Animal Medicine

This morning as I sit down to write what is a somewhat emotionally challenging article for the Spring Issue of Plant Healer Magazine, I find myself musing on the many ways in which I have personally been affected by my work as an animal empath and healer. Those who know me, know I don’t use words like “Healer” lightly – this word in particular is often bandied about by people  who have no business using it at all, in my opinion, and it carries with it  a huge responsibility. My belief is, that once we use a word like healer or teacher, we need to be sure we are embodying that which we purport to be, otherwise it’s  hypocrisy… and in many ways, an insult to others who do walk these paths with integrity. I can often become caught up in the need to run a business and make income, and this takes sacred time away from my life – so frequent check-ins are important. I had the opportunity to do one such check- in over the Christmas Holidays, and I found, predictably, a few areas that need evaluation. (I’d worry about myself if I didn’t – the goal of embodiment is not perfection but authenticity, and who among us doesn’t need ongoing work?) These areas, in my own life, include resisting the impulse to anger, when confronted with values or behaviours I find undesirable, and my recurrent  difficulty in reconciling the work I do professionally with the demands and prerogatives of the Inner Path I walk. But perhaps hardest of all, is remembering the importance of  focus and intention in ordinary,daily life – the good, the bad, the (sometimes) really REALLY stinky.

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I work with animals professionally, but they also form the central hub of my daily life and spiritual practise. And by that I don’t mean meditating on  Animal Guides, wandering through the forest listening deeply, studying the mythological and folkloric  attributes of various species, or lighting candles on a shrine to Flidais, all of which are lovely and meaningful and yep, spiritual parts of my life. What I mean here is, the other stuff, the gruntwork – cleaning the litter, cooking the food, prepping herbal formulations, washing the bird cages and snake tanks, traipsing through snow to get the dogs walked, TTouching an ailing feline, filling bird feeders, making sure I spend time with them all (including the snake) and generally honouring their needs to the best of my ability.
This is where my focus, my intention, the purity of my heart and my discipline to not waver,  are tested. Yes, there are days I’ve wanted to run screaming into a snowbank when it all became to much, but I didn’t. There are moments nearly every day where I would give my eye teeth to have somebody else do the work or at least help out, for a bit.But whoever said that waking a Path of Spirit, with your whole being,was going to be easy, or fun all the time? If we are not challenged, if we don’t have to face head-on, the Shadow aspect of our goals and dreams, and grapple with it all – where is the growth?

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I estimate that every day, including walking dogs, I spend between 3 and 4 hours on animal duties, some of which are a pleasure and others, not so much.I have fibromyalgia, so there are days this work takes much longer, as I have to take constant breaks to manage anything heavy or demanding. And I  fight the resentment on those days – that I have FMS, that it all takes SO SO LONG, that I feel relatively alone in this task and always the pressure to get to my day job…but still. My goal is to perform all of it with focused love for my calling, and steady, conscious gratitude I am able to do the work I do at all. Once I get to my desk, there are flurries of emails from people who respect my knowledge enough to reach out for help, and that is humbling.. Once I get to the forest, there are mossy meditation seats and hidden woodland altars to be fed, prayed or meditated over….once I can put my feet up at night, there is a ridiculous stack of books by my bedside to inspire, inform and delight me, with magical tales of Animal Medicine from all over the world, or simple stories about how an animal changed one human’s life, and so on. I often start my day by pulling a Medicine Card and considering the meaning, how I might need it that day, what I might need to be on the lookout for (within or without). And it’s all good, a blessing….but, the real test of commitment is what we do when we don’t feel like doing it, when it’s smelly or late or tedious or otherwise unrewarding. I can’t say I’m always this perfect person, scrubbing the poopy bed or reeking litter  or shoveling the yard full of dog droppings with gratitude and glee…but, I hold the goal in my head and heart, keep clear and conscious about my sense of calling and blessing – and day by day, one task – one breath! at a time – I am getting there.

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Finding Strength in Dark Times

Although I have wanted to post many times over the past few months, drafted entries in my head, sometimes made aborted starts on writing – there’s just been so much going on I have to relegate this work to the back burner, but that is becoming increasingly hard as my creative energy wells up into a volcano that has to erupt or I may actually, physically explode. Over the past year I’ve been dealing with the challenges of a partner who basically lived 1500 miles away all year, an INSANE workload, and the seriously traumatic pressure of suddenly having to leave my home of 12 years..stress…stress…stress. My health is holding, but it took a hit – and the constant uncertainty about where on earth we will live, is terrible. It’s a tough time – but it pales in comparison to what’s going on in the world stage, and by that I mean, of course, the election of Donald Trump to the White House.

I can sum this up simply by saying, I just have no idea how this farce ever got this far. Or as the meme goes:

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But, it is happening, and it is terrifying – and the waves of despair, outrage, anger and fear have hit many of us who are sensitives, empathics – Hell, I think it’s hit anyone with a heart, really. And people are responding in various ways…outreach, demonstrations, escapism and denial – I see a range, and my own feeling is, do whatever you need to do, to get through it and be strong. If you feel up to working for change right now, do it! but if not, or if you are unable to/more inclined to inner work, don’t feel bad about that…prayer, is always needed…and so too, does personal outreach, a shift towards kindness, forgiveness, solidarity, make for some powerful Medicine in these challenging times.
And this last thing,this focus on an inner shift – is what I plan to do, my small bit, over the next year at least. (After that, if I’m more settled, time to reassess).

