And now…a little Kipling


Happy 2020, Everybody.  There have not been posts here in a long time.  Not much to say, really.  We do our bit for the rescued animals – Les Animaux Perdus, if you will – and try our best to stay away from The World.  It’s a bad place after all…going there is like jumping into a whirlpool to rescue flailing, daredevils friends: it can be done but why?  We will only be carried under along with the rest.

But, as you know, the World has a way of intruding.  The latest intrusion at this end is the recent downing of the Ukrainian jet by the Iranians.  About one-third of the 180 or so who died who are from our neck of the woods here  just east of the Canadian Rockies.  For posterity’s sake, for those who will be reading this years from now, let me offer a quick recap:

Iran (what used to be ancient Persia) and America (what used to be nothing much in particular but which has now grown strong) have been cheesing each off for decades.  There are religious differences and, consequently, worldview differences but, by and large, they are very similar political entities in that, like most governments truth be told, they can be rather stupid.  And deadly.

Recently, the Americans (or, at least, their current administrative head and his cronies) decided to kill an Iranian figure said to be very powerful in that country’s military, political, and less savoury actvities.  He was Major General Qassem Suleimani, of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.  At the time of his death he was commander of the Quds Force which engaged in, as the spooks say, extraterritorial military and clandestine operations.  Especially, against American interests.

This naturally pissed off the Americans to no end.  And so, on or around January 3, 2020 the Americans terminated the general and his travelling companions with a drone strike as they were motoring along a road in Iraq.  Whether or not the Americans thought through the consequences of this killing is open to debate.  As you know, we here at Sanctuary, tend to think most Bandar Log do not think much at all, much less try to anticipate the consequences of their actions.

Anyway, General Suleimani’s death resulted in a great hue and cry in Iran proper.  Millions went out into the streets to protest, attend his state funeral, and generally make a Big Show.  Whatever we may think of one Bandar Log state or another the fact is that given our experiences with them, these great demonstrations could’ve be predicted.

So, too, was the response by the Iranian government to the assassination of one of their favourite sons: they retaliated in kind with an aerial attack of their own.  Namely, the launching of guided rockets to American military bases operating in Iraq.

Yes, yes, I know.  It’s something THAT species has been doing since time immemorial.  One tribe offends – or is offended by – another tribe.  Whacking take place, followed by counter-whacking.  It is all tedious but such is the nature of the Bandar Log.

Unfortunately, caught up in this imbroglio, was a commercial aircraft full of civilian innocents.  It seems to have inadvertently been targeted by Iranian missile defense systems and blown up shortly after take off from nearby Tehran.  All aboard perished.  As several “experts” on such matters have observed, such is the nature of the fog of War: Innocents die.

Which of course is just more words coming from members of a species where words seem to mean increasingly little.

My point is, however, there is footage of the wreckage of that jet plane of innocents.  Here it is here:


Now if you take a look at around 1:40 – 1:45, you will see my focus of today’s remarks.  It is the charred but mostly intact figure of a pink equine.  A little girl’s “horsey doll” as we used to say.  That is to say: Yes, in the fog of war, the Bandar Log not only continue to kill themselves and each other but also their young.  Still!

This is, of course, what some of our friends of the ancient Levant would call a “pesha” or “Mered”.  It is an act of direct defiance of that which is Holy.  Or what we would call a transgression of the Jungle Law.

I have nothing more to say on this matter, you Kits and Cubs, except to remind you – and myself – of what Old Baloo once said when I was of a certain age:

“We do not drink where the monkeys drink; we do not go where the monkeys go; we do not hunt where they hunt; we do not die where they die.”

That is the lesson for today.










Hands That Part The Darkness

As some of you may know, we have been having issues since our Acreage in the county was annexed/absorbed by the local little town to the east of us.  The process of annexation was, at best, a difficult one in that almost no one we know who lived in the County wanted to become part of the Town.  As one neighbour said,  “If we wanted to live in Town, we would have bought there in the first place.”

We were assured by the Mayor at one point that for those of us who had acreages, small family farms, and such that we would be “grandfathered in”.  I myself distinctly remember him saying, “It will be like as before.  It will be like you were still living in the County.”

