Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Emotions? Animals? A squirrel playing possum?

I read a blip on the internet yesterday that scientists are now concluding that chimpanzees actually have real emotions and that they found proof of this. This whole idea of animals with feelings has long been dismissed by this group of lab coat wearers, as pure anthropomorphic garbage, and the day dreams of little girls. I have to think these scientists must live in total isolation from any species, other than their own, and I can't really say about their socialization there. They now claim to have found proof of this outrageous claim of emotional animals, by charting distinct rises in cortisol hormones when the female animal, chimps and other critters of higher intelligence was stressed by death, separation from the herd, etc. They said they now believe that the mother animals of higher intelligence actually have feelings, now that they have something to quantify.

Well, duh. Dogs are the very epitome of emotional outpouring. When a dog sees his food bowl, (even ones who aren't named Jack) he doesn't stoically disregard it as having no place of importance in his life. Heck no, the dog dances and twirls, and barks, and his eye light up. Dogs love to frolic, and they show fear, anger, tenderness and nurturing. Of course all animals have emotions, and hormones are the reason.

Hormones rule. Everything. They are the reason we basically exist. If not for them we would have to come with instruction books to just know how to get thru a day, or a life. Hormones, and their changing tides, make us go thru the changes in our lives, breed, live, grow old and die.  They provide us with feelings of love, so we will take care of the ones near to us, anger to fight for what we think of as ours and is worth protecting. They give us guidance in our socialization so that we, all life forms, can live in groups, and be cooperative so that the group survives the problems that arise in our journey thru this incarnation. Anyone who has spent any time getting to know an animal already knows what these scientists are just now figuring out.

When I was a kid my take on animals was very limited, as I was new to them, and I bought what my parents said about dogs not being able to feel, like we elite humans did. So for a long time, dogs were something like a moving stuffed toy to me, by my not knowing how to read or communicate with them, and so they were fairly inanimate things I thought.

Then one night I remember my dad getting angry at our little brown adopted mutt, Hoss, because she had had a wee wee accident in the house. To teach her this was wrong, for some reason that I really couldn't figure out why, his actions were to tell her to come to him and then when she didn't, he would roughly drag her across the floor to him. Then he would move away from the cowering pup and repeat this. The more scared she got the worse she did on the come here command, which of course made him even madder. It really set me back watching this. It was just wrong. The little dog was terrified and the treatment was not equal or relevant to the crime, but however, it did open my eyes to seeing real emotion in a small, and relatively unintelligent, animal. Once that door got opened I then began to learn how understand how they expressed their emotions, their body languages, vocalizations, and actions.

I have seen how animals deal with and judge other animals, of same or different species, based on the initial encounter and what body language was expressed etc. My mare Kitty, is a particularly intelligent horse, is very engaging with humans, and has a very serious like for any horse, dog, or human to show her  they know their manners in how they deal with her. She once kicked a male veterinarian across his vet clinic, because he didn't take the time to introduce himself to her before he went to look at her very sore hind foot, and that was that. She was just not happy with him. Kitty then got on famously with the next vet, a female, who was polite and showed respect for her as another caring being. Kitty would hold her foot without support and with no struggling, every day for a very painful 15 minute lavage and bandaging the vet had to do.

Memphis, the yellow Lab in the shot above, caught this squirrel today, and brought it to the carport where she laid down with it between her legs so I could see her handy work. She would look up at me and do that Lab smile only they can do, then would bend down and carefully rearrange her prize, and then smile back at me again.  She so happy and so proud of what she had down. I think that would also qualify as an emotion and I didn't need a scientist or a translator to know she felt it. Somehow though, I don't this particular squirrel was sharing  this emotion, or any at all by this point.

I suppose the better reason I have dogs and horses is because they do show so much emotion. The jury is still out on cats as to whether they are really life forms, holding or having any feelings, but contempt and stoicism. My critters are funny, sad, hungry, scared, happy, stressed, playful, and so also, at times, am I. That's what makes it fun, and important to be with them, to have these relationships, all because of this shared thing called emotions.

