Image courtesy of Lynne McMahan
Animal Speak - July 2017
Creating Home, with Animal Heart
By Lynne McMahan
"For me a house or an apartment becomes a home when you add one set of four legs, a happy tail and that indescribable measure of love..." (Roger Caras)
In June, I volunteered to edit and help finalize the newsletter for Kindred Spirits and was blessed with the opportunity to read the stories of animals who I've come to love and know, the volunteers who help with the "heartbeat" and rhythm of the sanctuary, as well as connecting on a deeper level with Ulla, the leader, founder and guardian of KSAS. I was inspired by a volunteer's story about coming back to Santa Fe after time away and finding home and inspiration at KSAS, "True inspirations – a wagging tail, the symphony of the poultry yard, and the not-to-distant nickering of either MoonSpirit or Blondie envelope my heart. Home, of course, if where the animal heart is" (Scott, Volunteer at KSAS).
I was also inspired by Montana's story, a new volunteer at the sanctuary who lost one of her older dogs and came to Kindred Spirits to further her healing and purpose:
"...as I walk through the lush grounds, I feel connected to the spirits of all the animals I’ve loved. In the quiet moments I can hear them in the rustling of tree leaves and the steady humming of bees. When I sit holding a sleeping dog to my heart, I feel the warmth of a universal love emanating outward like the sunshine that travels through the darkness of space to reach Earth every morning and call forth a new day. I strive to live as the animals do, fully awake in each moment, and to do my work so that each action is imbued with gratitude for this life. Even the smallest gesture becomes an offering of compassion. "(Montana, Volunteer at KSAS)
These reminders of what home is to Ulla, Scott and Montana, have helped shape this month's column and theme: Creating Home. Being somewhat of a wanderer, having lived in 5 different states, and multiple communities over the last 62 years of life, I have a different understanding of "home" than my Mom who has only lived in 2 states and the last 60 years of her 88 years she has stayed in my "growing-up-town." I'm not quite sure, because we moved for a short time to another house before we all went off to college, but I think she's been in the same house for at least 55 of those 60 years. And she cannot imagine herself living anywhere else. After 40 years without children and animals, she has acquired an animal friend, a neighbor's cat who was abandoned when they moved. Both of them take their new responsibilities for each other seriously. The cat makes sure my Mom has a job and purpose in taking care of her and being timely in filling her food and water bowls; and my Mom in taking care of the cat, who needs her sponsorship. A simple, but important, relationship has developed. "One small cat changes coming home to an empty house to coming home" (Pam Brown), indeed!
Though I have been somewhat transient, until the last few years as a renter, I have always owned my house and property with animals in my life, helping anchor me to "home." The past few years without animals have been, well, lonely. I've been able to share my love and gratitude with hundreds of animals belonging to friends, family and clients, as well as all of the wild ones I come in contact and connection with, but there is a missing piece to our "home," without an animal family member. The little grey tabby that has been frequenting our backyard must sense this missing piece, telling us that our backyard feels like "his place" and maybe, his home. Still not comfortable coming close to us, he has been consistent about coming back each day and has been appreciative for the food and water I offer to him. My backyard birds know he's there, but he doesn't seem a threat, just another joy that shows up to be in our little backyard home.
Home means so many things to us as humans: it means place--community, house, the "where" we do our life; it also means "why"--to be happy and comfortable, to extend our life, to find our purpose; it means "what"--a nice house, good income, functional family, service to community. And it means "when"--our past--growing up, moving through our developmental stages; our present--what our life and love and being is now; and our future, having enough and being enough when we grow old. But for me the most important part of having a home and being human is the "who" in my life of my life of home. Beyond myself there are the precious "who's" who have been a part of my home: my partner, my family, my friends, my students, my clients, my colleagues and, very important--my animal family and the greater animal family who were not pets, but kept me grounded. If I were to take my life and dissect it into small, developmental stages, there were always animal family members there--dogs, cats, ducks, horses, goats, llamas, love birds, turtles, frogs, koi, rabbits, lizards, snakes, spiders, all manner of loving, patient, loyal, devoted animal friends and family. I have been truly blessed.
In closing I considered writing a poem for this theme of "home." The acrostic poetry I used to do with my fifth grade students many years ago seemed like a lovely way to express my creativity. What I discovered in the activity was more than I had imagined. In an acrostic poem, you write the letters of a word down the left side of the poem. Each letter in the word expresses a new thought that runs off the side from left to right and is relevant to the word selected. I've altered the process slightly because the discovery of the middle letters revealed sacred text from the Upanishads, a collection of sacred Hindu texts.
OM is the universe, the past, the present, and the future, all that was, all that is,
all that will be
Perhaps in altering our daily prayers and meditations by chanting H-OM-E we will create the oneness and harmony our animal and human family longs for and deserves.
Blessings, dear readers.
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Lynne McMahan, Ed.D., En-Light-En Reiki, is a Usui/Holy Fire Karuna Reiki® Master and Mind-Body-Spirit Mentor, supporting the healing of each person or animal on their journey of transformation. For more information: enlightenreiki.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, or 505.400.3168.