Treading lightly the path to enlightenment.

Posts tagged ‘compassion’

Land Of The Free

 

 

Gunfire all around and

My hands are shaking and my heart is pounding.

 

 

He said “Forget about your law and order.

You left that at the American border.”

 

 

A silent boat to a floating plane.

One blacked-out treetop flight away.

One blacked-out treetop flight away…

 

 

Stars light the river as we trace its courses

Rolls-Royce putting out all its horses.

 

 

We climb above the deep, dark sea

Could it be?

Could it really be?

 

 

Thirty-eight hundred and we’re really flying.

Everyone on board is crying.

 

 

Bullets flying, windows breaking

Our little plane is shaking, shaking.

 

 

Shudder-bang. Prayers are spoken.

Hope lies broken, broken.

 

 

A subtle peace washes over me

As she augers down into the sea.

Finally free.

 

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

Mother’s Mercy

Mother’s Kisses

 

 

Sometimes the world appears to be a bumbling behemoth,

a bull in a china shop, an unleashed Baby Huey, crushing the furniture.

Yet always she comes with the gentlest of hands, and the most tender heart.

I can’t help but love the sweet giant, even as she suffocates me in her embrace.

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

 

Inspired by The Rabbit Patch Diaries – http://www.rabbitpatchdiary.com

One World

I had a vision within a dream.

 

All the people of the world were gathered and placed on a giant, flat disk. It is incomprehensibly large, perfectly round, and entirely devoid of features.

Like a huge Frisbee, the disk floated in space, filled with the population of Earth.

The disk faced away from the sun, and like the dark side of the moon, we were all in total darkness.

In the vacuum of space, no sound carried. There was no speech. There were no languages. No language barriers. We could not know if the one beside us was from our own homeland, or some place entirely foreign to us.

We were naked in the silent darkness. There were no well-earned three-piece suits strolling past an undeserved and unearned raiment of rags, uniform of the destitute. We could not know if the one beside us was rich or poor.

There were no features on the disk. There was no higher ground. There was no Knob Hill. There were no gutters. We were all on even ground. There was no hill to take or line to hold, and no armies to do so.

Without an inch of room, there could be no separation, no segregation. No slums or ghettos or prisons.

We stood, shoulder to shoulder, beside one another. And all we could know was that some were shorter and some taller. Some seemed younger, and others seemed older. Some were quite plump, and some skinny as rails. In the darkness, there was no white or brown or yellow or red. Just people.

Looking outward, from darkness into darkness, we were stricken with fear. Our fears could not be shared. No voices to cry out. No light to see the anguish in faces. Bit by bit, we began to feel it. We could feel the trembling of all the world, shaking in terror.

Then we could feel a shift, as some fell to their knees and began to pray. Others prostrated themselves, and others stood and nodded as they prayed. Others stretched their arms outward and looked into the unknown as they sought peace with the universe.

From distant space, a meteor struck the disk and rocked it. The violent collision turned the disk ever-so-slightly, just enough to illuminate a single child, just a baby, wrapped in swaddling, as it fell from the edge of the disk. Out into the vastness of the Cosmos. Alone.

Without hesitation, all the world shifted to move the disk back into place. The strongest worked the hardest, and the weakest expended their last ounce of strength. Clasping hands, a human chain formed. Without regard for their own safety, the chain stretched and reached for the drifting lost child. In a single, silent thrust the chain grasped the child and held mightily, and with the greatest of efforts the child was drawn in, back to the fold, and the population of the world was one again.

And then a hand grasped a hand. Then that grasped another. Then another and another and another until all the world was hand in hand.

Then, like magic, we all knew. We knew we were all of different colors and languages and religions and walks of life. Yet in the silent darkness we were all the same. In the fear-filled void, we were all equal.

There were no lands to fight for. No fields to farm or factories to fill. There was absolutely nothing else to be done.

And so, we held one another.

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

Empty Nest

Bald Eagle

Decorah North is the given name of this eagles’ nest and the streaming nest camera I’ve been watching since early spring. As snow and freezing rain fell on Mother and Father eagle, two eggs were sheltered deep in the nest, and guarded always by one or the other. Explore.org and The Raptor Resource Project supplies the cameras, and mans them from time to time to zoom in or pan the treetops.

The streaming site would remain open on my computer at work. Folks arriving in the morning and passing my desk were greeted with the view. The computer window minimized during the day (in case I needed to actually work), the sound would come to us from Decorah, Iowa. This was fun in the shop, when someone would look all around trying to locate the source of birdsongs, raindrops, wind, and the occasional chainsaw. As I worked, it often provided a comforting backdrop to my day. I listened, checking the video from time to time, as the sound of chickadees and jays welcomed the songs of robins and the arrival of red-winged blackbirds.

