I thought it was high time for a little "lightness" and Patches, my crazy calico cat, is really excellent at humor. You can watch her as she is riveted to the screen for her video debut in "Kittens in the Cushions" -- a highly entertaining romp with my two cats, Patches and Samantha, jumping in and out of the sofa cushions and having a blast!
Did you know it takes 21 days of repetition to form a new habit? Not 19. Not 25. I don’t know precisely how the experts arrived at the magic number of 21, but I’ll go with it. Personally, I think if you build momentum and are very determined, you could form a new habit in 19 and a half days. But I could be wrong.
Anyway, I’ve decided to form the new habit of contemplating my navel. Why, you say? Let me count the reasons:
1. There is nothing good on TV. I’ve checked. Surfed the whole 423 channels. Twice. Nada. So, that’s the first reason. Contemplating my navel offers a new horizon in entertainment (sort of).
2. The navel is an often ignored part of your anatomy. Think about it. When’s the last time you paid it any attention? You cleaned the lint out of it in 1992, and since then…poor, lonely navel. And, it is in a good place for contemplation, being located in the middle of your abdomen. Also, it doesn’t move around much. Other than the basic in and out when you breathe. Which is actually conducive to contemplation. Try it. You’ll see what I mean.
3. According to all the wise persons (well, they are not all men) and mystical traditions, contemplation and meditation are good for the soul (see my post about meditation, “Monkey Mind and the Conscious Consumption of Craisins“). If that is true, then learning the new skill of contemplating your navel would, it logically follows, also be good for soul development. Hence my enthusiasm for learning this highly beneficial new skill.
4. It’s trendy and makes one appear positively guru-ish. Assume the cross legged position on your cushion on the floor, or sit Indian style if you can’t make your legs into the pretzel shaped meditation position. You can add music that’s weird and other-worldly, like the sounds of migrating whales and digeridoo (I have no idea how to spell that word, but it‘s the Australian Aboriginal instrument that sounds like a cross between a harmonica and a kazoo). Candles and incense can further add to the mystique. Of course, if you’re over 50, this could be hazardous to your health and well-being, not to mention your knees (just sitting on the floor in this position can be!). The cushion can always be in a chair, so you avoid that whole sitting-on-the-floor thing. But you lose trendy points. Just saying.
5. You are positively Facebooked, Twittered, Texted, and emailed out. Your tired eyes, fingers, and thumbs need a rest, not to mention your brain. Contemplating your navel is an excellent restorative exercise, requiring one to desist from all of the above and renew and refresh your being. Kind of like rebooting in tech talk. So, turn your cell phone off. Go ahead. You can do it! Unplug your computer and hide your tablet under the bed. There. You are ready to begin navel contemplation, bigtime. Go for it!
6. It’s cheaper than drugs, legal, doesn’t leave you with a hangover, is restful, and helps to induce a sense of peace in an otherwise really crazy world. What’s not to like? So, here goes. Day one of the 21-day habit-forming path to the new habit of navel contemplation and nirvana. Are we there yet???
Karma (kar' ma) n. 1.Sanskrit word meaning action, work or deed. Refers to the principle of causality where intent and actions of an individual influence the future of that individual. Good intent and good deeds create good results, bad intent and bad actions bring about the opposite. 2.the cosmic principle of rewards and punishments for acts performed. 3.the good or bad emanations felt to be generated by someone or something.
Author's Note: This post really made me laugh, so I decided to update and repost it. I think the world really needs some laughter right about now, and the start of a new year in a new place, (with no most-annoying-dog-on-earth or squawking, screeching birds) seems like a wonderful thing to celebrate!!
Several years ago, I had the great good fortune to be at a gathering of girlfriends (old and new) to celebrate our creative courage to change our lives and to say 'so long' to those who are parting ways for the summer. It was magic! There were hugs and heartfelt sharing, fabulous food, fine spirits (all meanings of that word) and as the group dwindled down to a core of five, uproarious laughter ensued (the laugh-until-you-cry-and-almost-pee kind!) And it just felt soooooo good. It also made me realize just how much I have been sucked into seriousness lately and I want out! My inspiration from this experience is that laughter is not only the best medicine - it is also as necessary as air for survival in an increasingly insane world. My soul sure felt lighter as I left the party, so I decided that this kind of en-light-en-ment deserves to be shared.
