Shed a Little Light

In these dark days of world-wide fear and uncertainty, a little light is especially appreciated. Please enjoy this fabulous cover of James Taylor’s great song “Shed a Little Light,” brought to you by the Maccabeats, Naturally 7, Martin Luther King, and Abraham Lincoln. I read somewhere that James himself thought this was the best cover of his work ever.

On the home front in related news, we are having an argument about a lamp.

I read in John Bradshaw’s The Trainable Cat – well of course I did, I’m one of those “obsessive cat owners who would read its 300-some pages beginning to end.” Although we all know I “own” nothing. If anybody owns anyone, it’s the cats own me.

Anyway, my point. I read in Bradshaw that some cats nibble and pick at and chew stuff because they needed this behavior, as predators, to pluck the feathers from their bird prey.

I have this lovely lamp I inherited from my grandmother. It came with a lovely raw-silk shade.

Here is what has happened to the lovely raw-silk shade. Not done by Barney.

By Bugs, who else.

For the week leading up to this post, I kept the camera next to the lamp, hoping I could catch Bugs in the act. No such luck – although my simply reaching for the camera was enough to get him to stop, naturally, so there was at least some utility there.

You don’t think I’d let you snap me in the act, do you?

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Learning From Outrage

This Sunday didn’t start off well – with an e-mail from Tom Cotton, the alleged person who is supposed to be representing me in the U.S. Senate. He was very proud to tell me “great news.” Thanks to his direct intervention with U.S. Health Secretary Tom Price, the peace of mind of the good citizens of Royal, Arkansas (west of Hot Springs) will no longer be disturbed by the specter of unaccompanied “illegal-immigrant” children – that’s right, unaccompanied children – being housed at a nearby defunct Job Corps center. Cotton praises the good citizens of Royal for their “vigilance” in driving out this terrible threat. This, Cotton says, “will help keep Arkansas families safe.”

I circulated this outrage to my political colleagues. In response, one of them has offered to find out where those poor children have been shunted off to, to send them care packages.

This person responds to outrage with generosity. I myself tend to stay seething in outrage. Maybe I can learn something here.

In other news, spring started about a month early this year, thanks to the summery February we’ve been having. On Saturday, February 11th, it was 81 degrees F. here. And it’s not just here. This has been the hottest February on record in hundreds of years — all over the U.S.A, in Britain, and 90.5 degrees F. in New Delhi.

So of course this had to happen.

Here’s Bugs wanting to go back inside, after colliding with the shock of sub-30 degree weather.

He does ask nicely, though, when I take his picture instead.

And here’s Barney.

Our latest clicker-training gambit is jumping up on top of Nelson’s Column and then spinning around in a tight circle.

Anything to stop brooding about the political situation.

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This Year . . .

. . . it’s hard to find words for what’s going on over here. In the U.S.A. I’ve been devoting so much time to the political situation that this blog has unfortunately taken a back seat. But I can’t let a year pass without a post dated March 4th, my birthday.


Barney says hi to you all.

Bugsy isn’t saying much today. Over the past few months he has had a resurgence of his allergy and health issues (skin, vomiting). We have embarked on a truly strange program with a vet in California, whom we found through Dr. Jean Hofve. It seems to be helping. I took this picture around a month ago, and since then his ears have much improved.


Here he is looking better.


And here is a snap of some ducks I’ve been feeding lately.


With kind regards to all.


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Family of Us

May the paw of light shed happiness on us all in this New Year.


I hope you enjoy the gentle vibe of this lovely song and video, “Famille Feat,” from Lokua Kanza of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Reminding us to find those whom we feel to be family — of origin and the greater Family of us all — and to tell them, while we are all still here, that we love them.


Lokua Kanza


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New Year’s Miracle

I want a miracle for everybody in the New Year like the one that has just happened for me. Here’s the story:

Last Wednesday December 28, I underwent oral surgery under IV anesthetic to extract a left-lower molar and to place a bone graft. The surgeon told me I would probably experience the worst pain on the third day.

Yesterday morning, Friday, I woke up at 4:00 a.m. with pain at 6 of 10. The pain felt like a seething molten pit where the tooth had been and it spread up the left side of my face to my ear, down through my neck, and into my left shoulder.

Although you could feel better just looking at this face . . . .

miracle1-002That was not quite enough this time. I spent around 1.5 hours doing Les Fehmi’s meditations: General Open Focus Training, Dissolving Pain, and Long Form.

The pain persisted steadily through the first two meditations, intensifying with the narrow-focus bits of Dissolving Pain. But by Long Form, I noticed that the pain seemed to be coming and going. I fell asleep at the end of Long Form.

I woke at 7:45 with pain at 0.

I was afraid to eat, but as I wrote this at 9:45 after oatmeal, the pain was around 0.5. I could certainly feel swelling and stiffness, and I needed to be careful with sudden movements, but, still, the pain was around 0.5.

The only other pain remedy I’m taking is homeopathic arnica.

In the past I have tried the Fehmi meditations less successfully with amorphous back pain. With this current pain, which I feel as more concrete than the back pain, the results appear to be nothing short of unambiguously fabulous.

The cats are not so sure. They seem to prefer straddling the fence.

Pick a chair, Bugs!


Pick a chair, Barney!

And by the way, Bugs wants you to know that Barney is not the only one who knows how to load up.


May everybody get at least one miracle in the New Year.


