Maitri Libellule
"I look around the small cottage where I live in Topanga, a rural area in the Santa Monica mountains, and wonder who I am and how I came to live here in this way. Animal images predominate. Bones, fetishes, totems, Mayumi Oda's Kwan Yin as the Goddess who gave names to the animals presides over my study. On another wall, there is a painting of a blue bull by Maureen Piper. Everywhere there are photographs of Timber Wolf, who lived with me for 14 years, and Owl and Isis, the hybrid timber and arctic wolves who are my companions now."

"... I want to be more than a tourist in the natural world; I want to change my habits of Western mind. This means shattering the ego and ideas of species superiority and privilege. This means recognizing animals as other intelligent beings who may understand humans better than we understand them and who live far better than we do within the net of Indra, the shimmering ecological relationships between of all things..."

Deena Metzger, "Coming Home"
from Intimate Nature: The Bond
Between Women and Animals

I have been reading this very dear book, a compilation of women's poems, stories, relationships, history, and ancient lore, with animals. I have found kindred spirits reading this book and it is so spirit-soothing it is like a cup of chamomile tea for the soul. We are creatures of the earth, as are our animal brothers and sisters, and yet many people treat them, even when they love them dearly, as less than in some way. They are not less than. They are our companions on the journey through life. I live with 12 animals and I never call them "pets." I call them my animal companions.

Also, when reading the quote from the chapter by Deena Metzger. one of my favorite writers, I felt like I was reading my own story, or a very close approximation thereof. I have feathers, fetishes, totems, statues of Kwan Yin, whom I adore, the mother of maitri or maitreya in Buddhism. Interestingly she is thought to be connected to the Virgin Mary in Catholicism. and her love of animals echoes the work of St. Francis. Many branches of many "religions" coming together in one flowing stream of spirituality.

I know that my animal family possesses a kind of knowledge and deeper truth than I do on many levels. When I lost my beloved grey parrot Henry in November, after handraising him and having him for over 10 years, the ever present parrot on my shoulder, I wept for weeks and all of my animals surrounded me, or were on me, lying next to me, all vigilant. They got me through the worst of my grief, and yet I will never stop missing my sweet boy. He was my heart and soul. He was my soulmate. We had a connection and communion I cannot describe. My heart breaks just writing about it.

I have written about, and laughed about, the peculiar way (in most people's eyes) that I live. More animals than furniture. Seeds everywhere and the elderly and infirm pugs I adopt do tend to have "accidents" on a regular basis, but I take in the ones no one wants, one deaf, one deaf and blind, two who were badly abused. We go outside many many times a day, but still, there will be those accidents to clean up. For all of the people (and trust me, there have been many) who say something like, "Well, I'D never stand for THAT!" They'd rather get rid of the "troublesome" dog than clean up after the poor little one. Just wait until the person who gave up the animal is in a nursing home depending on someone cleaning them up and perhaps they will understand. My animals are far less flawed than I am. I am blessed to have them.

Everyday I get up at least twice before I'm up for good because the three eldest dogs, Coco (deaf) the little fawn pug is 12; Babsie (Deaf when I got her and now blind but she gets around just fine because we have a small space here and she knows it well... ), the wee little black pug is 13; and my darling Big Moe, the lab-doby mix I've had since he was a tiny puppy from the Humane Society is now 14, and sadly beginning to slow down a bit, seem to need to go potty as early as possible. It might be 6 when we get up and go outside, but then Mama Maitri goes back to sleep and so do they. About an hour later all five of them have to go out, including Harvey and Sampson, at about 9 and 10 the middle-aged gentlemen. Everybody goes out again and this time I give them their milk bone treats and fresh water bowls and then, yes, Mama poops out again. I work very late or into the wee small hours so early morning is not my best time. Now, here's the thing. two things really, and I find them fascinating.

All of my animal companions are so in sync with me that people are amazed. Five dogs and six parrots, 2 of them big parrots, a cockatoo and a macaw, known as very loud birds, have fallen into my routine and they seem to know that I often have a hard time of things and my medications will wear me out, and so mid-day when I take a nap right among them, they are so silent you'd not imagine there was an animal in the place. In fact I've peeked and when I go to sleep they all do. As soon as I'm up they start peeping and cheaping and talking and the dogs are dancing around wanting to go out, but not a movement or a sound as long as I am napping, usually with Sammie asleep on part of me, which is dear and comforting, like a soft, warm teddy bear, whose breathing helps me drift off, pug snores and all.

Something that I noticed this morning is that the first time I go out, very early, not one bird, who are all around us, only Blossom the cockatoo needs covering, make one sound though I am up with the dogs. I am completely silent. We go out, we come in, I go back to sleep.

The second time I get up, an hour or so later, when I also get the dogs their milk bones and fresh water, it is enough activity that Maya, the macaw, and the smaller parrots notice and make some noise. Maya might even let out a few macaw shrieks, but I totally ignore it. I am totally silent, and within minutes so are they. I can sleep another hour or more before I get up, get the dogs out and in again, feed all of the animals and get them fresh water, singing to them the whole while, and let the 2 big parrots out. As long as I am home, even when I'm napping, they are out of their cages. They simply go to sleep on top of their cages. They are amazing.

This morning, after lying down for the 2nd time, Solomon, my beloved Blue Crown conure, started in with his loud conure call which got Maya shrieking to beat the band. I lay perfectly still, covered my eyes as I do once it is light, and lie there completely calm, breathing slowly and easily, on my side with silky warm Sam against me, and they didn't make a move. I knew that after a few minutes they would stop. They realize I am going back to sleep and they are silent as a mouse. I breathe in and out, meditatively, while they do their screaming, but it is soon out of their system. Again, they are in sync with my needs, and I with theirs. We co-exist as a near perfectly balanced family.

When I was going back to sleep from 8 to 9:30, amazingly late for me, I woke up in sheer silence. They would not make a sound until I was up. And I thought about the many people who have animals in their homes but miss this deep connection. They holler at the birds to be quiet, they scold or punish the little elderly dog for having an accident, and more. But I know, as I am lying there wanting peace and the parrots are having their little round of sounding off, that they are doing just what they are supposed to do. Birds herald the morning whether wild or domesticated. I am connected to their needs as well. And once again we go back to sleep together.

I am taking this all in as I realize that you can be ordained and yet not fully understand your direction, your vocation, your mission. As an interfaith minister. my ministry also includes the animal kingdom, domestic and wild, animals in need of rescue to loving homes, as well as animals in the wild on the brink of extinction. And so I walk the Franciscan path, follow the teaching of Kwan Yin, Mother Mary, and read the Bible alongside Buddhist literature. I am learning. I am learning what path I need to take, and very often my animals are my teachers. I am sitting silently and allow the parts and the pieces of the ministry I am building float to the surface slowly, oh so slowly. It will all coalesce when the time is right. And the animals have so much more to teach me.

And now it is nap time before my helpers come today. Life moves forward, but the animals and I lag behind a bit. We are never in any hurry. Sampson is already asleep and snoring beside me. The animals know, they just know. They pick up on my low energy vibe and become quiet and ready for me to say, "Time to take a nap," and then we all do, a family at peace...

Love and Blessings to all of you from all of us. It's time for our nap. I know you'll uderstand.

1 Response
  1. Christine Says:

    Hello my friend,

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    I want to let you know how much you are appreciated. Thank you for being you!


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    Christine 

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