This blog was originally written April 26, 2014
“You’ve seen too many Hammer films.” (Franz Ragoczy, as quoted in “Cabin 33” in The Saint-Germain Chronicles by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro)
So, I wanted something a little different to read the other day, while at the same time being familiar. I started looking through my books and was dismayed to discover that I couldn’t find the six books by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro that I SWORE I had put away in boxes marked “Lynda’s Favorites: KEEP.” I’ve had these six books since before my son was born. I passed many an hour with severe morning sickness (more like all day long sickness) reading these books.
I tore the house apart looking for those six books. I was getting physically ill, wondering what I could have done with them. And I broke down when I couldn’t find them and went to Amazon to see if they were available in e-book format and if not, if I could find them for a relatively modest price through the “buy used” option. I was stunned to learn that there aren’t six books in this series now, there are 26 and the 27th is coming out in December of this year. And I thought when I had purchased Tempting Fate lo those many moons ago that was the end of the series. Apparently CQY couldn’t bear to let her most beloved character go.
I was delirious with happiness—until I realized I had twenty books to read to get caught up with the life and times of one Franz Ragoczy, le Comte de Saint-Germain. Other than Sustenance, which is being released in December, I was able to find the books either in e-book format or for pennies from used book sellers and most of those used books are former library books. Of the five I’ve received already, four of them still have their dust jackets intact. To a book-ophile…it’s heaven!
Since Sunday night, I have read four of the books in the Saint-Germain series. I LOVE these books. The historical detail makes me swoon. The plotting is incredible, and le Comte…oh, dear…
Anyone who knows me fairly well knows I loathe the Twilight series. I grew up in the glory days of Hammer Films and Christopher Lee as The Count. I don’t like my vampires sparkling (head desk). I like them suave and debonair. I didn’t like the fact that The Count held the brevity of a human in contempt, and that always bothered me about Dracula. So when I first read Hotel Transylvania way back in 1983, I fell in love with vampires, and one in particular.
Here was a vampire who treasured the brevity of the human life, went out of his way to protect those around him that he loved—even knowing that most of those humans would be gone in the proverbial blink of an eye. Here was a vampire who was not a monster, while the majority of the humanity around him was monstrous. (Yeah, even then, I was a geek and digging deeper into literary texts.) And, yes, even then, I got the eroticism and the sexual nature of the vampire, because after all, isn’t a bite a form of penetration? (All my Freudian friends are now skipping merrily along.)
If you want a vampire that doesn’t sparkle, doesn’t troll the local high-school (seriously, Edward—you’ve been dead for more than one hundred and fifty years and you’re still after high-schoolers? Not to mention, Eddie, you’re a terrible person to the oh-so-shallow Bella), doesn’t hold humanity in contempt (sorry, Vlad—but I’ve got to call ‘em as I see ‘em), and yet still maintains almost all of the archetypal characteristics of a vampire, start reading Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s Saint-Germain series. This is a vampire who gets queasy when on, near, or forced to cross running water, prefers not to be in full sunlight, lived his breathing days in the Carpathian Mountains in what later became Transylvania, is so suave he makes James Bond look uncouth, and is human enough to realize his early days as a vampire give him pause and even cause him regret.
Start with Hotel Transylvania. Then, pick your next read in the series. They all stand alone. I just recommend Hotel Transylvania as a starting point because so many of the following novels incorporate Madeline into them as Saint-Germain’s confident.
Give me a non-sparkly vampire ANY DAY of the week.
Oh, and I finally did find five of the original six books. Somehow, they'd been put into the books boxed up for a yard sale. They're now back on my book shelves.
The other night on FB, I was introduced to a new-to-me author, M.A. Jewell. Jewell has written a paranormal romance that, while it is far out of my usual comfort zone for reading, pulled me into the story line immediately. How could I not be pulled in when the story opens with a dead body, a female jaguar held in a "humane" trap, and the heroine--Kelsi--knee deep in mud and tied to a tree while trying to bargain her way out of being killed by animal traffickers?
The hero--Jamie--is a shifter. He can change from human form to jaguar in a heart-beat. In either form, he's sizzling.
Though this was a mere 55 pages, it wasn't a light read. The depth of issues addressed (destruction of habitat, pressure put on wildlife by traffickers) brought a strong voice to this novella. The manner Jewell developed not only the very real issues facing the Amazon basin eco-system but the relationship between Jamie and Kelsi made me sad this was only a novella. I would have loved more.