For the growing hordes of Jack-the-food terrorist-'s fan base, behold an update to let all know that the boy has had no more culinary misadventures this week save the chewed off end of the dog food bag resulting in few dropped bits on the floor, and he is on the continued mend from last week's, thankfully. Jack's popularity has increased exponentially with each culinary crisis, and he has even been hailed as a personal hero by one fan. He has not had the pleasure of heading to the barn with us in the morning, or any time yet as his diet is still very restricted and I have no doubt he would be making up for lost calories soon as he got there. He did have a dead mole in his mouth at one point but he dropped it when I screamed at him. I have to admit that his newly svelte figure he is sporting is rather dashing, and it has certainly got to be more comfortable on those tiny legs for him. So life is better for Jack just now and I hope the trend stays a pattern. He is a very happy dog and I am his very happy owner, and friend to him, providing the sneaky little bugger doesn't find something else to eat that hurts him any time soon.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Jack's eyes and a soft rain in april

It a lovely rainy Saturday in April, and I have no doubt that these showers will bring on the proverbial flowers of May, and with any luck, some yummy tomtatoes. The rain is soft on the new leaves and there is deep rumbling from the storms to the south of us. At my feet Marley is laying spread out on her side, under my bench Jack is in a safe place, and Heidi is curled up in the wicker chair at the far end of the porch. A nice glass of chardonnay for lunch, some great food and wine magazines, and this rain are making for a very pleasant couple of hours.

In the continuing saga of Jack and his recouperation from this week's oil slick disaster, things are slowly improving for the boy. Both food and water must be doled out to him in very tiny rations lest I want to view it again too soon. He did have a spot of fever last night but slept well and is brighter and seems more comfortable with his still ballooned belly. It is a heck of a weight loss program the boy is on, no food since Monday's 1/2 gal of oil until yesterday's very small amount of canned chow, very small. He does feel a bit lighter when I pick him up and I know he is hungry, by jove, when he hears me do anything in the kitchen, ears perked, eyes so hopeful for the tiniest of morsals to drop to be scarfed away. Time is his friend tho and time must pass before another gorge will be tolerated by his still sore and damaged gastornomical system.

Yesterday when I went to pick Jack up from the vet's, he came slowly waddling out on the leash from the kennel part of the clinic, head low, neck bedecked with a festive red bandana, a dog depressed. When he finally really realized that I was there and I picked him up, he just shook with glee and gave me a big couple of licks on my cheek. I am normally not a fan of dog licks. I do see what these critters consume on a farm every day and I do not want recycled horse poop, or worse, on my face, or anywhere for that matter. Yesterday's lick from Jack was ok tho. He did it with all the enthusiasm of a poor sick puppy who had not seen home or friends in a long time, and he was showing an appreciation for the change.

On the way home Jack sat in the front seat of my truck, Heidi was, of course, laying on her bench seat in the rear. During the entire ride home Jack never took his eyes off of me, fiercely holding my gazes to him, when I could safely do so and not run off the road. It was a look of thanks and a bit of desperation too, that I understand that, I should not let this happen again. Yeah, right. How the heck am I going to monitor this scavenging monster's edible consumption every day of his life from now on. It will be a challenge to say the least. But Jack has beautiful,  pleading, soft, imploring, benign, and deeply engaging eyes and I will try to heed what they say, for both his sake and that of my poor deflated pocket book which has recently been giving much too often to the vet.

Tonight our band, the Fabulous Moonshine Cherry Band, will play at the smokey jazz and blues bar, 1048 in town. We don't even usually begin to play until 9 or 10 and will most likely play until the blue laws tell us to quit some time around 3am. Then there will be the loading back up and the 30 minute drive home, and a good night cap of martini, shower, throw the smokey clothes on the back porch and call it a night, or morning at that point.

