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.


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


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.


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.


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.