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  1. Every Creature Deserves to Live

    September 13, 2020 by Diane

    One afternoon, heading to the mailbox, I came across a tiny, pink, hairless creature curled in the driveway. What is that? It had bulging eyes—dark blue beneath unopened lids—ears flattened to its head, a birthmark on its neck, miniature claws, long feet and a curved tail. It appeared to be a fetus, a cat fetus, judging by the tiny whiskers. And in the hollow beneath its ribs, I saw the beating of its heart, the quick inhale and exhale of breath.

    This fetus was alive!

    I needed to remove it from the driveway so it wouldn’t get flattened by an incoming car. I hurried to the garage, pulled on a pair of disposable gloves so my human scent wouldn’t prevent the mother from retrieving her baby, found a thin piece of cardboard in the recycling bin, and used it to tenderly scoop up the fetus and slide it into a nest of earth near the hedge. As I gazed in wonder, ants began crawling over its face and body. I moved it to the other side of the driveway, in the shade so it wouldn’t burn, and ran inside to call my mother for advice.

    “I found a fetus in the driveway,” I blurted, and couldn’t hold back the tears. “A tiny…kitty cat fetus!” I don’t know why it upset me so.

    She tried to reassure me. “If it was aborted early, there must have been a reason.”

    “But it’s still alive!” I felt devastated over the little guy, and it was clearly a male, I’d seen that much of its anatomy. “I’m afraid the crows will eat it!”

    “Get a box,” she advised, “With a lid on top so the crows won’t see what’s inside. Leave it open in front so mommy can get to the baby.”

    I dug through the recycling bin again, found a soft-drink box, and cut an opening in one end. From the rag pile I found a soft hand towel and trimmed it to the size of a tiny blanket. I grabbed several paper towels, and properly gloved, hurried to the driveway. The little guy was exactly where I’d left him, still breathing, heart ticking. He fit in the palm of my hand, barely three inches long. I marveled at its miniature size, realizing this was the first living thing I had touched in five months. I stroked his curved spine, slid him onto a nest of paper towels in the box, tucked the towel around his shoulders, and set the box near a large clay pot of flowers at the entrance to my landlady’s house.

    When I checked in the evening, he was still there. With darkness descending and the air cooling, I moved the kitty closer to the house for warmth, under the porch light so mommy would find him. At eleven p.m. I put on my bathrobe. I knew the creature wouldn’t last the night, but I didn’t want him to freeze to death. I brought the box into the garage, and went to sleep.

    In the morning, dreading the moment, I opened the garage door. The fetus was halfway out of the box, partly on the cool cement, still breathing. This little guy was a survivor! Shaking, he tried to raise himself on his forelegs and gave up. I put on gloves and brought him outside into the sun.

    Maybe I should feed him, I thought. But what? Being lactose-intolerant, I had no milk. Water! Every living creature needs water, right? I soaked a few Q-tips in water and encouraged him to suck on them. His head wobbled, but he wouldn’t open his mouth. I found an eyedropper from a discarded bottle of Motherwort liquid, washed it clean, and filled it with water. Still, the kitty wouldn’t open his mouth. Maybe it couldn’t, I reasoned. Maybe it’s jaw hadn’t formed yet.

    The closer I examined the little guy, it dawned on me…this isn’t a kitty cat at all. It’s a rat! “Ewwww!” I hated rats. But I had become so attached, I couldn’t let it die. I put him back in his box and called the vet.

    “I found a creature in the driveway, a cat fetus I thought, but now I’m not sure, and it’s still alive. What should I do with it?”

    The receptionist who answered the phone conferred with the vet, then advised me to call Animal Control. She gave me the number.

    Within thirty minutes, a man in a truck pulled into the driveway. He crouched over the box and pulled back the towel. 

    “Well,” he said, “It’s either a rat or a squirrel.”

    A squirrel! Oh, please let it be a squirrel. Even though the squirrels ate my landlady’s vegetables in the garden—the tomatoes, the cucumbers, the kale, the lettuce, the oranges from the tree, leaving the rinds on top of the fence posts, even though the squirrels gnawed on the doohickey that interfered with my TV reception—a squirrel was infinitely better than a rat.

    “It’s a male,” the officer said, picking it up with bare hands. “Do you want to hold it?” I shook my head. He closed his fingers around it. “Here’s the thing. If I take it with me, it won’t stand a chance. But if we leave it in the flower bed, it might live.”

    “I found it under the oak tree,” I said, and we tromped outside to the spot in the driveway. He surveyed the bed of flowers, then looked up. “Well, there’s the nest,” he said, pointing to a clump of dried leaves in a branch about twenty feet up. “Do you have a ladder?” 

