Sunday, November 25, 2018

The Dogs of Dancing Rabbit

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It’s Thanksgiving morning.  Riley, my sister’s dog, just went nuts barking at the front door of my parents house at something.  “What is it Riley?”  Could be something.  Might not be anything.  Riley is not the only dog that barks at imagined things, but Riley is a “special dog.”  It could be her medication kicking in or running out.

I’m not sure who else will be bringing dogs today, but we are a dog family.  My parents and I are the only ones that don’t have a dog come to think of it.  Wonder what that says about us?  I generally like dog people, but I’m not a dog person.  Do I like myself?  Would I like myself better if I had a dog?

Dog’s are part of everyday life at Dancing Rabbit.

I missed two DR dogs on my initial post so here they are:

Penny of Thistledown routinely barks to say “Hello” when one visits Thistledown even if she already knows you.  Penny is blonde with wiry hair, and me thinks she has some Wheaten Terrier in her.  Her head is almost thigh high on me.  Another villager when asked about Penny assured me, “Penny likes butt pets, and she REALLY loves walks.”  Apparently, Penny has also been known to roughhouse with other dogs.

Regarding the other dog I missed, Isaac, my sources tell me, “He is a people person.”  He is seen around the village on the heels of his owner and favorite person likely keeping close tabs on her by his nose more than his eyes as he is blind in one eye.  His current caretaker says Isaac loves to snuggle and lick her face.  He also likes to have company when he eats instead of eating alone.  And Isaac eats well.  I almost had his food for breakfast this morning as it was on the counter at my kitchen co-op.  He eats a mix of oatmeal, rice, amaranth, and veggies.  I’ll probably just go ahead and have some next time as I love all those things.  Isaac will still have his bones to eat.  He loves bones no matter what.  Isaac is a black Lab.

Angus is a big ol’ boy that joins us at the Mercantile for breakfast most mornings.  His owner found him in a cattle lot when he was only weeks old.  She thinks Angus is a Labrador/Shepherd mix.  Angus is black on black on black.  I haven’t checked, but I bet his tongue is even black.  The other day I wondered, “What is hitting my leg?”  Angus’ head  was poking out on the other side of the table looking into the fire about 6 feet away so I dismissed the possibility that it was him whacking me under the table.  When I kept feeling something hitting the side of my leg, I finally looked and unbelievably it was Angus’ tail.  He is very long.  I think he might be a Lab/Shepherd/Dachsund mix; he’s so long and big.

At coffee in the morning, Angus will go from person to person until someone scratches his ears.  He doesn’t beg.  He just moves on until someone obliges him with an ear rub.  Angus then usually pulls a bait and switch though, which is so subtle I forgot about it until now.  As I’m rubbing his ears, he eases forward, a scitter step at a time until his ears are out of reach and I’m scratching along his back.  The end result is always me rubbing his back end.  How did that happen?  Someone else had to point this out to me, and now I’ve watched Angus run this con on other people too.  He lures us in with head scratches and next thing you know I’m massaging his ass.  Smart dog that Angus.  He’s not the only smart dog in the village though.

Banjo is also smart.  Banjo has been dubbed The Sausage Fox, because Banjo looks like a combination of a sausage and a fox.  Not a sausage pattie but a sausage link.  What dog breeds look like sausage patties?  That has me thinking.  Anyway, we have video footage of Banjo trying to chew through a piece of 2x6 wood to get to what was most likely a rabbit.  Banjo is smart, because Banjo gets help from a beagle, Sophie, to hunt rabbits and everybody including other dogs know beagles are good at hunting rabbits.

Sophie has the most adorable face and the softest ears ever.  Her head seems slightly too small for her body, but I’ve heard that’s a desirable quality in show beagles.  She’s tan and white with some darker brown and maybe black; classic beagle look.  Sophie is often heard before she is seen especially when she’s chasing rabbits.  One of Sophie’s favorite places in the village this summer was lolling in the grass in the garden at the entrance to the village - doggy heaven for sure.  She relaxed on the grass with that “I can’t hardly even open an eye to look at you right now” kind of relaxation.  Good for you Sophie.

