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Sunday, December 1, 2013


“Sometimes the one who is running from the Life/Death/Life nature insists on thinking of love as a boon only. Yet love in its fullest form is a series of deaths and rebirths. We let go of one phase, one aspect of love, and enter another. Passion dies and is brought back. Pain is chased away and surfaces another time. To love means to embrace and at the same time to withstand many endings, and many many beginnings- all in the same relationship.”
Clarissa Pinkola Est├ęs, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype 

I feel like I've been focusing too much on death lately. Why do I say this? Well, because for some reason I almost capitalized the word "death" as I was tippity-tapping this out. Ugh. death can take a flying leap (for now) off a tall cliff... but that would just give it what it needs, eh? Well, how about distracting it for awhile with my awesome lab results!

Oh, did I not share with you all my recent health fears? I've been putting it off and putting it off, but finally went and had many vials of blood sucked from my veins to take a snapshot of what is happening inside this glorious body of mine. I'm sure that even the healthiest person in the world has this little nagging fear in the back of their minds that they have some sort of incurable illness. If you take that fear and magnify it by, oh, say, twelve thousand, then you'd have a teensy peek into my (mild) hypochondriac brain. Everything, for me, is WORST. CASE. SCENARIO. ZOMBIE. APOCALYPSE. ENCROACHING.

So, I'm pleased to share that neither zombies nor any manner of apocalypse will be encroaching on my ass anytime soon. In fact, my blood glucose level, creatinine-albumin ratio, thyroid, CA125, lipid profile and all other unpronounceables are perfectly balanced and in rather good spirits, actually! (Hmmmm, I wonder if there's a test for Zombie Apocalypse Syndrome?)

This is a lovely thing for me to hear- it alleviated so many fears that have been building up in me for the past year. Every year I go to my annual physical weighted with the worst case scenario on my shoulders, making promises to myself, "from THIS DAY FORWARD I will take care of myself better and develop a taste for kefir, Bikram yoga and colon cleanses." So far, every year, I come out happy and relieved. Then I bring home a pizza and dial up the Netflix, right after that run I convinced myself out of. This is no way to live!

Between 2008 and 2009 I had transformed myself from depressed, overweight and apathetic to a new, healthy and happy woman. I lost 70 lbs, was running every day, was eating whole and healthy food. I was consistently doing yoga, pilates and exploring other modes of being kind to my body and spirit. It showed. I was glowing. I felt amazing! A positive momentum was building in my life and bled into all parts of it. I started walking my talk on all levels. I was an active member in a community that accepted and loved me. With their support, I took pleasure in producing events that felt soulful and enriching. I finally found myself in a place where I felt strong enough to face my life. I started identifying my weaknesses and coming to terms with many deeply-embedded issues.

I was strengthening my body and spirit. In retrospect, I feel I should have been prepared for the tidal wave. I was ripe and cracking open on all fronts. I guess I never thought I was strengthening it for something specific. Then the tidal wave hit my life.

My father, diagnosed with lung cancer, was deemed terminal. I left my husband of 11 years, something long overdue. A few months later my mother unexpectedly died without a moment to even make sense out of it or really say goodbye. I took a job in Ontario and moved from Buffalo, NY to Ontario to be with Noel.

My family unraveled under the stress of taking care of my dying father and dealing with the sudden loss of our mother. Her death was a huge shock. We had been focusing all our energy on taking care of my dad, who passed away on June 5th, 2010, 2 months to the day from my mother's death. The tragedy in both of these deaths, aside from the horrific sadness of watching my dying father have to see my mother die so suddenly, was that my sisters were both pregnant with their first children, 3 months apart. Neither of my parents lived to see their first grandchildren be born. My niece Lily looked so much like my father during her first month.

2010 was a year of living, dying and love. Life was pared down to the base essentials of humanity.  Since then I've spent the better part of 3 years protecting myself and picking up the random pieces of rooftop and brick and broken glass shattered and thrown by the hurricane that brushed by my life.

