Love Knows No Differences


A child and a dog.  It’s a touching image known to poets and painters.  It evokes something in us.  It’s the bond beyond boundaries.  This video shows the love between this beautiful child and a dog that transcends handicap, species and age. It’s a heart warming reminder of the simple goodness inherent in life at any moment.

Happy Holidays.

The Discovery of Immortality in a Jellyfish


Photo by Takashi Murai

Photo by Takashi Murai

 “Everything goes, everything comes back; eternally rolls the wheel of being. Everything dies, everything blossoms again. . . .”  Fredrich Nietzche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

“After more than 4,000 years — almost since the dawn of recorded time, when Utnapishtim told Gilgamesh that the secret to immortality lay in a coral found on the ocean floor — man finally discovered eternal life in 1988. He found it, in fact, on the ocean floor,” write Nathaniel Rich of The New York Times.  One tiny, unassuming jellyfish has earned the name immortal.  It seems this being literally reverses its aging process and can revert back to its infant state, never dying.  It literally begins its life anew.

Read the full article here.

 

 

In a Dog’s Eyes


Sometimes life can reach out and touch you so deeply it can leave you forever changed.  It happens in the most unexpected of ways without fanfare or warning.  And sometimes it’s like being hit but a truck.

Monday morning my husband and I woke early, long before the sunrise.  After puttering around the house for awhile, we decided to take a walk and enjoy what little solitude can be had around here.

The air was heavy and damp making my shirt cling to me the moment we stepped outside.  Always darkest before the dawn, as they say, the sky was a spectacle.  Saturn, Mars, Venus and Jupiter glowed brightly with the crescent of the waning moon as their center piece.  The constellation of Cancer provided the mantle on which it all rested.  We couldn’t help but pause to take it all in to the tune of the heavy trucks rumbling sleepily from the road that was our destination.

The streets were otherwise deserted.  We paused again at the little temple outside the gate.  The bare bulbs dangling from the ceiling gave a golden glow and strings of twinkling lights lent  a happy aura to the place.  The goddess Durga, the divine mother of creation, smiled out at us with breathtaking beauty.  Hanuman watched in stoic silence nearby.  I lingered there.  I couldn’t help myself.  Although I don’t worship these deities, the peace of this place was palpable.  There’s a fragrance there, undetectable by the nose but felt in the heart as delicate as a flower’s perfume.  Two blocks down the road, the irony would almost ruin me.

I was reluctant to leave, but my husband tugged me on.  He wanted milk for his tea.  I recalled the juicy ginger roots waiting in the fridge and salivated.  The sweet tang of ginger tea did sound pretty appealing so I followed along holding his hand as we strolled under grimy street lights reluctant to give up their light.

When we approached the road, humanity trundled sleepily along.  The trucks banged, and the occasional car or motorbike sputtered.  Green rickshaws, almost gray in the darkness, stood slumbering untouched by the diesel fumes. Everything was oblivious to the dust.

The little shop was open as we’d hoped.  Some days it isn’t at such an early hour but we lucked out.  As my husband stepped to the window of the little pink shack to ask for our milk and pay, I stood nearby and quietly observed.  Several vehicles were parked there and a few men were loitering around the corner, smoking and talking in low voices.  I tried to be invisible.  As the only white foreign woman living in our area my presence is always met with stares.  It still makes me uncomfortable.  I’m a freakish thing to them, I think.  An unexpected spectacle.  Maybe someday they’ll get used to the fact I exist here.  Or maybe not.  Either way, I was happier not to be seen.

I noticed the dogs.  Stray dogs are plentiful here in India.  They congregate in small groups, claiming a landmark as their home base, and like everything else here they coexist.  Two of them were milling near the men; one black and white and the other a dark brown.  They looked hale and healthy as far as street dogs go.  The third, a young chestnut colored thing, was snuggled tightly against the shack wall away from the others, curled tightly in a ball.  She was a young dog and as I stood trying to be invisible she was watching me.

It was her eyes that held me.  They’re still burned into my mind.  They silently said so much.  Dogs are such intuitive creatures.  I think it comes from their natural need to be social; with each other and with us.  Perhaps she sensed what I was thinking as I stood there.  I was missing my own dog, left behind in the States.  I still mourn her absence.  But I looked into those eyes and I knew the stray dog’s thoughts.

