Nature’s Gifts

I had noticed earlier in the day that various items had been moved or knocked off shelves in the shed where the barn cats live. This was not unusual; there were often romps in the shed or things moved in the pursuit of prey. A cat carrier was on tilt, nearly falling off a shelf, some rakes were knocked down, a bird feeder had fallen off a top shelf. I replaced everything and left.

When I came home just before sunset, and the car headlights were shining on the windows of the shed doors, I saw the most beautiful round face peering out at me from inside the shed. Not a cat. An owl!

It took my breath away as I looked at this perfect creature, wondering how it had managed to get inside the shed at all. Years ago, wrens had nested inside the shed, next to a can of spray paint. Wrens are like mice in terms of wriggling through small spaces such as were present with the old shed doors. They raised four youngsters there, on the third of four shelves along a wall.


DSC00072DSC00074 Grabbing the camera, I opened the shed door to investigate. The owl had taken refuge on the highest beam available, and gazed down at me. Feeling nothing but gratitude, I left the shed door open for about an hour, hoping it would find its way out. Well after dark, I closed the door; the owl was still in the same space.

The next morning, before daybreak, I opened the door again and left it open for about two hours. When I checked back, the owl was gone. There were no owl feathers on the floor so the cats had not had a successful owl hunt, if they had tried at all.

Later I wondered if the owl felt welcome because of some outside decorations, or if it just got caught in a bad situation.


Comparison with an Audubon calendar photo showed the owl to be a screech owl. I didn’t hear any screeching but the markings were right.


Occasionally, Nature presents us with the most extraordinary gifts, up close. I’ve had the privilege of such encounters many times, been surprised and enraptured each time, with a renewed sense of childhood discovery in me, a gift beyond a gift. Nice.

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Honoring the Innate

Everyone has their talent(s). It can take a while to discover them.

The “Grand-dog”, Hobbit, was here for a visit. I called her in from the yard so I could remove her electric fence collar, affix a leash and go for an off-campus walk. Mira! a cattle dog mix, was ready to go. But Hobbit ignored the call, so she didn’t get to go on the walk. She watched as Mira! and I walked up the road, with one of the cats following us.

The next day, the same routine: I called to Hobbit, she did not come, so she was left. But this time, she was not going to be left behind. She bolted through the electric fence, still wearing the fence collar. Not even a yip out of her. Straight down the road, past us, towards the creek.

Almost to the creek, Hobbit saw the pigs. No hesitation, no looking back to check if this was okay, straight under their electric fence to the pigs. The pigs were startled but did not seem overly concerned.

Within two minutes, Hobbit had rounded up the six pigs and herded them into their shed. Hobbit stood outside the shed and barked. And barked. And barked. The pigs were quiet. I was on the ‘phone, somewhat frantic, to the neighbor whose pigs they are.

The neighbor got a leash and went towards the pig shed, while Mira! and I went to the area between the pigs’ yard and the creek. Hobbit escaped the neighbor and headed towards a space near me, running under the electric fence again, just brushing it with her back. About twenty feet from the fence, she paused. I grabbed her collars.

The neighbor caught up with the leash and we all made our ways home.

The rescue had told us that Hobbit was probably a corgie/chow mix, based on her build and black tongue. But a knowledgeable vet tech spotted her immediately as a Swedish Vallhund and Hobbit fits the profile perfectly. I call her a Dirt Hund because of her love of lying in a dirt bed of her own creation.


We now know Hobbit’s talent: herding. She came home happy. She had had possibly her only adventure using her inborn talent. This headstrong dog knew what she wanted and came home having touched on some kind of nirvana for her.

The adventure was inconvenient for me, not what I wanted, but it was a symphony of dog-dom, magnificently orchestrated, beautiful to watch, and no harm done.


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Walking The Walk

I am blessed with a doctor who prescribes a twenty minute walk in the morning to ease night-time leg cramps, and general malaise.

Do you mean that walking up and down stairs several times a day, pacing between the computer/office and kitchen, doing laundry and gardening, mowing the grass, washing windows, and looking after nine animals is not Enough?

