Saturday, April 30, 2011

Miracles in My Neighborhood

The Horse Capital of the World is awash in dogwoods right now—white and shell-pink. Every turn in the road reveals more of these trees with their four-petal flowers, and my jaw drops each time in awe of their beauty.

“After all, I don’t see why I am always asking for private, individual, selfish miracles when every year there are miracles like white dogwood.”
—Anne Morrow Lindbergh

A Tale of Two Sisters

nce upon a time, in a land stranger than this, there lived a little princess. At least, that’s what her father called her.

Of course, she knew better, for her precious books defined princesses as finely dressed (yet no gowns hung in her closet), arrestingly beautiful (she was plain), and separated from the riffraff of the kingdom by moat and castle (did a swimming pool count for anything?).

She longed to step through the pages of her fairytales and take her rightful place in the castle turret, overlooking the secret garden.

Then one day—on her birthday, no less—her wish was granted in an unexpected way. She received from her much-older-and-wiser sister a most special box covered in green tissue and graced by an elf. Upon lifting the elf-guarded lid, what did she find?

A pearl-studded diamond tiara.

Oh, the magic of such a gift! Her storybook life had arrived.

No one else she knew owned such a headpiece, so the tiara itself separated her from the nonroyals. She didn’t have to be beautiful now; instead, she could feel beautiful. And she believed that once a tiara crowns your head, you’re finely dressed—no matter what unflattering gingham playsuit your mother forces you to wear.

She was a real princess now. Her sister had made it so.

The princess kept her royalty to herself, and she kept her pearl-studded diamond tiara nested in its original box. Throughout her life, the elf-guarded treasure remained with her—through school years and adulthood, through countless moves beyond the castle. Yet now, as the princess faces her golden years, she believes it may be time to let go of the (plastic-and-rhinestone) magic. Pass it on to another child who dreams of being a princess.

But first, she’ll tip her tiara to the world’s newest princess-to-be, and she’ll thank the Universe for the sister who understood that you don’t have to be a princess to feel like one.

[Two Sisters (on the terrace) by Renoir.]

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Keeping Track of the Days

“This must be Thursday. … I never could get the hang of Thursdays.”
—from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams

[Just watched The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The quote seemed a good excuse to post a pic of this retired racehorse.]

Bird Expectations

When we first moved to the Bluegrass, the long stretch of property behind our apartment building was separated from the next property by a variety of large bushes, undergrowth, and a line of tall trees.

A utility company butchered the trees, stripping them of most of their branches and their magnificent height. Later, our new landlord removed all the bushes and undergrowth to erect a fence between the properties.

When I think about habitat loss, it usually involves expanded agricultural endeavors, housing and commercial developments, or natural disasters. What had happened in my own (albeit rented) backyard was no different, though. The homes of who knows which species or how many of them were obliterated in a matter of days by good intentions.

I thought more about habitat loss recently when I read that some migratory birds return to the nests they build, year after year. Not just the geographic area they lived in, but the VERY NEST.

What happens to birds who, after traveling hundreds or thousands of miles, return to find their nests gone—or the nest and the whole bird neighborhood have vanished? I suspect they start over again in some cases. In others, though, I wonder how much farther the birds have to travel to find an appropriate environment for their dwelling. And do they have the energy and search capacity to sustain the journey? (Yeah, I could research these questions, but as I write with pen to paper, the sirens keep warning that a tornado is approaching. I’ve shut the computer down until the scary weather moves on.)

Worse than discovering that your nest—which you built with heart and engineering genius—is gone must be the realization that your entire species is gone; only you remain.

Last night I opened the latest issue of Poetry magazine to read one poem before going to bed. Strangely, it illustrated some of my ruminations about birds and extinction, despair and yearning.

Bird Left Behind
by Sophie Cabot Black

As for her, the circumstances must be ordinary
And so the return. Door unlocked. The path mowed
Right to the oiled gate; the pasture

Cleared of stone and alder. All untouched
Enough to enter. The man or woman
Off down the valley or working above

Treeline. No other sound but a few strays
Hurrying through the dusk as if the end
Will begin, certain and with nothing

More to say. She does not know she does not know.
Having come back to find her kind
And none being left she took herself up

Into a tree unclear what to do next save only
Sing the song she wanted sung back to her.

[Top pic from Hummingbirds at Home.]