Loss made me recoil into a shell of instant gratification and comfort. Food and pot and movies.... although a lovely way to live if you're 20 and on summer break, is not the right prescription for a 34 year old woman who has just come out of a personal crisis. Night by night all work I pushed through in 2008-2009 slowly became undone. I remember running through the forest, at my beloved Spraguebrook Park,  liberated and full of light and sweating and pushing through the pain of an hour and a half trail run, saying to myself "Never again, I'll never have to hurt and work like this again", promising myself that I made positive changes for good. Funny how massive stress can act like quicksand. I just got stuck. Mired. On the outside I was doing fine, moving along and keeping myself afloat amidst an ever-changing sea of stress and depression. I got promotions, better and better jobs, was blissfully in love, got married, moved to Vermont, moved back... On the inside I started making excuses for every day I stayed dormant. I was protecting myself, I thought. I was holding the last little shreds of my energy close to me, I thought. Finally, I caught up with grieving and the wound across my heart has gone from gaping and raw to a scar. I imagine that scar in the form of a lightning bolt.

So here I am, on the other side. Actually, where I am is on the hard slug back up that hill, if I really want to be accurate. My labs were fine. This time. But I know that the longer I go on treating my body like a Bacchanalian temple the less likely those labs will keep coming back normal. The hard work is again set before me. I've come to realize that changing my unhealthy patterns isn't a temporary commitment. It has to be permanent. I'm a little older, a little wiser, and a little richer for having lived through the past few years. It doesn't make the work in front of me any easier, but the ember of a healthy, motivated, whole woman sits inside of me. I've been breathing a little onto that ember lately, hoping a flame will lick up and set my world on fire again. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

And then there were 6...

Ginger taking his rest on Noel's lap.
The Morningstar household has suffered the loss of yet another furry companion, our Guinea Pig, Ginger, died suddenly in Noel's arms the other night. He was a sweet little guy with (believe it or not) a real personality. His gentle and quiet nature was sharply contrasted next to his brother Stinker's in-your-face Guinea Pig style. Stinker is alone now, but adjusted very quickly. Once Ginger passed away, Stinker came up to him, snuffled him, tried to wake him by pulling at his foot, did a weird little dance on him and that was it. His mourning was over. It was hard not to laugh, for the sheer strangeness of the rites of Guinea Pigs, but the sadness of watching that poor little bugger suffer and die so quickly overshadowed any silliness, at least for a little while. What was wrong with him? I have no clue. One minute he was eating his favorite, cucumber, the next day we noticed he had no energy, no drive, no squeak. His eyes were crusty and his nose was snotty. He was cold to the touch and didn't want any food. Within an hour and a half of noticing this he was gone. I gave him aconite 30c when I noticed he was sick, and then some Hepar Sulph, but I could tell it was too late. I gave him to Noel who warmed him by holding his little body close to his own chest. Ginger nuzzled in. Then he made a strange "eeee!!!!" sound and flopped over onto his side in a strangely dramatic fashion. He did that a few more times, in between gasping a bit, and then nothing. His little soul melted into the One, or was enfolded in the wings of the Goddess, or went to Guinea Pig Heaven (whatever you believe happens when you die, it matters not in the big picture).

This death came suddenly and it reminded me that Death has no rhyme or reason in its timing. It also reminded me of the animals that I've shared my life with and lost in the past few years. I have always been an animal lover but never fully expressed that during my life until the past few years. Just in the past year alone we lost our sweet DaphneCat and then Penelope, neither of whom were properly eulogized. So, since lists seem to soothe me, I thought I'd make up an indulgent little list of the sweet furry friends that I've said goodbye to in the past few years. I've had so many animals in my life, I hope this doesn't make me look like the Black Widow of the Domesticated Animal Kingdom!

(Chronologically listed- I won't play favorities!)

1. 2009-November 2013: Ginger the Guinea Pig. Inherited (as most Guinea Pigs are, I swear the same 10 Guinea Pigs just circulate the earth being given away from home to home!) Loved for his gentle nature and propensity for squeaking as soon as he heard the fridge door open. Taken by something that seemed like an aggressive upper respiratory infection.

2. July 2008-February 2013: Penelope the Great Dane. Purchased from a back-woods breeder in Chaffee, NY right before the end of my previous marriage. Loved for her goofy ways, her sweet and gentle disposition and her preference to sit on your lap despite her 115 pounds. Loved to stalk the cats. Loved to find her Fish. I took great joy in teaching Penny to swim the summer before she died. Taken by Osteosarcoma. She thoroughly enjoyed her life right up until the moment that she left us. She died peacefully with my words "Carry only love" being sung to her.

