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Occasionally in life, one finds curious little detours, or signs… something we may not see unless we are paying attention.

I was walking through Capitol Hill, enjoying the late autumn gift of warmth and golden leaves. Although I wanted to get home after work, there was no hurry. Stopping for red lights on the crosswalk, sniffing the smell of leaves… it was a beautiful afternoon in November.

I crossed the street and sauntered on towards the Capitol, humming some nondescript song to myself. At that moment, my new friend made my acquaintance.

A big, fluffy, healthy squirrel jumped in front of me, perhaps five feet forward on my path. I’d walk a step or two, and it would look at me. Squirrel would tilt its head as if considering me, then sprint a step or two further along the sidewalk. It would then spin around to watch me catch up with it.

Many readers will recognize Chi’s natural foe in this scenario. It occurred to me as well. “Wow, Chi would be absolutely crazy to see this squirrel,” I thought. I giggled despite myself and chittered playfully at my new friend.

After about three times through this little chase-me-you-can’t-catch-me game, I allowed myself to think this was intentional on the squirrel’s part. The game became more interactive, first the squirrel bouncing a step or two, me following after. it was a dance. There was no rush in this game, and no place to go. It was charming.

Back and forth we continued, until we reached the edge of a fence. Squirrel and I regarded each other for a long moment. I bent over to smile at it, clicking my tongue at it. It chittered back, and then off it ran along the fence.

The smile on my face lingered the rest of the way along my route that afternoon.

People who practice nature magic — shamans and the like — would be quick to advise me to think about the qualities of that squirrel, for it had something to share with me.

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photo by Matt Archuleta

Squirrel’s Gifts Include ability to solve puzzles, resourcefulness, quick change of direction, storing for the future/planning ahead, balance in giving and receiving, power of rest during times of non-movement, warning, discovery, change avoiding danger by climbing to a higher place, action. 

The idea that there are obstacles which cant be overcome is not part of Squirrel’s outlook on life, nor is giving up. Squirrel is an almighty power animal to have any time when you feel you have reached a dead end in your life, or in a situation and ready to give up. We are shown that perseverance and the readiness to try different methods are the keys to success. — Ina Woolcott

That’s all well and good; yet it seemed to be the squirrel was encouraging me to play. And this too is a part of squirrel magic.

It is probably not by chance (but a synchronicity) that squirrels are found wherever humans live. Perhaps they are here to herald a message for us all, not to give up, not to get stressed and as mentioned before there IS time for everything in life. Don’t forget to play, no matter what age you are! 

Cast your eyes around and see if squirrel is playing just out of the corner of your eye. Maybe you can have some fun too. Just make sure Chi is nowhere close by!

In the beginner’s mind there is no thought, “I have attained something.” — Shunryu Suzuki

In Taoism, there is also the idea, “to gain something, you must lose… to lose something, you must gain.” It is the way of the natural world, and indeed of all of us.

Natural disasters like we have recently seen in Colorado and in the Philippines illustrate this principle very well. People worked for decades — centuries perhaps – and it is all wiped away. Entire lifetimes are wiped away. In such extremes we see how flexible we must be, how willing to begin again with little warning. And, as life flows again, houses are rebuilt, roads rebuilt, water and electricity return. People rebuild their lives anew. And more than they realize, they return to the beginning.

During the week of the floods, I began my tai chi class. Some of you may recall that I was soaked to the skin when I arrived. As it happens, the students of that class are about to graduate. They have attained some minimal knowledge of the forms. On the evening he announced people would be graduating, my teacher idly mentioned to me almost as an afterthought, “You can always take the beginner’s class again.”

This was quite upsetting to me. Had I not practiced, learned, applied myself? My endurance, flexibility, all those things were so much better than 12 weeks earlier! I have attained something! My brain really circled and tightened around the idea that I was a failure or was lacking something. It continued circling for several days after. Peace? Well, not right then, for sure.

At roughly the same time, at the place where I work hard to bring cookies home to Chi, I was struggling to learn a new skill. I had to learn a new way of thinking about the work I had done and was about to do. It has been very difficult to retrain my brain. I was frustrated.

