Reflections on the death of a beloved animal

Have you ever made the decision that it’s time to end the suffering and misery of an animal in your care?

Bear loved boxesYesterday I took my cat Bear to the vet to discuss his deteriorating condition and consider my options. We decided it was time to end his suffering and he was put to sleep.

I hate having such power and I love having such power. I hate being the one who makes the decision, the one with that ultimate power. I question my motives: Am I choosing to do this now because I don’t want to watch him vomiting any more? Is he really fine enough to enjoy more days of sitting In the sun and sleeping on my lap? How do I tell when it is time, when it is a kindness to end misery? Is it a convenience to me? Am I tired of cleaning up after him? Am I doing this for myself or am I doing this for him?   I wrestle with the conflict.

But I love being able to choose to end his pain, his yowling as he’s about to vomit, his episodes of projectile vomiting, his scratching and biting when I inadvertently touch painful areas, his weight loss, his of eating of kitty litter crystals, his look of misery and longsuffering, his decline… and I love being able to give freedom from suffering to a creature I have loved and cared for.

Does ultimate power always come with an equal knowledge of its awesome responsibilities? I hope it does. This is no decision to be taken lightly. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be faced with such power and choice over the life of a loved human. If it is this difficult with an animal how could I possibly ever contemplate a similar situation with a dearly loved friend?

A few weeks ago a friend said to me when I told him Bear was dying, “Well, that’s why you don’t have pets. There’s all the grief when you lose them.”

My response was: “That’s why you do have pets. They teach us to grieve as well as love.”

Jolly beiong persuaded to look at the camera.I learnt this years ago as I loved and cared for a dog from puppyhood to old age. He offered participation in the progress of life in a shortened version and I realized children as well as myself, could learn what they would later experience with their most cherished, treasured human beings.  If we are to love then we will experience pain and grief and loss. We can’t have one without the other. I used to fear grief and I suppressed it without even being aware. I feared it would overwhelm me, that I would not survive it. My dog showed me I could grieve. I could love without reservation, feel the loss of that creature and survive. And now I cherish his memory. Never would I regret having shared his life, and the same with Bear- I received far more than I gave.

Angie, my shared co-living partner and the other person who has known Bear best, was here yesterday and so could come to the vet’s for our final visit. She said that Bear had had a good life-  an abandoned cat who hung around my house eventually staying to become part of the household. I thought about this. Yes, I hope he had a good life, but more than that he was a precious gift… and I thought some more.

I will die happy if my life is a precious gift for even one person.

an ending.What more could we hope for?

Permaculture Futures: Green Up Top

Originally posted on Milkwood: homesteading skills for city & country:

Green Up Top

Next in our lineup of Permaculture Design Course grads are Michael Zagoridis and Emma Bowen from Green Up Top – a social enterprise dedicated to farming pockets of Sydney’s inner-urban suburbs.

Zag went on to do a market gardening internship with us at our farm, and these days, there’s no stopping these two pocket rockets of goodness! 

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Solar update.

Sunlight. Free and abundant.

Sunlight. Free and abundant.

It works! When the sun shines, our solar panels are generating power from the sun. It’s taken quite a while to reach this point. There were the months I hesitated, questioned many people and worried over the choice. Which supplier would be the best? which quote should I choose? Which panels? Which inverter? How many kilowatts?

Once chosen, there were the inevitable delays- too wet, too windy, an emergency to fix…then the panels were no longer being produced…Finally, better panels, but costing more money. Keep going? Yes!

Then, the panels went on, but weren’t connected!! So close, but…not yet.

Installing the energy program.

Installing the energy program.

But now, the delays are past and we have been generating solar power for a couple of months. I spend a lot of time checking how much power is being generated and how much power the household is using. You see, this solar system is internet connected and I can check how much power each panel is generating and how much has been generated today, this week, this month or over a lifetime. Then I have this other splendid gadget which tells me how much power is being used by this household, in real time. I turn on heating and check how much power it uses. Does the solar cover it?  Can I do the washing? I am so impressed with my washing machine and with my large air-conditioner. Neither uses much energy. Most days, I can be using both and still have power left over. Here in Australia, we have so much sunshine.

The program.

The program.

I am a little in love with  our systems. In fact, I’m possibly obsessed with them. I confess I  pester my co-home owner with several daily phone calls, consisting of updates on current usage. But you have to admit, it is fascinating. The air-conditioner is on, but we’re only using .653 kws- it’s a 5kw air-conditioner! Turn on the stove…uh oh, 2.6 kws. It’s all been a revelation.

Will we get our money back? Probably not, but that’s not why we put on solar panels. Australia may repeal the carbon tax, but at least we are doing something about living sustainably and climate change.

 

By the dots.

Daily Prompt: We all have strange relationships with punctuation- do you overuse exclamation marks? Do you avoid semicolons like the plague? What type of punctuation could you never live without?

What are my punctuation quirks?

