Late last night, into the dawn … what a conglomeration of creatures!

Pepper 005_cropI’ve introduced you to Kitty, the neighborhood feral cat, who comes and goes to eat and rest on our back deck. Black and white as can be, he’s been around since last August and has acquired scars, scratches, and a serious injury during the winter, one that demanded medical attention.

This time I want to introduce you to Pepper, a four-month-old wonder dog we recently adopted from the Humane Society. She likewise is black and white—more pepper than salt, hence the name. She is part Affenpinscher, Pepper 002_cropknown to be a terrier type dog of small stature with a big attitude. Kitty and Pepper have met: Kitty acted with caution, Pepper with a yearning to play.

After a long winter that kept us inside, Bud and I favored adopting a dog. Be that as it may, we did not anticipate a puppy. Little did we know how wide our hearts would open as soon as we laid eyes on her. She and her brother were brought in the week before. The male was in process of being adopted when we noticed the female. She was quietly sitting in her cage and easily overlooked. She had been spayed the day before and melted into our arms. That didn’t last long.

Almost immediately upon entering her new home, her sedated nature turned into JOY! Each day thereafter she has licked us profusely, begged to be held, darted around the yard, and slipped out of her harness twice, and, fortunately, never ran away. We aren’t apathetic anymore.

Nonetheless, last night just about did us in.

kittykitty 003_cropSince Pepper is not yet potty trained, Bud and I decided to make a change and move her into the kitchen for the night, with the help of a spring gate. Pepper didn’t want to leave Kitty, who was high on a bench camping out on the deck due to interminable rain. When I headed back out at midnight to retrieve the dry cat food, Kitty was laying low after jumping into a chair. I quickly noted and then heard the thump of a big figure jump off the counter and scramble. It didn’t take long to recognize a raccoon, with its black mask and a fluffy tail encircled with black rings, who obviously likes cat food.

Speaking of which, we also have a variety of birds who like Kitty’s food. The Mockingbird usually flies onto the deck, eats three to four pieces, then flies away. The Blue Jay eats much more, and the male Cardinal rarely shows up. However, they stay away when Kitty’s around. Therefore, Bud started carrying a small can of cat food to the garden wall where the birds are more free to imbibe.

The topper of this post follows.

We store cat and dog food above the washer and dryer in the kitchen. We’ve been noticing damage to the plastic containers, plus bits of dry food in the washing machine. Bud had previously set mouse traps in the laundry room, none of which worked, until now. This morning Bud found two dead mice, one having dropped to the floor. He had to pull out the machine to retrieve it, but guess who got ahead of him? Yup, Pepper came out carrying the mousetrap in her mouth!

What a menagerie, what a night!

Visit this website for more information, http://marketplace.akc.org/puppies/affenpinscher

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Polar Bear
EASTER HYMN FOR EARTH
Hallelujah! They have risen!
Snowdrops, crocus, bearded iris.
Exult and throw your happy arms upward!
The trillium carpet the forest floor.
rise up singing “our cups overflow.”
The creatures dress in their feast-day finest,
the loons and penguins in black tie and tux.
Hallelujah ushers forth from lips and beaks
as quacks, warbles, howls and hoots
fill the forests and fields with hymns of joy.
Let the Earth be glad and the sky shower praise
for the riot of color in her cloak of glory:
 Purple Martin, Scarlet Tanager,
Red-winged Blackbird, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher,
Great Blue Heron, Snowy Egret,
Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Indigo Bunting.
It is right to give thanks for the endangered,
relatives among us but not for long:
Bengal Tiger, Blue Whale, Leatherback Sea Turtle,
Asian Elephant, Javan Rhinoceros, Mountain Gorilla,
Snow Leopard, Red Wolf, California Condor.
It is fitting that we mourn our relations now extinct-
though the list is long, let us name a few:
Chinese River Dolphin, Japanese Sea Lion,
Caribbean Monk Seal, Cascade Mountain Wolf, Sardinian Lynx,
Bali Tiger, Mexican Grizzly, Eastern Cougar, Black Rhinoceros,
Koala Lemur, Barbary Lion, Laughing Owl.
For all that dies and rises, we bend our knee.
As creatures of the Cosmos, progeny of the Universe,
we give thanks and rejoice for the Flame within us.
With the bald eagles and hairy frogfish,
with the furry kittens and spiny hedgehogs,
with the runny-nosed bison and red-nosed reindeer
we stand in awe as Earth spins, tides change,
hearts beat, eyes see, hands comfort.
We who believe in Life give Life.
This feast marks the life of a prophet
who said more than once,
“What you see me do, you can do, and more.”
What rises today and every dawn
are these words that remind us:
There is nothing in the world we cannot do.
Let us take this suffering world into our arms
and heal what we can.
Hallelujah!
Jan Phillips 2018
Visionary Thought Leader
http://janphillips.com