Finally, somewhere at the end of March or early April, the first of two eggs hatched. Within two days, the second egg hatched. A day later, the second chick was discovered in the morning to be lifeless. Who can know the reasons why? Such a delicate and helpless stage of their lives. One false move will do them in. A snowy night, just too cold to survive, perhaps. Nature is not scripted.

We mourn the passing, yet are transfixed by the only child, designated DN9. Each day, I looked in on the little family. Eagle parents share equally in the duties. He would sit the nest while she went to hunt and eat, and vice versa. They would bring fresh trout and small mammals, tear pieces off and patiently feed them bit by bit to their charge. With the computer window minimized, I could tell when the lunch delivery arrived by the screeching of Junior, growing quickly and eager to be fed.

I watched the nearly-naked fur ball immobilized by his out sized feet. At one point I began to wonder if he wasn’t deformed, unable to walk at four or five weeks of age. Then I read that their clownish feet are much too big for newborns, and it was normal to take a while to grow into them. I was delighted when DN9 took his first plodding, stumbling steps. It was almost like seeing a child at that same remarkable, fascinating stage of development. Weeks passed, and “Superchicken”, as I’ve nicknamed him, continued to grow from a fuzzy blob into a real bird. Feathers grew larger and more plentiful, and DN9 hopped and reached right in for the scraps of fish and meat offered.

This past week or two, along came the mayflies. Swarms clouded the nest, and poor little DN9 could only scratch with his giant foot, and shake his head constantly in self-defense. I was wishing for him, no doubt speaking aloud to the computer screen, that his day of fledging and flight would be soon. He’s a big bird now, probably as big as a chicken. He’s started “branching”. Leaving the nest to walk out on its supporting limbs, stretching and testing newly-formed wings. This morning, there he sat, harassed by the mayflies in the nest. It looked maddening, and I again wished the freedom of flight for him. “You’ll see,” I encouraged, “you can fly away from these bugs. Take a nice bath in the creek.”

Twenty minutes later, I walked past my desk and saw the nest, empty.

Such a strange feeling that evoked. Here this nest, family and particularly “Superchicken” DN9 have been part of my daily life for several months. Now, in an instant, fledging season ends at Decorah North. I miss him already, yet in my heart I am simultaneously overjoyed. This was the goal! This is the whole purpose of what’s happening. I’m reminded of the sort of hippie, sort of corny thing about “If you love something, let it go.” 

I rewound the video to the time he was last seen. I watched as he stepped out, branching, onto a large limb that supported the nest. He looked down. He looked outward. He was getting ready. He took another step onto a flimsier branch, and in his inexperience, lost grip with his newly-acquired talons. One flip of a wing, and he dropped out of sight. So it was not the glorious Hollywood-style leap into the crisp air, broad wings soaring above the open field. The folks at the Raptor Resource Project started scanning with the cameras, up and down, all around the base of the nest tree, out into the field adjacent, filled with dairy cows and home to a rushing stream during spring melt. No sign of the little guy.

I had every confidence in DN9’s parents. Certainly all this is normal in the context of nature. He’ll be fine. I checked the other nest cam in the area. Decorah, was fortunate to have three big, healthy fledglings. Wouldn’t you know? That nest was empty, too. And this brought me some comfort. Being about the same age, this meant DN9 was old enough to make that big leap, that first giant step, to leave the nest. Had this been a sparrow or robin, a grackle or starling, I would have worried for its survival, yet unable to fully fly, making short hops and bursts of uncoordinated flight. As big as a crow already, and with two adult bald eagles keeping tabs on the youngster, threats would be few.

By afternoon, the camera operator for the Raptor Resource Project had located DN9 in the open field between the nest tree and the creek! He was on the ground, standing, and remaining still. The curious dairy cows would stop and take a second look as they ambled by. “What’s this big bird doing here on the ground? Just sitting here staring at us?” A short time later I saw the camera pointed up into a nearby tree, where one of the parents perched, keeping an eye on junior.

Immersion in nature and close association with her offspring bears many wonderful gifts. Aside from the joy of life itself, and seeing beautiful things, a clearer perspective of real life in the real world may be had. I would be inclined to disagree with you if you claimed animals did not share the breadth, depth and range of emotions accredited to that most highly developed species, humans.

Most don’t have a brow to furrow with worry, nor lips to part in smiles or turn down in frowns. No eyebrows to raise in fear or consternation. No tear ducts to produce evidence of great sadness or supreme joy.

But aren’t eagles and robins and starlings and weasels and possums and field mice and beavers still parents? Clearly they are driven to protect and nurture their offspring until they can venture out to lives of their own. Will you tell me the eagles were not saddened or heartbroken or disappointed at the loss of their own issue? Would you expect me to believe they were not startled or scared or worried when the little one fell from its perch to the Earth below? An Earth with predators; coyotes, dogs, bobcats.

