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A Summer Morning in New Hampshire

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A SUMMER MORNING IN NEW HAMPSHIRE

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know that I live in the crazed and chaotic D.C. area most of the time, but steal away for a few precious months each year to my family’s old farmhouse in New Hampshire. Here I shed my usual roles and responsibilities and am able to simply be — a human being rather than a human doing, as they say.

While I’m usually alone, my nephew and his four teenagers come each summer for one of my favorite times of the year — a month of jigsaw puzzles and art projects, early-morning ice cream and late-night board games, swims in the river and croquet on the lawn. And piles: piles of dirty clothes on the floor, piles of shoes by the door, piles of dishes in the sink, and piles of books everywhere. Kind of like my place at home, come to think of it, but on a smaller scale.

Quality Time

Midway through their visit, I’ve been gifted with a rare quiet morning. All the kids are upstairs reading books, of all things.

My first order of business was to relocate three house mice that I caught in live traps overnight. I’ve read that you must put three to five miles between the critters and your house or they might somehow find their way back. This is hard to believe, but I’m not going to question it. We have an all-out invasion this year, and I’ve only begun to fight.

I drove the wide-eyed traumatized mice three miles up a narrow winding road on the far side of the Ashuelot River (can they swim across rivers?) and found what looks like a good spot to begin my resettlement project, featuring lots of brush and a seed-rich meadow on one side of the road, and the river on the other. After I had introduced the migrants to their new home and left them a hearty breakfast of birdseed, I went wading in the river and perched on a sun-warmed boulder to contemplate my blessings.

Once home, I fed the wild birds, boiled some sugar water for the hummers, and scattered sunflower seeds on the deck for the chipmunks. (And I wonder why I have mice!!)

Chipmunk Investigates Mouse Prison

Once the outside creatures were taken care of, I cut up four perfectly ripe mangos and made a jug of iced tea for the inside creatures when they emerge. Now for some quality deck time with my bird book and journal, binoculars, and Father Richard Rohr’s book, Simplicity: The Freedom of Letting Go. After a week of spotty internet coverage, I am indeed learning to let go and just breathe. I have no idea what that man donald trump is tweeting, and I don’t care.

Peace.

Deck Time

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The Loss of a Beloved Companion

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I am writing this for myself, but maybe also for you in case you need it someday. I am in that dreadful netherworld that you may have visited if you’ve ever been owned by a pet: The death watch.

It is nearing the time when my sweet Eliza Bean will move on to somewhere else. I don’t know where my kitty is going, but I know she won’t be here with me. All I will have is my memories and her ashes, which I will store on the closet shelf with the ashes of two other cats and my dog. (I know, I know. I have a hard time letting go. But I’m fairly certain I’m not the only one with a collection of ashes in the closet.)

In this netherworld, we make the gut-wrenching decisions of when and how our beloved companion will die. We wrestle with impossible questions like, “I’m going on vacation and I know my pet is not long for this world. Should I put him down now or stress him out in a kennel? Or not go on vacation?”

I met a woman and her daughter at the vet the other day with a cancer-kitty like mine. The mother wanted to put the cat to sleep because it had become incontinent and was soiling the carpets. Her teen-aged daughter was scandalized that her mother would be so cruel and heartless. I don’t know how that one turned out, and I sure didn’t know that just a few days later I would be facing the same dilemma.

The girl’s horrified face is in my mind as I clean Eliza Bean’s mess off the floor. This just started yesterday. I’ve been googling feline diapers — that’s a thing, you know. Not a thing I would buy, but a thing. Regardless, my twenty-year-old “little girl” will be gone before Amazon Prime could deliver those diapers.

I don’t see that she has more than a few days left.

And so now I have to decide. I’d like to let her go on her own time. “Let nature take its course,” as they say. But is that cruel? At what point am I keeping her alive for me, rather than for her? That’s the only question I need to be asking.

The. Only. Question.

She has no chance of recovery and not even of a small bounce-back. It’s lung cancer, and it’s constricting her organs. I won’t go into details. I don’t know if she is in a lot of pain, but I do know she is really, really miserable. And her comfort is my responsibility.

So I guess I’ve made my decision. Thank you for listening.

I will likely be re-visiting this netherworld again soon, as Eliza’s sister Mayasika has mammary cancer that has metastasized. So if you have words of wisdom that have helped you through, I could use them.

Blessings.

Eliza Bean, a.k.a. Loopy Bean, Liza Loo, Loo Loo, Beaner Reaner, Beanie, Little Bean, Lucy Bean.

Loving Beyond Humans to All Living Creatures

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As I mentioned in my last post, I have joined the We Stand With Love campaign to try to counteract the hatred and bigotry running rampant in our country lately. Below is my contribution to the campaign, entitled Loving Beyond Humanity to All Living Creatures. Here, too, is the link if you want to see a cute doggie picture and read other essays on going “Beyond Love.”

by Melanie Lynn Griffin

The more we practice “loving beyond ourselves,” the more we are challenged.