More recently, however, we were notified that “someone” complained about the long grass in our open pasture.  We have been letting it grow somewhat long for some years to provide habitat to pollinators: we have several species of butterflies and a couple types of dragonflies and damselflies in this pasture grass every year.

As a result of the complaint, we were effectively told that we had to cut the main field grass to the length set forth by Town, not County, strictures.  Now for those who are up on current land management practises, the maintenance of “residential lawns” is considered one of the least wise methods of land use.  It takes a lot of energy (i.e. treated water) to keep crew cut lawns alive.  There is also the use of fertilizers, insecticides and the like.  Good for Dow Chemical, bad for Nature – including us.

As you readers of this intermittent blog also know, we have with us the person I refer to as The Dark Man.  When he heard of this complaint and the possible consequences – namely, the cutting down of natural pro-pollinator grassy habitat to a 2 acre “lawn” or “golf green”, his reaction was the same as the landscape architects, grounds keepers, and forward thinking town councillors I consulted.  That is, he thought the whole issue was preposterous.

At this juncture, I point out that in the ancient families of China (i.e. like mine), each generation has what are called Hands That Part The Darkness.  I guess the closest thing I can liken them to is Gort, the robot protector of Klaatu the benevolent space alien from The Day the Earth Stood Still.  Without getting too heavy handed, the closest thing other cultures have to “the Hands” are found in certain Sicilian families where they called something not quite as poetic but equally evocative – if not more so.  These familial aides in Sicily are called:  Hammers.

Get it?

Well, thankfully for all concerned, “The Hands” in Chinese culture need not be “Hammers”.  Pounding and such…is, well, expensive business.  Reasoning through things is always the first choice.  It’s just so much more…civilized.

Hence, one could be a set of “Hands” like the ones shown below.  They can be peaceful, meditative hands held in a posture of openness and receptive, welcoming benevolence.  One need not be a Buddhist monk like the one in the photo taken from  Anyone can be a “Hand of Peace, of Reason”.  It just takes some work.  That was certainly the case for yours truly.

Historically, a peaceful “Hand” is usually assigned a strong “Hand”.  Yin and Yang.  Harmonious balance and all that.  So…when I was sent away long ago to become a scholar and to do good in the world, the Family saw fit to assign to me a Strong Hand of my very own.

That’s basically who The Dark Man is: he is my big guard dog, so to speak.  For those of you who know big dogs – I mean BIG dogs – you know they can have minds of their own.  Many of them often do things against the wishes of their handlers – i.e. the Gentle Hands – with often unfortunate consequences.  Problems ARE resolved but not often reasonably.

That’s just the way they are.  You could say they sometimes embody the perspective of:  “It is better to ask for forgiveness than permission.”

I personally am not a big fan of that approach but…hey…I’m just an old bookworm and teacher in these stories.  That is why The Dark Man got sent to keep me company in the first place.  He to look after my Path; me to oversee and mollify the Strong.

Since this “I want that guy’s green grassy butterfly field cut down to Town standards!” bit blew our way, The Dark Man has been quiet.  Quieter than usual.  I have been watching him, talking to him, and watching him some more.  He has remained quiet throughout.  For you dog owners (big or small dogs…doesn’t matter), you know what I’m talking about.  “Rex, I don’t want you causing trouble with the Cats anymore.”  “Boz and Mina, you are to stay off the couch while we go out shopping.”  And so forth.

The typical response is the dogs are quiet.  They do not look at you.  They are staring off into the middle distance.  And when you ask, “Do you hear me?”…they grunt or lick their chops or make some other semi-dismissive move.  They are saying: “Yeah, I hear you.”  But part of their ancient canine, and I daresay lupine, brains are really saying, “Yeah, yeah.  Please f.o., Dad.”

My point is The Dark Man is giving off such vibes.  I can no sooner stop him from being that way that we can live on the Sun or stop water from being wet.  Such behaviour is intrinsic.  That is why, the ancestors created the “Hands That Part the Darkness” in the first place:  to watch out for us by, in part, reminding us that we should be try to be good…or else.

It is all a Test, isnt it?  The person who allegedly lodged the complaint, who wanted to impose irrational, arbitrary urban standards on a rural space (regardless of how it is “legally zoned”), has already failed his/her test.  How?  Well, they weren’t very neighbourly, to begin with.  And, of course, they hide behind the face-hiding coward’s bag of anonymity.  Why not just approach us and ask, “What’s up with the tall grass in your field?  Can we talk about it?”