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

WordGazing: Weather Worries

At the bottom of the television screen last night, I saw this:

Flood warning…don’t drown.

Well, thanks for the encouragement, I thought. I wasn’t planning to.

But then I saw the warning in its entirety. In the case of rising waters, viewers were told to seek higher ground. Otherwise…

“If traveling, remember turn around, don’t drown.”

Could this be the newsroom’s nod to Poetry Month?

[Pic from]

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Crank Up Your Noggin

It’s raining cats and dogs here—and pigs and horses, too.

There’s a strange sound in a corner of the room. I hope it’s just the wind reaching under the front door to stir up some mischief. In case it isn’t, I’m sticking to the couch.

I woke before 4 this morning. Not to practice early rising for Friday’s Royal Wedding, not for any purpose at all. Just couldn’t sleep. So I begin my Tuesday with a deep-roasted coffee and a few words for you.

What would you like to read today?

Ah, I have an idea. Let’s begin with a riddle:

“They don’t complain; they are not manipulators of the world. They cope. They feel but just don’t make a fuss. They think positively and are incredibly tolerant: ‘Well, here I am. How can I make the most of it?’ They have such serenity. And remember, they have a huge brain.”

That’s Marthe Kiley-Worthington, then of Little Ash Eco-Farm in England. Who is she describing? Or, to give you a clue, what species is she describing?

What? You want another clue? The answer is in Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson’s The Pig Who Sang to the Moon: The Emotional Life of Farm Animals. A Jane Smiley book title features the sound these creatures make.

C’mon—hazard a guess in the comments section.

Or, if you don’t want to share, take a moment to consider how tolerant, positive, and serene you are—not just occasionally but every day. I struggle to attain such calm (my clash with the César Millan devotée a perfect example).

Where are you on the Serenity Spectrum?

[Art by Franz Marc.]

Monday, April 25, 2011

César Millan, I Heart You…NOT!

“Incoming dog!” my husband warned me through the dense fog. We were on the beach taking my godpuppy* for his afternoon walk.

Before I could process what my husband had said, a massive, black-and-white Pit Bull was nose-to-nose with the Airedale I was leash-bound to. They took an instant liking to each other and started playing.

But the frolic was short-lived. The Pit Bull loped back from whence it had come, apparently being called by its “guardian.” I could hear the fellow scolding the pup: “You didn’t ask if you could play.”

Sounded harmless enough. I turned back to make introductions with the Pit Bull’s family and to rejoin my husband, who had stopped to take in the smells of the lake. But what I saw next is an image I can’t wrest from my mind, and it’s made it difficult for me to answer when people inquire, “How was your trip to Chicago?”

The slight, 20-something-year-old man who was calling for the Pit Bull (and before you jump to conclusions, there are lots of rescued Pit Bulls in my old neighborhood with guardians of every age, gender, and ethnicity) told the dog again, “You didn’t ask!”—then struggled to pick up what had to be a 90-pound pooch, twisted it upside down, and slammed it to the ground on its back.


I lost it. Yeah, second time this year—this lifetime—that I’ve screamed at someone. But truly, screaming was NOTHING compared to what I wanted to do to the guy.


“I have to,” he calmly replied.

“No. You don’t.”

“Yes, I do. You don’t understand—”

“I don’t have to. Nothing warrants what you just did.”

“He didn’t listen to me when I called.”

“If that’s a problem, then why did you let him off-lead?”

“I was testing him.”


That’s kind of how the exchange went. Then I left the scene, furious. Walked up to the first dog person I could find and vented about the episode. Dog people form their own communities within neighborhoods and I wanted hers to keep an eye on this guy. I wanted word to spread.

Oh. One more thing about my ridiculous tête-à-tête with Mr. Clueless. He explained that, according to César Millan, his dog needs to learn who’s dominant.

“Dog Whisperer,” my a _ _. This was outright abuse. The dog wasn’t some crazed, tear-your-arm-off-rather-than-look-at-you killer. This was a sweet-tempered, oversized, overweight pooch who looked terrified and bewildered by the guy’s actions. Lucky the jerk didn’t break the dog’s back as well as its spirit.

Even before this happened, I’d read enough about Millan to cringe whenever anyone mentioned his name as a training guru. Sure, Millan has successfully impressed upon the masses the importance of training our dogs. I’m grateful for that. But my admiration stops there. He blatantly ignores what research has revealed about the canine brain and behavior. He sees everything through a dominance filter—even when it’s a neurological or hormonal issue best treated with drugs or plant remedies. Millan is a charismatic evangelist who’s gotten too much airtime** (thank you, National Geographic).

