Thursday, March 24, 2011

In Memory of Belle the Beagle: 1995-2011

Most people understand the bond between human and pet, especially that with dogs. They are a part of the family. There is a bond between human and dog that’s very different from one with a cat, guinea pig, bird, hamster, or goldfish, though each bond is unique and special in its own right. My familiarity resonates with dogs, animals that teach us many things – patience, responsibility, playfulness, and most importantly, unconditional love.

Belle was adopted to be a companion to Casey who, she herself a puppy, incessantly latched on to shoelaces and wouldn’t let go as you walked across the wood floor. Belle was a quiet unassuming puppy, unimpressed by Casey’s overwhelming welcome. Eventually, the two romped nicely together and sisterhood/friendship developed. Belle grew out of her bashfulness and into an exuberant hyperactive dog. She celebrated daily my arrival home, eager to see and welcome me. So eager in fact, that she could jump in excitement as high as your shoulder. I often thought we should’ve named her Tigger.

Belle was always a sweet one – if I was down and crying over something, she’d come over, prop her chin on my leg, make a big sigh, and look at me with those big beagle eyes, tail wagging, as if to say, “What can I do for you?” I just hugged on her, and she’d lick my face. Belle didn’t just lick you; she gave you love snaps. She was a notorious French kisser. She also had uncanny timing of getting her tongue in your mouth as you sweet-talked her. Belle cleaned a teary face and snotty nose pretty good too.

This beagle gave 110% commitment of energy behind her tail wagging. She’d wag her tail so hard her hind end would shimmy like Elvis’s hips. Her tail wagged when she was excited to see you, when it was suppertime, when she was getting ready to go outside, even when she was in trouble. Belle in trouble was like Snoopy’s vulture look, but with an endearing charm. Belle would incessantly wag that tail as you fussed at her for getting into the trash, hanging her head low, and looking up with those big black beagle eyes. Sometimes, you’d forget what you were fussing at her for because it tickled your funny bone. And once you chuckled, she had you. That head would come up, that tail wag wider and more intensely, and she’d be pouncing on those front paws as if she was saying, “Hey! Let’s forget about this and play!”

Belle was never into playing fetch; she never retrieved anything. She was more of a wrestler that loved to romp on the floor with you. But her enthusiasm would leave you with a scratch on the eye or a nip on the lip from her love snaps. So we’d wrestle undercover. I’d throw a blanket over her as her hind end jutted up in the invitation to play. She’d then roll over and manipulate the blanket with her feet, then turn back on her belly, still under the blanket and wait. Then you pick at her while she was still under the blanket, until she successfully wrestled herself out from under cover. Then we'd start over again.

The Chicken Sandwich incident was one Belle never lived down. Having enough for a half of a my favorite sandwich, I prepared in much anticipation: leftover chicken on bread smothered in mayo and topped with dill pickles. I set my plate on a side table, that sat lower than most tables in the TV sitting area, and stepped away for less than a minute to get my drink and a napkin from the kitchen. When I returned, my plate was empty. For a few seconds, I thought I’d actually forgotten to make the sandwich! I went back to the kitchen, then back to the table. What happened to my sandwich? I looked around the sitting area and there sat Belle with her head hanging low, innocently looking up with guilty eyes, licking her chops. She heard a loud mouthful out of me and that was the first and last time she took food off my plate.

Belle loved chasing squirrels. She relentlessly stalked them in our Longmont, Colorado yard. She’d prepared for the hunt, positioning into the classic sneak attack pose, and with an unquestioning belief that she’d get it each time, she’d carefully approach until BAM, she’d go in for the “kill.” Belle loved the outdoors. She’d peruse our fence line perimeter several times, knowing what critter had been where and when.

This beagle was multi-talented. She opened doors that weren’t completely latched shut, using her head to push her way into any room she pleased. More than once did Belle pop her head inside the bathroom door to check on how I was doing while taking care of business on the toilet.

There’s so much more I could share: her opening knobless bathroom cabinet doors to take shelter from a thunderstorm; the time Belle stuck her head out the window as I was rolling it up; the absolute appall she had when I brought a stray cat into the house with the intention to keeping it (Belle’s non-stop barking objections won out); the bland and unaffected reaction to middle-aged drunk women dancing their booties off to “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy”; the time she crawled under my bed from one side to the other rather than walk around it; how she sold most of my furniture on Craig’s List within a day, not once but twice, with just her photo and the slogan, “Belle the Beagle says BUY BUY BUY!" Belle always mixed things up, kept me entertained and on my toes.

