Animal Inspirations

One of the kittens in the Cat Sanctuary (see blog)

Allowing the Grief

Since my cat MaChree died on November 13, 2015, I have been unable to meditate in my customary spot: a bench with a small altar, incense, a chime. Every night, the last thing before bed, I would sit for 15 minutes in Centering Prayer and Heart Resonance. For the last few years of MaChree's life (and mine) he would know when I was close to going there to meditate, so he went and lay there, waiting for me. When I sat and covered myself with a prayer shawl, he would squiggle under the shawl so he was covered too, and while meditating I would rest my right hand on his back.

I never thought anything of this but another of his frequent and faithful demonstrations of his closeness to me; our habits of loving presence. But since his death, I have been unable to meditate there until now, and - beginning last evening - I stepped through a literal veil of pain to sit there and give myself over to the One Spirit.

The truth is that I have been slowly surrendering to the pain of losing MaChree. It is heart-ripping, and many times a day. He is a bittersweet, painful presence, but I would never have missed the deep privilege of knowing him, living with him, and being the daily recipient of a love so deep that many times I missed it or couldn't take it in. Now I realize it with pain...but the pain is the bond. On Saturday I finally cried and cried, and since then I am feeling more connected, though the pain is there and will, I believe, always be a part of me. As he is and always will be.

Cynthia's Last Lily Story

You might know Cynthia Bourgeault as one of the most profound spiritual writers and teachers alive today. But you might not know of her deep relationship with Lily, her cat who died on her birthday in 2015.

She tells this story in profound detail on her blog. Go to the website of The Contemplative Across the top look for and click on "Blog". There are several. Look for "The Last Lily Story" and open it. What a profound and inspiring story.

Still missing MaChree on our early morning walks. He led me everywhere, all through the property, forest, and paths, never running away...except once to chase a fox off the property!
My beautiful boy and twelve-year heart-companion left us on November 13, 2015 after a short and sudden illness. He was the best cat and the closest companion anyone could want in the world.

Snapping Turtle Heartbreak

A few days ago I was driving along a deserted country road between one town and another, when I spotted a young snapping turtle in the middle of the road, on the centre line. As is my custom, I stopped the car and got out, meaning to help and accompany him to the side of the road. But when I looked down, the turtle's shell was cracked in may directions, almost opened up. I could see his delicate pink flesh through the cracks. Worst of all, he was still moving his head in and out, but unable to move in distance. Filling with tears and anger, I slowly nudged him off the road. I knelt and blessed him and asked for a quick dying for him.

I am still dealing with a kind of fuming at human beings who would do such a thing, when driving around him was easy. I still struggle deeply with the cruelty, disregard, and deliberate arrogance of so many human beings. 

They make my heart sing!
This snowy owl looks ready for a conversation which I would love to have!
These wolves look so full and content in their world, just being who and what they are: celebration!
MaChree and Mahti playing with a fat mouse...and in no hurry!
MaChree in his favorite chair modeling how to chill out!

Inspired by insects

I shake my head in wonder: what a surprise it is for me to recognize deep connection with insects this summer! I find myself gazing at them in wonder at the intricate, delicate designs that are better at surviving weather than I am. I found a whole dragonfly on the road, dead but totally untouched, and carried it a kilometer home without breaking an antenna, which required exquisite attention. Also two kinds of butterflies and even a tiny perfect moth. I am fascinated by the detail of their bodies and their delicate presence, mostly unseen and made invisible by us by our human disregard of any part of creation that does not directly serve us in some way.

I want to look at the world in all its dimensions now, just for itself alone. Every emerging creation, again and again, over and over, enriches life here, even if I don't understand it. Insects widen the world and keep the cycle going. Ever since I saw in the series Cosmos that humans share 8% DNA with butterflies and other insects, I look upon them all as relatives.

MaChree napping with me...needs to hold my hand!

How do finches know?

The finches have returned to their own feeder, for their special Niger seed.

About 6 weeks ago, we filled all the feeders, as was necessary this winter every 4-5 days. All the rest have black sunflower seed, while the finches prefer Niger seed. They have eaten this consistently for years.

Suddenly, after that filling, they stopped and went to the black sunflower seed, and left the niger seed untouched for the last 6 weeks. We thought there must be something wrong with the seed, and after two weeks, called the place where we bought it. The knowledgable owner encouraged us to wait and see. The especially cold winter might have caused the finches to need stronger food with more oil and fat; hence the sunflower seeds.

So yesterday, when the finches returned to the Niger seed feeder, we stood in amazement.

What do finches know that we don't? How do their tiny bodies and their exquisite instincts know so clearly what they need for survival, when ours don't? How is it that we eat things that often destroy our health, while these fine, delicate creatures choose what will sustain them over what they really like, when what they really like is not enough?

Again I am in awe of the natural world, of the instinct and focus that we humans have all but lost.

My Black Bear story

Many (perhaps even most) people who live up here in the Highlands have a Black Bear story; not necessarily an encounter, but definitely a sighting of some kind. Sightings for me and even a few close encounters (such as opening the door and there was a big male standing a few feet away) have been many in the eleven years I have lived here. I have no fear of bears; I am in awe of them. I am dismayed we have taken so much of their habitat and I am appalled that so many are killed for no reason except sport.

