Sunday, December 27, 2020

The Fabulous Year 2020

Who would have guessed a year with such a fabulous numeric designation as 2020 would have been such a barn burner?  Double twenties - even numbers - pleasing to the eye and reduces to the sacred number 4! Also, it is the year of pause, just before a new decade. 

This has been such a hard year for so many of my family and friends.  It has been a very difficult year for the entire world.  I admit I have not sought out news of countries in Africa, or smaller countries across the globe, the ones I likely cannot find on a map.  I assume they might be doing a bit better than the United States because they are not populated by a huge demographic of selfish assholes, but maybe not!  Americans certainly do not have the corner on assholiness.  But, if I had to guess, we are in the majority in that category.  The world continues to turn, and life goes on, despite everything good and bad and all in between.  It always does.

My son contracted the corona virus just before Christmas.  He is over the worst of it but continues to have chest pains.  His sister took an oxygen meter to him and his oxygen levels are 98%, so that is good, I think.  He experienced a lot of muscle aches and pains.  I know many people prayed for him, and I am so deeply grateful.  Thank you, each and every one of you.  I pray for my children all the time but when something awful happens to them, I cannot seem to focus to pray for them.  Friends and family take up my slack in that department.  I will be even more mindful when people ask for prayers for their loved ones going forward.

My son and his big dog, Primo, are doing well in the big city, living in the ultra-modern apartment with a kitchen I would die for!  They have an enormous wall of windows facing north and a wonderful large balcony.  He is living the kind of life I only dreamt of when I was his age!  I am proud of my son.  He graduated the University of Kansas and later earned a MBA.  He is doing well for himself.

Jake my poor, long suffering crippled dog met with yet another major misfortune this year when one of the horses stepped on his foot, crushing the bones.  In an effort to avoid expensive surgery, the vet looked after him, keeping the bandages changed and confined to a small space.  One of the young veterinarian aides there took a personal liking to Jake and offered him a lot of love and attention.  While there, Jake died unexpectedly of natural causes.  I miss him on the way to the barn every day and miss his particularly outrageous howling when the coyotes sing as they travel past the house in the creek.  Mattie still looks for him.  He has been set free of being crippled in three of his four legs, hopefully chasing rabbits in dog heaven now.  (I hope that doesn't mean dog heaven is rabbit hell?)  Farewell, Jakie.  Godspeed.

So... back in January of 2020, I thought it would be a splendid idea to have three dogs!  Yes.  It was pre-pandemic psychosis!  I sent a non-refundable deposit for another German Shepherd puppy, hoping for a full sister to Mattie.  At the time of the fateful check-writing incident, my rationale was this: almost 2 years to get Mattie after sending a deposit.  My new knees would be healed by the time the new puppy arrived.  I would greatly enjoy a puppy, especially since I would be home all the time to take care of her.  

Well, well, well... things do not always work out as you expect them to work out.  First, the pandemic put the kibosh on knee surgery.  Secondly, the wait time was significantly shorter for this puppy - almost 14 months shorter! So, into the void left by Jake, a bratty little half-sister to Mattie is destroying my life!  Mattie is a very smart dog, but little Kenzie is even faster at learning.  Mattie is civilized, dainty, quiet and obedient (at least in the house).  Kenzie is loud and NEVER shuts up.  She learns at lightning speed but really does not give a rat's ass what I want.  I am NOT the boss of Kenzie who has tendencies remarkably akin to a certain snotty little red Quarter Horse mare I knew very well.  Three alpha females trying to run things at the farm - what could go wrong?  I am at a terrible disadvantage with very, very, very bad knees.  Wish me luck.

This year my daughter made a major life shift from cats to a dog.  Amidst the pandemic pressures, she purchased a red heeler puppy.  She named him Dingo.  He is a very smart little fellow but heelers are serious dogs.  They are working dogs and do not have time for anything unless it is serious business.  I call him the sheriff.  He is always on duty, protecting my daughter but also presenting several difficult behaviors that challenge her.  I must say that my daughter has risen to the occasion.  Dingo is a sturdy, fearless, athletic hiking partner.  Another year and he will be a consistently well behaved dog.  I can only hope that Kenzie turns out as well!  

