Too Much Contemplation, Maybe

I didn’t write a blog yesterday, because as hard as I tried to distract myself, I just pondered and pondered the highs and lows of life. It started because the morning was spent at the funeral service for a friend’s husband, who died at 86. It was a surprise to all, since he’d planned to do stuff that day and was also planning to live to be 100.

Not a native plant here, but I still love the red yucca.

I’m glad so many members of our extended community were there to support my friend, because it’s always hard when your life’s story takes a hard turn into a new direction. And that’s what got me thinking of how many others I know who’ve recently lost their partners and how long it takes to get back into a groove again while dealing with a big hole in their lives.

Life is short, but new life is all around. Look, a skipper caterpillar is emerging!

It seems to me that sometimes it’s hard for folks to go out and have fun again. I know many are helped by sharing memories and talking about how much the departed loved one would love to see them doing well. As the minister hinted at the funeral, you’ve not really lost your partner, just physically separated. I could see how the Christian beliefs of my friend and her family were comforting in that respect.

Vlassic comforts me.

I’m comforted by my experiences that thanks to memories, I feel the presence of my loved ones, like my dad, especially. I always find myself “telling” him things.

Dad also liked moss roses and disliked annoying nutsedge.

Anyway, to take my mind our of thinking about how lives change suddenly, I convinced Lee to take me to lunch at a fun place we’d never eaten at before, the Oscar Store, which is the only thing in Oscar, a settlement just outside of Temple, Texas. We drive by it often, because it’s on our favorite shortcut to Tractor Supply and Lowe’s.

Rustic exterior.

It’s really cute inside and outside of the restaurant, and the food is great. I had liver and onions with fantastic lima beans and fried okra. Yes, lima beans. They were in a yummy sauce. I was full well past dinner time from that! Lee had a beautiful cheeseburger.

Petrified wood decor

After the fine lunch we went to look at outdoor furniture at Lowe’s, because we need stuff that’s heavier and won’t blow into the pool repeatedly. The stuff we replace can go on the back porch at the Red House, since we don’t have stairs there yet.

They look so pretty.

So, that helped. But, I still sorta dwelt on things the whole day. What else helped was that I spent much of my pondering time listening to birds, of which I keep identifying more and more. Plus, I got to plant the flowers I showed you above. I finally found portulaca or moss roses so I could plant them by the pool.

These will grow and grow, blooming until there’s a hard frost.

That overheated me like crazy, so I had to jump in the pool, even though it has a lot of grass in it from the mower going the wrong way by it, and there were also flying ants. Yuck. But the water was refreshing!

Last night’s sunset

Time with the horses also helped, of course, They are doing darned well, and yesterday I even figured out that Apache had to pee and moved off his kidneys for ease of pee. He was full of opinions and also informed me when it was time to stop riding. He makes me laugh. Drew is way more cooperative, though he was really muddy this morning!

The rest of the weekend is for relaxing. I bought a whole bunch of stuff to make sandwiches for Sunday Dinner. The things I’ll do so I don’t have to cook…the sandwich ingredients probably cost more than making something to cook.

I’m not serving this.

Nothing’s wrong with pondering your and your loved ones’ mortality occasionally. It helps you remember to treasure every single day.

The Circle of Life – Not Fun

Warning: If the circle of life doesn’t go over well with you, skip this one.

I’m sort of sensitive, as you may have figured out, and while I have a realistic view of life and death, I’m still vulnerable to caring about the life around me.

So much life around here.

So, last Thursday, when I went to get in my car to go to my Master Naturalist meeting, I heard strange noises in the garage. I wondered what the heck my little dachshund mix, Vlassic, could be doing back in the tool area. I called out to him, and heard “grr” in response.

What’s back there?

I carefully approached the work area, where some things had been pushed close together to make it easier for my brother-in-law to get around with his walker. Lo and behold, something was wedged in the space between the work bench and the shed. It was not Vlassic.

In there?

