Fred in the News!
Fred made the news! What a sweet surprise to have my book promoted on KOIN-TV on my 60th birthday. Gratitude to the wonderful Nicole DeCosta for the thoughtful interview.
Staccato, quite possibly the sweetest and gentlest creature I have ever known, is no longer able to roam free outdoors as he did for the first thirteen years of his life, due to serious health challenges involving his kidneys and heart. It was difficult and he was at first afraid and resistant, but he has adapted to walking outdoors on a harness with me tagging along behind. It means he can't crawl into all his favorite small spaces, under shrubs and hedges. But he can touch the earth and breath in the wind, and today he walked straight to a patch of ground where the plant, Self Heal, has been growing prolifically for the past year. He sighed deeply and settled down into it, rubbing his face against the plant.
I sat down next to him and quietly observed his deep sighs, taking in the exquisite relationship between animal and plant, in awe of his seemingly innate wisdom to seek healing from earth. The animals are so wise, and so resilient.
the exquisite cycle
The California milkweed is flowering, and it is glorious! The caterpillar, though, has apparently journeyed on.
This morning I sat in the garden for a long time, listening to the sounds of baby Juncos hopping about and their mother's nearby "clicking," and bees swarming busily around the giant thyme plant, and squirrels chattering, and the tic-tic-tic of a neighbors sprinkler and, I thought, what a lovely place to be. Repeatedly, I leaned into the raised bed, squinting, hoping to see Frida, the visiting Monarch, somewhere among the milkweed. But there was no sign of her, nor on any of my visits throughout the day.
This afternoon as I stood peering into the garden a notion arrived about the beauty and purpose of feeding another being, about the utter magic of a caterpillar snatched up and swallowed into the belly of a bird or a wasp, and how that caterpillar's contribution to a healthy ecosystem supports every creature who lives there. And how only humans see ourselves as separate from that exquisite cycle. Yet, still believing we can learn.
I thought how fortunate I am to sit among these incredible beings, to observe their behavior and listen to the sounds of so many living things working in tandem, and to notice the ways that nature ever-so-subtly invites me in as an observer so that I might come to understand that I am also, in some way, a participant.
This evening I am sitting in gratitude for the blessing that is this life, yours and mine, as part of an earth community that graciously and patiently awaits our awareness and right action. May we rise to the occasion and fully embody our highest and best potential. I believe in us.
A couple days ago I planted the milkweed plant, careful not to disturb the resident Monarch. This morning I went to the garden to check on the caterpillar we are affectionately calling "Frida," but it was nowhere to be found, nor was it immediately visible when I went out to check seven hours (but who's counting!) later. Because I'm a human who becomes easily attached to the other creatures in my orbit, I already feel an attachment to this wee totem of transformation. Turns out, my visiting caterpillar was merely resting in the shade under one of the milk weed leaves, wisely out of sight and sunlight.
Unlike humans, Caterpillars are innately engineered to adjust to the circumstances of their brief yet brilliant lives. In actuality, only one or two out of 100 eggs become adult butterflies. Nature, in the form of predators and disease and parasites, kills 98% of eggs, hatchlings, and pupa, before they become butterflies.
Nature also kills a fairly significant percentage of humans at various stages of our development, due to predators and disease and, in many cases, due to our own stupidity (hello, gun enthusiasts), but we tend to think of these untimely deaths as the exception rather than the rule; as a complete and tragic loss rather than a change of state (or being).
Love comes with the inevitability of loss, through death or because the relationship just didn't work out as we had imagined. Today's little (big) lesson in the garden leads me to ponder ways I might hold what and whom I love with joyful gratitude and peaceful acceptance, and to keep my attention on the only moment that is certain.
Almost two years after the auspicious meeting where I received the gift of Fred the Monarch, today I once again met my friends Maryse and Tom to catch up and share some exquisite wine in a beautiful place. They brought me another milkweed plant from their garden in Santa Cruz and, once again, we were delighted to discover the plant contained a tiny stowaway! Thankfully, it's a very warm August and this Monarch should thrive in my outdoor garden. I love life's full circle experiences.
the butterfly has landed!
At long last, Fred the Monarch is here! Holding the finished book in my hands for the first time, I felt an unexpected rush of excitement. And, in what can only be described as a divine synchronicity, my son showed up just moments after the mail carrier delivered the box. That he is the first to read my first children's book fills my heart with gratitude and delight.
May the story of Fred fly far and wide.
every life matters
Every animal I've ever had in my life, from childhood onward, has been a rescue. Cats, dogs, fish, the odd gerbil, and one badly injured field mouse my son picked up and carried next door to the ER tech who kindly splinted it's tiny leg. I'm sure our kind neighbor knew the mouse wouldn't survive the night but nonetheless took the time to model genuine care and empathy for an impressionable child. Because every life matters.
Fast forward: this sweet guy, Rocky, started life with an abusive owner who kept him tethered on a short chain for more than a year until, at long last, the scared pup was rescued by our dear friend, Michelle, who knew she couldn't keep him but nonetheless chose to save his life. It took a year to find this precious boy a forever home with my son. He's a wee bit rough around the edges, and needs a lot of training, but Rocky is pretty much the sweetest doggo I've ever met and our family is better for his having joined us.
I was blessed with two kind and compassionate father figures; my dad, Ole Olsson, and my (maternal) gramp, Helmer Swensen. Many of my fondest memories include these two characters and a lively poker game. Happy Father's Day, Ole and Sven. I like to imagine you somewhere out there raising a chilled glass of Coors, snacking on pickled herring, and playing a hand of Smear.
Missing my folks on what would have been their 61st wedding anniversary. Here they are in 1965, Ma holding baby Ike and Dad holding me; and thirty years later, as overjoyed new grandparents, Ma holding Ike's baby, Ben and Dad holding my baby, Elliott. Love's echo is eternal.
hope beneath my feet
The veil feels thin today. This morning I padded out into the living room to switch on the lights and felt something rough beneath my feet. I looked down to see this palm crucifix and felt the hair stand up on my arms. I have no idea how the cross found its way to the place I encountered it, nor where it was before then; though I suspect, it had long ago been tucked into the pages of a book. I do know this, it's been around a while. My devout Lutheran mother always saved a palm cross for me from the Palm Sunday service, tangible reminders of the faith community into which I was born. Somehow, this particular cross made its way to my living room floor and my foot made its way to the cross, today, on Palm Sunday. More than 10 years after my mother took her leave of this place.
While I did attend all the requisite classes during my childhood and adolescence I, unlike my dear mother, was not a particularly good student of the Lutheran faith. Nonetheless, I do know that Palm Sunday is the final Sunday of season of Lent, and that it signifies the beginning of Holy week, leading up to Easter Sunday, a celebration of the resurrection of Christ.
I remember that palm branches represent a kind of victory, in the Easter story, Christ's victory over death. So I'm going to stretch and say that palm branches have a relationship to transformation and, as it appeared this morning on my living room floor, on Palm Sunday In the season of new beginnings, could be interpreted as a symbol of hope. And I rather like the notion that the spirit of my ma is doing her part, in death as she did in life, to wave those symbols at people who sometimes need to be reminded.