3. 2005-September 2012: DaphneCat (aka Tikey Bee). Found in a tree in the middle of a thick wood when she was just a teensy baby. John, my ex, stood on all fours so that I could climb on top of his back to rescue her from the tree limb she was perilously perched on. She cried and cried (howled, really) even as she gulped down her food that first day. Well known for her adeptness at tricks, Tikey enjoyed sitting up, giving her paw, laying down and high-fiving for treats. She was taken too soon by a car on Route 100 in Hancock, VT. I found her on the side of the road as I was driving to work. She's now buried behind our first VT home, the Gathering Inn, next to some lovely comfrey.

4. ?- 2011: SanJambs the Ball Python. SanJambs also came to us as an inherited pet. He was the most gentle and sweet snake I've met (aside from our Maizie Snake). He loved to sit wrapped around my shoulders while I did dishes and slither up to the water. He loved to swim. He loved to lay along the length of me while I laid on the couch. SanJay burrowed himself down under his substrate and suffered burns to his abdomen from the heating pad. Note to anyone who uses heating pads- don't use heating pads! He just wouldn't eat after that and after many days in the care of the Herpetologist he came home. He died in my arms.

5. ?- 2011: Butterwood Bakery Parking Lot Cat (aka: Butter). We found Butter in the parking lot of, as his name suggests, Butterwood Bakery in West Falls, NY. He was a stray (confirmed by the bakery) and was the most easy-going cat I've ever met. He just sat there in the car, no need for a carrier. He immediately adjusted into our home like he had always lived there and was probably the most affectionate cat I've had the pleasure to share space with. Noel found him dead on the floor of our living room after work one day. We have no idea what happened. He is sorely missed, especially when eating pancakes or corn on the cob.

6. ?- 2010: Mellow the Cat. Inherited from my sister Meghan, Mellow was a sweet little thing that we only had for a few months. She grew on us and loved to play in the bathroom while we sat on the toilet. (We all have our thing, don't we?) She was diagnosed with Fatty Liver disease and died shortly after.

7. 1998-2006: Sophie, the Greatest Dane of them all. John, my ex, gave Sophie to me as a Christmas gift the first year we were married. Loved for her astute emotions and fierce loyalty. Sophie was my first real pet as an adult. She had 8 wonderful years and died at the end of a long battle with Cardiomyopathy. I laid with her the night before she died- right on the floor next to her. I dreamt that we were in an airport together that night, and that she got on the plane without me. She's buried at John's house, in her favorite place, The Plateau.

Wow. That's a ton of pets. I've been questioned as to why I share my life with so many animals. I can't really tell you why aside from the fact that each one of their spirits spoke to mine and I opened my heart and home to them. There's something about connecting with an animal that transcends the trappings of human emotions. There's no pettiness, no jealously, and believe it or not, no problems with communication. They say what they mean. They don't need words to say anything. I don't know if I need to do some work on that myself or if I'm surrounding myself with pets to make up for lost time or if I just like having an illegitimate petting zoo in my home, all I can tell you is that I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm by no means the Angelina Jolie of domesticated animals, especially because we've decided not to replace any of our pets as they leave us. I'm enjoying the company of the remaining Fur Family: Desmond, Loki and Ruby (our cats), Emmadog, Stinker (the remaining Guinea Pig) and MaizieSnake. They will all have their own eulogies, but for now, I'm celebrating their lives.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Moving, Nesting, Running, Living and Dying

Two months have come and gone and it feels like it's been about 2 days since my last post. Time and life are flying by. What's new? Lots, and nothing. Lots of nothing? I feel the need for a list welling up from deep within... it's like that rumble in the pit of my stomach that signifies something is coming out of me whether I (or you) like it or not... So, in no particular order of importance (my subconscious might argue with that), here is my update for the last 2 months:

1. Moving and Nesting: I love our apartment- it has great bones and is just small enough (1 very large bedroom, a living room, a teensy bathroom, and a nice sized kitchen) to manage cleaning without feeling totally overwhelming. Having a dog and 3 cats makes life, well, lets just say, vacuum-worthy.

