seeing

Eyesight is so taken for granted. When asked if you had a choice of losing hearing or eyesight (neither!), many prefer to keep seeing. Things we experience by sight are very hard to describe unless others have experienced it too. If the only star someone can imagine is a pentagram or stars in the night sky how do you describe a flower?

0.jpg“Texas Star” hibiscus

How would you describe the curl of an ocean wave, or the liquid gold surface of the ocean as  it reflects the morning sun?

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There are caterpillars that cause a lot of damage, destroying an entire tree, and borer beetles that destroy whole pine forests. There are other caterpillars that eat a plant to a nub, only to have the plant grow back because that is one of the things the plant was created for.

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I can’t imagine not hearing the dawn chorus each morning, rain or shine, cold or hot. Or not seeing the bright red plumage of a black-masked male cardinal. Or floating on the scatter-brained song of a bluebird. The sound of wind in the pines, ocean waves crashing on shore, rumbling of distant thunder.

Offerings of creation.

 

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making new friends

Runs with scissors. This would be me. So far, except for one small mishap in high school which only required a butterfly bandaid I have been very lucky.

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Don’t Play Well With Others

This would apply to rescue dogs Lily and Lulu.

I adopted Lulu somewhat late in her life, 3 years ago. She is maybe 8 or 9 now. I adopted Lily when she was about a year so she is now around 11 or 12. Lily’s sole purpose in life (after eating) is to be my Nanny. She follows me everywhere, keeps me in her line of sight at all times. If we encounter other people on a walk she places herself between them and me. When she lost her rescue buddy Murphy 5 years ago she was heartbroken. This was a surprise since they tolerated each other but did not appear to much care if the other came or went. When Murphy died I realized that despite outward appearances animals form strong bonds. Lily looked for him, even after I moved 200 miles east. So enter Lulu.

I fostered her for about a week to see how things would shake out. Lulu confiscated all the toys and appropriated all the beds within a day or so. Only once did I find her shaking, cornered by Lily for some unknown altercation. Lily and I discussed her new friend and that put an end to her hostility toward Lulu. They are sisters now.

On walks and hikes whenever they encounter any other dog, happy, peppy puppies, sullen surly dogs, or any other attitude they are tolerant, receptive but non-interactive. So I figured they had decided they were enough. Until a few days ago.

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This happy but laid-back little fellow ambled over one afternoon. We had just finished our walkie and were about to head home. Taking an immediate interest, he was undaunted by Lily and Lulu’s complete nosiness. He welcomed it! There was no growling, no defensive posture. Just happy sniffing and wagging of tails.

So sometimes there are exceptions to even the truest of generalizations.

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It’s important to keep an open mind.

 

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strength

Nerves of steel. Iron willed. Rock solid. Unflappable. So many images to describe someone who can withstand adversity. Even capricious betrayal.

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Someone convinces me that s/he is sincerely in my corner, only wanting to help, but instead of my normal step back to consider the thing I jump right in, believing this person is actually the genuine, concerned, true clear thinker that I am not at the moment.

Mistake. At rescue dog Lulu’s expense.

As a person said, after the altered-universe nightmare was over, hindsight is 20/20. Yes. And I know this. I have known it since I entered into a marriage that should never have happened.

When does one finally learn? When do I get to look back and not say “hindsight is 20/20”?

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Sure, she likely needed the treatments she received, but I needed to make that decision. I am old enough to know better. I need to remember it is almost never that anyone else has my best interests in mind or even at heart. Certainly not when s/he is insisting I do something their way. I need to not worry oh gosh what will s/he think of me if I make a different choice.

Lulu mattered. Not the controlling person.

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Mercifully Lulu is none the worse for the experience. The same cannot be said for me. It was not the expense. It was visiting my little dog and seeing her collapse in exhaustion because she cannot sleep in a tense environment with 24-hour noise, prodding of needles and not eating, receiving fluids because she is too terrified to drink on her own.

It was seeing her wild-eyed, cradled in my arms unable to relax until she slept. It was being home without her, my other rescue dog, Lily greeting me when I came home from visiting Lulu sniffing every centimeter of my arms and hands, going to the back door to look for Lulu, who was not there.

It was going to pick Lulu up on my appointed day to bring her home to be met by the ICU tech telling me, no, Lulu is not going home, and me replying Yes, Lulu is coming home today, and bringing her home.

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Thank God Lulu is fine. But now I have another person to put on my “Not to be trusted” list. A person who encouraged me to do a thing and resolved issues vicariously through my experience.

Whatever. I’m just glad it is over. And Lulu is home. The lump on her throat which appeared is still there but not a bother to her in any way, and an emergency vet experience made her no better than her own vet would have. She did need care beyond what I could offer, but not dire.