Yet there is a balance in the natural world. These fragile things live daily with apprehension and fear. Starvation, predation, drought and hurricanes. Falling from a nest just a week too early. Still, it seems, their lives are not ruled by emotions, fueled and driven by feelings as their primary motivation. That would be humans. Every act a reaction to emotion. Joy, sadness, pride, regret, love, hatred, jealousy, envy, admiration, jubilation. Human hearts fling their emotions in every direction like sailors in the tempest. Nature takes a more centered and humble view. What seems the greatest of emotional extremes for humans are but the limits of the pendulum daily for so many beings.

The next day, DN9 was nowhere to be seen. The camera pilot (no doubt driven by emotions, including scientific curiosity), panned and zoomed the terrain repeatedly. This is the simple rule in nature. We do the best we can, and keep our hopes high for the best outcomes. The rest is really out of our control. And now I, too, swing through the pendulum’s arc.

I am sad that DN10 died before his second day in life, and I am overjoyed that DN9 prospered. I feel a sense of loss, loneliness, as I gaze upon the empty nest, and simultaneously I trust that DN9 has more than a sporting chance, and two doting parents. I feel compassion and sympathy for the eagle parents. The work and worry of it all. To keep those babies warm and safe and fed in the nest as long as necessary, and no longer. To flood every waking and sleeping minute with a vigilance worthy of a palace guard. To return one day to an empty nest, and, with just a little melancholy perhaps, celebrate this grand miracle. There is a powerful, silent beauty to the empty nest.

Hence we are kindred. Akin to the eagle and robin, the badger and rat, the polar bear and skunk, I, too, look proudly ( and not without a little twinge of nostalgia) on the silent beauty, the power, and the glory of an empty nest of my own.

Seek peace,

Paz

Hawk And Starling

It began with an untimely death. I turned to find, lying on the floor of the warehouse, a European Starling, still and lifeless. It had been the holiday weekend, where in the United States we celebrate the life and mourn the tragic loss of one of America’s greatest heroes, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The evidence was everywhere, on the floor. Telling the tale in clues that could be read easily by the most amateur sleuth. She’d probably entered on Friday, when crews were unloading trucks after a long week. Doing so in the brutal, bitter cold of a January day that would see temperatures below zero. In and out through the overhead doors, then a quick walk-through locking up. Set the alarm and they were bound for the long weekend, Monday a holiday. Unbeknownst to them, the Starling would be locked in.

Here the signs showed where she flew to the transom windows out front and perched. Looking out on a world that, perhaps, she was glad to be spared from. Single digit temperatures and double-digit winds conspired to drive temperatures, with wind chill, to twenty-five below zero over the weekend.

Here she perched on the iron I-beam as she peered out through the windows of the rear overhead door of the loading dock.  Here she flew into the paint room, landed atop a piece of pipework, and looked out the six-light of the huge antique door. Out onto the stacks of pallets at the back of our building. This is our meeting place. Where I call with a whistle for my following of sparrows, and remind them that “Everyone is welcome!”. I call out to the crows, watch the Juncos now in winter, the mockingbird, the blue jays, as I shred and share a couple of slices of bread each morning and noon.

This is no doubt where Starling and I had met before. Where for the last decade, I have come to love their comical movement, their social graces, sharing with one another, with other birds. While the polite sparrows sit and nibble with elegant manners, starlings run about, stacking bits of bread in their beaks before flying off. Starlings are beautiful birds. Striking plumage in streaks and stripes, iridescent black echoing every color of the rainbow.

She was not in danger of slamming herself against the glass, as last year I went to each window in the place and added translucent stripes to make it visible to birds. Collide-Escape is the product I used, after watching, of all things, a starling knock itself nearly unconscious trying to fly through the sparkling clean portal. Dazed, he stood there on the warehouse floor as humans walked past. I brought him outside and set him down on his tiny feet on the front dock, in the shade. Twenty minutes later, he would fly off, hopefully good as ever.

Now, Tuesday morning, she lay dead on the floor. Three days locked within. I felt responsible for the death. In odd, gripping moments this would wash over me, as I reminded the child within of all those grownup things that are said at a time like this. Everything must die one day. It was an accident. It’s not your fault. One of so many starlings, how could she be missed? Nothing relieved my childish mourning for the tiny helpless creature. A creature that would now be alive if not for me, and mankind’s intrusion on her natural world.

I walked solemnly outside with the little corpse. Carried her, slowly and gently, to the brush line out back. The closest thing to natural and nature I could find for her. I placed her on a limb. A practice we call (pardon the outdated phrase) an “Indian Burial”. Here now she would return to the Earth from which her life sprang to begin with. She may become a welcome meal for a hungry scavenger, or perhaps decay and decompose there, mingling with the grass and the dust of terra firma.