But, no, they had to resort of officialdom.  I’m sure the local constabulary has better things to do than to be pleasant but official to people who just want to be left alone.  This was actually the point made by our Teutonic friend Hans who is a wealthy local restaurateur.  He has worked with other venerable Chinese families for decades.

“The old time families…you guys like to be left alone, don’t you?  You keep to yourselves, you mind your own business.  If others do something you find offensive but do not impinge upon you, you keep your own counsel.  Live and let live, if the others aren’t harming anyone.  And you expect others to do the same.  Right?”

Right.  Hans learned that from his old mentor and boss, Mr. Chan.  And that is how Hans became successful, wealthy, and a good community member.  He follows the Old Way.  Notice I don’t call it the Old CHINESE Way.  That’s because I think decent people everywhere just keep to themselves naturally; don’t like to bug others, don’t like to be bugged themselves.  Be nice.  Do good for others.

I guess doing good by providing a welcome albeit rustic space for butterflies, bees, dragonflies and their damselfly cousins isn’t good enough for that certain “someone” who lodged the complaint against us.

When I got through going over this entire line of reasoning with The Dark Man, his only response was:  “Other people have long grass on their properties.  Heck (he didn’t say “Heck” but you get the picture), the Town itself has curbside lawn that is way longer than the grasses you have in the pasture.  You do it for the butterflies.  I think they do it because they are lazy.”

That may be.  I certainly don’t have any data to refute his conjectures.  To be a good Strong Hand, you have to be aware of things.  You watch, you question and, in certain instances, you act.  In contrast, to be a good Peaceful Hand…you just need a library card and a good place to read and reflect.

Anyway, that’s it for now.  This particular story is unfinished.  I can only hope the resolution will be a wise and, well, gentle one.  Of course, living this long among local humanity, I would say such a positive outcome is far from certain.

I really hope there WILL be a reasonable resolution though.  Not just because a reasoned Path is a civilized Path but because of one other consideration:

Gort – and his friends – are watching.















My Adventures Among the Blackfoot

Some months ago, I was contacted by the Dr. Susan Christenson who is the Chief Medical Officer in Standoff, Alberta.  This small town is the administrative centre of the Southern Alberta portion of the Blackfoot Confederacy: the Kainai area.

“Dr. Susan”, as I call her, got her medical training at UCLA Medical School and trained as a surgeon.  She is, in the lingo of my old pals from East Vancouver, “pro ball”.  The real deal.  Through a life path I don’t fully know, she ended up as the CMO for the Standoff area.  Part of it undoubtedly has to do with the fact that she is Blackfoot on her mother’s side.  That is, I assume she came back to help her mother’s – and hence, her – people.

I should point out that I may not have the various designations, titles, and bureaucracies totally straight.  I mean no disrespect to anyone reading this and knows the more correct positions, bureaucratic labels, etc. of the people I am writing about: I am writing based on how I heard – or think I heard – things.

Suffice to say “Dr. Susan” is a real physician and is, from my perspective as the peripatetic Traveller, the real deal as I said.  By way of offering a profile which the Reader can visualize her, in physical terms she reminds me of the gifted American actress Sissy Spacek, in general appearance.  Slim, blonde, with an aura crackling with energ, a caring spirit, and whip smart intelligence.

It was her idea to establish a health and wellness program that includes: yoga classes, mindfulness/meditation classes, and tai chi practise.   This last bit, of course, is how yours truly got involved with the Niitsitapi (The Original or Real People) – as the Blackfoot call themselves.  Her idea is quite visionary; very West Coast.  UCLA should be proud of her.

…There are actually FOUR regions of the Blackfoot Confederacy.  These are the Siksika, the Piikani, and the aforementioned Kainai regions on the Canadian side, and the Amskapi Piikani stateside in Montana.  The Kainai are the Blackfoot who come to the tai chi group.

If you want to know more about these areas and the people who live there, for starters I would suggest:



In my short time with them, I have found the students to be open, caring, committed and of noble bearing.  Not to be too harsh, but they are VERY different than many of the types I teach out in…”The World”.  Without mincing words,  I think the regularly attending Blackfoot students are, on the whole are superior to most of the students I have on the outside.

