Your Christmas Wake Up Call

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I slapped her hard across the face.

The sound echoed with a satisfying smack.

I wanted to see the fog lift from her, to see her sunlit eyes glisten with awareness once more.

Her eyes watered,

I don’t know exactly what I was hoping for— I did it out of desperation.

Maybe it was clarity?

I needed to see a realization that she understood without participation we are all doomed to die.

Not just one, but all— all the picture perfect babies with their soft sweet features, each shielded by their own skin of different shades of color.

Born into our arms of care.

Doomed to die,

All the children, our most beloved representation of affection and celebration of life.

All of our mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, grandmas and grandpas.

We, as supposed civilized beings sit busily clicking on our computers and phones consumed by consumerism, ignoring the Earths signs of distress.

Who can see that the complete and utter extinction of a species has begun?

Click, buy a second TV, click purchase another piece of clothing, click, click, click,

The sounds of humans eating up the Earth

People— complex organisms torn between love and hate, creation and destruction, greed and generosity, sickness and health, fear and security, war and peace, joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain,

An unwittingly apathetic mortal too self focused to see the unraveling.

I’m not sorry I slapped you,

Give your head a shake, wake up.

We cannot afford to pretend anymore.

Just because we had yesterday and today doesn’t mean we automatically get tomorrow,

Our lives are far from a Hallmark movie,

We need to think beyond the sparkle and shine of our lives, and really understand who we are supporting with our existence.

To whom does our money go?

And what are we supporting with that buying choice?

If we don’t change the way we purchase and consume, soon—

Click, click, click,

Sorry kids

We are close to our expiration date.

I’m usually such a jolly elf, but there comes a time for serious action, and that time is now. Please read, How Humans Are Driving The Sixth Mass Extinction.

Have Your Best Christmas Ever

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How are your Christmas preparations coming along? Between shopping and social obligations, a satisfying Christmas for the introvert can quickly deflate into a limp nob of disappointment during the orgy of holiday festivities. Let me ask you? Are you beginning to feel like you are fishing a dead pond for the energy to ignore the repetitive casting of Christmas consumerism? Are you one breath away from taking a punch at the next person, or advertisement that aggressively tosses you a sales pitch for yet another item you don’t really need? I’ll tell you what? The whole idea of dealing with the Christmas mobs at the mall only puts me in a festive mood for a brawl. Oh wait, a brawl is for the extrovert. The large box in the corner with flaps still on the top so I can hide in darkness is much more to my liking, toss in a cinnamon tea, and a book with a reading lamp, and I’m jimjam jolly. A word to the wise— If you’re an introvert, support your inner tendencies by shopping on-line.

The Christmas frivolities are a whole different story. Social gatherings with people I hardly know is a dead man walking way to shoot my introverted inclinations into overdrive. Why are there so many social gatherings throughout the holiday season? Can’t we spread them out over the year? Attending gatherings with no curtains to hide behind, and no empty boxes to jump into is a clearcut trail to exceeding my alcohol limit. From then on things are certain to go badly. It generally results in dancing like no one is watching— never pretty. Or it creates an opportunity for a bonding episode with the bosses wife, becoming in my mind at least #besties forever. Both regrettable actions promptly concluded with a bile driving night sleeping on a merry-go-round bed. This year I’m thinking of trying that multipurpose medical shrub with the buds instead of alcohol. What do they call it? Oh yeah, Lucifer’s lettuce, anxiety relief for some, salvation for introverts forced to socialize in large crowds. What do you want for Christmas? A bag of Cheech n Chong weed please and thanks, enough to get me through the holidays including New Years.

Seriously though, why are you celebrating Christmas this year? Are you religious? Or are you like myself and has it become more of a tradition? I know, horrors! I shouldn’t practice Christmas if I am not religious. Right? Wrong, thankfully I live in a free country and I can practice what I like as long as it doesn’t involve keeping anyone captive. Except for my audience— I have a deep dark desire to keep you.

So although I may not put a baby in the manger, I do enthusiastically admit to believing in good will toward mankind, peace on Earth, and condoms for all who need them. I also wish everyone the open heartedness to appreciate both the wondrous people, and not so wondrous people in their lives, because I believe everyone has value. (Sorry Trudeau. I may have given you the impression in the past that I wish you ill, but I don’t I just wish you would attempt another line of work.) I am on my knees hopeful that everyone finds gratitude for our Earth this year. It is the soul reason we have a body; we would not exist without the nutrients and air our Earth provides for our very existence.