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But then I will never know. And I have trust issues. The person who told me Lulu needed to go there may have meant well but I know enough to know that people also can have an agenda. So I can remember, if such a thing should ever happen again to say thank you, I will consider the suggestion. And think about it.

And pray that there are no other dire circumstances at the same time, like a broken tree falling in the backyard …..

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nourishment

Before rescue-mix husky Lily’s surgery 3 weeks ago she relished her food. No sooner had I put her bowl down for her than she had vacuumed up every morsel. Even during the 2 weeks before her surgery after the injury. She ate everything.

She has always been all about food.

So part of the reason she tore her acl was her weight. This is my fault and I need to correct it. After all it’s not as if she can get her treats out of the cupboard. So I have been trying to be careful.

But her regular food? Completely turns her nose up at it. After her surgery the vet changed her food which might be part of the problem. She’s never been picky though, so I had no concerns when they sent me home with an enormous 30-pound bag of kibble that this would be a problem.

Most days though, later in the day she will go to her bowl and quietly eat her food. So maybe she just wants me to think she doesn’t like the change.

When I was little every Sunday after church my grandparents who moved from New York to be nearby would join my family for Sunday dinner. These were my mom’s parents (I never met my father’s, they were in Colorado, a long way from North Carolina), and I adored them.

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I was a picky eater. After everyone had finished, even dessert there I’d sit, my plate with remnant peas or whatever it was I did not care for staring back at me and as everyone else left the table I was told I had to sit until I finished my plate. My grandfather always sat with me.

He would not berate me, maybe offered a word or two of encouragement, but the important thing, for me, was he thought enough of me to not want me to be ashamed. Or alone.

This is something I think many of us do not understand. We have our comfy homes, our lovely friends and we do not see the ones who are alone. In our comfort we simply don’t see them.

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Nourishment comes to us in so many ways. Our physical food, the joy of a familiar voice, the wag of a dog’s tail, a favorite symphony, an unexpected note in the mail, a good book, a phone call from someone checking in, the family member who remembered something and wanted us to remember, too.

There is a hunger though, deep in each of us that no one else and nothing else can fill but God. His love that has known us since before we were born. He is with us every moment. In our fast-paced lives we may try to fill this empty need with many things… human attention, any number of substances that are bad for us or, at least, in excess are not good. All of which are fleeting, inconsistent at best and capricious at worst.

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So we move forward, day by day. We make our plans, work at our jobs, all the while knowing ultimately it is not we who are in control.

I know this for certain when I put Lily’s food in her bowl.

pain of healing

Forged in the fire, no pain, no gain, that which does not kill me makes me stronger…

I have watched husky-mix Lily closely these couple of weeks as she has recovered from her surgery. She did not do any of the things I prepared for– lick her stitches so avoided the “cone of shame”, cry out, object to the physical therapies I have done to keep her leg limber and exercised. At least not at first.

Her pain has been recent. When I take my other rescue dog, Lulu out for a short walk Lily is left behind. She is feeling better. She doesn’t understand why I am still holding her back from racing to the door if the doorbell rings, bounding down the porch steps to go outside, checking the backyard before bed to ward off the possum that sleeps in one of our trees. Maybe it isn’t painful for her, but for me. I feel badly that I can’t yet allow her to be herself.

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I think we all become complacent sometimes. Then something blindsides us or something we saw coming but hoped wouldn’t, happened. Or we lose someone, in some way– death, divorce, argument –and we are hurting. We sort through what happened and face some truths, which can hurt more than the thing that happened. But that hurt is the beginning of the healing. We are free when we face the realities of it. You can see it for what it is, put it in perspective. Lies hold us in bondage both to the lie as long as we persist in believing it, and the truth that we won’t yet face.

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Years ago I read several books by Dr. Frederick Buechner, a favorite of mine, Telling Secrets. This book illustrated well for me that our secrets are lives we live that no one else sees, and we may fabricate a life that we present to others that we believe is more presentable. But it’s in our secrets that we unlock who we truly are….

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Lately Lily’s resistance to my helping her stretch and exercise her leg has become stronger. This is frustrating for me, likely for her, too. This is to be done 3-5 times each day and as she heals and becomes stronger it’s gone to more like maybe 3 times a day. Thankfully her stitches will be removed this week and I really hope her vet tells me she can be freer in her walking and movement. She has helped me see, though, how it must be when my Father, God, wants to do something for me or through me and I struggle, disobey, assert my own will.

I need to get out of His way and wait for Him. I guess it’s good I have a lifetime to work on this.