There are seven of us in the band now. Dave P is lead singer, guitar player, and phenominal harmonica virtuoso, and is also our leader and commander of the goings on with the music, giving us all the much needed direction and confidence to go where ever he leads. John Mark is guitar player and singer and whose energy directs the flavor of the evening with his crazy licks on his guitar, leading us down the path he sets, to explore and jump off the edge and free fall thru the course of the song. Mike also plays guitar, and sings, providing strong lyrics and rhythms to our unlikey mix, and has written several super originals which we play. Mark, my better half, plays the key board, sets up most of the equiptment and knows what wire goes to which black box, does all the recording of our stuff so we can hear what we forget so quickly, and produces the icing on the cake to the guitar duets. Bass is played by Chris, an unbelieveable musicain of talent and energy, who helps keep me, the drummer on track and makes us form the groove to the songs.  Then there's Sam. Who could figure why this man who can and does play with any group anywhere in the world, would take the time to play with us?  He plays the sax most of the time and throws wonderful jazz type riffs into our mix that transports and colors the music to far away places. His smile back at you during a song is the highest compliment a player can get.

It will be a long night, and tomorow won't begin with the rooster crowing, more like the lunch bell. There is no telling what will happen tonight. It always is a different experience, always exhausting, but always fun in the sharing of the blend of love and energy that we all put into that moment of the notes. It is a magic thing to be so finely atuned to so many folks and the wave lengths. When the music is flying carefree and unbridled, the feeling is like running on top of a fence, balanced and precarious, dependent on the group's continual flow to keep from falling off. It is throwing your arms wide, closing your eyes, and falling off a cliff with total abandon. That is why I will be up late and be sore tomorrow.

Rain has almost stopped now, dogs are still at snoozing my feet, and I hear the sounds of Mark's printer buzzing out more wonderful photographs. I think  it might be a good time for a bit of snooze on the back porch myself.  zzzzz

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Monday, when I took Jack to the vet, I got there, went in, sat down on the bench holding the poor sick Jack, and began my wait on the vet. A rather large man already seated, wore a muscle shirt with his granite company advertisement on it, baggy baskeball player type shorts, tall white socks, and sandals. His glasses were thick as bottle bottoms and he looked like he uncomfortably felt he didn't fit the bench we were perched on, but he had a quiet and peaceful energy to him. He glanced over at Jack and said "sick puppy huh?" And so we picked up a conversation of two folks who didn't know each other but were at a place for a shared reason, our pets' health.

His next comment was, "My grandfather would roll over in his grave at this". He was making a reference to the tv that was on in the waiting room talking about pet insurance, pet health, Jack being sick, the reasons of our both being here, his dog that he was waiting on, and how things have changed so drastically in how we have come to treat our pets medically. "In my grandather's day, or even my dad's", he said, "the dogs lived in the yard, no fence, got table scraps, no shots, no vets,  and if they got sick or hurt they got a kind bullet to ease them on to the next life."

It really has changed, in my memory of having dogs, as to the level of sophistication of care for them. I know more about their dietary needs, or in Jack's case what he shouldn't eat, than I do about my own. When I was a kid, the dogs got rabies shots yearly and that was it. None of them ever went to the vet for much else unless they got hit by a car, since no leash law had them running around loose. How many dogs did I know growing up  whose lives were ended prematurely by the wheel of an auto? Many. But the idea of the level of care we now provide is amazing from where it came from.

The question looms then, at what point is it justified to help so much in their lives and what is their health worth? What is their financial value? I speak of pets, yard dogs, with no fancy pedigree, no breeding value, just an animal that has found its way into your life and home, and needs help. Like Jack. How much do you go out on the financial limb when the wallet of the home is stretched bare from the world economic dump we are all in? I don't really know and am regretably, getting very close to having to decide. Donations are being accepted.

Jack remains at the clinic with IV drip providing dilution to the fat running thru his veins and a bit of some form of sugar to keep his strength up since the poor boy hasn't had food since Monday ingestion of the half gallon of grease. His blood markers have improved quite a bit and he has good moments and then some where the pain is a bit too much and needs coaxing away. My hope is for a good night and a good report tomorrow so that he can come home to finish the recouperation. We shall see on that.