It was big and gray. Was it a hog? A cattle dog? A coyote? Yes, it was a coyote. A very sad and scared coyote. I obviously could not help it. It was in pain and could hurt me. So, I ran in and told Lee. He said to go to my meeting and he’d help it get out.

He did that, and saw that it was badly injured, but no one could catch it (a wild animal) to take it anywhere for rehab. We were pretty sad about the poor thing. I admit that I cried.

The guys saw it go into the pond a couple of times, then run off after Alfred OPENED THE GATE and confronted it. Yes, Alfred can open the gate, he just chooses not to. What a great guard dog.

So, all weekend we’ve been wondering about the coyote. This morning I saw about twenty turkey vultures gathered in the pasture by the road next to the house. Was it the coyote?

Buzzard Central.

No, it was a young possum that had gotten hit by a car. I probably over-reacted, but I was sad, because I am pretty sure I saw it combing home Thursday night, snacking away on the side of the road. I’m fond of possums.

Sent good thoughts to this guy, too. One of the weird things I do it say a little “prayer” or affirmation every time I see an animal that was hit by a car. They deserve good thoughts.

Then, this afternoon, I got one of those weird feelings like I should go out behind the house and check for things. I found a beautiful milkweed plant. I kept walking, because I saw a weird “root” in the pond. I’d never seen it before, and I pretty much know what trees are in there, even after the winter storms.

A home for monarchs! Antelope horns!

Sigh, it was the coyote. What drove it into the pond? I don’t know. But it turns out it must have been run over by a car. The poor dear must have been trying to end its pain.

The pond brings peace in many ways, even to animals in pain.

Lee and I are both relieved that our coyote neighbor is out of its pain, because we sure felt bad that were were unable to help it or put it out of its pain. Circle of Life. Ugh.

Life’s a mystery, full of joy and sadness.

Living our in the country exposes you to to the beauty and the struggles in nature. All you can do is observe and do your best. I gave our coyote neighbor a flower and said what passes for a prayer for it.

I threw it a flower.

I’m glad I found it, because it could have messed up the pond by decaying in there. Now it is out (I didn’t do it) and it can feed other beings and the circle life will continue.

You never know what’s next.

It’s actually been an okay weekend, other than pondering life and death. I just had to write this out, because I need to stop processing and get some closure. Sharing the story helps the coyote live on in my memory and the memory of others. That makes it immortal!

Wish I Could Crawl in People’s Heads (Briefly)

I spend way too much of the time that I’m reading the news, perusing social media, and watching folks around me saying, “Hmm.”

You should be out looking for me, the Bluebird of Happiness.

I’m a person, far as I can tell. But I feel so different from humans I observe. It’s not new; I’ve felt out of place among humanity most of my life. What feels different to me these days is that I’m having more and more trouble empathizing with people and being able to see where they get their viewpoints. (I realize I’m not alone here!)

Take a deep breath and enjoy a camellia

For example, I watched the annual State of the Union Address last night, as did many Americans. Some parts of the speech affected my business, some affected the rights of my friends and family, some seemed spot on, while others seemed exaggerated or slanted. I observe political events from my personal perspective, naturally, and I’m aware that my background, upbringing, education, and privilege affect my perceptions. I don’t expect others to feel the same as me.

I’ll mock you if you keep this up much longer, Suna

Still, I found myself inexplicably surprised to read how people I know reacted to the speech. The range was from being thrilled and buoyed up to being angry and derisive. Now, I’ve gone on and on about how I believe we are living in two different countries within one geographic space. But sometimes the extent of the divide shocks me.

It made me want to dive into the water and not come back up (thanks, anhinga)

I really would like to briefly crawl inside the minds of some of the people I know, so I could see how they came to be a member of the country I don’t live in. I’m convinced they have different truths and facts than I do, and I would love to jump in and learn them, without having to watch certain television networks.