This holiday season I wish all of you, the bliss of brisk walks along glistening winter trails, magical snowfalls, and rosy cheeks. I hope you can marvel at the sound of children’s giggles, and are in the vicinity to adore their sparkling eyes of wonder as they sit under the glowing Christmas tree. And may you all, even us introverts, delight in the comfort of companionship, as well as quiet reflective moments to appreciate all we are, and all we have been blessed with throughout the year.

It’s Free! Or Is It ?

 

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Underwater can be a magical place.

Building a bucket list is a rip snorting way to remind you to step out of your comfort zone. It tears your focus away from what is and leads you into the possibilities of what could be. It can bring an energizing reflection of where you’d like your life to go. Creating my own bucket list proved an elusive creature on my radar. However, my hubby, Rick nailed one down a while back and he had scuba diving listed as one of his targets. So while it wasn’t a prominent idea in my thoughts, the idea of pretending to be a fish and swimming along the bottom of the Caribbean waters did hold some appeal for me.

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Pictures from snorkelling in the Riviera Maya, my camera is only good for shallow water. These are two different types of grunt fish.

Sometimes opportunities pop up that can’t be ignored, an occasion such as this happened to crop up on a weeklong holiday in the Dominican. There we were skipping along, well maybe not skipping because Rick tends to look quite silly when he skips along. We were strolling along the tiled pool area and noticed a sign for a free introductory scuba diving lesson. The key word here is Free. It’s like a magnet for my Scottish blood, Aye Laddie, I’m cheaper than a two bit taco on Tuesday. It was like a sign from God, maybe not God, but I think his name was Jesus. Anyway we trotted down to the scuba shack, well, maybe we didn’t trot because Rick looks silly doing that too, we ambled down to the beach area to sign up for our FREE lesson. At this point I’m still feeling excited about our underwater adventure. I still think I can be as graceful as a fish gliding about the coral. I was about to realize I was a fish afraid of drowning.

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An absolutely stunning parrotfish.

Upon our arrival at the scuba shack the sales pitch began, and before we knew it we had committed to a four-day Open Water scuba diving Padi course. This was far from Free. Our actions automatically kicked my Scottish blood into internalized dialogue, “What are you doing you couple of bawheeds, now you’ve gotten yourself into a scunner, and for quite a pretty penny ya pair of numpties.”

“Hush up you cheap bastard. It’s a bargain for a notch in the bucket list belt.”  I defend replying to my Scottish side.

Check! There goes one item off of Rick’s list. After all, life is full of opportunities and shouldn’t we jump in with both feet and give it a go whenever possible? Side note- If you’re jumping in with your scuba gear on make sure to hold your mask and regulator on your face.

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A bluehead wrasse, simply gorgeous.

It shouldn’t have been such a trial for me, I do love the ocean and I enjoy snorkelling. But it was a trial. The first thing I learned during our pool dive is that I was freaking terrified. I had no faintheartedness about seeing sharks, stingrays, or puffer fish, or any of the other amazing underwater creatures that could potentially kill. I was terrified of not being able to breathe when I wanted to breathe. The cause of my excessive trepidation originated from my childhood, where all good fears tend to spring forth. As a childhood survivor of chronic bronchitis and pillow smothering, I was quite concerned about not being able to get my air. I love to inhale and exhale at will. I enjoy breathing through my nose. I am not a mouth breather and I do consider that a good thing. On the other hand it is a necessity to scuba dive.

Rick breezed through the scuba course like he was a fish disguised as a human. As for me, it proved trying at the best of times and on my final dive before certification I had a meltdown. Throughout the course I had continually shoved my fears into a little corner of my mind. It had been no easy task to keep myself in the Zen state of mind while diving in the deep blue yonder where oxygen does not exist as air. And although I admit to enjoying the magnificent undersea, there was never a second when I didn’t feel like the petrified prude of the diving world. I was forever counting down the seconds left to surface and having the freedom to pull the regulator from my mouth and breathe like a human.

On our last dive the instructor and ourselves followed the tag line downwards towards the ocean floor. Rick quickly equalized and arrived at the bottom. He took a knee in the sand observing his dawdling wife and impatient instructor through the crystalline water.

I recall following the dive line downwards and suddenly noticing the water pressure on my body feeling uncomfortably constrictive. I pause on the rope. My breath becomes shallow and rapid. I know I need to slow down my breathing, but I can’t seem to relax. My Zen space is gone and I am tossed into my fears. I stare at my instructor with wide eyes and give him the signal I’m going to the surface.