Are you able to recall how you felt…

…when you woke up and witnessed your first snowfall?

…how the ground, trees, bushes, house tops, and telephone wires were ablaze with glistening virgin snow?

…when you donned your snow suit, hat, boots, gloves with clips attached to your coat sleeves, and ventured into the freezing zone?

Do you know how long you stayed outside in winter wonderland? I think I lasted a bit longer outdoors than it took to get me dressed, but I was just as eager, if not more so, to get back into our warm, heated house; and then, getting undressed and shaking the ice off my winter coat and leggings, not to mention dealing with the boots.

Dutch Snowman

Dutch Snowman 1953

This is a picture of our childhood escapade after 30-plus inches of snowfall hit Cleveland in 1953. No, I’m not in the picture, but I watched with glee as my Dad and brother built it. It is a Dutch Snowman, complete with accessories: cap, bow tie, carved vest with hands in pockets, bow legged, and wooden dutch shoes with pointed toes. The outstanding work of art towered over my Dad. The picture is a faded memory, one that we still hold dear.

I awoke this morning to another glistening surprise. Ten inches of wet, heavy snow fell in Lexington overnight and converted our lovely backyard into a fairyland. My renewed energy as a child exploded and off I went with my camera. Come, play with me!

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Our front yard is pure, unadulterated snow, pristine to be exact. Unfortunately, the trade off of heavy snow is the loss of tree branches. However, our loss is more like a snip.

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We are up before the sun, gazing out the windows at a blue covered backyard. The heck with getting dressed; at our age we just throw our coats on and don the boots. We may stay that way for the rest of the day, too (sans the boots, unless one of us has to shovel snow)!

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We are in awe of the beauty and silence of our backyard, and so are the silent chimes.

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Ah, Brother Sun is touching our deck; our iced table will soon thaw.

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What is this? It looks like a giant dwarf!

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It is a dwarf, and it is eyeing the garden gate! Let me out! he yells.

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Our yin yang symbol guards the gate and reminds dwarf of its meaning:  Two complimentary principles of Chinese philosophy: Yin is negative, dark, and feminine; Yang is positive, bright, and masculine. Their interaction is thought to maintain the harmony of the universe and to influence everything within it.  ~British Dictionary

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Kitty is our other yin yang symbol. His meaning is to sleep all day!

Thanks for playing with me!

To bring your attention to a stone, a tree, or an animal does not mean to ‘think’ about it, but simply to perceive it, to hold it in your awareness.*

*Stillness Speaks, by Eckhart Tolle

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Solar Eclipse 2017

This is what happens to Bud and I when Kitty walks nonchalantly into our back yard. His furry, black and white coat immediately beguiles us and holds our attention. He promptly ambles over the yard and plants himself on our meditation chair inside an open hut. Kitty  quickly sprawls out and soaks in the sun. It is August 2, 2017, during the solar eclipse, when Kitty makes his first appearance.