Today, though, was a day of moving horses around the different paddocks, regrouping, and such to get ready for the arrival of Joline's foal, due in roughly 3 weeks. Joline is very far from being a spring chicken and I am really trying to keep stress for her at a minimum doing this, and so it was a process begun today. I moved her and Robijn into the paddock where the silly fillies, the 3 year old Flemmingh sisters have been hanging out for some time, and them to the paddock by the pond. Moving, disrupting the norm, always makes me stress, cause I never know what they will do to hurt themselves, especially young ones. As I turned the out, sure enough, up came the tails and up came the heads, and off they went.

These fillies are so laid back in nature normally and rarely get above an amble, that I haven't really had a chance to watch them in a long time. So today was great. It was the affirmation of why I bred those mares to that stallion. These girls are some kind of fancy. Now that they have shed winter fuzz and are glossy, round, and are looking like young adult horses, to combine that with their absolutley outstanding movement, was just a treat. I was absorbed in the beauty of their grace and athletic energy. The saying goes, that to judge young horses, to look at them at 3 days, 3 months, and then 3 years. Now at almost 3 years, these fillies are a delight and once again, open my eyes to optimism and potential. They are almost 25 years worth of what I have been breeding for. Nice to get a spot of high reward for your efforts sometimes.

So tomorrow, my best laid plans, will be to finish cutting the grass in the bottom below the pond dam, bush hog the front field as well, get a carriage drive in with Sunset, and very hopefully, go pick up my over eating, fatapotomus, Jack.   

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Poor Puppy, Again. No Really, Again.

Jack has done it yet again. He is presently at the vet getting IV fluids and antibiotics, pain relief, and no food as a result of him, once again, eating that which should not have been. This time he really did it tho and he is not just an uncomfortable little pig, he is in a spot more serious.

We had cooked some fried chicken the other night, outside, where we could get the grease good and hot with the propane tank and, avoid the ole kitchen fire in the house. The resulting chicken was excellent and we gave absolutely no thought about leaving the hot grease out there to cool while we ate the birds. This was a bad plan in hind sight now.

The next morning Jack came bouncing into the house with Marley and Heidi to all get their a.m. doggie chow. He was in great spirits and was very excited to see his bowl. After they had finished all went out to do what they do best after eating. I spent about another hour inside piddling at whatever, and they went outside and headed out to the barn.

My first glance I saw of Jack was too familiar and I knew he was hurting again, tail low, ears down, and he was reluctant to come with the crew on our journey to feed the horses. Bad sign, again. I went ahead and gave him a baby asprin and some of the pepto stuff and let him crawl into the tack room to lay on the cool floor to let things work themselves out.

My thoughts were first on how in the heck could we have a repeat of last weeks stomach issue, and what the heck was the source of the problem now? I had thrown the guilty chewed up plank away just yesterday. I was wondering now that maybe he was getting into maybe a poison or something toxic.

 When I got back to the house and starting looking around it was very quickly ,very obvious what the problem was and where it was now. Jack had helped himself to almost half of the now cooled off grease in that pot left outside, almost a half gallon was now missing, and was sloshing around Jack's digestive system. After last week's worry over him eating the splinters and all that I figured that grease was a good thing if you have to over eat something, like he is prone to do. A bit of lubrication of the innerds couldn't be too bad, right?

By 4 in the afternoon when I went back to do afternoon feeding rounds at the barn, it seemed the day's resting had worked for him and that he was good to go, tail was back up and eyes were bright. He didn't come up to the house with us later but this wasn't too unusual because Jack always likes to make sure all the horses' spilled grain gets cleaned up and any of their poop has to have a quality control sampling. It is a rough job but Jack is willing to heed the call. I totally figured him to be fine and dandy, and gave a chuckle of relief to this silly boy once again hurting his poor tummy with his zealous appetite and really figured he had dodged a bullet this time.

This morning proved my call to be quite wrong and Jack was back in pain with another bloated belly and running a fever, so off we went, again to the vet for some help. The vet had heard the series of events surrounding this culinary escape and said the concern now was whether this was a case of just belly ache, a GI issue alone, or had the pancreas become overactive by having had to attempt to process the near half gallon of vegetable oil. If blood work showed that was the case, Jack would be in a much more serious situation. It did, and he is.