My daughter moved to Lawrence and is in the midst of earning another Master's degree at the University of Kansas.  She has also completed training for three alternative emotional healing methodologies in the last two years.  She will soon graduate the Cultivating Emotional Balance training developed at the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies. The emotional balance research project arose from a dialogue between biobehavioral scientists and the Dalai Lama and Buddhist monks and scholars.  After my daughter graduates with the second Masters, she will be working with people, teaching them to heal themselves.  I am proud of my daughter.  

Wally the white horse and Ginger the red horse are doing well.  Wally puts up with Ginger's bossiness and sometimes I wish he would just kick the snot right out of her, but he never does.  He loves her.  I love her.  We both know the easiest way to get through life is to let Ginger have her way in matters of treats, food and water.  We all get along very well, thank you. (If horses are Supreme Beings, Ginger is the most supreme being of them all.)

It is quiet down on the farm.  All around me the world is going to hell in a handbasket it seems, but right this minute, the Supreme Beings are leisurely eating their hay in the warm sunlight.  The two German Shepherds are sleeping, one at my feet and one in her kennel inches away.  I am drinking my well-earned morning tea and watching the birds at the feeder.  It is dry and dusty in Wabaunsee County but rain is on the way, expected by next Tuesday - maybe as much as two inches.  That means I'll be slogging through deep mud to feed the horses but we certainly need the rain, so I'll try not to cuss too loudly.

I am sorry for people who lost beloved family members and/or friends this year.  I am sorry for those people who are struggling financially and for people struggling in every other way.  I am sorry for the strife and fear my country is experiencing.  We are Americans - we should do much better!  I am sorry for the whole world struggling with the pandemic and frightening climate change.  We are human beings - we should do much better!

I count my many blessings and give humble thanks for every iota of good fortune that has blessed my life.  I am grateful that my family is safe right this moment.  I hope your family is safe right this moment, too.  I pray for a far better 2021 for every living thing on this earth.  

Wishing peace on earth and goodwill toward (some) men -
 from the Crazy Woman, the Supreme Beings, and the beautiful German Shepherds of Spiritcreek.


Jake Rest in Peace Good Boi

Kenzie the Brat

The Big Guys

Woman and Baby Sheriff 

Beautiful Mattie

Supreme Being

The Wallai Lama


The 2020 Kansas Sky

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Scenes from My Road During the Pandemic of 2020

A Beautiful Dawn from Vera Road

A Storm Somewhere Over Missouri

Moonrise on Vera Road

Snokomo Road - Something made her show herself like this but I do not know what.

Me and the Pandemic, with alcohol sanitizer from the local winery located a few miles from my house.


Monday, November 2, 2020

A Single White Horse

 Wally in 2013 with his black legs, dark mane and tail, and dappled hind end.

Sometimes you do not "see" someone or something you see every day.  I realized that Wally, the resident rock star of the wild horse herd, has become a white horse.  His dapples have been missing for awhile but I assumed it was because they faded in the sun.  When I thought it through, though, it did not make sense.  Before he came here, he lived in a lot with no shelter whatsoever from the sun or the weather.  He would have been faded when he arrived if that was the problem.  Then I wondered if he was ill with some obscure horse disease, or, at the very least, missing a vital nutrient in his diet.  I finally admitted complete ignorance and googled for information.  Lo and behold, gray horses gradually become white horses.  Sometimes I call him Walter as a term of endearment.  Now that I have noticed he is entirely white, well.... now I call him Walter White.