As author of this blog, since I have ultimate control over what appears here, I hereby declare a new direction toward karmic (comic) relief through stories that cause enlightenment & laughter. Here is the first of the karmic relief stories for your humorous pleasure. (No worries, girls, I'll only share my own stories so you will remain anonymous, if not innocent :)
Karmic relief and the Parrot
Many years ago, in a universe far away, there was a neighborhood noise issue. (OK, it wasn't a universe far away. It was a neighborhood now far, far away.) The neighbors got a small dog whom I shall call the-most-annoying-dog-on-earth. It was a Jack Russell Terrier, also known as a spring-loaded jumping manic barking machine. It performed in this crazy-hyper fashion whenever I walked into my backyard. Luckily for me, it was separated by a chain link fence, so the murderous intent of the dog (and later, um, me!) was deflected in part. The barking and springing were annoying beyond belief and completely spoiled the peace and quiet to which I had grown accustomed when watering my garden, sitting on my lanai, contemplating my navel, etc.
The-most-annoying-dog-on-earth also had the habit of silently sneaking up on me when I took the trash or recycling out after dark. He would then launch himself repeatedly against the fence, just a few feet from me, barking and snarling maniacally and scaring the bejeebers out of me. If a dog could laugh, I swear he did. Suffice it to say I did not like this dog. A first for me!
Life went on, and despite my very polite complaints to the neighbors, the problem persisted. Then, it got worse. MUCH worse. They got birds. Really BIG birds in cages on their back lanai. I think there were one or two African Gray Parrots and oh, about 17 other kinds of smaller birds - a whole menagerie of birds which added incredibly loud squawking and screeching and twittering to the barking and snarling. Arrrghhhhhh!! It sounded like the jungles of the Amazon and when the whole lot got going with the barking and springing and squawking and screeching it was total bedlam!
Now, I'm normally a quite patient person. Well, mostly a patient person. OK, sometimes I'm NOT! But this noise was way over the top and was making me and the rest of the neighbors nuts! Then a minor miracle happened. After much discussion, letters, petitions, prayers, threats, gnashing of teeth, they got rid of the-most-annoying-dog-on-earth!! Yup, he was gone to chase buffalos in Montana or something. And there was quiet again in the neighborhood, well except for the screeching and squawking and twittering. So, as I am sitting on the lanai, enjoying the well-deserve peace and relative quiet, I hear the-most-annoying-dog-on-earth -- barking! What?????? Softer, but it's definitely him. How is he haunting me from afar? I peer over into the neighbor's yard, but there's no sign of the dog. I listen intently. Minutes of barking pass. Then, I realize the awful truth. It's the parrot barking!
After I recovered from the shock of the barking bird (it eventually wore off after a year or so), I will allow that the parrot sort of redeemed itself with its other entertaining emanations. For instance, I called my cats to breakfast every morning with the traditional "Heeeeeeeeeeeere kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty" call, adding my own trademark rising inflection at the end. As I wait for the usual feline stampede, I hear a faint echo of my "heeeeeeeeeeeeeere kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty" refrain, complete with my rhythm and inflection. Yup, it's the parrot. Now that really cracks me up! I wondered what the cats made of it, but I secretly hoped the parrot would get what he was asking for - in a nice sort of way. Or, perhaps in a karmic sort of way. Wish I could have gotten that on video for all posterity and maybe America's Funniest Home Videos. A parrot calling a cat would have probably been worth some money as well as some laughs.