Heart-stretching can be a painful exercise as we confront our self-centeredness and prayerfully question the ways our societies, religious communities, and families make us insensitive to “the other.”

The reward is a gradual awakening to our true selves, and the discovery that our capacity for love and compassion is boundless: Joy! Connection! Belonging!

But wait — how far might this go? Might we move beyond ourselves to our families, and beyond our families to our neighbors, and beyond our neighbors to “the other,” and beyond “the other” to the enemy, so we include all human beings in our circle of love?

But then, might it go farther still – to include our fellow creatures?

To get there, we will have to have the courage to face some inconvenience.

How inconvenient to feel compassion for the cow that died for your steak dinner, or to learn that the pig that became your bacon was smarter than your golden retriever, or that contrary to what your father told you, the trout flapping on the end of your line most likely does feel pain.

How inconvenient that ExxonMobil’s potential Arctic oil field (which will power your SUV) also happens to be a nursery for polar bears and caribou, or that the site of the proposed Walmart (where you will buy your cow-skin shoes) is also home to an endangered gopher tortoise.

Your compassion practice may lead you to change some of your daily habits.

At the very least it will raise some tough questions: What is the cost of your lifestyle to the nonhuman creatures who share our planet?

Does a nonhuman creature have intrinsic value as God’s handiwork, or is it only valuable in service to humans? Today, practice stretching your circle of concern to include our fellow creatures on this beautiful planet that teems with precious life.

Questions for Today:

When have you witnessed obvious cruelty to an animal? How did you respond?

What would our society look like if we became more sensitive to the suffering of animals?

What happens to us if we become less sensitive to the suffering of our fellow creatures?

 

Melanie Lynn Griffin was an environmental lobbyist for many years. Now she is a freelance writer and pastor.

Shifting Reality – A Poem

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SHIFTING REALITY

They collide, a bear and a dogbone,

To become a giant mouse head.

I surrender to shifting reality.

◊  ◊  ◊

An angel’s cowlick elongates, circles to her chin

And forms an elephant’s trunk,

Lifting water to mouth.

◊  ◊  ◊

Continents morph as maps float by,

Mountains to peninsulas to islands;

Plate tectonics on amphetamines.

◊  ◊  ◊

A laughing alligator with a camel’s hump

Gallops towards the horizon, and . . .

Blue! All is blue!

◊  ◊  ◊

Airy wisps of white cotton candy coalesce

Shaping a tropical storm swirl,

And the shifting begins again.

◊  ◊  ◊

Shifting Reality

Shifting Reality

How the Zebra Got its Stripes

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Woman:

“So what do you think — is the zebra white with black stripes, or black with white stripes?”

Child, after a thoughtful pause:

“The zebra used to be white, but it got swallowed by the darkness.”

Woman:

“Why isn’t it all black, then?”

Child:

“Well, after a while the zebra realized that the dark and light live together, so it decided to be both at once.”

Woman:

“How do you know that?”

Child:

“God told me, and I thought it sounded right.”

even the darkness is not dark to you;     the night is as bright as the day,     for darkness is as light to you.

 

“. . . even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.”

Psalm 139:12

An antidote for my previous post, A Rant at God

Want to Know My Dream?

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The question makes me laugh: “You just inherited a dilapidated, crumbling-down grand mansion in the countryside — what do you do with it?” As it turns out, this is not a theoretical question for me. Today’s WordPress Daily Prompt is, in fact, a reality in my life.

All except the second part of the prompt, “Assuming money is no issue…” That part is definitely theoretical. Oh, and the part about it being a grand mansion. That’s not exactly true either.

What is true is that I have inherited the loveliest piece of real estate on the planet, named Quiet Hills by my grandmother Beedie who purchased the place in 1940. The old (1782) Cape Cod in the countryside of New Hampshire could probably be described as somewhat dilapidated, but I don’t see it that way. 

Quiet Hills

Quiet Hills

Because of the money issue, I don’t spend time dreaming of what it might become, I just enjoy it for what it is: a wildlife sanctuary of woods and meadows and a quaint house full of ghosts and massive old furniture, which I imagine house servants slathering with beeswax back in the day. It smells of lavender and witch hazel and my grandmother’s face powder. 

On still nights, I can hear the Ashuelot River rushing over boulders at the foot of the hill. The Hermit Thrush announces the setting of the sun, and the Great Horned Owl welcomes the falling of darkness. I can’t say what happens at dawn because that’s not my thing. I always stay up too late reading Beedie’s musty old novels to see the dawn.

But . . . but — what if I had money?