At least I have a nice place to watch my chosen network (HGTV)

When I’ve tried to talk to people, I get one of two reactions: some declare that they just “know” things in their gut and feel them, facts or no facts; others are able to point to evidence for their beliefs, which tends to be things that people in my country don’t learn about. The latter group help me a lot, but I’m still baffled and hate to be that way.

We all see the same sun as it sets, just from different physical and mental places

Here’s where I draw a little comfort. There have been times throughout the history of human cultures where people with very different mindsets have coexisted for long periods of time. They are able to work together, trade with each other, and keep each other safe, all while practicing very different spiritual and political beliefs. I know this has been true. I want this here.

Why can’t we all just get along and let a rainbow be a rainbow?
(Ha ha – I’m aware that folks who say that are made fun of all the time)

I also have seen how easily these times of peace and coexistence can blow up. Look at the former Yugoslavia, India and Pakistan, Hitler’s reign, Israel, the US in the 1860s… this is what I fear. We are equally divided in this country. I just hope the reasonable majority on both sides keeps us at peace.


On a happier note, I enjoyed yesterday. There was the perfect balance of hard work, exercise, and relaxation. There’s a lot to be said about watching container ships (which are shaped like giant floating bricks), crab boats, kites, and dogs out the window as I ponder project lifecycles. Plus, the birds did not disappoint me, either. Those cedar waxwings are having a great feast on the little fruits of the palmettos.

Just twittering away, those waxwings.

Plus, Lee made it back to the ranch safely and I found out I’ll have some fun visitors for the next few days. I won’t be meditating solemnly and thinking deep thoughts in the condo alone! I’ll get to do things and meet new people. All I’ll say is that my guests are regular blog readers, who I hope are ready to drive over here and not reading my nonsense.

Back to my regularly scheduled search for beauty among the harsh reality of life. This is a statue at the new park nearby.

Do unto Others

I’ve seen a lot of younger, more “woke” (in the good sense, not the pejorative sense) folks reminding us older folks to not treat others as you’d like to be treated, but to treat them how THEY would prefer.

This is how Goldie wants to be treated, I hope.

That made me wonder how I’m supposed to know that? How do you know how someone wants you to treat them? If you know them, you can base it on experience. Otherwise…Do you guess?

Pondering deep questions like this makes me glad for the quiet back yard at the Red House.

Perhaps you might have to ask someone how they want to be treated. That might lead to a conversation. Insight may occur. Or not. But doing unto others like they prefer may end up being a bidirectional thing this way, if approached with kindness and respect.

Let’s sleep on it, says Penney.

Thoughts?

The Free Tranquilizer: Nature

I’m always telling you all how much being out in nature helps me deal with my chronic anxiety and Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria (RSD). Today I’m really taking advantage of it and pulling out all the stops with nature, cuteness, and sunshine helping me deal with how people treat me and (the worst) the fact that it’s the second Tuesday in November in the USA. Election Day. I sure hope that voting tradition continues!

I’ve been voting since this time of year in 1976, when someone I truly admire to this day got elected, Jimmy Carter. I believe there’s only been one other time I actually admired a Presidential candidate. The rest I had deep reservations about or was just okay with. This year, we just deal with governors. I did vote for a few governors I liked, especially when I lived in Illinois. But I just hope that I continue to have the right to my personal freedoms and can feel safe in the future. And this is why I need warm fuzzies and cute animals to cheer me up.

Just pet our muddy selves and you will feel better, Suna.

You’re supposed to say what you’re thankful for nowadays. It spans all of November, not just the US Thanksgiving holiday like it used to. I guess it’s to help us remember what is still there for us. I’m thankful for the friendly animals in my life, like Christmas the bull over at Tarrin’s house.

My merry band of horses, who are enjoying the front pasture, the new pond’s hill, and the mud.

A lot of the time, though, I just need to breathe and look at the sky. While I missed the lunar eclipse last night (Lee was sure it was tonight), I did enjoy the sight of a beautiful sun dog in the afternoon sky. I love those cloud rainbows!