Virgil has the best name in my opinion.  Virgil likes to walk with Kurt in the morning.  If Virgil was an athlete he would be a rugby player.  He’s medium-large and very solidly built.  Virgil reminds me of a mix between a Jack Russell Terrier and a Mastiff  He likes chasing rabbits too, and he is afraid of the fireplace.  Fires can be scary Virgil, but don’t worry, we won’t let it get you.  Virgil has a sweet face and especially noticeable puppy-dog eyes.  He’s white and tan.  Virgil has a signature move when he wants to be scratched that is a little different than the move Angus has.  Virgil will ease up next to my leg and just start leaning over;  it feels like he’s even pushing against my leg.  If I was standing up, I swear it might knock me over.  But who can resist those puppy-dog eyes?  Not me.

All the dogs dogs I’ve mentioned so far are pets.

There are other dogs at DR that are working dogs and not pets.  They also have names; Xena, Fang, and the other one I always forget.  Is it Lowell?  Probably not.  Lowell would not be a very apt name for a guard dog.  As working dogs, or guard dogs, they guard the livestock.  By guard I mean bark all night to keep predators aware that they are not welcome.  It seems to be working, because I have not heard of any raids on chickens or ducks or goats in many months.  I’ve heard of near total livestock obliteration by predators in the past.  By livestock, I mean chickens and geese and goats in case you missed that.  Xena is a Great Pyrenees with mounds of white hair.  Apparently her hips hurt.  Mine too Xena, mine too.  The other two livestock dogs are Pyrenees/Karakachan mixes that are just over a year old.  These are all large dogs that are people-friendly and predator-scary.  Oh, and there are pigs.  Pigs of some of the livestock being protected by the guard dogs.

And that’s it for the dogs of which I am not an owner.  I like having the dogs around, and I like that I don’t have to take care of them.  Thanks to all the dog owners who let me enjoy their pets and that keep away the predators.  Too many foxes in the chicken coop would deprive me of delicious eggs that I enjoy oh so much.  Quite neighborly of you all.  I appreciate you and your dogs!

Friday, November 16, 2018

I Hear Flamingo Is Delicious

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Saturday morning over coffee with several Rabbits some interesting questions were raised.  I’m amazed at how one thing leads to another and the discussion was both broad and deep.  Here are the topics brought to the table:

Where did the colors pink and blue for babies originate?
What are car honking practices internationally and how did they come to be?
When did people start shaving and why and how?
Why does shamanic breathwork sometimes cause tetany?
What is the connection between Santa Claus’ red and white outfit and Coca Cola?
How do the games of Chess and Go differ?
Why are there so many Somali refugees in Kirksville?
Why does Cambodia have so many mopeds?
What is the Institute of Mesoamerican Permaculture in Guatemala up to these days?
What is per capita plastic use by country?
Does Venezuela have any ports?  Why (not)?

I feel a sense of satisfaction looking over this list again.  As a friend noted this morning over coffee, “evolution selects for novelty,” and this is certainly a novel list of subjects.  I identified my personal need for novelty years ago.  In contrast to the aphorism, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.,”  I like the idea of diving headfirst into chaos and seeing what might come of it.  What new order might come of it?  Different and new is not necessarily better, but what is better anyway? All I know is I get a little brain tickle from something novel.

Are you getting your RDA of novelty?  Maybe it’s time to have someone new over for coffee or get out of the house to see what else is going on in the world.  It’s a big, beautiful, novel world out there!  Here’s a fun exercise.  Go find English language versions of newspapers from other countries online.  I always get a kick out of Pravda, a Russian newspaper.  Just today a Pravda headline asserted - America Always Thirsty for More Blood Than Even Children Can Shed  or - Christie Lee Brinkley:  Looking Like 34 at 64

Or how about something from one the aforementioned countries from the coffee discussion.  The Cambodia Daily had this headline today - Japanese Teen Funds Library for Cambodia School Out of Her Pocket.  Here’s one from Venezuela - Starving Venezuelans are Eating Flamingos and Anteaters as Socialism Destroys Economy.  And ending up with a Guatemalan magazine headline - The Kites of Guatemala a Connection to the Hereafter.

Like I said, it’s a big, novel world out there if I just mix it up little bit.  I like that.  What new and novel thing will you discover today that will tickle your brain?