Only when you are still inside do you have access to the realm of stillness that rocks, plants, and animals inhabit.*

kitty kitty 003_bOur backyard, filled with greenery, canna lilies, ferns, boxwood bushes, small trees, a huge evergreen, etc., is Kitty’s domain. We feed the birds and are entertained by the chipmunks. Kitty finds a new spot to lounge every day; sometimes under the ferns, or beside the boxwoods, or on the wall. Come sundown, he is ready to hunt.

Fall begins and Kitty takes over ourkittykitty 017_crop_crop back deck. He reminds me of Goldilocks fairy tale where she tests every bed in the house until she finds one “just right!” The deck is also where Kitty eats. Being a feral cat, he does not like being enclosed; however, he prefers us to keep company with him while he eats.

In November and onward, Bud and I find ourselves incapacitated with health issues. We take care of one another and are very happy to have Kitty around to keep us upward bound. His quiet playfulness and stillness, plus a lovely purr, keep us in awe.

Bring awareness to the many subtle sounds of nature–the rustling of leaves in the wind, raindrops falling, the humming of an insect, the first birdsong at dawn. Give yourself completely to the act of listening.

kittykitty 001_cropDecember is a really decisive month. We start winterizing our deck for Kitty and learn that this stray cat is unabashedly picky. He simply ignores our generous gift of a heated cat house, and when temps are below freezing, he quickly disappears under our neighbors’ crawl space where their furnace resides. Smart cat. Plus, he knows when its feeding time; he hops over the fence and jumps on top of the counter, where we stand, bundled up, to keep him company.

December also holds the honor of designating IMG_3110_cropBud and I husband and wife. A small, simple ceremony in our home gathers more light into our lives. We slip outside to take more pictures, and lo and behold, Kitty is waiting for us! The shining sun and the upward temps reveal nature at its best. Be still and know.

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Ann HoltI recently discovered that I lost a friend. She died around Christmas, a month before I knew. If you’ve had the experience of not knowing you’ve lost someone until after the fact, you know how I feel … shocked, devastated, upset.

Since the Fall of 2012, Ann showed up for Tai Chi classes most Mondays and Saturdays. She had a habit of wandering into class a tad bit late, and a manner of thinking positive with a smile on her face. Ann’s optimism was uplifting.

On one occasion, Ann and I were the only two who showed up for class. I was ready to pack up and go home when she arrived. We decided to do a set together. Halfway through the set, I heard a thud, turned around and saw Ann on the floor with a smile on her face. No injuries were reported and she worked her way up from the floor. She then shared with me that she learned many years ago not to fight a fall but to go with the flow. Ann was also a very smart human being.

Ann was with her family in western Kentucky last Christmas. The night after she returned to Lexington, she called 911 and was rushed to the hospital. Her aorta was thinning and leaking blood. The surgeons said they must operate. Ann’s response was: If this is the end, I’ve had a good life. She died during surgery.

Ann’s church in Lexington offered a Memorial Service and the family posted her obituary in the newspaper. Several of us Tai Chi members attended. Here are some attributes posted in the “Celebration of Life Service” at the church.

Ann was eighty-one years old and in her own words she lived a good life. Ann loved life and was always looking for new experiences and new things to learn. She was a long-time fan of University of Kentucky basketball, a book club member, an art student and orchid lover. Two important loves of her life were her two beloved dogs, Liberty and Diamond.

Ann graduated from UK in 1959 with an accounting degree and received her CPA license. She was the first woman elected President of the Kentucky Society of CPA’s and served from 1977 to 1989.

How many of us don’t know our friends’ successes and lives until they die and we read their obituaries? That is the case all too often for me; and when I read their attributes, I say, I didn’t know that about her! 

For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun? And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing. And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb. And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.

THE PROPHET by Kahlil Gibran

 

 

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Growing up in Cleveland, I eventually discover that our water source is Lake Erie, and a glass of water is referred to as Lake Erie Highball. I now cringe at how that water was purified, if at all.

