Remembering Harriet

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“Until one has loved an animal a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”    Anatole France

It’s taken a few months to feel ready to write this post about my kitty Harriet. On my January birthday in 2004 I went to the Humane Society thrift store to make a donation that resulted from a post-holiday clothes evaluation. I had a single-minded focus and adopting a cat was the last thing on my mind, but close to the entrance was a large wire cage, and inside was a charming grey-brown tabby cat. It hadn’t been too long since I’d lost my beloved dog Baron, and I had resolved not to have any more pets. I had convinced myself that I just couldn’t go through the loss and grief again, but it seems that Harriet and destiny had other plans.

She stood up inside the cage, came to the front, and spoke to me very clearly, “Take me home. I have chosen you.” I was stunned and promptly went into fierce denial. I handled my donation and went straight home. But of course, I couldn’t get her out of my mind, so I went back the next day to see if she was still there. Destiny has a mind of its own in such matters, and Harriett became my beloved animal companion until April of 2018.

Harriet was named by the Humane Society when she had been rescued, having been abandoned. I looked up the meaning of the name, which is “ruler of the house,” and laughed; what a perfect name for a cat. Harriet’s sweet nature and companionship helped me through some very difficult times that included a divorce, a move, and essentially starting my life over in 2007. The picture of her in front of the Christmas tree celebrated our first holiday season alone after a painful separation and a wrenching loss of my home. Her presence gave me strength, and caring for her helped me focus on moving forward. It’s impossible to adequately express the gifts and blessings our animal friends bring to our lives. We love them deeply, and the loss is hard to bear when their short lives end.

Although her last months saw a continual decline, she jumped up on the couch on our last night together, and we snuggled. I didn’t know it would be our last night, but I told her she was free to go, and tried to express what she had meant to me. The next day she left her body on her own terms when I ran out for a short errand. She spared us both the trauma of “putting her down,” and when I came home and found her she looked peaceful. I am so grateful for that miracle. Her ashes now rest in my flower garden, and I planted a purple Clematis in her honor.

This brief memorial honors not only Harriett but all of the wonderful animals who have blessed my life, the pets and wild creatures alike. I will be forever grateful for the joy they gave so unselfishly and the richness they added–they teach us so much about unconditional love and letting go. I’m not ready for a new animal companion, but if it’s meant I guess another precious creature will find and choose me.

 

 

Trusting

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   “Trust in dreams, for in them is the hidden gate to eternity.”  

Khalil Gibran

An intrinsic wisdom lives inside a seed. The small miracle trusts that if planted in rich soil, watered by rain, and warmed by sunlight, the seed will break out of its shell, sprout, and grow according to its template of hidden potential. Perhaps that potential will yield a fragrant lily or a mighty oak. The seed doesn’t doubt its future, and it unfolds and grows according to an inherent destiny.

Perhaps it is only humans who fear what is contained within our potential. For many reasons we lack the will or heart to follow the path of our own becoming. We hold back, doubting our gifts and our deep longings. Maybe we define success in the wrong way, believing we need fame and fortune, rather than joy and fulfillment, as indicators that we’ve “made it.”

I have come to believe the key to the dilemma lies in our inability to perceive the nature of our unique and individual templates. Because we don’t really know ourselves, we don’t know the nature of our “seed self.”  Therefore, we can’t comprehend the vision of our expanded expression, and we remain blind to what is possible. Or, we try very hard to become a pine tree when we are meant to be a lilac.

A teacher of mine once shared a humorous anecdote to illustrate our reluctance. A caterpillar once gazed up at a butterfly and proclaimed, “You’ll never get me up in one of those things.”  And so, rejecting the metamorphosis of the cocoon, and the exquisite creature he could become, the caterpillar continued to crawl on the ground. Sadly, the caterpillar never tasted flight or grew glorious wings. That is a loss for all of us.

What does it take to reach out of our own element and sense of safety and trust? What can be gained by risking? Sometimes, after a risk, life is never the same. Maybe we experience a loss as a result, but we are deeper, wiser, and hopefully more compassionate. Maybe the risk brings great joy. Either way we learn what we’re made of by taking the leap and seeing where we land. It’s often been said to watch where we light up, know what excites us, and when we lose a sense of time when doing something we love. This knowledge is precious.

. . . take a chance today–it could change your life . . .

Julie

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Serenity

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“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”  

Attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi

 

 

For several weeks I’ve been struggling mightily with a now-diagnosed sinus infection. I thought the problem arose from a dental issue, and I was waiting for an appointment with a specialist. However, my new physician (once I finally realized I needed a different kind of help) described the ongoing infection as “smoldering,” and I thought that was apt. The pain has been intense, bordering on intolerable, and I’m now taking antibiotics to fight the germs. Was it misplaced stoicism that caused me to suffer or preoccupation with turmoil in my life?

The iPhone picture above was taken yesterday afternoon from my deck–a freeze frame moment in time as I rested and recovered. The day was glorious; it’s one of the blessings of summer in my mountain town. It was a priceless expression of serenity, a blissful snapshot as the small sailboat glided across Lake Pagosa. The picture is like a post card for summer in the mountains, and I was transported to a state of grace and gratitude.

As I gazed at the image, the metaphor was not lost on me and reminded me of another famous quote from a Breton fisherman, “O God, thy ocean is so great and my boat is so small.” I wondered what the sailor on that small craft was thinking and feeling as he was drawn around the lake by sweet breezes. Was he caught up in the beauty of the moment? Could he imagine the potential canvas his journey created that was worthy of a Da Vinci? Or had he taken to the lake to escape some great sorrow in his life?

Life is at all times a blend of grief and joy, beauty and pain. Nothing lasts and everything is in a constant state of change, a shifting kaleidoscope of experiences. We can’t control what happens to us most of the time, but we have a choice how we respond. We can rage, or we can accept. We can deny, or we can change. I’ve always felt the Prayer of Saint Francis, as it’s usually called, is the perfect prayer. We are challenged to meet all of life with what Buddhists call equanimity. Serenity comes from the right blend of acceptance, courage, and wisdom. I aspire to these qualities and to the peace that can result. Sometimes it comes in a moment of bliss when we are offered a gift of such rare beauty and significance.

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