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Life in a 112 Foot Radius

6:30 - 8:30am        Reverie & Weird Dreams
8:30 - 9:30            Coffee at Mercantile
9:30 - 10:00          Breakfast
                             Brainstormed firewood business
                             Brainstormed twig furniture business
10:00 - 10:30         Recycling
10:30 - 11:15         Bike ride
11:15 - 12:30         Read twig furniture book
                             Watered Morel
12:30 - 1:15          WIP
1:15 -2:15            Lunch
2:15 - 4:00          Email
4:00 - 6:30         Eating Co-op Meeting
6:30 - 7:30         Dinner
7:30 - 10:00       Men’s Group

This is a typical Sunday schedule around here at DR.  WIP stands for Week In Preview where we cover a remarkable amount of village business in a short period of time; who’s coming, who’s going, vehicle co-op schedule, announcements, hearts for things folks are grateful for, and announcements forgotten on the first round.  Men’s Group is my usual Sunday night activity.

I tried sleeping in and skipping coffee one morning which was a mistake.  I like the world and everyone in it better after a cup or two of coffee.  Just last night at dinner, a co proclaimed, “Studies have shown coffee helps humans live longer.”  I have a general rule to not be friends with anyone that ever says, “Studies have shown....,” but I’ll make an exception in this case because I agree with what this study has shown.  Good thing I’ll be living in the Milkweed Mercantile this winter right above the coffee maker!  I am the luckiest boy in the world I’m telling you.

Since not being able to swim in the pond, more not willing to rather than not able to actually, since late September, I’ve been riding my bike almost every day.  Yesterday was cold, windy, and drizzly, but many of the days have been terrific.  My hip feels just fine riding my bike which is not the case when I walk a lot in a day.  I’m grateful to be able to ride my bike without pain.  I’m working up to the 11 mile ride into Memphis, Missouri just north of us this spring.

I started reading a new book on making twig furniture.  Already dog-earing the pages with projects I want to make.  I need a shelf, and I want to make little twiggy signs for the houses here at DR with the names of the houses.  Each house has a fun name like The Flouch and Moon Lodge.  Twigs are pretty easy to come by out here in the sticks.

Morel is another fun house name, and I’m watering the spinach in the greenhouse at Morel while the resident is away in Australia visiting her sister.  Over lunch today I enjoyed finding out more about another Rabbit’s summer home in Newfoundland.  Another Rabbit at the lunch table spent six years of her childhood in Nairobi, Kenya.  I’ve got some Googling to do.  I don't know much about Kenya or Newfoundland, but I'm inspired to learn.

The exact spelling is still up in the air, but a name we’re considering for our new kitchen co-op is Poedahtoe, like a Cajun potato sort of.  Starting a new eating co-op is no small feat.  We covered a dozen rows from our spreadsheet of questions at a meeting that took over an hour.  Hopefully nobody starves while we are ironing out all the details.  “So if we get vegan cheese, should it be sourced locally if possible or should local be the default and non-local be considered an exception as long as it is twice the price or less than the other option?”  This is making me hungry.

And about my recent move into the Milkweed Mercantile for the winter.

I moved into the Milkweed Mercantile for the next five months.  I have a well-placed second floor room on the southeast corner for plenty of natural light.  The room is named after the famous environmentalist Aldo Leopold.  I’m going to look up what Aldo is famous for.  I know why Rachel Carson is famous - her room is next door.  I’m reading a book by David Brower to find out why the other room is named after him.

I’ll be making coffee several mornings downstairs for any villager inclined to come in for a cup.  In addition to keeping the coffee warm, I’ll be keeping the whole building warm by feeding the boiler firewood twice a day as well as stoking a roaring fire in the fireplace right in the center of the dining room.  What a life.  My co-op friend noted, “You smell like smoke.”  I noted, “Get used to it.”

Over coffee with Bob one morning, and I’m embarrassed to admit this, I told him it feels really nice to have moved right into the center of the village.  Before in Moon Lodge, I was so far away from everything.  Seriously.  I counted one day, and it took me 174 steps which is about 2.5 minutes to get from the Common House or the Mercantile to Moon Lodge.  I’d walk it several times a day.  I couldn’t leave the house without forgetting something so I would have to go back frequently adding even more steps.  Or if I just wasn’t in the mood for all that walking, I’d do without.  You know what it’s like not to have your cell phone or sunflower seeds for an hour?  What a hassle.  Oh sure, I’ll miss some of the neighbors from out in the suburbs, but I hope to see them when they come into town for potlucks and such.

