I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Feeling the love

Whatcom Falls yesterday

Yesterday, four of us went for a lovely walk in Whatcom Falls Park to enjoy the colorful scenery, as well as not actually wanting to exert ourselves too much, since the air quality had moved from "moderate" to "unhealthy for sensitive groups." It almost made it up to the next level before it started moving back down the scale. Today is supposed to also be less than perfect air quality.

However, our air quality is relatively good, compared to many other areas nearby, all because of the smoke from some persistent wildfires that just don't want to stop. It's been unbearably dry and the wind, such as it is, comes from the land rather than the sea, meaning there's nothing right now to cleanse the air. That should change by Monday, and we have a good chance of at least a little rain by this time next week.

From AirNow.gov Saturday afternoon

It was so nice to walk outside with my good friends, with the golden light from the haze and smoke making it look like a fairyland, even if it was not really good for our lungs. We are located just about equidistant between Vancouver, BC, and Seattle. You can see that presently we are being spared from the worst of it. The red is "unhealthy" and the spooky dark color is "hazardous." 

But what I really want to talk to you about today is how much I am feeling the love of my friends and family. As I get ready to travel to Florida next month, I have been in the process of communicating with my sister Norma Jean about how it will all work, to have five siblings together, with myriad other family members. My sweetheart will stay here and keep the home safe and sound while I immerse myself in the riotous cacophony of my extended family. It will take me the weeks between now and then to gird my loins (so to speak) for the experience of eight days outside of my comfort zone. Norma Jean told me she was really surprised when I decided to fly down there, dealing with the upheaval as well as the excitement of it all. Me, too.

I am so glad to be able to see them once more, not knowing if it will be possible for us to gather again in the future. I haven't seen my brother Buz or my sister Fia since our beloved sister PJ died in early 2014. And I am also looking forward to seeing and visiting with Norma Jean's two dogs, Charlie and Icarus. I am a pet person, and until I met my sweetheart thirty years ago, I always had a cat. He, however, is not a fan, so I consider that SG has taken their place in my heart, and the tradeoff isn't even close. I love and cherish him just as he is. But I'll get my pet fix next month, for sure.

I love most animals and love to read stories about them. Right now I am reading a good story, The Queen's Corgi, by David Michie, about a sweet corgi who was almost euthanized because of a floppy ear, and ended up being adopted by Queen Elizabeth as one of her royal corgis. It's written from the point of view of the dog, which is probably one reason I am loving it so much. Corgis are rather unusual looking dogs, and you can always tell them from others because of their very short legs and (usually) lack of a tail. Last week when we were returning from our long hike in the mountains, I saw a beautiful corgi in the parking lot, this one with a very long tail! I learned from his owner that there are two very different breeds of corgi. The Cardigan Welsh Corgi is a bit heavier than the Pembroke Welsh Corgi, and it has a tail.
Besides the tail – Cardigans have a long, foxlike tail whereas Pembrokes have their tail docked close to their body. Cardigans are slightly larger with heavier bone, weighing up to 38 pounds, while Pembrokes only weigh up to 30 pounds. (from this website)

I also learned that although the two breeds may look similar, they are truly very different. The Pembroke tail is sometimes missing when the pup is born, but Cardigans have a magnificent tail, just like the one I saw in the parking lot. The owner also told me that docking dogs' tails is going out of fashion, and I for one am glad to hear that. I will be checking out corgis more closely from now on. Pembrokes are descended from the Spitz family of dogs, while the Cardigan descended from the Teckel family of dogs, which also produced the dachshund. Pembrokes were originally bred to be cattle herding dogs. It's funny to me to think of a herding dog with such short little legs!

But in any event, they are purported to be wonderful dogs to own and love. Like every dog I've ever been around, they exude unwavering love and devotion to their owners. To me, the biggest problem with dogs is that they don't live long enough, and if you become attached to one, you will need to let it go long before you are ready. It's worth it, though, as any dog lover will attest.

