Leashed and Free

Cho and Jules

Lately I’ve been walking with Liam on a leash.
I noticed (for the last few years…I can be slow) that Cho takes his walk with us in a wide arc. It dawned on me that he might be avoiding Liam who goes after Cho’s neck and then Cho easily outruns him. When he gets far enough away and Liam has given up, Cho stops and eats grass.
As I said it’s taken me a while to notice that Cho spends most of his time eating grass. Typically he runs a few circles around us and then he stays a distance away but is always with us.
So now that Liam is leashed, Cho almost heels! He does his run and then he hangs with us. He even comes into the dog gate with the rest of us – Guinnie, who is always on a leash, Jules who follows behind my heels and Liam who until recently has been free to jump at all our necks at will.
My lesson is that Cho doesn’t really want to be far away. He really wants to walk with us and when I lessen the pressure on him, that’s exactly what he does!
 Cho and Liam (leashed)

Guinnie and Liam

Co-operative Ventures

I saw this cube for cats, set it up and didn’t expect much. We have a lot of cat toys moldering and unused. But this one got attention right away. Liam gets in it and on it. Everyone wants to be part of this co-operative. The bottom bunk has two entrances which is probably why it’s so popular. The top is the most sought after.

My daughter Becky posted a quote by Thich Nhat Hahn, “You must love in such a way that the person you love feels free.”
I think this cube does that. It lets the one on top have control and many exits, inside is cosy and also two exits.
If I am in relationship with you and I have to look for an exit I am likely to feel trapped. If I know where to go and have a choice I’ll likely feel free.
When I feel my own self and accept what’s there – freedom. My body feels looser. I’m likely to be smiling when you see me.
Tighten up on myself and my mouth’s a straight line. Squinty eyes.
The cube’s an inside job too.

The other day I was in a hurry. I was also introducing Eli and Liam. They were stiff with each other. I looked at my desk – should be there, things to do, make myself worth something. I looked down. There Liam and Eli were seeking guidance from me the resident human. I remembered what I tell my clients – “what’s important? What are your goals, what is your vision? What do you want to create?”
I bent down to be more available, my desk sat there, I sat on the floor until Liam and Eli were comfortable and convinced we were all on the same path. We are. And my desk was part of the next vision. The next goal. All good time – all a fit.

When We Seek Approval We….

“Our imperfections do not make us inadequate; they are what connect us to each other and to our humanity.”   Brene Brown, Connections Curriculum

When I was growing up I found a quote by George Bernard Shaw, he said, “The more things a man is ashamed of, the more respectable he is.”

That quote certainly fit the times I found myself living in but it didn’t impress me enough to follow along or want to be with anyone who thought like that – though I had lots of choices in that category.

We are each wired – hard wired – for community, for love, leaving us open to the longing for approval. Approval = connection, approval is community, approval means we are worthy. We matter if someone cool thinks we are cool. We matter if we are not alone, part of a greater whole.

So how can we belong if we can’t be perfect? How can we speak our minds if we don’t fit in? How can we have boundaries if we long for approval? When every song, every article, every fashion asks us to fit its mold, where is our authenticity?

If I listen to my clients, it’s on the back burner. It’s what they call me for and what they struggle in and with, and on a lonely evening it goes to the back of the closet. Later, I’ll do that, be that, later. Right now I want a hot date, what’s wrong with that?

So the quote I started with, about our imperfections, gets misplaced. My imperfections are only OK if they fit into your imperfections or if you find mine acceptable – which you might for the first while, but if I get comfortable with them, well, you might get uncomfortable. I gets very complicated this authenticity thing. It might be why Facebook has that as a choice for describing relationship. It is complicated!

It is so hard to do what everyone knows – which is: our first, our only relationship is with ourself. Period. Bah Humbug. We cultivate that. Have our hot date with who we really are, get to know that person – warts and all as we sometimes say – then we can start to look beyond out into the broader world where we have been all along because, you know, we really are all alike in this. We are in this together.