I'm giving Jungle Rapture 5 stars. I just wish it was longer.
The buy link for this book is embedded in the image.
I will probably need a ladder to get off this soapbox when I’m done (and perhaps life support for any dog show career I might have thought about having), but I’m going to write what’s on my mind about the question of whether or not to clarify our standard to include the sable merle.
One thing I am going to stress right now is all involved in this tempest love our breed and only want what’s best for our breed. I have no doubt of this. It’s just how we see “what’s best” that is the sticking point. Name calling (as has happened just recently on FB and the subsequent retaliation) gets us NOWHERE. Have we learned nothing from the current political climate in this country? The only thing name calling does is cause both sides to dig in and entrench deeper, denying any opportunity for communication and compromise. BTW, the dinosaur meme from one side is really cute—but it might behoove all of us to remember the dinosaurs are extinct because they failed to adapt and change with rapidly altering conditions. (Just some food for thought.)
Repeating the same argument, over and over, doesn’t make it any more valid nor does the argument that the giants in our breed wrote that directive make the argument valid. Resorting to ad hominem attacks are merely the tools of those who cannot justify their position with logic or facts. Those of us who want the standard clarified have pointed out the AKC’s official position. (That’s a fact.) While the materials for judge’s education from ten years ago (the directive those who don’t want the standard to change have held up as the definitive answer through an appeal to authority fallacy) and the latest, revised, newest edition are beautifully done, thoughtfully written, and an excellent educational tool, I will repeat what Tim Thomas, VP of Dog Show Judges at the AKC wrote in response to Mrs. Gwen Means letter to the AKC: “Judges are equally as correct to apply the “directive” from the club concerning Sable Merles or to view it as not in accordance to the standard based on the fact it is specific in stating “The four recognized colors are…”, of which Sable Merles is not one.
“As long as this remains to be the case, judges may apply the color as the parent club has recommended, or may view as a deviation of standard and weigh proportionately based on the extent of the deviation in their view. The only means to guarantee the Sable Merle to be considered as accepted color/pattern for the breed would be to modify the language of the standard” (quoted in an email from Collie Club of America through Constant Contact, 19 July 2019).
Another argument is that we shouldn’t allow one judge to have this much power over our club and how dare we allow this? This judge is probably enjoying the show the hornet’s nest she kicked has provided (or that’s another part of the argument). Lovely straw man fallacy you’ve got going there. Not to mention, I’m receiving more and more information from exhibitors with sable merles that they are being ignored in the ring (at best) or having ribbons withheld. This one judge has had a ripple effect. A comment was made that no all-breed judge was going to dictate how to run a breeding program. I should hope not—however that comment is just a tad bit elitist.
Then, there’s the slippery slope fallacy the opponents of clarifying the standard are so fast to trot out. If we clarify the standard by adding these five words “may include a merle pattern” in the description of sable and white, the fallacy is we start down that slippery slope of opening the flood gates to ugly, large-eyed, blue-eyed sables. Well, no…not really. First of all, it is genetically impossible for a sable (whether pure for sable or tri-factored) to ever have blue eyes. That requires the merle gene. That’s a sable merle. Secondly, if a collie fitting that description “ugly, large-eyed, blue-eyed sable” were ever entered at a show, I can guarantee that person is a total new-comer to this game. Too often, I’ve seen a new-comer given the cold shoulder, talked about in words loud enough for them to hear, and they leave. Instead of shaming them, what if we used that as a teachable moment? None of us are getting any younger, fewer and fewer people are joining our ranks of dog-show crazies, and yet, all too often, I’ve seen these new people driven out by an elitist, snobbish, ugly attitude. What ever happened to mentoring these newcomers? I’ll bet the majority of people who are breeding these “ugly, large-eyed, blue-eyed sables” aren’t in the least bit concerned with our standard. Their only standard is as long as the check doesn’t bounce, it’s all good.
Another favorite slippery slope fallacy in all of this is if we open our standard to revision (and I’ll repeat, we don’t want to revise it, we merely wish to clarify), we open Pandora’s box with a flood of changes: to allow red-merles, bi-blacks, maltese coloration, chinchilla, straight fronts (seriously…has anyone really looked at the fronts in our breed?), and my favorite—allow harlequin patterning. Y’all better get used to seeing harlequins, because yes, there are more today than there were even ten years ago. And how did this happen? We did it. According to Dr. Leigh Ann Clark, “During domestication and breed formation, genes responsible for these phenotypes underwent strong selective pressure, including the pigmentation gene PMEL (aka SILV)” (https://blogs.biomedcentral.com/on-biology/2018/08/03/the-genetics-of-merle-coat-patterns-in-dogs/). Strong selective pressure—for the Irish pattern of white markings. Strong selective pressure to increase the Irish pattern. Blaming the sable merle for the harlequin pattern? head desk head desk head desk.