My horses have no jobs or responsibilities.  They are the supreme beings of this little faux ranch.  They do not even have to behave except when Vince comes to trim their hooves or the vet comes to give them shots.  Vince and the vet are both men.  Men are of no particular concern to Ginger, the little mare.  She has been owned and trained by women.  Her dealings with men have always been under the watchful eye of women, so she has no idea of the abuse that men often inflict on horses.  To Ginger, humans are but mere servants she must tolerate at times, like it or not.  

Wally, on the other hand, has some respect for men.  Not because I think he was ever abused but because men typically deal with horses in a different way.  I gently ask for his cooperation but men demand his cooperation and are not opposed to a physical reminder.  In the long absence of any men in Wally's life - save the few times a year he is attended by vet or farrier - he has come to think quite highly of himself.  Occasionally, he politely refuses to stand still so I can put a halter on his head.  Sometimes he lays his ears back at me simply because I have the audacity to serve hay or oats to Ginger first!  Once in awhile, he thinks he can use me as a scratching post, scrubbing his big horse head against my arm or shoulder, almost knocking me down.  He has long been a well behaved horse but there are times when he misbehaves, just to see what he can get away with... you know, sort of "breaking bad"...  

Disregard the dirt and the dust.  Walter is White now...

Sunday, April 26, 2020

A Product of Mud?

All winter I looked forward to spring each time I waded through the six inches of mud in the corral. As I slogged along cussing every step of the way, I recalled that I complained just as much the winter it never fell below freezing. I complained when it was bitterly cold and I had to enter the Portal of Hell to turn on the heater. Every winter I complain about something. Just to change it up, mother nature served up two seasons of extreme mud. Mud on my clothes, mud on the sidewalk and both sets of steps into the house. Muddy paw prints. My car was caked inside and out with mud. There was mud all over the back of my legs and clothes when I exited the car. I tried mightily not to complain but alas, I could not help myself. Spring arrived despite all of my complaints but I guarantee that before long I will be whining over how damned hot it is. (It is a boring life when the weather puts you in a mood.)

When I am not complaining, I am considering - pondering the big (and small) mysteries of life. Big mystery: what the hell are we all doing here? Small mystery: looking at the pink crayon gave me a headache as a child. I do not know the answer to either mystery and I do not know who or what can provide definitive answers. I have sampled various philosophies and different spiritualities in my adult life and, honestly, no one has THE answers. There are millions of people who believe they have the answer. They think they are the only ones who know. So much suffering and death have resulted from that blind certainty! It just does not make sense to me, so out of necessity, I come up with my own explanation. Here is what I am sure of so far: humans have total free will. We can commit the most horrific crimes against one another, against animals, against the earth herself and no higher being will stop us. Maybe these physical lives are for us to learn to choose to be loving instead of hateful. Maybe.

I do not know WHY I am here, how I got here, who is responsible for me being here but I am undeniably here and aware. I do not think consciousness simply evolved out of the primordial mud, so when I pray, I pray to the highest, most sacred. Some thing is responsible for me being here. A "creator" of some sort placed me here in this physical body that mysteriously has a strange allergy to the color pink. It seems entirely unlikely to me that because a few molecules formed in muddy water at the dawn of time, consciousness evolved - something with no physical properties evolving out of physical substances? Nope. A brain is certainly not the source of consciousness. That is one thing the Buddhists have determined in their long centuries of contemplative discipline.

This is as far as I have managed to get in my investigation. I am sorely limited by my IQ - and lack of education - and the small amount of spare time left over from complaining about the weather, eating, and fighting with people on the internet. Still, not bad for an evolved clump of mud.

Would mere mud have been able to invent the sacred machinery?

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Happy Easter

The first thunderstorm blew through last night and it was beautiful. The sky was ablaze with a palette of pastels and pierced by lightning. I wish there was a camera that could capture the colors as perfectly as the human eye. These photographs are a sad reproduction of the living sky. Amazingly, I captured the evidence of Easter Bunny in the area.