My sister's dogs are Papillons; Icarus is a purebred, and Charlie is a mutt with mostly Papillon characteristics. They are also small dogs, and that's good because they tend to live longer than larger ones. In fact, Norma Jean reminded me that Icarus is now twelve! How did that happen so quickly? The older I get, the shorter the years seem to be. And I will be turning eighty in a few weeks, and the years will probably pick up speed during my ninth decade, if I am graced with such a long life.

I recently read a story that David Michie wrote about an experience he had while on safari in Africa (not the kind of safari where you kill animals, but one where you bond with them emotionally). He decided he would meditate while surrounded by elephants. Here's what he wrote:

For the second part of the session, I chanted, out loud, the mantra of Green Tara the Buddha of compassion-in-action. Om tare tuttare ture soha is a mantra I usually say in the presence of animals, having found that they can sometimes respond to it very quickly. Back in Australia, for example, when I chant it to the galahs – pink and grey parrots – who visit, they may pause with drowsy eyes and seem to go into a trance-like state occasionally for periods of quite a few seconds.

As soon as I started reciting this mantra with the elephants, Kura was on the move, his majestic, tusked form approaching me, closer and closer, until he was right beside the rock where I was sitting, reaching out to me first with his trunk, then shoving his whole head on the granite boulder.

It was a moment of the most extraordinary connection. There was a very real sense that Kura was responding to Tara, whose presence was the focus of my heartfelt invocation. 

When we say the mantra of a Buddha, it is understood that that Buddha is immediately present. In particular, it is the practice of Green Tara, the mother of all Buddhas and the embodiment of compassion-in-action, to move swiftly to the aid of any being who is suffering, and to relieve whatever pain they may be experiencing.

That day, I had the strongest sense of Kura being powerfully drawn by Tara’s presence, that he came towards me at that time because he wanted to be physically closer, to bathe in the energy, to drink it in. During those timeless moments of connection, the very long lashes of his eyelids were half-closed as I rested my hand on the smooth, grey expanse of his mighty forehead. 

But at the same time too, in the most uplifting and extraordinary way, there was no meditator, no elephant, and no act of meditation. In that boundless spaciousness, there was only the presence of compassion and the wellspring of love from which it flows.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about.

Ideas, language, even the phrase each other doesn’t make any sense.


I was so moved by this account. And I have begun to realize that during my own meditation sessions every day, I am finding myself feeling more and more a sense of wellbeing and, well, feeling the love. Instead of immersing myself in the distressing news of the world, I want to be surrounded by the immense love of the universe, which is not expressed or covered at all in the daily news. That doesn't mean it isn't there, that it doesn't exist, but it's apparently not newsworthy.

I'd like to change that, and spend my days basking in the presence of love and joy. It doesn't make the negative stuff go away, but there is only one consciousness that I can directly change: my own. It might even be possible for me to spread some positivity through this blog post, but I cannot be responsible for that, for where my good thoughts emanate as they extend beyond my own spiritual center.

Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity. —Henry Van Dyke

And with that, my dear friends, I will leave you and hope that your day will be filled with love, as I intend mine to be. My tea is gone, my dear partner still sleeps next to me, and I am ready to move into the rest of my day. My friend John will pick me up soon, and we'll head out for breakfast and coffee. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things. Be well.


Marie Smith said...

It will be lovely to see your siblings again to celebrate your milestone birthday for sure. I look forward to your posts about it.

I find my time in nature is restorative. Being present in those moments among the animals and plants is good for the spirit, being one with nature, appreciating every minute. They keep me going!

Have a wonderful week, my friend!

Judee said...

Your posts are beautiful, inspiring, and a wonderful reminder of the value of meditation and setting intention to find peace and joy . I loved "I want to be surrounded by the immense love of the universe, which is not expressed or covered at all in the daily news."
Have a wonderful time in Florida and reuniting with your siblings!