But back at the beach: While I still couldn’t function intelligently, my calm husband intervened. I watched from a distance as he kept talking to Mr. Clueless about positive training and gave him the name of the neighborhood trainer, told him to look up Patricia McConnell on the Web, and I don’t know what else. It seemed like Mr. Clueless really didn’t know there was another way to train his pooch.

Then I felt bad that I’d yelled at an ignorant person. (Yet not bad enough to apologize.)

That’s how my trip to Chicago went. It handily snuffed out my pipe dream of becoming a humane educator or animal lawyer—too much chance of ending up in the slammer.

* Paperwork has been drawn up to make me responsible for the Airedale if his current guardian dies or is unable to care for him.
** Visit Beyond Cesar Millan on the Web for a collection of articles about Millan’s techniques. You’ll have to sift through the muck about who the original Dog Whisperer was and which trainer should have been on Animal Planet, two issues that pale in comparison to negative training vs. positive training. And if you don’t know the difference, write to me. I’ll compile a reading list for you along with trainers in your area.

[Pics from top to bottom: the godpuppy; a Pit Bull named Reggie, similar to the one at the beach but waiting in Indiana to be adopted; the view from the beach toward the park; the man who ruined my day, César Millan.]

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Wishing You An Eggstra Special Day…

The Marble Truth of Easter

As joy envelops those observing Easter, the pastel colors and promise of resurrection can leave a bittersweet taste with those suffering from grief and loss. Here’s a twist on today’s holiday, a perspective that really spoke to me.


is my season
of defeat.

Though all
is green

and death
is done,

I feel alone.
As if the stone

rolled off
from the head

of the tomb
is lodged

in the doorframe
of my room,

and everyone
I’ve ever loved

lives happily
just past

my able reach.
And each time

Jesus rises
I’m reminded

of this marble

they are not
coming back.

by Jill Alexander Essbaum, from the January 2011 issue of Poetry

[Painting by Abbott H. Thayer.]

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Soggy Season

It’s raining here in the Bluegrass—as it did all through the night, as it has across much of the country this week.

If it’s starting to get you down (your basement is flooded, some driver flew through a puddle that ended up on your new shoes, you’d planned an outdoor egg hunt for the dozen or so children coming to your home tomorrow), here’s a little upside from someone who spoke eloquently about any subject presented to him:

“Rain! whose soft architectural hands have power to cut stones, and chisel to shapes of grandeur the very mountains.”
—Henry Ward Beecher

[Art by Albert Bierstadt.]

Friday, April 22, 2011

Not A Day Goes By…

It was this month last year that my husband and I took our beloved canine to the specialty wonder doctor we thought would turn her health around.

We waited at a lunch joint (called “Poochie’s”) across the street from the animal hospital while the doc conducted a battery of tests and MRIs. We returned to the vet’s office only to see the wonder doc in tears.

She revealed her diagnosis slowly, opening with news we already knew: “She’s the sweetest, most loving dog. No matter what indignities I imposed upon her, she was patient and kept giving me her paw or nosing me for a pet.” Then the doc told us what our regular vets had assured us wasn’t happening: “She’s in a great deal of pain.” The wonder doc proceeded to tell us all the options we had—none of them hopeful, all of them traumatizing.

We made what we thought was the humane choice. We sat on the hospital floor, hugging and holding our first and only dog while the doc administered a drug to calm her. After some time, the doc asked us, “Are you ready for me to give her the final drug?”

How do you answer that?

After our initial bewilderment, we nodded our heads to give the go-ahead. In seconds, she was gone. And we headed home without her—our shadow, our herder, our I’ll-make-everything-all-right-for-you-always companion.

The subtraction of her presence from our days felt surreal. As Donald Hall wrote in “Distressed Haiku”:

You think that their
dying is the worst
thing that could happen.

Then they stay dead.

For years, I had counted on our pooch breaking all the longevity records and living longer than the average age for dogs of her size. But then what?

Was she ever going to reach that magic number where I would say, “Ah, yes. That’s a long-enough life. I’m ready to let her go now”? Not likely. Her passing would always be too soon.