He snatches my arm and glares at me, giving me the slow down motion with his hand.

I shake my head in a negative way. His grip on my arm increases as does my feeling of being trapped. Panic sets in and masses of bubbles are released from my increasingly rapid breath. I break free of his grasp and head up to the open air. No worries about equalizing, I wasn’t far down.

As I pop to the surface I keep my mask and regulator on trying to find the calm I had achieved on previous dives.

The instructor arrives at the top and gives me his death glare. It was the one I had gotten used to seeing because he wasn’t the most patient instructor in the world.

He gave me the thumbs down motion indicating I should follow him back towards the bottom.

I shake my head vigorously making the hand tilting motion to indicate something is wrong. My heart is still squeezing out terrified beats and they reverberate inside my chest. I inhale with focused breath wrestling with my alarm.

My instructor tugs on my jacket style BCD (buoyancy control device) insistently trying to bring me down beneath the surface of the water.

Panic absconds with my thoughts; they are a troop of monkeys leaping through the trees running wild with fear. I can’t do this. I hate the water pressure squeezing my body— I hate the thin dry air through my regulator— I hate breathing through my mouth. I’m a nose breather goddammit! I feel like I’m suffocating. I could die.

I smack his grappling hand off of my BCD jacket. I bob with the waves. I stare at him through my mask with immense eyes meeting his daunting gaze. I pull the regulator from my mouth, “No. I’m not going down. I can’t do this. I can’t breathe.” I gasp. I know it seems ridiculous to him. I’d already done three dives, four including the pool training. I was almost done my certification. He could see I was going to quit on him. He saw a skinnier wallet. All I saw was a potential watery grave, and yes I’m being dramatic, but fear tends to exacerbate emotions.

He pulls his regulator out and said, “But it’s so beautiful down there, you have to see it.” He grabs my arm again.

I growl, “Let go of me. Stop frickin grabbing me. Just give me one second, and I’ll try again. But don’t grab me again.”

He raises both hands to surrender.

It takes a couple minutes but I manage to recollect myself. We drop down to join Rick on the dive. It is a paradise below indeed.

We both got our certification, (mine questionably) and Rick checked an item off his bucket list. We’ve done more diving since, and I really have come to relax into it and enjoy it. But there are moments, times when it’s been too long since my last dive and my anxiety displays it’s dreadful grip. It’s one of those life choices where you just have to calm down and kick fear in the face.

I think it’s my turn to check something off my bucket list. What are you terrified of doing dear husband?

Swing Through

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Our Gramps made us a tire swing in the heart space between several old trees. The ancient poplars towered over us with white trunks and wrinkled limbs. They were a steadfast audience observing of our joy,  and the leaves applauded our play. These deeply rooted towers of living wood shadowed our eyes from the larger world. They enabled swings of limited height keeping us humble in our own right.

The trees, the swing, and our time within them brought us into the realms of peaceful delight. We held no worries other than the roughness of the rope causing calluses on our fingers and palms, and the odd bruises on our limbs at the occasional tumble to the ground.

It was years ago, and the memory still brings a smile to my lips. I fully appreciate those days with the trees, the swing, and the younger me. In those days of long ago we naturally stayed present in the moment, time had no meaning as we swiftly swung downwards feeling the wind lift the hair from the nape of our necks. We didn’t care what happened around us, our hands were fists around the rope when we hit the top of our swing, and we reveled in the blissful hang time right before we flew back down with our stomach in our throats. Those were the best of times, the times we lived in the moment.

As kids we could never swing the entire day, but those times of swinging stayed with us forever. If you’re older now and feeling overwhelmed, remember the simplicity of the swing, remember the freedom you felt. If you happen to be near a window or outside, look up at the sky, instead of your phone. Take a moment, a second, a minute and appreciate who you are, appreciate where you are. Simply rejoice in the lightness of being.

Combustible Life

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The descent through the tunnel had been gradual, but long and winding. During the whole trek the only thing Skye could smell resembled fresh cat pee and mouse turds. It seemed strange, because where there are cats, mice shouldn’t exist. The odour wasn’t the worst of the pathway into the earth though; the worst of it was traipsing through the spider webs. The feeling of taunt sticky threads collapsing against her face, the invisible lines sticking to her eyelashes, and being pulled into her nostrils by her terrified breaths. And although she wanted to do nothing more than to turn and escape, the idea of wealth drew her downward deeper into the darkness.