Be kind to me.  Speak gently to me.  Let me feel comfort.

My heart reacted and poured from my mouth before I even realized what I was doing.

“Hi, sweet baby,” I cooed softly, not to attract the attention of the men around the corner.  “Oh, sweetheart.”

She raised her head higher and slightly closer and I wanted to reach out and touch her but I also saw the fear lingering behind her need. Her tail dared not even a wag.

“It’s okay.  I understand,” I told her.  “It’s ok.”

I could see the war within her.  She wanted to come to me yet she wanted to remain invisible too.  That emotion I could relate to.  Her inner conflict made my heart ache.

I pondered whether or not to move closer, to make some overture, but everything exploded.  It all happened in an instant.  One of the men kicked her, sending her into motion with a squeal.  The other two dogs erupted, barking.  They knew well not to trifle with men like these but their need to protect their pack-mate sent them running in sweeping circles, barking sharply; venting their outrage away from its real source for their own safety.

Then I saw the reason for both her need and her conflict.  She was hobbling on 3 legs.  Her hind leg she held up gingerly out of the way.  She was injured.  Not knowing where to go or what to do, she simply plopped down next to a car’s tire, shivering.  This is when my heart broke into two.  She wasn’t watching the men who offended her.  She wasn’t watching her pack-mates pacing here and there.  She was looking at me.  The raw hunger of her fear and her need shattered inside of me like a thousand shards of glass.

Having acquired our milk, my husband jarred me back into myself.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.”

It was all I could say.  He took my numb hand and we walked away.  I can’t remember when I’ve felt like such a shit leaving her there.  Feeling her eyes on me, I forced myself to turn once.  She was still cowering by the tire, still watching me.  When the lights of the road were behind us, and the privacy of darkness had cloaked us again, I shed a few silent tears.  Her need followed me.

Questions are haunting me now:  Why does suffering like this have to exist in this world?  Why does any being have to live so starved for simple kindness?  I can’t accept “oh, it’s just the way things are” as the rationalization.  Maybe I’m an idealist but complacency like that is also an ideal and it a crummy one.  I refuse to accept that excuse because I know it doesn’t have to be this way.  People choose it.  We could choose to be kind.  Even if it’s only pausing to share a gentle word, to reach out to comfort that hunger in another.  But so many times we make the choice to walk on by, or worse, to kick it and turn callously away.  I guess this is how we delude ourselves that we can be in control of the discomfort suffering in others causes in us instead of allowing our hearts to open and reach out.

But letting the heart open is such a beautiful thing.  There’s immense power in that one simple act.  It’s a power that can move mountains without effort.  It’s so strong that it can leave something forever changed.  That forlorn dog, in return for a few kind words, taught me more in those few moments than years of seeking has.  Love is the most important thing in this world.  Kindness is the light in the deepest night of hopelessness.  And it’s a choice.

Hatred, anger, contempt and frustration are all mired in the material world and we get caught in that habitual mind-muck.  It’s an ugly habit, an unconscious choice.  But love is something else, entirely.  When the heart is open, being in this loving state is pure ease.  You breathe.  Unfurl.  When the heart is opened in an act of kindness it opens the heart of one who is closed.  And being closed is suffering.  In that moment of kindness, natural being is restored, if only for a moment, giving a glimpse of another possibility.  Another choice.

We need to be more mindful of how we choose to be.  We need to choose wisely.

Why do you feel it’s easier for our hearts to be touched by animals?

Mother Gray Whale Introduces Baby to Thrilled Whale Watchers


Mid March of this year, Greg and Barbara MacGillivray traveled to Laguna San Ignacio located on Mexico’s Baja Penninsula to do a little whale watching.  Even though San Ignacio is a whale watcher’s paradise, they received a special treat they weren’t expecting.  A gray whale mother sought out the small boat of sightseers and introduced her baby to them.  At one point she even held her calf to the surface so it could look at them.

Laguna San Ignacio, Part of the El Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve, is where hundreds of gray whales (Eschrichtius robustusmigrate annually, traveling about 6,000 miles (10,000 km) from their Alaskan feeding grounds to the warm shallow water of San Ignacio lagoon.  There they mate and give birth between January and April.