From The Garden

Just past the Autumnal Equinox and into the home stretch for the Winter Solstice, kale and chard are going strong, beets and carrots are neck and neck to the top of the soil, the birds are feasting on sunflowers and berries and the lettuce takes its sweet time.

This place, this earth is so well organized, so well expressed. I have only to notice what is here to see it. Of course it’s what I already know so the stretch is not mine. I visit my father’s mind in this mode of wondering what I eat from the garden that I do not see and what do I not eat because I can’t see it.

I walk around waiting to bump into something I don’t know and wonder if wondering is enough to manifest. I think of the tales of the Europeans who came to distant shores where the inhabitants could not see them and were overtaken and think if we don’t open to mystery we too will be doomed to repeat failure.

In my work with artists and all those in transition, I ask that habits be renegotiated, simple as using a different hand to reach or the other foot to lead, difficult as not giving the voice of resistance its due. Letting the light of appreciation be on fully, floating in the sea of possibility, willing and able and full of expectation at the edge of unknown to find there is no edge, only open sea.

Or, in Ivy’s case, the possibility to sleep, perchance to dream.

Parasite Rex

A while ago I wrote about how parasites, viruses, and bacteria all contribute to who we are and how we relate to each other. I referenced the book, Parasite Rex, which talks about our interaction with our environment – in this case, very small creatures.

On Sunday in a NY Times opinion column, i.e., not necessarily endorsed by the paper, Moises Velasquez-Manoff discusses autism as possibly a function of the lack of parasites whose presence is known to suppress inflammation.

I don’t want to get into an argument about this – what I think is so important is that our interaction with our world, macro and micro, is so significant.

Maybe it’s because i was horrified when I was introduced to Rene Descartes in college. I haven’t gotten over it. How could someone leave out most of the body’s attributes and focus in on a single aspect! (no question mark here, this is rhetorical)

It’s so human of us to isolate one person, idea, phylum and have it support one huge idea. The most obvious to me at the moment are the religious views that would have us be evil or incompetent or superior depending which side is talking.

I know it is often hard for me to feel my connection to the universe in a palpable way. I allow the concept of the universe in me and I in the universe to penetrate my consciousness, I seek it, I believe it. Until I get in a pinch, then it’s really easy to separate.

When I read the article on Autism – and I am drawn to them thanks to my godson Jacob and his teachings – I think of all the places I’ve seen where people live, their relative health and happiness. With my Western mind it is hard for me to fathom how they can live at all. No flush toilets or Saran Wrap, no Betadine or Hydrogen Peroxide. How do they do it? And then I think how I just had the opportunity to walk around in Retail Land for four hours on Saturday and Sunday as Chandrika took a required course for the DMV in preparation for her driver’s license. We don’t look so healthy here. No, not at all. Happiness is a bit of a stretch too. And I think to my time in Nepal and India, many months spent fending off all the disease and dirt and allowing in the smiles, the happiness, the easy and available color, the simplicity within the cacophony of life.

I’m not winding to a Conclusion except to say that I eat organic food because it has withstood the onslaughts of bugs, thereby making the plant stronger and hopefully giving me some of that benefit and I’ll take my answer off the air but I think having a bit of the universe in me in the form of a little dirt wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Tenderness

This morning I watched the light come and touch everything I saw. There was a kindness to its light. Sometimes momentary, sometimes lasting for hours and hours.

What I think we want in this life is a place to be seen. To have tenderness of focus and clarity of heart. Then we pass that along like the sun.

I look forward to the night and the moon’s light touching tenderly all that takes in its shine.

April Is Poetry Month

How many of you have listened to William Butler Yeats? Actually heard his voice? It’s so cool – he’s old, you can tell, but it’s him and that’s enough for me.

