life of m

Sustaining the Self and Beyond


The cat came back!

I wrote a few days ago about my husband and my rescue attempt of a cat we found in the woods near our house in Boitsfort. The cat appeared to be young because it was so small. When we saw it, was walking along a back road next to an international school in our neighborhood. We called to it, as we like to greet all the cats we meet on our walks, and it immediately crawled underneath a fence and ran ahead along a trail that paralleled the road.


As we came closer, my husband noticed that it had its collar wrapped around it neck and front leg. He called it from the road, but it didn’t respond. I climbed/crawled over the fence and walked slowly toward the cat, crouching down intermittently to call it. I figured that perhaps we could coax it toward one of us if we both approached slowly from two sides. What wound up happening was that the cat came running toward me each time I knelt on the ground. He (I deemed it a he because it seemed to have male energy—don’t ask me how, I just sensed it. My husband calls it my “witchy sense”) would nuzzle his nose, head, and body against my legs and then dash off the second I moved even the slightest bit.


I convinced my husband to toss his t-shirt over the fence near me, waited for kitty to come back to my lap, and ever so slowly wended by body around to be able to scoop him up in it.


Kitty did not smell good. In fact, he smelled like rotting death. His energy and spirits were high, though, and he allowed me to carry him back to our house, where I cleaned him up while he purred nonstop over two bowls of dry food (croquettes en français). We spent some quality time in the small area between the front door and the rest of the house. My husband had closed the set of doors opposite the front door in order to create a small, safe place that would be separate from our two cats. When I opened the door to let the cat out to explore a little, he was not happy about meeting our larger male cat, Fin and lasted only a few minutes before bounding out the front window, which my husband had opened to try to air out the death smell from our small house.


I was beside myself, especially after we visited the owner, who had posted flyers all over the neighborhood nearly two months earlier when the cat first disappeared. We showed her the collar and explained what had happened. She was so thankful we had found him, but I felt heartbroken that we had lost him again.


My husband explained to me that each animal is on its own path, and I tried to convince myself each night as I lay in bed that he would be ok. My dad was a doctor and said that animals generally do a pretty good job of cleaning their wounds. I woke up each morning after nightmares about trying to catch the cat. He had a pretty serious, raw wound where his front right leg was supposed to be attached to his body but the collar had caused a separation from so much rubbing.


I spent Saturday, Sunday, and Monday returning to the place where we had found the cat (who turned to indeed be a male called Elio). I brought food with me and shook the container, calling out in English and French to Elio to come with me and that I wouldn’t force him to live indoors but that I thought he would benefit from medical attention, which I was happy to provide for him.


Monday night, we heard a knock on our door. I opened the door to find the owner, who immediately informed me that she had found the cat! I was so shocked I just there, instantly feeling an emotional meltdown coming on.


I invited the owner in, and she proceeded to tell us how she had gone back to the house she had recently moved from and found the cat there. She had been looking there when he first disappeared but then stopped because she gave up hope that he might still be alive. When we told her we had found and lost him, she went back, and there he was. The vet had told her that he weighed less than a kilo and would not have survived beyond a week with the infection and gangrene inside his wound.


He was so thin that there was no extra skin to pull toward the wound to stitch it back up, so he may have a limp for his life unless the skin stretches as he gets older.


But who cares! He was alive and he would survive. My husband and I stood teary-eyed as we listened to a tale we never thought would come to be. Hugs were exchanged, and we were gifted with a purple flowering plant.

IMG_1294When I walked the woman to the door, she turned around, cupper her hands around my chin, and whispered the words, “Petite Marieke” in such an endearing tone I nearly started weeping all over again.

The rest of the day and ever since, my husband and I have periodically broken into jubilant singing of the song, The cat came back. We have texted it to each other back and forth throughout the days. Every time I lament over a hardship in our life, I respond, but it’s all ok because… to which my husband cries out, the cat came back! Literally, the very next day!


And then we start singing all over again.


Of late, I have made many wishes between my recent birthday and the tossing of many coins into myriad fountains on our trip to Rome. So far, the only wish to come true was one I made on a tiny, perfect blue-black feather that I found in the forest. It was and continues to be the most important wish because it was, after all, a wish for life.


It seems so rare to have happy endings such as this. We see many animal missing posters around our little community and wonder if they are ever reunited with their human families. I was so happy to take down one of the missing Elio posters, leaving an empty canvas for graffiti on the side of the mailbox, and post the flyer proudly on my fridge as a happy reminder that this ending is not only happy; it is also a beginning.