When I look deeply, I see how personal experiences – negative ones, or superficially so – have influenced behaviours well beyond what is reasonable, for me. Professionally, I enjoy overwhelming good results, great clients, and love the work I do…but, one difficult situation or unreasonable person and that seems to overwhelm all the good I am able to do, and calls into question whether I can continue in my calling or not ( not for long, but it happens). Likewise, I’ve chosen a fairly reclusive lifestyle, and while I’m very comfortable with that, there are many cherished people in my life whom I have often failed to keep up with, and that is a sad state of affairs. In 2015, I had some truly awful personal experiences, losing three people I would have called among the most important in my life, for various reasons (one, a long series of disagreements and differences arising; two, a bad mismatch, wherein I thought I was dealing with a friend, but was in fact, not the case at all; and three, I actually have no idea about, she just vanished without a word). That year damaged me, in ways that haven’t been clear until recently – I allowed the hurt and anger to drive me away from people in general – well, that and incessant exposure to animal cruelty (thank you, Facebook) combined to push me further away from feeling like “people matter”…. and into feeling more and more, that we humans are just parasites and channels of negativity here on this earth.
Not a good place to be in.

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Recently, a number of personal events called attention to the fact that I have buried my pain in workaholism, avoided my anger with a cloak of “forgiveness” I didn’t really feel, and allowed my reclusivity to become isolationism and estrangement. With the election of Trump into office and the terrible threats to so many of my friends and so many, period – the threat to all strides made in protecting the environment and animals in general – I felt slapped upside the head, snapped out of my focus on the personal. I can no longer allow myself to be weakened by unresolved conflicts and emotions, I cannot afford the apathy and bitterness that comes with resignation and retreat. I have accepted that I will never receive the apologies I am owed, the hand in reconciliation I waited for, and that is absolutely fine – we should not expect nor crave relationship with those who are not capable of it, in any adult and meaningful way. So those chapters close. And I am amazed, even after all these years of Innerwork, how intense is the response once we turn our attention to our pain, and how rapid the healing once we make it a priority.

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How does this relate to our troubling world situation, you ask? I believe we all have to do something, have to act in someway to offset the energies that have made their presence known of late – I am not going to use the darkness/light paradigm, as for me, darkness is not evil – it is as holy and as  much a part of “goodness” as the light. But there are…energies, now, awakened. And  I do believe this:
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So – for me, I intend to reach out more to my community, to those I love whom I sometimes don’t check with for months, I intend to set up my initiative to bring accessible herbal medicine to low income people (I mean for humans and pets!) and to start up my local classes once we have moved, on a pwyc basis. I’ll call friends more often and invite them over, go out and visit just a little more – strengthen the bonds between me and my loved ones, my new and old friends, and my community.I decided FINALLY to set up a woman’s group (again, once we are moved) and share support, healing and celebration with like-minded sisters. All of this will be supported by intensified personal Work, and reflected too, in a shift in attitude professionally. While I have long been irritated to the point of distraction by what I see as quackery, undermining the validity of my profession, I plan to let it go and just focus on my own contribution. A kinder, gentler me – with more social outings.

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These are hard times, scary and surreal, but we have to stay strong to face them. And we have to face them together. If there is any personal good for me in  the situation, it’s that it has taken me out of the slump – maybe even the depression I’ve been in for a year and a half now. I’ve worked on myself, worked on my spirit, I’ve studied, learned and grown for close to 60 years now – I hope my own contribution can be that of solace to others,  a sanctuary to visit and be held in safe space, even from afar – to bring what I can through the conduit of my spirit and outwards to those who may need it. And do so with good cheer, good humour, and  above all, good coffee.

Much love to the world, I will leave with this quote, which I believe to the core of my (somewhat recovered and optimistic) being.

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September

It’s funny how time gets away from us…today was one of those days where I struggled to pace myself and not get sick, but somehow I can’t recall how, the whole day is a jumble. I spent time with Korky, and that’s so important to me…I did my usual workstuff, but right after supper I realized Danny had not had his walk, and the days are growing shorter all the time…so off we went, “marching” as Alex calls it, around the perimeter of the big field out back. It was one of those early fall evenings wherein the light is so gorgeous and the air so beautifully sweet, you want to grab the nearest camera and video it to share with the world…just loveliness…but then the realization that it’s impossible to capture the essence of some beauty on any kind of film.In front of the house, the ancient Bur Oak was, as it always is in September, filled with starlings to such an extent it actually shimmered with the setting sun catching their iridescent feathers, and they all rustle about emitting their magical, mysterious sounds. That oak full of those birds…is something I will miss like I can’t describe. But I’m not going there right now, into the pain of upcoming change and uncertainty. I just stood and reveled in the magic, and then headed out back with Dan, shuffling a little in my inappropriate shoes, as he bounced about cheerfully, as only Dan can do.