Last, but not least, we absolutely have to address the shroud of secrecy that hangs over the Collie Club of America. Allowing the membership to listen in on the meetings of the Board of Directors is a start. A damn good start. However, there needs to be a hell of a lot more sunshine aimed at all this. As members, we should know how our Board and our District Directors vote. We should be allowed to read any communication between the members of the BOD and the DDs, so long as that communication doesn’t contain personal or confidential information. This shroud of secrecy extended even to an email sent out by President Means, addressed to the entire membership. Why was that email delay for so long?
Could it be that some members of the board think the membership is not sophisticated or intelligent enough to understand the issue? It certainly seems that way, especially in light of the manner some members of the Board and the District Directors are making personal attacks on some members of the CCA on Facebook.
We aren’t going to shut up and sit down. This is just as much our club as it is yours, and the power play isn’t very becoming for anyone.
In honor of the 50th Anniversary of the Lunar Mission which put a man on the moon, I figured I'd repost one from February, 2018. Hey, when you've got almost six years of blog posts to move, there's a lot of reblog.
Unless you were living under a rock for the first week of February, you couldn’t have missed the news that Elon Musk and SpaceX have made history. Made it with a bit of flair, too. Seriously, who launches a $100,000 Tesla Roadster into space with a mannequin behind the wheel in a spacesuit as the test payload while playing David Bowie’s “Starman”? The mannequin is even named “Starman.”
I watched the launch in tears. Mars is suddenly attainable. Perhaps not in my lifetime, but most definitely in the lifetime of my children. Maybe by the time my grandchildren are adults, they’ll be able to purchase tickets to go to Mars for spring break. (Maybe not spring break, but perhaps for a whole new definition of a semester abroad.)
In case you couldn’t tell, the science geek in me was almost orgasmic.
Yes, there were a few failures on this launch. Starman isn’t going to Mars. Oops. Overshot that one. (Or, as I say when I get lost going to a dog show—I’m not lost. I’m taking the scenic route. He’s taking the scenic route through our galaxy.) The center core didn’t survive landing. However, watching the landing of the two side boosters (and I’ve watched it over and over) simultaneously and in perfect synchronicity… DUDE! That was just plain and simple showing off. I’m pretty sure I shouted “Show-off!” when I watched the landing live.
Hate to burst some Flat-Earther's bubbles, but that darn thing still looks pretty round to me.
Anyway, I digress...I spent several hours of the next ten hours or so (before the battery on the Tesla Roadster died) watching the live feed of Starman orbiting the earth. We live on such a beautiful blue planet. Such a pale blue dot, a shimmering sapphire set in black velvet. I wonder, if a future generation of Martian born humans will view Mars with the same awe that we do when we see our home planet from space. Will Mars be that fiery red dot they call home?
All of this got me to thinking. (No, I'm not planning a science fiction romance.) As a western historical romance writer, when I’m writing, I put myself into the mindset of my characters. Rapid transport in the late 1800s was by railroad and when the Transcontinental Railroad was completed with the driving of the final spike at Promontory Summit, Utah, travelling at 30 MPH was considered mind-boggling. The Falcon Heavy was doing 30 MPH before it was a foot off the launch pad. It was supersonic in two minutes.
One hundred years after the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, plus two and a half months—we literally put a man on the moon, on July 20th, 1969.
I wonder how my fictional characters would react to this world if they were suddenly thrust into it. I’m sure it would seem like such a strange, and foreign, and even hostile place. Would they even recognize this world as theirs? After learning to travel at the terrifyingly fast speed of 30 MPH, we invented the automobile, dared to challenge the birds for the sky, split the atom, cracked the code for DNA, and dipped our collective toes into the vast ocean we call space.
Almost fifty years after that first moon landing, the tiny machines on our desks have more computing power than the rooms full of computers required to launch, safely land, and return the crew of Apollo 11. Heck, my current cell phone has more computing capability than my first laptop computer and I got my first laptop only twelve years ago.
And, by the same token, what advances will we make in the next fifty years? That is, if we can manage not to destroy ourselves in the process…
Decided today to share one of the posts I did on writing and some advice offered by more successful authors than me.