Can you spot the Easter Bunny emerging from the clouds?
Of course, I cut off the top of the thunderhead, but nothing in the universe is as white as the tops of a Kansas thunderhead.
Looking east
The view above the barn
Looking west
The shades of purple and blue were very beautiful in the strange light
The rainbow.  It was much easier to see than this photo suggests.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

The Still Point

Impermanence. The emptiness of all things is what Buddhism speaks to. It is a very simple concept: nothing is permanent, so do not get too attached.

Buddhist philosophy offers very simple concepts but they are very difficult to truly grasp. My instructor says of these concepts, "Quite subtle." Understatement! I am slowly catching on to these subtle ideas. It takes awhile to shift the gears in a Westernized brain. When His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaks, the words he uses are simple, declarative, unadorned. To a Western mind, he sounds almost naive when he speaks of loving kindness as the solution to most ills in the world. Though he has often referred to himself as a simple Tibetan monk, which is true, he also possesses an amazing mind that understands and appreciates modern science, including quantum physics. The Tibetans, in their centuries of contemplative study of the nature of consciousness, long ago arrived at the same conclusions the Western theoretical physicists are coming to now regarding the nature of reality. In our Western arrogance and in our Western ignorance, this seems entirely impossible. Try to talk to a PhD about this and you will see what I mean. It is unthinkable to them that "simple" Buddhist monks could plumb the depth of reality and understand what our science is just now theorizing.

The more I meditate and the more I learn of the Buddhist conclusions regarding the nature of consciousness, the more excited I am, but there is as much dogma and mythology in Buddhism as there are in all other religions. Dogma and myth are antithesis to my sense of spirituality. I left Christianity behind when I recognized the vast, deep well of hypocrisy and judgemental horseshit that exists between the simple message Christ taught to "love others as you love yourself" and the way Christians use their religion to exclude and judge and harm other human beings for being gay, or fallible, or flawed, or simply human. I recently came upon this quote from Sister Joan Chittister, "Then we make our religions God and our God puny. Then we make religion dangerous." Amen. His Holiness the Dalai Lama himself has encouraged people to learn mediation apart from the Buddhist philosophy. He knows the human benefit of meditation for all physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects. It is helpful and sorely needed in these generally wretched times.

As I have learned meditation I have naturally grown interested in what these "simple" Buddhist monks have to say. I am particularly drawn to Tibetan Buddhism. I recently read a remarkable book written by a young Tibetan born in exile. In Love with the World by Yongey Mingur Rinpoche. It is a very simply written book, easily read in a couple of hours. Like all things concerning Tibetan Buddhism, that simplicity contains knowledge and ideas that shift the foundation of your world once you begin to consider. Mingur Rinpoche discusses the idea of pauses between one thing and the next, a continual stream of "becoming" throughout our entire lives and beyond. The Buddhists call it the "bardo of becoming", a state of becoming something else, a stage in-between this and that. He says we need not wait until we physically die to understand this.

"It can also be understood to mean "this very moment". The nowness of this moment is the continual suspension (or pause) in-between our transitory experiences, both temporal and spatial, such as the tiny halt that exists between this breath and the next; or the arising and fading of this thought and the next. The interval can also be experienced as the in-between of two objects: the gap between two trees or two cars—the space that provides definition; or we can understand this interval as the emptiness that allows us to see form. Actually, everything is in-between. However minuscule the interval might be, it always exists, and it is always bracketed. Everything in the whole world system exists in-between something else. From this perspective, the exclusive reference of intermediate to the state between death and rebirth emerges as the prototype for transitions that occur within this life cycle; the bardo stages then illuminate how these iconic death-to-life transitions emerge in everyday experience." (Mingyur Rinpoche, Yongey. In Love with the World (pp. 50-51). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition)

Every single thing we do in life is a lesson, a practice run, an exercise in the impermanence of everything - a day, a situation, a relationship, a flower, a breath, a dream, our physical lives. We can practice continually to be in the moment, to recognize the still point - that pause between the pendulum swing. I think often of this. Right now, in many lives around the world, we are forced into an extended still point as we wait for the covid-19 virus to pass us by. Thousands have passed into a different still point - whether they live or die. And many have already left this world.