I could not stop myself from returning to the back window. I consciously avoided looking directly at the place where she was enshrined. If still there, the little body would sadden me. If she was gone…somehow it seemed that would sadden me, too. As I looked out the window, the sky dimmed. Shooting over my head and then in front of my window, a dark cloud of a thousand starlings swarmed. A swiftly moving organic overcast. Darting this way and that in one gigantic choreographed ball of birds. They lighted in a tree at the edge of the back lot. I thought of a crow’s funeral. How crows will gather quietly at a place where one of theirs has fallen. They would not act like the gregarious, cackling mobs of their reputation, but would perch in reverence, one by one flying off in silence.

It was then I saw the Cooper’s Hawk, perched in an adjacent tree. On the hunt, looking for a meal. Another swirling flock transited the sky, and behind it, the hawk leaped into the air. With zig-zagging aerobatics, he charged into the black mass. A twist, a turn, a swoop, a dive, the incredibly agile bird flew through the frigid air. The hawk returned to the tree empty-handed, awaited the next opportunity. It was so cold outside, I thought, to fly so quickly through the air. It must be uncomfortable, to say the least, yet there was no choice if a hawk wanted to survive. To live. To thrive in this natural state. Conflicting thoughts slapped at me from either side of my brain. Oh, the poor starlings. I didn’t want to witness another killed today. Yet, there is the hawk, an equally admirable and well-liked avian friend. I did not want to hasten his demise either.

The thoughts would swirl around my aged and feeble brain for days. Perhaps I would find a place to leave a dish of water, in the event this scenario were repeated. Perhaps I could make some kind of hatch that would open to allow a trapped bird to escape. I still can’t stop thinking of the Starling, looking out the window at freedom. So close, and yet denied. The vertical Collide-Escape stripes on the windows looking like prison bars.

Another flock of starlings headed for the Gathering Tree. The hawk was airborne again.

“Everyone is welcome.” My heartfelt mantra seemed simplistic and shallow. I’m feeding the feral cat with a small dish, situated just thirty feet from the pallet pile that serves as dining table for the sparrows. How do those things reconcile?

There are no rules for such things. Cats will eat the sparrows. Hawks will eat the starlings. The cat lives and the hawk lives and the starlings live with this knowledge. I am trying to bring myself closer to their world. A world not bound by emotional ramblings and Disneyesque fantasy. Then I realize that I can be this me, and feel these things, and mourn for the starlings while cheering for the hawk. Really quite simple, if you don’t overthink it.

Everyone is welcome.

I guess that includes the sentimental, childish man who will give Indian burials to dead birds, feed feral cats, and feel sorry for the hawk in the cold.

We are, truly, all in this together.

Bath Time For Starlings

Seek peace,

 

Paz

Page Two

This is the second of a two-part journal entry. For the backstory leading to this, read the previous post “The birds, the bees, the cat, the possum and the people”. I realize both posts are quite lengthy, and apologize for that. I could have broken it into four posts, but wanted to maintain a good continuity.

Paz

Okay, so here’s this possum caught in a live-catch trap and it’s ten o’clock in the morning so the sun is beating down on the black plastic trash bag which covers the back half of the trap to camouflage and conceal it. I seriously doubt this possum is what the Market Manager was intent on catching. I think it wandered over here in the night, probably from the wild areas between here and the Hudson River. He had said they thought there were raccoons roosting in the Black Horse farm building.

Now, there are two more qualifiers that influence or explain my following actions. One is another part of my personal philosophy, made almost respectable by being a quote from Charles Dickens. In his story “A Christmas Carol”, the main character Ebenezer Scrooge has survived a night with the spirits compelling him to change his selfish ways and to open his heart to the world, particularly those less fortunate. When he awakens to find he has been granted the opportunity to live and pursue good works, he is overwhelmed with joy. And humility. Realizing the error of his ways, he breaks into a brief song to the tune of “All Around The Mulberry Bush”;

I don’t know anything.

I never did know anything.

But now I KNOW that I don’t know.

All on Christmas morning.

So that’s item one, where I admit I have no idea what it is that I don’t know. I bear this in mind always, along with a teaching from Richard Bach’s book “Illusions”: Everything you know could be wrong. I’m just doing the best I can with what I have.

The other qualifier may be difficult for me to describe. I know that seems odd coming from a wordy poet, but it’s a feeling deep in my soul that I must try to relate. I have this relationship with the Universe. The Great Cosmos I call it. If you’ve read anything of substance at ACZ, you’ll know I feel as insignificant as one could possibly be in a giant universe. Just a speck. Less than that. Not even a grain of sand on a beach, but a chip off a grain of sand in a limitless expanse of space. At the same time, I feel part of it all, like the grain of sand. Every grain of sand matters, and is needed to make a beach. No one grain of sand could be proved to be more important, more significant, more worthy than the next. Herein lies my value in my relationship with the Universe. I am equal. Equal to every grain of sand and every tree. Every human on the planet and every other animal from the blue whale to the black gnat. Equal to every planet and satellite, every comet and meteor. To every last bit of every last inch of an immeasurable Universe, I am part of it all. My solemn agreements, my silent prayers, if you will, are directly between me and the Universe. We have a close and inexorable bond. Therefore, I answer only to the Cosmos. As I describe what follows, there are a hundred optional actions and endings. Some people may vehemently espouse their versions of what is right, what is not. What is fair to wildlife, what is duty to humankind. What is callous and cruel, what is kindness and caring. Sorry folks, this is between me and my Cosmos.