She pressed forward pushing past her dread, past the knowledge that webs are careful traps set out by hairy eight-legged creatures wanting to suck their prey dry. She wiggled her shoulders and shifted the weight of her backpack as though that simple move would lighten her load if she had to turn and run. God save me from giant spiders she thought as she surged forward through the passageway. The further she went, the more coated she became with webs, both old and dusty, and new and sticky. An involuntary shudder passed through her body as she envisioned a giant arachnid studying her with its multiple eyes. She knows she would make a juicy feast. She lets out a nervous giggle; her sisters always said she had an active imagination. She hugged herself tightly warding off any trepidation. She could always return to the surface.

As she set one foot in front of the other with fear in her bones she heard her fathers words as though he had said them aloud. God hates a coward Skye. It was a phrase he uttered often, as though if he had said it enough to her it would make it so. The memory of his hard tone sends her forward at a quickened pace, and then she sees it. It is a beckoning light further up the tunnel. She slowed her pace. She feels the clingy grip of panic increasing the beating of her heart.

She continued on like a moth to the light. She entered a large cavernous space. A blazing fire burns with a vengeance at the center of the cave. She glanced around with searching eyes. She is alone. So why does she feel like crowds are pressing in on her? The dancing flames breed massive shadows on the walls.  A chill crawls up her spine. Maybe she should leave?

Skye, Skye, say good-bye, run away and cry. The nasty rhyme the oh so beautiful kids used to sing to her on the playground played in her head, a bad memory coming to light. She wished she had a delete button, not only for the words, but also for the wicked kids themselves. She took a deep breath and gathered her courage.

Skye approached the fire feeling the heat on her face. She studied the ever-changing crimson licks of light. Her eyes widen as she realized there is no fuel for the fire. No visible fuel for the fire. There is no one present to feed the flames. She could see no footprints in the dust, yet the blaze flickers with nourished strength scarcely contained within a thick ring of stones. Maybe, it is fed by a vein of natural gas?

She gave the cave one more sweeping glance and then set her backpack down. She sank beside it settling into a cross-legged position. Her dry mouth begged for water. She snatched a bottle of water from her pack and quickly drained it. The plastic crinkles loudly, a foreign sound in the archaic cave. She shoved the empty back into her pack, she wouldn’t be the first to litter a pristine place. It is only one bottle of the many she carried. A person can live for days without food, many less without water.

She wiped her mouth on the sleeve of her fleece-lined coat. The residue of the moisture darkened the periwinkle color to sky blue. She slowly unzipped the side compartment on the bag. She pulled out a small tube and reached inside with her fingertips retrieving a leathery looking roll. It is thicker than the thickest paper of modern times and smells like rotting hide. She opened the small roll with reverence. The proof she is a thief. But it’s not all she is; the life of one person has too many dimensions to name just one. She is not simply ugly; she is damaged, yet beautiful too. If people could only see past the thickened skin marring the one side of her face and look into her eyes the color of sparkling amethyst, and notice the healthy glow in her auburn hair they might find the glimpses of beauty. It is no matter, not many will miss the lowly assistant to the librarian, and it will be a long while before anyone will notice she had taken the scroll, if they even notice it at all. The librarian in charge is a hoarder, reluctant to share. She is a contradiction to the very purpose of a library. The scroll had been donated, mixed in with boxes of leather bound books and ancient maps concealed in tubes. Skye had been designated to catalogue the contents of the donation. The fact is the scroll simply wouldn’t be missed at all.

As Skye studied the scraggly drawing she could clearly see the fire had not been noted on the map. The only marking  on the wrinkly old guide was a definite X written in crimson ink inside the cave. If it even was ink? Skye’s eyes searched the cavern, so where is the booty? Everyone knows an X on a map means a treasure.

She studies the walls of the cave. They are smooth, blackened, and reflective like onyx. This space contained nothing but the flames. Her gaze lands on the entrance to the tunnel. It blended so easily with the walls and she almost could have missed its presence in the shadowy firelight. Maybe she is missing more?

She squeezed the flashlight in her hand. She feels the cool weight of the cylindrical metal. She flicked the switch on, and the bright beam diminished the fires glow. She shone it back on the mouth of the tunnel. She could go back? She could go topside to the light of day. Return to the other civilians like her bumbling through their existence. Does she want to return to that? To that dull routine, uninspired and pointless, to see the mirror reflect the flatness in her eyes, to know her spark of life has been smothered by lack of inspiration? The map is a cosmic gift.