The skies are almost silent without the never-ending drone of air traffic. The air is clearing of air pollution. The highways are empty of 80% of normal traffic. The schools are closed. The streets of many cities are quiet. It is a rather unique "war". Our infrastructure still stands. We will not have to rebuild homes or roads or repair utilities when this finally concludes. It is more a war of choices, of actions, of choosing to care for one another. There are many possibilities available in this still point, in this moment of quiet. The world has changed. We will not notice much right away. A twig is bent on a tree but the true extent is not evident until many years later when the limb has grown in an altogether different direction. I hope we choose wisely for ourselves and our planet.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Christmas Present

It is Christmas. The Christmas Spirit burns much lower in my heart as the years roll by, not because I have grown cynical but because there are no small children in my life brimming with the magic of Santa. If I had it to do over, I would never trick my children into believing in Santa Claus as a real person. I would explain the significance of Santa in terms of being selfless and loving. Once you know there is no Santa, the depression never quite leaves your psyche, does it?

I stepped out this morning into the unseasonably warm weather to hear geese overhead. I scanned the sky to catch sight of them. A nice sized flock came straight out of the west, not far above the trees. They seemed to pause in flight for a beat and I wondered if they were going to land in my yard! The most irritating dog right now is Mattie. True to her dedication to being the best giant pain-in-assorted-parts of my anatomy, she began barking at the horses - those killer herbivores who live here and who were dangerously waiting for their oats. At the first bark, the geese shifted just a wing beat and effortlessly coalesced into two formations, their natural flight expertise carrying them over my house as if by magic. I accepted their blessing as a very lovely Christmas present.

All is peaceful and calm down on the old farmstead. Ginger and Wally, the Supreme Beings, are fat and sassy. Ginger gets to boss Wally around every single day. Mattie and Jake are happy and healthy but both are worthless as farm dogs. Jake barks at human beings, friend and foe, but Mattie thinks everyone is her next new friend. Jake barks at unseen critters once in a great while but Mattie barks at every molecule and rustling atom, non stop. And if I am not careful to keep one or the other constrained, they actually leave the farm for expensive and dangerous adventures elsewhere. So... two "worthless" dogs. What are you going to do?

I am almost two years retired and it is wonderful. Now I can sleep through the night instead of hour long increments of fitful suffering. I get to stay home in the peace and quiet all day long. No more acid reflux and very few migraine headaches. No ass-burn at all. Well, that's a lie. I have ass-burn at Mattie every day!

I have started painting seriously. I have completed six acrylic paintings. I continue with small watercolors and there is also a set of oils waiting in the wings. Each time I learn a little more and finish better paintings. (Sorry to the people who have received the first clumsy attempts! My heart was in the right place even if the paintings kinda suck.)

My adult children are doing well, though both live complicated lives. They are healthy and happy and most importantly, they are not axe murderers. Mission accomplished!

I continue to meditate and study books written by Alan Wallace and Mingur Youngey Rinpoche. It required almost a lifetime of preparation to understand these Tibetan teachings even though they have been made simple for the Western mind. The Four Immeasurables or cultivating virtues of the heart:

Loving Kindness - heartfelt yearning and vision for oneself and others to experience happiness and the causes of happiness

Compassion - heartfelt yearning that all be free of suffering and its causes

Empathic Joy - Delight in other people's virtues, successes and joys

Equanimity - Even heartedness, even mindedness and impartiality

The Christ came to teach us these truths, as well as the Buddha and countless others, known and unknown.

In the spirit of Christmas:  
Wishing peace on earth and goodwill toward (some) men 
 from the Crazy Woman, the Supreme Beings, and the Constantly Barking Dogs of Spiritcreek.