Jack's temperature was near 105 degrees, his white cell count was sky high, and his amylase was also very high , all indicating a serious pancreatic over reaction, resulting in major inflammation, and major pain for the pup.  So Jack was outfitted with a catheter in his newly shaved right leg, given some of that good dope he got last week, was put into a small kennel box to keep quiet, and hooked to IV fluids to help hydrate. He will spend, at least tonight there at the vet's clinic. Hopefully this crisis will subside and all will be fine for the boy. In the morning will tell more. Fingers are crossed on this one.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Poor Puppy....Again

Once again Jack, the poor puppy has let his appetite get him into trouble and he once again ate that which should not have been eaten, and has been paying a big, uncomfortable price for doing so.

It was on Sunday when the trouble began when I happened to notice that a cedar plank that we had cooked salmon on, on the grill a night or two ago, was no longer by the grill but had been relocated to the grass in the front yard. I didn't think of that as too big of a deal at the time as our yellow Lab, Memphis, is a constant relocator of all things not tied down and within her reach. Then later, it became evident that something was not right in Jack's world. Jack was not doing his usual begging for food from our outdoor brunch, but he was instead chomping down globs of grass, tail lowered, and was quite focused and oblivious to anything else.

Jack, for the unintroduced, is our Australian terrorist, a dog of herculean prowess at eating anything and whose ability in this area was previously written about in another of my blog entries on Nov. 18th. Jack's appetite and approach to attacking his food, of wide and varied types, anything really, has become legendary at the vet clinic. So his eating grass and ignoring the possiblilty of real food handouts in his vacinity was out of the ordinary to say the least. Why dogs eat grass anyway is a chicken and the egg question, as to which comes first, the sour stomach, eat grass, and throw up or, grass, and then sour stomach then throw up. It is a mystery. Bottom line Jack was not right. Then I found what was left of the cedar plank, witnessed the blob of Jack's thrown up grass, and some puzzle pieces were joining up.

The remnants of a board that had been about 1/4 in thick and maybe 8 by 16 inches and pretty well charred through, was now splinters and pieces of some wood that weren't charred and a whole lot of missing wood that would have been where the very tastey fish had been cooked. No real proof of the chewer of said plank was evident, but Jack was looking like a kid who had eated too many green apples, and by Sunday night was in serious pain. A call to the vet said to give a portion of a baby asprin and bring Jack in for a visit in the morning.

This new bout with a food and stomach issue renewed raw emotion for me as this happened to fall on the exact 4 week mark of the colic incident, and death of my horse Atlas, and I couldn't help but draw a coincidence of bad things happening on  new moons. Losing a pet, horse, cat, dog, whatever critter you have become involved with, formed a bond with, and who is not just an investment, but a friend of a different species, is never easy and can be down right emotionally devistating. It is our responsibility to feed them, provide shelter, and the basics of care in return for these wonderful relationships. My anxiety over Jack's present painful and potentially quite serious situation filled a very sleepless night while I listened for him as he moaned thru the night. The mental images I kept seeing of splintered chards of cedar poking into Jack's gut were disturbing to say the least.

Monday began early. I fed the horses and came back to the house to gather up the very ill, and very uncomfortable pup to run to the vet.

The vet shook his head as he examined the bloated, tender belly of this pup whose stomach by now was stretched tight as a snare drum. As he felt Jack's stomach, he asked me questions as to the history of this particular chain of gastronomical events, the type of wood, how much was eaten, how much was charred, etc. He was giving obvious serious thought to the pup's present condition, past actions, and best course of treatment, and then looked up and asked me, " So, how was the salmon?" "Excellent!", I replied.

Jack was given a major pain med and was sent home with a wait and see prognosis and, soft food for the tummy and some version of a pepto bismal pink stuff. Jack laid out most of the day in a stoned state, with unfocusing pupils the size of saucers when he did open his eyes. He didn't object to the medications I kept shoving down his mouth and just laid on the cool bathroom floor and rested, not moving, any thing or any where.