No deer anywhere….last night Tilia and her two fawns, plus the sweet female I call Funnyface, were here by the end of the news, 6:30 ish. Tonight was clear. So we followed the treeline, around the little spring lined with hawthorns – amazing red berries! and past the  silent place where an oak, ash and thorn intertwine, where Amidala’s spirit dwells. I let myself think back on the 11 years since we moved here, all the changes – so many changes! and settle into gratitude for the opportunities, the growth, the passages and  the time.
Certainly, I will leave here almost a different person from who I was when I moved in, 11 months almost to the day after my brother’s death…still dazed and numb with disbelief and pain. And the air stayed heartbreakingly sweet and fresh, a lone mallard flew awkwardly overhead, the birches sighed sympathetically. It was sorrow without despair, intermingled with immediacy, the starlings, the promise of fall everywhere, from the crimson Virginia creeper to the soft yellowing on the maples, to the lengthening shadows at 7 pm.
September. We come home to hot elderberry tea and a quiet snuggle, all of us together in our den….windows still open to catch the owls and wolves deep into the night.
And this I know…there will be another sanctuary, and with any luck, the right one this time.
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When in doubt – cook something!

This summer has been challenging – well the whole year really, with our terrible news aobut having to move, and then the death of my precious Amidala…another year where Alex has been gone much more than home and I am literally aching from head to toe with the burden of doing two jobs.  My hope of a regular helper fell through, and it’s a battle to get anyone to cut the grass, as it has been for over a decade now. Today, my hands and feet literally ache, ont *just* my usual joint pain and sore back. I’m so exhausted! But  when I reflect on 2015, with all that happened in that transformative year, 2016 seems pretty light. So, crazy as it sounds, even though I am overworked and very  sore – I have to make room for what keeps my heart light and my spirits high. And that can mean different things at different times – working on Materia Medica under the silver maple, with a bottle of spicy cider, or binge watching some fantasy tv series (I’m on Round Three of Fringe… and never tire of GoT) or just spending time with the garden, the birds, the forest. All pretty reliable methods of helping me stay positive – but truth be told, there is not anything as reliable and as invigorating to me, when I need a break from it all, than cooking.

And, I might add, not for dogs or birds, although I think the need to keep Korky supplied with fresh veggies and bird bread has re-ignited my passion for food.
This, by the way, is Korky. Isn’t he amazing? He’s even funnier and more amazing in real life, but then he also clams up and won’t say much around new people, till he gets to know you. With me, the conversation is nonstop, except when he’s sleeping.

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With my dogs, I often make a week’s worth of food and freeze – if I have time I make two weeks. Then I add steamed fresh veggies and garden herbs plus their extras and oils daily.. Korky doesn’t seem to like foods I freeze , like the popular CHOP or Grainbake recipes.. the exception is  bird bread, and trust me, bird bread is THE best thing on the face of the earth, fresh from the oven OR freezer. SO I am spending time in the kitchen more these days, and with a dire need tot feel as well as I can, my own diet has to be important along with the animals. But there is so much more to the  magic of cooking – the peace, contentment and satisfaction it brings – then simply meeting nutrient requirements and getting all the antioxidants one can.

For some of us, cooking feeds the soul, and in my case, reconnects me with my happiest, most grounded and peaceful Self.

So, despite having nowhere near enough time to accomplish all that I am called to do in a day, I am insistently doing more cooking for myself and partner (the infamous HouseViking of Facebook fame). Because it makes me happy, and we have to eat anyway, so why not enjoy?

My earliest memory of this cosmic draw to the  kitchen, came courtesy of my Nana, who reminded me a few years ago (this Nana who lived to be 99 and was one of the stalwart Scottish ancestors to whom I owe a specific debt of obstinacy, erudition and strength) that often, as a child of 8, 9, 10 who came to visit her over the summer, I would decide, at about 8 pm, I needed to bake a cake. And she had learned to  allow this little eccentricity, mostly because the  products of my inspiration were, pretty delicious. ..and even the failures brought me so much joy. The deal was, if I started baking I had to do the clean up too – no dishes left overnight in THAT kitchen! and I always did. I don’t recall the recipes, but apparently they were mostly taken from the side of a Fry’s cocoa can, or a cereal box. I wish I remember it all more clearly. But, 50 years later , and with possibly more sophisticated taste – – I still often turn to the kitchen to work through sorrow, to calm my heart, to just have fun. And, these past few years in the midst of stress, striving, turmoil and growing presence online (that requires a LOT of maintenance..) I haven’t been cooking nearly enough.

 

That’s all about to change.

First in a series of my adventures in the kitchen. And no – not dog food recipes. You have to check that other blog, for those.
Stay tuned.

A Song of the Earth

So, here it is – almost June, with Beltane gone by so quickly, the Spring so strange, and all of my life in slow motion. What is this that happens, when your world is turned upside down and inside out, all of a moment and everything we think we know changes? I thought I knew, having been through a few of these events, in past. But new ones arrive and you are stricken again, all over again, like the very first time.

After the first death, there is no other.

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I love Dylan Thomas, but I think he had this wrong. I recall all the recent shocks, starting with my brother’s death, and then Luke, and then my father, and last fall, the call from Saskatchewan that was not my partner of 25 years, but his uncle, telling me that Alex was in surgery, that he had a complicated appendicitis, that he would update me. And then the updates, making clearer and clearer that had the uncle not been there, to drag Alex to ER, he most certainly would have died. Two weeks in hospital, and then months of recovery, he did NOT lose his colon, but it was touch and go for a while.

You think you get used to this – you go through it again and again, you rally, you deal with it in your own way, whatever way that is.
And then the storm settles, and you think you are ok – again.
I was ok last March, working on a course I am very proud of – coming to terms with the losses and struggles of last year, and then the gateway to Chaos opened again and there it was.
So, as of March 9, I am basically homeless. My centre, my spiritual home, everything I have loved and tended and yes, struggled with for 11 years is about to be taken from me. I have been told my lease will not be renewed, and I’m not going into the details here. It is unjust,  the worst possible timing but n amount of pleading will soften a heart that does not exist.  Ok than! Let this be, yet another lesson.