1-01 The Song Of The Old Mother

Yeats is in the sky too. He was an idol, a mentor, a mind I loved to attempt to grasp when I was in high school. I got to research and write about him when I was in college. That’s such a great time, a lucky time when you can delve into what you love. I used to love the library, holding all the books in my hands. I love technology. I love Google. Waking up at any hour and typing in whatever I can remember of a poem or person or anything and up it comes with ideas and commentary from all over the world. I love living here now. I love getting ideas from all over. Thank you all for being here.

THE CATS


In the room there are three things; me, my writing, and the Cats.

The cats are an item, they are an entity. They eat and sleep as one, any one of them can disturb any one or three things in my life – all at once, as by one hand. They walk on me, throw up on me, pee in the litterbox, in the sink, in my shoe. They eat everywhere, they dream everywhere. There is nowhere not home to them.

I took my 100+year old bonsai to the hospital (bonsai hospital), Glenn looked at the tree: you still have a few mealy bugs, no scale, and you have cats. The tree is in a room where the cats aren’t allowed, I said. He looked at me like I was a poor foolish soul, there is no such place, he said.

Downstairs if you are upstairs and upstairs if you are downstairs, the cats collide. Up, in the bedroom they fly across the rug, they hit the door – all the doors – up to the fireplace, bounce off the cat tree – carefully constructed from wonderful smelling Pignon from New Mexico and sturdy enough to be climbed, scratched and lept from. Even though it sways mightily, it never falls. The T.V. is a jungle gym. Wonderful wires and a top to navigate like a tightrope walker. Yes, it is a flat screen and presents a tantalizing thrill to master.

There isn’t a rug that can’t be turned into a cave. Three moves and it’s done. Lift up the corner, paw to the triangle it makes, push paw under followed by body, lift up a little. The rug stays up and can be expanded. We have many so-called area rugs, each one a cave-in-waiting.

Downstairs in the kitchen the counter awaits. Filled with items needing to be redirected. Eggs to the floor, glasses of water, bottles of oil, containers of all kinds with myriad contents. All needing direction downward, all needing to mingle on what we humans call the floor. Our knives are blunted at their ends. Visitors see us as so careful, no accidents. We know the truth. The knives make a beautiful arc downward invariably landing point down, defying the laws of physics but not really.

The cats are action oriented. They don’t suspend judgement, they don’t have any. They are cats, and that is enough. Oblivious to the outcome, they live in the moment. They are presently, futurely, and pastly, cats. There is nothing else so fine as a cat.

Dog Love

When my dog Liam comes looking for love, he isn’t expressing need. He’s full of himself and if I’m doing something else he does too. Until he sees a gap, then he enters and asks and I think the sun has come out. That’s Liam.

He doesn’t stress about my lack of communion, he doesn’t feel “less than.” He just waits for another moment. It always comes to him. When he wants play he grabs a toy and growls at me. If he gets nothing from me, he joins me at my feet. No less of a being than he was before.

I marvel at his equanimity. His strength and courage, the faith he has in himself. It isn’t even faith. That’s too thought-out, too human. He’s just who he is and that’s that.

I love to have Liam around me. He’s in balance and keeps me that way.

He’s not small.

Even as a puppy, he was as big as the biggest.

Love and Marriage

The other day I was sitting in my living room having a wonderful cup of coffee I had just made and suddenly I felt myself be twenty years old, listening to a song about love and yearning. I remember very well what I was yearning for. It had nothing to do with my past, nothing in my past was yearning material. It had to do with my future. I was yearning for my future.

I’m pretty sure – even though it feels crazy to me now – that young girls and women are taught to yearn for a future. A future they may or may not get. I didn’t get mine, but it was more from my tastes changing than sitting here writing this and feeling unfulfilled.

Every Wednesday in my school – it went from kindergarten to twelfth grade and in the auditorium/chapel the first row on the right as you walked in were the fourth-graders(K – 3 not allowed), the grades went up to the last row and then down to the first row on the left side where the seniors sat. I make that point because that meant the whole school of girls, 500 of us, got the same message week after week, year upon year.