“There is a constant ‘oofft’ of the exhalation from the blow holes of all the whales surfacing for air. Such a gentle reassurance that nature is alive and well in the lagoon: probably the softest, most gentle and nurturing sound in the world,” said Barbara.

“We would never approach the whales directly, but waited at a respectful distance of about 20-30 feet of a visible whale and calf to see if they would approach us. The initiative was always in the whales’ court.”

If a whale approaches the small fishing boats seeking human interaction, no more than two boats are allowed in the immediate area of the “friendly,” as these whales are called.

“Frequently, it seemed like the mother wanted us to see her calf, actively pushing the calf close to our boat,” Barbara said. Luckily they were able to record and share one such amazing event!


Believing in the importance of striking the right balance between conservation and tourism, Serge Dedina, the Executive Director of WiLDCOAST and author of Saving the Gray Whale, said, “There is no other area in the world where whale watching is more regulated than San Ignacio Lagoon. In spite of the tourist activities there are more whales than ever.  Local outfitters, the Mexican government, and conservationists have worked to eliminate most of the major threats to the whales in the Lagoon… Whale watching guides have been the biggest proponents of preserving whales along their migratory routes, and stopping planned hunts of whales. They’ve also supported a major endeavor to preserve 400,000 acres of the lagoon.”

Considering a full grown gray whale can reach up to 52 feet (16 m) in length and weighs about 35 tons, this had to be a breath-taking experience.    Ironically, Gray whales were once called devil fish because of their fighting behavior when hunted.  You can learn more about the gray whale here.

To read the full story and learn more, please visit Oneworldoneocean.org.

Love without Language: Elephants pay their respect to Lawrence Anthony after His Death


Lawrence Anthony, known as “The Elephant Whisperer” passed away Thursday, March 8th, of a heart attack.  If you’re not familiar with this amazing person, he was wildlife guru and conservationist.  It seems the story of his life and accomplishments is so long and so great it’s going to be difficult to relay it all here without devoting an entire book to it, so I will focus on the remarkable event of his passing.

To give a little background, Lawrence Anthony was born on September 17 1950 in Johannesburg, South Africa.  He was raised up in a series of small towns in rural Rhodesia, Zambia, Malawi and finally Zululand, South Africa.  The African bush was his backyard and lifelong love.

He became involved in working with Zulu tribes people to help rebuild their historical relationship with the bush, and in the mid-1990s he decided to turn his hobby into a career, buying the 5,000-acre Thula Thula (which means “quiet”) game reserve in KwaZulu-Natal.

He founded a conservation group called the Earth Organization and was instrumental in the creation of two new reserves, the Royal Zulu Biosphere in Zululand and the Mayibuye Game Reserve in Kwa Ximba, which provide local people with jobs and income through tourism while helping to secure the future of the region’s wildlife from creeping development.

In 1999, he was asked if he was willing to take control of a rogue herd of elephants.  There were nine of them and they had been labeled unruly and dangerous, having escaped every enclosure that ever tried to contain them.  As a result, they were wreaking havoc across KwaZulu-Natal and were in danger of being shot.  Lawrence knew he was their only hope and agreed to accept them onto the Thula Thula reserve.

“They were a difficult bunch, no question about it,” Anthony recalled. “Delinquents every one. But I could see a lot of good in them too. They’d had a tough time and were all scared, and yet they were looking after one another, trying to protect one another.”

Anthony approached this motley crew of elephants as if they were deliquent children, working to persuade them through words and gestures the difference between acceptable behavior and bad behavior and that they could trust him. He focused most of his attention on Nana, the matriarch of the herd.

“I’d go down to the fence and I’d plead with Nana not to break it down,” he said. “I knew she didn’t understand English, but I hoped she’d understand by the tone of my voice and my body language what I was saying. And one morning, instead of trying to break the fence down, she just stood there. Then she put her trunk through the fence towards me. I knew she wanted to touch me. That was a turning point.”

Soon after they were finally allowed out into the reserve to roam freely.

Anthony and his wife, Françoise, became so close to the elephants that on some occasions they almost had to chase them out of their living room.  When Nana gave birth, she brought her newborn to introduce to them a few days after its birth.  A few years later, after Anthony’s first grandchild was born, he returned the compliment, though he recalled it was some time before his daughter-in-law would speak to him again.