Night went by and  Tuesday morning Jack was feeling some what better but had yet to give up his charred salmon flavored plank remnants, nor anything else. I was really hoping to see that "anything else" come along soon, but not in the house.  He stayed all day again, in our bathroom cooling his still distended belly in the dark, and quiet. His eyes were more focused but we were not out of the woods yet, or rather, the wood was not out of Jack yet.

Now Jack may have been clogged up for these couple of days and woefully sore, but his eating was not an issue. His appetite was at full strength and filling an already full gut with more food was pressing for a cataclysmic release. There was an improvement in his attitude on Wednesday morning and he seemed willing to head to the barn with the usual ritual, waddling along a bit slower that normal but better.

After he had peed on several  of his favorite posts and plants, sniffed some horse poop, and grabbed some of Memphis's food he wandered off to the back of the barn. I followed a respectful distance, keeping his privacy. And then, it happened. Jack pooped. Oh, Joy and Rapture,  and major relief.

Poop happens. In Jack's case it was a wonderful and most welcome thing.  I don't know what it says about a life, and these blog entries,  that is so wound up in the bowel movements of animals and the daily responses to the changing weather. Both of these things, though, are just what they are in any life, the guiding influences and things that just happen, and on a farm with all these animals, this is magnified in importance, and that is what you pay attention to and respond to. Poop does happen, and what you do about it is just a matter of perspective. Do you step in it or around it? Jack just thinks it is a marvelous thing.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Rain Day

I just walked down to the barn for the morning feeding of the horses and I could see that the morning's rain had put serious weight on the blooms of the wysteria that covers the arbor in the garden, which also serves as the run in shed/shadey place for Tony, my Shetland pony stallion, ruler of this farm and of all the visable country side. This particular, and very vigorous wysteria is actually two plants, one is a purple variety and one is white. They are both large bloomers, big, heavy, massive and terrifically fragrant cascades of color blending together in a huge unkempt mound that is rapidly getting out of control. I did mean to prune it this year but one thing distracted me and then another and now it is the point of no return and the plant has escaped and run over it intended boundary and soon will be in a town near you. Beware.

Today is the day for my veterinarian to come to do the biannual routine of immunizations for the horses, general health check up, ect. The horses will get today off as well as tomorrow to recover from such trama they will endure today. Not really, but I figure they deserve time to let medications do their thing and let sore needle sites get over it,  and besides, it is raining.

I know that a better portion of the previous blogs I have written in the past months have been my whining about the rain, but that has been a pretty good while back now and I am over it. Things have pretty well dried up and life has been easier for it.  Since the last wetting, tho, the oak trees and pines have been putting out flowers and pollen like nothing I have ever experienced, covering any and every surface with a granular yellow/green sticky powder, totally filling nostrils (and you know what that means), and coloring everything with a sickly and palid patina. So today, the rain is a good thing. Sometimes it is good to take a bath, even for  Mother Earth.

Spring rains are really pretty here, especially when the leaves still are bright green and the flowers, like the overwhelming wysteria, are blooming. There is a peaceful and different sound to it, the dropping rain being slowed in its descent by the newly formed leaves. Thunder rolls somewhere off in the distance and the weather channel shows that this is a narrow front line and won't be too long in the neighborhood, nor too violent. The occasion of a rainy day is now a good thing, allowing me the excuse to be inside and tackle those things that I perpetually postpone on days of nice weather, like laundry, bill posting, house cleaning-NOT, some time spent pushing my water colour brushes, or maybe sewing a runner for my mother's dining table.

A glance at my dirty fingernails just now, shows my recent scratching on the silly fillies, the soon to be three year old half sisters, Cupcake and Cistine. It is just impossible to have clean hands around them. They are like monster size puppies, sometimes a bit rude but in a childlike way, in their demanding attention and a good thorough scratching of their necks, shoulders, and especially under their chins. They are shedding their winter coats and are just beginnning to emerge, like butterflies from coccoons, revealing the changes in their growth from the recent winter months. Soon it will be time for their innocent and carefree world to change. They will do like all the others preceeding them, and go thru the process of learning to be a working horse, ridden, maybe driven, and hopefully become trustworthy and a safe partners without too many bumps along the way.