So – today. Is this a requiem or a door opening? Obviously, to me anyway,it is both. . As much as I have loved, written about, celebrated my geographical surroundings, there are many problems here. Some, drive me up the wall. Some are fixable, others are not. At the end of the day – this is not my property, and everyone who allows themself to fall in love with someone else’s home, runs the risk of suffering as I have this past 3 months. We run the risk of losing everything and at a moment’s notice. We invest in something that is never ours to invest in at all. We place ourselves at the mercy of others, whom we may not even know.
I am, on one level completely devastated not only that we have to move, leave this enchanted place that is also the place I have lived longest, ever in my life – 11 years. I am, on one level, inconsolable. I awake with the dawn and watch the light outside, kiss the cedars and sing to the birds, who sing louder probably to stop my atonal noises. I feed the deer, the foxes and the squirrels, not t mention birds. Trumpetflower wraps the front porch,feeding the hummers, and a hundred times a year, I catch something wounded, bring it in and help it heal, release with a prayer of both blessing and gratitude.
Both of my dogs died here, and I sat in this office for two weeks, waiting for news my father had died.I finished two diplomas and countless other courses on route to becoming the herbalist I like to think I am now. I watched both inside and out of this house crumble with neglect, and I thought, as recently as last month, about rallying everything that I can and buying it. But in the end, I could not save it, not as a rental, not as the sanctuary it has been for me despite all the problems. For weeks, I could barely function with sorrow and anxiety.

But still…didn’t I mention something about…celebration….

It is 2 pm on a hazy late spring Monday and I have just come in from bringing water to the valerian and St.John’s wort, the two herbs I grow that are suffering the most in our extreme heat and lack of rain. To get to the garden I walk past a glory of lilacs, a rapidly blooming wild rose and underfoot is an unbelievably soft carpet of Ground Ivy, Mouse-ear Chickweed, Speedwell and Wild Strawberry.  The lot is ringed with white pine, Northern white cedar, trembling aspen, wild cherry, balsam poplar, white spruce, several small ash trees, the two rowans I planted a few years ago in memory of my brother, and one corner features two apple trees and a struggling, but magical hawthorn. In that corner, a few years ago I started a fairy shrine – using a gorgeous triangular piece of quartz I found hiking nearby as a centerpiece,  and adding incense, statues, crystal glasses filled with cream and honey and home made incense, year after year.  And suddenly last year, a red elder popped up right behind the shrine. There is no red elder anywhere on this property or adjacent to it. I love that, and honestly could not ask for a more meaningful sign.

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Over the years here I have developed a deep relationship with several deer who visit in the autumn, I have walked out back to come face to face with a black wolf, staring me in the eye, and then walking slowly away.I have sheltered a small Saw-whet owl who took to my porch in deep winter and hunted voles under the thick snow, leaving me a bezoar when he departed.I have made medicines of all description from the wild plants here, learning their ways intimately, growing much more into my herbalism than in years past.I have learned a fierce independence that was not defiant or shrill, but simply my sanity asserting itself after years of bewildered longing. I have seen, finally, the shift in my consciousness I sought from an early age, looking for it at university and in Wiccan circles and in love relationships and in Jungian analysis and endless self examination (there it was, in nature, all along). I have put out a call for Motherwort and awakened to a yard completely covered with it (careful what you ask for, the Plant Kingdom has a sense of humour!)  All of this and oh so much more, while watching the sun and moon change positions, all year, every year, watching sunrise over the ridge of wildwood out to the east and sunset over the winding stream,lined with hawthorn and white willow, just outside my front door.

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And all of this, I will carry with me to the new land, to the forest and streams and enchanted spaces that – this time – I will call my own, will build a permanent home and mark the quarters, build gardens everywhere, make magic in seclusion and safety and without the threat of suddenly, having my life ripped apart, on the whim  of another.

So, over the next year, as we seek our Home and prepare to leave this one, I’m planning a series of posts here about the trees, plants, bird and animals who have been so much a part of my life here, such teachers and soul-friends.  In ways both tangible and not,  I will bring so many with me when I go…and leave behind much, as is always the way when a magical link is broken.

Next up, then, reflections on the trees I loved first and perhaps best of all – Trembling aspen and Balsam poplar.
And then, pheobes, avens, catbirds, snapping turtles, bur oak and silver maple, white ash and saw-whet owls, and foxes who come to the  house to die.   Rose beads and hyssop, apple runes and mugwort…mockingbirds, orioles…and always, the deer.

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In the ashes – again

This afternoon I took a break to spend time with my sorrow, the fresh and the old – long experience tells me this is necessary, and that ignoring it will only lead to fatigue, apathy and a need to keep distracted all the time…instead of a nap, which I allow myself on very tough days,  I read a little from Francis Weller’s The Wild Edge of Sorrow, which arrived yesterday. Almost right away I felt myself wandering in shadow, through not only this recent loss but so many others – humans and other animals I have loved and lost, the tragedy of my father dying without reconciliation, the tragedy of me ever thinking it was possible  we would – losing our home (we have to move next year) breaking of ties with two of my best friends last year, and the larger framework of what is happening all over the world (the first thing that greeted me when I sat down to write, was a horror story about elephant abuse, how does anyone stay sane with it all?) ….but, the time spent in contemplation of and connection with sorrow is time well spent. I am thinking of course about Amidala, who died  almost two weeks ago, suddenly, and who has left a scar on my heart that I cannot describe.  The empty space on the sofa where she always lay, invited me to remember her,  actually sense her impression, her spirit, as I read.  Her physical being is gone, and my final memory will be her beautiful tail and one little foot sticking out from under my shawl, the one I chose to wrap and bury her in..lifeless. Yet here she is, in absence, still here in spirit.Close by me as I read, once again,  about how to manage the loss of a friend I had cherished and adored…and lost.