Anthony tells the story of the elephants in “The Elephant Whisperer,” 2009, co-written with Graham Spence.

About a year ago, Anthony had to make a difficult decision.  Tourism at Thula Thula was growing exponentially as was the herd.  He feared for the elephants’ safety so he forced a distance between himself and the herd.  As a result, the herd had not visited his home in over 15 months.

That distance ended Thursday evening.  After Anthony passed from this world, the elephant herd mysteriously arrived at his home as if to pay their respects.  Anthony believed and advocated that the elephants communicated on levels we don’t understand and their synchronistic appearance would suggest they knew he was no more.  They have returned several times since, perhaps to share their grief.

On a personal note, I believe open, honest, loving hearts speak a universal language.  It doesn’t require a tongue or a dialect.  It’s something that’s passed intuitively between living things.  Some are aware of it and some are not.  This is what I feel is a beautiful and touching example.

Anthony Lawrence is also known for his 2003 gutsy rescue of the animals from Saddam Hussein’s zoo in Baghdad.  As with his elephant friends, he earned the trust of people and animals alike in the middle of a war zone and accomplished what would have seemed otherwise impossible.  But that’s another story.

Anthony died before his gala conservation dinner in Durban planned this month to raise international awareness of the rhino-poaching crisis, and to launch his new book, The Last of the Rhinos (The Powerful Story of One Man’s Battle to Save a Species).

Who is going to look out for the animals now?  Dylan, Anthony’s eldest son, says everything at Thula Thula will go on as before.  Sadly, it will just go on without the presence of Lawrence.

If you enjoyed this, you may also enjoy “They Know”.

Champis: The Bunny Who Herds Sheep


Champis the Sheep Herding Bunny

Meet Champis, a 5-year old mixed-breed rabbit and pet of Nils-Erik and Greta Vigren, who is quickly becoming a YouTube and online sensation.  Little Champis lives in the village of Kal in north Sweden.  What makes Champis extraordinary is his uncanny natural ability to herd the Vigren’s sheep.

This behavior was noticed last spring when the Vigren’s first turned their sheep out to pasture after a long winter.  Little Champis hopped along, keeping them in line just as the sheepdogs do.  Even more remarkable is the fact Champis was never trained to herd.  He’s apparently picked up his skill by watching the other sheepdogs.

Dan Westman, a sheepdog breeder who shot and posted the video of his friends’ remarkable bunny, said he was in awe when he first witnessed the phenomenon, noting Champis does the job even better than most dogs would.

“It’s really incredible, it’s a herding rabbit,” he said. “He rounds them up, and if they get close to escaping through the gate he sometimes stops them,” he said.

“I mean I work with sheepdogs and know how hard this is. There are very few dogs that could do what this rabbit does.”

According to the Vigrens, Champis also looks after the hens.

“He just started to behave like a sheepdog,” Greta said, adding that while he likes to round up the sheep, he is consistent about leaving the farm’s hens alone, treating them more gently.

“He’s like a king for the whole group. He thinks he rules over both the sheep and the hens. He has a very big ego.”

The amazing thing is the sheep pay attention to the little bunny and take him quite seriously, paying their minder a load of respect.

Watch little Champis in action.  Seeing is believing!

You can see the full article here.

Most Significant Wildlife Event in Decades: Snowy Owl Mass Migration South


The snowy owl, an impressive bird of almost 2 feet in height with a 5 foot diameter wing span, is doing something unheard of that has experts in shock.  They are on an unprecedented mass migration, moving from their Arctic habitat down into the lower 48 states.  Experts state that it’s not unusual to see a few owls migrate south to breed, but never this many.  Not even during normal periodic mass southerly migrations known as irruptions.

The owls have been spotted in Massachusetts, Missouri, Idaho, Montana and as far south as Oklahoma.

Denver Holt, who has studied snowy owls in their Arctic tundra ecosystem for two decades, stated, “this is the most significant wildlife event in decades.”

According to Holt, the reason behind this mass exodus may be related to an explosion in the lemming population last year.  Lemmings are a main food source for the owls and such a bumper crop of rodents most likely resulted in a bumper crop of baby owls.  The resulting greater competition for food is probably what’s driving the mostly young male snowy population south.