My first step is to open the trap. Show the possum the door. Touch the ground as if she’s a trained dog. I speak softly in a sort of baby talk. “Come on. You can come out now.” In my best effort at Disneyesque fantasy, I anticipate the possum will walk out. Perhaps wink at me over its shoulder as it makes its escape. Well, that didn’t happen. I suppose possum has never seen “Bambi” or “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”. In her cornered, trapped, fearful defensive place, possum sees a giant animal, twenty times her size, trying to dig her out to kill and eat her. Reality knocks on my brain’s door and says “As long as you hang around the trap, she’ll stay frozen in the rear corner under the trash bag. GO AWAY!” Liberation of the possum the primary goal, I heed this advice and disappear, foregoing the opportunity to bask in the glory of watching the culmination of my efforts, the gleeful trotting off of the former captive.

I give it a while but I’m fascinated with the possum and curious and impatient as the rings deep within my spirit that remain a ten-year-old boy. I check the trap, and she’s still huddled in the corner, waiting for darkness, probably. I tried tipping the trap up and dumping her out. Unceremonious but effective if it worked. It did not. She hung onto the trap as if it was her home. Okay, I go away again for a while. Half an hour later, she still hasn’t moved. Okay, I grab a short stick and have the stick prod her from the back part of the trap so she’ll move toward the door. No dice. She’s not afraid of a stick, and the corner under the trash bag feels like the safest safety available to her. If I was at home I’d carry the whole trap out into the woods, put the open door up against some dense cover, and walk away confidently, content the animal would eventually walk out of the trap. Here at the Market, I don’t want to get caught undoing the trapping, so I’m trying to be a little stealthy.

“Alright. If Guy from Market comes around now you’re as good as dead, so it’s time to go, like it or not.” I thought-transfer this to the possum to apologize in advance for the somewhat rough and rude action to follow. I grabbed a piece of threaded metal rod from the shop at work. In hindsight, I should have used the broom handle. I pushed the rod through the trash bag at the back of the trap to nudge her. This just made her redouble her defensive stance. So I broke down and pushed harder. “Come on.” I’m speaking out loud in my talking-to-animals-and-babies voice, “You gotta get out of there!” I pushed on her more. Re-positioned the rod. Prodded her again. Assertively, I pushed against her to literally shove her out of the trap and she finally moved. She needed another prod and then, yes, success! She saw the opening or decided it was less risk or discomfort, and she trotted out of the trap and across the gravelly ground, disappearing beneath a stack of pallets behind the buildings. I hurriedly reset the trap to appear nothing had sprung it.

I felt pretty good about my liberation of the trapped animal for about a minute or so. That’s when I saw the baby. Yep, baby possum. Almost naked, it was probably a week or so old. It looks like a newborn kitten in that first week when they can’t even walk but try to move in stumbling fashion. It was lying in the open in the direct sun, about a foot away from the closest part of the pallet pile. At first my brain thought it had crawled out of its nest, looking for mother while she was incarcerated. I looked beneath the pallets and metal carts for signs of traffic or a nest. Wait a minute. Brain catching up. Hey, opossums are marsupials. The baby would have been carried in Mother’s pouch. Oh no. She had dropped this one as she ran away in self defense. This thing was tiny. As small as any kitten I’ve seen born, and yet baby possums complete their development in the pouch. This one barely had half a coat of thin, fine fur, and was probably just about blind.

Then it made the tiniest noise. You might imagine a newborn kitten trying to meow for its mother. Sometimes their mouths open and no sound comes out. Sometimes a breathy squeak. Eventually, they learn to “mew”. Possums don’t meow. I don’t know what repertoire they have, but the only sound I’ve ever heard come from a possum is a hiss, like an angry cat. I guess that’s what baby possum was trying, but it came out as just the shortest burst. As if you were trying to demonstrate the sound a “K” makes without using your breathing, you know? Well I figured baby is calling Mom, so after placing baby out of the sun and beneath a cart, I too make K noises, hoping to attract mother’s attention to return for the foundling. After a minute, I go away to give her the opportunity to do so. The ten-year-old needs to check the situation every two minutes. The wildlife liberator knows you should give it twenty. It’s now midday, and the time of the hour at which I’d break for lunch. One last check on the orphan. Still there. Still bobbing its tiny head, moving its tiny feet almost ineffectively.  Still barking for Mother. “Let the Cosmos handle it.” I say, probably aloud, and I brush the sparrows off the Funbus and head out for lunch. Possum has a quiet spell to come back for her kid, and I can keep ten-year-old Me from obsessing over the orphan.