My Sweet Belle. She brought so much joy and laughter to me through her beagle antics and unconditional love. Oh, the unconditional love! Belle never held those moments in which I was a less than stellar human being against me. She was my greatest teacher of unconditional love, acceptance, and patience. Belle gave me fifteen wonderful years of all of these gifts, as well as amusement and companionship. She will be missed in the home, but forever etched in my memory and heart.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Transition Happens

In my previous post, I discussed how we are witnessing shifts of energy – in which things are coming to an end so that new beginnings rise out of the ashes. My father currently undergoes his own transition as he begins the process of “wrapping up” life as he’s known it in the home on Marksberry Road that he and my mother built from the ground up. Eighteen months have passed since my mom’s death, and the time has come to downsize, clear out my mother’s things collected over 69 years, and prepare to sell the homestead.

Dad has been going through drawers and boxes of papers and items that mom collected: article clippings – by the hundreds from Southern Living and Martha Stewart magazines; clippings from newspapers about events that touched her heart and instilled her hope and faith in humanity; office supplies for her never-ending mission to be perfectly organized; silk flower arrangement and craft supplies for the many Martha Stewart projects she did and planned to do; purchase receipts; owner manuals; warranty information; billing statements and invoices; cancelled checks; tax papers; bank and investment statements; maps and AAA books of every state she and my father visited; the list goes on! Dad mumbles as he sifts through it, tossing most things and keeping a few things as he moves towards this inevitable life transition.

This weekend, my family gathered in Owensboro to celebrate my little brother’s birthday with brunch at the Moonlight Bar-B-Cue, then a visit to my mother’s grave. Afterwards, we went through some of mom’s personal memorabilia that dad had set out for us. Steve took what he wanted; I took what I wanted, and the rest was tossed. I was amazed, and rather pleased, with the state of peacefulness I felt as I sifted through old photos, love letters my dad had written to mom in their youth, her baby gown and a lock of her baby hair. She’d kept letters I’d sent to her over the years and my baby scrapbook. She stored carefully my old Apollo band Field Commander uniforms, as well as her own wedding dress and one of my childhood coats, all of which she’d made. This woman, my mother, continues to amaze me, even still today. Upon bringing these items home, I sorted through some other belongings I’d collected two months after her death – jewelry, more photos, a notebook recording her family’s genealogy, and keepsakes of her younger years; again, feeling such inner peace within as I touched these items that strongly hold her energy.

Though a great portion of this transition is my dad’s, it isn’t his transition alone. It’s my brother’s and mine, and even my sister-in-law’s and nephews. We’ve shared many memories in this house, on this land, with our neighbors and friends, grandmother, cousins, aunts and uncles, etc. I watched my mom and dad build this homestead with their blood, sweat, and yes, even tears of exhaustion and frustration, doing a little bit at a time over the thirty-five plus years they’ve lived there. My mom’s legacy lives on in her beautiful flower gardens. We’ve experienced a great deal of life on this place that overlooks beautiful Browns Valley, Kentucky: winter storms, birthdays, anniversaries, marriages, divorce, Sunday Smith family gatherings, heartaches, grandchildren, high school graduations, retirement, celebrations, disappointments, holidays, and the death of our matriarch.

Yes, grief over the loss of my mother finally eases its grip on my heart. The loss of a loved one means change, and I’m grateful to my dad for taking time to make this next and natural transition. He’s ready; my brother and I are ready. We want him safe, comfortable, and without worry of the huge responsibility of the homestead’s upkeep. And as time marches on, mom’s energetic presence permeates the household less as Dad has made it his home. He’s worked through the process of his grief, and we’ve paced with him. Several months ago, I felt dread around this impending transition, one much discussed over the last year. Today, I’m ready, willing and able to serve him for his highest and best, without the hooks of grief creating drama in and around the situation.

Does this mean the day he hands the keys to the house over that I won’t feel any emotion? Honestly, I don’t know. But I do know I will miss my homeplace. I will miss the comfort it has offered in times of upheaval in my life. It’s been a sanctuary, a retreat in my adult years. But the legacy of my mom and dad will forever live on in these eight acres to be enjoyed by another who I hope recognizes the depth and spiritual value of this piece of land and the house that sits upon it. More importantly, I hope the new owner will forever know and appreciate the energy of the love with which it was created.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Planetary Shift Invites New Beginnings

With the recent tragedy in Japan in which thousands are affected by both earthquakes and Tsunamis, there is a shift happening on this planet. We’ve witnessed the infighting of other countries, as well as within our own country through the political system. Though the approaches are drastically different, there is an obvious unrest in major systems that have upheld our and other countries, never mind our world affairs for centuries.