This talented parrot, who I began to call the-loudest-parrot-on-earth continued to add to his repertoire in the most interesting ways: he did a loud and very credible wolf whistle; he "yelled" at the successor most-annoying-dog-on-earth (named Dakota), but not usually when he was actually barking; and his major feat was to "learn" the dialogue from a rather loud, nasty and highly personal argument that his owners, a married couple, had in Spanish--yelled at the top of their voices, with LOTS of emotion. He repeated this fight for months, much to the chagrin of the owners, and despite their attempts to drown him out with a radio, this was a regular feature of our little neighborhood. Though I don't understand Spanish curse words (some of the neighbors did!), I am pretty sure there were many included. See? This is what karma is all about. :)
As the year and the decade draw to a close, I thought some deep wisdom (and humor) might be in order. So, here are a few true insights from my beautiful feline friend, Misty, who is now happily frisking around in heaven after spending 20 years blessing us with her sweet self. I would love to hear your feedback on Misty's marvelous advice, and perhaps you can contribute your own tips on how to live a better life, based on your experiences with our four-footed friends. Dogs may also apply :)
Last December, the day after Christmas, we said goodbye to our nearly 20-year-old wise kitty, Misty. We were bereft, since she was the last of the six cats who were such a beloved part of our family through the years and she had been with us since birth. Luckily, we did not allow ourselves to be "catless" for very long, since the house was so empty we couldn't stand it. We found these two simply amazing kittens at our local Humane Society and have been enjoying their lively, energetic kitten comics ever since. In a quirk of serendipity, they were each named and had the same coloring as two of our kitties who were gone over the Rainbow Bridge. We knew immediately upon seeing them piled together sleeping in the window, that they were ours.
They are without a doubt the most intelligent, inventive, playful, athletic and adventurous cats who have ever owned us! Our breakable plates, glasses and knickknacks have taken a pretty big hit, (six glasses, four cereal bowls, two cat food dishes, and a crystal basket so far) but we are so grateful that these furry felines have chosen to be with us for their life's adventure. Below, please enjoy their romp through the cushions. They can entertain themselves endlessly with pretty much anything: paper bags, boxes, a crack in the tile floor, their tails, each other. Here's to feline fun!
"The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world's problems." ~Mahatma Gandhi
This piece is an homage to the awe-inspiring friends who make a difference every day by choosing the path of love and service. They are ordinary, everyday people doing extraordinary, miraculous things. They look fear and loss in the eye and spit in it, choosing instead to use their creative talents and gifts to perform a sort of spiritual alchemy that has incredible power to transmute despairing into caring, and chaos into peace. They do this by choosing the expansive path of love and service over the contracting one of fear and limitation. They do this every day. So can we all.
The friends I'm speaking of come from all walks of life: a nurse, a poet, a fiction writer/yoga teacher, a spiritual healer, a retired teacher, a singer, a flight attendant. They are the unsung heroes (or sheroes) who know the secret of life -- choosing love one moment at a time.
The news of Robin Williams' death hit me with the impact of a double-hoofed kick in the solar plexus. I felt such a depth of sadness at his bright, incredible talent being silenced by the demon of depression. It's incomprehensible. As the shock waves washed over me, I thought about the duality of the human spirit: its vulnerable frailties and its equally amazing strengths. We are all caught in a raging sea of human need brought to us each day by the media in a vast array of war, poverty, hatred, intolerance and greed. If one focused only on the horrible news of the day, it would be easy to surrender to fear and curl up into a shivering little ball of misery. But the human spirit has this deep innate resilience. And hope is hard to kill. Thankfully!
For all the tragedies and human suffering that are on display seemingly everywhere you look, there are also tender-hearted, generous, breathtaking instances of people who are moving through the impacts of life circumstances to bring forth their own miraculous talents in service to the screaming need of others. Let me give you a few examples of several inspiring friends who are doing just that:
First, there's Wendy, a nurse who has lived through numerous challenges including losing almost everything in a house fire, and surviving some very tough health issues. Yet she is not only surviving, but thriving. She is leaving on a mission trip to Arua, Uganda today to bring her medical knowledge and her compassionate heart, along with 5-gallon buckets filled with hospice supplies to teach those caring for the dying how to practice good hygiene and comfort care. Wendy is one shining example of someone who has transformed the pain of loss into the path of service. She rocks as a shero in my book! If you would like more information about the Bucket Project Hospice Kits, as part of the Baptist Global Relief program, you can find it here:
Another friend who is answering the creative call is Pamela. She is currently sharing the amusing and inspiring story of her spiritual journey through her multimedia one-woman theatrical presentation, called "Confessions of a Spiritually Promiscuous Woman", and her new book, Confessions of a Passionate Seeker: Bridging the Gap from Ego to Essence, and in her speaking engagements around the country. Pamela is a whirlwind of creative talent and energy who has shared her gifts with many through establishing empowering women's groups called Women of Wisdom, her two Higher Tea books and the Blueprint for the Human Spirit. Her journey continues to touch lives and inspire. Her website can be found here: www.PamelaGerali.com