Lunch does not go so well. I can’t stop thinking of the orphan. I know I can’t save and raise a newborn possum, but I could probably make it feel warm and safe until its passing. I bail on lunch. I buy a pint of whole milk at the convenience store, and head for Rite-Aid to buy an eye dropper for feeding. Rite-Aid does not sell eye droppers, by the way. Maybe no one does any more. Everything like it is a graduated syringe so you can measure your baby’s liquid Tylenol and squirt it into their mouth. I search long and hard. I ask Jim The Employee to help. No eye dropper. Now I am looking for ear drops or Mercurochrome. Bottles with eye droppers. I’ll buy that and wash the dropper out. Nope. Nothing has a dropper any more. Finally, I purchase a syringe bulb, a nasal aspirator, thinking it’s at least soft-ish. So armed, I return to work. I’m ready to warm the milk and offer it to the orphan. I’m thinking I will put it in my shirt pocket. It’ll be warm and in a “pouch” and might even be fooled into a sense of normalcy, comfort, security for the matter of mere hours I expect the thing to live without its own mother.

At the spot where I’d last seen the naked, wriggling baby, there was nothing. I spent quite some time on hands and knees, looking everywhere the wobbling, toddling tiny thing could have moved to. I made a few K noises, listened intently for the tiny whisper of a bark. Nothing.

And so my tale anticlimactically draws to a close. What happened to Baby Possum will forever remain a mystery. I’d like to think Mother retraced her steps, looking for the “missing one”. Or perhaps she heard the tiny thing’s tiny bark. Mothers are in-tuned to such things.

Down at the Hudson River, less than a quarter-mile from here, I’ll often see Bald Eagles. Majestic birds we almost lost with our penchant for killing things, in this case via DDT in pesticides. Eagles are scavengers. Here in my parking lot, crows abound. Grackles and Jays, too. Perhaps one of these had found a healthy meal.

That afternoon I stood on the back dock.  As I looked out, I saw Cat sitting under a car. Cat looked me in the eye, and I looked back. “Hi kitty.” I said, which hitherto had the immediate effect of making her run. She sat and looked at me. She looked away, then back again. She seemed relaxed. Now that winter is over, I can no longer fill the dish.

You see, we need to be vigilant about vermin here.

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

The birds, the bees, the cat, the possum and the people.

To start, we set the scene. It’s at work, and we have a building in the small semi-industrial park called The Capital District Farmers’ Market. Here, all the farmers bring their goods, sell, barter, trade and buy other goods. There’s a big produce company next door. That’s where your carrots and your celery and salad mix gets washed, weighed and bagged. Their huge trucks leave here bound for your grocer. There are a couple of independent, small-farm family businesses, too. (By small farm, I mean Black Horse has only forty greenhouses, compared to larger farms.) These folks buy produce wholesale, and grow their own flowers and field vegetables. They sell flowers by the pallet-full to landscapers and property management companies, along with produce for other farmers, to stock their farm stands and make them well-rounded. Elsewhere in the market, there are a couple of other non-agricultural businesses besides my own company. (We’re an audio-visual integration company that took this space because it was right up the street from our corporate headquarters, and the price was great!) There’s a wine distributor with warehousing and delivery trucks, and there’s a CDL School, where folks are taught how to drive tractor-trailers, and coached through their license exams. So, the important point is that there’s a lot of produce and plants around. Managing pests can be challenging. During the winter, the Big Produce house and the wine distributor and the driving school carry on with business just as we do. The “flower people” arrive in spring, set up and sell for the season, and retire to their farms after Columbus Day.

Well, first off, I’m a birder. A card-carrying member of the National Audubon Society as well as the local chapter, and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. You’ve seen a bit of this in my blogs, one of which tells of the “Christmas Bird Count”, the official annual census of birds we take in mid winter. I live in a peaceful glen in the country by choice. I commute to the big, busy, loud city by necessity: it’s where I work. (FYI: Country life is so important to me, I commute over fifty miles each way every day. People think that’s grueling. I tell them “If you saw what I go home to, you’d understand why I do it.”)

Now this brings us to the birds. The birds are at work and they’re a small flock or a random group of English Sparrows, often called House Sparrows. (“Dave birds” by my daughter, who says their “beard” reminds her of her friend Dave.) I fill bird feeders at home all winter, and I see these sparrows at work every day. I can’t really put up a feeder in the Market because of its likelihood to attract rats and other vermin undesirable to normal people. So, I carry bread in my car, and each morning I pull into work, “Pazlo’s Birds” recognize the silver Funbus and come flying over to greet me. Occasionally they’ll land on my driver’s door mirror or the windshield wipers if they think I’m not making with the bread fast enough. I break up a couple of slices of bread and warm my heart watching these fragile beings take nourishment. Okay, so not so bad I guess.

