Posts Tagged ‘animal tales’


December 14, 2011

“No!” My mom shouted at the cat, which promptly ran into the house through the open door.

It was a fraught morning, the moving guys ready to roll, the house empty after 50 years of life there.

It was not our cat; grey and white; lovely, really.  We had never had a cat.

My brother and I had spent the day before and late into the night boxing up and tossing out, giving away and sorting out.  The last box we’d found contained the last of my old papers.  I hadn’t lived in this house since 1978.  Circa 1975, apparently, I was writing short fiction about suicide.  Nice.  That short story was right next to my summer camp photo book and a picture book about Dachau.  Nice.  Late at night, on the last night of anything, things can get a little wonky.

My earliest memory is a view of arching trees on the windshield of the moving truck that took us to the house my mom was now leaving.  Those grand Dutch Elms had long ago fallen to disease.  I never much liked my childhood house, but I loved those trees, the scream of summer cicadas, the gold-green light dappled below the leafy tunnel and was heartbroken when the Village of Lincolnwood chain-sawed them all down.

I followed the grey and white cat through my childhood house.  It went to my childhood bedroom, empty but for paw-prints of furniture embedded in the carpet.  I followed the cat to my parents’ bedroom, the gold shag carpet sad, worn out.

I followed the cat and imagined that it was a spirit, gathering spirit and releasing ghosts, completing a long chapter that was now closing.  I followed the cat back out the front door and down the walk, myself walking out for the last time from my childhood house.  The cat lay on its back for a moment in the morning sun on a cold, clear Chicago December Friday, and then it sauntered off down the sidewalk, heading east, completing something for me, with me—free spirits.

I led the way at the wheel of my sister-in-law’s 4×4, heading east, with the moving truck behind me.  The re-grown trees arched in the windshield behind me.  We had pulled up from the west, all those years ago, and now we pulled away to the east.

Transition is hard, but my mom is happy in her new place.  And I’m happy for her.

Namaste, BD


Lizards: waving, drowning, smiling, frowning

August 10, 2011

A few weeks ago two lizards appeared in our yard.  They seemed to be fast friends, even though one looked like Rango and the other like the typical lizards one finds in the gardens of LA.  The standard lizard did his customary push-ups while the escaped day of the iguana or rogue karmic chameleon with upward curled tail demonstrated her distinctive walk:  a funky rolling gait in which she seemed to ride an invisible wave.  Regular lizard, in contrast, snaked side-to-side as he cut dusty trails or climbed the walls.

Sadly, a couple of weeks ago, I found the fish-out-of-water lizard dead in the pool, imitating William Holden at the beginning of Sunset Boulevard.  Unlike Gloria Swanson, however, I didn’t call the mortuary, but rather buried it, with spirit but without much ceremony in the sacred ground where also rest three guinea pigs, a goldfish and assorted birds and mammals who met their demise within the confines of the land I tend, but do not pretend to “own” (no matter how banks, mortgages, property taxes and departments of water, power and trash might weigh, cash or trash-in on the matter).

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Fight, Flight or Snuggle? Welcome to the year of the Bunny

February 2, 2011

One afternoon when I was about nine years old I came walking up to my house to see a neighbor’s huge cat, Duff, perched menacingly in the ivy.

Duff was one badass cat, with a luxuriant grey coat sheathing bulk and power, yellow eyes that fixed you in your tracks and sent trembles spiraling down your sapling spine.

The ivy itself was a place of mystery, huddled low and tangled around a birch tree—an easily overlooked world where I’d once found a polyphemus moth—a micro-jungle where I was sure that other treasures were to be found.

And alas Duff had found one:  a rabbit’s nest.  I moved closer as Duff looked warily between me and his prey that he had been toying with, at his sweet leisure, as I made my way home from school.

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Bumbling toward consciousness

July 14, 2010

The other day I found myself hunched over the wet grass in front of my house carefully teasing out dead bees from tangled strands of green—hundreds of bees that had rained down in a grim circle.  I had nearly filled a large paper cup with them, working two plastic spoons that I’d grabbed as tools for this arcane and morbid task, when two passing women stopped to ask me what I was doing.

Too discombobulated to think of a plausible story, I told them the truth.  And so we got to talking about the puzzling things in life which then led to talking about my pervasive and surreal feeling that we’re all living in a shared lucid dream, in response to which they invited me to their scriptures class.

While my soul does not currently whisper for me to go to scriptures class, I deeply appreciated the two kind women and their abiding faith and was left feeling that although we travel upon different bridges, we’re indeed making our way to some common island (of oneness or collective consciousness or love… or maybe even to annihilation)—some elusive yet ever-present place where the spirits of dead bees live amongst us in the here and now.

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Mind of the Colony

May 26, 2010

As parents and bloggers, we often run short on time, and so I doubt you will have opportunity to curl up with a copy of Ant Encounters:  Interaction Networks and Colony Behavior, by Deborah M. Gordon any time soon.  She is a researcher at Stanford who has spent a lot of time watching ants.

She has learned that colonies change over time; they mature and develop.  Gordon also works with the Santa Fe Institute where various branches of the sciences are collaborating in a search for human application—in the direction of us humans getting along better and evolving.