And suddenly I remembered The Bat – a tiny, bright-eyed, super-inquisitive and cheerful little black cat that the House Viking rescued and brought home, years ago….an outstandingly clever and sweet- tempered little spirit. After only a few months here, she began to show breathing problems, worse and worse, and when it became clear we had to take her in, the diagnosis was advanced heart failure – she would drown in lung fluid, if untreated, and if treated would not have more than a few weeks or even days anyway. We opted to let her go, that day, rather than extend suffering and delay the inevitable. Alone with her in the examining room, I  felt myself flood with pain as she watched the birds outside, so excited and bright, even as she struggled to breathe and the fluid in her lungs rattled with every attempt. I sat quietly and watched the enormous light in this cat, not more than a year old, and I held her as the needle went in, and she looked up at the vet as if to say..”what’s this, then?”…just as she would when I brought in herbs, or opened the fridge door, or carried groceries into the house.
Always curious – sweet to the core, and gone so soon.

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The Bat – not feeling well at all

It was that visit, that awful day,  that brought zhouzhou to me  a few weeks later- had I not gone into theclinic with Batia, and spent so long there, waiting for Xrays and making the decision, I wouldn’t have chatted with the receptionist, told her how I do a little cat rescue, how we came to have our various animals, and she wouldn’t have had my number to call a few weeks later when zhouzhou and her brother were brought in to be PTS, as no one had any time or love for them at all. 6 years later, zhouzhou is content here and so well loved –  the cycle turns and one precious friend is lost, and in time, another one comes – not to replace, but to balance your pain with joy and happiness, again.

Opening Wheeler’s book, I read the quote from Terry Tempest Williams – “Grief dares us to love once more”.  When we love other species, and are fated to lose them over and over, this dare becomes a challenge it is tempting to ignore. But I won’t ignore it. I am just sick with the loss of Amidala, whom I’ve written about on Facebook and will ultimately write more about here, as I can.  Just “pain-saturated”, I am right now.  But the time will come to welcome  another, and there is always this ocean of love for those that are here, and on a larger scale, all animals everywhere (with all the pain that brings).

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Now; whatever you believe, I have deep feelings about life and death, and beyond the universality of suffering, we all have our gnosis.  After I spent the time I needed with book and pain and quiet opening, I got up to start tea and finish the work of the day, in my office. Strangely silent here with Korky resting and all the furbearers too lethargic to be making commotion, I sat down and started opening my Files. Within a minute, off to my left, a rustle, and a familiar (no pun intended) sensation of chill and awareness. I quickly realized the time  – Amidala’s time, the hour of day she always jumped on the desk to my left and demanded attention. I sat looking at the empty space, frozen, really – and out of nowhere, a whole stack of client files fell over, covering the emptiness. It is a completely still day, not the whisper of a breeze. I looked at all the work to be done and realized, work is both my salvation and my mission, and also the thing that takes me away from what I cherish. I remembered all the times I REALLY wanted to get something done, and there she was, wanting to play, hard to resist but still “inconvenient “.    Sitting here today, files all over the desk, I felt the Hand of the Unseen, all through and around me.         Loss and hope, pain and gratitude.

As grieving well will always bring.

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The beauteous Amidala

So now, I get to work. On this client case I am almost through – and on the much harder task of staying soft, and open, in the grey silence of sorrow. With the presence of absence close by, and the inevitable ache of having loved a vulnerable little being, with all of one’s heart.

Till we meet again, my faerie. Till we all, all of us, meet again.

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A Sweet and Potent Joy

In this week of global pain and sorrow, with shootings in Paris and bombings in Beirut and around the world, I’ve found refuge not in the forest but in my work. Mostly that’s because I have no choice – an extra heavy workload just arrived and needed to get done, and I found solace in it.  For years the only thing that could heal my spirit was the forest, but this past two weeks has been deer hunting season here in the Hills and I’ve felt compelled to stay indoors more than usual. I suppose you could say, if I have to have an almost unmanageable pile of work, this is the best time of year for it. I don’t really feel safe anyway, in the woods, even with all the neon orange I an find on both me and the dogs. Not all hunters are crazy, but some are, and that minority will shoot at anything that moves. So, I got another humungus article done for Plant Healer magazine, I took on an urgent case on top of an already fully booked week, I coped with the shopping/cleaning/cooking etc that all falls on me, while Alex is away.  I even managed to get through my latest learning adventure, an online Nutrition Intensive with the great Thomas Easley (of the Eclectic School of Herbal Medicine). I’m tired – really bonedeep tired – but I’m doing ok.

