In Loving Memory

If I had a blog, today I would not be able to find my own words to compass the ache in my heart. I will, as I have often done, rely on the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer to be my voice:

In Loving Memory of my nephew-dog, Hank (2001-2014)

In Loving Memory of my nephew-dog, Hank (2001-2014)

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night,
and give your angels charge over those who sleep.
Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary,
bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted,
shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen.

The Journey Begins

If I had a blog, today I would write about the beginning of my annual “90-Day Project.”

September 22 - The Web of Purpose

September 22 – The Web of Purpose

Every year, beginning on the Autumnal Equinox I set a goal of taking at least one publishable photograph per day until December 21st, the Winter Solstice. The idea is not entirely my own. My project is actually a homage to the work of one of my photographer heroes, Jim Brandenburg. In the late 1990’s, Brandenburg challenged himself with a similar task: Taking one great photo per day for 90 days during the fall and early winter in and around his home near Ely, Minnesota. However, since Jim is a world-renown photographer who made his mark working for National Geographic magazine, his quest was more demanding. Rather than take an unlimited number of shots and choose one favorite (as I do), Jim limited himself to taking one photo per day for 90 days. No do-overs, no second chances. His work was published as the book Chased By the Light, a copy of which sits on my desk for inspiration.

As it happens, today was a wonderful day to start taking autumnal pictures. It is sunny, in the mid-60s with a glorious breeze that carries the promise of the golden days to come. After morning chores, Mom and I set off on our morning walk through the High Field and into the woods behind our house. The dogwood trees are beginning to blush red and the big bluestem and Indian grass are heavy with seeds, awaiting the migrant birds who will arrive in our part of the world in the next few weeks. This early in the season, finding a “wow-shot” is less certain than in October when the woods are ablaze with color. In September, one must be more observant, more focused on the details of the fields and forests, to find Nature’s gems.

As is often the case, Mom (who I call my “location scout”) found my diamond in the rough: The delicate web of a woodland spider. The home of this tiny arachnid was not one of the flashy orbs that line the fence-rows this time of year. This web was messy, a seemingly random assemblage of spider-silk strung between saplings, right at eye-level in the woods. Neither of us would have seen the web but for a beam of sunlight streaming through the canopy of leaves above. The sun reflected on the web and set it aglow with rainbow color. In the center of the prism sat the wee spider, her delicate legs aglow as if lit from within.

After I took my photographs, I stood and watched the tableau for a long time. I couldn’t fault the spider for the condition of her web. Most days my life feels every bit as untidy. My emotions careen about from joy to grief and back again; I wonder where my life is going and how I can be a better architect of my future. I worry about money, my health, losing my loved ones, and what I can do to save our ailing planet. Up and down, round and round I go until I feel trapped in utter disarray, but my encounter with small Ariadne has given me hope. Maybe my “web of purpose” is supposed to be messy. Maybe its ok that I am working without a neat-and-tidy plan. Maybe the tangle of my life is really a thing of beauty, reflecting the light of truth, hope, and love.

This afternoon I will relax in the midst of my crazy life and find the center, the balance point where I can find rest and safety. My inner life may be somewhat disorganized, but it is the life I have built, the existence for which The Divine has given me instruction. Thank you dear spider for giving me peace. Thank you for giving me a good first day on my journey home.


The Dominion of Cats

Claudia Jean and her feather boa.

Claudia Jean and her feather boa.

If I had a blog, I would write about cats. I believe, if cats had opposable thumbs, they would have developed a civilization equal or superior to our own Why? Because there is no animal on the planet that ponders, “I wonder what would happen if I….?” more than the cat. I watch Claudia and Sawyer go about their daily rounds and nothing escapes them. The smallest change in orientation or location of a trinket immediately catches their eye and they must, at all costs, investigate the possibilities.

Sawyer's First Christmas

Sawyer’s First Christmas

In the world of cats, the most important questions to answer are: “What does it taste like?”; “Is there any way I can make myself choke on it?”; “Will it come apart if I claw it?”; “Does it make my owner use the word, ‘expensive!’?” and “What will happen if it falls to the floor?” Once these properties are tested, the cat will then decide if its worth further investigation or if, like most things, is it simply to be ignored. If time is short, the one test all new objects must pass is the “falling to the floor” test, thus proving that cats could, at the very least least, grasp the rudiments of Newtonian physics.

Miss Miranda

Miss Miranda

Personally, I think the real obstacles to feline world domination are cats themselves. If they rose to power, they would no longer be the pampered pet; fed, groomed, and appointed with riches such as cat trees, heated beds, and fleece-lined blankets. To rule the world takes energy and that would seriously erode the 18 hours of sleep cats require per day. The biggest problem, though, would be an organized military. Ever heard the phrase, “That was like trying to herd cats.” ? Yeah. unless they could recruit dogs to work as enlisted soldiers, I don’t think we’ll see a feline version of Patton’s 3rd Army marching into Japan to put down a tuna rebellion.

Those Gypsy Eyes

Those Gypsy Eyes

And yet…what can we say about a species that rose from lowly wild creature to domestic icon more than 9500 years ago? Ancient Egypt was quite a coup, and the Middle Ages a bit of a blot on cat history, but today cats are living large. They have personal-shoppers, personal-groomers, personal physicians, and a chauffeur to drive them hither and yon. They draw a bead on soft-touches like my myself and insinuate themselves into our lives with ease.  In addition to Claudia and Sawyer, who sought out my cat-allergic brother before coming to me, I have two barn cats: Miranda and Toby. I adopted Miranda from the vet clinic as an abandoned kitten and Toby just appeared at the barn a few years ago, looking for a nice place to call home. He found it, too. The barn cats have a heated “Cat Room” complete with cushy beds in winter and a cool fan in summer. No cat in my world lives life on the edge of anything but obesity.

Toby's Bedroom

Toby’s Bedroom

So who’s to say? Maybe the cat has accomplished with guile and beauty what man cannot attain: An endless sea of willing servants, loyal unto death to these marvelous, frustrating, curious creatures. Long may they reign.