I found several good quotes from well-known authors that I have decided to share them here and how I’ve tried to (and often failed) follow the advice offered by these authors.
The first draft of everything is shit. -Ernest Hemingway
Yes, it certainly is. Sometimes the second and third drafts are just as bad. However, if as a writer, you’re totally hung up on making every word perfect, making every sentence a literary masterpiece, you’re going to do several things at once. You’re going to make yourself insane. You’re going to frustrate the daylights out of yourself. You’re going to become completely discouraged. And, ultimately, I can almost guarantee that you’re going to stop writing. Because if you’re so hung up making that first sentence/paragraph/page perfect, you’re never going to get past the first sentence/paragraph/page. The internal editor won’t let you. Suggestion: SHUT THE DAMN INTERNAL EDITOR OFF!
If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time — or the tools — to write. Simple as that. – Stephen King
YES! One of the most difficult assignments I had as a graduate student in one of the creative writing classes I took was to write a short story mimicking another writer’s style and voice. Ask me to analyze that style and voice and I could take a story apart, dissect it, and put it back together. Ask me to change my writing style—damn you, Aaron Morales—and it was as if I’d been asked to give up a kidney. However, by mimicking another author’s voice and style, that lesson became a tool in my arsenal of writing weapons. I had to read a lot of short stories to find one author that I felt I could come close to writing like in a similar voice. I can honestly say I cursed Aaron Morales for this assignment, but when it was over, I had acquired another tool to use. And different writing styles are different tools. As I tell my freshmen composition classes, there are different styles and even voices to be used for different writings.
Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. – Mark Twain
And, substitute “damn” also for any word that ends in “ly”. “Very” and those adverbs that I am in love with do NOTHING to strengthen my writing. If anything, they make it weaker. This is a battle I fight all the time, but I hope that I am at last beginning to win this war.
Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong. – Neil Gaiman
This one is almost self-explanatory. What works for one person, may not work for the next. I had this bit of sage advice given to me once regarding something like this. “If one person says that something in the scene isn’t working, consider the source. If two people tell you the same thing in a scene isn’t working, might want to think about changing it. If three or more people tell you that thing isn’t working, you have to fix it.” As the author, you’re the only one who knows what will work with your characters. You know them inside and out (or you’d better). You’re the only one who can resolve the problem.
And, last but not least: Write drunk, edit sober. – Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway knew the only way to turn off the internal editor for him was to drown the damn thing in alcohol. For me, shutting off the internal editor means putting in the ear buds, cranking up the volume, putting fingers to the keyboard, and just start writing. When I’m working on a rough draft, I don’t even like to go back and read everything I wrote the day before…or the hour before. I’ll read just a page or two, just enough to get back into the flow of things. Even though Capote said this of Kerouac’s On The Road: “That’s not writing, it’s typing” there is something to be said for just “typing.”
Stay drunk on the idea of writing. Approach the editing process cold, stone sober.
After two back to back posts that were serious and heart-rending, today's salvaged post needs to be a little lighter. So, from May of 2015, I present a blog post on down-sizing and moving to Tennessee.
After twenty five years in a home, it’s safe to say that there is twenty five years of accumulated stuff in said home. As I sift through this “stuff”, the memories come washing over me, complete with warm smiles and sometimes with a pang of sorrow.
I’m sifting through all of this because the DH and I are at the stages of our lives where he’s ready to slow down with his veterinary practice and I’m ready to down-size. To accomplish that, we’ve purchased property in the back woods of Tennessee. (I do mean back-woods, too, as I’ve been there more than a dozen times in the last year and I seriously doubt I could find my way to our property in the dark.) We’ve put up two small cabins—one as the “public” space and one to serve as the “private” space, namely as our bedroom. Even with the combined footage of the two cabins, it is still only a third of what we have here. My office for the past decade has been a free standing building, completely separate from the house.
I’ve been packing up my office because the DH can’t just up and leave his practice, while I can spend a week at a time in Tennessee working on the homestead. As I pack up the books I’ve accumulated over the decades, flip through files, carefully box up pictures, I’m struck by two things. The first is how much “stuff” I have. The other is how painful this really is. What goes. What gets put into boxes for a donation to Goodwill or the local library for their annual book sale. What I know I can live without and what won’t be donated. It’s painful.