Skye leaned in closer to the firelight. What is this mystery? Why did the map not mention this? She watches the orange and red flames prancing in colourful twists. It revealed nothing. She rose to her feet, her muscles are tight with unease, they are bound securely to her bones ready to flee if need be.

An unexplainable wind sweeps into the fire, and the flames grow taller lengthening upwards towards the ceiling of the cave. She retreats to the wall feeling her elbows tighten into her sides. She wished to be invisible to whatever this thing may be. The fire expanded cutting the cave in half. It effectively blocked her way out. And still it grows.

Her face is scorched; the sweat oozed from her pores, only to evaporate on her skin. Skye pointed her flashlight to the backside of the cave. She spied a silver toned lever gleaming at the topside of the back wall.

The fire intensified further. The rocks began to glow like coals. Her skin turned scarlet. The map smoldered in her fingers.

The cave is a crematorium; the fire has left only one option.

Propelled by mounting discomfort Skye raced to the lever. The map blazed into flame between her fingertips and she dropped it with a gasp. The handle juts out a foot from the wall. It is shining and bright, almost glowing with light. In that split second she noted the etchings along its length, swirling and symmetrical, Celtic in nature. She leaped as the fire licked her back. Skye smelled the stink of her seared ponytail. She latched onto the metal lever. The rigidness of the bar collapsed into the shape of an arm.

A hand grasped her elbow.

A female voice sounded in her head, “Hold on tight this will be nasty.”

Skye feels herself being dragged through a whirling space. Her muscles scream as she is stretched beyond anything she has known. She lost all awareness of her limbs, causing her to question the very existence of them. Nausea grabbed hold of Skye’s center causing clenching cramps in her guts. At least her belly button is present. Her mom always said Skye had the loveliest belly-button of all her kids. The edges of darkness moved in on her like the blinds on a window sliding down against the light. The last thing she felt is the wretched pain in her abdomen, and the cold steel grasp on her arm.

Dreams Come True

 

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The thudding rhythmic beat of the hooves is music to my ears. The momentary pause as man and beast soar over the jump is grace in action. The competitors make it look simple. They just gallop around the course in a collected manner and then spring up over the jump. I’m not sure the audience can fully appreciate the hours of practice and training that goes into the presented teamwork of horse and rider. This is a dream come true, it is the riders dream come true.

I attended the Nations Cup At Spruce Meadows held in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, on September 9, 2017. It wasn’t only an outing to enjoy the beauty of the equestrian sport but it was a small reunion between a few Equine Studies college friends, and myself. We hadn’t been together in over ten years. So what better way to reconnect than to horse around at Spruce Meadows? Yeah, it’s a groaner.

The horse is an instinctual animal that has survived for hundreds of years by living according to it’s fight or flight instincts. I reluctantly add that horses by nature’s choosing are creatures of prey. In the wild they are hoofed grass eaters subject to the laws of the hunt. The weak and slow of the herd are meals for packs of roving wolves, nature’s henchman of the bush. Most horses choose flight over fight, unless they are cornered, and then watch the kicking, striking, and biting commence. This fact alone should add to your admiration for all who sit astride a horse in hopes of controlling the outcome.

I’ve had the pleasure of horses in my life since I was a naive little pea pod on the vine of life. (Such a bad metaphor, no comments from the peanut gallery.) In my days of being tossed, trampled, struck, bowled over, bit and kicked by horses I know painfully and personally, horses are not just instinctual beings, but are emotional creatures as well. They form strong bonds of companionship between other horses, and given time and trust, between people as well. Horses are sensitive to emotion. They can sense fear or hostility in a person by simply being close to them. They don’t need the demonstration of trembling hands or a baseball bat to the fence, to know a person can’t be trusted in that state of mind. This means, for a rider to be successful, they must be calm and confident, even in the face of their own personal fears. The trust between horse and rider must be like the trust between a flying trapeze performer and their partner who catches them. There can be no hesitation, or doubt, timing is everything. Welcome to the Spock Academy for hopeful equestrians.

Now lets add to the mix, the fact that horses actually do have ideas and desires of their own. Sometimes a stallion would rather be mounting a mare than leaping a fence. It takes a strong hand to guide a stallion to a rider’s whims. Sometimes horses are having a bad day. Maybe they miss a stable-mate, or are feeling lazy, like they would rather just lie around the pasture. It’s a whole different ball game when a sport includes a non-verbal teammate.