If I took a string and tacked it to the front door of the Mercantile where I’m now living and walked to all the places I go daily or even several times daily; Common House to check my mail, Grocery Store, SkyHouse for meals, OK for my bike, maybe the machine shed for recycling, my longest trip would be about 112 feet.  That’s the radius of the circle that encompasses my life these days.  No more of those long commutes out to the suburbs 350 feet away.  Who has time for that?  My world has certainly gotten smaller, but I’m okay with that.  Bees have a wider circle than I do I bet.  There’s just so much going on in Town Center.

The bustle of the city what with happy hour and poker night and a car every other day or so driving down Main Street.  It’s been said that all one has to do is sit on the porch of the Milkweed Mercantile and watch the whole world go by just like the Champs Elysees in Paris or McDonald’s in Kirksville.  Just this week I have to decide how to manage my social calendar with so many happenings; potluck and co-group on Tuesday night, song circle Wednesday night, open on Thursday night, Friday night movie in Casa and community dinner, Contra dancing in Fairfield, Iowa on Saturday and looking forward to resting up on Sunday to prepare for Men’s Group Sunday evening.  I’m not sure the folks out in the suburbs know what they are missing.  Living in the middle of it all is where it’s at for me.  Me in my circle with a 112 foot radius.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

It's Okay to Feel Sad

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I want to walk my grief to the dumpster and be rid of it.  I don’t want to smell it anymore.  I don’t want to see it anymore.  I want my grief to go away.

At best I’ll recycle it?  Green bin for lost loved ones.  Blue bin for what should have been.  Purple bin for lost health in its many forms.  Nowhere for this other stuff to go.  Just make it go away.

Grief is on my mind lately after a grief ritual here at DR over the weekend.  Part of my opening and closing contribution was stating it is okay to feel sad.  Obvious enough, but I needed to hear myself say it out loud again.  I needed to feel that vibration in my throat coming out of my face.  It is okay to feel sad.

I’ve been telling myself this for months.  The last day of my job was April 6th, 2018.  The last day of my marriage was May 4th, 2017.  The last day before my stroke was July 3rd, 2016.  My last day living in Kansas City was early July 2018.  Last days.  Final wishes.  Parting wisdom?

There was a flash flood of hurt, shame, relief, anguish, pain, and God knows what else moments after I told my wife I did not want to be married anymore.  The sadness has drizzled ever since more or less.
I cried every day for a few months after leaving my job.  It was time.  The sadness felt real and deep and alive.  It was time for it to move through.  It’s not the sadness that really hurts me I think.  The denial and avoiding and transmuting of the sadness is what hurts me.

Part of the grief ritual for me was to keep the sadness flowing.  I keep referring to my sadness.  The grief ritual reminded me that we have sadness and grief.  I have spoken of my grief with many, many friends and family members over many months.  There has been some relief and moving through and mutual sharing in these encounters.  None were a collective grieving like I experienced in the grief ritual.

The general setting for the grief ritual included a few basic elements.  They worked well together in my experience.  A short introduction to the process was given along with a description of Five Gates of Grief from Francis Weller.  We shared briefly around the circle about anything related to the grief ritual we wanted to share.  A song was taught with only four lines that were repeated for the duration of the ritual.  Drummers accompanied the singing.  The room was divided about in half.  One side had cushions on the floor and an altar where individuals could go and express their grief however they were moved to.  A supporter followed behind each individual who approached this altar to “hold space.”  Another altar was available for participants to place supportive symbols for the ritual.  There were some pictures and other objects.  After a couple hours, there seemed to be a natural stopping place.  The singing and drumming ceased.  There was quiet.  Another brief sharing round was completed.  For me, the grief ritual was authentic and meaningful.

The night of the ritual I had a dream that I was having a conversation with my ex-wife.  We were simply catching up on how our families were doing.  It was a casual chat with little emotional charge for me.  This is a new and welcome development for me.

I have been shown another way to approach grief through this ritual.  We can grieve as a community; we all have grief.  The group taught me a couple things.  I don’t have to throw my grief away.  I don’t have to recycle it over and over.  Maybe this way of dealing with grief is more like the composting we do around here at DR.  We simply move the grief to its next proper and useful place in the stream of life where it is transfigured into whatever it’s next simple and proper place is for us.