11 May 2017

Grazing in The Peaceable Kingdom

The Peaceable Kingdom

We opened up the back pasture for the first time and let the animals graze there. I love the lines of this photograph, the curves and shapes, there was lots of clover there.

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For Me, For Red, The Next Chapter. Leave? Are You Kidding?

For Me, For Red – The Next Chapter

Today was the first day all week that Red didn't end up at the vet's giving blood. We did get the titer tests back, and Red has four major tick-borne diseases to contend with. The worst and the most difficult for him is the anaplasma, also known as anaplasmosis.

We go back tomorrow for a final, pre-weekend test. Dr. Suzanne Fariello of the Cambridge Valley Veterinary Service did a wonderful job figuring out what was wrong with Red, it was a Sherlock Holmes work of systematic deduction and elimination and common sense. She is steady, focused, fearless and knowledgeable.

Honestly, I have no doubt that Red will survive this and get well. On top of the good medicine, he has made it clear to me that he isn't finished here, and is not ready to leave me or his work. He made that somehow clear to me on Tuesday, and I have not doubted it since.

I am not sure how it works, but I got that message  when he lay still in the vet's office with an IV catheter in his arm. I believed it.

I stopped being afraid of losing him at that point, although I did see very clearly what it would mean to lose him, and that cracked my heart wide open. I saw my vulnerability, and I owned up to it, and that was yet another gift from him, another step forward as a writer and a human.

If we can't express out vulnerability, if we tell lies to ourselves, we are incomplete and crippled.

I also permitted people to reassure me and support me, I always said Red came to me to open me up. He is a spirit dog who comes when he is needed and leaves when he is done. When he does go, I hope I will always remember the joy he brought to the earth, and not only the pain of losing him.

This afternoon, Red and I went out into the pasture to sit with the sheep, I didn't let him run or work much. I believe this is good for him, Maria and the vet agree. Just no running and strong exertion.

And not for a good long time, perhaps as long as a month.

Now  that we know what we are dealing with, we began the new regimen of antibiotics this afternoon and tonight, Red ate some hamburger and chicken broth, his first bit of solid food in days. A good sign.

I ought to be honest and explain the way I work with dogs and medicine. I am riding on a vast cloud of love and support – hundreds, perhaps thousands of good wishes,  and it has mattered, believe me. Thank you.

But I don't want people wasting their time either. I trust Dr. Fariello and put Red's health completely in her care.  I'm not in search of more information.

I don't search the Internet for data and information, I don't need to contact other vets, I don't and can't absorb the hundreds of stories people are sending me about their dogs and cats and their illnesses, nor can I consider the many differing views and conflicts and debates about dogs and their immune systems.

People are sending holistic care stories to my vet via e-mail, and that seems over the line to me, although quite well-meaning. My vet is quite open to alternative medicines.

Red is very important to me, as is hopefully clear, but he is only a part of my life, not all of it. I want to write about the refugees,  about the rest of my life, take photos and write my next book. And I want to continue the work he supports and sometimes inspires: bring people to the deepest levels of compassion in a time when hearts sometimes seem to be turning to stone.

And I want to take good care of Red.

In recent months, I have been working hard to find solid ground in contentious and increasingly harsh world. Compassion and empathy are become more and more important to me, and this idea of doing good rather than arguing about good.  I think is the true message of Red, his impact and his legacy.

Someone, a former friend, sent me a shocking message of hatred and rage the other day, I did not understand it and it was painful.

But I did not reply in anger, or in kind. I said I was sorry she felt this way, and then I felt nearly heart-broken for her. Imagine, I thought, how much she must be suffering to write a message like that.  The last months have been a gift for me, I am seeing the world anew.

I recognize rage and anger as a form of suffering, a cry for help, something I could not meet where it was. To hate you must almost by definition be broken and ill. As Eric Fromm wrote, our society is not as sane as we would like to think

Being a public and sometimes controversial person, I get messages of hatred all of the time, almost anyone in public life does  now. Learning to deal with them has brought me closer than ever before to true empathy, the highest standard of humanity. And it reminds me that the person I must please is me, not others.

Red is an enormous part of that, because that is where he meets everyone, no matter their age, health or demeanor. He is always Red, forgiving, accepting, projecting compassion and comfort.  He never changes or falters. Our work together is not done, we are just beginning. It has never been more necessary.

Yesterday, I brought him to the Mansion assisted care facility, where he has been doing such wonderful work. I saw the faces and smiles and tears of the residents and staff there when they saw Red, touched him, held him. Poor thing, he could barely stand up and make eye contact, but he tried his hardest and did his best.  There, they well understood the boundaries of life, death and medicine. They knew where he was.

Red is not ready to go, he is not going to do.

I have come to worship perspective and thoughtfulness and boundaries in my life.

Red has all the medical support he needs, and all that I can handle. I don't want to make him, me, or my vet crazy by exploring a thousand different options and new diseases. The Web is a blessing and curse, it informs us and swallows us up, almost at the same time. There are no boundaries to it.