 

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Ultimately show jumping is communication between man and beast, for the jumper to be successful the horse must want to jump. Somewhere inside them there is the desire to soar. And as I watched the jumping events it is clear to see the horse trusts it’s rider, and the rider trusts his horse. The horses accepts the encouragement and challenge from their director to jump fences they wouldn’t consider jumping on their own.

It’s bloody amazing. The professionals in any sport can make the task look easy. The teamwork in show jumping seems effortless, and therein lays the magic. It is the slippery fricken magic of appearance. We don’t see the in behind scenes of hard work, or countless hours of practice and failure. We haven’t seen the riders struggle to maintain a positive outlook through their feelings of frustration, doubt and fear. If these show jumpers can trust their horse, who by nature is a creature of fight or flight, to go over jumps for them time and time again— then I think you can trust yourself to accomplish whatever dreams you can conjure up in your limitless mind.

You got this. Oh yes. Damn right you do.

Sometimes The Piglet Lives

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Little Garth, the 10-day old piglets some milk. Photo credit-Vancouver Sun/Lora Grindlay

I can hear the unsettled whimpering sounds coming from the box at the end of my bed. I’m sleeping on the edge of worry anyways so it doesn’t take much to alert me. I kick off the covers and scurry down to check on the piglet. He feels cool despite the fact he’s covered with my little sisters flannel doll sheet. He seems uncomfortable. I’m not sure what to do. Mom and dad are asleep, but it doesn’t matter anyways because the piglet is my responsibility.

Earlier in the day, my older sister Cheryl, and younger sister Shannon, and I, had gone down to the barn after school to meet the newborn piglets.

Dad meets us outside the barn. I wonder if it’s going to be like a birthday party with balloons and cake. We never had piglets before

Before he opens the door he gives us a stern look, “Keep the noise level down inside. This is a new mama pig and we don’t want to upset her.”

I guess there won’t be any dancing then. I feel disappointed. I like to celebrate special events with dancing. Way to dampen my creative spirit pops.

We follow dad inside. There is no balloons or cake. We bounce silently on our toes and lean in on the fence to get a better view of the new arrivals.

I crowd Shannon out of the way so I can see better.

“Stop pushing Debby,” Shannon complains.

“Oh sorry,” I say, not the least bit sorry, and squeeze next to the wall so she can see too.

Cheryl is tall, and she can look over the top of our heads. She wrinkles up her nose, “It’s pretty smelly in here.”

Dad chuckles, “Yeah, pigs don’t have the best smell when they are penned up.”

We never had pigs on the farm until a few months ago and baby pigs are all new to us. Their tiny pink snouts are flawlessly formed, sparkling clean, and unblemished from life. They snuggle up in a long line sucking milk from mama pigs multiple teats. One extraordinarily small piglet keeps trying to find a way into the line up to suck. It is continually pushed out. He is getting nothing to eat.

Dad leans over the fence beside me casting a long shadow across the floor. I poke him in the thigh with my finger, “What’s going on dad? Why won’t the big piglets let the little piglet have any milk?” I ask.

Dad straightens up and places his hands on his hips shaking his head. “That’s the runt of the litter. It means he’s the smallest and weakest. They don’t usually survive. It looks like he’s having trouble fighting his way into the food line up.” Dad’s face is hard but his eyes look soft.

Those big piglets are assholes. I think to myself. I knit my brows together and shake my head wildly, “But that’s not fair!” I argue.

Dad sighs, “I know, but it’s natures way of weaning out the weak ones.”

I watch the tiny piglet try to feed again only to be cast aside by the strong. The little creature lies quietly and closes his eyes. It looks to me like he’s giving up.

I feel a dull ache creep into my heart. “Can I look after him?” I suddenly ask feeling hope rise up.

Dad purses his lips and stares into the pen.

I glare at dad with pleading eyes.

He scratches his head underneath his cap, and then meets my gaze with reluctance. “Alright. You can try,” he relents, and then cautions, “but don’t expect too much. He probably won’t make it. Don’t get too attached.”

I bob my head with enthusiasm like I’m agreeing. But I’m not. I can save this little pig. I just know it.

Dad retrieves the piglet and places the puny being in my arms. I look at his teeny ears and perfectly round nose. He’s wiggling. There’s nothing wrong with him. Of course he’s going to live. I tuck his warm little body inside my coat.

Dad watches me with doubtful eyes.

My sisters and I take turns carrying him to the house. When we arrive we put him in a box lined with a thick old towel. Mom rounds up a tiny bottle filled with milk. He drinks a little bit but lots leaks out of his mouth.

My younger sister Shannon puts her dolls flannel blanket over him.