Every day I half expect to see her again, the Heart O’ My Heart. Every day I have to remind myself that after her untimely death, she stayed dead.

Note: We have precious few photos of our pooch because cameras scared her.

Good Planets Are Hard to Find

Let’s protect the one we’re on. Celebrate Earth Day 2011 with an “Act of Green.”

“If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.”
—Edward O.

[Pic from The Earth Times.]

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Where Dark Arts and Job-Hunting Converge

ome time ago I read a job ad that was unusually well written (you knew exactly what they wanted) and even clever. It made me want to work for the hiring company. It tempted me to write to them just to express my gratitude for the standout ad. The hook was:
“Do you ___________, ___________, and know the Dark Art of pickling eggs?”

I was fairly skilled in the first ___________, would have liked to learn how to do the second ___________, but the third? I never knew pickling eggs to be a Dark Art—only a family tradition.

Next I considered applying for the position I wasn’t qualified for just to be able to write, “Indeed, I am steeped in the Dark Art of pickling eggs. My family has practiced this Rite of Spring for generations.”

In fact, I was pickling eggs just this week. ’Tis the season, after all. But it didn’t go as smoothly as I anticipated.

First, I couldn’t find my grandmother’s recipe—one of the many hazards of moving. So I placed a call to my mother.

Then, it took forever to free the eggs from their blasted shells. Once I got them into the secret rosy juice, one of them floated to the top. What did that mean?

For me, it meant calling my cuisine-expert sister for an explanation, and for advice about the shells. Why go to the Internet when you can go to family?

Sometimes, a simple task can take a village…

[The pic is from Jules Food…, where you will find a recipe for pickled eggs so that you, too, may practice a Dark Art. The drop cap is from Jessica Hische.]

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Let the Sun Shine

What could be more emblematic of this season of renewal than this precious, back-from-the-dead creature?

This is the last photo I have of Patrick, which I borrowed from Lia, Zoe & Friends. I don’t see it in the gallery kept by Associated Humane Societies and Popcorn Park Zoo, so I’m not sure where it originally came from. Since I first blogged about Patrick, AHS has had to take measures to protect his photos because…well, read for yourself. It’s weird and irritating.

Anyway, in this pic, Patrick seems enchanted by the sunlight and the smells around him. Perhaps a little Edna St. Vincent Millay is going through his head…

I will be the gladdest thing under the sun!
I will touch a hundred flowers
And not hurt one.
—from “Afternoon on a Hill” (a dog’s version)

Whaddaya MEAN You Didn’t Get Your Lull Freebie?

While corresponding with a Lull reader this weekend, it came to light that she knew nothing about Lil’ Bits*. And maybe you don’t either.Lil’ Bits is a small compilation of quotes published on Lull, divided into topics that frequently appear on Lull. I put it together for Lull’s one-year anniversary as a thank-you gift to loyalist readers. I had wanted to create an e-book, but had time only to build a PDF. You can access it by clicking on the link under LULL PRESS at right, just under the purple paw. Once you’re in Google Docs (which transformed my carefully chosen fonts into something unrecognizable yet still legible), you can view, print, or download it from there.

I’m working on the second-year anniversary gift. Any requests?

* FYI: The spelling of Lil’ stems from the pseudonym I initially used for Lull: Lill.

Whatever the Weather, It’s Still Spring

Stranger In A Strange Land – No. 13
A friend told me it snowed the other day in the Windy City. Yet, just days before, temperatures had climbed toward 80°F.

That’s the frustration about Spring in the upper Midwest. Flowers peep out in the heat, then lose their chance to blossom when snow returns. The palette that washes across the Horse Capital of the World is long delayed in the North.

My father had a favorite ditty that made sense in the Land of Lincoln, but not in the Bluegrass State:

Spring has sprung,
the grass has riz.
I wonder where
the flowers iz.

Thanks to my father, I’m experiencing the season of renewal in a new way—in glorious color. Unlike the North, the rise of the early perennials and the blooms of the flowering trees last longer here. Now Spring in the South will always conjure memories of the man who gave me life and the spirit with which to enjoy it.

This is part of an ongoing series regarding my transition from the Land of Lincoln to the Bluegrass State. For a list of previous articles in the series, type Stranger in a Strange Land into Lull’s search function on the right.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Stranger in a Strange Land – No. 12

“Whaddaya think of the Cubs?”