The architectural detail of the building (it's an old stone heritage building that used to be a bank) keeps us there despite the neighborhood's less-than-desirable location. Although we love the apartment, we have kept searching for either a house or large apartment to rent that offers access to the outside world- that's really the only thing this place lacks. It's a little miserable to have no outdoor access aside from our front stoop- upon which I have found (on more than one occasion) a used condom, used needle, half-eaten pizza slice, too many cigarette butts to count, and the occasional hobo, misanthrope or prostitute.

There are also good things about our neighborhood that give it that rough-around-the-edges inner-city charm, like the sweet little old Eastern European ladies wearing babushkas, Emma's favorite prostitute who always loves to give her lots of love and petting, and the constant entertainment of the various modes of transport (e-bikes are the standard followed closely by those old-people scooters and bikes with hacked shopping carts as trailers). So, we're sort of half-searching for a new place, but reluctantly, as I firmly believe we would be total shoe-ins for the 2014 Apartment Therapy Small Cool contest! My goal is to settle on something, whether it's this place or something else, by early Spring 2014 so that I can know which community garden to join.

2. Work: I had trepidations about my current position as the office manager/Girl Friday for the physician and Traditional Healer that I work for- mainly due to funding issues, but since my last post (and after some job searching, interviews and offers) I decided to tough out the storm of uncertainty and stick with the job knowing I may not know how long it will last. I couldn't bear the thought of working anywhere else. Nowhere else in my life have I ever felt so valued as an employee, a person, an herbalist, and a woman. I totally believe in the work that we're doing and feel that I'm a part of it, even in my limited administrative role. My bosses (who I feel honored to call my friends) are patient, respectful and encouraging. I decided that was worth more than more money, more benefits, or a closer commute. The day after I decided to stay for the long haul my employer handed me my paycheck with a significant raise- like almost twice what I was making- along with a hug. I don't think I've ever glowed at work, but this was as close to that as I've ever come.

In addition to my position at the clinic, I was just offered a contract position as an Archivist for the Indigenous Knowledge Centre on Six Nations. It's part time for 5 months and will not only give me the extra cash I need to dig myself out of debt, it will afford Noel and I the money that we need to pay for his vasectomy reversal surgery. It doesn't hurt that I have access to this amazing cache of Indigenous Knowledge- a cache that I'm now charged with making some sort of sense out of!

3. Noel's Update: Noel doesn't seem to come here as much as I do, I guess that's up to him to share if he wants. Basically, Noel decided to forego school this year and stick to working at the Coaster company that hired him on shortly after returning to Ontario. It's similar grudgery to his last schleppy warehousing job, but he has a cool benefit- awesome coasters. Sounds crazy, right? I never realized what a great design vehicle coasters are for interesting art! I'll have to scan some and share.

Other things:
Well, basically we've been unpacking more, settling into the area and getting to know Hamilton in all it's Steeltown glory. It's a wonderfully multicultural city with tons of greenspace (it's saving grace) and a funky-weird vibe, not good or bad, just funky and weird.

I keep pining away for Vermont, but know that all in good time we will be back to visit our favorite state. For now, we've decided it's best to put down roots in a place that will allow us to thrive and build up our skill sets.

I'm starting school in January and Noel is trying to figure out where and when and what he wants to learn. My intention right now is to finish my Bachelors and move into a health-based field- maybe finish my Master Herbalist diploma or possibly apply to Naturopathic school. I usually set all these lofty goals for years down the line without really allowing life to unfold the way it's supposed to, so this time I'm trying to take each day, week and month as a sort of fluid progression that naturally evolves from choice to the next.

Life keeps throwing curve balls at us, but we're making progress and don't feel half as vulnerable and freaked out as we did in December. I've started running again and am planning to take a 6 month yoga teacher training at Dharma Door retreat beginning in April. I promised myself I would give the training to myself as a gift after a solid 6 months of running and yoga, so it's still tentative, but I feel confident that I can get through 6 months without backing into my sedentary self again.

