A Thousand Words For Reindeer

I am back to thinking of those friends who are facing end-of-life issues, about whom I wrote recently.  Now two more in our blog-circle have joined that group, and I have just read about several more of whom I didn’t know before.

This is a very sad time.  So sad, in fact, that a commenter on one of the blogs even seriously questioned, for those of us who are especially susceptible to this pain, whether it’s worth it in the first place to love our animal companions.

I can understand that question, but I can’t stand to think of it.

So I want to turn my broken heart to the love part of loss.  Love is the only thing I can stand to write about now.


If something’s important enough, you’d think we’d find words to differentiate, to express nuance.

Snow is so much a part of the lives of Eskimos and Aleuts that it’s become a cliché, and maybe not even true, that they have a thousand words for snow.  Maybe it’s truer that the Scandinavians have a thousand words for reindeer.

As for us?  We have just the one word – “love” – to stand for everything from the way we feel about our animal companions to the way we feel about our newest pair of shoes.  Roman Krznaric notices that these days, we’ve got more words to order the exact caffeinated beverage of our choice than we have of expressing which kind of love we’re feeling.

So I feel better when I think about different words for love.

Krznaric says the ancient Greeks had six words for love’s varieties.  For sexual passion, Eros; for deep friendship, Philia; for playful flirtatiousness, Ludos; for universal loving-kindness, Agape; for longstanding love, Pragma; and – those Greeks were brilliant – for self-empathy, Philautia.

Five of those six words seem perfectly suited to my own feelings for my animal companions.

Playful flirtatiousness, for all the mock ambushes and multiple massacres of feather wands.


Deep friendship, for a toasty cat-cluster up against my back through these long winter nights.

harmony4-cropLong-standing love, which has survived the thug-stage and has mellowed into mutual accommodation and – if I may be so free with the facts – actual understanding.

resolutions 012-cropSelf-empathy, for the grief I feel every time I think of Fang and his passing.

foureyesgb-fang 003-cropAnd universal loving-kindness, for all of us who have grieved, are grieving, and will grieve, at the lip of this bottomless chasm that, in the end, separates us from those with whom we play, grow into, stay warm, come to understand –


— and love.


About nadbugs

Anita loves cats. This must be because she, too, has had nine lives. She’s been dancing since she could walk, she was a commercial artist and advertising producer, she earned a third-degree black belt in Aikido, she is a drummer with the Afrique Aya Dance Company, she is an attorney, and she’s a meditator and a devoted student of Nonviolent Communication. She also spent one lifetime sidelined with a devastating back injury in 1992. Since then – FELDENKRAIS METHOD® to the rescue. The FELDENKRAIS METHOD is all about dreaming concretely – thinking intelligently and independently by way of a gracious and kind physicality. The work affords all who study it a process by which to reach, with movement, into the mind and the heart, to make nine lives into one whole being.
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6 Responses to A Thousand Words For Reindeer

  1. dawn knapp says:

    Every freakin thing you write is so freakin good! Blessings to us all as we grow in love

    FYI- I was just watching the end of the documentary “The Horse Boy” in which a family take their autistic son to Mongolia in search of the shamans of the Reindeer People. So your title caught me.

  2. My human knows this all too well… She also can’t bear to think about it… That’s why I have to keep her busy… Believe me, she and I both purray fur these.


  3. Kitties Blue says:

    Excellent, thoughtful and though-provoking post. I often feel like LOVE has become a meaningless word. I love your new haircut. I love my new car. I love gardenias. Saying that we really like something often doesn’t seem enough so we save we love it. And no matter how much my heart breaks and I grieve when one of my beloved cats passes away (and there is that word), I would not give up having them as part of my life. Sometimes by love for them and there love for me is the only thing that keeps me going. Thank you for this post. Janet

  4. Grief is loving something no longer on our plane.

  5. Carolyn says:

    For us mere humans it is the agape love that is the most hard to do! When you think about loving unconditionally it is loving without considering the worth of the object of that love! The agape itself gives the value!! Some thought!! Happy New Year Anita 🙂

  6. Pingback: Domestication: A Good Idea Within Limits | catself

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