Then comes the bees. We have a lot of Carpenter bees in the area, also a fact shared elsewhere in my blogosphere. They bore holes into wood to nest, and their favorite is fascia boards on eaves humans have constructed. A matter of taste, I guess. I love them. They hover in front of their holes, dancing, waiting for a mate to deem their’s best. They will drive off competitors. They are not at all aggressive, and sometimes they come down to eye level and hover, seemingly looking at me. Maybe they’re just curious, or want to see if I am food or wood. They move on in their slow, hovering course. So it’s not like I attract the bees or feed them, but I also don’t spray them with poison or tell the landlord to do so. Cohabitation I call it. I suppose it’s only normal for people to not want their fascias chewed, but how much can one little hole hurt? And we need pollinators! (Last fall I told one of my guys “You know, there’s already a shortage of bees.” when he swatted one. So maybe they thought “What a jerk.”, but I’m trying to do my part to save my own tiny piece of the planet.)

Well, now we come to the cat. Somewhere in the depth of winter I first saw Cat, running to hide in the back part of the building next door while Lisa from Black Horse Farm was home and warm 40 miles away in Coxsackie. She had the feral cat look (the cat, not Lisa), moving like a wild animal, not a domesticated one, and running from people. Not running to people saying “Feed me!” So I put out a cat dish and put food in it every morning and call “Here kitty” and make kiss noises, hoping, I suppose, she might come around and want to be “rescued”. I figured she’d be picked up by animal control or move on to better digs or find a family, or perhaps die. Maybe some natural element, maybe hit by one of the many huge trucks that drive through here. At any rate, as long as she was hanging around, I was going to be sure she didn’t go hungry (at least on weekdays). I have a philosophical quote that leads to the end game on such things, to wit: “Let the Cosmos handle it.”. This means I may provide some food for birds or cats, but otherwise will let nature take its own course, whatever that may be.

Along comes April, and with it our migratory Flower People, returning for another season. Not long after, as I pulled into work one morning, pestered by sparrows, I saw the live-catch trap set behind Black Horse’s building. Well, you know, there is food here, produce, for human consumption. There’s also a variety of “foods” if you are another species: bruised fruit and spoiled tomatoes in the dumpster, decorative corn, Winter Cherries (Chinese Lanterns). So it makes sense we’d need to be vigilant against vermin.

Today, the Market Manager stopped by on other business and mentioned the traps. “Must have a raccoon or something, I need to check the traps.”. Well, he didn’t.

Now a couple more precursors to the next section. There is a law that states you must check a trap at least once every 24 hours. To leave a trapped animal longer is considered abuse and neglect, even if the “wildlife” is a squirrel or rat. Secondly, I cannot stand to see any animal, human or otherwise, in fear or terror. Not long after the Market Manager left, I was out back and noticed the trap was shut. Something had sprung the trap door, and was no doubt within the trap. I hoped it wasn’t Cat, though it would be easy for a cat to get over such a thing. I approached the trap and found it was not the cat. It was not a raccoon. Some white fur-oh no, a skunk! No, no. The fur is wiry. There is a huge naked tail like that of a rat. A Cat-Dog snout opened to reveal shark teeth, she froze except for an intense stare that said “I will bite you.”. It was an Opossum.

Now some people would have called animal control. Some people would have called the Market Manager. Some people would have killed the possum and ate it, but we’re too far north for that. Can you guess what I was intent on doing? You may well guess. However, there was a twist, an unexpected sidebar which caused me to reel a little and scramble for a resolution.

Next time, as a Paul Harvey would say, “The rest of the story.”

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

Kind Words versus Critical

Rerun: This post was originally published in 2011. – Paz

 

I was reading a thing recently about a crew demolishing a building. Someone asks the foreman how long it would take to knock the building down, and what sort of skills were required by the crew. To sum it up, the guy replies that they should be able to knock the whole thing down within a week, and aside from knowing how to work safely, no special skills were required. The observation concludes that it would take many weeks or months, maybe a year or more, to construct the building, and the construction would require many people with well-developed skills. Masons for foundations, welders for steel, electricians & plumbers, painters & roofers, and perhaps consultants for interior design.

In short, it takes longer and requires more skills to build something up than to tear it down.

This is also true of people, and the words we use with one another.

Like the unskilled demolition crew, anyone can speak words of criticism. Complaints, judgement, even derision. These words are pretty easy to come by in the human brain, especially when motivated by aggravation, frustration or anger.

By contrast, it requires greater effort to hold one’s tongue, keep one’s opinions to one’s self, to avoid getting on the band wagon with others complaining or condemning, and especially to keep hurtful things from spitting out of our mouths in the course of an argument, particularly an angry one.

