Watchman of the Day

The owl is the watchman of the day,
prelude of a new dawn,
ally of the sun,
keeps an eye on our fears,
on dreams and visions in the night,
flying around our houses wrapped in darkness

Il gufo é il guardiano del giorno,
preludio di nuova alba,
alleato del sole
vigila sulle nostre paure,
sui fantasmi della notte,
volando attorno alle nostre case
avvolte nelle tenebre.

 

Excerpt from Io gufo e tu?
@Edizioni del Baldo April 2016

 

14 Reasons to be a Frog

You’re allowed to sleep all winter
You can breathe through your skin
You get gorgeous bulgy eyes
Your skin is attractively moist
You have the coolest tongue to catch bugs
No mortgage
Your hands and feet are slender and supple
You don’t have to worry about what to wear
No wristwatch
(Don’t remind me about snakes) (Or cats)
When you’re scared you can dive deep and hide
You don’t have to be brave
You got to be a tadpole back then, very cute
Life is short but you don’t know it

Author unknown

Greetings from far, far away

I’d been listening for the sound a while now. Where are you? Will you come back? The long night sky had come to the tundra. The stars are like clouds now. They are close and blink soft greetings from far far away.

Two years ago, I’d been out on my daily stroll to town when I heard the sound of wings coming closer and closer. A great white something hit the snow bank. A plume of flakes nestled around the bird.

It took me a minute to understand what was happening. Birds land gracefully, this one crashed. I walked over the rise to see what this was all about. There, half buried was a snow-white goose or a swan. I don’t know, but it was laying, panting and shaking all over. It laid its head down on it’s back and became still. A soft wheezing came from its beak.

Maybe it’s tired? I picked up the bird and carefully brought it to Tekee, the shaman who lived over the hill. She had an apartment above the garage, the only garage in town. I kicked at the door cause my hands were filled with bird. She opened the door, looked at it and said, “So?”

“So, aren’t you a healer? What’s with you? What do we do?”

I told her what happened and she said, “So just finish it off and enjoy a roast goose for dinner.”

0580_0Disgusted and shocked, I turned away and headed home. I thought it was a gift from the goddess. I put the swan down in my backyard under the eave. It was a sunny day but the wind had a bite in it. I ran down to the store and bought some canned sardines and fish cakes. The swan was lying still when I returned but I could feel it’s heart beating under my hands. I held out a sardine and didn’t she open her eyes and look at it. Quicker than sunlight, she snatched the fish in her beak and swallowed. In a few minutes, everything was gone down her long white throat.

She gave a soft coo, stood up straight, fluffing out her feathers and took on a regal pose. She blinked three times, stretched her wings wide three times and settled down. “Tea please.” What! “Tea please.” Her light high tone sounded in my ear. “Are you talking to me?” She just stared at me.

snow-goose-007I fixed her a pot of jasmine green tea and brought it to her in a large pail. By gosh, she dank it all down. The swan refreshed, started to tell me all about the long flight from the south. She loved the cold snowy places and darkness of the tundra in winter. She loved to fly in the cold air and feel the icy winds between her feathers. She loved to fly over the frozen lake and see her reflection on the ice. We became friends and I fed her everyday. Her name is Medusine and she is 200 years old.

Every spring, she flies south to spend the warm months at the lake under the mountains. She follows the rivers to her other home. For two years, she has returned to me. There are secrets in her startling sapphire blue eyes. I asked her how can she talk? How come she talks to me?

“Because I like you, and that’s all.”

“Why do you come north for winter?”

”To be with you.”

I pray for her safe return journey every winter. The shaman has become suspicious of what is going on here. Tekee sees the swan flying out during the day and spies on us. Once in a while Tekee is so bold as to creep up and look in the windows. In a flash, Medusine turns herself into a stone of lapis lazuli shaped like a swan. She sits there on the mantel piece ordinary and unnoticed while Tekee makes silly small talk and looks around. Once in a while, one of her feathers stays behind during the transformation. It’s the only sign she has been here.