Bird enthusiasts from Texas, Arizona and Utah are flocking to the Northern Rockies and Pacific Northwest to see the birds.  They’re also pouring tourist dollars into local economies and crowding parks and wildlife areas.

“For the last couple months, every other visitor asks if we’ve seen a snowy owl today,” said Frances Tanaka, a volunteer for the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge northeast of Olympia, Washington.

But there’s a sad side to this.  Emaciated and starving birds have been sited.  It’s believed the snowy owl population is already on the decline due to climate change.  But research on the animals is scarce because of the remoteness and extreme conditions of the terrain the owls occupy, including northern Russia and Scandinavia.

“There’s a lot of speculation. As far as hard evidence, we really don’t know,” Holt said.

For the full story, click here.

The 12 Animals of the Chinese Zodiac: 2012 Year of the Dragon


Happy Chinese New Year!  As of January 23, 2012 we are entering The Year of the Dragon which ends on February 9, 2013.  More specifically, this is The Year of The Black Water Dragon.

What does this mean?

Dragon contains Earth, Water and Wood. It is also called Water Dam in Chinese astrology. Water Dam is the source of Water. That means the Water of Black Water Dragon will never dry.

This is the year for innovative ideas, great deeds, and big projects.  People who are dealing with finances, in particular, will see successes.  Hope this bodes well for the current world economies.  This will be the year to begin new business or social ventures.

The Year of the Dragon will usher in a roller coaster ride as it twists, turns, dives and soars in our lives.  But only if we adjust our balance will we be able to pick the most beautiful fruits.

Dragon gives happiness and success to all good and honest people and those who have great talent. 2012 will be favorable for the establishment of family and during this time we should be bold and not humble.

The Dragon is a karmic animal.  Our deeds and actions towards others this year will also be returned to us.  It might not be a bad idea to give love and compassion this year more than ever.

What is the Chinese Zodiac?

The Shēngxiào ( 生肖 in Chinese) is known in English as the Chinese Zodiac.   It’s a 12-year mathematical calendar that relates the aspects or characteristics of an animal to each specific year in the cycle.  What sets the Chinese zodiac apart from the western zodiac, aside from the fact each sign spans a full year rather than a month, is that it attributes only earthly animals to each phase.

The Chinese Zodiac Calendar

Below is a delightful video rendition of the story behind the Chinese Zodiac and how the Jade Emperor chose the 12 animals to represent the months of the year.

Chinese Zodiac Story:  Video

The Personalities of the Chinese Zodiac

The cycle begins with the Year of the Rat.  Below is a comprehensive list of the Zodiac years in order, with thanks to Wikipedia.