Then, the attack in Paris. I have a dear friend in Paris, and the first thought for me was, oh God, Marc and family!! They are safe, but the world is shaken by the depths of evil that masterminded this slaughter of innocents. I put up a French flag in support, and offered my prayers, only to see FB connections slam those of us who posted in support of France, when so many other atrocities  have taken place recently. ..and again, I found myself castigated for praying, as though” religion” was the very thing that caused this situation, not human evil using religion as its vessel. It’s been a tiring week, between my own small struggles and the world at large. I feel as though I can’t take refuge anywhere – well, this past two weeks, I couldn’t, anyway. Once the dust settles in this impossible-to-maintain Old House, I’ll get back in balance, but I’ve felt the weight of the world on me even at the same time I keep reminding myself, how good I really have it. A paradox, but one to  keep in mind and heart together.

So. No forest access, way too much work, heart-wrenching world crises exacerbated by bickering in the Internet.  Night before last, just before dusk (which is, horribly, about 4:30 right now) I was carrying some leftovers out to the field for ravens, head down, watching the path in front of me,  probably muttering away to myself as I went. I headed out the back door and up the path towards the large open back field where this time last year, I fed deer every day, watched them cavort by moonlight, fell in love with the White-tail in such a big way I was ordering books, reading their stories, learning their ways and of course, naming them all.

Here are a few of them, November 2014.

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Sorry about the weird colouring – the one on the left is Goat-doe, and her two fawns Salix and Tilia.

This is another shot, better one, a couple weeks later:P1330470

 

Left to right, that’s Stripey-doe, Goat-doe, Tulsi, Salix and Clarissa.

I love these creatures with an intensity I don’t have the words to describe. They are magical, each one with a unique personality, spirit and presence. I run with them in my dreams, I sing to them in the depth of winter, I keep the link from their wild hearts to mine, strong and alive.
And this autumn just past, they were conspicuously missing, all of them. I would see one doe far up the hill, with her fawn; one magical morning I stepped out of my shower to see another doe with two smaller fawns, foraging in the mist as the sun rose behind my house. I wasn’t sure who it was, maybe Clarissa. But the herd, who slept under my cedars, ate all the herbs and pooped all over the garden, who stamped their feet for bread and apples every twilight – nowhere to be seen this year.
I have missed them, but I understand nature. They died over the winter, were shot by hunters, or taken down by wolves. I get that. I try to keep my heart safe and realistic.
But I missed them – and just a few days ago I was thinking, as I watched the furtive doe on the hill, how sad it was that I would probably never see them again, especially Goat-doe. The unmistakable, broad of head, direct of stare, feisty, and very curious Goat- doe. Of all these deer, the one that held my heart most tightly.  The one I felt most bonded to, most affinity for.. and never to see her again! That is nature – but it’s also hard. I  spent a moment by the rowans, feeling that loss with all of my heart.
And then.  Two nights ago – preoccupied,  marching out the backyard path to the fields, staring at the ground and lost in racing thoughts I suddenly stopped and looked up. And there, not ten feet away from me – standing with that cool and inquisitive stare, there she was. Goat-doe, and her baby, as yet unnamed, last day of hunting season, alive. ALIVE! Standing right in the spot she used to stand, last fall, waiting my arrival. I stood and wept and greeted her, over and over, gratitude spilling out of me like a giddy child. She stared back,  unflinching despite the display and then, after a few moments of this, stamped her foot as if to say – “Ok, I’m back, Where’s the bread,  anyway?”
So now, hunting season is past and we are headed into a mild winter, and she and her baby are fine. As the world outside of this little corner of mine explodes with pain and rage and suffering, I am delighted and comforted by the presence of a doe. My heart SINGS to see them (they are out there feeding now) and when I am weakened, faltering, defeated – they help me stay strong. The “beauty of the green earth, and white moon amongst the stars” shines in them and through them, and I am pulled back from my present-day fear into the child I once was, beyond excitement at the chance to see a wallaby at my  father’s college…or stop and rescue a stray turtle from the road.
No small thing, these beautiful meetings, this  twilight rendezvous, this  sweet and potent – untainted  -joy.

I will take every moment I can get.