I also loved the rain we received over the past few days. It was supposed to rain again today, but maybe it won’t. At least new grass is growing and it’s no longer crunchy outside.

I’m breathing more steadily now and resolve to continue to treat people the way I’d like to be treated and assume people are doing the best they can. This reminder I saw on Facebook really rings true and has helped me for the past week or so.

Peace to all. Let’s try not to live in fear, especially of our neighbors.

Everything’s Coming Up Roses

I’m just gonna pretend that’s true. Why not? I’m tired of living in fear of “the other,” which I think comes from all the stories you hear about crazed people on the other side who want to shoot you or take your guns, or whatever. Just two examples.

Actual roses.

After reading about the boy, the mole, the fox, and the horse, I was thinking that little horrible can happen if I just live like people are basically kind and loving.

Thanks, Lee I’ll stop and smell them…

Honestly, if you’re reasonably observant it will be apparent if someone feels malice or is duplicitous. Then you can just move on to the next adventure. What do you get from fighting or trying to prove something? Not much.

Stop and gaze at them…

It sounds like the kind of thing many religions promote but few actually try to do. Probably it’s hard, that’s why. I’ve been trying. I’m motivated to try harder.

Stop and touch them!

A soft life sounds blissful.

What’s a Micro-affirmation?

That was my question today, when my Facebook friend Gene Deel posted this:

[T]he opposite of a micro-aggression is micro-affirmation (or as my workplace calls it, ‘microsupport’) – “displaying small and subtle acts of kindness, caring, and appreciation”.

Facebook post

I’ve read about micro-aggressions for years. They are often things people do that they don’t even realize that they are doing and may not even consciously intend (like moving away from someone wearing insignia of a religion different from yours). Many people who are minorities in their communities report that micro-aggressions exhaust them.

I can sense hostility in others, but am not sure if I consciously notice micro-aggressions, myself. So, I was very happy to discover there are also micro-affirmations! I began to wonder what those would look like. Is it nodding in support when someone is sharing something difficult, smiling during Zoom meetings, leaning in toward someone who seems to be struggling?

Maybe we could just spread bubbles or confetti everywhere? J/K. Photo by @criene via Twenty20.

I was not really sure, so I looked it up and found an interesting article, called “Not-so-random acts of kindness: How you can use micro-affirmations to fight unconscious bias in the workplace.” Aha! Back when I was working so hard to learn about unconscious bias, this would have been a useful concept to share. I guess it’s not too late!

The article gave workplace examples, such as praising coworkers in public, saying hello in the hallway, or bringing up details of something they mentioned earlier (to show you value them and pay attention). These are conscious acts that any of us could do to help counteract micro-aggressions.

I think this would count as a macro-affirmation. Photo by @tdyuvbanova via Twenty20

I like that the article reminds people to do their actions naturally and authentically. Then they say to use appreciative inquiry, which I always feel sounds forced, but maybe that’s because I’m not good at it.

In any case, I’m just starting to think about this, but I do believe that consciously making an effort to treat the people you come across equally and kindly can make the world a better place. It might counter-act some of the hostility, negativity, and aggression that swirls around us sometimes.

What do you think about micro-affirmations? Too hippie-dippie or a good idea?

Cultivating Calm

I read today that what horses want is peace. No wonder I like horses. I, too, crave peace. And calm. It’s been my goal all my life. I do not crave excitement, uncertainty, or the unexpected. But, guess what? That stuff shows up all the time. What to do?

I found a moment of peace when the afternoon sun visited my bathroom.

I’m relieved that my anti-anxiety meds have kicked back in. They are really helpful for me. They don’t make me calm, but they do give me a better attitude about uncertainty and the unexpected. They help me detach a wee bit.

Knitting is something that has kept me calmer my whole life. Today I put this sweet knitting corn husk doll that my sons gave me on my little display shelf someone I used to know made me.