Colleague and friend Eric Meyers, a counseling astrologist and published author, brought to my attention recently the astrological phenomenon that took place on March 11, 2011 in which the planet Uranus moved out of Pisces (endings) into Aries (new beginnings). In this energetic shifting, its “purpose is self-empowerment after the dystopia that many may have been experiencing.” In this transition, we begin to shift from that “fooling ourselves” state of being into "waking up" to reveal, address and finish whatever business necessary to break free into a new way of being and experiencing life. Whether you believe such things or not, one cannot discount that we are seeing a surge of upheaval all around us. Our planet’s recent upheaval demonstrates this shifting with earthquakes and tsunamis, flooding, and remarkable weather patterns this winter. Countries such as Egypt, Libya, and other Middle Eastern countries are taking stands against old and stifling political systems and limitations. Within our own country, we are witnessing history as politicians stand their ground for what’s “right” in a new and daring way, going on “strike” to communicate a strong statement of belief of perceived injustices and inequities. Even our economy is reflecting this energy of upheaval as gas prices increase, thus impacting every one of us and our budgets as economic uncertainty and fear makes its way into rising costs for goods in our local stores.

How are you experiencing upheaval in your life? Many may consider upheaval as a negative experience, and while it may have those appearances, upheaval can lead to positive outcomes and changes. In Egypt, citizens rallied calmly and successfully to protest the injustices of their country’s leader; for many of us watching closely, uncertainty may have moved us into fear as we witnessed what could’ve been a potentially dangerous and troubling world event. Was there not an upheaval in the late 1700’s when our forefathers stood their ground to stand for their rights to liberty, freedom and equality? Was there not upheaval in the 1960’s as blacks fought for their rights to equality, one century after another upheaval that fought for their right to be free men and women?

Within our own lives, we may be feeling personal upheaval, whether it is within our careers/jobs, relationships or social connections, financial affairs, health matters, family, or an overall sense of overwhelm and uncertainty. Have you been feeling apprehensive, worried, anxious, or even fearful about something? What area of your life have you been struggling to “get control of” or experiencing frustration in your day-to-day business? What is bubbling underneath the surface, in your thoughts, your feelings or emotions? We must not ignore what is brewing under the surface of our life's facade, but rather face “our stuff” head-on and with brutal honesty. What’s not working for you anymore? What are you ignoring that difficulties, strife or frustration are begging you to explore? How are you distracting yourself from looking at your personal unhappiness, sources of stress, disappointments or frustration from the lack of results despite your intentions? How are you fooling yourself in this self-evaluation, allowing your mind to trick you into believing that something “outside” of yourself is the cause for your struggles? Where is your arrogance or pride blocking your objective point of view?

Spring brings forth the rebirth of Mother Nature’s finest work and gifts. From the astrological perspective, each of us, as well as our country and every country in this world are engaged in this energetic invitation of upheaval in order to make changes that are for the greater good in our lives, and that of the Collective (a.k.a. the world) so a new way of being, demonstrating, and expressing may take place.

On March 11, when astrologists dated the shift of Uranus from Pisces into Aries, Mother Earth literally shifted herself in Japan and its coastal waters to get our attention; so that we all may once again become more aware of our place and responsibility to Mother Earth and each other within humanity. We are in this life and world together, and disasters like these recent events bring us globally together as a human race as humanitarians. Is the earthquake happening on March 11 a coincidence? I think not; and isn’t it interesting that we are more willing and able to reach deep within our wallets and hearts, in unconditional love and acceptance, to serve without question or judgment during times of disaster?

If the fault line within your heart is trembling, don’t ignore it! Look within yourself to see what changes need to be made in your patterns, habits and choices, personal demonstrations of expression, or what transitions and shifts you need to be making in your life. Refusal to acknowledge the signs, to look truthfully within your heart will lead to experiencing your own version of a personal shakeup in your life that will impact everything you believe about it, creating change that forces you into a new beginning. I’ve learned from experience: it’s easier to shift into change and new beginnings as an active participate than to fight it kicking and screaming. Pay attention. Be honestly introspective. And participate in the flow.

For more information on the astrological perspective of these energetic shifts, click here.

To learn more about how you can help support those impacted by the catastrophic disaster in Japan, click here.