They pick up on the physical movements very quickly and, more importantly, are very good at explaining the “essence” of fundamental Tai Chi to each other and new students.  In fact, I was pleasantly surprised how during one post-practise bull session, the veterans were telling the newbies insights they had gleaned in their relatively short time practise.

In contrast, I typically do NOT explain the subtleties of tai chi to the students on the Outside.  That would be like talking to dead fish on ice at the supermarket.   Believe me, I know from experience.

I add that I certainly didn’t figure out such subtleties in my first few months of practise.  But then, in my defense, I was only five or six years old at the time….

By analogy, I imagine my situation in Kainai/Standoff is very much like Captain Cook’s when he landed in Polynesia.  The major difference, of course, is that I have come upon the residents to offer them the gifts of internal arts practise – rather than to take their lands away from them in the name of “the Empahr”.

I think the difference in acquisition rate of the teachings between the Blackfoot and the non-Blackfoot (if you catch my drift) is due to cultural differences.  Even though the Blackfoot, like most Native American groups, suffered horribly at the hands of the European settlers/colonizers/invaders/call them what you like, they have a culture of mutual co-operation, respect, extension toward others.  Again, like the Hawaiians, they have a version of “ohana” (family) that extends beyond one’s immediate biological siblings.

In contrast, the culture of the First World (and I use that term advisedly) is one of individualism, NOT extending, and a bloated sense of self-worth at the expense of getting along poorly with one’s own family let alone one’s neighbours.  In other words, Blackfoot culture seems much like old time Chinese culture whereas “modern” culture does not.  (By the way, the preceding is also this old timer’s shot at the modern middle class which is busily – and mindlessly – consuming itself to oblivion in mainland China.)

As a Traveller, I can’t really say how long this connection with the Blackfoot will last.  Certainly, I feel there is much to be gained by both sides for continued teaching, interaction, and dialog.  But, as one who has been around, I have found there is not much pay off by dwelling on the future which very often has turned out to be something VERY different from what I would have predicted.

All I can is that, thanks to Dr. Susan and the students, I have found new and fertile soil in which a few seeds of Tai Chi have been planted.  Like hydrangeas who bloom in different colours depending on the pH of the soil they grow in, who knows where the Niitsitapi of the Kainai will take the gifts of Tai Chi I give them?

It’s too bad my Mindful Wing Chun friends – the young master Nima King and the cranky old Wing Chun bear, Marty Anderson – couldn’t join me in my adventures among the Blackfoot.  It would be a lot of fun.

And to paraphrase from the original Star Trek episode “A Piece of the Action”:  “Who knows?  Maybe in a few years the Niitsitapi will be teaching US a thing or two about Tai Chi and the Eastern internal arts!”

Below is a photo of the Standoff townsite and beyond it… the beautiful eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains.  Not exactly like having a cramped, overpriced studio in Hong Kong, that’s for sure.













Do No Harm…

CBC’s The Current: Hummingbirds

“Do No Harm” is the admonition that Hippocrates gave aspiring physicians.  Nice idea but difficult to put into practise much of the time.  And yet…it IS something worth aspiring to. A more practical philosophical stance might be “Do As Little Harm As Possible” but that isn’t as catchy.

For the past many months, in our work with rescued animals (mainly abandoned as well as feral Cats), I have thought about “Do No Harm” often.  A reasonable guess would be that I think about Hippocrates’ words every day.  Several times a day, in fact.

If we were to truly embrace those words, we would be driven to madness if we spent any time out in, as the Vietnam vets called it, ‘the World’.  “It’s crazy back there in the world, Man,” they would say.  “Crazy.”

Part of the craziness is the unrelenting cruelty and stupidity with which we treat ourselves, each other and, well, ‘the World’.  The Dark Man, other helpers and I try to shut out such madness so that we can just do our rescue work with some modicum of mental presence and calm.  But every so often, the World makes itself known and we just feel like something has to be said.

This morning during our first tea break of the day, we were listening to the CBC.  That is Canada’s version of NPR or the BBC.  We were listening to a show called The Current which is NOT about beach life or coastal life but is about topical issues.  Not exactly current affairs but current enough (get it?).