1 Comment

You cannot lose your song

We lost our husky very suddenly this past January. He was fine, then he wasn’t fine for a couple of days, and then he was gone. Just like that. We came home from the vet, and two hours later he became quiet.

I was sitting with Blue when it happened. It was so surreal. I just kept waiting for him to get up, for the light filtering through the window shades to wake me from the bad dream.

But it was not a dream. And there was pain in its wake.

Life is short for people. Life is even shorter for the creatures we bring into our hearts. But we bring them into our fold just the same. Why? I do it because of the way it opens my heart.

Just a few months ago, a wolf dog walked into my life. He became mine and I, his. There was an uncanny kind of connection that was the sort of soul mates, if you believe in that kind of thing. Friends and strangers alike described him as a mythical kind of creature. One of my coworkers told me he was not a dog to her but a person. She expected him to open his mouth and begin speaking.

It is true. He is mythical and seems wise, like an old soul who has been through more than a creature should ever experience in a few short years of life.

He is very sensitive, and humans have not been kind to him in his short life. He has the kind of extreme anxiety that any sentient being would possess who has been abandoned by the beings they most trust to love them unconditionally.

We are very similar, he and I. Fear of abandonment; feeling drawn to those we love. Perhaps, we have met in another life. Perhaps, we will meet again. All I know is that we were meant to meet in this life, however short this life may be.

A few days ago, my wolf dog stopped eating. It has happened before, so I didn’t think too much of it. I mentioned he is sensitive. I brought him to doggie day care for a few hours, and he responded by going into a deep depression and not eating for several days. I brought him to the vet, who put a hydration pouch until the skin behind his head. He looked like the hunchback wolf of notre dame, but he bounced back.

His second bout of depression came after my sweetie returned home from a two week road trip to the Pacific Northwest and back. We couldn’t figure out if he was demonstrating his sadness that his human dad had left or he was pouting because dad had come home and wolf dog no longer had mom’s full attention.

I love my wolf dog unconditionally, and I am doing my best to help ease him into trusting that I will never leave him and will always be there to love him.

Even though I know that life is short and that just because we love someone does not mean they will be able to stick around indefinitely, when I brought home my wolf dog, I had the feeling that we had years ahead of us. He was young, two years old, maybe three, according to an in-depth study of his teeth.

So when he stopped eating for a third time this past weekend, I didn’t think too much of it. I was on a short road trip, and I assumed he was not enjoying the many hours trapped in the car. Maybe, he was car sick and a bit dehydrated. The vet had told me that dogs can get nauseas when they are dehydrated, so I imagined this explained his drooling and melancholia. He still snuggled close to me at night, whether on a tarp beneath the stars or on a foreign bed.

When the vet told me this morning that the most humane thing to do may be to give him a shot, it was as an arrow striking through my heart and shattering it into so many thousands of pieces there would be no hope of finding them all to repair the damage done.

He brought him back for blood work, and I left to bring my sweetie to work.I returned to the room and waited. And waited. It seemed like a long time before the vet returned with results from the blood work. He patiently explained each of the different elements of the test and their results. I saw many acronyms and wish I could borrow my father’s understanding of pathology to have a sense of what he was telling me.

His body was not creating red blood cells. White blood cells had formed bands that were eating things, but it was not certain what they were eating.

I was simply relieved that he was still alive and I would not have to say goodbye just yet.

The day went on in this way, me waiting for a phone call and then listening to different ominous possible futures for my wolf. Between calls, there were tears. First one, then a deluge to follow.

I called the vet to see if I could visit him. I fully expected to be told that it was not possible, but they welcomed me to visit and to talk to the vet. I brought my pillow and a ukulele and crawled into the kennel with my furry love. I sang for him a song of hope in dark times on my ukulele, choking on many of the lines. I told myself that I needed to sing in as strong a voice as possible to be strong for my wolf dog.

He was out of it from pain medication and blood loss, but he picked up his head and rested it in my lap. I gently caressed him, drawing my fingers from the fur on his muzzle up along the slope between his eyes and back across his head and neck. Beneath the touch of my fingers, I felt vibrations from his purr growl. He was so peaceful in response to my touch. I never wanted to leave him.

The vet came to talk with us. We could hardly hear him above the barking and mewing of the other animals, so he opted to come into the kennel and sit next to me. (I really loved this man, he was so real and honest.)