my heart

A Simple Walk

Walking in the woods with a dog can have it’s drawbacks, if you are there mostly to listen and attune. Dogs see/sense/smell everything long before we do and they can be a distraction, albeit a lovely one. Other times, they can amaze us with their powerful Sixth Sense, and be sources of wild inspiration. Today I pulled into the lot where I leave my car when Dan and I wander into Faerieland, a common practise – but as soon as he got out every nerve and fiber of his being was just crackling with energy. Silly human, me – I was ambling along feeling just tired and self -focused,eager to embrace the forest’s healing presence – thinking, thinking, thinking. While Dan usually shuffles along a few feet away, sniffing about and thoroughly enjoying the fresh air, today he was  immediately on high alert – RAN out of the car like he’d seen a fox, all his short hair standing up along his back- a sure sign of something afoot – magic? Stoned kids, or deer… all I knew was, something was going on and I perked up a little to take extra note.
I probably walked a few hundred feet before the hawk appeared, swooped down in front of me and sat there a full minute, gazing right into my face. Ok, that’s something to take notice of. I mean this guy was almost close enough to reach up and touch – that just doesn’t happen. I saw he was a Sharp-shinned hawk – and he meant business. Hawks are usually thought of as visionaries, indicating that clear vision is called for – and Ted Andrews reminds us of this –
“The environment in which your hawk is found will tell you much about how its energies are likely to manifest within your life.” Of course, this is true of any encounter!  But today – where are we?  a liminal space, between my mundane life and the depths of the forest, that sometimes dark, sometimes cheery, but always seductive place where everything falls away and a spiderweb can intrigue me for hours, were death is just another entrance and where time has little meaning…the hawk says to me.. what?  Choose? Integrate? Go home and sleep?I never jump to conclusions, but take it in and ruminate a while (the Cow, after all, is my Helper Animal for this challenging year, so I will chew on this a while).
It is a startling and obviously significant event.
Meanwhile, Danny has vanished. So I bid the Hawk adieu (he seemed annoyed) and follow my dog. At once the uneasy stillness of this familiar woodland hits me. It is SILENT, utterly – not a cricket, chickadee or distant automobile, and the silence is all-encompassing and palpably strange. As we go deeper (Danny finally caught up) the stillness grows more intense. Something is speaking, and still don’t know what it was .I’m just honoured to have heard the Voice of Whatever That Actually Was.
And isn’t that ok, really, to be baffled, touched and mystified, to just Ask rather than Know? Isn’t, perhaps, being drawn back to Mystery and Awe the whole point? When a daily jaunt can become a moment of depth and magic, when a common bird can stop you in your tracks, and your regular waking trail transform into a place out of time and space, isn’t wonder and humility the obvious response rather than assumption and immediate “gnosis?” I am thinking about so many things today – where this path takes me next, how to integrate the diverging strands of my life, what needs to be sacrificed and what tended and nurtured. The eerie forest energy, the insistent hawk, the striking canine awareness mirroring my own – all Gateways, not endings. When we look up some meanings on the net or in books and  promptly decide what a thing “meant” we so often get stuck in ego, and in thinking the point is to figure it all out, asap, too.I think that totally misses the point! I think,too –  for what it’s worth – these events and experiences just take us further into the labyrinth, open us to exploration and yes, danger. (but it is equally dangerous to ignore,I believe)  I truly think that all we have to do is pay attention, and carry our questions forward.
Today, quite out of nowhere, I am powerfully reminded of that.

hawk

Seminar in Rupert – Sunday September 27

Nutrition and Herbs – Seminar in Rupert

August 24, 2015 at 9:51 pm

 WHERE: Rupert Community Centre, 24 Shouldice Road, Rupert, Quebec (about 45 minutes north of Ottawa)

WHEN: Sunday, September 27, from 10 am- 5 pm

COST: $75.00 in advance or 90.00$ at the door

TOPICS

This one day seminar will cover a lot of ground! In four parts,  here’s what we’re going to look at.

9:30 am to 11:15 –  The Basics

Nutrition is one of the absolute cornerstones of good health, in terms of disease prevention and management of many conditions common to dog and cats. Today, with all the conflicting information and schools of thought, it can be extremely confusing for the devoted pet lover to know who to trust and how to choose the best diet possible for their beloved dog or cat. My philosophy is both simple and comprehensive; an optimal diet meets the following requirements – all three.

1) Whether home prepared or commercial, a diet must meet all the required nutrients in levels and ratios we know to be essential

2) The best quality foods , preferably from  local/organic sources, should always be used.

3) The macronutrient levels (that’s fat, protein and carbohydrate) and the foods selected should suit the individual  – all dogs are not the same.

Home made diets can, and often do, fall down in one or more of these categories. How is the average person to know if a home made diet is “balanced and complete?”  Lastly, a look at some of the most popular myths – about digestion, veggies, “superfoods” and more.

 

11:30 – 1  pm – Working with Herbs

In this section, we’ll take a look at the most popular herbs in commerce right now and how to use them, but how also to select bioregional herbs (your own backyard!) to help with a range of common complaints (from atopy to UTI). I’ll explain the critically important difference between using herbs as “natural” substitutes for drugs, and the art of selection and individualizing your formulations. We’ll close with my own top 15 (or so) herbs for dogs and cats, herbs  other than the popular and often over-used ones you may already be using.

 

2pm to 3:45 – Putting it All Together

Here we go into the concrete steps you can take to build an optimal home prepared protocol, geared specifically to your own dog or cat?  How do we ensure the Three Steps – meeting requirements, utilizing optimal foods and working with individuality are all addressed?  We’ll take a deeper look at the nutrients dogs require,  which foods provide them – when and how to supplement –  and generally, how to optimize a home made diet. Since not everyone can feed home prepared diet, we can also talk about how to select a commercial food if that’s your preference, and what you can do to enhance it.

Adding herbs and supplements  other than the requirements(vitamins and minerals)  can also be a minefield – we’ll look at categories of herbs and supplements and how to select, dose and administer them.

 

4- 5 pm- Question Period

In the last section of the day, I’ll take questions about the information covered, and about specific cases as well.

There is much opinion masqueraded as fact in the world of natural health, and even hysteria – I present a balanced, informed and choice-centered approach to working with each animal and their human in a respectful way and expansive way. You’ll come away with a   deeper knowledge of the science – and plenty of classnotes –  I hope,too, a vision of natural health as not a strict type of diet  to be slavishly adhered to, but a way of thinking and working with individuals, food and herbs, that is flexible, scientific, and leads to deeper study and understanding.

Vegetarian lunch and refreshments are included.
HOW TO REGISTER: All you do is use this link http://www.thepossiblecanine.com/product/diet-plan-for-a-healthy-dog  and state in your payment form that it is for the seminar.  I will issue your Registration forms right away, and confirm your spot. For any more information, don’t hesitate to email me at catlane@thepossiblecanine.com.