Anvilcloud said...

I hope you enjoy your time with the pets . . . And the people too . . . I guess. 😀

ApacheDug said...

You seem to be in a pretty good state of being right now, and I'm honestly happy for you DJan. I know how easy (and almost tempting) it can be to let yourself be bogged down with everything going on in the world--well, what's being reported rather. Anyway, hooray about your trip! I admire & envy your adventurous spirit. And truth be told, I was surprised at much of what I read here. I didn't know you were a 'pet person'. It's nice to know. :^)

Linda Reeder said...

I didn't know you were a pet person either. I haven't had a pet for a while now but I do love other people's pets, and then they, or I, go home.
There is a lot of love in the universe. I find that I elicit sweet smiles from people I encounter, perhaps because I smile at them or perhaps because they see me keeping on even when it's hard. Either way, or perhaps both, it makes me happy.
We had to wait a long time for our Covid shot on Friday. Tom got a bit impatient with the harried nurse who was left to check people in as well as administer the injections. When it was my time I knew I wanted to make her smile and even laugh. I acknowledged her stress, complimented her on her technique, and said something that made us both chuckle. It works, and we both felt better.
Sending you a smile and a reason to chuckle.

Rian said...

Well, I knew you were a pet person, DJan. It's obvious to me. But I do understand why you don't have one. While DH is definitely a cat person, he isn't too fond of dogs (for no reason I can fathom)... but because of that, we've had only 2 dogs in our 55 years of marriage. I loved them both without question and DH tolerated them. And that's OK, as you said, it's a trade-off, but worth it.

I especially loved hearing about the meditation of David Michie and his experience with the parrots and elephants. That is fantastic... what I call 'miracle moments'.

And congratulations on your decision to go to Florida! I know it isn't easy to leave our comfort zone as we age, but seeing your family will be worth it. I hope to do the same by this coming spring...

Elephant's Child said...

Hooray for celebrating the love. And thank you for sharing that meditation process.
I am so glad that you will be able to join your family again. So very glad.

Arkansas Patti said...

So glad your Fla trip is still on and know you will have a wonderful time with your siblings. It is fun at those at the memory lapses. Things you remember clearly, they swear never happened and the reverse is true:) Take notes.
Wish I could reach the state you do with meditation. It would be lovely to leave the worldly woes behind for a while. Think I will give it another go. Thanks for the reminder.

Far Side of Fifty said...

You will enjoy the Florida trip! It will be okay and it is good for you to see your siblings in person! I hope you get some rain to calm those fires soon! :)

Linda Myers said...

We are traveling as well next week; we fly to Tucson on Friday for our winter escape, and the next day I leave for Switzerland for a Viking river cruise with my friend Shelley.

My husband Art is allergic to dogs and cats, so we have no dogs and a hypoallergenic cat. My son, who lives upstairs, has a miniature Aussie who visits us from time to time, pretending to like us but actually only interested in the cat's food. We love Augie, and think he is ideal for us because he is "someone else's dog."

Galen Pearl said...

What an uplifting post today! Thank you!

Red said...

Okay, I didn't know this about corgis. We've never had pets here. It's probably better that we don't have pets. I will look at corgis from a different point of view from now on. No smoke here. we've had very pleasant fall weather.

John's Island said...

I am happy for you about your upcoming trip to Florida. It has been a long time since you’ve seen some of your siblings and it will be great to get together with them again. I always appreciate your thoughts about meditation. They say this should be the last week of smoke with rain on the way, finally, around the end of the week. Wishing a good week ahead for you and SG.

Buz said...

Girding my loins, as well.

Tabor said...

I need more of DJan in my life!! Your reunion will be wonderful...I just know it. Oh, you my want to read a book called West With Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge...it talks a little about bonding in between a lot about dust bowl America.

Rita said...

What a reunion to look forward to! It will go by so quickly--speaking of time.
Love is everything. A beautiful reminder. :) :)