That’s a typical opener for small talk in the Windy City. Translation: “Do you think the Cubs will make it to the World Series this year?”

Here in the Horse Capital of the World, polite conversation opens with “Have you been to Keeneland yet?” I hear it at the pharmacy, the grocery store, the salon, the p.o. As the Cubs and Wrigley Field are in Chicago, Keeneland and its horses are icons in Lexington. It’s a coveted social scene for which young and old dress to the nines and attract attention with exquisite headwear. The 75-year-old track is located within the city and is also the site of several tony equine sales each year.

If you’re a regular Lull reader, you know I’m not a fan of racing horses. During the few races I’ve watched or attended, horses have been injured in falls. However, I still plan to go to Keeneland. I hear they serve a pretty decent breakfast buffet there, after which I can watch horses get groomed and walked.

Just food and (equine) poetry. To me, it sounds like a perfect day at the races.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Test Your Integrity

just finished reading Lit: A Memoir by Mary Karr. If you’re an aspiring poet or essayist, a lapsed church-goer or doubting Believer, a recovering alcoholic or recovering from a tragic childhood, you should read this. I don’t fall into any of those categories and I still inhaled the book, just as I did Karr’s earlier memoirs, The Liars’ Club and Cherry.

The other night as I was applying for a job online, this passage from Lit came to mind:

“I need his unbudgeable integrity. I mean, when a big-deal magazine requested changing some of his poems, he pulled them rather than compromise. I’d have typed mine backward in Urdu to see them into print.”

Some folks fudge their work history just to land the position. I’m not one of them. In fact, I probably (stupidly) err on the side of modesty about my skills and experience. So when I got to this question in the application for a university job—
How many years of clerical/administrative experience do you have working in an academic setting?
—my answer was easy: I’ve never worked in an academic setting.

Except, of course, it wasn’t easy. I had to choose from this multiple-choice list of answers:
No Response
More than 0, up through 1 yr

More than 1 yr, up through 3 yrs

More than 3 yrs, up through 5 yrs

More than 5 years

This hardly seemed like a deal-breaker question, but university applications contain all sorts of warnings about being factual and truthful and passing background checks and drug screenings and if I lie about ANYTHING at all the consequences will be yada yada yada. In truth, I HAVE worked in an academic setting if you count the time I spent teaching high-schoolers. But because the job ad stated a “scholarly” background is preferred, I assume the question refers to the college-level community. So which answer would you choose?

I selected “No Response” and continued with the process. But when I was finished, a red warning popped up telling me my application was incomplete. I had “not answered” the very question that had stumped me.

Well, technically, I guess No Response is not an answer. But why in bloody Hell is it listed and formatted as if it were? The problem isn’t my integrity; the problem is a writer’s inability to form sensible questions with appropriate multiple-choice answers.

So I selected the next answer on the list—“More than 0, up through 1 yr”—then addressed the matter (as vaguely as possible so as not to offend anyone) in my cover letter.

What would you have done?

[Drop cap by Jessica Hische.]

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Heavenly Job Available: Rescue, Feed, Educate

For those of you still scouting for a job (or a better one), there’s an opening at Catskill Animal Sanctuary. The farm-animal rescue is searching for a new chef (carnivores need not apply) to: create meals for employees and special events; educate the public about vegetarian cuisine, organic gardening, and agribusiness; and provide hands-on cooking expertise through classes and a blog.

It’s the perfect animal welfare–related job for me—except for the cooking element.

So pass the word to the great chefs you know who are looking for meaningful employment and the chance to make a difference.

[Pics are from CAS.]

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Through Rain and Roadkill…

We had to trek back to the Windy City last week. It was an unexpected, whirlwind trip that had us on the road more than off (at least, it felt that way).

In an effort to spice up the drive, we chose a new route that took us through Paris—Illinois, that is. We saw heart-breaking poverty, way too many yard dogs, and no signs of jobs or entertainment for miles and miles.

Coming back was no picnic, either. Rain challenged visibility, yet roadkill was never out of sight.

Glad to return to our small world.

[Enjoyed seeing the news building in Paris. Pic by Julia.]

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Click Through My Absence

y computer and I are parting ways for a few days.

But fear not! I can still give you plenty of things to read and ruminate on.