At nine years old, I still quietly believed in the magic of life. I’m certain if I try hard enough I can save the little guy.

It’s the middle of the night and the piglet is whimpering. I read somewhere that babies like to eat in the middle of the night. Maybe he’s hungry. I scoop up the precious little package and bring him out to the kitchen to offer him milk.

I flick on the bathroom light and the brightness floods the kitchen floor.

The piglet’s breath is harsh and laboured.

I warm the tiny bottle of milk in a pot of water on the stove and cradle the pig in my arm. I check the temperature of the milk on my wrist the way mom showed me.

I sit down on the cold floor in the middle of the kitchen and admire our newest addition. I marvel at every inch of him, from the little downy hairs that covered his pink head right down to his delicate little tail. I can feel the adoration in my heart grow. How could he die? He is flawless. I watch his chest rise and fall with rough breaths.

I sit with my blue flowered nightie pulled over my crossed legs. I stroke his head with my finger. I didn’t know much about God but I had heard he helped some people. “Please God,” I pray. “Please help me save this little pig.” The tears well up in my eyes as I realize that he really might die.

I hear footsteps coming towards me from mom and dads room. I wipe my eyes with my nightie sleeve.

My mom peers around the corner, “Debby?” she says with a frown. “What are you doing up?”

I look at her, and then look down to the small bundle on my lap. “The runt was making noises so I brought him out to see if he was hungry.” I answer in a wobbly voice.

She moves toward me with her housecoat pulled tight. “You know he’s very sick, don’t you?”

I steel my voice, “Yeah.”

She purses her lips and lines furrow her brow. “You should put him back in his box and go to sleep,” she suggests.

I look up into her eyes and hold her serious gaze with my own, “I will mom. I promise. I just want to see if he’ll eat.”

Mom presses her lips together and then sighs. “Alright, “she says relenting, “but get to bed soon. You need your sleep too.”

Alone again with the runt I offer him some milk, his mouth doesn’t move but his chest still rises. I force the nipple of the milk bottle in and milk dribbles out the side. I put the bottle down and hold him close. My eyes liquefy and tears spill over. My bottom lip trembles. He needs all the help he can get. “Please, please God,” I beg, “if you save him I’ll put my allowances on the collection plate at church.”

The piglet’s breath is raspy.

I sob. “All of them,” I said, “I’ll give you all of my allowances.”

I set the little creature on my lap. His struggle for breath becomes quieter. I wonder if my prayers are being answered.

The piglet’s body convulses. I realize God has not agreed to my bargaining.

The tears come faster. I am helpless to save this most perfect little being. “I promise I whisper with passion. “I’ll give you everything! My Barbie’s, everything. Please save him.”

The runts shuddering stops and the tiny pig relaxes into death.

I cry a lot. I cry so much I run out of snot.

It was my first experience with death. I remember the bargaining with clarity, the hope that some being would shine some kind of special light down on me, on him, and give the runt a second chance. I never blamed God for rejecting my offer. As a matter of fact, for a long time I thought it was that I was unworthy of having my prayers answered. But as I aged and lost many more beloved people and pets I’ve come to believe in the ridiculously overused saying everything happens for a reason. I believe that the randomness in life is not simply a scattered mess of happenings, but an intricate weaving of lives that are brought together and apart to create specific opportunities to fine tune our life. Even the worst in life offers us hope. We see it often as we watch times of the greatest troubles be soothed by acts of great love and compassion. I think we are given situations to prepare us, or clarify us, for the following days of our lives.

I’m not one hundred percent sure why that little piglet died in my arms when I was young; maybe it was the first stepping-stone of strength I needed for all the future dying in my life.

But I bet for others— sometimes the piglet lives.

 

An Absence of Sun

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I’m what you would call an early bird. As many of you know early risers don’t only get the worm, they also incubate a dozen eggs and hatch a batch of chicks too. Not to say the night owls and nighthawks are slackers, it’s just that because of the time of the day there might be more alcohol involved. And then we have those akin to the blue-footed booby— we don’t generally talk about those folks. I’m pretty sure it has something to do with a secret society— they may or may not be under investigation. I plead the fifth my interpretation could be flawed.

As we enter into the seasons shift I can’t help but notice the morning light has attained a later state of being. Now as my alarm sounds out and I reluctantly pop my peeper’s open,  I am greeted by a dungeon-like darkness. The only thing missing is the shackles. Now don’t get me wrong. I like the dark. I just don’t like slippery touches, or bony grasping fingers, or weird snuffling, grunting noises in the pitch black. Not that there are right now, because my husband is away at work.