  1. Rat –  () (Yang, 1st Trine, Fixed Element Water): Forthright, tenacious, intense, meticulous, charismatic, sensitive, intellectual, industrious, charming, eloquent, sociable, artistic, and shrewd. Can be manipulative, vindictive, self-destructive, enviousmendacious,venal, obstinate, critical, over-ambitious, ruthless, intolerant, and scheming.
  2. Ox –  () (Water buffalo in Vietnam) (Yin, 2nd Trine, Fixed Element Water): Dependable, ambitious, calm, methodical, born leader, patient, hardworking, conventional, steady, modest, logical, resolute, and tenacious. Can be stubborn, dogmatic, hot-tempered, narrow-minded, materialistic, rigid, and demanding.
  3. Tiger –  () (Yang, 3rd Trine, Fixed Element Wood): Unpredictable, rebellious, colorful, powerful, passionate, daring, impulsive, vigorous, stimulating, sincere, affectionate, humanitarian, and generous. Can be restless, reckless, impatient, quick-tempered, obstinate, selfish, aggressive, and moody.
  4. Rabbit –  or  () (Cat in Vietnam) (Yin, 4th Trine, Fixed Element Wood): Gracious, good friend, kind, sensitive, soft-spoken, amiable, elegant, reserved, cautious, artistic, thorough, tender, self-assured, shy, astute, compassionate, lucky, and flexible. Can be moody, detached, superficial, self-indulgent, opportunistic, and stubborn.
  5. Dragon –  /  () (Yang, 1st Trine, Fixed Element Wood): Magnanimous, stately, vigorous, strong, self-assured, proud, noble, direct, dignified, eccentric, intellectual, fiery, passionate, decisive, pioneering, artistic, generous, and loyal. Can be tactless, arrogant, imperious, tyrannical, demanding, intolerant, dogmatic, violent, impetuous, and brash.
  6. Snake –  () (Yin, 2nd Trine, Fixed Element Fire): Deep thinker, wise, mystic, graceful, soft-spoken, sensual, creative, prudent, shrewd, elegant, cautious, responsible, calm, strong, constant, and purposeful. Can be a loner, bad communicator, possessive, hedonistic, self-doubting, distrustful, mendacious, suffocating, and cold.
  7. Horse –  /  () (Yang, 3rd Trine, Fixed Element Fire): Cheerful, popular, quick-witted, changeable, earthy, perceptive, talkative, agile, magnetic, intelligent, astute, flexible, and open-minded. Can be fickle, arrogant, childish, anxious, rude, gullible, and stubborn.
  8. Goat (aka Ram or Sheep) –  () (Yin, 4th Trine, Fixed Element Fire): Righteous, sincere, sympathetic, mild-mannered, observant, artistic, intellectual, ingenious, innovative, creative, mothering, peaceful, and generous. Can be indecisive, over-passive, worrier, pessimistic, sensitive, shy, and weak-willed.
  9. Monkey –  () (Yang, 1st Trine, Fixed Element Metal): Inventor, motivator, improviser, quick-witted, inquisitive, flexible, innovative, problem solver, self-assured, sociable, artistic, polite, dignified, competitive, objective, and factual. Can be egotistical, vain, arrogant, selfish, reckless, snobbish, deceptive, manipulative, cunning, jealous, suspicious, and stubborn.
  10. Rooster –  /  () (Yin, 2nd Trine, Fixed Element Metal): Acute, neat, meticulous, organized, self-assured, decisive, conservative, critical, perfectionist, alert, zealous, practical, scientific, and responsible. Can be over zealous and critical, puritanical, egotistical, abrasive, proud, opinionated, and gives into empty bravado.
  11. Dog –  /  () (Yang, 3rd Trine, Fixed Element Metal): Honest, intelligent, straightforward, loyal, sense of justice and fair play, attractive, amicable, unpretentious, sociable, open-minded, idealistic, moralistic, practical, affectionate, sensitive, and easy going. Can be cynical, lazy, cold, judgmental, pessimistic, worrier, stubborn, and quarrelsome.
  12. Pig –  /  () (Boar in Japan and Elephant in Northern Thailand) (Yin, 4th Trine, Fixed Element Water): Honest, gallant, sturdy, sociable, peace-loving, patient, loyal, hard-working, trusting, sincere, calm, understanding, thoughtful, scrupulous, passionate, and intelligent. Can be naïve, over-reliant, self-indulgent, gullible, fatalistic, and materialistic.

These “yearly” animals represent how you present yourself to the world and are said to be an indication of how people perceive you.  The Chinese don’t just draw on this yearly zodiac though.  They also use animal signs for a monthly zodiac which are called “inner animals,”  to the specific day called “true animals,” and to the hours called “secret animals.”  All aspects are considered critical in figuring proper Chinese astrology.

For even more detailed information regarding the Chinese calendar, click here.

Want to know what your Chinese Zodiac sign is?  Click here.

I’m the Tiger.

The Loneliest Whale in the World


I’m re-blogging a sad but beautiful post. It’s very moving.

If you want to hear her actual song, you can go here:  The song of the 52hz whale.  It’s been sped up ten times to make it easier to hear.  It does pull at your heart.

A Meditative Journey with Saldage

For this week’s photo challenge, I am resharing a post that tells the story of the loneliest whale in the world.  It is one of my earliest post and still touches my heart today for I believe her story is not unlike so many people today. It is unlikely that her story doesn’t resonate with many of us, young and old.  

In 2004, The New York Times wrote an article about how, since 1992, scientists have been tracking a baleen whale named, “The 52 Hertz Whale.”  She swims and sings alone in our earth’s vast ocean:

She isn’t like any other baleen whale. Unlike all other whales, she doesn’t have friends. She doesn’t have a family. She doesn’t belong to any tribe, pack or gang. She doesn’t have a lover. She never had one.

Her songs come in groups of two to six calls, lasting for five to six seconds each. But her…

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