Last Saturday morning, I was getting my weekly massage and regaling my patient masseur with all of this. I wound up for the big finish with the tai chi instructor thinking I should stay behind and take another beginner class. I was indignant by that time, and not relaxing very much on the massage table. I beat my hand on the table and talked about failure, what was the point, was I really that bad? At one point, the massage therapist broke his silence and gently mentioned that it might not be because I was a failure. He was almost giggling by the time he pointed out that repeating the beginner sequence of movements will make them more ingrained and lead to a better practice. My brain hated that, insisting it knew enough already. I told my massage therapist that I would consider what he had said out of politeness more than conviction.

By the time I got back to tai chi class last week, I had decided I would follow my teacher’s advice. As I told him I’d stick around, the teacher looked genuinely pleased. It was only then that he conspiratorially whispered that he himself had taken the beginner’s class twice… in combination with the continuing class. You deepen your practice, he explained, and get into the continuing discipline as you go. Explained that way, it made sense. It was not a failure at all. Western mind likes to make us think if we don’t hurry through and be perfect at every endeavor, then we must be failures. This is a lie.

At the-place-where-I-earn-Chi’s-cookies, there also I got to return to the beginning, discussing ideas from the beginning and slowing down to reach true understanding.

All of this seeming setback had shown the possibility inherent in starting something new, and staying in an open, receptive, beginner’s mind throughout life.

For Chi’s part, he doesn’t have to actually catch the squirrel in the back yard. He chases it every day, trying to learn HOW to catch it. It’s not really about the outcome.

I look for places now to practice beginner’s mind. I am grateful I was allowed to see and experience it when so many rush around unseeing, consuming, accumulating, rushing. There IS another way.

Beginners-Mind-ZenRocks

It’s a chilly October night containing spirits and mischief at every turn.

The towns rebuild; roads reopen; life shows glimmers of promise where the floods ravaged so many.

The leaves drift off the trees, just waiting for Chi and I to kick through them — which we do with great delight with every chance we get.

Chi is very happy, and the fur grows back over the little patch on his butt. The fur grows in every direction, just as you’d expect a pug’s hair to grow since pugs don’t have much of a sense of direction!

Even though nature begins to wind itself down for the winter, it’s a new beginning for many in Colorado… and for Chi.

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Photo of Chi by Matt Archuleta.

Be water, my friend. Water can crash, or it can flow. – Bruce Lee 

In Colorado, we have been rewarded with a glorious clear sky to view the entire full moon process since Wednesday night. It feels like the most bounteous gift.

I have been experiencing this moon at a very deep, primeval level due to the floods so near to me. The full moon indicates so very much when it comes to water and tides. While I was idly contemplating the things I have been birthing in my life, I was all too aware of the waters rushing down the South Platte, demolishing other plans for other people as the tide crested.

A few months ago, I wrote about the Taoist idea of staying low, being like water. At that time, I visualized a peaceful stream meandering around the countryside; or a river rapid, cutting and crashing to a waterfall. After the storms, I now see the destructive side of water much differently. Water in a reservoir can look peaceful and calm. When the reservoir is topped or compromised, that water, formerly held back and tamed, transforms into a driving wall that flattens and destroys. It is patient, but when it is time, it is anything but. This was also seen with the films of the tidal wave in Japan a few years ago. Nothing is spared.

This particular storm taught me about water in a couple of different ways. The night it began, I was attending my first tai’chi class. I had to catch a bus or two to get there, and walk a fair distance. It began to rain almost as soon as I left work. I discovered to my displeasure that I had forgotten my umbrella. I dodged the raindrops during the first part of the trip, but by the second transfer, the rain was coming down in torrents. Running 50 feet to hide under a tree left me drenched from head to toe.

At that time, I amused myself with the thought that I was learning a water discipline, after all. Tai’chi is known as a water form in the martial arts, along with wushu. It seemed somehow appropriate that the gods were soaking me through as some sort of bizarre hazing ritual.

By the third transfer, I discovered that it was rather fun being all wet. I tried to remember the last time I was wet from head to toe. I’m pretty sure I was 10 years old or younger. It was cleansing too – starting fresh.