Our headmaster would ask us how many were going to college – most of our hands went up. He would exclaim the benefits of college: it was where the young men would be and the better qualified we were to go to the best schools, the better marriages we would make and the more happiness we would have.

Year by year as I went up the rows of seats and down again I would find out there were easy two-year colleges situated not far from the so-called better men’s colleges. These had secret mottos like, “a ring by spring or your money back.” You think I’m kidding. I’m not. We were serious, our futures depended on it.

There was no way out. That was it. Marriage and happiness. Frank Sinatra was singing, “Love and marriage…. go together like a horse and carriage.” So when I got married, I would be happy. It was in all the Disney movies, too, it still is. So there I was remembering twenty and yes, I was married. The happiness bird hadn’t landed yet.

My husband had settled into a routine of “we’re married, you do it, whatever “it” is, and we both have to go to bed early, forget sex, and be responsible. Responsible for what? I didn’t ask, I was not the questioning kind. Authority spoke, I listened and either ignored, acted or rebelled. Those were the choices I saw. When my husband and I had lived together, we had shared doing dishes, the bed never got made and we went to sleep and got up in time to go to classes or work or do whatever we were doing. This imposed schedule of up at six and to bed at nine was incomprehensible to me.

Back at my school, not so very long ago in my life, everything had a point. Our headmaster knew everything and the teachers made sure his dicta ran smoothly. We were all bent to the same shape. Every year each rising senior class would vote on their school ring. Each year the senior class voted for the same ring. When it came our turn I thought it would be a good idea to change. I found another design. I showed it to the rest of the class. I showed it to the leadership of the class and got them to think it was a good idea.

We voted on the ring. We voted for the new style. I felt triumphant. I had changed a hundred years of rings. I had persuaded my class, at the time the largest graduating class, to be different. I was ecstatic.

Well you know I wouldn’t be writing this if my plan had succeeded. I won the battle but it had sparked a war. Our Latin teacher, who had changed my grades whenever I had gotten higher than a C in any of my classes, called another vote. We were gathered into a room, told about the value of consistency, of history, our place in it, how gratifying it is to be part of a larger whole, how unattractive it is to be different, how unacceptable.

Another vote was held. Pieces of paper in a box – just as before. The box taken to the headmaster’s office. We waiting in our classroom. And when they came back they were happy to announce the old style had been chosen. We were back in the fold. History could go on and we with it.

Yes, she changed my grades. I didn’t know this until a few years later when I happened to speak with two of my teachers and I lamented working so hard to get my grades up and getting the grades but it not being reflected on my transcript. They were not completely shocked to hear and said yes, they had given me grades reflecting my work and Miss Stevens had changed them. They both knew other instances. Other girls like me not really part of the school “picture.”

I’m pretty sure the headmaster became my template for authority. And I’m also sure that I put my husband in the role. And he came up way short. We were both playing to roles more unconscious than conscious. There’s a lot of research now showing that as children we take in our surroundings and believe in them way before we understand what anything means. We get our concepts of fairness and duty in the world without choosing them. The messages are clear before we have any clarity about what we are doing, whose rules are we following.

This applies to us our whole lives. We choose with our history firmly grasped but not understood. We base our choices of jobs, spouse, partners in business, cars, food, on what was our norm. That includes what we love and hate, what we resent or think is essential.

It’s important to uncover your truth, your self. Listen to the unexpressed values you hold. “following your bliss” only works if you know who you are and are willing to take the risks associated with that knowledge. It does not mean to do what you want. It does not mean to do what you think is right or what someone tells you to do. It means to seriously get to know yourself, see yourself and have the courage to stand up for yourself, take responsibility for what you want, what you care about. That’s when you become your best friend, that’s when you can be trusted, when your compassion includes yourself.

I’m going to make another cup of coffee – different this time – and remember who I really am.  What about you?


Do something unexpected, even maybe uncomfortable, often!