Calm and peace. You do have to work on them, but it pays off! For example, my work laptop has been a bit off since I got back from this trip. Just little things were happening until yesterday afternoon, when my webcam stopped working in the middle of a fun meeting. It didn’t work today, either, but because I didn’t get all upset and pissy, I was able to patiently wait until the Logitech help person found a solution. Yay! I stayed calm and didn’t just order another one.

Goldie was doing this while I was fixing the webcam. Distracting!

And just as the camera was fixed, I had another meeting. Throughout the meeting the sound of the Zoom phone ringing kept playing. For an hour. I just laughed and tuned it out. What else could I do? I cultivated calm and just dealt with it. Go me.

I’m calm, too, even though I have all these gangly legs.

There’s so much going on here that keeping on an even keel is important. My vacation helped. The horses help. Having great conversations with my son helps. Lee helps. All of you help. Keep spreading peace, calm, and lovingkindness. The world needs it.

Book Report: A Journey to Softness

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Yes, indeed, I read another book by Mark Rashid. A Journey to Softness: In Search of Feel and Connection with the Horse taught me a lot about horses, but also gave me a huge insight into dealing with people that I think will come in handy during the hard days I see coming.

I will admit that softness is a thing I always wanted to have with horses, but I thought I was just making up, since nothing seemed soft about dealing with them for much of the time I’ve been around them. I have always been told to be harder, be more assertive, and be more of a leader (which is what I learned about in the previous book about passive leadership).

I know why that all is, of course, but I was intrigued to read how Mark Rashid and some of the people he’s worked with have gotten to a different level with horses, to where they don’t have to do much at all to work together as a team and achieve goals. The softness does require concentration, attention, and effort, so it’s not a breeze. And it’s a lot of working with energy and intent – something that I actually am good at! How about that?

I got some great ideas about how my attitude and intentions when around the horses can make things go better, and I was eager to try them out when I got back from my trip.

Who knows if it’s “working” or not, but I have enjoyed keeping positive intentions and kindness in my heart as well as taking everything that happens as the right thing. It’s been nice to think the horse has a voice in what we do, too. That was great with Mabel when she was sick, and in both my lessons last week. I’ve continued it all week when I work with Drew and Apache.

Another thing Rashid talks a lot about is aikido concepts of meeting force with less resistance. I don’t explain it well, but he told a story of when a man showed up at the ranch where he worked all bent out of shape, aggressive, and rough. Rashid’s mentor didn’t react much, just asked quiet questions and moved slowly in response to the man’s aggression. Soon, the man quieted down, and the mentor was then able to give him some suggestions. The idea was the more violent the guy got, the more passive the mentor got, so that the average of their energy was in the middle. Rashid talked about doing that with horses as part of his softness energy work.

I thought about doing the same with people and even got a chance to act on it when someone in my life got angry and acted out. I didn’t respond until they began to settle down, and I am pretty sure that happened faster because I didn’t add energy into the mix. That wasn’t easy for me, but I breathed and thought of lovingkindness. I’ve been doing that a lot these days.

Back to the book. An added bonus to this book is that he included some stories from people he’s worked with, about how they found softness in various aspects of their lives in addition to the horses they worked with. That was invaluable to me. This book was well worth reading and had way fewer typos than the previous ones.

Thoughts and Actions, Please

Today I’ve been feeling sick. I’m not a gun lover in the first place, and now I feel like we are all just waiting for our turns to be someone’s target. The cynic in me feels that the people who run the US care only about themselves, their families, babies (up to the moment of birth, at which point they are worthless), and guns.

[Some of you may want to stop reading now and go enjoy some Fox News.]


What has sucked the wind out of my sails the most is how I’ve seen regular folks reacting to the endless shootings of people who just happened to be living their lives in the wrong places.

I burned candles in their honor, but won’t stop there.

It’s not just the sincerely uttered “thoughts and prayers,” because I know that’s what people in a certain social group say when they just don’t have anything else to say. No, it’s people who say the ONLY thing you can do to help dead children, teachers, grocery shoppers, and such is to pray.