If you’re new to Lull, I encourage you to poke around in the archives, or use the search function at the right to find all the articles on a topic that interests you. Here’s a baker’s dozen of categories that get plenty of coverage on Lull:

job-hunting (or just put the word job in)

If you want a small collection of quotes that have appeared on Lull, click on Lil’ Bits at the right to view or download the PDF.

If you’ve already read every bleeding word I’ve posted to Lull, you deserve a reward. Tell the world in the comments section that you’re a Lull loyalist and I’ll enter your name in my upcoming raffle. Books, of course, are the prizes. For you, here are some blogs and Web sites you may enjoy. (But please don’t forsake Lull once you’ve strayed.)

Honey Rock Dawn
The Other End of the Leash
Easy Street Prompts
A Public Space
Daisy and Bob’s Blog
Tiny House Blog
Grain Edit
Save the Words
Is Greater Than
Forgotten Bookmarks

Whether you’re a new or loyal reader, please keep clicking on the purple paw to donate food to animal shelters.

Back soon…

[Drop cap by Jessica Hische.]

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Wearing Your Heart on Your Car

Saw a bumper sticker in my ’hood yesterday. It read:

Through Superior Arms

Made me want to attach this note next to it:

You mean, like,
Giant Hugs for Everybody?

[Art from wallartdesign.]

Monday, April 4, 2011

Hollywood Star Attacks Tourist

If you’re looking for dirt on Charlie Sheen, you won’t find it here. Today’s title refers to my weekend visit at a retirement farm for thoroughbreds, where I was particularly drawn to the unique face of one resident.

He played Seabiscuit in some of the scenes in the 2003 film of the same name. As the rest of the tour moved away from Popcorn Deelites (he’s on the right in the photo), I moved in to talk to him. He listened, but I knew he really just wanted me to shut up and feed him carrots like every other visitor had. As I reached out to stroke his neck, he decided to use that timeless communications maxim “Show, Don’t Tell.”

Popcorn grabbed my sleeve by his teeth and pulled me up toward his paddock.

I laughed. What was the worst that could happen? I would lose my shirt to an equine movie star and suffer the humiliation of being half naked in public.

I smiled up at Popcorn and quietly asked, “May I please have my arm back now?”

He promptly released me, to which I said, “Thank you!”

The tour guide started to reprimand the horse, but I intervened. “No, we’re good. Everything’s fine.”

Popcorn had communicated in what he thought was the most appropriate way to get his point across to a dunderhead. Our “chat” was, of course, the high point of my visit.

[Photo of Popcorn Deelites from Gather.]

Sunday, April 3, 2011

From Fleurs to Flourishing

“If of thy mortal goods thou art bereft,
And from thy slender store two loaves alone to thee are left,
Sell one, and with the dole
Buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.”

(This is purportedly from Saadi’s Golestan, which means The Rose Garden. I’ve not been able to verify it, but it speaks to me today.)

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Let the Games Begin

It’s Final Four time and even dogs are in on the action here in the Bluegrass.

Here’s our neighbor’s hound dressed in team blue (a little begrudgingly—the accessorizing began with a shirt but quickly pared down to a bandanna) and stick-equipped (in case, you know, somebody decides to play with him while glued to the Wildcats).

Rah, y’all!

Bow-WOW! Castaway Pooch Rescued in Japan

Did you see the news yesterday? The Coast Guard spotted life atop a roof floating off the coast of Japan. Against all odds, a dog was afloat wreckage from Japan’s earthquake-tsunami disaster of three weeks ago.

Can you imagine the rush those rescuers got from 1) Just finding anything alive, and 2) Successfully liberating the creature from certain death?

It took several hours—the initial helicopter attempt to reach the dog frightened it—but the boat operation finally triumphed.

Get that dog an agent! His/her Life of Pi–sized story is certainly bookworthy—maybe even destined for the Silver Screen. Think about it: Where was the pooch when the earthquake hit? Was anyone with him/her? How did s/he get to the roof? What did s/he experience once adrift? How did s/he stay alive? What made him/her press on?

[Idea for publishing community: Why not create something gratis and send ALL the revenues to Japan to fund animal shelters and caregivers?]

Kudos to the team of rescuers for deeming a canine’s life worth saving and for risking their lives to do it.

La chaim!

[AP photo.]

Friday, April 1, 2011

If I Could Talk to the Animals…

Years ago when I first heard about animal communicators, I was at once skeptical and jealous. I wanted to talk to the animals and have them talk to me. I’ve yearned for it for as long as I can remember. What was their secret?