One summer, at the age of ten, I am invited on my first trip to Florida where we visit beautiful Silver Springs Nature Park. Made up of a group of springs located in the headwaters, coves, and edges of Silver River, it is the largest tributary on the Ocklawaha River. What I recall the most is how unusual it was to look through the water and see the white sandy bottom; it was like viewing it through a glass of clear water. Unfortunately, Lake Erie was as dark as my dad’s home-brew beer; one needed an element of trust to swim in it let alone drink it. A chlorinated swimming pool was the only place I could see bottom.

That was my first vacation away from my family of origin. I felt lost without them. My uncle invited me, and his wife invited her niece. We nieces had never met before this trip. We were both shy and found it awkward being on vacation together. It was a long trip for a timid, insecure ten-year-old. I was completely out of my element, and it didn’t take long for me to get homesick.

One jarring memory stays with me: We stopped at a barbecue restaurant in the South where I was introduced to segregated bathrooms — ‘whites only’ is where I was directed to go. This was my first trek out of Cleveland; segregation was not in my vocabulary. Our schools were integrated, not only with people who were black but with people who immigrated from Europe, such as my Italian, Slovenian, and Bohemian ancestors. When we ordered lunch, I saw a black man in what looked like a cage, slaving over the hot coals. My heart sank because I assumed he was being held captive and doing so against his will. My stomach hurt. I passed on the barbecue sandwich.

kindle white banner cover_for blogAll the same, I did enjoy Silver Springs; in fact, it may have been the only place we all liked. It was a wonderful respite from the adult bickering. I have the picture taken of us on the glass-bottom boat; my uncle wore a big smile and my aunt a set-in-stone frown. We nieces had forlorn faces, and our silk headscarves were tied tightly under our chins.

~Excerpts from Gypsy Journey, pages 161-163 (w/edits)

~In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, read about his famous “I Have a Dream” and a sprinkling of his quotes below.

“I Have a Dream”

In 1963, King and other leaders of the civil rights movement organized a huge march for equal rights in Washington, DC. With a massive crowd of over 200,000 followers, the march was protesting racial discrimination in employment, racial separatism in schools, and they demanded minimum wage for all workers.  It was the largest gathering in Washington, DC’s history, and the site of King’s most famous speech, “I Have a Dream.”

As a result of the march and the speech, the citizens of the nation began to put growing pressure on the presidential administration of John F. Kennedy, encouraging the president to push for civil rights laws to pass through Congress and become recognized on a national level.
Read more at http://biography.yourdictionary.com/articles/martin-luther-king-progress-civil-rights-movement.html#7gG5FzWsgq3ExRcm.99

Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes

I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education.

Love is the only source capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

The moral arc of the universe bends at the elbow of justice.

When the 2nd millennium came to a close and altered the first two digits of my years (from 19 to 20), I recall speculating how much longer I’d live. I was born in 1945, having lived 55 years at this new milestone. The significance of the millennium encouraged me to do something out of the ordinary; for that reason, I helped build a house.

We worked with Habitat for Humanity on a house on Third Street for a lady and her daughter. My job was working on siding and I had to wear a hardhat to protect my head from the roof workers. I still have that hardhat with a scuff on the side from a falling shingle; it reads “I hammered in the millennium.”

The 2nd millennium was a period of time that began on January 1, 1001, and ended on December 31, 2000. It was the second period of one thousand years in the Anno Domini or Common Era, which means we are currently in the 3rd millennium. FullSizeRender (2)

Most young people, including my two grandsons, were born in this period of time.

As for me, I recall thinking my grandparents were ancient, having been born in the 1800s.

But now its my turn to be the grandparent.

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In my current 70-plus years, I can attest to being involved in the community when one can. Volunteering brings forth new friends and a feeling of accomplishment. One is never too old to lend a hand.

Habitat gives us an opportunity which is very difficult to find: to reach out and work side by side with those who never have had a decent home—but work with them on a completely equal basis. It’s not a big-shot, little-shot relationship. It’s a sense of equality.” — former U.S. President Jimmy Carter