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Captured on Tape

Since I first wrote about clicker training in June, one month after my first equine workshop with Alexandra Kurland and Cindy Bennett Martin, the boys and I have been brushing up on our clicker routine every day. Cindy visited yesterday and was so kind as to take this video to show you.

Cindy explains it: “Who says you can’t train cats? Wonderful job teaching Barney to high five (party trick), spin (party trick + helpful for crate training), and to self-load in his carrier. No frantic, frustrating attempts to stuff the cat in the crate. He even waits to be invited out when the door is opened.”

Or here.

I think it was Cindy herself who suggested building the spinning behavior outside the crate. You can see how well it worked. Barney went from going straight in the crate and presenting his tail to the outside world, to the polished and elegant nose-front behavior you see in the video. (The occasional background banging was caused by photo-bomber Bugs batting at the screen door, demanding to be let out onto the Catio. Yes the front door was open. It was 60º F. In December.)


Barney is happy to accept your kudos.

Bugs can also do the crate-trick thing. He’s just too much of a dude to brag about it.


The book is by Maeve Binchy. It’s A Few of the Girls, a collection of stories full of the feet-on-the-ground wisdom and good cheer I have come to expect from Maeve, who, alas, has since passed over. I was so happy to find a story in the voice of a cat named Audrey. Maeve had a cat named Audrey. Here’s a picture, Maeve with Audrey or maybe somebody else. Of course Maeve loved cats:


Here’s where I got this pic.

In the waning days of 2016, filled with dread for the coming year(s), I hope all who need refuge find it. Maeve and I will be joining the boys in their crates.


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Thanks Return

I was in physical pain on November 9th. Ten minutes after I heard the US election results, I still could not draw a full breath. A big part of me absolutely could not grasp what happened.

closed-system9-006Neither Bugs nor Barney could look directly at this thing.

Now that the consternation, confusion, and terror have receded somewhat, I have found some space to contemplate what has happened. I have found some comfort in the reminder, from Rev. William J. Barber, that the vicious backlash this election represents is but the latest in a long history. As we have struggled, over the centuries, to forge a more perfect union – as the psychic wound of slavery and segregation has been torn open again and again – there have been those heroic individuals who have stood up and called out for decency and humanity, sometimes even when standing as a minority of one.

“[O]ur foreparents were up against more with less. And they taught us that a dying mule always kicks the hardest.”

I have written again and again in this blog about our limitations as a thinking, feeling species. About “subjective backward referral” and “inattentional blindness.” About the strong tie between our emotions and the way we pay attention. About how closed systems of reliance on outside authority and rote behaviors lead to a pinched, punitive, domineering world-view that causes suffering.

Now, in casting around to try to come to grips with what has happened, I like another metaphor. This article compares our immune system with closed-off belief systems. Where our system is open to the outside world, we are armed with white blood-cells to protect us against bacterial infection. Where our system is closed, as it is in our cerebro-spinal fluid, when bacteria get in there they create devastation immediately.

Closed belief-systems are like the spinal system. There is no protection, in a closed belief system, from propaganda, lies, scapegoating. “If bad information gets in . . . it usually ends up very damaging to the whole. . . . Without built-in protective functions like critical analysis, self-reflection, openness to counter-evidence, willingness to re-evaluate any and all beliefs, bad information in a closed-off system ends up doing massive damage in short time.”

But, as memoirist Mary Karr writes, “anybody maladroit at apology or changing her mind just isn’t bent for the fluid psychological state that makes truth discoverable . . . . The human ego is a stealthy, low-crawling bastard, and for pretty much everybody, getting used to who you are is a lifelong spiritual struggle.”


And how.

So, with the current state of affairs has come a determination in me to stay open to counter-evidence that what I sincerely believe may not be true after all.

Take, for instance, my long-held conviction that the diet I feed my cats is good for them. Even so, though – as long ago as July 17, 2012 – I was trying to formulate a means of assessing why it was that Bugs has suffered from chronic dietary upseturinary problems, and skin sensitivities.

All this came to a head around this election. Bugs could not hold down a meal. After a day and a half of regurgitation, I took him to the vet. Naturally in this crisis our regular vet was out of town, so we went to a new one close by. Bugs was in such a bad way that the new vet hospitalized him over two days to treat him with antihistamine injections and IV-infused fluids.


Barney remains calm.

Her opinion was that Bugs was allergic to my blue-ribbon home-made diet.


Oh no. Why didn’t we think of that sooner?

Well we’re thinking of it now. I have given up my belief that with my blue-ribbon home-made diet, nothing could go wrong. To rephrase: My belief-system has now opened up to admit inconvenient counter-evidence. My blue-ribbon diet has been making Bugs sick for years.

Barney takes the elevated view.


“You did the best you could,” he says.

I have given up striving to create Bugs’s food. I have now resorted to Primal frozen raw. Bugs is doing much better. Even his clicker-learned acceptance of the crate has survived, though I feared it might be poisoned by the vet experience. No worries. Bugs is back to throwing in the crate behavior all the time to get his hypo-allergenic treat.


Gratitude has returned.

I was hoping it would. Thanksgiving is supposed to be the time when I rejoice. Bugs came to me on Thanksgiving in 2009, and every year I have reiterated rejoicing on this day for that reason among others.

This year, I could not see how I could rejoice.


I still can. Gratitude’s back.


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