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new horizons

Metaphysically speaking almost anything can be a new horizon. A new calendar year, a new job, a new home, a new day. Every year as long as I have known her my ex-mother-in-law has acknowledged my birthday, though at times I imagine she wished I did not have one, and has shared Christmas with a gift of a 3-month subscription of lovely seasonal fruit.

When Hurricane Florence threatened my area as a category 4 storm this thoughtful woman offered to have me stay with her (she lives about 250 miles inland) and had even advised a nearby veterinarian I would need to board my dogs. She let me know she had done all of this and I was deeply thankful to her for caring about me after 40 years. The forecasts about this storm changed constantly and, crazy as it might have sounded to her I said I needed to see how bad it would be since it would be difficult to return in the aftermath (it was, very) and I’d rather be there in case my home sustained any damage so I could report it quickly (it did, though minor thank God).

Though I sent her flowers this apparently was insufficient to appease her or convince her of my (slightly) insane decision to stay. For the first time in all these 40-plus years I did not receive a birthday card from her.

Ouch.

Nor did I receive the annual Christmas gift of fruit. Admittedly, her family sustained a terrible shock just before Thanksgiving in a completely unexpected death in their family so I truly did not look for anything from her. Quite the contrary I found myself at loose ends as to what I could do to help because our lives were not connected at any significant depth.  Yet this is a new horizon for me. A new phase where I proceed in life without her in it as she seems to have chosen to end contact.

This happens in life. We gain friends, we lose friends, people. Circumstances change. New discoveries are made that can change how we see everything.

Very early New Year’s night this happened. My son (who has done this since he left home) called to wish me a happy new year. I suddenly remembered the New Horizons space craft had been scheduled to encounter the outermost object in our solar system, the Ultima Thule (too’ -lee).

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What this object is as yet is unknown. The New Horizons has gone behind the sun so extracting data about it is not possible for a few days. Once it returns to a receptive position NASA will begin a 20-month extraction to determine what this is, how old it is and, ultimately, they hope to better understand the origins of the universe.

God gives us gifts. I admire those given the gift of aerodynamics, science, astrophysics and anything that enables people to create that which, in my small brain, defies the logical capabilities of anything. I’m a total geek about space travel and discovery. When the space shuttles still flew I cried with joy everytime one returned safely to the Kennedy Space Center and watched as those enormous parachutes opened to stop its forward velocity.

This is all so incredible to me. I receive email notifications when the International Space Station is on a trajectory of my area’s longitude and latitude and I am given coordinates and times so I can go outside, if it’s clear, and watch this tiny dot of reflected light arc the sky overhead. And I stand there in awe of what God has enabled mere man to do.

So people, things, events, circumstances come and go in life. I have learned to enjoy them, be grateful and see them for the gift that they are however they present themselves and when they go, to continue to look ahead without regret or discouragement. Only God knows the number and substance of my days.

I hope to live them well.

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forest bathing

or…. nice, long walk in the woods

This is a thing. Who knew? Asian countries have been doing this for years. It calms and soothes. Gives peace and balance to your mind. Some walk leisurely through, others find a spot to stop, absorb the fulness of the forest.

My mother discovered summer camps were an easy way to get us out from underfoot as children. I learned my favorite aspect of this childhood torture was the hikes they took us on and so I have loved the outdoors. I guess our counselors thought this was a great way to push us past the point of exhaustion so we’d sleep (wrong). I loved those walks.

When my dad moved our family from the south to New Jersey in a corporate transfer he and my mom found a house in a rural area (now Johnson & Johnson headquarters) with five wooded acres and a rambling stony brook. In hot summers I’d find a spot under the leafy shade, watch fish swim in the cool, clear water of the stream.

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But forest bathing. I never connected why I was so drawn to walks in the woods. There is something safe about being dwarfed by tall trees, leafy or stark. The theory is the leaves in summer emit moisture with their shade enhancing the cooling effect. For me I am happiest to be in a place where life exists mostly in and of itself. The toxic carbon dioxide humans exhale trees and plants thrive on. In exchange they return the favor with a clean supply of oxygen. Well, clean I suppose is relative to where you live. It seems a privilege to hear the private songs of birds, watch squirrels scramble for acorns. Something transportive yet so simple.

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Rescue dogs Lily and Lulu and I drive in early morning and arrive before dawn so we see and hear the waking of the day. Seems such a small thing, but pure in its moment-to-moment changing. We can barely see, then gradually colors appear. The green grasses and pines, the browns and greys of dormancy, the few bright-colored leaves that have not yet fallen. And in its stillness like a conductor raising his baton, the orchestra poised to begin yet another beautiful symphony.

And we get to be a part of this.

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