Rest In Peace, Layne Redmond:
One more important thing that really merits it's own post- Layne Redmond, a wonderful frame drummer who I had the pleasure to work with at Kripalu Center (her Bee Priestess Training) passed on yesterday from a lengthy illness. I'll write more about it, I'm sure, but wanted to note that we have lost a wonderful woman who inspired a whole community of percussionists to explore rhythm as an integral part of their expression of spirit. She lived her life to it's absolute fullest until she let go, working on the revised edition of her now famous book "When the Drummers Were Women" during her last days. She will be sorely missed, but her work is being carried on by those she acted as mentor to- many many MANY women (and some men!) who are now teaching their own frame drum techniques based on Layne's work.

Emma and I enjoying Little Rock City.

Brilliant autumn <3

Hey there :)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Massively overdue

Thought I had abandoned this little gem in the sea of the blogiverse, didja? Nooooo... just very busy living life and, to be honest, I haven't really known what to share and what to keep to myself. Noel and I have been figuring our shit out and I'm finally ready to give an update, in lovely numbered-list-style!

Enjoying Japanese treats in our new pad.

1. Home: After several months of taking refuge with my boss/friend/landlord on the Rez we decided that we were ready to emerge from our feathery nest and take flight into the "real" world. It was easier said than done. I'm not sure why my experience of searching for apartments in Vermont didn't kick in and remind me that it's extremely difficult to rent anything outside of a barn with the small illegitimate petting zoo that we call a family, but it didn't. I idealistically logged onto Craigslist and Kijiji and started my search, finding all sorts of lovely little apartments nestled on the tree-lined streets of Hamilton. "Do you take pets?" was my question each time, and each time the answer was a resoundingly loud "Hellz NO!" or some similar unsympathetic rejection. We finally found a place after several missteps, refusals, botched lease signings and disappointments.

"Red Light District" (view from our kitchen window)
I'll share more about our new place as time goes on, but for now what I'll mention is that we have landed in the north east end of Hamilton, which, for all you Hamiltonians out there will immediately serve as a mental picture of our new home and for all you Buffalonians out there, to give you a comparison, is very similar to the East side of Buffalo. Extremely economically depressed neighborhood in the oldest part of the city. Wonderful old steel-soot covered buildings mixed with a potpourri of horrid 70's architecture, a bedraggled lady of the night on many of the corners, and crack houses situated next to the homes of tidy old Italian and Polish grandmas. It's home, for now, and we're finding it better than we hoped. We're so close to so much. We're finding that Hamilton is a vibrant and interesting city similar to Buffalo in that it's an old steel town going through a bit of a Renaissance right now. So, we've been delving deeper into that world and will report on our experiences as they unfold.

2. Love: Noel and I celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary a couple weekends ago on July 20th. I'm grateful for having such a lovely partner who compliments me in so many ways yet still has his own thing going on. I'm grateful for our ups and downs, our willingness to work on them, our open and honest communication and our mutual love of this world. As Noel would say, we're "hitch hiking our way through the galaxy together"... I mustn't forget my towel!!!

3. Job: I'm still working at the clinic as a practice administrator to my boss/friend the MD and the Traditional Healer. It's been really interesting and not too stressful now that we're up and running. What my experience at that job has made me realize is that my interests really lie in the exploration and use of natural medicines to heal and help. As a western herbalist for the past decade or so I thought I had a decent amount of knowledge about herbs and their uses in a practical, take-care-of-your-family, kind of sense. Having been introduced to Haudenosaunee medicine has given me a gift of insight into another world of healing. I'm grateful for how I was brought here and definitely feel I'm being guided in an interesting direction. I'm sure I'll elaborate on this as life happens.

Oh, sweetie, it'll all become clear soon!!!
4. Noel: Well, I should let Noel post for himself, but will at least share that Noel continues to wrestle with the decision of whether starting school this fall is right for him. He's taken a job working for a coaster company in Dundas and is feeling the weight of realizing he's 43 and still hasn't found his work in this world. He was accepted to a local college's woodworking program and is trying to make it work financially. I love the idea of Noel going to school. I don't love the idea that we're living on the edge financially, and that his much needed education might push us over that edge, but I also want to be supportive and totally know he needs to do this. So, I'm trusting him to make it work if/when he goes.

Luci & Lily chillin at Time Beach in Bee Eff Ell Oh

5. Friends & Family: I haven't had much time or money for trips to Buffalo, but try to get there when I can. After about a month I start going through niece-withdrawal and need to get my Luci & Lily fix. It's always a lovely time hanging out with my sisters and aunt and brothers-in-law when I can get there.