Today, they were playing an episode about Hummingbirds and how they are declining in numbers.  Some of the usual culprits were mentioned: global climate changes, increasing urbanization (“Too many talking apes screwing and having kids,” observed the Dark Man), and so forth.

One factor that I did NOT anticipate was the phenomenon of  the “chuparosa”.  They are love charms that are made up of dead Hummingbirds attached to colourful tassels (usually pink or red, hence the name) with an accompanying written prayer.  How a chuparosa works, explained one vendor in the article (see url at the beginning of this piece), is that you write the name of the person you want to be attracted to you on the prayer paper, put it in the accompanying red bag and wear it around your neck.

If the Powers That Be are so inclined, the offering of the chuparosa will move them to steer the object of affection your way.  Makes sense to me.  How could a person turn down such an adornment?  “Hey, Karen, I’m wearing the bloody head of a Hummingbird attached to tassels around my neck to impress you.  Want to grab a Starbucks?”

Yeah…good luck with that one, buddy.

Personally, I fail to see how murdering one of Nature’s most marvellous creatures – to wit, the Hummingbird – should make you a desirable person.  If anything, any sensible person would think you are a screwball if not an outright nut job who could benefit from the medically supervised administration of appropriate pharmaceuticals.  But that’s just me talking.

The Dark Man took it a step further.  “Maybe if we cut the head off one of these morons wearing a chuparosa and attached tassels or feathers to HIS head, we could offer this human chuparosa to the Hummingbird gods and they would see to it that the decline in the global Hummingbird population would be reversed.”

“How do you know that the Hummingbird Gods are as bloodthirsty as the ones the humans  think can influence their love lives?” I asked.

“True,” the Dark Man said glumly.  “Only humans seem to dream up these crazy things.  Hummingbirds are probably too evolved to offer blood sacrifices for the sake of romance.”

“That’s my guess,” I observed.  “Just look at how beautiful they are.  The iridescence of their feathers.  The marvellous way they can fly up and down and backwards as well as forwards.  The fact that they live on nectar.  That’s just honey water!  That’s as close to living on pure energy as any living being can get.  Do you think such supernaturally unsullied, transcendent beings would want to be involved with anything like the blood sacrifice of another creature?”

“No,” said the Dark Man.  “But…maybe we could it try it and see?”

“Forget it.  WE shouldn’t be too interested in blood sacrifices either.”

“You’re right.  But in case you change your mind, Boss, ….”

“Yeah, yeah.  I’ll get back to you.  …Don’t you have some Cats to feed?”

As the Dark Man trundled off, I thought:  “I can think of some people who could stand to be turned into human chuparosas….”  But I shook that thought of my head.  Or, at least, moved it to the back of the Big Mental Bus.

In the article, some person for the “honourable Opposition” tried to defend this business of chuparosa peddling as part of a Latin American spiritual tradition.  He advanced some murky logic of how the chuparosa offering allows the spirits to more easily walk the earth and interact with people.  It was not a convincing line of reasoning.

In fact, it sounded idiotic.  Not quite as idiotic as other fools perverting American idealism so that they might feed their own festering fears, ignorance and hatred.  But it was still pretty stupid.

I would rank it somewhat lower than the absolutely insane trafficking of rhino, elephant, lion and tiger parts so that my not so distant cultural relatives can improve their masculinity and fecundity.  THOSE enterprises are truly evil.

The chuparosa mess is somewhat mitigated by the fact that the size of the industry does not appear to be as vast as the grotesque illicit trade in tiger parts, rhino horns, and elephant tusks.  But, going back to Hippocrates, it is ALL bad.

And for what?  So that some talking apes, as the Dark Man calls them, can find romance or produce offspring in a world already filled to overflowing with the species?  It is all very desperate and disheartening if one thinks about it for a beat or two.  Perhaps it is an indication of where the bulk of humanity is headed.  Hint: the destination will be VERY warm.

Well, who are we to stand in the way of love?  Just a thought though: if you want someone to like you, sending them dead Hummingbirds is probably not the way to go.  Text them instead.