A Day with Pino

Since the age of twelve, I’ve wanted to have a horse of my own. I cannot say why or how the fascination started but the ambition is one step closer to reality. Pino, I am leasing Pino for the winter from my riding instructor. He is an eleven year old Andalusia gelding living quietly in a paddock with his long time pal Bastian. So far, he’s had light duty being ridden only a half-hour on Saturday’s by a lovely teenager. His skills as a riding horse have advanced slowly these three years. However, his days are now becoming more involved.

I’ve volunteered at a horse rescue for going on eight months. I made a nice living as a small barn manager thirty years ago and was willing to give it a go with horses once more.  There I was on Sundays, back in a barn giving myself one sore back for a few weeks. Curious but lacking confidence, I stated taking riding lessons and have been getting back into the swing of things since June. I attended several workshops on horse handling and training. I even went up one level in Reiki to be able to give support to the horses. However, I also kept bumping into a barn manager whose frequent comment was; we don’t do that here. A dead-end was reached.

It was my instructor’s suggestion that I attend the Tristan Tucker workshop at Ashby Farms in October that helped me see what it was I wanted to do. My on going fascination with horse communication will now be quite satisfied. TRT method is a training that starts with specific ground work and continues in the saddle. My riding instructor is one of his students, and now, I am one of hers in this program. On Wednesday evenings, I blast out of the city and speed out to the barn for the 5:30 p.m. training hour. I’ve had to be clever and find every short cut along the way to be on time. We’ve had to fetch Pino out of the muddy paddock as it’s been suddenly wet this fall after months of dry. It was quite something to be in the covered ring last week with the rain pounding on the roof. Nevertheless, there we were five women and their horses learning to move together. TRT involves a lot of circular motion as a ground work for connecting the horses hind legs to his front legs. We teach the horse how to be relaxed and confident in their body. To trust their own ability to be safe in otherwise challenging circumstances. The horse is given clear direction and clear confirmation when they make the right move. However, it is a dizzying business at first and I wonder if Pino feels the vertigo as much as I do when we pause.

pinoiiSo today, the lease started and I had a glorious afternoon with Pino. It was so nice and warm midday without any wind. He took a lie down and enjoyed a sunbathe as I tidied his paddock. He is a chunky horse, very compact in shape with a large Roman nose.  I think it is better called baroque, sounds a bit classier. We are getting used to each other now. I learned today if the hands are light, he is too. I remembered Tucker’s frequent comment of release of pressure is the reward. When I realized the hands were tense on the reins, I lightened up by just relaxing the grip. Didn’t Pino respond instantly. He tends to weave and lean his shoulder out on circles. He’s out of balance when he gets moving at a quicker pace. He doesn’t know it’s okay to stretch his body with a rider on his back. His back is tense and he’s unsure what to do. Today’s goal was simply move forward on a steady, round light circle. We only trotted and worked on transitions. He does understand the aid for halt going right. He wasn’t so clear on the same aid going left. He is sensitive and when I let go sitting deeply in the saddle, he naturally moves well into a nice downward transition. I can see the more we work on the TRT ground training, Pino and I will both move with clearer understanding toward confidence together. At least that is the goal I can tell he wants to know what I want, and I am not so clear at this moment. But, he is curious, part of something more now. We shall see how things work out over the long winter ahead.  What a good afternoon to be with Pino.

A Feline Wanders In Part II – Gigi’s Story

Gigi came to my home in mid-April. I had been catless for about twenty years. My reason for living without was due to circumstances I felt unwelcome for companionship. The first being I tend to have two jobs and am simply not home much. The other was completing a college degree at night compounding the not home syndrome. The degree took almost eight years to finish. The landlords also said no. I honestly felt I would not give kitty the attention necessary for its health and well-being. I have a strong belief in allowing cats some outdoor time when possible. I now live in a place that lends itself to cat kinship. After several years of a no cat policy, my landlord changed his mind about this. I had started seeing fuzzy faces in windows and occasionally outside.

The other spur was the consistent dreaming I had around cats. Most of the dreams involved being back inside an old apartment I had during the 90s. I particularly enjoyed this home as the rooms were spacious with tall windows. The moonlight would stream in the bedroom windows waking me to being washed in dreamy lunar trails. In the dream, the apartment was in disrepair. The cat would appear and I know that I hadn’t feed the poor thing in too long. Other dreams along a similar vein included an old cat I had who I remember as the mighty hunter. I found a journal entry dated from November of 2005. I was so impressed by a recent dream that I wrote to a Wicca message board seeking support, here is the exact entry…

Cat Sitting on my Head – I had heard if you put a bowl of water next to your bed stand it formed a connection to Moon energy and often opened the door to the dream world. Well, I did this yesterday and had a proper message come through except I am too mortal to interpret the images. All I can recall is feeling my black cat crawl his way up my back and sit on my head. I was looking into a mirror and clearly saw him lying over my head quite relaxed and looking smashing. Another black cat was in the mirror toward my right side. Both were healthy, thick shiny coats, quite alert and looking at me in the mirror.

One of them was ShuShu, the mightiest hunter I ever had.  We shared a home when I worked managing a small private horse stable. This place was cat heaven as he had wide fields to hunt in. He would regularly bring in live critters for my pleasure. I found a mole one day burrowing under the carpet in an attempt to get away. Birds flying free in the living room were a spectacle to be sure. I had perfected a technique for getting them out alive. Open the top half of all the sashes and use a broom to shoo the bird in that direction. This never failed. Mighty hunter loved his life on the farm.

When I tried to return back to urban life, he didn’t survive the outdoors. I found him dead one day. He was too young to have perished and I had been reckless to have brought him from country freedom to city tangles. This cat did come to me in dreams on a regular basis. I became so distressed at his shadow that I performed a forgiveness ritual. I apologized for changing his life and neglecting his well-being. I had thought only of my needs and not what was best for him. The dreams continued to the point I put out a bowl of water and cheese on my balcony in an attempt to feed its spirit and somehow appease the message of taking care of this cat. When I think about the drama occurring in the dream state it is a message from within. However, in all the curiosity over these dreams, I never took them literally. I assumed spirit was sending me a message about a mess inside my psyche. Perhaps mighty hunter was telling me I should care for cats that are in need. I take things often as having a cerebral meaning for me not that they might be something to put into action through me.

For several years, I was also haunted by dreams of starving horses in a filthy stable. When I was in my early twenties, I took a job as barn manager on an estate in New Jersey. I lived in Stockton on the Delaware River. There were about 500 acres of wide open fields, a small area of forest and rolling hills in every direction. On my own, I managed a small barn of about five horses for a wealthy older lady called Miss Jane. In all I was there for four years. During this time I had arrived with three cats and lost one of them to the wilds of night. In my dreams, I am back in that stable and it is beyond filthy with muck and manure. I always ended up back in that barn with a monumental task in front of me.

I also had dreams of horses under the house where I grew up penned in the stables dying from lack of feed and neglect. The horses are kept inside out of daylight and confined. My task is to remember I have left them there and must rescue them. I begin the act of rescue and the dream fades out. Over and over these images had haunted me. From time to time, I also found myself back to riding horses. Sometimes the ride was bumpy but once or twice, it was the ride of my life, smooth, horse and I moving fluidly and happily through a graceful canter. The dreams eventually faded out. In this writing, I forgot how much I was involved in living a quiet life with animals.

Sometimes in life, a dream can become a reality. The urge to establish a homeless shelter for horses that are in jeopardy has been overwhelming this year. If there is such a thing as the Spirit of All Things, it has been roaring in my ears lately.  So pushed have I been by this thought, I started to say it aloud to people. A link was sent to me about a volunteer opportunity at a local shelter for horses. The closest I have been to a horse in the last twenty years has been my country lane walk past the two ponies in the farmer’s field. One of them was near to the road and I couldn’t help but notice how he smelled. I missed the smell of a horse. Deep down inside, I craved it. I managed to fit in at the rescue barn, each week committing myself to the day chores feeding, grooming and fussing over horses that need care for awhile. The dormant skills I had working with horses surfaced quickly. I know how to move, bend, push and prosper in a barn. It’s a matter of fitting into an established group of caring people that don’t like outsiders.

I adopted Gigi from the local cat shelter in April. There was some difficulty in connecting with the manager. Ring no answer, no reply to my message. Something odd was happening and I prefer smooth moves. As it happened, she called the next afternoon and we arranged for me to stop by. An hour later Gigi was in a cat carton on the front seat of my car. Carol was somewhat persuasive and accepted any amount as a donation. She thought nobody would want a ten-year old cat. Gigi had been a resident of the shelter since October when her owner died. Gigi was adopted out of this same shelter as a kitten.

gigiWhen we got home, Gigi wandered about the apartment. I remember thinking this was a strange thing to have done; what had I done? We were both rather tense and looking at each other in a wary way. She spent the first night sleeping and wandering in the front room. I believe she tried very hard to sleep behind the book stand. I keep it katty corner and it has a dusty, spider webby spot for hiding. At around four in the morning she started meowing quite loudly. I got up and gave her some cat food. This seemed to help her quite a bit.

The first two weeks were sketchy. At first I didn’t think she was very attractive to look at. She is an odd combination of black, gold and white fur: a perfect tortishell. Her eyes seemed a bit smallish in her face and the black outline made them appear even smaller than usual. These sound now like petty mumblings; I wonder what she thought when she looked at me. I do recall eating dinner that first evening as she sat near my feet staring in that animal way waiting for a morsel. Whatever it was, I didn’t think it for a cat’s palate and she received nothing. Only dry cat food and water for a first meal. We stumbled around for a few weeks until things smoothed out. I experimented with different foods trying to find a good balance. I was concerned from the start about the ingredients in her meals. I thought commercial cat food was mostly factory processing waste, I mean what else could meat by products be? So, I explored cat message forums, read labels and generally sorted out what was healthful and what not.

I remember being concerned about this adoption at that time as I had planned a trip out-of-town for the second weekend in May. A friend agreed to come over and feed her but I had my doubts about leaving her alone. The other concern I had was around leaving her locked inside all day. The weather at this time of year hovers between here comes spring and winter isn’t quite gone. Some days are mild and the fauna start the process of rebirth. Other days can be damp, rainy and drismal. The weather had its milder moments and I wanted to leave the balcony door open for her. The screen was closed but it became on obsessive thought that she have fresh air every day. I remember leaving the balcony door open when I left town as it was warm to balmy. When I got home from my weekend away, I found the door closed and locked. I got scolded for leaving a door ajar. I live on the second floor? How could anybody get in here from out there? Too many neighbors to see a sneaking thief? No, bad choice. Gigi did fine. I was the one that had concerns all weekend. I recall mentioning my circumstances to someone at the workshop and she said things would be fine. Cats are much more adaptable to a few days home alone than I imagined. Still, I had my concerns and actually left the workshop after breakfast Sunday. I hadn’t slept well at all.

The purpose of life can be as simple as pursuing happiness. However, the realm of contentment within the self is dependent upon reflections of spirits upon the life. Gigi has a spirit about her. How she sits so quietly with her ears pointed up. The image is of settlement, beauty and place. She is home, she has become content in the home I can offer her. I have brought her comfort. This is a powerful thing. I am uncertain if she experiences happiness, she certainly seems gay and buoyant at moments. In my pursuit of happiness, it has involved bringing a feline home as a companion for my days and nights. I have accepted her as she is with unconditional grace. All is well when a cat comes home.

To be continued….