When I finally opened the door of the Tai’chi center, I was practically giggling. An auspicious beginning, to be sure.

The following afternoon, I was bailing water out of my back yard. I was not enjoying the storm as much by then. And it was about this time that creeks and streams overflowed and took out hunks of road. Drainage systems clogged, and water began to overwhelm everything. Large reservoirs broke down; major highways collapsed… All from water.

Water is far more than bucolic babbling brooks. It will wear down anything in its path, given enough time. The Grand Canyon was made in exactly that way. Most of us don’t have an inkling of that kind of power. To witness it in action is humbling and terrifying.

The moon bears witness, aids and abets that power. Rolling water to shore with a churning surf, or pushing water down a hill or gradient, it controls the cycles of life we all know but seldom take the time to observe.

On this particular full moon, the harvest seems close… but for now, all we witness is the force of water.

It will be up to us to harvest what we can by the next full moon.

harvestmoon

I’m Chi.  You might remember me from the last time I snuck into my human’s office and wrote a letter to all of you. I’m back! I’m sorry I was gone so long. It’s not easy sneaking into her office a second time, you know. Plus, I’ve had a lot to contend with these past couple weeks… like my shaved butt.

Yeah, they shaved my butt. And I like it when people play with me, but that was not cool. Mom took me into the vet’s office one day when I thought we were just going out together someplace special. She left me there! Alone! I made sure I pouted at her for the whole time she walked away. Don’t tell her, but I saw my human looked kinda sad and scared. I don’t like to see her look that way.

So then, they took me back into this room and they poked me with something. It made me yelp, and then I got really sleepy. The last thing I remember is the nice lady in the white coat saying she was going to take my picture… I like pictures…

Then, everything was spinning. Spin, spin, kinda like when I chase my tail — only I couldn’t figure out which way was up. And then I woke up really thirsty and I was in a cage thing. I really wanted my humans a lot. I went back to sleep cause I couldn’t do much else.

behindbars

I guess I had stitches and things, and it hurt a lot for a while. I hated the big white pills and I spit them out cause it made my humans mad when I did that. Serves them right. Then maybe a week ago, they were talking to someone on the phone and Mom got really happy and squeezed me real tight and everyone got excited. I thought I was going to get some cheese or something. The humans did sneak me some banana. That was ok.

So ever since they have been telling people I am be-nighn, whatever that is. I’m a pug, not this other thing. I think they are confused. My dad looks at me and laughs and says I have a wart on my ass. Well, that’s rude….

You’d think my story was over, but nooooo. Then it started to rain. And it rained, and it rained, and it rained some more. You have to understand that I hate walking in the rain. It makes my big paddle feet wet. And I just don’t like it and I try to find the dry spot near the house or wherever I am so I don’t get wet. It was terrible. One day Mom came home after getting stranded without an umbrella and she was soaked to the skin. The next day she came home early with a bucket and threw water all down the driveway. I really appreciated that she wanted to get rid of the puddle of water so I didn’t have to get my paddles wet.

Later that night and the next day, my humans seemed very upset, and sad. I guess there was so much water that people could not get out and no buckets were enough. They had to get their paddles wet. I am so sad for them. They even told me about a story where a dog like me saved a man from going under the water. I really hope everyone is ok out there…

I better go for now. Bye bye and remember to keep your paddlefeet dry!

Photo disclaimer: Is this yours? Please let us know so we can give appropriate credit!

Always from the days of old men has it been this way

And none born can escape this thing.

–Miu Hsi, “Bearer’s Song”

 

Life is what happens when we’re busy making other plans. This saying is not Taoist, but it’s still true. The morning dawned bright and warm, and all indications pointed to a fine day. We were in the vet’s office with Chi to make sure he had all his shots up to date. Chi was enjoying interacting with dogs and humans alike. The exam started off normally enough. Chi was healthy, happy. All these things we knew. The vet’s smile faded as she explored Chi.

The sun passed behind a cloud as soon as she uttered the word. It was just a bump, probably nothing. Chi was taken to the back area of the clinic. An aspiration was done. It’s nothing, we all said to each other.