The DH and I have made a good life in this home. We raised two kids here. Raised our grand-daughter until her mother could care for her. Raised puppies in this home. Brought home ribbons with those puppies and finished champions who graced our home and our lives. Our days of raising children are over. Our days of raising and showing collies to their championships will continue. But, as I find stashes of ribbons in envelopes with the dog’s call name on the front of the envelope, those memories flood me again. Whiskey—known to the AKC as C-N-D’s Southern Comfort—the memories of a dog always happy, always getting into some sort of trouble bring a smile to my face. Rose—Ch. Wych’s Safe in My Heart—the first of my blue smooth prima donas and a girl who insisted that things be done her way or they weren’t done at all. Heaven help the handler who tightened her collar in the ring because she made that handler pay for it and it didn’t matter if it was an accident. She extracted payment by refusing to use her ears and she knew EXACTLY what she was doing because she would look the handler dead in the eye and drop her ears and glare daggers. Rambo—A-N-L’s Paper Tiger—and he only has one ribbon: a first place from the 1986 Centennial Collie Club of America National Specialty Show. He died ten days after the national specialty. My heart still aches with that loss. Boots—Ch. Franchel’s Prince of Belmar—doesn’t have an envelope. He has a large manila folder with his show pictures in it, but there are no ribbons there. His ribbons have been crafted into a one of a kind wall hanging that will most definitely have a prominent space in the new home.
While sifting through the “stuff” in my office, I realized I have enough paperclips to make a chain long enough to stretch from here to the front of the DH’s office, five miles away. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but I’ve got a heck of a lot of paperclips. Do I really need that many? I’ve also found three staplers, a baker’s dozen boxes of staples, more binder clips than any sane person should possess, and I can’t make enough voodoo dolls to use up all the thumbtacks I have. Seriously…what am I doing with all that stuff? I could start my own office supply store. My teacher friends—you need binder clips? Or paper clips? Or thumbtacks? Give me a call. (We won’t discuss the five pencil boxes full of pens, colored pencils, markers, Sharpies, and mechanical pencils I have.)
Lighters…HOLY MOLY! I’ve found lighters in drawers, in boxes, on shelves…I’m not worried about any impending societal collapse and needing to make fire because honestly, I have enough lighters to start fires until the next century.
I posted a status on Facebook before I started writing this blog post that I was starting the long, drawn-out process of whittling down the possessions. And, it is a long process, because we’re not in any rush to get moved, the cabins aren’t even finished yet…but I also feel a goading, a prodding, to get this done. This evening, when I looked at the stacked totes full of the books I can’t/won’t part with, saw the bare spaces on shelves and on my desk, I felt a pang again of loss. And, even though I can see those empty spaces, there is still so much to be packed up in my office and I rather feel as if I’m re-arranging chairs on the Titanic. I know once I move the boxes out to the trailer for the trip to Tennessee in a few days, the empty spaces will hit me harder.
I just have to keep reminding myself that there is a quiet place in the woods in Tennessee waiting for me and the DH to make it our home. And, the “stuff” that used to fill the empty spaces in my office will go into making that space our home.
Hard to believe it has been five years since I wrote this post. As the first time I posted, be forewarned. Some of the images in this post are graphic and disturbing.
I have struggled and struggled and struggled with this blog post for several days now and I’m not sure there will ever be enough time to put distance between my heart and these events. Just the thought of putting down how my emotions ran the gamut from sickened to cautiously optimistic to complete despair is bringing tears to my eyes, choking my throat, and leaving my heart aching, anew. Please be forewarned that some of the images in this blog post are very graphic and disturbing.
In late January or early February of this year, pictures began to fill my newsfeed on Facebook of a young, sable and white collie who had been shot multiple times in the face and left for dead in a roadside ditch in Kentucky. He was no more than seven or eight months old when he was so hideously abused and dumped into that ditch like yesterday’s garbage. The fear and pain in his eyes still haunt me.
Around the world, collie lovers, collie fanciers, and even just dog lovers rallied for him, offering prayers, healing energy, and financial support. We, the collective collie world, claimed him as “our” collie, because he was one of us. He could have been any puppy any one of us brought into this world and placed. He was named “Lad”—and the name fit, because one of the most moving tributes ever written for a collie was written by Albert P. Terhune when he had his Lad’s headstone carved. That Lad was immortalized with the epigraph of “thoroughbred in body and spirit.”
Because of the damage done to him when he was repeatedly shot in the face, there was no other option but to remove most of his lower jaw. I am not here to question any of the medical treatment Lad received because I believe it was all done with his best interest in mind, and being married to a veterinarian, I trust his judgment. When my husband saw the x-rays that had been posted on a Facebook page of Lad’s injuries, his response was there was no way to save the jaw.