I had a chance to stop by my friend Marian's home and amazing herbal center, Cat's Tail Farm Herbal Center. That was a true treat! Aside from seeing Marian again, I ran into some other dear friends, Joan and her husband Russ, and had a wonderful time learning about Marian's work with the Green Nations.

The same weekend my friend Sundari who moved to northern Cali last year came back for her first visit. It was like she never left. We just kind of picked up where we left off, walking in the woods, drumming in circle together, and generally being the lovely supportive friends that we've been to one another since we started hanging out almost a decade ago.

A couple weekends ago we had our first visitor to our new place. The woman who I just realized is my oldest friend, a girl I started hanging out with when our combined ages would equal less than the age of 20, the lovely, talented and ridiculously talented Jocelyn came to visit. I can still remember playing Dirty Barbies with her in her two bedroom walk up in Blasdell. We flitted off to our separate social circles in High School, but always remained friendly. We found each other through the social network and have been enjoying a pleasant reconnection.

So, that's life in a nutshell. Extremely lifey, huh? Work and love and food and money and pets and friends and herbs and steeltown blues. I make no promises about when I'll post next, but now that my life is almost unpacked and we're feeling safe enough to put some roots down for at least a year, I'm sure that my next post will be a little sooner than my last!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Of Mice and Men and all that comes with them

It's been too long since my last post. A week turned into two, which turned into a month, then another... I kept meaning to share everything that had happened in Vermont as it was occurring, but you know what they say about "best laid plans of mice and men..."- they seem to go awry. Life became massively overwhelming in Vermont- a survival game, really. By the end of the day I was so exhausted from my crazy stressful job that I hardly found time to make myself dinner, snuggle with my family and collapse. I've had this black cloud of worry sitting over my life- for many reasons- money, health, the health of our beasts, green cards (and the not-having of them), fraud, our physical and psychological safety- so many worries.

It seems like a whole lifetime has happened in the short time between moving to Vermont, trying to make it work there, moving back from Vermont and finding a life here in Ontario again. Part of me feels like we failed at our mission, and then part feels like we were thrust into that experience to bring back something to share with this area, which is in such need of a more sustainable way of life. One thing is for sure- we are not through with Vermont! We definitely feel like our time there was well spent.  A "Recon" mission in a way. We're back in Ontario because that's where the Universe dropped us, and we're grateful for where we landed, but we still feel the ache to breathe the fresh air of the Green Mountains and that is a very hard elixir to find freedom from.

So, that leads to the question- where did we end up? Where did the constant tornado of our life drop us this time? Well, in some ways, we moved to another country entirely- again: we moved to the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory in Ohsweken, Ontario. Technically, we live in Caledonia, which borders the reservation, because Noel is not Native and that's only allowed with major exceptions for those who have contributed significantly to the community and who commit to allying themselves with the Onkwehonwe (Original People.) Maybe one day- the intention is good- but for now, we're living close enough to literally throw a baseball across the street to the Rez.

My life has taken on some massive shifts. Before I left for Vermont, I worked for a local university as their "Aboriginal Communications & Liaison Officer"- a job that I loved well and knew I would miss. When entertaining the move the major impetus was a massively negative political situation at work that smacked of workplace bullying, really. I loved that job, and the people I worked with, and for. My biggest regret about leaving that job was that I was leaving behind a community that I had just started to really get to know. It was (is) a community that is embedded in my blood- my grandparents and their parents grew up there. I had very little contact with the "Rez" during my formative years. I was raised in a suburb of Buffalo, NY with few visits to Canada aside from our weekly Chinese food outing on Sundays just over the border in Ft. Erie and very occasional visits to Six Nations to celebrate weddings and funerals.

Now we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of a whole different life. I work for a physician who has partnered with a Traditional Healer to bring a collaborative medical practice to the community. My other part time job is consulting as a Communications Officer for an Indigenous Knowledge Centre- I'm supporting a grant project whose focus is on translating Haudenosaunee ceremonies from the archives of the Smithsonian into "The Language" as it's called here. Mohawk, Cayuga, Oneida and Tuscarora mainly.