So you mightl not be surprised, then, at the encounter I was given about a year and a half ago on a stretch of highway between Orillia and Minden. It was in mid-summer, and I had just had lunch with a friend in Orillia and was returning home. The road didn't have much traffic, so when I rounded a corner and saw a bear lying stretched across my lane of highway and no other car in sight, I knew that the pickup truck I had seen a few minutes before had hit the bear and driven on. How could someone do that?

I stopped right in the middle of the highway lane so no other cars could hit the bear and jumped out to see what the damage was. He was not moving; he had been hit in the head and was otherwise perfect. A yearling, at most: a beautiful, vital animal who had been alive a minute or two before. I cannot communicate the bereft feeling I had as I knelt and took his head in my lap...there was only minimal blood, but it was very red and very fresh...that's what I recall most: his astonishing teeth and claws; his perfect fur. I saw the light go out of his eyes, and I cried aloud in grief. And I prayed aloud through my tears that he would have a peaceful crossing into the next world. This was all spontaneous, unplanned. Then something happened that caused me to later call an animal-rescue friend when I got home: I felt his spirit leave his body. I cannot describe this except to say that for a few minutes I was "between worlds" with him...a kind of double exposure sensation -then he was gone, and I was back in my grief and loss. I pulled him by the back legs off the road so other cars wouldn't hit him.

In the meantime other cars had been passing on both sides but no one stopped. Finally, one car with two women stopped but only to take a picture. Later, I was also asked why I didn't take a picture and I couldn't communicate how taking a picture at this sacred time seemed almost sacreligious to me in that moment. I was shaken by the whole event, and it took hours to come out of it back into my own world. I called the woman who runs a wild animal sanctuary and whose husband is a Native Shaman, and she talked me through what a privilege it had been and affirmed how I actually had helped that young bear to make a passage from this life to his next one, whatever that is.

Now I feel even closer to wild animals, all of them, than before...and sense a communion with them that is as vital as my sense of communion with human beings, but much less complicated!

My teacher, Mr. MaChree

Mr. MaChree, my ten-year-old Norwegian Forest Cat, has lessons for me every day. Two of them are 1. Never rush into anything; and 2. Ask for what you want and make clear what you don't want.

Both of these lessons are ones that I have had to learn, and am still learning, again and again and again. Meanwhile, MaChree (spelled "Mo Chroi" in Irish Gaelic but is pronounced the same and means "my heart") patiently teaches them every day.

Whether it is going outdoors or being presented with a plate of food for which he has just loudly begged for 10 minutes, he will never rush to eat. It's as if he is saying grace over the bowl, which - because of his urgency, I have just rushed to make for him. Or he will stand in the doorway, sniffing the air, no matter how cold it is outside before decided whether to cross that threshold, even though he has asked for it for many loud minutes.

And he is relentless in asking...meowing...crying...until I respond...even though often the response is a loud "NO!" which he also respects, some of the time.

May you have a cat as your teacher. They are consistent and respectful..most of the time!

Robins among us

In late July a robin built her nest in the inside corner of our garage roof, and sat very still for days. We were careful to avoid that corner but watched from a distance that wouldn't disturb her. Then four new heads appeared! What wonder at their sounds and how hard that Mother worked to keep them fed.

After nearly two weeks, just when they were ready to start leaving the nest, the resident red squirrel discovered them. There was mayhem and murder. Only one robin chick survived briefly, flapping about the ground with one wing.

I was personally devastated, and challenged by that Robin Mother to let them go, let them go, as she did. The next morning she was gone. And yet...and yet...this is the letting go I talk about so glibly in groups; this is the evolving universe; this is life and death together - the robins' short life in the same track as my own, also closer to its end than its beginning...let go, let go...

MaChree meditating

For the past few years, my cat MaChree (MoChroi, in Irish, but the vet got too confused) stays in the room where and while I meditate. At first, he would only give me so long before he would come and paw me with a loud meow, demanding attention. Then he sat beside me for awhile, as long as I put one hand down to rub his ears. Lately he has adopted a new stance: I think he might be meditating himself.

As soon as I begin my meditation time, sounding a chime, he goes to a cushion which lies beneath my desk and takes up his position, and doesn't move until the chime sounds to signal the end of my meditation time. See the photo!

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My encounters with animals happen naturally every day I am home at SoulWinds. Our domestic ones -  Joan's Mahti - a recently rescued puppy from a northern native reserve - and Mr. MaChree, my ten- year-old Norwegian Forest Cat - offer daily lessons in non-verbal communication, a chance to practice letting go of your own schedule when their needs are immediate, and the warmest, steadiest, and most consistent affection I have ever known. These animals offer mutual relationship in all its shades and colors.

Then there are the wild animals who live in the surrounding forests. Whenever we see a bear, a wolf, a fox, a hare, a snake, a weasel, an otter, a mink - these and many more are around all the time - it is as if a glimpse of the divine life energy is suddenly apparent. I feel grace. These are the kinds of encounters I will record here.

Lee Gauthier 09.07.2013 19:25

Precious observations that I will look forward to ..

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Latest comments

23.11 | 19:20

Hi Marilyn...can you share your writing when there's a chance? Love to read some!

04.01 | 19:04

Thanks, Andie...that's it exactly ! So glad you experienced it!

04.01 | 18:36

'Whatever you need
and wherever you go next -
will come to you'
My holiday experience.

28.12 | 15:12

Hi Brenda,
I've just finished reading The Choice - got it from the public library. What an amazing story and an unbeatable spirit. I'll check out youtube now