I like to see and sometimes touch the flesh of the people in whose hands I put the lives of my dogs. I like to look in their eyes an ask them questions. That has always worked for me, and I believe it is working for me now, and more importantly, for Red.

Red will be okay, it will just take a while and much patience and evenness and discipline from me. I will continue to share the process.

Red will not mess it up, but I could and I am determined not to. My friend Kimberly is correct, I believe, when she says Red has come to me and us to spread compassion and empathy, that is what he does.  He also is keenly aware of my impatience and drive, and he needs a lot of rest for a long time.

I have to figure out how that will work. I can't keep him out of his therapy work completely, too many people depend on him, and their lives are urgent and important. But I have to plan it carefully and make sure it does not drain him. It is, in fact, tiring work for dogs under the best of circumstances.

He desperately needs rest.

I have to figure it all out. And I am so grateful for your many good wishes and thoughts and energy, they have given me strength all week.

I am glad Red is not leaving me, leaving us. Next week, I plan to bring him to Albany and meet the refugee kids, and the RISSE soccer team. They will love him.

I imagine him rolling his eyes at the idea that he is ready to leave, just look at the news. Are you kidding?

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Life And Its Wonder: Immigrant Trees. A Maple For Congress!

Life And Its Wonder

Immigrants have a special status in the forest, writes Peter Wohlleben in his very beautiful book The Hidden Life Of Trees.

Trees fill Maria and I with wonder, we try to walk in the deep woods every day. In contrast to tree species that migrate naturally, immigrant trees arrive without their typical ecosystems. In some cases, just their seeds were important, not their soil or natural connections.

Most of their fungi and all of the insects are left behind in their homeland.

Trees that migrate under their own steam can establish themselves only where they feel completely at home. Refugee trees, trees that are transplanted to save or protect them from harm, must struggle to fit their lifestlyes if they are going to prevail in the presence of powerful old trees that already rule the forest, and wish to keep its  resources to themselves.

For trees that we humans introduce to the forest, wrotes Wohlleben, the long-term outcome is a bit like a game of roulette.  You never know exactly what is going to happen.

Once trees begin to grow, and their roots are deep and secure, the other trees in the forest accept them completely, and instinctively share the light and nutrients and water and fungi all trees need to survive. Trees will share sunlight and water and try and help their sick or dying neighbors. They will also signal danger and work to fight off insect and other infestations.

I would like to be a tree sometimes, they don't go on Facebook or spout the dogma of the left or the right, they don't scream at one another on cable news.

Despite the trouble that sometimes occurs when alien species are introduced to a native forest, Wohlleben says he is not anxious when he thinks about the future of forests. "For on large continents (and the European continent is the largest one of all) species have to come to grips with new arrivals all the time."

Are the native forests threatened? Sometimes, says Wohlleben. And yet, he says, red wood ants are immigrants too, and therefore, he would argue that no special efforts are necessary for their protection.

I was surprised and touched to read this chapter on immigrants of the forest. I have no trouble understanding that in so many ways, trees are wiser and more  generous than we humans are.  That is food for thought.



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I Love The Country: Staring At Pigs

Pigs: I Love The Country

Once a week or so, I stop at a nearby pig farm and visit the pigs. Mostly, they ignore me, but once in awhile, a pig – like the once in the center – will stare at me and try to figure out what I am doing with my camera. Pigs are wicked smart, I am told, but mostly, they seem to lay around in the mud or huddle together for warmth.

I know what these pigs are destined for, so I don't get too close to them or give them names. I do like to stare at them for awhile and they like to stare back. It is somehow peaceful and affirming. For much of my life, I never even saw a pig, let alone got to stare at one.

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Portrait: Dennis Yushak In His Hoodie Making Sausages. I Love The Country.

Making Sausages

I love living in the country. I went to Dennis Yushak's deli in Shushan – his meat is famous around here, people come from miles to buy it – and I wanted to take his portrait. Martha told me he was back in the freezer making sausages but she would tell him I wanted to see him.

I was delighted when he came out in his hoodie with some sausage meat in his hands, he asked me if I wanted him to take the hoodie off, and I said, no absolutely not, I couldn't have asked for more, he just laughed. Dennis is a very good man and is much loved around here. I was delighted to get  a portrait of him in his hoodie, and with sausage meat as well.

Outside, four or five men were gathered around a hole in the street, they were all engaged in intense conversation. I came over to see what was going on and there was an intense debate about what the hole represented and who or what had created it. Some thought a hedgehog, some moles or rabbits.

My opinion was solicited but I am an outlander, and I knew better than to debate this with these big men in trucks – more trucks were arriving by the minute, more big men getting out. There was talk about filling in the hole, also about not killing whatever built or dug it.

Eventually someone came out with an orange cone and put it right next to the hole, hopefully to warn drivers away. Somebody else volunteered to call the sheriff to report the hole. I listened for awhile, and as the number of trucks and men grew, I left, waving goodbye with my bag of groceries and hamburger for Red.

I love living in the country. We have not forgotten what is really important.

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