    My landlady had one in the garage, but after setting it up, we realized it was too short. By this time, the gardener had arrived with his leaf blower and lawn mower, and on top of his truck, a ladder that extended. He offered the use of it, unsure of what we were doing but happy to contribute to the cause, and held the bottom as the officer cautiously climbed to the top. Stretching his arm, barely reaching the nest, the officer plopped the baby over the rim.

    “Oh, Thank you,” I said, relief flooding my voice.

    “The way I figure it,” the officer said, climbing back down. “Every creature deserves to live.” 

    We stood in the driveway looking up at the nest.

    After he had left, and the gardener had driven away, I headed once again to the mailbox. And there, in the same spot on the driveway, the baby squirrel lay curled, still breathing. Either mommy didn’t want him, or he’d tumbled out of the nest. A good twenty foot plunge to the pavement…twice! And he’d survived. I ran to get my gloves, and moved him to a spot between two bushy flowers out of the direct sun. A couple of hours later, he was gone.

    I don’t know who found it…mommy, or the crows. I hoped, prayed, that one day I’d notice a young squirrel in the backyard, a runty thing, eating the green tomatoes or the lettuce or the kale, and I would know, with great certainty, he was mine.

  2. How to Ease Fears in a Fearful World

    March 20, 2020 by Diane

    These are challenging times.

    As humans, we’re meant to roam with our tribe, something our primitive brains seek to ensure because there’s safety in numbers. Now, with the threat of coronavirus, the government is forbidding togetherness except with people in our immediate household. If you live alone, you may feel further isolated from human touch.

    Please know, you are not alone. We’re all a little afraid, a little anxious, a lot unsettled.

    But here’s the good news: there’s something we can do to change fearful thoughts into a sense of calm, to shift from feeling unsettled to feeling grounded. And this is where I want to turn our focus now.

    Here are five tips to help you navigate the next several weeks as you shelter-in-place.

    Claim your power 

    While sheltering-in-place may leave you feeling powerless, based on current knowledge, the only way to flatten the curve of the rapid rise of coronavirus is to stay at home. So, in a sense, it’s an act of power. You are taking back power by defeating the spread of this virus. And together, we can do this. Think of yourself as a superhero! Strike the pose every morning when you get out of bed. If nothing else, it may make you feel silly, which is a very good way to start the day.

    Choose your words wisely

    The words you use have an immediate effect on your mind and body, and on the minds and bodies of those around you. When feeling overwhelmed, stressed or anxious, replace those scary, stressful thoughts in your head with uplifting words and phrases such as:

    I look forward to the time when I can see my loved ones in person.

    I’m so grateful for the internet and telephone, so I can keep in touch with family and friends.

    This moment in history is an opportunity for us all to support one another, offer healing thoughts and prayers, and discover how strong and resilient we really are.

    Above the clouds, the sun is always shining.

    Distraction is an antidote to fear

    Rather than ruminate on something you can’t control, find ways to distract your mind to give those fired-up synapses a rest. Here are twenty distracting activities to try:

    • Check in on a family member, friend, or neighbor via phone, text, or email.
    • Mail a letter to a friend. Who doesn’t love receiving a handwritten letter!
    • Send an email to a loved one, saying “I probably don’t say this enough, but I love you. I’m here for you.”
    • Visualize a relaxing place you’ve visited, or one you invent in your imagination, and bask in that image for twenty minutes.
    • Do crossword puzzles.
    • Learn a new language.
    • Play cards and other games. Monopoly can go on for days.
    • Check out e-books and streaming videos from the library website and have a movie night, snuggled on the couch. 
    • Play with children and pets. If you don’t have children or pets, play like you are one.
    • Take a walk outside to broaden your perspective and get those feel-good ions from nature.
    • While walking, see how many species of trees you can name.
    • Read uplifting literature or motivational biographies.
    • Watch movies or television shows that make you laugh or that feed your soul. One of my favorites is the old Dick Van Dyke show. Van Dyke’s physical comedy never fails to make me laugh out loud.
    • Invent something.
    • Paint something.
    • Write a poem or song or short story or some other form that’s all your own.
    • Teach something to someone else.
    • Start a virtual book club.
    • Do 2 pushups. The next day do 3. Keep adding one a day.
    • Declutter your living space. Or at least your desk.

    Habits help you feel grounded

    What habits have you developed or would you like to develop?

    Rising at the same hour every day, eating at specific times, going to bed at the same hour every night: these habits help normalize life. You can add other habits, too, such as writing for fifteen minutes every day after breakfast. Make a big X on a calendar every day you complete the habit, and don’t break the chain of Xs. Make it a game with yourself!

