Soul Places

Befriending the Soul through Inquiry and Creativity

Tag: nature

Seaweed Forest and Flying

The forest's version of seaweed. Copyright Diane Ludeking 2012

I’ve been running past this cluster of wooden things several times a week for the last month.  Today I finally stopped to take a picture.  And twenty more throughout my run.  So much for keeping my heart rate up, but I knew this day would come.  The day when I could no longer just pass these things by without capturing them more permanently.  And considering the way my mind tweaks things with its vapid recall, I also knew my imagination would distort the heck out of these.  But don’t they look like the forest’s version of seaweed?  The way they wave without moving?  The way they beg me to swim through them instead of run around them?

I confess, my inner child is on the move these days.  And why not let her play?  These beautiful cool spring days exist for a limited time.  Before long the bugs will drive me wild, causing flailing and cursing at the air around me as I also try to maintain my awesome barefoot running form.  An occasional slap of my flesh will reveal my own blood drawn from a mosquito I’ve now killed.  But until then, let the child free!

Copyright Diane Ludeking 2012

Today she is grateful for her freedom but also takes time to encourage contemplation of the punitive action parents take when they ground their kids.  I don’t have kids and have never been grounded, but is it meant to be like a pilot without wings – grounded?  I don’t know if that’s where it came from, but it sure sounds about right.  I’ve seen the face of a child being grounded and it looked a lot like the wind had been taken out from under his wings.  Grounded.

If you were ever grounded as a child, make time today to fly and dedicate it to the child within you.  Running makes me feel like I’m flying.  So does horseback riding.  What makes you feel like you are flying?  Will you do it today?  I am interested in knowing what makes you fly – please share it in the comments.


Life Lessons from Buddha-pop, Part Two

Big Bad Tom

I actually like Big Bad Tom.  I named him after the Johnny Cash song, Big Bad John simply because of his size…and…he’s a tom.  He must be about two pounds heavier than Sodapop, making him nearly fifteen pounds.  He has the sweetest little voice and is blessed enough to be another orange tabby!  I wonder if he was someone’s pet, he is so friendly and kind – to people.

Farm cat license plate

With testosterone in spades, Big Bad Tom has been less kind to the other farm cats, so I knew to do my best to keep him away from Soda.  But I can’t watch Soda all the time so I trusted that letting him express his animal nature was worth the risk of an encounter with the new interloper.  And when it became evident that Big Bad Tom was going to stick around, I began to feel like a mother who just watched a bully peacock onto the playground.

I heard the screaming from where I stood with the horses as they ate their supplements.  Immediately recognizing Soda’s voice, I began to run.  Blindly.  The screams echoed off the old farm buildings, confusing me as to his whereabouts.  So I ran toward the house.  Silence.  And then I saw them.  Big Bad Tom strutting and posturing at my poor Soda who was pinned against the house and a big log used as a seat.  He had nowhere to go.

I pulled a length of rope with a leather popper on the end from my coat pocket as I ran, mother-bear style, roaring at him.  This rope is handy for catching horses without the bulk of a halter and lead rope, and is great for playing a variety of games with them.  Over the years I’ve become quite skilled with the rope and rarely go to the pasture without it.  Confident that I was accurate enough to pop him with the end of the rope if I got within reach, I prepared to defend and protect my defenseless cat.  Big Bad Tom ran as soon as he saw me.

Walking over to Sodapop I quickly notice he has pooped himself with fear.  My heart sinks.  And evident by the dirt and dust all over his back, I can tell he’s been rolled.  My heart sinks some more.  Reaching down to pick him up and get him safely back into the house, I realize he is still in defense mode.  He growls at me, his body tight as a drum.  My heart lands in my left boot.  I retreat, open the door to the house and plead with him to get himself in to the no-Big-Bad-Tom zone.  He crouches his way through the door, twitching and looking over his shoulder, hyper-alert mode in full force, and collapses on the floor.

Then a really interesting thing happens.  Not necessarily in Soda’s favor.  I forget to remember that my cats are cats first.  They are not their names nor are they my kids as I like to think they are.  Two-bit, the twin brother, becomes the next threat to Soda’s life.  Two-bit puffs up to twice his size and proceeds to strut and posture around Soda, not unlike the mighty Big Bad Tom.  What the hell?  Hasn’t he had enough? I wonder aloud.  I watch and wait.  Two-bit begins chase as Soda responds to a nonverbal threat from him and begins to run and hide!  This is definitely not the play fighting they usually engage in.

Two-bit and Sodapop on the deck

Two-bit must sense the trauma of Soda’s attack, the smell of manure being his first confirmation, and seeks to right the matter, or finish the job.  I am speechless at this point.  I’ve seen a dog attack an unstable dog in an effort to correct them or destroy them, so I wonder if this unusual display of real aggression in an otherwise peaceful feline relationship is similar.