Learning who had perpetuated this horrific abuse on this sweet, young dog was not my priority. I am a very firm believer in Karma. She is a BITCH and She will visit the animal who committed this violence in Her time, in Her own way. I am also a very firm believer that there is a special level of Hell reserved for those who abuse the most helpless and defenseless among us. My priority was following Lad’s story and praying for his recovery and doing what little I could to assist with what I knew were going to be astronomical veterinarian expenses.
A Facebook page was set up so we could all follow Lad’s progress. (There is a Flicker account that followed his progress, as well, found here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/thearrowfund/sets/72157640806884844/) And, what progress he made!
From a frightened but still trusting, emaciated and abused baby to a vibrant, happy, loving playful young dog—the pictures often brought a huge smile to my face and were shared on my Facebook page for my collies, often with the simple tag line of “Good boy, Lad! Good boy.”
Then came news that the veterinary medical school at UC Davis was interested in Lad’s case. As UC Davis is at the leading edge of creating synthetic prosthetics in animals, cautious optimism was allowed to creep in. Maybe, Lad could have a life with a lower jaw again. Though, many of us who saw the pictures of him drinking from a bucket, patiently waiting for his “meatballs” to be made so he could have his meals, playing with and CARRYING his toys in that play felt that Lad could and had adapted to his altered life. Yes, life without a lower jaw would have required a very special forever home, but I know I would have been one of the first ones in line to take this boy into my home. I’d already taken him into my heart.
Lad was flown by private jet through a charity that does just this very thing for animals to California. The pictures of him at UC Davis were beyond heartwarming. Lad won the staff at UC Davis over as thoroughly as he had won the worldwide collie community. The initial news from UC Davis was mixed. Since being in the care of The Arrow Fund, Lad had gained weight, he was very healthy, considering what he had gone through, but he had osteomyolitesis—a deep, deep infection of the bone that remained of his jaw. An aggressive course of IV antibiotic therapy was begun and he was closely monitored. When he ended the antibiotic therapy, all the signs looked good to attempt to rebuild his jaw.
He was surgically fitted with a prosthetic jaw and the complications began. He had to be kept sedated. He began throwing blood clots into his lungs. He was placed on a ventilator. And, his young body couldn’t keep up the fight. Lad couldn’t fight off this last trauma.
Almost immediately the recriminations began. “The surgery to fit him with the artificial jaw was too soon after ending the antibiotic therapy.” “He never should have been subjected to that.”
I don’t know where I fall with those recriminations. I know the thought of seeing Lad—perhaps not whole—but with a functional lower jaw to ease his ability to live a “normal” life had a very strong pull. I also know that Lad, as collies and most dogs will, had adapted to his changed life. He could function with his lower jaw missing. I also know that EVERYTHING the veterinary staff at UC Davis learned while treating Lad will benefit another animal and will move them so much closer to being able to restore normalcy and functionality to another animal, and perhaps, translate into human medicine. However, I am still left with the question of just because you can do something, does that mean you should do it?
I just know that someone once said that there are very special angels here among us and they are borrowed angels. We are allowed only a brief moment in time with them, but they deeply touch our lives, our hearts, and our very souls. The last months of his life, Lad was showered with so much love, treated with so much gentleness and kindness, that those things are what made his spirit shine like a beacon in the darkness. I like to believe, that somewhere in that sedated state Lad was in for the last few hours of his life, he heard a Voice that called with love and compassion, cutting through the fog of sedation, “Lad, come.”
Lad ran to that Voice and crossed the Rainbow Bridge to be enfolded into the arms of the Creator.
And, for the very last time, I will write:
Good boy, Lad! Good boy.
In order to keep this webpage ranked, I've been pulling blog posts off my old blogging site and adding them here. I was thinking about this little Cooper's hawk all day on the drive from Indiana to Tennessee, so it seems appropriate to reblog this post from a few years ago.
Sometimes, a soul enters into our lives and profoundly touches us. Sometimes, that soul which touches ours walks the planes of this life for many steps. Other times, the luminosity of that soul is so intense that mere hours within its white-hot radius is such that we know our lives have been profoundly changed.