Since the passing of my gelding Atlas,  a good thing is that I have found myself getting reaquainted with his mother Robijn. Robijn was one of the young mare mares I bought many years ago now, to be a baby hotel and just keep pushing new foals into the world. She did this quite well up until the last few years and for unknown reasons has not been able to keep that which she concieves. My intention then had been to sell her and move on to other things, and nearly did. In the process of cleaning her up though, getting her tidy for presentation to a potential buyer, and also giving her the short course in how to be ridden again after years off, I made a surprising discovery. It is like working with a ghost, she is so much like Atlas, hardwired the exact same way in action and reaction. What I had been puzzled by with her when I broke her as a three year old, I know now how to handle, having just spent the past year dealing with her son, who had the same reaction to things. Usually its the other way around, that in dealing with the adult first, you have clues as to the offspring. Robijn has been delightful to work with, and so this has been a nice unexpected gift.

After a break here to go get all the vet stuff done, back in the house now, rain is over and puddles are lined with yellow powder, and the air has thankfully been cleared. Heidi, my German Shepherd, is softly snoring on her bed in the corner of the living room and the tea is steaping, waiting for me to finish this, so I can do some of those things I said I might get done on a rainy day. Maybe. I will just have to see which distraction gets me first. There is always something. 

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Who doesnt love spring? How could anyone not relish the change from the drab, cold, dreary days of the long damn winter? On lovely days like these who doesn't feel like Julie Andrews in her movie The Sound of Music, her arms flung wide, twirling in the escatasy of a glorious spring day on top of that lush apline meadow.This particular year had just been so friggin' brutal to the state of being of every living thing, that it's hard not to want to throw your arms wide and say thanks for the reprieve. When the birds start chirping, the flower petals from the pear trees are drifting thru the air, the edges of the trees are softening with an electric celedon green, coats have been left in the closets, and muck boots have been traded for sandals, how can anyone deny that life is simply better for this magical change in seasons.

Yeah, I know, I am going out on a limb here writing two days in a week on this blog thing. Its just that today when I look around, the world is getting beautiful again. Maybe all isn't perfect yet, but getting closer, and I just feel so much better when the earth is happy. Today , the earth is splendid. I do not know about, and have never experienced, spring anywhere but the south. I am sure it must be nice elsewhere too.  But there is something about a southern spring with daffodils, camillias, red bud trees, azaleas, air thick with pollen (rough if you have alergies), horses shedding winter coats, dogs rolling on emerging green shoots of grass, and frogs jumping from under your feet on the edges of ponds as you cast a line at a bream that sets a mood of peace,contentment, positive energy, and a will to get dirt under your fingernails  and plant a vegetable or two.

The camellias have just put on a spectacular show this year after a really dismal one last spring. The Taylor's Pink Perfection outside the back screened porch has been a gaudy mound of lotus shaped mops of a rich  and perfect pink. There are few things that I find lovelier, or more southern, than a show of camellias framed by oak trees and spanish moss.

My grandfather, Bibb, my father's father, was the one who introduced me to the camellia plant. When I was very young and was dropped off to be baby sat while mom had something to do, my granddad would take the time to slowly and methodically walk me around his yard and we would spend long times at each wonderful plant. Sometimes he would turn over some of the leaves on these evergreen shrubs and if he saw some white scale on the leaf he would take out an ancient pocket knife and carefull scrape the white powder off the leaf. He would then take out a white handkerchief and slowly wipe the blade, and return the folded knife to his pocket. This wise old man never did anything with haste, and I do believe he was a Zen Master sent here to pass along his teachings to this particular kid.

 He had many different varieties of the shrub but my favorite was a huge pepperment colored one that was mostly white with radiating bands of an intense pinkish red stripe from the center of the bloom. There were also many varieties that I haven't been able to identify, heirlooms from who knows where, ruffles, giants, blazing colors, a sheer magical array of petals on all. It was his quiet reverence for each indiviual plant that was what moved me, and taught me as a little kid to take time to admire and thank the flower for putting forth such a fine spectacle.