Now, to keep the truth on track, I admit I’m not totally opposed to the impending winters dark. I often wear black and I confess it’s a classically gorgeous color. If I am not mistaken, black is a combination of colors so it’s kind of like a rainbow in disguise. And who doesn’t like a rainbow? Heh?

So as we return to my 5:00 a.m. rise and shine time. I find the absence of the sun has throttled the very breath out of my fun loving demeanour. I find myself inspired to drag the life size skeleton Mr. Bones from our garage and have him sit beside me on the couch. I am currently playing the top ten hits of funeral music. We mourn the death of my chirpiness together. Although to be frank Mr. Bones seems quite unsympathetic to my state of being.

So here I sit the only live being in the dark. The stars are grieving too, currently veiled by a thick coverlet of clouds. The only light in the room is the orange glow from my Himalayan salt rock. I could turn on a real light but it would interrupt the mood. It’s not even that that I’m miserable. I’m just setting the scene to see if I can invite it in, after all misery loves company.

After sitting a while longer I realize it’s not coming— misery has snubbed my overture. I bring Mr. Bones back to the garage, and set him back on his sled with his sunglasses raised. He’s had enough shade for one day.

I wonder about the night owls, do they ever feel drawn to invite misery into their pitch-black moments? Do the seasons changing rhythms cause them to long for the extended evening light of summer? Or do they prefer to be wrapped in a shroud of shadows when the moon sits high, or to cocoon themselves in the velvety blackness vacant of starlight?

Regardless of my musings, autumn is here. It is robed in reds, scarlet, brick and sangria. It is accented with oranges, ginger, marigold and pumpkin. And lastly, it is crowned with yellows, golden sunflower, corn and flaxen tones. Without a doubt it is the most glorious season of all. It brings the shorter days and chilly nights to forewarn us winter is nigh. I wish the early birds, night owls, nighthawks, and blue-footed boobies a joyful transition time, because no matter what we do— winter is a coming and we have no choice but to nest or fly.

Paddleboard For Peace

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I’ve been contemplating the world from my secluded slice of heaven for a while now. It can be a reflective state as you can see from the photo. It’s a photo of myself and Mica on one paddleboard, and then my hubby on another paddleboard struggling to keep up. I revel in the fact I’m faster than he. He’s normally the fleetest of foot, his legs compare to the stilts of a caribou running in front of a wildfire. If he straps on skies, he’s akin to a bunny on steroids. If you give him a pedal bike, his legs spin around like the roadrunners in the Looney Toon’s cartoons, “Meep Meep, try to catch me.”

So I admit, I practically glow with satisfaction when I look back on him wobbling in my wake. He blames it on his weight and the length of his paddle. However, I patiently tell him, “Your paddle is fine. It’s the way you use it that counts.”

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Anyway, my grand dog Mica loves to go cruising on the lake with me. She is at ease, sometimes she stands up, and sometimes she sits down, and then there are times she lays across the bow like the July playmate in a Playdog magazine. She trusts me. She knows I will do my level best to keep us afloat, and so far we’ve done well.

The contemplative nature of steering across the lake has caused me to toss around the notion that the most troublesome of the world leaders should be required to paddleboard. It should happen on a remote lake in the middle of nowhere. They should be instructed to ride together and then switch up partners taking turns at being the paddler, and then being the passenger. It would be a good teambuilding experiment. It might instigate a sense of trust— no rocking the boat on purpose here.

It would an excellent time to remind them of the beauty of our planet, and how well an ecosystem survives when there is little to no manipulation from human kind. Maybe the leaders causing the most damage should heed the words of Mother Teresa, “ If you want to change the world, go home and love your families. (love your people)” Just imagine if everyone stopped throwing spitballs at each other, and went home to hug their family and pet the cat?

Out here on the lake I see no imaginary lines determining countries or property. It looks to be open access for all. On the water we hear the voice of the wind speaking gently to the trees, and the willowing cry of the loons. We see the fish leap and land with a splash causing circles to ripple outwards. The dragon flies glimmer and sparkle in the fading light as they dip and dive consuming mosquitos that would feed on our blood. Out here there is a sense of freedom, and a definite detachment from the over populated parts of the world. As we sweep along on the wrinkles of the lake there is no phone by our hand, and no call to be judged or judge. Our hearts are open and our minds are free as the sun begins to set. Our world is shaded in splendiferous colors and glows offering hope for tomorrow.

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