The Hummingbirds will thank you for it.  Hippocrates and I will thank you for it.  And perhaps of greatest relevance to would-be bird killers…the Dark Man will thank you for it.

Sweet dreams.  Adios.

(Hummingbird image source: San Diego Zoo)



The 880


In a recent article by veteran journalist Mark Phillips, he reports that Rwandan mountain gorillas – portrayed in the film “Gorillas in the Mist” – are critically endangered.  You can see the article here:

Just cut and paste the URL into your browser and have a look.

Mr..  Phillips reports there are only 880 of them left.  880.  880 compared to 7.5 billion human beings.  There are 8.5 million of “us” for every one of “them”.

Now, some academics have argued that the optimal human population would be 1/3 of what it is now.  Even if there were “just” 2.5 billion humans, we would still outnumber the Mountain Gorillas by 2.84 million to 1.  Nearly 3 million to 1.  Talk about bad odds.

It’s not even clear to me why 2.5 billion humans is “optimal”.  Optimal for who?   Optimized by and for what?   The closest human habitation to where the rescue Cats are housed in the countryside is a population of about 8000.  There are 6 liquor stores and 5 other joints where you can get off sales.  That is 1 major source of booze for every 727 people.  If we had the same level of access to the “ideal” population of humans that would mean there would be 3.5 million liquor stores in the world.

That number actually seems rather low compared to how many liquor outlets we may already have.

The point is: it seems that humanity has way too much of just about everything – and most of that is junk – while other species, who some would argue have a lot to teach us, have next to nothing.  In fact, those species themselves are pretty close to “next to nothing” themselves.

Years ago I was speaking to a microbiologist who was also a veterinarian.  He pointed out that with just a few minor mutations an innocuous micro-organism could become the lethal agent of a global pandemic that could wipe out just about any species you could think of.  Poof!  No more Dogs or Cats.  Bang!  No more beef cattle.  No more pigs or sheep or goats.  And so on.

And of course there is also the possibility of:  Poof!  No more people.

Let’s not go that far but just imagine if there were just 880 human beings left in the world.  What would that be like?  If robots and other AI could maintain a First World lifestyle for them, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad for them.

But that would be unlikely.  They would probably be closer to living in huts and eating edible plants – assuming they could build huts and be able to distinguish edible vegetation from the inedible or poisonous ones.

My dental hygienist was telling me their farm Cat had six kittens: 5 brothers, 1 sister.  A friend adopted all six.  One of the brothers got “the sniffles” and soon all the boys were gone.  Only the little girl kitten who had been separated for some reason survived.  One out of six.

Here, with our Cats, we have too often seen similar tragedies.  Sometimes even our medicines don’t work.  It is an awful thing to witness.

If some plague evolved to affect the current human population as it did the kittens, there would still be 1 1/4 billion people on Earth.   Homo sapiens would be reduced by 5/6 and there would still be a planetary population of humanity left.   Even then, we would not be in danger of blinking out.

A greater danger to humanity than disease appears to be humanity itself.  Why bother with plagues, viruses, environmental catastrophe and the like when we can just bump each other off because of rather arbitrary reasons based on politics, economics, religion and such?

How do we explain war to the Mountain Gorillas?  Ants would get the concept but I doubt any of the mammals – large or small – would “get it”.  Why would they?   That kind of insanity seems to be uniquely human among the animals.

In the meantime, what do we do about the 880?  There are a few brave humans trying to do something but most have other concerns.  Like: Black Friday deals, sports playoffs, voting in sociopaths, misogynists, homophobes, and just plain stupid, mindless bigots.

880….  Such a terribly small number.  Vanishingly small, in fact.

What would a wise silver back male Mountain Gorilla say if the predicament could be explained to him?  I have no idea. But I suspect if the roles were reversed, he would probably look at us with sad eyes and give us a big hug.

That may not seem like much but it is more than what most of us are doing for them – our own not so distant relatives.










As you of the High Council may recall, for many years, in my fourth year class somewhat ominously called “Topics in Animal Behaviour”, I would devote one week of lectures to talk about Elephants, particularly African Elephants.  I pointed out that there were a few hundred thousand elephants left in Africa.  In some of the forested areas of West Africa they may number only in the hundreds or even just a few dozen.  The populations in the savannah regions are much larger although only 1/5 of all African habitat is protected.