Yet another friend, Shannon Danford, brings lightness and wickedly funny humor to others through her Blues series of books set in SW Florida. She creates totally outrageous characters and places them in hilarious situations which could, or might still, happen and releases her own inimitable witty/ironic style in the process. She actually offers a laughter dare/guarantee for her work. I couldn't read them without laughing out loud so often my husband came to check and see what I was doing! Yup, another shero! So if you need some laughter in your life, check out her books here: http://www.mamasluckymojo.com/ or here: http://www.sandmanbooks.com/florida-authors/danford-shannon-florida-author.html
Heather McHugh is a friend of a friend whom I originally met at the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers, in North Carolina years ago where I was working and she was teaching. Heather is a poet, a translator, an educator and a shero who has touched countless lives through her deeply insightful and inspiring poetry. She has won awards too numerous to list (You can visit her Wikipedia page here). In 2009, Heather was awarded the prestigious MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Grant for her dazzling body of work. Yet rather than simply basking in the honor and accolades, Heather chose to take the award money and use it along with her own resources to launch the non-profit Caregifted.org which provides respite getaways for weary long-term caregivers. But Heather's generosity and vision didn't stop there. She also is spearheading the fund-raising campaign to keep the Caregifted program going and growing, and she is dedicated to producing a documentary called Undersung, which tells the stories of awe-inspiring love that carries these long-term caregivers on their mission of service. This vitally important visual vehicle for sharing the stories of people (the Undersung heroes and sheroes who represent the 90 million unpaid family caregivers in the U.S.) is so necessary to raising our collective consciousness about this crucial but mostly unacknowledged role. What a marvelous mission Heather has accepted, to bring the spotlight of awareness to these caregivers who are unselfishly, quietly and courageously giving every day, year after year, in service to others. If there is some title beyond shero, (supershero?) Heather certainly deserves it!
Friends Lois and Ken Werner visited Guatemala and were so strongly impacted by the depth of poverty, malnutrition and disease there that they were moved to found the non-profit People for Guatemala to raise awareness and funds to help. They have now moved permanently to Guatemala and are establishing assistance programs to bring clean water/sanitation, education and computers, medical assistance and safe, non-polluting cooking stoves to the people there. Last year, their campaign at one local church paid for installation of 800 vented cooking stoves in small huts where the families had previously been exposed to disease-producing smoke from open fires. They are also offering instruction and materials to Guatemalan teachers, introducing reading skills to young children and technology to older children to assist in their education. They are literally changing thousands of lives, bringing healthier conditions and hope to those who were being crushed by poverty.
Another angel who felt impassioned about helping the people living in such poverty in Guatemala is Penny Rambacher. She founded Miracles in Action which seeks out under-served pockets of need in rural Guatemala and researches projects that focus on education, vocational training, and sustainable development. These projects achieve long-term results, improve quality of life, and allow truly impoverished people to help themselves-- by working in partnership with poor Guatemalan people, giving them a hand up, instead of a hand-out. Miracles in Action is currently collecting items to fill five shipping containers with goods for Christmas gifts for Guatemalan children. I love the fact that Penny has developed a plan that allows the Guatemalans to use their own talents to make products that bring them good, which is truly a hand "up", and a win-win for all.
In my own career as a singer, I seek to make a difference by singing programs for those with Alzheimer's or other dementia, allowing the music to soothe and uplift, bringing light to dimmed eyes, and smiling, toe-tapping, clapping, joyful moments to those whose memories have been stolen by disease. It's incredibly beautiful to watch the awakening and transformation that so often happens with music -- familiar songs, eye contact and a gentle pat on the shoulder can work miracles. Music is the magic agent of alchemy here, and I'm the one lucky enough to be observing and participating in the miracle. Singing is what I can do to make a difference. It's one way I choose the path of love and service over fear.
There are times in all lives that things feel out of control. We all face uncertainty. We may not be able to control what happens, but we can always control our response to what happens. Love is the path out of fear and we can consciously choose it every single day. What will you choose today? How will you make a difference in your life or that of another? We all have gifts, we have power to make a difference. I'd love to hear your choice!
Misty is my 19-year-old kitty, who likes to share her vast experience of life from a feline perspective, here on my blog. I am just the conduit for her "whisker wisdom". Hope you enjoy her insights and musings!