A Writer’s Haven

No question. Quiet Hills would be a retreat house for writers and nature lovers and spiritual seekers. I’d give classes in writing techniques and in contemplative spiritual practices like Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina (sacred reading). 

We would have silent retreats, too, and I’d have someone teach yoga  and tai chi. I’d set up nature trails on the property with prayer prompts along the way, and build a prayer labyrinth with benches and weeping birch trees around the edges. People would frequently have life-changing spiritual epiphanies there.

Prayer labyrinth

Prayer labyrinth

I’d run a bed & breakfast for my retreatants, and every morning my helper would get up early and make a humongous country breakfast. Our speciality would be blueberry muffins with berries from our fields and fresh butter from two dairy cows who roam the meadows and come into the old coach house for milking. And eggs, too, from my chickens who eat the pests in the vegetable garden where lush tomato vines are heavy with warm fruit and the aroma of sweet basil is overpowering. There would be no meat in our meals, and no one would miss it.

Eggs, not meat

Eggs, not meat

I’d fix up the massive barn; one end would be a huge picture window overlooking the woods — that’s where we would hold workshops, and there would be sleeping quarters in the lofts above. In the corners of the barn I’d have mounds of brightly colored handmade quilts for people to snuggle into each autumn and to spread out in the meadows for writing and naps in the summer. 

I’d get custom-made windows for the main house, and insulation, so I could be there in the winters, too. I’d build a big stone hearth and fireplace in the living room where the small wood-burning stove is now, and expand the kitchen to fit several long tables where people could eat together. Why not put a fireplace in the kitchen, too? And a big bay window with lots of hummingbird feeders just outside. Everyone would marvel at the constant comings and goings of the hovering jewels.

I’d have all new (but vintage) wallpaper and curtains and oriental rugs, and wall-to-ceiling bookcases in every room, because after all, this is a writer’s retreat. I’d have lots of bathrooms, and instead of the dug wells that run dry in August, there would be an artesian well sunk deep into cold, underground springs. There would be a jacuzzi. 

Best of all, Quiet Hills B&B retreat house would be free for those who couldn’t afford my already reasonable rates. Money should be no hindrance to dreams.

And that, WordPress Daily Prompt, is what I would do with my dilapidated inheritance if I had money. Now – please tell me that this is actually a contest, and I win, and the prize is that you’re going to fund my dream. 

Fall2013.drive1 001

Can We Please Just Talk about Cute Animals??

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Guess what the most popular topic on my blog is this quarter? Death.

Yup, death. That’s fun, isn’t it?

In an effort to figure out why you readers are so morbid, I reviewed the quarter and found that it all comes down to a matter of simple math. Not that I can actually *do* simple math, mind you, but I’m sure that math is to blame for your recent fixation on death.

You see, the great majority of my posts lately have been related to the D word, so every time you click, you are registering your fascination with death. I’m not giving you much choice. Some of the posts are kinda funny, IMHO, but they’re still deadly.

I’ve done everything from an educational piece on Suicide Prevention Day (not funny) to a story about a traumatic moment with my chronically ill brother to a poem about music and my dear — yes, departed — mother.

I wrote a piece about my cousin, who’s buried in our garden under the apple tree, and one about Trayvon Martin, and two poems about the recent death of a friend with Lou Gehrig’s disease. All in the past few months.

I’m a Blogger for Peace, so I write about war once a month — which entails the D word every time, no matter how clean we pretend our distant, drone-directing American hands are. We’re causing death and plenty of it.

So I’m thinking it’s time for me to write something hysterically funny. Something light-hearted and frivolous; something you will laugh out loud at and then immediately forget.

What we need is a good belly laugh!

What we need is a good belly laugh!

I know! I could tell about frolicking squirrels!

This might not work though, because I was reading a blog last night about squirrels running up and down a tree, and my expectation was that they were about to run into the street and get flattened. Seriously. That just seems to be where my head goes right now. (The squirrels did not get killed, didn’t even get frightened. Just ran up and down a tree. Period.)

Always good for a laugh, unless they get run over

Always good for a laugh, unless they get run over

Wait! How about I write about the cute deer eating apples out back and drinking from the bird bath?

These green apples are a tad tart -- have you got any red?

These green apples are a tad tart — have you got any red?

But then I would have to tell you about how I very nearly accosted a man in a red pick-up today because he drove past my house a couple of times. I was certain that he was armed to the teeth and scoping out his fall hunting grounds. No doubt he had seen my resident deer and was out to shed blood. I almost flew out of the house like a maniac, intent on gesturing aggressively at the bright orange No Hunting signs that dot my property.

Then I remembered that he was merely driving by on a public lane.

I guess sometimes you just are where you are . . . Oh God – my cat has chased a little mouse up the curtain. No death, please!

I gotta run.

Nobody up here, honest!

Nobody up here, honest!

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