Well. Yes. Not enough.

So the leg stretches on the edge of a stair (who cannot spare 10 seconds for this?) a few times a day, and resuming walking (before the temperature reaches 90ºF), are back into the schedule.

I love common sense. Many people don’t have it, being so entrenched in electronics and other sources telling them what to do. And when I lose mine somewhere between the car and the litter box, I am grateful that there is someone to remind me of it.

This morning’s walk was a flashback to what is good and not so good in the neighborhood. We, at least one dog and I, start out on a journey that will peak our various interests. The dogs go for the smells. I look for trash. The difficulty comes when one of the cats wants to follow us. Even though it is a country road, there is traffic, and most of the vehicles, with the possible exception of tractors, drive faster than the posted speed limits.

Known locally as the Bag Lady, I always have a bag with me for picking up trash. All that bending and stooping is good for me. Often, I carry a light weight shillelagh, not so much as a threat to speeding cars, although I’m sure the impression counts, but as a tool to retrieve trash from underbrush.

This was today’s collection:


I have a number of unflattering terms for people who leave these things on or near the road. Amongst the worst are the people who toss their debris into a pile of poison ivy.


Others include those who toss their butts, to be washed into the creek and kill the fish. Why can’t they take their butts home with them?

And then there are those who willfully smash bottles onto the rocks, shards awaiting an unsuspecting foot. Why don’t they just go bowling?

On the good side, besides the exercise for me and the dogs, is a renewal of connection with my extraordinarily quiet and clean neighbors. And yes, my neighbors are (still) pigs.


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Magical Thinking

My granddaughter was having major surgery to repair her hip, the first of two such procedures. Of course I was worried.

So I started using magical thinking.

If I wore the upbeat green pants and the frog shirt, everything would be fine.

If, after mowing the (wet) grass to distract myself and to enable seeing what needed to be scooped, I had a cool shower, and a nap, everything would be okay.

If, as I redressed myself, I wore orange underpants, no one would mess with me. Who would challenge a woman who wears orange underpants? Everything would be all right.

After the nap, and dressing appropriately, in orange underpants, I prepared some lunch, and made a new batch of iced tea.

And here is my point: we often don’t know, until there is a crunch, how other people affect our day to day lives.

Step 1 – I was worried for my granddaughter.

Step 2 – I needed to replace the iced tea supply, which reminded me of how often I had done that for my grandson and granddaughter. I used a special tea that I can only obtain locally at the store where my granddaughter’s boyfriend works.

Step 3 – recognizing that in a short time, my granddaughter had touched my life in ways I had not considered.

Now the news has come that she is out of surgery, they had to use only three screws instead of screws and a titanium plate, and she is doing well.

Magical thinking has its purpose.


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Making The Connection

John Holland, a well known Medium, asks in his newsletter (Issue #196) of June 8, 2015, “Is a Loved One Sending You a Sign?

Not long ago, a dear friend died at age 95, without pain or suffering. Although he was in the hospital, he anticipated coming home, was fully cognizant, and won the Scrabble games with his son the night before he died. He had a full and productive life, raising three accomplished sons, with a long and successful marriage to one woman, Rose.

Sitting down to meditate the day after his passing, I heard a book fall on the shelf next to my desk. I looked over and saw only the first name of the author: James.

No book had ever fallen over on this shelf. There was no cause for the fall that I could perceive. James…

After meditation, I went out to the back terrace, and there was a single magnificently scented rose, in full bloom. Rose. No other roses were in bloom.

Parts of a puzzle were coming together. James was my friend’s son who died a couple of years ago; Rose was his wife, also deceased.

I cut the rose and took it to another son who is my neighbor. He and his wife understood the association I had made: there was a possibility that his Dad was trying to connect, even though his Dad had never expressed a belief in the powers of those who have crossed over. One interpretation might be that he was letting us know that he was with James and Rose. That’s how the three of us chose to look at it and be comforted.