He told my sweetie and me about all the things they were doing and the discussions he was having with the other vets. Apparently, my wolf dog is what is known as a Zebra in medical circles. So often, when doctors see hoof prints, they imagine a Zebra when they are really only seeing a horse. In other words, it is easy to imagine rare conditions when the prognosis is really quite simple, the flu instead to the common cold. In our case, my wolf dog had presented the doctors with an actual Zebra, and they were all stumped.

The vet had told me earlier that morning that last Monday had been his first day.

You’re welcome, I had responded.

In the kennel, I could hear him better but still felt as if in a blur.

His body isn’t producing red blood cells, but he has bands of white blood cells eating things…but what are they eating? We don’t know.

No parasites as yet. No kidney failure or kidney disease. An enlarged spleen but that could be a semblance relative to his low body weight. Much blood loss and anemia. A condition that had been likely building for some time. The fact that he was walking was a good sign. Maybe, we should try antibiotics to stave off more diarrhea and bring down the high levels of what are healthy elements of the gastrointestinal region until they grow beyond their normal range.

Antibiotics. Check. Why not? I was burning through even more of my precious savings, but I didn’t care. He was only three, and we had many more years together. I was so sure of this. I felt it.

I feel it now as I type. I know that he will is going to try to be ok. I feel that he will be. I left my heart with him. He needs it more than I do right now, and it is perhaps why I feel so empty.

I know that technically, we are doing all we can for him. But to be honest, I would feel better if I were sleeping in the kennel with him. He is so very sensitive, and I worry that he will think we have abandoned him. I need him to not give up trying to survive.

When I finally got up to leave, he got up to go with him. I whispered into his ear many times that I was with him always, to hang in there, rest, and allow his body to heal. Did he understand? Did he know that my heart was there with him, even if it looked like I was only leaving my pillow for a familiar scent?

When a being has been abandoned so much in their life, can they really trust a person’s word?

I hope so.

The sun will come out, tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day.

So long as you’re breathing, you know, you are still alive.

Leave a comment

The power of intention and best laid plans

I am a park ranger, which means that by day, I am an extrovert. I smile, I laugh, answer questions, and interpret the stories of Lowell for people from around the world, with every possible temperament, mood, and level of skill along the social etiquette spectrum.

There are elements of my job that I love. Some days I experience a full range of emotion dependent on interactions with visitors, staff, my inner critic, how I slept the night before.

After a typical day, I am worn out. “Crevée,” I would say were I in France.

This is where my introvert self and voice for self-care tend to step in.

I continue to thank the universe that I am in a place where my creative voice is encouraged and inspired. I also have ample opportunity to share what I create in a meaningful way to a captive audience.

Beyond a park audience, I am endeavoring to share the songs I have written in different settings. I want to get myself out there as much as possible. This becomes challenging with my day job and desire to get a good night’s sleep. It is also challenging to find venues where people go to listen.

My research partner has told me stories of gigging in all kinds of venues and even having rocks thrown at him on one occasion.

Do I have the stomach for this?

Will my body and mind survive?

I have been going to a weekly open mic at a jazz bar, something way out of my comfort zone at the outset. Each week, I feel a bit more at ease, especially when I receive support from local folk who have taken me under there open mic community wing.

But it is a challenge.

I prefer quiet spaces where I can hear myself sing and hear what the person next to me is saying when others are performing.

I have been busking, which puts me even more out of my comfort zone. With no audience, captive or otherwise, of which to speak, I stand completely alone, hoping someone will walk by and take notice in a positive way.

It is time to set my intention for my future into a tangible plan. While most plans I have made turn out quite differently than I envisioned, the change was set in motion by sending my intention out into the universe in both tangible and intangible ways.

And so, I begin with a written piece.

My desire, as I feel it in this moment and in many others since graduating from the Prescott College doctoral program in Sustainability Education, is to encompass sustainability completely as a full-time musician and artist.

My intention and hope:

To write and have my writing published.

To compose songs from my own and the stories of people from around the world.

To receive monetary compensation for my work.

To lead songwriting workshops with my research partner, Malcolm Brooks.

To perform in spaces where my presence has been requested formally.

To work with a member of a later cohort, Jenny Finn, who does exceptional breath and shadow work.

To become a better musician.

To become a better writer.

To continue to be stretched and challenged.

To effect positive change through art.