Ants are interesting to me, and one of my earliest memories is of being absolutely covered by them when digging in the dirt.  I am two years old, we have just moved to a house and I am happy and unbothered by the ants, in fact I feel serene and connected with them as we dig and hang out together at the base of a tree.  My mom then sees the state that I am in and is horrified, brushing away the ants and then carrying me to the bathtub where all these kind and lovely ants are washed away in a flood of water and mom’s disgust.

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Snowing the Monkey

May 6, 2010

While watching an episode of Life with the family recently we were suddenly all feeling rather sad to learn that Japanese Snow Monkeys do not share their volcanically heated natural Jacuzzi.  While the matriarchs decide who’s in and who’s out (enforced by bouncer monkeys), the outsiders are literally left out in the cold.  My older kid said that he wished he hadn’t seen that image and all of us felt disturbed by the sight of excluded and freezing monkeys in contrast to the cozy monkeys blissfully hanging out in their mountain spa.  Days later the image still keeps haunting me.

And it makes me think about being in the mountains of New Mexico working on a friend’s NYU thesis film.  It might have been the exhaustion of having just completed shooting my own thesis project the week before; it might have been the spirit of that place where Georgia O’Keefe had hung out back in the day (her former Native American driver was helping on our project, and told tales of trucks stalling out on a certain mountain pass and then rolling… uphill); it might have been the blazing sun and the biting fire ants, but I ended up getting quite sick.  For several days I lay on the floor of the little adobe shack where we were staked out while the rest of the crew went out to shoot, eventually the Native American spirits came and circled me.  I guess I was hallucinating, but I could swear I saw those guys as clearly as one can see with a high fever.  One of my friends realized that even though we were guys in our twenties, the right thing to do was to gather me off the floor and drive me down to Santa Fe.

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Putting Descartes before the Horse

April 23, 2010

I’ve never been much of a horse guy, and in camp I would take my sweet time getting down to the stables where I would inevitably get the Ferdinand of horses, one so plump that to ride him was to do the splits.  I was happy to ride that placid black and white creature, happy to wait as he stopped to sample every grass and weed as the counselor called back to us to hurry up and stay with the group.

And then one fine morning, just for the heck of it, I raced down to the barn and the hay and the skinny guy with bad teeth who had been kicked by horses and who assigned you your horse on any given ride.  I got there first and I willfully claimed Buck (or was it that that wily trickster with the bow-legs who suggested it?).  Either way, Buck was a huge and noble beast—gorgeous muscled chestnut—and as a short plump kid I had never been taller than in that saddle, not even when sitting upon my father’s shoulders after recovering from pneumonia.

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The dog at my blog post…

April 22, 2010

I know that more than one or two English teachers read this blog from time to time, and so today’s blog is basically my excuse for not having much of a post… but still in the service of all our collective children.

Sometimes friends express that they are amazed at my consistent posting, and while I’m so glad that all of you read, sometimes I fear that I’m setting the wrong example.  I want to encourage us all to do less, to calm down, to be present, to trust that we are enough.  So maybe my bloggoreah is some sort of symptom—probably of both my wish to be loved (how human is that?) and my continuing attempt to reconcile the spirit of my depths with the spirit of the time.  I must admit that I’m good down in my depths, rambling around with all my angels and demons, wandering through a world that feels to me alive with mystery and always has—it’s just that I’ve had so few people to talk with who see it like me and Alice in her wonderland.  So maybe I also blog in the search for my tribe of not-quite-rational beings, of forgiving English teachers and indulgent coaches who don’t really mind if you drop the ball… a lot.

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April 18, 2010

When I was a young boy nothing interested me more than roaming the yards and alleys of my block, net in hand, searching for the exotic butterflies I read about in my insect book.  While I would find Monarchs, Mourning Cloaks and Tiger Swallowtails, I was ever on the hunt for exotic purple, blue and other magical specimens that I believed just might drift up from the deep jungles of South America or mystically get swept up in a trade wind from Africa.

I dreamed of being an entomologist and once literally dreamed of a vast underground archive of every butterfly that ever was—level after level going down and spreading out in all directions in a treasure trove of all the colors and patterns from nature’s palette (far exceeding anything I could ever express of my own palate).

Much later, as I ventured into my studies in psychology, it pleased me to learn that the word “psyche” means both soul and butterfly in Greek.  So, in a way, my path as psychologist was foretold in my almost magnetic enchantment with butterflies, as well as representing my intuitive quest for the Anima (with the butterfly an apt symbol of the luminescent soul that we all tend to project out and pursue in the world until we realize, as my early dream also foretold, that it is to be found deep within us, as symbolized as residing within the depths of the earth).

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A Broken Bone

March 28, 2010

A broken bone unlocks energy   Near drowning is near waking       Deep cuts pierce the veil                   Of our skin          And we find that inside and       Outside co-exist          Until the doctor sews us up     And leaves us struggling to get out       Again

The beetle tried to signal me

Like a little man guiding

A big airplane

The bird tried to explain it

Repeating her all-important


Over and over

Even if I still don’t get it

The fish didn’t really ask me to

Let it go—a brookie sparkling in dappled


But what else could I do, it being

so small, and patient

but especially so beautiful

-Namaste, Bruce