    Take tiny steps. Doing only 1% can make a huge difference in the long run. Which brings me to my final tip.

    Tiny actions cause a ripple effect in the world

    You’ve probably heard of the Butterfly Effect. A meteorology professor at MIT, Edward Lorenz, posed a question: “Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?” He ran a computer program simulating weather patterns and then left his office to get a cup of coffee while the machine ran. When he returned, he noticed an unexpected result which led Lorenz to a powerful insight about the way nature works: small changes can have large consequences.

    What small change can you do today that can result in a more peaceful, joyful world around you in the future?

    I don’t know about you, but just the evidence of hoarding in local grocery stores has amped up my anxiety. It’s a clear manifestation of people’s fear. In Whole Foods one evening, the produce section was empty except for one banana that two guys fought over until they realized the banana was banged up.

    What if, instead, we bought what we needed, trusting in abundance rather than scarcity, and left enough for everyone?

    What if we smiled at the cashier and expressed our appreciation for their hard work? In turn, that cashier may brighten the next person’s day.

    What if we found humor in the day to day and sent out ripples of laughter?

    What if we practiced meditation, prayer, or another contemplative practice to radiate peace and calm? Every day at noon, sit for twenty minutes. Tell your family and friends to sit, too. I’ll be sitting, focusing on peaceful images and thoughts, or just observing my thoughts as if they were clouds drifting by, or a movie reel unscrolling. We don’t all need to be in the same room to spread calming vibes into the universe.

    Together, with tiny actions, we can help our community heal. And who knows: we may very well set off a tornado of good feelings around the globe.

    Blessings to you and yours.

    Please share this message via email or social media if you found it helpful.

  3. An Uplifting Moment

    November 24, 2019 by Diane

    Photo of yellow rose by Bruno Luz on Unsplash

    Outside my window, the backyard is usually abundant with green leafy vegetables, colorful flowers, and trees bursting with foliage. But as the days grow cold, and light is precious, the vegetables die back, the flowers shrivel and disperse in dust, the trees drop their once massive leaves.

    I sat on the patio this morning reading Norman Vincent Peale. I set the book aside, and looked around the garden. My landlady had cleared out the dead branches, raked up the leaves, pruned the bushes, pulled up any lingering vegetable plants. I looked around and saw the death that signals autumn.

    Yet the sun shone warmly on my hatless head. Birds tweeted. A biplane motored softly into the distance. A lovely summer day in the midst of fall. And there, right in front of me, a yellow rose grew on a trim bush.

    How could I have missed the rose? My gaze had taken in all that wasn’t, and missed this small miracle thriving directly under my nose. I got up to smell it, because it’s written that one must stop whatever one is doing to smell the roses, and this tiny flower offered the most magnificent scent.

    How often do we overlook the sweetness in life? How often do our squirrelly minds rack up a laundry list of everything that’s wrong in the world? My back hurts. My teeth are crooked. My shoulders are stiff, my neck is cranky. I can’t sleep. I oversleep. My hair is too thin or unruly, too curly or straight. 

    And that’s just the body. It’s not enough to find fault in our immediate surrounding; no, we must search outside ourselves, too.

    My desk is cluttered. My shelves are dusty. The wall needs painting, the rug needs replacing. My mattress is too hard or too soft, too lumpy or thin, too small or so vast that I feel lost and alone in it.

    But it’s not enough, is it, confining our dissatisfaction to what houses our bodies. We must look even farther afield. The driveway is cracked. The road has potholes. The grocery store is too big or too small, has too many choices or not enough. Those people in line are too noisy or shifty or sneezy or slow or just plain annoying. It’s probably their fault that my taxes are too high, my medical plan too expensive, my health or job or children at risk, and my life a living hell.

    And yet…and yet…there, overlooked by our critical eye, a rose offers a magnificent scent. The woman in front of you lets you go ahead because you have just the one item, a small bottle of cough syrup. The sour-looking clerk lights up when you wish her a great rest-of-your-day. Your car, a clunker with high mileage, still gets you safely home. Amidst the dust on your shelves sits a photo of your daughter at the age of eight. A painting of the seashore covers a crack in your wall. The sun slants onto your bed from one to two o’clock, making a cozy nest for reading a novel. A solitary rose grows on the vine.

    This week, look for the rose. Lift your gaze and notice the smile. Focus on the stretch of road free of potholes. Firmly set aside the laundry list in your mind and visualize a sunny nesting spot instead.

    This week, be the rose for someone else.