The next day, I took another look at the book that had fallen: “Unfinished Business – What the Dead Can Teach Us About Life”” by James Van Praagh. A gift from a friend, I had not yet read it, but it seems to have been used as a connection.

Such signals can be easily ignored. James and Rose made sense to me and to the family.

When you experience the loss of a loved one, be alert to how they may be trying to reach out to you. You don’t have to be a Medium or go to see a Medium. Just look around, and make the connections. They are not coincidence. They are real.


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A Dead Fly Is The Best Ant Trap

The cycle of life is sometimes rampant.

A month ago, an awful smell emanated from the crawl space under my house into my office. Past experience told me it was a dead animal, and it would take seven to ten days for the smell to dissipate. In the meantime, Febreeze for animal odors and incense were used as inadequate cover-ups.

The big “blow” flies showed up sometime around seven to ten days. The smell persisted but lessened.

Finally, one morning, I noted the smell was gone. It had been a month since the initial impressions.

Suddenly, the flies appeared. Indoors. They had a choice; indoors or outdoors. It’s an old house. There are lots of small entrances/exits through the stone work. Presumably, they headed for the light. Not The Light. Not until they met with one of three fly swatters.

I lost count after the first thirty small black flies bit the dust. Two or three times a day, I scanned the windows and let loose with the fly swatters. Their small bodies are very vulnerable. I would offer them an open window but often they just didn’t get it: some of them had to be literally pushed out. There was a lot of window washing coming up.

A pile of dead fly bodies was left outside in case the birds wanted them. Alas, no. Which makes me feel better about encouraging the brighter flies to go outside, so the birds can get them there.

A couple of dead flies eluded the vacuum cleaner and my sweeping up, and voila! The ants arrived to cart off the bodies. Since I didn’t want the ants in the house either, everything got swept up for a contribution to the great outdoors.

A month’s observation of this life cycle is enough.

But the discovery of a dead fly as ant bait is a gem.

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Pivotal Moments

Pivotal moments are those which change our feelings, our thinking, our choices, our pathways in life. People can provide them, or experiences.

Think back. Who or what was pivotal in your life?

As a child, one person was my only grandmother, who rescued me again and again from an increasingly dysfunctional household. I had an aunt and a cousin who did the same. So right there, three people, who removed me from an unpleasant environment, nurtured me, and taught me that the world was composed of a lot more than a sad family situation.

As a teenager, the wife of my father’s business partner told me I had beautiful hair. From that time on, when life seemed tough, I could say to myself, “well at least I have beautiful hair”. Whether it was true or not was not the point; it was an asset noted by someone else and shared with me.

As an adult, a doctor suggested that I learn Transcendental Meditation. He said it had been helpful to him. I respected his opinion so I tried it. It was a turning point in my life in the most positive direction I could imagine. It was the baseline for so much of what was to come.

The day I saw my first Blue Heron was breathtakingly pivotal. From then on, I wanted to capture such experiences by camera in an attempt to share my own sense of wonder.

We all have certain times and people in our lives of extraordinary influence.

I am grateful for each of mine, and for having an awareness of their presence. These are the moments that propel our lives onto a different level of being and if we’re lucky, push us onto a higher spiritual platform.

There may be lots of highlights in our lives, like the day the dog had her puppies in my lap, or the sense of relief when the electricity is restored after days without it, or the wedding of a friend, the birth of a child or even the immersion in a really good book or movie.

While pivotal moments may be highlights, usually those moments are more subtle, coming to fruition with the consequences of that moment. Like discovering a perfume scent that suits you and you choose to use for the rest of your life.


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The Value of Complaint: Improvement, Compensation and the Flip Side

Whether pointing something out that is deficient in your opinion, or that might be relevant to others, there is value in complaining.

Constructive commentary is an asset. It can take work to phrase something in a way that will be heard, honored and accepted.

But constructive comments are not always possible and one has to aim at the problem, such as faulty equipment or product.