Several days passed, and finally the results came. Mast cells in the blood — not good news. Words like surgery and excision were mentioned. Other words like incontinence, and worse, were also bandied about. More blood tests. Discussions about chest x-rays and paths of treatment… and when not to treat. Surgery was scheduled and it was decided an x-ray would be taken before anything was actually done. If the cancer had spread, we wanted Chi to live a happy rest of his life with us. It was decided that I should take him in and take care of the paperwork and the front-end stuff, and my husband would pick him up after the surgery in the afternoon.

The morning of the surgery, Chi was unusually affectionate, nuzzling my shoulder and offering kisses. The vet met me on the way in, and grinned down at Chi. “Wild man,” she called him. She disappeared behind a door, and soon the vet tech was weighing the pug, and going over instructions. I signed the forms and handed Chi’s leash over to her. I will never forget Chi’s eyes watching me as I left the clinic and headed for the car.

About 30 minutes after I left, my cell phone rang. The x ray had been done. Nothing had spread. Even so, I went about the day’s business on autopilot. Keeping routine and living in the moment were some of the best Lessons Chi had taught me, and I worked them.  I couldn’t relax until he was safely out of surgery. Around noon, it was all over. The vet reported Chi was awake and resting comfortably.

Chi, in essence, had a cancerous bump on his ass. It appears they got it all, and very early. Life has never been so good.

Chi, for his part, milked the occasion as much as he could. The vet techs spoke of his eyes following them back and forth when he came out of anesthesia. He could not really lift his head, but his eyes followed them and he made a game attempt to beg for treats. “I’m so pitiful,” his eyes told us as he walked unsteadily back into the house. With a deep sigh he sank onto the cushions of the loveseat and promptly fell asleep.

sickychismall

Hilarious!

Betty Generic

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It may sound romantic, but in search of that elusive metaphor, poets can be somewhat  “eccentric.”

  1. If you date a poet everyone will think you are the jerk they are writing about.
  2. You will be the jerk they are writing about.
  3. They have an unnatural affection for book stores and office supply stores.
  4. They have deep conversations with Animals, Clouds, and Grecian Urns.
  5. Excessive use of  “poetry hands.”
  6. Excessive abuse of  “poetic licence.”
  7. Excessive use of  “melancholy.”
  8. Excessive use of  “dramatic emphasis.”
  9. They collect obscure words that have not been in circulation for at least 100 years or more.
  10. They insert these antediluvian words into conversations just to rebel.
  11. They think children’s books are sublime.
  12. They refuse to care where the remote is.
  13. All of their furniture are positioned around windows, for them to stare out for hours at a time.
  14. Your parents will think they are possessed.
  15. They are possessed.
  16. You…

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Interesting Taoist text I stumbled upon. Might do more with this one later. Thanks for archiving it to be found!

Recently I’ve talked a lot about my experiences with recuperating from a neck injury. During one of these experiences with my acupuncturist, Stephanie, we were talking about the lovely Chi. Stephanie asked if Chi had ever received acupuncture. Of course! What self-respecting Chinese dog has not, especially with one with a name like Chi?

It happened about 5 years ago.

Chi, like many pugs, gets excitable at times. He’s not always the most graceful. Occasionally, he’ll trundle into serious trouble. On this particular day, he was playing with a stuffed ball on an elastic band. And he’d shake, and shake, and whack himself in the head with it. Over and over he would repeat this with no ill effect. He was really getting into it that day. He took one careless step, fell forward, and slammed headfirst into a wooden tv cart.

Poor baby cried, and snuffled, and was completely miserable. Chi would not allow anyone to touch his neck, or console him. We took him to the vet early the next morning. Luckily, he hadn’t broken or ruptured anything. Still, he had a slipped disc and was pretty wonky. One of the staff vets had experience with acupuncture for animals. At the time it seemed a natural thing to do.

Acupuncture being performed on Wallie Fitzpatrick, an 11-year-old pug.

Sadly, we didn’t think to have a camera in the vet’s office way back then. This is acupuncture being performed on Wallie Fitzpatrick, an 11-year-old pug.