So, I'm surrounded by my own culture- It's literally everywhere I go. I see it, hear it and feel it in a real way for the first time in my life. I feel like I'm just seeing the tip of a very large iceberg of another way to live. My dreams have been so intense since I started living here- full of animals (especially the bear) and mythical beings. My mom has been in a few of them, and most recently my (white) father, who I never dream of. I feel intimidated- by the intensity of the mistrust here, of me, of my husband, of our intentions- we're so new here in this tight knit and simultaneously intensely fractured community. I'm intimidated because I don't know the language, the social roles, the jokes, the judgements. I'm intimidated because, in some ways, I don't feel "Indian" enough. But what the hell does that even mean? I bleed the same blood as many here who have a white father. I think what I'm feeling is residual guilt- for not getting here sooner, not contributing sooner, not knowing that every one of us here who can manifest a "Good Mind" is absolutely needed to heal this culture, these people- MY people.

I'll continue to post my experiences here- at least what I can of them. I've been welcomed hesitantly by the Traditional Healer that we share the practice with, by the Physician that I not only work for, but live with, and by some of my old colleagues. I've been learning of distant family connections who still live here (we don't all call each other "Cuz" for no reason!) and attended my first Longhouse ceremony (Midwinters!). I'm finding my way here- in a real way, my own way. I don't know where this will lead, but I'm willing to wait and listen, and for probably the first time in my life, I'm willing to be OK with not knowing, not having a plan, and trusting that IT will happen, whatever IT is.

There's so much to post, but I feel like I needed to get this out of the way before I could move on to the events that have happened since I started this post last month. Not the least of which is the loss of our dear Penelope, who deserves a whole post all her own.

Thanks for listening and empathizing with me. Feel free to comment and share anything you want! We want to hear from you!

Penny Penny Penny!!

Penelope Morningstar!!
Very Great Dane.

Many readers no doubt know that our darling Great Dane Penelope, unfortunately developed bone cancer in September of 2012. As a result of seeing a clear lung x-ray, Stephanie and I elected to have the affected leg removed completely.

The transformation was remarkable. She went from a limping and listless dog, who was obviously in a great deal of discomfort, to a three-legged dog who rediscovered the urge to play and run around with other canines once more.

It's not easy to put into words, just how attached one can be to a sweet creature like a dog. For those of you in the know, it needs no explanation. Every time she would pass between either of our legs, like the willing little horse she was, we couldn't help but scratch those sweet, floppy ears. Even as a three legged dog, she could not resist the urge to try to sit on either of our laps.

Here was a dog that was not unlike other dogs in her desire to be with her people (which included cats and guinea pigs). Penny wanted to be part of the action; to come along and be part of any adventure we undertook. She spent time in the mountains of Vermont and loved it just as much as romping at the Rockton Fairgrounds.

Penny was the gentlest and sweetest dog I've ever known. She was famously able to cuddle said guinea pigs quite appropriately. She played with little dogs as well as big dogs equally.

Just last week, our sweet dog began to show signs of being less lively than usual. We brought her to the veterinarian and much to our dismay (though unfortunately not to our surprise), we discovered that her cancer had returned and her time left with us became incredibly shortened. Just last Sunday, the 17th of February, we had the miserable task of taking our dear doggie, on her last car ride. We made sure stop for Timbits along the way.

After five vibrantly renewed months of life, it became time to take off her collar and so we sat on the floor at the emergency vet clinic and stroked our silky dog's ears and face, as she drifted off so peacefully to sleep the sleep she so greatly needed. Stephanie and I stayed with her for a while longer and we cried our eyes out.

It's now a few days later and the house seems palpably emptier and it's going to take time to adjust to the fact that Penny isn't just sleeping on the furniture in the other room. She doesn't need her dog dish any more and she won't need me to bring her outside.  That really hurts! I can't change that though.

I know we did the right thing; she was so uncomfortable right at the end. I don't think she was in pain, but she seemed so ready to rest.

Penny, if you're reading this somewhere, off in the great beyond, I want to thank you for being our dog-and oh what a great dog you were. I want to you to know that Emma and all the other animals really miss you; especially Emma though. I want to encourage your doggy spirit to come and visit us whenever you feel like you want your ears scratched.

We love you sweet dog...may you rest in peace...after you've had a good run in the fields of the great beyond!!