My skepticism didn’t prevent me from actually using an animal communicator once. And I wish I’d used her more. (More on that in another post.) Animal communicators are great pinpointers of pain in pets—both physical and emotional—and can guide vets in treatment when tests fall short.

This week I came across a published conversation between an animal communicator and a dog whose tragic story has gotten a lot of press across the Internet. As much as I’ve wanted the gift of interspecies gab, I may not be up to it. How can you not unravel when you hear/sense a pooch say, “I am broken. I don’t know why”?

Here’s the write-up by Colleen Nicholson (from 22 March 2011):

“I hope to live here,” Patrick says as I talk with him now as I write to you. “I feel b

k shares with me the feeling of relief, complete and utter relief. He is very quiet, and does not offer any more than that, so I’ll question him.

I’m asking him if there is anything he needs.

“I have it all,” he replies, as if looking around at his surroundings. “I even have these,” and he shows me his blue buddy that I did see in the
picture you sent. “It is soft,” and with this he shows me that it has been the softness around him that is so very much appreciated. It feels as if he is not as sore as when he came in and by this I mean that because he was literally skin and bones, he hurt a lot from laying on hard surfaces. He didn’t have the strength to get up to move, not that there was anything softer to move to if he could.

As he looks at me, he does not give the impression of a smile, rather a weary look but one that has reason to keep looking, keep waiting, to see what I will do or say next.

I’m telling him that I am very sorry that he has come to the state of being he was in before coming here. I’m asking him if he would like to tell us anything about that time but he says No and turns to lay his head down. I respect him not wanting to relive any of that, if even in thought, so I’m asking him now if there is anything he would like the loving people who are caring for him know?

“Yes. I would like them to know that I like meat.

“I don’t know how to get up quickly.

“The tops of my feet are sore, thank you for holding them.

“I have a new nose, I think.” (he seems to mean he can smell things again and I feel like it is the be
neficial result of the fluids.

I’m asking him if there is anything else he would like to tell his new people and he says “Yes... I like my name.”

He feels like he may have a problem swallowing and likes the small bits of food he is getting. I can’t tell if he has always had this swallowing issue or not, and he doesn’t indicate if he feels it will improve.

He still is very quiet, answering only when I ask. As if he is watching life as a spectator more than a participant. He seems to only engage when people come around.

He is comforted by the presence of people and doesn’t share any feelings of fear of them with me, in spite of what
has happened to him.

“I am broken,” he says suddenly. “I don’t know why.”

I’m telling him that we don’t know either. I’m showing him that the people of his future will always treat him with love and kindness ... that the people caring for him now may not be the ones he stays with forever because they want him to be well and to have new people who he can share joyful times with in a place more comfortable than where he is now.

He seems a little interested in this I think, because I saw a quick question in him mind of surprise... better than now? He can’t imagine it.

He seems to be pulling away now (4:30 p.m.) and I don’t know if someone is with him or he’s tired. It’s not that he is hard to communicate with, that is really the opposite. Rather it seems he is still a bit blank ... a watcher of life instead of a participant ... although I do feel like he has thought of trying to wag his tail. It’s a brief thought and I don’t know if he would have the strength to make it happen, but the thought is there. To me, this is a very good sign of a dog who is anticipating something good ... which has to give him a reason to go on.

You can read Patrick’s whole rescue story and healing progress at Associated Humane Societies and Popcorn Zoo. And even if you think you can’t talk to animals, send him your good wishes anyway. Send him images of the healthy, loved Patrick of his future.

[Drop cap by Jessica Hische.]

Opening Day for Poetry

Yesterday was opening day for major league baseball. Today begins a month devoted to poetry and poets and their fans. Seems fitting that I just read this excerpt from an interview with Etheridge Knight:

“I died in Korea from a shrapnel wound, and narcotics resurrected me. I died in 1960 from a prison sentence, and poetry brought me back to life.”

On the other hand, just this morning I read this in Mary Karr’s memoir, Lit:

“[M]y junior high principal had actually warned that any girl aiming to be a poet was doomed to become—I shit you not—no more than a common prostitute.”

[Sidenote: Mary Karr studied with Etheridge Knight in his Free People’s Poetry Workshop.]

Well there you go. Poetry lies somewhere between life-saver and criminal. Your choice.

[Art by Picasso.]
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