On this fabulous day in this spring, I want to say thank you to the forces of nature that has created this magic kingdom we call Earth. I think of past springs and am grateful to be witnessing yet another, and again am awed at its effect and its beauty.  I want to always remember to walk slowly and take time to smell the flowers, Earth's finest gifts.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April Fools

Today is a Thursday, another in the continual. It is a fine day in spring with bright green grasses emerging, purple martins chattering on their perches, trees are budding flowers and new leaves, combining with the periwinkle sky reminicent of the colors of an El Greco landscape. It is also Maudy Thursday, whatever that has to do with coming between Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, in precedence of this Sunday being Easter. And it is also April 1, April Fool's Day. It is a day of an extrodinarily high pedigree, so from such high expecations and possiblitlies, what do we make of it?

When my daughter, Emily, was very young but coming of the age where thought was beginning to form questions in her mind, she asked me one day in spring if the Easter bunny was real. It gave me pause as to how to answer this inquisition. Did she really want the real, grown up answer, or did she really already know the answer and want affirmation of the fantasy? So I answered with an oblique reply, that if you no longer believed in the magic, then there would be no magic.

This answer seemed to have given her a way to think about this and so afterwards, for years, she pretended or acted that she still believed, and perhaps she really did. We obliged by continuing to provide the acts of magic keeping the traditions of the Easter bunny, Santa Claus and such, alive. We perpetuated the myth and were happy to do it.

There is a deeply soothing comfort in believing in, and living in, the myth, in knowing the patterns of these magical happenings and being able to count on their happenings like clock work. It is a sweet and delerious, blind, and overwhelming optimism of expecting this pattern of good and wonderful magic things to come. There is an giddy excitement in the expectation of great things, toys, candy, gifts, surprises, that is hypnotic and mesmerizing. Who didn't have the doubtful fear too, that maybe we had been just bad enough, often enough, that this year, it would indeed be a load of switches and ashes from Santa instead of our wishes.
Regretably there is a definite and fine line that demarks this point of bliss in our lives and the other side, the side of truth, of disbelief, the knowing, and seeing of the reality. This line, once crossed is like a door which once opened and passed thru can no longer be used to go back. Once you doubt the magic, the optimism of myth of life, you can not go back to that blissful spot. It is in this disappearance of that naievity, that I find so disheartening and I remember the realization of going thru this port, so sadly.

The day my brother David, asked me if I still believed in Santa Claus still burns in my brain...I remember where we stood in my parents' foyer and the look on his face when I answered a further questioning, yes to his question. It had never occured to me anything but the fact of Santa's exsitence until that moment, and once the doubt was put in motion it needed resolution. Then came the proof of this with him showing me the stash of toys in the front closet my mother had hidden for Santa to magically drop off Christmas Eve.  I still feel the pit in my stomach from this revelation. I remember that Christmas too, pretending for my parents that I did believe so that I wouldn't ruin their gift to me, the perpetuation of the magic. It was bitter.

When the magic is gone, there is no magic.
So what is left when the hope is drained, when bad things happen, when life gets dark, when you lose something or someone dear, and you can't go back to that wonderful spot where you did believe in Santa and the Bunny. I don't know exactly.

There is a part of me that remains and clings to my childhood and doesn't want to leave. I still remember lying in my crib looking up at the fuzzy animals that hung over my head and circled with a soft tune when mom wound it up. I remember being aware that I was aware that I was experiencing a sublime feeling and that maybe I was supposed to use that memory when I needed it later , when times got crappy and I needed a place to go to.

It has been a rough go recently and I have had some major moments that have been tough, where I have desperately wanted to back to believing the myth, the myth that nothing bad ever happens. It does though. It did. And regreatably for us all, it will, at some point.

Today, however, is shining. It is a gift, bright and wonderful and I will take this glorious gift and see whats inside. Maybe I will dye some eggs today and hopefully, we will  fry some bream from our pond for supper. I am now heading out to ride my horses and enjoy them and their company. I will scratch my dogs' bellies and maybe too, I will cut the grass so the Easter Bunny can have nice places to hide his eggs on Sunday. 

So....Happy Easter, Happy April Fool's Day, and whatever you are supposed to do on Mauday Thursday.  And....Long live the myths.