1. Follow your inner feline curiosity. There's a big wide world on the other side of the window. You can decide whether to view it with fear and uncertainty or with curiosity and delight. Choose delight!
2. Groom yourself to look your best. Good grooming is very important. Wash your face and ears often and keep your fur in place. Getting all ruffled is not attractive. Neither is getting puffed up to twice your size unless the neighborhood bully is bothering you. In that case, it's perfectly acceptable. Claws can even be unsheathed when there is something crucial to defend. Like your food bowl, or your mousie toy.
3. Be vulnerable. Misty has mastered the art of vulnerability. She turns on her back with feet up in the air exposing her belly, inviting a rub. We can all find our individual way to express that trust and vulnerability to those we love. It's a sign of great strength to be open and invite others to metaphorically rub your tummy.
4. Be peaceful. Sometimes the very best thing to do is curl up on a cushion and meditate. Or take a nap. If we want peace, we must be peace-full. Cats know this. You can't "fight" for peace, you simply live it!
5. Creaky doesn't equal cranky necessarily. At the advance feline age of 19, Misty knows all about being creaky. But creakiness doesn't give you the right to be cranky. We all have days when it's hard to get motivated or we are moving slowly due to pain or injury. Go ahead and lick your wounds, but don't let grumpiness cause you to snarl at others or bite the hand that feeds you. Life isn't perfect, and at times it can be downright messy. But remember, misery is optional. You can always choose your response to life.
6. Stay active and engaged with life. Stretch yourself, mentally and physically (cats are good at the physical part!) I often observe Misty doing her morning yoga and try to follow her example. She sometimes assists me with mine, also, usually by rubbing against me or dragging her tail by my mouth. Do yoga, chase birds or geckos, be alert for mice and other interesting creatures crossing your path (or whatever your human equivalent of these activities may be). Have fun, play, learn new things, stretch your life to new dimensions! Hiding under the bed is not an option! Be brave and have an adventure today!
7. Practice looking cute. If you find yourself drawn into any problem or communication issue, such as putting your paw (foot) in your mouth, simply looking cute can prevent escalation. Misty is the absolute master of looking cute. She does it pretty much all the time, to varying degrees, making it very difficult to be angry or upset with her at all. Try it. Hint: it helps to practice with a mirror so you can experiment with various expressions and gestures. Too bad we humans don't have whiskers and multidirectional ears to generate extra cuteness, like cats do. I love Misty's "Yoda" ear position, which indicates relaxation and her whiskers-forward move, which means she is intensely interested or curious or about to pounce on something. If humans had feline type ears and whiskers, I'll bet we'd have far less miscommunication!
"You know you're spoiling your cat when...you won't turn over during the night no matter how uncomfortable you are because you might disturb the cats."
Misty in her cozy nap chair
I confess. I am a serial cat spoiler. I resonated with the quote above, having spent many an uncomfortable hour in bed with multiple cats cuddling up so that I could not move. I know there are others out there. Come on, you know who you are. I imagine this can even apply to "dog" people. At this point in time, our cat population has decreased to one, very old (18 years this month which is ancient in human years), very sweet cat, named Misty. She is a very wise kitty and I am sharing some of her deeper thoughts herein.
1. Be engaged with life, and amazed daily by its wonders. Allow life to surprise you with good!
Misty and I were cat napping together yesterday when a dove flew up and perched on a hanging basket just outside the window, only about two feet from Misty. Birdwatching is one of the few select activities which actually outrank naps in Misty's world. She was immediately on full alert and in stalking position on her side of the window. The dove then grew even bolder, after shifting position in the plant several times, to Misty's intense interest, it then flew directly in front of her and perched inches from her face on the windowsill. It was quite an amazing interaction to watch: Misty, frozen in stalk-mode, except for tiny twitches in her tail, whiskers forward in pleasure and fascination, eye to eye with the dove. This went on for some time as the dove turned its head this way and that, trying to get a better view into the room, Misty completely focused on its every minute movement. I was enthralled and thrilled to be witness to her catly acumen and the enthusiasm she displayed. When the encounter finally ended, she remained vigilant, keeping an eye to the window for the rest of the afternoon. So, the lesson here is you should never be afraid to stalk what you desire, whiskers forward in anticipation of receiving, and you're never too old to dream!