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The Tangled Garden – and what emerges

So difficult to believe it’s been 5 or 6 weeks since I posted here. This summer really did get away from me – and my sense of it is, to many others as well. Between the weird weather and my partner’s prolonged absence, I just didn’t have quite the summer I was expecting. Class attendance dropped way off, the walks were cancelled due to weather, mostly, or my intermittent health issues (exhaustion)  – my small but cherished herb garden, despite valiant efforts on my part to get burdock dug and raised beds weeded and mulched, just grew out of hand, to the point where even looking at it left me overwhelmed.
That’s ok. I’m pretty good at switching gears when need be, and there were, as it turned out, some important aspects to focus on in a summer of too much work, and some personal disappointment as well.

First – calendula. Everyone who grows herbs knows how cheerful, generous and incredibly useful calendula is.This summer was no exception – my organic seeds from Horizon Herbs sprang up eagerly and grew into 5 very large, very productive plants. Just yesterday I brought about 200 heads in to dry for winter use, and needless to say I have seeds galore. I planted my calendula too close to the borage this year and so I had these two behemoth species competing with each other, and since I use far more calendula than borage, guess who won out. But I left the massive, sprawling borage up as long as I could for the bees. It always cheered up a tedious afternoon to visit that part of the garden and see it alive, just swarming with bees. I didn’t actually make great use of borage, but I will always grow it, for that reason.

In the wild overgrown sprawl that used to be my garden, several things happened  naturally that I, working literally dawn to dusk 7 days a week, could not address, so I just watched.(The old Serenity Prayer in action!) The first few weeks I did some weeding every day, and then around Week Six I pulled a muscle in my chest wall and had to stop, while it healed (what a  week THAT was!) As the summer wore on, with several calamities (sick dogs, beloved cat killed, falling out with two of the people I considered to be my closest friends, Alex’s absence, household issues) there just was really no time to make significant inroads into the garden at all. I’d go out and snip some hyssop, take in some sage, pop the flowerheads from the calendula and that was about all. I am intensely proud of having got through this summer at all, so the overgrown garden has not bothered me as much as I initially felt it would.

Besides,  there came some interesting ideas, from the tangle.

The first important idea, to me anyway, was a kind of mirroring of much that is going on in my inner life. In addition to the clients I see weekly and the four courses I teach online, I also write for both PlantHealer magazine and herbmentor.com, endeavours that take almost a full work-week out of my monthly work-hours. I try to be available for my various facebook groups, and – here’s the World of Crazy now – I am taking four courses related to herbalism, and one that does not, so five in total. What this basically means is, without any hope of getting everything done, I have a wild garden in my head – filled with much of value but disorganized and out of control. This all stems from a fervent desire to be the best at what I do, to deepen my knowledge and expand the ways in which I can help animals (and humans!) to both heal and to learn about plant medicine and the power of nutrition. Those are fine and honorable goals. But just as my garden grew out of control and  some of my most valued plants were choked out, we humans need to focus on keeping things orderly in our own lives, and when that is impossible, when things become crazy, take some time to assess what went wrong, and just breathe with the reality of what IS. The other thing is, we can benefit from a clear focus on what emerges as bright and strong. In the tangle of my mind this summer, several strands emerged as critical to my future serenity, one of which is limitation (powerfully reinforced in the Heavens as I reach my second Saturn return – Saturn, for those not astrologically inclined, rules over limitations, which sounds pretty bad, but as it leads to refinement of purpose, it’s actually very empowering). I’m weeding my personal life ( I hate the term “toxic people’ but there is a place for it, and several of those have had to go)  weeding my commitments (I could have written BOTH my book and thesis with time I’ve given away for free this year) and last but not least, weeding my tangled garden.A slow and painful process, but overdue, and so through the blur of this summer, the broken friendships and the loss of illusionary hopes and yep, the veritable thicket of Cleaver’s, chicory and goosegrass that took over my garden, there emerge some core truths to be nurtured, some  focal points to be focused on,  some tenacious plants to be listened to and cherished.

Calendula,  the great vulnerary healer of  tissues both inside and out, clearer-out of toxins, restorer of good cheer, heads the list.

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So, going forward, I have quarts of calendula blossoms in various carriers, I have tincture and several liters of dried flowerheads for both internal and external use as needed. I got the idea from Juliet Blankespoor, of adding  calendula flowers to stocks and soups over the winter, so I always make sure I have plenty dried and ready to go. Calendula soothes the surfaces, reminding us that pain which seems superficial and transient, can in fact open gateways into the core of one’s being, so pay attention to those sore places, be they visible, like a rash on the skin, or hidden, like a hyperpermeable  gut. The toxins need strong barriers to keep them out, the system needs to be kept whole and harmonious. Calendula is one of those herbs that is so wellknown, ubiquitous even, that it can be easy to take for granted. I will say that her presence this summer kept my heart light at the darkest times, and her medicine has moved beyond the application of salve to skin and into that mystical realm where the plant is actually teaching me something about myself, about this moment in time. That what is needed is focus…soothing the rough places where old and new pain has rubbed me raw…and building barriers to keep the good stuff inside whole and healthy, and keep that which means me harm, away. Focus! and of course, good cheer, tenacity, and generosity. We should never let adversity make us small and  mean-spirited, or we grant it a double victory.

Thank you, calendula – and thank you, tangled garden. Even in my frustration with you, I have found peace.

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