“My tradition teaches that prayer without action is just noise.”

Rabbi Jack Moline

As my friend Lynn pointed out to me, you don’t hear many ministers saying that. You hear them calling for change. At least the ministers I’ve heard. Rabbi Moline is one of them. Another quote from him:

There is no tradition that, at its core, would justify the massacre of children at school, grandparents at the grocery store, or congregants in a house of worship. And there should be no faith leader that sits idly by while the people we have dedicated our lives to ministering to are slaughtered. Prayer works only when it softens the hardened heart and opens it to the message of healing and justice that flows through every tradition’s scripture. Prayer works only if it leads to confession, contrition and repentance. Prayer works only if it is not an excuse for inaction.

NOTHING PREVENTS THE FREE EXERCISE OF RELIGION MORE EFFECTIVELY THAN A BULLET

Worse than this, I’ve seen people post that it’s not so bad all these people are dying, because that way they get to go meet Jesus and hang out with their deceased relatives sooner rather than later. I’m sorry, but WTF. It’s hard for me to imagine their pacifist god-figure wanting people do die early in a massacre just to hang out with him. Um, I hope they draw comfort from that.

Not a fan

I got so upset that I ran to my trusted sources for words of comfort, words to help me remember who I am, and words to steer ME via my beliefs. My Christian spiritual leader, Jim Rigby reminded me of these words by Martin Luther King, Jr.:

“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.”

MLK

And then Jim talked about having the courage to be gentle and find hope as I respond to the hurt I am feeling right now. He is right, of course:

Greek culture had a word for “gentleness” (praus) that actually could meant “power under control.” It was sometimes used for a powerful animal that had been tamed. Today “gentleness” might refer to finding the courage not to use violence to solve all of our problems. Before we can tackle the problem of gun violence we must first ask ourselves an important question: Does our nation have the courage to be gentle?

Guns are no replacement for the civic virtue of courage. This nation cannot be saved by military grade weapons in the hands of cowardly spirits. Human decency requires the bravery to steer by our hopes not our fears.

Jim Rigby, Facebook

While all that helped me spiritually, I still am faced with even more blatant 1984-style language and proclamations by civic leaders that my head literally hurts. Why are guns more important than children, I keep wondering? Why is “freedom” more important than protecting the mentally ill and dangerous from themselves and others? I’m not alone. From Richard Stone of Taylor, Texas:

I got in a row on one of the local community pages about arming teachers. Saw this over on Twitter a few minutes ago and now I can’t wrap my head around the cognitive dissonance.

Richard Stone, Facebook

He then quoted someone else who finally put into words what has been causing my hurt:

“I heard this point yesterday and can’t get it out of my mind – TX politicians don’t trust teachers to choose books, but they think arming teachers is a good idea.”

Bethany Albertson

I have a child who is a teacher. He just celebrated five years at Austin ISD and I am proud of him. He was raised in a gun-free household, as was I, and as I have been until things changed around here. I do not want to see him having to protect his students from killers. I want him to teach history and even hide some facts in among the state-mandated stuff. I want him free to care about his students, but also feel free to criticize or discipline appropriately, when necessary, without worrying that kid will come back and shoot him the moment they turn 18. Holy crap that is just plain dystopian. I’m nauseated.

And don’t tell me to move. I’m from here, too.

Anyway, I’m not a crazed snowflake who wants to snatch people’s possessions out of their hands. I’m a mother, a spouse, an aunt, a nature lover, and just a regular human who wants to feel free to have opinions, live in safety, and feel free to spread love, kindness, and even lovingkindness, around the land.

Breathe, Suna

But to also speak up. So many folks I know have been afraid to say we need to do something about the gun worship culture here. Why? Because of gun worshippers. Not hunters, not safety officers. People who literally LOVE the things and don’t give a shit how many people have to die because of it.

Some bunny loves us all. Me.

As so many people I know have been asking, how did we get here? Can we make things better. I want to help.

something poetic

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