I used to work in an inner-city, multicultural suburb and loved it. One of my favourite shop signs was outside the Greek butcher’s (there was only one Greek butcher),  advertising “lambs’ legs”. It was one of my favourites because it showed so clearly the subtleties of our language. I couldn’t buy, however. A leg of lamb is impersonal, several steps away from being a living creature, or in this case, a wriggling and cute bundle of fluff. A lamb’s leg, belongs to that wriggling bundle. Consider the difference between chicken drumsticks and a chicken’s drumstick. I love language! It’s so clever.

Apostrophes!!!! and exclamation marks.

Apostrophes!!!! and exclamation marks.

While I’m on apostrophes, I confess now that I may one day turn into that eccentric woman who goes around with a large, red, permanent marker correcting apostrophes on public signs. Here in Australia it has become almost the accepted practice that if there is an “s” on the end then it has an apostrophe. No, no, no! and again, no!! You can probably tell it more than irritates me, I can become obsessed about it. I think I’ll buy that permanent marker today and get started.

You may have guessed already that one of my weaknesses is for exclamation marks. Yes, I have read, is it Elmore Leonard’s criticism of their use? I flicked that article to my niece, but found myself unable to stop myself from using these little marks in my accompanying email. (My niece uses them too, so there!)

In another life, very long ago, I taught Primary school and every day included a grammar lesson. I hope those children have never been guilty of an apostrophe whenever they felt like it, or a comma put anywhere. Last time I worked in a school I had to point out to someone ( he had authority and could get it changed) the use of a comma in a simple sentence; this on a notice that was to be placed all around the school. How could we as educators, publish a grammatical mistake? The person concerned refused to change it and there was a limit to how far I could push it.  She insisted that there was a verb and a phrase, therefore there must be a comma. So, nowadays we teach them the ungrammatical. The fact that language is meaning and that our thinking can never be precise if we can’t express ourselves accurately causes me great concern. Bertrand Russell, years ago, feared we were becoming a civilization of barbarians with the tools of technology. The loss of sophisticated language is part of that.

I confess: I need to re-visit the use of colons and semi-colons and I promise I will.

I do recommend Jane Strauss and her Blue Grammar Book.

I wonder what your quirks are? What makes you want a large, red, permanent marker? (Do I put commas between each of those adjectives? Does quirks have an apostrophe?…Only joking!)

 

 

 

 

A Pen and some paper

Daily prompt: Writing space.

Where do you produce your best writing-  at your desk, on your phone, at a noisy café?

Essential take with me equipment.

Essential take with me equipment.

Writing…If I could write while I’m driving or while I’m walking or when I’m gardening…or sometimes when I’m listening to the radio – to an interview or discussion,  a report or an in depth study…or sometimes when I’m talking with a friend… That’s when the ideas come and I find myself writing in my head. That’s when I need to grab them. So I’ve bought a digital recorder but it’s more complicated than turn it on, press a button and “we’re on air’ although I’m getting to be  proficient with it. ( Note to myself: practice using the recorder.)  (Second note to myself: always carry a notebook! When the ideas come, stop whatever I’m doing and write it down, doesn’t matter if it gets dirt from the garden.)

Doing something else seems to release the mind. Maybe my writing process will become something like…walking, laptop in backpack…sudden inspiration…stop…sit at side of road…write feverishly…continue walking…

Most of my writing process tends to take place at the table where the computers are set up. Although you could say I’m “spoilt for choice.” The dining room is my temporary study. It feels good and is spacious. Then I have the very large, open sunroom and kitchen, with another large farmhouse table and not one, but two capacious sofas. There’s the lounge room, the roomy back and front decks, complete with tables and chairs… the river bank is not too far away: tables, green grass just perfect for a blanket and a few pillows, wandering ducks, water hens…

Truly, I took this photo two minutes ago!

Truly, I took this photo two minutes ago!

This is how my day tends to go: get up and make coffee, curl up on a sofa in the sun with notebook and pen and write for at least half an hour, not stopping, however it comes. Then breakfast, some pottering, get dressed or not and to the computer. If it’s Daily Prompt, look at the day’s prompt…( don’t check too many emails!!!!)  If I’m already working on something, read it, play with it…I’ll often print something if I want to edit and I usually take that somewhere else. If I want to start something new, I’ll take it to the other table and handwrite the ideas. It’s as if each stage needs a different place. Some of that’s physical. My computer table (that is , the dining room table) has a clutter of equipment: laptop; wonderful, ergonomic keyboard and large screen monitor; there’s always pieces of paper, notebooks, post-its, textas, pens, pencils, maybe a computer manual; there’s not much space for writing with a pen and paper. (Thanks to my generous benefactor for the setup.)  Right now it also has a cat. (How do you teach them not to sit on the keyboard?)

Regular writing is a new process for me. In the past it’s always been an “I’m going to…”. Finally, at last, I have started!  I’m learning what works and how I work. As I’ve been writing this post I’ve become aware of how much more I could do and how much more disciplined I could be. Thinking about how I write has helped me clarify what does work for me. From this daily prompt I know exactly what I now need to focus on. More output! More words on paper, or screen, or whatever. More time spent just writing. Time to get going!