Dozens of elephants every day are being slaughtered for their ivory.  The major consumer nations are China, the U.S., the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand.  The ivory is used largely in areas that may be considered rather spurious; certainly in areas where substitutes may be found which are not necessarily species-endangering.   Such uses include: ivory as a carving material for decorative art, buttons, hairpins, combs, handles, billiard balls, piano keys and so forth.

In contrast, a large segment of the human population, particularly those subgroups living in North America, are currently despondent over the election of a politically inexperienced, widely disliked narcissistic aging male with sociopathic tendencies.  While not exactly great for the species, it is not necessarily the end of them either.  At least…not yet.

As an observer of Homo sapiens for some time, at this point I cannot say if this democratically elected man will be good or bad for the humans.  I realize his vocalizations have not been terrifically encouraging but, as we in the Continuum say, actions speak louder than words.  He may see things differently once he sits in the big chair.

I should also point out that the number of African elephants killed every day by poachers is about the same number as American humans killed by velocity weapons- weapons wielded by conspecifics.  So, we have one species (Loxodonta africana) being murdered for frivolous reasons by another species (the aforementioned Homo sp.) while a large subpopulation of the second species is murdering its own members (including females, young, and the aged) at the same rate.

L. africana is endangered – in some areas, extinct or nearly so – whereas H. sapiens – because of an unusual fecundity and tendency toward promiscuity in adults – is not.  Of course, given the latter species’ capacity to build ludicrously powerful weapons of vast destruction, it is possible they could extinguish themselves in a single paroxysm of quasi-intelligence gone bad.

It is my recommendation to the High Council, we devote the Continuum’s already strained resources to helping the greater and gentler species.   The humans we can re-visit later once this latest furor of theirs stabilizes somewhat.   Assuming, of course, there is a species of H. sapiens left to revisit.

With all deference and respect to the All Mother and High Father of the Continuum, on this the 11th Moon in the 50,00th Year of the Exiles.






Trump and the Trumpeters: A report


Death of an Innocent

Late last night I ran over one of the young Rescued Cats.  It was an unbelievably needless tragedy.  Sickening in how avoidable it was.  Stupendously sickening in the grisly consequences of a momentary, stupid lapse in judgement.

It was very dark as I got in the car to haul garbage to the dumpster.  Being out in the country, we don’t have curbside pick-up.  We don’t have any pick-up at all, in fact.  Such is the way of things out on the bald-ass prairie.

We have been fighting a current outbreak of “something”.  This round of the Disease was particularly virulent.   “Deadly” would be an anemic descriptor of what is going on.  Whole litters of kittens are dying.  The medicines we use on the Rescued aren’t having much effect this time.  The microbes, those most ancient enemies of vertebrate life, are prevailing.

So, after a long day of fighting a losing battle, I loaded up the car with bags of garbage for disposal.  I was tired and aching.  I had my usual end of day “weariness headache”.   I was what I call “functionally incompetent”:  I could do things but only at barely passable efficiency.  It’s a safe bet to say I am NOT working at a “C” level when I am FI.  Maybe not even a “C- or D” level.

That is the danger of being FI: you think you are doing all right when, in fact, you are not.  You can make stupid mistakes that are costly.  Without overdramatizing, such mistakes can be lethal.  As it was last night.

…So, I get in the car and I start it up.   Rather than get out of the car to look under it for Cats as I have thousands of times before, I thought:  “I am aching and wrecked after this long day.  There are no Outside Cats to be seen.  I think they are all bedded down for the night.  If I get out of the car, it might attract some of the Outsiders and I will have to settle them down before I can make a clean getaway.  Better to slip away unseen while I get the chance.

“I will start the Car, wait a few seconds, and back away slowly.  Should be okay.”

So that’s what I did.  After I backed up a few feet I looked back toward where the car had been parked.  I saw some of the adult Cats scurrying frantically back and forth.  Where did they come from??  I also saw something dart off in a blur to the right hand side of the driveway.

“What’s all the commotion about?  I better go look.”  I stop the car and walk back a few paces to see what the Cats are looking at… it is one of the Cats.  A lovely dark brown and golden Calico.

