by another dog meant to my well fed Western eyes that it was a retrieval, a saving grace.
When the dog proceeded to tear into the dying dog I could not absorb what I saw.
This went beyond my acknowledgement that we see only what we are accustomed to. Although I did not at first comprehend what I saw – I was able to look away when I perceived what I was actually seeing! And yes, all the phrases of my father came to me – his dog eat dog world – the shock of that reality is still with me. As are many of the lessons where I strayed from my comfortable life.
The take-away for me in the years since has been to look, to appreciate what is. To nurture the truth and not turn away, at least let the glance be a look.
Denial of what is, what I have or don’t have, who I am or who I’m not is the mucky place here. Dogs in Kathmandu do what they do. Dogs here, the same. I can’t make one the other, I can make a difference of course. The two dogs on the right of this photo are from southern Spain in Cadiz and their life here is very different from their life there and I know they were in both lives equally, though the lives were unequal in the extreme.
I tell myself to be careful with my categories, my judgements, my polarity. There is life everywhere and where there is life something right is going on.

Moment to Moment Clarity

Babies and cats are classic. The “thereness” of them, their wholeness (can’t be said about dogs, sorry,) sets them apart. They may need us and all the support in the world but in their moment’s moment they are complete.
To be a photographer around a cat or a baby is to be in heaven.
Knowing glances, gazing, smiling, the silent meow are the stuff of the “Kodak moment.”
Attention to self, needs clear, wants expressed. Nary a question about what your next move should be. No prevaricating for the cat or the baby, they know exactly what they want from us.

Appearance Is Everything

When I fall in love
With cats I often have
A look I’m seeking
A type, a brand.
So when I look at the outside
I think I’m getting a whiff of what’s
Inside. For instance, I’ve chosen
because I can help them
Or no one else would want them
(I think)
I make stuff up
Because I’m looking at the outside.
It is, after all, all I can see
And I’m thinking “rescue,” “help,” and other sicko
Fantasies about myself
The Rescuer, The Healer, The All-Knowing
(read f-up)
And when I close my eyes, take my breath in and out
Feel that place in my middle up from my solar
plexus. Then there is no
Poor Thing, only me and my beloved
And what’s showing is the petticoat of compassion
Not a needy thing needing another needy thing to take hostage.

Common Bugs and Visitors

The last two weeks have been taken up with succumbing to and then getting over some horrid flu thing that I hear a lot of you have gone through. I put this photo of a recent sunset to give the send-off to it and a welcome to another chance for clarity of mind.
Another interesting bit of life here which I have not photographed is a veritable herd (hurd?) of turtles – Snappers – coming up the hill from the lake to lay their eggs. The first phalanx was discovered just as we were preparing for an Open House – yes, hide the dogs, box the cats, scoop everywhere and, oh, get the Snappers off the lawn and out of the flower beds!
Much hauling one at a time in the wheelbarrow – getting them in with careful precision of two long-handled shovels – down to the swampy stream and back up. No presence of mind for the great shot – just get them off, finish up and get out!
So today when some more came we were almost casual – almost – get the dogs and the cats inside, watch where we put Laila Rose who with mom Bimala is here for a summer time. We are all very impressed at the level of communication skills these elegant and prehistoric creatures share – not with us. We knew nothing of their coming until they were here.
These are some of my bed mates – also inmates and outmates. Eli is one of the best companions in my experience. So happy to be. So involved in his world, finding every opportunity to enjoy everything that is. He is always there to remind me to embrace everything I see with claws retracted. Thank you, Eli.


Spending time with my horse Sanne the other day I am struck by how he holds light. Not just his dark-forelock shining with rain falling but how his eyes catch and reflect light. How they bounce the light through him and back to me.
His soft lower lip can rub with me tenderly, separate the finest grasses, pick up the tiniest grain – of sugar, oats, whatever is in my palm.
Today it is herb balls – a treat made for horses without sugar. He loves it when I whisper “Hilton’s Herb Balls.” I kind of hiss at the end.
He is not just a push-over, he has standards, and willingly makes them known. But he is not looking for trouble. He is not ready with a story or justification. He is ready to stand his ground and find out what is here, now.
And he is capable of fierce attention, his eye soft and full of what is.

Grasping Your Reach

With no hope of ever catching a bird, let alone going outside, Precious is nimbleness itself following the birds’ every move.

Joined by her cadre of our “inside” cats, she, more than the rest avidly follows the birds’ movement. Pressing her nose so many times against the window she has to raise her head a bit to see through.
I am reminded of Robert Browning’s oft-quoted, “Ah, but a man’s [cat’s] reach should exceed his grasp or what’s a heaven for?”
She is indeed in heaven, in joy, in thrall. When I am about to take her off my lap – perhaps a dog has barked, doorbell rung, some “must” to get up – I pet her and hold her as I make my move to leave. There is never a moment she is not reeling in the enjoyment of my touch,  pushing into me for more, jumping from me when it’s over. She is never out of pleasure’s reach. Like the Zen story of the man chased off a cliff, sees a ripe strawberry, plucks it to his mouth as he plunges to his death. Each moment embraced. Each moment aware of possibility.
Every day I thank Precious and her cohorts for showing me – whether I’m paying attention or not – that the way to joy is joy.

Thank you.
Rest is joy and that abounds as well.

Comfortable With Uncertainty

Sitting on my lap, resting by something warm, prompting my putting food in her dish: these are certainties. And certainties are relative to experience and experience tells all the cats whom I have known, that I will feed them, comfort them and house them. Before they knew where I live who knows how they felt?
What does it take for you or me to feel certainty? I know from my experience that the more I know about myself, the more certain I am. The more I live with certainty and the less I live in fear. I feel like a cat. Good on my own. Better with you. Besides which mice and birds give me a belly ache.
Pema Chodron says, “Learning how to be kind to ourlselves is important. When we look into our own hearts and begin to discover what is confused, what is brilliant, what is bitter, what is sweet, it isn’t just ourselves we’re discovering. We’re discovering the universe.”
No one ever told me when I was little that the universe was anything but a huge distant unknowable thing – it made me dizzy to think of it. I would look and look at the stars, at the day or night sky and my mind would whirl. I looked under my bed, I looked in corners and in fields for the “dust” that was coming or going. I wanted to see it. I wanted to touch it and hold it. I wanted to see it move.
Then when I was older, spiritual teachers told me the universe was in me. Well that sure added to the confusion! The dust, the expansion, the movement was in me. Where? I began my search. And I can totally identify with the premise of a spiritual mystery book or two I read about where the protagonists were trying to weigh the soul. Well, silly or not, I’m with them on that one. Wouldn’t it be nicer to have a measurement, something on which to hang my dis-ease with complex thought. Spiritual insurance – you will know the Answer!
Back to my cat. They know. That’s what I like about them. Their very presence reassures me. They know their way around. I follow. And feed. And scoop. And whatever else.
But I never question. Not any more. I just ask my cat(s). Here’s Barb sharing with Pachi.

The Velveteen Rabbit Is In All of Us

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

“I suppose you are real?” said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled.