Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Winter Pastoral 2014

It's 11:52 PM on Monday, January 27, 2014 and here we are in the bleak mid-winter.  I'm learning to celebrate the new winter rituals, especially in the wee hours of the night.

Usually in Rhode Island we'd see winter evening temperatures plummet into the teens and consider ourselves up to the challenge.  Tonight we're entertaining the same, but the wind proves more formidable driving us down to a "real feel" of -7 degrees (a veritable heat wave in other parts of the country).

Our rituals are heartier now.  Two coats for me, two coats for Dickens.  Gloves for me, paw wax for him. An over-sized hood for me, he tucks his ears under his coat collar (if he doesn't wear the coat with a hood).  Short walks just to get the job done, but the cold wind still stings my cheeks.

Once we're in for the night, I check on my feral foster cat, Amelia Luna Diva.  She has two crates, a soft bed (that she hates) and a spot on an old jacket next to the baseboard heat (that she loves).  I give her two treats (that she loves), fresh water, and inspect the litter box.  She's good to go.

Next I check the man of the house (OK, the pup of the house).  He's given a handful of kibble to keep the acid reflux in check until morning.  I top off his water dish.  He spins around to land on his fleece blanket on the recliner.  In 10 seconds he's out like a light.

After the house quiets, I climb into my pajamas and prepare for bed.  I shuffle off to the kitchen to make some lemon balm tea loaded with honey.  While I'm there, I set the faucet to drip and paddle off to the bathroom to do the same to that faucet.  I settle in my recliner with my knitting or my book .

It is as quiet as it can be.  I hear dog and cat breathing accompanied by the steady -drip-drip-drip from the faucets.  Dickens wears an expression of inner contentment as does Amelia as she snuggles next to the baseboard.  The wind still howls outside, but this indoor winter tableau warms me from the inside out.

Good night!


Monday, January 27, 2014

Springing Ahead

Today's forecast serves as a bit of reprieve.  A chance to come up for air before the next polar vortex descends.  Time to take a few deep warm breaths before the cold lashes result in sharp inhalations. Mother Nature's respiration forces me to regulate my own.

My soul longs for the tender breezes of spring.  A time that sweeps away the ugliness of dirty snow and replaces the land with verdant life.  Of thawed earth, birdsong, and air as crisp and clean as a babbling brook.  Felled branches from harsh storms are cut & re-purposed to serve as garden borders and blankets of leaves are turned under to reveal tiny shoots.

However, while I dream of that time, the stark reality remains that we're a ways off from experiencing this awakening. Tomorrow it's back to layers, heavy boots, & mittens to protect my core from the sharp northwest winds.  Winter bites. Literally and figuratively.

Staring out the kitchen window my coffee keeps me company.  I placed the seed order last week and I'm praying the mail doesn't deliver a box full of frozen seed.  The list of things to do calls to me. Scanning the list I ask myself if there's something I can do to advance the season while keeping my awareness in the present moment.  Something that speaks of preparation, anticipation and the hint of good things must be on this list somewhere?.

And there it is...test last year's seeds.  Paper towels and carefully marked Zip Lock bags appear on the kitchen counter.  I moisten the paper towels with warm water then gently place five seeds down, swaddling them in the toweling, and placing them in their plastic incubators.  The bags rely on the warmth of the top of the refrigerator.  If they sprout, they'll find their home in the make-shift hydroponic outfit I'm trying.

This is the time where hope kicks in as I peek inside the bags each day to re-hydrate the paper towels. As I open each bag silent prayers rise that the tiny roots appear from the hard seed coating.  There is no promise in this exercise.  No guarantee of success.  Yet, to me viable seeds represent the hope stored within us all.  Hope is an energy.  It has the power to create strong stock given the right conditions. This simple act mirrors my life now in so many ways, but as I struggle through the hard, cold shell of winter living on nothing but the energy within me, with the right conditions, I just might grow roots.

At least there's a seed of hope.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Horses At Work: Not a Walk in the Park?

This week I learned of a brewing controversy in New York City regarding the Central Park carriage horses.  Author Jon Katz told us the story on our creative group "Open Group for Bedlam Farm" upon his return from the Big Apple. We're having respectful discussions pro and con, but I keep thinking we're missing the broader picture.

On one side, animal rights organizations and others have spoken out for the ban, claiming abuse and misuse of the animals.  On the other side, points made based on observation and discussion of the carriage ride industry and the wellness of the animals are all positive.  Still others have made equally weighted statements concerning other issues and problems within New York City that have a direct impact on the human condition.  All good and valid point and counterpoint, but I keep feeling there's more to the story based on the background research I've performed.

First of all let me make the following statements so you understand my point of view:
  1. Yes, I've been to New York City.  Yes, I've taken a carriage ride or two (or many).  All the horses appeared to be in good condition.  Getting on a carriage pulled by a scrawny horse ain't my idea of fun. I've also taken carriage rides on a trip to Rome.  In fact, the horses proved to be the better way to get around Rome safely and efficiently.  Roman cab drivers scare me to death!
  2. Yes, I've owned horses.  I've owned and worked as a stable manager where we took in horses from rescue organizations.  Horses that were in deplorable condition, so I know the face of abuse.  It ain't pretty.  In fact, it's pretty heart-wrenching, but care and love brought these creatures back to health.
  3. I also went to school with police officers who were accepted into our Mounted Patrol Unit when it first formed.  They'd tell me about the mounted law enforcement training program. They'd relay the terror of controlling a 1200+ lbs animal under them during a tear gas exercise.  Of reining in an animal as shots were being fired overhead.  The horses came from rescue and donations.  Some clearly too flighty for this type of work.  A few broken ankles and wrists made that clear.
  4. Very briefly, I had joined a rescue group and then unjoined.  They ran on so much emotion and humanization of the animals that they couldn't see the animals from the humans and then stories began to surface of how they'd turn animals away, but if you slipped them $50. all of sudden there was room at the inn (or shelter, in this case.)  My common sense antennae told me something was amiss. (by the way the stories were all first person accounts.)
So I did some digging into media reports to find the real story or at least to get a sense of where the arguments were going.  Each article reported on the abuse angle, the 19 million dollars that carriage ride industry contributed to the city coffers, stories about large campaign contributions made by animal rights groups to elect the new mayor as well as alleged lucrative real estate deals should the carriage industry become history.  Now celebrities are coming out for both sides.  Cue the lights. Roll camera.  Action!

Now here's where I have a problem with this mess (please stay with me on this).  First of all, how all of a sudden did these groups come up with the scratch to make these campaign contributions?  I'm the type whose heart bleeds every time she sees a public service announcements featuring sad, maimed and disfigured animals who've suffered abuse only to read that my sacrifice to donate went to a campaign contribution and not the welfare of the animal?  Hello!  Does something seem "off" there?  This practice forces me to research these organizations to determine exactly how much of my scarce dollars goes directly to animal care.  I do not intend to contribute to an organization in order for them to get their crony elected.  Lobbying, maybe OK, campaign contribution?  Not OK.  It feels dishonest to contributors.  IMHO!

Secondly, every article spoke to the dangers to the Central Park horses due to New York City traffic conditions around the park.  Yes, a horse did pass at the hands of an abuser last month, which is awful, but the other 299 seem fine.  Their solution to protect the animals?  Put more cars on the road in the form of electric antique cars.  Yessiree Bob, that'll fix it.  Does this make sense to anyone?  It certainly doesn't make sense to me, "fixing" a problem by compounding a problem.  I don't get it.

And finally, and what I consider a major hypocrisy, lies in the continuation of the NYPD Mounted Unit.  I don't know about you but the thought of a horse and rider standing in the middle of Times Square traffic doesn't leave me feeling all warm and fuzzy.  Where's the outcry?  Before anyone jumps to conclusions, I feel that this unit is vital and necessary to NYC law enforcement.  Horse and rider are trained to precision standards.  The same argument can be raised concerning their future, but none comes forward, which tells me that there must be another reason in back of the carriage horse issue. 

That "something" might have to do with money.  Could it be that the rescue organizations might be duped?  Or could they garner something in return for forcing the matter?  Can the electric car replacements generate more dollars?  

I don't have answers to these and other questions.  The purpose of this post doesn't focus on animal behavior, but human behavior.  I got a feeling there's a rotten apple in the Big Apple somewhere and clearly the magnitude of the issue can't be compared to how humans neglect humans in need.  And, folks that's not a walk in the park.   

Monday, January 6, 2014

Reality. High Tide or Rip Tide?

Over the past week I've found  myself reflecting on a situation that began innocently enough, but now each time it presents itself, I want to run for the hills.

It began by making a casual acquaintance with someone via the non-profit group I support. Nothing out of the ordinary.  Back then this relationship would have been labeled a "friendship," but rather one-sided at that. Having relayed her history, the thought never entered my mind that things might be a tad "off".

Fast forward to the present where the phone calls have escalated, the drama builds (on her side, not mine) and more and more the realization that she's not just calling me to vent, but to suck me in to a situation she, and she alone, created creeps into my consciousness.  Despite the fact that she's a card-carrying professional who's achieved those letters "PhD" after her last name who makes a living helping other folks with their problems, my concern grows with each phone ring.

I guess another term for this behavior might be "energy sucker".  Trust me after one call concludes, I want to reach for a cup of tea and knit until I calm down, but then that's my problem.  This person hops from drama to drama.  It's endless.  At times, it feels as though she's feeding on her situation whilst I provide an audience. Whether learned or innate, I do care and worry about folks.  I always wish them the best the world has to offer, but they've got to want it as well.

It dawned on me that true friendship doesn't create a vacuum...doesn't leave me gasping for air...doesn't have me looking for the nearest exit...dragging me out into an ocean of upset.  My friends and, please God, I raise each other up during the low times and ride the wave during the pleasant periods.  When I shared my concern with a friend, he said, "You've got to protect yourself from this person's behavior.  Don't answer the phone.  Just don't be available."

So, with gratitude for a lesson learned, this person shall no longer be a part of my reality.  It's been a hard decision to make due to the fact that I'm one of those hyper-sensitive, see both sides of the argument kind of gals.  It hurts to see someone behave this way, but this life-swimmer doesn't want to get taken out by a rip current.  

The course of the past few days have taught me a valuable lesson, perhaps my "just older" brain failed to wrap itself around this notion in my early years or my caregiving duties distracted me from the obvious, but here it is: our reality is flexible.  We allow folks into that space called "life" to learn lessons in gratitude for those we have and adjust our reality to show those the door who just don't get it. The funny thing being, I don't believe this person has a clue...an iota...a shred of understanding that her behavior has created her reality.

So, I wish this person well, but she can't crash in my reality.  Lesson learned.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Mother Nature's Acid Reflux

[Mother Nature, aka "MN" visits her celestial general practitioner.]

Doctor:  Mother Nature, what's going on?

MN:  It's back, Doctor.  My acid reflux has returned.

Doctor:  Hmm, so that explains the havoc we've seen on earth.

MN:  I can't help myself.  Now, things seem a little out of control.  It all started with the fires in Australia  (see here).  I tried to put them out with some torrential rain, but my aim's been off and I wound up flooding Scotland (see here).

As the re flux grew, I figured I'd try to take a dose of some cold weather (here), but I forgot to close the Arctic's gate which led to extreme cold and some pretty strong words from the Canadians.  Folks in Minnesota aren't too happy either.

Doctor:  I see.

MN:  That's only the tip of the iceberg.  I thought my stomach had settled.  Actually, I felt better. Until...

Doctor:  Until...

MN:  Yes, it gets worse.  You see, I got a little rattled (see here).  I think it may be gall stones or the Canary Islands, I can't figure it out.  I felt as though my blood boiled and I suffered a bout of nausea right around Nicaragua  (and here).

Doctor:  So, what did you take for that?

MN:  Well, with all the upset, it's been a constant battle.  Cold, extreme cold, ice to no avail.  I'm losing my touch.  No more serene winter tableau, no more shots of sandy South American beaches with gentle waves.  I'm telling ya, I don't know what's gotten into me.  (She coughs).  What else am I supposed to do?  I can't control myself which leads to some pretty extreme measures.

Doctor:  Such as...

MN:  Well, if I were you I'd avoid the east coast of the United States today.

Doctor:  Why is that?

MN:  I'm sending them a Blizzard.  Hopefully, that'll make me feel better.