So too, it requires a different and perhaps greater skill to look for the good in situations, to compliment people on the degree to which they got things right, not criticize them for the degree of wrong.

In the heat of battle or when someone is railing or ranting, the conversational side of the brain will feed you many thoughts that it wants you to speak. Maybe it’s the way you feel, or maybe you want to defend a position, or maybe you want to agree with a condemnation being offered.

The sage will understand the old adage “less said the better”. With concentrated effort, one can express that one understands or at least hears the other’s point of view without agreeing or arguing.

In any situation, look for the positive. With any person, look for the chance to share a kind word, and watch for those verbal grenades your automated-language-based brain tries to toss past your teeth.

We went to see an apartment into which someone had recently moved. The street was not well-to-do, or of the newest part of town. The houses were mostly multi-family rentals, and were generally well-worn. One could not describe the sidewalks or alleys as neat or clean. The apartment was at the top of a steep, narrow, windowless staircase. The windows could have used cleaning, and with some effort one could see above the dormers of the house next door, and catch a sliver of the sky and the city beyond. The kitchen floor was from the last century. It looked, in many places, exactly like what is was: a medium-sized second story apartment in an older house, whose tenants probably never stayed more than a year or two.  A few marks showed on the walls and woodwork, where families had probably raised rambunctious children, and the landlord probably repainted only when needed.

When asked, I described it thusly:

“It’s quite spacious, with good-sized rooms. It has a brand new carpet in the living room, and a brand new space heater, like the ones I have in my house. A Big kitchen! The windows are big. Tall, old-fashioned windows that let in the light. On sort of  a side street, where the traffic seemed pretty light. And cozy! Probably quite efficient to heat!”

Next time you have a chance to describe something or someone, an apartment or even adversary, put your effort into the use of the skills of “craftsmen of the human spirit”, “masters of language”, developed by being practitioners and tradesmen in the arts of compassion and empathy, and build with the materials of positivity, hope, caring and dignity.

Be at peace,

Paz

The Poorest Man in Engleville

I imagined I took all my worldly possessions with me, and carted each and every one thousands of miles, across the Atlantic.

I ventured to Egypt and Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, Bangladesh and Yemen, South Sudan.

“Here I am to help!” I declare, as the transport plane lands and is surrounded by half -naked children, stooping grandmothers, skeletons of men, skin stretched over bones.

I unload my possessions and offer them for free.

A boat with motor, a canoe, a kayak.

Two couches, three recliners, an armchair, a china closet.

Twin beds, bunk beds, a king-size.

End tables, coffee tables, a kitchen table with matching chairs.

Vases, glassware, genuine Belleek porcelain, leaded crystal, fourteen carat gold-plated tea service, sterling silver flatware.

Three televisions, a dozen antique tube-set radios, a Victrola with a hundred 78 r.p.m. records.

Four, maybe five guitars, maybe more. A banjo, a clarinet, an 1880’s pedal player piano, an unrestored Stradivarius violin from 1900.

Two 35mm SLR cameras with lenses, 8mm film projectors, 35mm slide projectors, a DSLR camera with lenses, a DVR.

Wall art, framed paintings, original works, Wyeth prints, Renoir prints, a gilded hall mirror.

Jewelry; gold, diamonds, gemstones, pearls.

Tools, tools, tools. Chainsaws, circular saws, drills, wrenches, air compressors, hammers, hatchets, sledges, shovels and rakes.

A John Deere riding mower, a Honda four-wheeler, an Arctic Cat snowmobile.

An entire closet filled with decorations; Easter, spring, Independence Day, harvest, Halloween, Thanksgiving, winter, Christmas.

When the movement stopped, the air fell silent.

A million people stood before me, speechless.

A boy of perhaps four years, clad only in a pair of shorts, walks right up to me and takes my hand.

“Do you have water?” the boy asks.

“Water? Well, no. But look at all these great things! Two swingsets! Balls and bats, kites and coloring books!”

The boy carefully looked over the heaping pile. Nothing catching his interest, he returned his gaze to me.

“Do you have any food?” he asks.

“Food? There was no room for food. This plane was packed. Look- towels, soap, an electric foot massager, an electric heating pad.”

The hope in the boy’s eyes faded. His countenance fell grim. He walked away.

Stricken by the truth, I fall to my knees.

 

Pity me, the poorest man in Engleville.

All I have is this wretched gold,

Which they cannot eat.

Seek peace,

 

Paz

http://www.unicef.org

 

Give Thanks

Forked Lake Morning

 

When you wake in the morning, give thanks for the light.

Give thanks for your strength, for your food, for your life.

If you see nothing to be thankful for,

The fault lies

In yourself.

 

-Tecumseh

 

“Give thanks for the healthy children in your life, and give to those who are not.”

-Marlo Thomas, St.Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital

http://www.stjude.org

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

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