I am not qualified to make constructive comments on say, generic brands in the supermarket (what do I know about making, to use a benign example, a nice dusting powder, or baby oil?). But I can say that a company’s new brand of soap stinks. Literally. The new scent is awful. In my opinion.

When I opened a package to plant new day lilies, there was nothing but dust in the package. Turned out the market had put old stock on the shelves. The bulb company replaced the bulbs at no cost to me, which is how the process should work.

Companies need to hear from people like us. They are trying to sell a product. If it is deficient for whatever reasons, they need to know that. Who better to tell them?

The upside is that a reputable company will offer at least coupons for a replacement product, if not to replace the product itself and sometimes a full refund by cheque.

There has been, in my experience, one company which has never responded: Verizon. In this country, we sometimes have the option to change companies for the same product. Done.

And the flip side of complaint: after wading through the inevitable voice menu, continually pushing “O”, finally getting a live Comcast representative who was expecting a complaint or problem, and then telling her that Comcast’s support by providing an internet connection, of a live broadcast of an eagles’ nest, with chicks, is very much appreciated.

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More Like Us


“Why can’t a woman be more like a man?”

Remember the song from My Fair Lady?

We are experiencing an historic time, when we have the opportunity to open portals of compassion and tolerance. Are we doing that?

Fanatics are using religion as an excuse to kill targeted populations with a goal of world domination and doing “it their way” from now on. (Frank Sinatra, are you listening?)

This is nothing new. The Crusades set an example long ago, and missionaries have been offering their versions of religion for literally ages.

The difference between ISIS/ISIL and missionaries is that missionaries (allegedly) give the individual a choice: they offer and convince, rather than kill and overrun.

So why can’t a woman be more like a man? Why can’t Christians be more like Muslims, and vice versa? Why can’t a bipolar person be more like the general population? Why can’t a black man be like a white man?

Within this historic time, we are witnessing a smudging of categorical divisions in society. Some women become more like men particularly as they age; some men and women feel they were born into the wrong physiological body structure.Perhaps tolerance to variations in gender identification might be the precursor to cross-overs of religious ideals, an understanding that everyone is different, that everyone has their own story, and that perceived mental imbalance may be a sign of genius. Many of humanity’s most brilliant contributors have been considered weird, and in mental health and insurance parlance would qualify for a DSM diagnosis.

In the face of global diversity on multiple levels, are we opening those portals of compassion, tolerance, and understanding?

The goal here is not to make everybody the same, or specifically categorized. Brave New World, here we come! Thank you, Aldous Huxley.

The goal is to honor our differences. They protect us from the monotony of sameness. They contribute to the evolution of cultures and maybe even humankind.




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The Insidious Internet

The Insidious Internet

“The Virologist”, an article by Andrew Marantz in The New Yorker magazine (January 5, 2015) about Emerson Spartz and memes highlights an insidious danger within the internet.

It seems that if you and I search on our own computers for, say CNN, we will come up with different results, based on what the algorithmic internet scavengers determine to be “our best interests”.

Downright scary.

While it may be helpful to the vendors and possibly to us, to tailor ads on, say Facebook, to our interests as expressed by our computer activity, in my opinion, it is not in our “best interests” to hone information to suit our individual tastes.

On the contrary, it narrows our field of information and is a restriction of freedom.

Such culling underscores how crucially important it is that (a) we talk with each other, (b) reading books is necessary, and (c) foreign travel is essential for a more rounded view of the world.

In this computer-driven information highway (to use a hackneyed term), I do not want my personal interests continually fed back to me, effectively reinforcing the idea that what I think is right, or useful, or the general trend.

While it may be convenient and time saving not to be fed gruel that is of no use or interest to me, I crave exposure to new and different ideas, to conversation, to open answers to open ended questions.

Maybe I should start searching for bizarre subjects so as to vary the ad content on websites I visit.

In the meantime, my cynical thanks to the internet gods who think they know what to feed me, who stifle critical thinking, and who make my life so much easier.

Let me out!  Let me graze on the other side of the fence.


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