2. Sleep around (in the literal sense)
No, not that kind of sleeping around! Get your mind out of the gutter, folks! Misty has made an art form of selecting the very best sleeping spots, which meet her precise and exacting requirements for sheer comfort and security. She has an incredible knack for finding the coziest spots in the sun, and spends quite a bit of time on her sleeping schedule and strategy. Certain sleeping spots are reserved for special occasions or during certain seasons of the year, or cycles of the moon, or some other mysterious formula known only to Misty. Sometimes, there is total panic in our house when we can't find her, but these are not warranted. She always turns up safe and sleepily stretching from a newly discovered nap spot. So her wisdom to share with humans is that sleep is a very good, worthy activity, requiring some planning and superb execution. Since the latest research bears out just how important sleep is to humans as well as felines, I think we should learn from her napping technique. Start immediately to identify prime napping spots in your house (or yard -- hammocks and swings make wonderful napping locations in warm climates). Make them cozy, soft, secure and distraction-free -- Happy zzzzzzzzz's to you!
3. When someone you love is feeling sad or ill, offer a cuddle and a purr.
This one is self-explanatory. There is no substitute for being present for those you love in warm and comforting ways. It's good for the soul!
4. Meet life with curiosity.
Misty has a new habit. I call it the interrogatory trill. When I walk into a room where she is (usually) sleeping, she elicits a sound that is a cross between a purr and a glissando slide up the scale, as if to say "I'm here, don't step on me -- Yes, can I help you? -- Want to play? -- Want to pet and adore me? -- Want to feed me?"
Sometimes the trill morphs into a meowy sound or a yawn, but it always welcomes and expresses willingness to connect. I love this about her. And it is a very valuable lesson. Always be open to life, to learning, to seeking the new and interesting. Curiosity is a powerful tool for engagement with life's mysteries.
5. Make do with what you've got.
Misty is not shy about asking for what she wants. Loudly. Repeatedly. In the wee hours of the morning, or whenever the mood strikes her. She still has no respect for weekends or my sleeping schedule, which often does not coincide with hers. However, if her repeated demands for attention are not met (i.e. no one is immediately springing into action to replenish the food or water bowl, or scoop out the litter box, find her catnip toy, or other urgent need), she is satisfied to have called attention to the issue. Then, she lets it go and looks for an alternative for the meantime. (not to the litter box, thankfully). She will usually find the bowl of dry food left for her snacking pleasure and have a few bites to satisfy her hunger until mealtime. Or she will grudgingly drink hours-old water from her bowl.
This lesson also has a great wisdom to bear: Ask for what you want. If it is not immediately forthcoming, make it clear, put it out there, and then look around for a temporary satisfaction of the problem. This is not compromising your high ideals, but rather using your creativity to temporize until what you desire manifests. It is a good skill for any human or feline. Many times, we find that all we have is all we need.
"Do not tell fish stories where the people know you; but particularly, don't tell them where they know the fish."
My Dad loved to fish. He spent a great deal of time drowning worms or baitfish or shrimp on his hook, and seemed to derive incredible pleasure from this activity (or lack of activity). As a seven or eight year old, I could not fathom this. I tried to emulate him in every way possible: the angle of the fishing rod, the tilt of the head, positioning my hat on my head just the way he did, sitting or standing in exactly the same posture. But, all I got for my trouble was fidgets, mosquito bites, and interesting but inedible creatures like mudfish stealing my bait.
For Christmas one year, Dad gave me my very own kid-sized rod & reel, complete with tackle box. I thought this was the coolest gift ever. Until we spent a whole, entire afternoon sitting side by side with our lines in the water doing nothing. Saying nothing. Catching nothing. Where was the magic I had envisioned?
There was one fishing episode, I recall however that was quite exciting. We were night fishing for snook off the north bridge. There was the long, interminable silence broken only by water lapping at the pilings of the bridge and the occasional boat motor, the smell of vaguely fishy saltwater wafting around us like perfume that had gone slightly rank. Then, all of a sudden something huge hit and caught my hook firmly in its jaws. I was thinking it must be a shark at least, or maybe a sailfish like the stuffed one on our Florida room wall. I hung on for dear life while the line spun crazily out of the reel, with its accompanying high-pitched whine singing loudly in my ears, the pull of the beast so strong it nearly took me right over the bridge rail.