I was blessed and honored and granted a few hours with such a soul this past week in Tennessee. While on our way to purchase a few more building materials for the homestead, I saw an injured young hawk on the roadside. I told my friend Jacque to stop and because she’s as much of an animal lover as I am, she did. We went back to where I had seen this young hawk and he was still sitting on the shoulder of the Natchez Trace. I grabbed a blanket off the back seat of the quad cab and Jacque and I very carefully corralled this hawk into a position where I could toss the blanket over him to safely (for both the bird and myself) pick him up.
It was more than apparent he had a broken wing. Not sure what to do with him, we decided to take him with us to the building supply store and along the way we picked up a wooden crate at a fabric store as well as thin sheet of fine veneer to put over the crate so he could sit up without being confined in a heavy blanket in the 90 plus temperatures. We also stopped at a small drug store to get an eye dropper, bottled water and a jar of baby food (all chicken). He was very thirsty and he ate some of the offered baby food. All good signs but also indicative that this was still a very young bird, perhaps just very recently fledged. Some research later in the Audubon bird book and a little more by Jacque on the Internet determined this young hawk to be an immature Coopers.
On the way home, because he was taking food and water, we stopped at a pet store to buy a feeder mouse. By this time, we had named him. He became Merlin. And, I was losing a part of my heart to him. When I turned around to talk to him, he would cock his head from side to side—as if he was attempting to understand what I was saying. Knowing that these birds of prey have not only incredible eyesight but acute hearing, I talked in a low, soft voice to him. He continually made eye contact and there were a few times I think he was trying to figure out how the landscape could be speeding past him while he was not flying.
If you have never looked into the eyes of a bird of prey, add it to your bucket list. Be aware, though, that gaze will cut clean to your soul. There is an intensity there, a piercing quality, combined with an amazing intelligence. And, in the case of this young bird, there was trust. Merlin never once offered to bite either my friend or me. He willingly sat on my lap. When I petted his head, he half closed his eyes and leaned in closer to my fingers. If I stroked his mottled breast, I could feel his heart rate slow. This wild animal took comfort from a gentle touch and a soft voice.
When we returned to Jacque’s home, it was too late in the evening to contact anyone at the DNR regarding this beautiful bird. We placed Merlin in the large parrot cage Jacque had, fed him the feeder mouse and even though it was a little disturbing to know we were sacrificing one life to attempt to save another, Merlin quickly pounced on the feeder mouse and ate it. Within a few moments, I had taught him to drink from the water cup in the cage by offering him water from the dropper and letting him follow the tip of the dropper into the cup.
When Merlin had drunk his fill from the cup, he hopped of his own accord into the parrot cage and up onto the lowest perch and began to preen. Jacque has raised birds for more than fifty years and everything in her experience said this was a bird that would live, in spite of his injuries. Sick or stressed birds don’t drink, eat, or preen. I placed the water cup in its holder in the cage, and because it was dusk, wished Merlin a good night.
During the night, Merlin died. An examination of his fragile body revealed his wing was broken from a gunshot. The bullet had entered from below, went through the muscling in his leg and then through his wing in two places, breaking the wing near his shoulder. Jacque and I buried him in a safe place in the woods, where he won’t be discovered by scavengers and where his delicate bones can rest without ever being disturbed.
For twelve hours, I had the trust of this little, young, Coopers hawk. For twelve hours, his sharp gaze looked into my heart and my soul. For twelve hours, his last contact with the same species who had stolen his ability to fly and ultimately his life, was marked with respect, with care, with love, and with honor. If only he had been granted those things prior to being shot.
Fly free, little Merlin, fly free.
Have you ever just reached the point in your life where you’re tired of reading misinformation, deliberate slant (from BOTH sides of the equation, I will add), and the brain literally hurts because of the lack of logic and reasoning so rampant in social media? No? It’s just me…sigh…
This whole realization started about five years ago when I realized most of the people I was friends with on social media shared very similar world views to me. Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, until it becomes a bad thing. Until it becomes an echo chamber of epic proportions. Lately, it’s what I’m seeing on social media and in the news media. Pick a side—the echo chamber is in fully operational mode on social media. Okay, let me change that. The echo chamber has been in fully operational mode for years, but it just seems to be all the worse in the last year or so. We don’t want facts. We want narratives that fit our world view, that reinforce our biases, that bolster our perceptions. (Case in point—the fiasco the news media created the past winter starting with the Buzzfeed story about Michael Cohen and President Trump culminating with viral feeding frenzy over the high school students from a Catholic boys’ school. Before that, it was the frenzy over President Obama’s birth certificate and gold curtains at the White House.)