I put Two-bit in the basement for a time-out while I clean the fecal matter off Soda’s back end and then I run back out to finish with the horses.  Eventually Two-bit and Sodapop become friendly again, but not until after a few more puffy-cat attacks from Two-bit that eventually turn to boredom.  They are fine now.  And Sodapop is demanding to go outside not even twenty-four hours after the brutal attack.  He only suffered a puncture wound on his right front paw, a Big Bad Tom tooth-shaped puncture, and a momentary loss of pride.  Both are healed now.  And I am left in awe of his rapid return to the wild.

Life Lessons from Buddha-pop, Part One

Sodapop, aka "Buddha-pop" and "Sodi-Wan-Kenobi"

I was not looking for a life lesson when I let my cat outside a few days ago.  But Sodapop did not earn the nicknames Buddha-pop and Sodi-Wan-Kenobi by becoming a victim to his life experiences.

Sodapop is mostly an indoor cat with daggers for claws who loves his outdoor escapades.  Now that we live in the country again, he asks politely to come with the dog and me to feed the horses.  Some days he doesn’t ask and just darts out the door.  He must suspect the answer would be no these days so he just makes a run for it.

The last time we lived in the country, he impressed my husband and I by swatting birds out of the air and dragging home a rabbit of equal mass by the jugular.  Witnessing the circle of life makes me anxious because something must always die in order for the other to survive.  My gentle heart knows this circle is necessary, but it doesn’t make the experience of witnessing something suffer and die any easier.

Two-bit "Can I go to Budapest too?"

I’ve known that Sodapop, unlike his twin brother Two-bit, must express his animal nature.  Don’t get me wrong, if a mouse were to cross Two-bit’s path, he would surely play with it, torture it and then bring the carcass to me as a gift.  He just doesn’t have the drive of Soda to go looking for such things in the great outdoors.

This particular day I let Soda outside while I mixed horse feed in the basement.  By the time the dog and I joined him outside, he was nowhere to be seen.  Probably up a tree somewhere.  Too bad I missed that, I thought.  I love to watch him sprint across the yard, ears pinned, voraciousness in his eyes, as he focuses all his attention and energy on conquering that tree.

There were several “farm” cats milling about, but no Soda.  I’ve been working on releasing my fears of letting him be a cat, so I had convinced myself not to worry about him interacting with these cats as he is way tougher than any of them.

Until Big Bad Tom showed up.

Am I Sentinel to My Own Thoughts?

Dallas Keeping Watch as Joey Departs

My dog Dallas and I begin our daily morning trek up the snow-blessed hill with zest in our laurels and secrets in our ears.  I am cocooned in three under-layers, Smartwool socks and Carhartt bibs and coat.  Dallas only wears a coat of exquisite strawberry blonde hair with distinguishing gray around his eyes and muzzle.  We follow a trail made by our equine friends – occasional hoof-shaped indents left in the snow to prove they trod here once.  As we round the bend, I notice the horses are blinking curiously at us – having been warned by the movement of Dallas running amok with nose to ground.

In each hand is a bucket for my beloved ponies.  They eagerly leave the comfort of their herd and meander my way.  Lots of stroking, hugging and murmuring greet them.  Their contented munching becomes meditative so I sit beside them on the angelic cover of ground.  Dallas is a few yards off now – sitting – looking out at the world around us.  He is sniffing the air – I wonder what he finds – friend or foe.  He is vigilant to his surroundings as though danger may arrive if he were not.  The horses are alert to the strange squealing in the woods – their ears and eyes swivel to assuage their instincts that it’s nothing life threatening.

In my serenity I am struck by the though that these creatures are sentinels of their own survival.  They are students of their surroundings, making sure nothing of harm will come to them.  If danger should ever arrive, he will be quite challenged by his greeting of fight or flight.  And although I do not have the same concerns of survival as my animals, I certainly have the dangers of my own mind.  It is necessary for my health and perhaps one day, my survival, that I become sentinel to my own thoughts and agreements.

Handsome Approaches

How will I respond to danger?  How will danger feel when I greet him?  Will I even see him coming, disguised a million different ways?  Am I gatekeeper of my own thoughts, experiences and reactions?  Do I sit as Dallas does, with nose to the wind and catch my own scent of self-deprecation.  Are my own thoughts friend or foe?  Am I vigilant even in mundane tasks like my horses with an ear and eye to what may be lurking around in the forest of my mind?

I scratch my horses, pick up their empty buckets and walk with them to the water.  I thank them for what they’ve shown me and walk back down the path with Dallas, pregnant with reflection.  I thank Dallas for his wisdom too as he bounds on ahead of me.  I find that there is room for improvement and I vow to treat myself kindly in order to make room for awareness.  And as I come to the end of my trail, I snort and laugh out loud at the recollection of a bumper sticker, “Don’t Believe Everything You Think.”