 

 

 

The unique flavour of me

Daily Prompt: A local ice cream parlour invites you to create a new wacky flavor. It needs to channel the very essence of your personality. What’s in it?

My essence?

My essence?

Now that’s a challenge! How do I see myself? What are my characteristics? One day I will have a portrait of myself on this blog that I find adequate, but so far I haven’t managed that, and now I’m asked to create a flavour that is the very essence of my personality??  Come on! And turn it into edible ingredients?? Maybe I’ll go with intangibles and make a fantasy ice cream filled with talking and laughter; books and reading; quiet introspection. Or a handful of roses, a drop of river water, a smidgeon of moonshine…

There are no ice cream parlours around here. Ice cream in cartons from the supermarket, yes; ice creams and splices and other sorts on sticks, yes; but no parlours. I wouldn’t call them ice cream parlours either and I’m not sure what I would call them. And yes, I know I’m  avoiding getting around to defining the very essence of my personality. Is it modesty that makes defining myself a challenge? Or my culture that says I mustn’t skite or act conceited? Or is it because we become so defined by what we do, rather than who we are?

So, what would I include?

I do love to sit around talking with my friends, but I also love quietness and peace; in spite of the anxiety and stress of many years, by nature I’m happy and sunny, summer rather than winter; I’m intelligent and interested in ideas, bored by the superficial; not very practical and sometimes lack common sense; often vague, can be thoughtless and impulsive…An ideas person rather than a doer.

How will I turn my essence into ice cream? It needs to be made with cream because past times at my parents included home-made pies and rich, thick, yellow cream, collected from my uncle’s farm, just a few miles away. The cream can represent both this countryside which is imprinted deep into my very bones and the sense of belonginess from those times.

What else? Apricots for sunniness, walnuts for intelligence, figs- sensitive and easily bruised…and what can represent that ability I have to keep going, no matter what, to endure? SALT! The mineral that traditionally has been used to preserve. Then some smarties for a strong dash of fun.

Delicious!

Delicious!

Thinking about ice cream has brought back memories of childhood. I remember my parents buying their very first refrigerator and before that, the ice man  making deliveries and the big block of ice sitting in the ice chest. Imagine trying to freeze anything, with only an ice chest in an Australian summer?  Anything frozen was almost impossible. My mother used to make ice cream occasionally, beating the semi-frozen mixture by hand. Bought ice cream was a rare and special treat, a luxury. I remember an ice cream cake for someone’s birthday,  On special occasions we might be treated to an ice cream in a cone  and at Sunday school picnics the afternoon would see the thick canvas barrel, filled with dry ice, brought out and the handing  around of ice creams in little cardboard buckets with wooden scoops.

Ice cream tasted better then. Maybe I did too,

 

 

 

Regrets or Letting go.

Writing101. Daily Prompt: Groundhog Day. If you could relive the past week, would you? Would you change anything?

 

I read this and hear Frank Sinatra singing “Regrets, I’ve had a few…”

but I also hear Edith Piaf “Je no regretted rien…”   

Would I want to relive the week? No, but I do want to learn from it.

These two singers represent  two extremes of looking back. My mind turned to regret. It’s too easy to look back with regret and from there to judge ourselves harshly. It’s a long way from self acceptance.

But how do we learn if we don’t look back on the past? And how do we do that if we don’t examine the past critically? I know from working in schools how important it is that children learn to accept responsibility for their actions and to accept responsibility for the consequences. It seems to me that it’s crucial to distinguish between regret and accepting responsibility, learning from our actions and moving on.

I’m in the fortunate position of not working full-time and so am in the process of changing old patterns and making choices in this new set of circumstances.

Now, I have clear priorities and I know the things that matter to me. Do I always do these things? Do my days fit my imagined ideal? No, of course not. I’m human and therefore I am not perfect.

I'm really good at making lists.

I’m really good at making lists.

In the last twelve months I’ve spent a lot of time recovering and settling, reflecting and dreaming, making lists and not doing what’s on them,…and yes, I’ve fallen into times     of self  – criticism,those moments of “I should have…” One of the lessons I keep on learning is to trust and accept myself, whatever state I’m in, to get rid of judgement.  I don’t find that easy. Perhaps it’s another human paradox that we must balance acceptance with change, that is, changing the habits and patterns that no longer serve us.

I’m learning that if I leave exercising until late in the day, I probably won’t do it. I’m trying things out- when’s the best time to write? How do I juggle the cleaning, the cooking…all the demands that maintain one’s life? How do I manage what must be done with what I most want to do?

The best way for me to discover what works best is to look over the past week and reflect on it. When did I do the most significant things? What worked? When did time slip away from me? Benjamin Franklin used to start the day with the question “What good can I do today?” and end it with “What good have I done today?”

Let the day go.

Let the day go.

My gut feel is that as I spend time in the evening being grateful, then the shape of the days will come.

Relive the week? Relive the past? No thank you! But reflect on it? Yes. Learn from it? Yes.

And never give up, never give up, never give up.

Rick Hanson has great things to say about regret and gratitude.

I’d really like to know what you think.