Dad grabbed onto my waist, preventing me from taking a 30 foot dive, yelling for me to let go of the fishing rod. There was no way on earth (or in the water) I was about to let my prize possession disappear into the deep! I'd take a plunge and go skiing, face first, behind whatever this was before I'd let go!
We continued in this tableau: fishy creature grabbing the hook, me grabbing the fishing rod, Dad grabbing me, for some minutes until the line was finally reaching the end of the reel. Dad made a lunge for it, setting me back on the bridge, and started to reel in the beast. He fought and reeled and pulled and I was thinking about the great contests of which Papa Hemingway wrote, man vs. giant fish. Instead, what eventually appeared above the surface was...a manta ray. It was a BIG manta ray, but still, a manta ray. Sigh. No sailfish, swordfish, shark. No worthy creature from the depths of the ocean. A manta ray. My budding fisherman's enthusiasm was dashed in disappointment. I think this childhood trauma is likely why I now buy my fish in a cardboard box or plastic bag.
Dad did have some great fish stories, though, and in at least one case, he had the photo documentation to back it up. When he first told us he had caught a 6-foot wahoo, we all thought he was joking. I mean, really - a wahoo??? Have you ever heard of a wahoo fish? Sure enough, it turned out there is actually a fish called a wahoo and he'd caught a whale of a wahoo, as pictured above. So, there are fish stories, and then there are FISH stories.
"There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats."
As a lover of cats and a musician, I heartily agree with Albert Schweitzer in this quote/life philosophy and even have it engraved on a plaque hanging in my study. I would add one more crucial item to Schweitzer's list of useful refuge-remedies: books! Every now and then, the perfect book shows up in your life by some mysterious serendipity, at the exact moment you need the comfort, information, inspiration, wisdom, beauty, escapism, or higher vision to heal your inner being. Just as a song can become your "mantra" in lifting you out of sadness, so can a book lift you to higher emotional ground, insight and understanding. The little gem of a book titled "The Dalai Lama's Cat: a novel" by David Michie, was just this sort of soothing-serendipitous-balm-in-a-book for me. It is part allegory, part comedy, part fantasy, part teaching tale, and entirely charming!
The story captures the reader in the opening paragraph by its unconventional viewpoint -- seen through the eyes of a kitten/cat, who is rescued from abuse and almost certain death on the streets of New Delhi by none other than the Dalai Lama to become HHC (His Holiness's Cat). It cleverly interweaves colorful characters and their all too human foibles, simple tenets of Buddhist philosophy, teachings & history, intimate moments of insight, details of daily routines of the Dalai Lama, and some pretty awesome life lessons-- all while telling the story of this privileged feline who shares the inner sanctum (and lap) of the Dalai Lama. As the cat, HHC, also known as Mousie-Tung, Snow Lion, The Most Beautiful Creature That Ever Lived, Rinpoche (Precious), explores her new environment and life (both inner and outer), struggles with lessons such as disengaging from the basic instinct to kill (hence the Mousie-Tung title), to yearning for a "relationship", to overeating, and the causes of suffering, many precepts are introduced in a skillful, entertaining way. The mind is opened through HHC's cat's eye observations of celebrities, heads of state, and important people of all walks of life, whose meetings with the Dalai Lama change them in subtle and life-altering ways. The warmth of the storytelling, and the engaging atmosphere of the setting brings wit and wisdom together with insight and truth to give this book it's appealing and yes, enlightening power. If you are looking for a good read, that is at once amusing and deeply inspiring (in a sneaky cat kind of way), this one will bring a surprising array of gifts and delights. I heartily recommend this cat tale of amazing depth and insight. Pull up a comfy chair, next to a cozy hearth, and let HHC and this sweet book purr its way into your heart!
FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Hay House Publishing for review purposes.
I am a singer, a writer, a craftswoman, a student of life and of Spirit, a wife, a friend, an inquisitive adventurer on the learning path. Seeking, sensing, sifting and now connecting! Please join the fun by leaving a comment or passing on a favorite post via your social network. As you can tell from the category list, my interests are varied and somewhat eclectic. I am seeking all that brings joy & excitement to life, purpose & passion to our daily round. I am curious about pretty much everything.