Somehow, I had run over her as she lay under the Car.  In her death throes, she had run to get away from the tremendous pain of being crushed.  She managed to go several feet to get to the side of the driveway where she lay upon the grass – and died.

I cannot imagine the incredible pain in those last seconds of her short, innocent life.  It was a goddamned awful thing.  She didn’t deserve to go like that.  If I hadn’t been stupefied into weary, lazy thinking, I would have checked under the car, shooed her away, and the horror would have been avoided.  But I did not do that.

I took her inside where I gently washed her and rinsed off what I could of the blood.  Then, as with all those who have passed, I prepped her for transfer to where she will eventually be put to rest.

Part of the hell of the whole incident is that I don’t know with absolute certainty the identity of Calico Princess.  It is not because her countenance was mangled from being run over…although there is some of that.  It’s just that I was so tired and in such grief I did not have enough mental strength to make a solid identification.  How stupid from weariness do you have to be not to be able to recognize faces?

I have since narrowed her identity down to a couple of Cats but will not be able to confirm until I go back today.

In the last 15 years, I have worked with the rescued Cats about 15 hours a day.  That’s 5475 days or a little over 82,000 hours.  There have been tragic losses for sure.  One of the loving but overly curious Indoor Rescued Cats chewed through the power cord of a pet water fountain and was electrocuted.  Kittens, the greatest sufferers, have not only been stricken by disease but some of the Outside Kittens (who have outside shelter available at all times but spend most of their time out in the open) have been killed by unknown assailants from time to time.

Some of those killers are most likely adult Cats (jealous rivals of their mother or males intent on having kittens of their own) but some murders have been by sources unknown.

BUT, during all that time, we have always checked under our vehicles to makes sure the path was clear whenever we headed out for supplies, trips to the vet, and other chores.  Until last night.

Just one stupid lapse in judgement and an Innocent dies.  Not just “dies” but “dies horribly”.  Stupid, stupid, stupid.

I feel like looking up into the Heavens and saying, “Aw, c’mon!  One day??  The one time I don’t look under the car and an Innocent dies?  How severe is that?  Couldn’t you have just let me run over her tail to remind me to not ever be a screw-up?  Did she have to die like that?   If that’s the way it has to be then…goddamn Me and goddamn You.”

The Dark Man was sympathetic when I told him the news.  “One terrible accident day out of 5475.  That’s not a bad percentage.”

“That’s a 99.98% ‘success rate’ if you look at it that way,”I observed

“See?  Not bad, all things considered  Accidents are unavoidable.”

“It IS bad.  Accidents ARE avoidable if you are careful.  I wasn’t careful.  And the Calico Girl paid with her life.  Horribly so.  Another way you could look at the numbers is that I made only one mistake and a fatality was a result.   That is a 100% failure rate.”

The Dark Man smiled ruefully and went about his chores.  “That may be a bit too severe,” he said as he departed.

“Yeah…tell that to brave, little Calico Princess.  All she wanted was a safe place.  Was that so much?  I couldn’t even provide that for her.”

Needless to say, it is somber here today.  Death is in the air.  I told the Dark Man to leave the driveway alone.  No clean up.  Leave the blood stains.

Work today with the Cats is underway already.  It’s only 9:30 in the morning but we are already 2.5 hours in on what will be another 12 to 16 hour day.  We have no choice but to roll on.

Someone once asked me if I ever get over the ones we lose.  The answer is: No.  They are remembered.  In fact, we review from time to time what happened where – and to whom.  They remarked that such actions are extraordinary, considering the amount of work put into the general operation.  Unthinkable even.

I don’t think so myself.  It is what we do.  It is the way we WILL do things until people around here get some f*@%ing sense and take responsibility for their animals, rather than throw them out down country lanes like ours.  Vets around here contribute to the problem by charging hundreds of dollars to spay or neuter.  [I only know of one vet around here who seems overworked and drives an old car.  And not even she works every day like we do.]

Severe?  Not hardly.  Unthinkable?  We think – and act –  at this level every day.  Extraordinary?  Maybe to the average person, who is so self-absorbed they don’t know what’s going on with their own feet much less events around them.

After what happened to our little Calico Girl last night, we also know one other thing about our efforts:  They aren’t enough.

Not by a goddamn mile.