Whether we want to admit it or not, we (as a first world society) have a strong tendency to focus on the negative. If there isn’t a negative, we have a very real habit of creating a negative. Let’s be honest here—most of us have a roof over our heads, food on the table, and our biggest worry is who will be voted off Survivor. When things are generally good, our minds are hard-wired to search for problems to solve. (That’s why, most socio-economists and historians agree our greatest revolutions in industry and thought have always come from periods of “generally good,” because people had the time to seek out “problems” to solve.) If we can’t find problems, we create them. We create drama because it gives us an emotional jolt and a reason to complain. All of which, could explain why a certain freshman member of Congress has said that people in this country who are in the same age bracket as her have come of age without knowing prosperity. (That comment alone makes my brain hurt.) We forget what hard times really look like—look to Venezuela for what hard times can be. We forget what war looks like. I mean all-out war, not remote-controlled drone strikes. And, before anyone has a meltdown that I’m making light of those men and women of our armed services killed or injured in the last 18 years, think again. I have mad respect for our military. (Some of the brass…)
What this echo chamber has done is create a culture of weakness and victimhood. Yes, I can hear the arguments now—I don’t have any idea what it’s like to be a person of color, or gay, or lesbian, or transgendered, or any other of a myriad of “tribes”. You’re right, I don’t have any idea. But I’m willing to listen, to have empathy, to attempt to understand. When you’ve stood in the echo chamber long enough, you begin to believe the echoes and you begin to believe you are a victim and to find offense with everything. Yes, EVERYTHING. It takes strength to not be offended by everything. It takes maturity to realize that others don’t, can’t, and some probably will never think like you do. It takes even more strength to say, “I accept you. I accept you as you are, where you are, and how you are.” It takes the greatest of fortitude to refrain from name-calling and labeling others not in your “tribe” with the vilest of epitaphs, whether racial or sexual or religious.
You can hold firmly to your values while listening to other viewpoints. (Note I said “LISTENING” not simply hearing–because as my dad once said to me, “You might hear me, but you sure aren’t listening to me.”) If you’re just hearing those other voices, you’re just going through the motions until you can raise your voice louder to silence those you disagree with. That’s not strength. That’s coercion. That’s intimidation. A mentally strong person can admit to being in the wrong and will take responsibility, without having their ego crushed. A mentally strong person can hear and listen to other points of view without surrendering values and without belittling, degrading, dehumanizing those others. A mentally strong person can also find common ground.
How strong are you?
Can I just stand up and scream now? Pull out my hair and gnash my teeth?
I’m in a few western historical romance groups on Facebook for readers and authors. I do some giveaways in these groups because I can afford to do so. It’s a good manner to hopefully build up readership with readers where I’m a “new to them” author. Occasionally, I’ll get a private message from a reader in one of those groups. The gist of those messages is always, “I just read the description of your book “PICK ONE IT DOESN’T MATTER FOR THIS BLOG” and I’d love to read it, but that book isn’t in KU and I can’t afford to buy all the books I want to read.”
Well, tug my heart strings. I’m happy as that proverbial pig in slop this reader isn’t looking for and finding my books on a pirate site! I’ll usually write back and tell that reader I’m flattered they’re interested and if they send me their e-mail, I’ll be more than happy to send them a gift copy from Amazon. It’s worked really well, until the other day…
I had gifted a reader an e-book she said she wanted to read, after she wrote and said the book description really piqued her interest and the story line sounded great. I got a message the other from this reader, written all in caps. The gist of the message was I am going to burn in hell for my filthy mind, how dare I send such obscenity, and why didn’t I warn the reader there were *GASP* sex scenes in this book. Reader wouldn’t have even wanted to read this book if that information had been disclosed.
I wanted to shoot a message right back, pointing out said reader never asked if there was sex in the novel. Instead, I walked away from the keyboard, brushed out a collie (or three), thought up all kinds of snarky replies which weren’t sent, and finally answered that message by saying, “I did not intend to offend you. The next time I generously offer to send a free book to someone who approaches me requesting a book of mine because they cannot afford to purchase all the books they wish to read, I’ll remember to ask if they are offended by the depiction of intimacy, vulnerability, and trust between two consenting adults.”
Yeah…I think I lost a reader. I’m pretty sure before I sent that response, I had already lost a reader.
My blog is where I do most of my venting about all sorts of things--book scammers, book stuffers, book thieves (I refuse to call them 'pirates' because I won't insult pirates), stupid crap that happens at dog shows. You never know what you'll read in this blog because I don't ever know what I'm going to write until I start writing.