One of us held him while the vet began placing the needles. This really wasn’t necessary, although it’s something most acupuncturists would probably prefer just in case. Chi didn’t flinch or make any indication that the needles were troublesome. The vet put in about 10 to 12 needles, clustered around the ruff near the site of the injury and then extending all the way down the spine. After that, the vet left us all to relax for about 15 to 20 minutes. Chi was not restless or in any way bothered. It was something to see. The vet returned, removed the needles, and sent us off with a small prescription of valium in case he became agitated during the healing process.

The prescription was nice, but Chi didn’t need them. He healed completely naturally on his own. He slept most of that first day, and exhibited some stiffness over the following 48 hours or so.

Skeptics may respond that natural healing time is around the same. I’m not a vet, and can’t really respond to that. I can say without any reservation that Chi’s level of discomfort went way down almost immediately.

So, if your adult pug or animal is showing signs of arthritis, pain, or other issues, acupuncture may be for you. Check with your vet.

I spend a lot of time looking around the web at causes and general pug-related items. A few weeks ago I came across a group relatively close to my area, and they are special indeed. They are National Mill Dog Rescue.

Puppy mills are places that are only now really getting into people’s consciousness. I understand why, too. I was brought up with those wonderful pet stores in the malls and shopping centers. I fell in love with a Peekapoo in high school just from cudding the puppy in the mall for 30 minutes or so. It’s a cherished memory. And, for years, if I needed a mental pick-me-up, I’d head to a puppy store. Cuddles given, cuddles received. These places can’t be all bad!

Pet stores in themselves are not bad. The problem is that often, pet stores use disreputable breeders who breed for numbers and sales and quick turnover — not for quality, health, and the best for the breeds. Living conditions are heart-breaking. Many live squished in cages only big enough for the animal to survive. Their feet never touch the floor. The animals used to breed are bred often and without regard for the animals’ health. Illness is rampant among dogs living in these conditions. When they are used up, they are of no use any more. If they don’t sell, they are of no use any more. And, bad things happen to these dogs then.

This is bad. And shelters and rescue organizations try to help these dogs. Often, they go to places where they never leave. Ever. And they die.

Theresa Strader was a lifelong lover of dogs, especially Italian Greyhounds. She had always been an animal advocate, but like many of us, she found out by happenstance about the devastation of Puppy Mills. This is an excerpt of her story from the National Mill Dog Rescue site:

“February 17, 2007, I arrived at the auction site in Lamar, Missouri – all new to me, I was completely unaware of what I was about to see and moreover, what I was about to learn. Little did I know that on that very day, I would embark upon the most daunting yet rewarding experience of my life. I distinctly remember every thought and feeling I had as I witnessed the cruel realities of the commercial dog breeding industry.At about noon that day, I laid my eyes on Lily for the very first time. As she cowered in the back of her cage, her jawless face staring back at me, I was overwhelmed by a flooding of emotions. I leaned close in beside her cage and made her this promise. “I’m going to take you from this hell and love you til you die.” I recall that moment as if it happened just today. In an effort to remain inconspicuous, I had to pull myself together and find the nearest exit. After a long walk, I found myself leaning up against the backside of an old barn where I slowly sunk to the ground in tears. I called my husband. I had so much to say yet nothing came out, nothing but tears. At that moment, I knew I would never rest again without taking a stand against the heartless cruelty put upon the animals that I have adored since I was a small child. The animals that throughout my life have never let me down. Man’s best friend. In that moment, on that day, National Mill Dog Rescue was born.”

Since that time, Theresa and her group have made several trips to rescue dogs just like Lily — the most recent ending just yesterday as the group travelled through Missouri and Kansas rescuing 80 dogs.  Over time, they have rescued over 8000 dogs from puppy mills.

Total trip costs of this trip are estimated at $16,000, and devoted allies have helped them raised over $13,000 to this time. Volunteers spend many hours caring for these dogs, giving them love just like Theresa gave to Lola. The time to foster, train, heal, and find loving forever homes for these wonderful dogs is,  indeed, “Lola’s Legacy.”

To see what you can do to help, visit National Mill Dog Rescue at:

http://milldogrescue.org/index.html

https://www.facebook.com/NationalMillDogRescue

Lolas

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