The Critter Side of Things

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This of course is not to say all critters or all things, but just a few from my point of view; it rained buckets yesterday and last night – I would have said ‘cats and dogs’ or even ‘loads of frogs’ but out of respect, considering…when nature cuts loose like that it is interesting to watch the critters. As it was, for being only shortly after noon, the Howlers were making a racket…and it went on and on for at least an hour and then some; we definitely were wondering what was up, as we had had the second ‘tremor’ in a week that morning – nary a mention of either on any earthquake pages.

Although we could feel it in the atmosphere early in the day, it came in fast and hard and it was dark by 2pm – then the rains began; I thought uh-oh, I should have fed the dogs before this, I am going to get wet. But the cosmos heard my request and gave me a brief respite (merely showers, not deluge) for enough time to get the dogs fed and put away in their yards before the dumping. And then she came down, torrentially, for hours. Everything was flooding all around as it could not run off fast enough and we imagined that today many would most likely experience mudslides and trees down ‘out there’ – our power was off for most of the night. But back to the critters…Mariposa’s pen and house is dry enough, and Mo’s house is dry, howeverTosha’s yard was flooding and her house was wet – she had nowhere to go so we turned her loose. She was having a hard time finding a dry spot around the house, but she parked valiantly and vigilantly next to the door, still getting wet. (Australian Cattle Dogs or Queensland Blue Heelers are this way). And then we smelled skunk, in the downpour – a skunk was looking for shelter and spraying enough every step of the way, I can only imagine a den flooded out and nowhere to go! I was just hoping that she didn’t seek refuge in the only dry spot around – under the truck. Fortunately Tosha stood her ground, even though it was ultimately not a win for her (any of us, actually), but the skunk moved on. And we were all grateful.

This is our sixth rainy season here, and by far the most wild, wet and stormy one. All of the ‘locals’ profess this to be more ‘normal’ for what the weather was before it got what evidently we have been experiencing as ‘more dry’. And so my curiosity is more about what appears to me to be the ‘anomalies’ of the critter behavior part, if indeed they are anomalies – or normal. One thing I must seriously question is the behavior of the wasps, as they are aggressive, endless and relentless. We have had to resort to means that I do not appreciate to keep them at bay, however thus far it is a losing battle – they keep coming and getting more aggressive.  Moving right along…

We had been to town earlier in the day – in quick and out quick, farmer’s market day – and had picked up some hay for the horses that morning – and just managed to get home as it was starting to get dark and sprinkle. The hay was tucked into a black plastic sheet wrap in the back of the truck, but our current living situation does not afford much in the way of dry space for such things – on the edge of regularly used space (i.e. carport) and thus vulnerable to sudden catastrophic downpours. The plastic came out to cover half the porch, and the hay – but everything still got damp, including the hay. I had set out half a bale to feed the horses when they came down the road in the afternoon, but apparently they had holed up in as dry a spot as possible – which was still in the rain; suffice it to say that they did not get their hay yesterday. One day our horses will have shelter…soon. But in the meantime, they get wet.

When we lived in the frigid plains our horses lived out on the ranch, and only a privileged few had protection from the elements (stud horse, colts, the infirmary) – everybody else got a very thick fuzzy coat and had to find spots under trees, in the lee…instinctively, they know where to be. But inevitably, they were out in the weather 24/7. Funny thing, that – even when they have shelter unless it is wet AND cold, they prefer to be out in it; ideally makes for some tough horses, tho. Here being out in the rain when you have an especially long rainy season can lead to skin issues (like ‘rain rot’), which we have to deal with, and a shelter has purpose. But, the horses are tough just the same and they had managed to find someplace somewhat drier until we saw them this morning.

This morning the sky was still cloudy and the possibility of rain still imminent was written all over it, but the skies were also filled with a tremendous amount of bird activity. There were the chacalacas flying amongst the trees, and of course the guans were all around, and then some gliding toucans came in for the mammon chino fruits now in abundance. But cutest of all was a little ant wren that saw a small puddle of very muddy water that had formed under a flowering shrub just off of the deck in front of my window. Apparently it was just too enticing, she decided it was bath time and initially she tested the waters carefully – a dip and jump, another, quickly in and out dancing – and then it was complete abandon and joy! She was bathing and splashing and thoroughly immersed in having a great time – even though she had been ‘forced’ to find her own kind of shelter from the storm that had just passed (define ‘bathing’). I watched in wonder and awe at the simple beauty in her joy, even though things could not have been wetter. Thank you little one.

Oh my, the sun has come out! Mate has grabbed a pile of laundry to do – quick, maybe it will dry…It is a challenge during rainy season, since the laundry porch blew down in a storm, to dry the clothes…perseverance in the face of adversity – and quick as a bunny to grab the best moments for accomplishment. Such is life, yeah?

The horses were standing at the gate, waiting for their missed meal and completely dry and unscathed. I grabbed the big pile of hay I had set out from yesterday, very carefully taking into consideration that anything might have found the pile of hay as a refuge in the storm – and I had already been stung by a wasp this week and Mate stung by a very large scorpion on his couch as he laid down to read his book…everything is looking for a dry spot and surprises are to be expected, and hopefully found before they become a surprise. Fortunately I did not have any surprises (in the hay) this morning but the horses were eager to get their hay, and my horse Kinto, the herd jefe, was a little bit too eager…and as I carried the hay down the very wet and slick muddy road to spread it out for the three boys he kept getting in front of me to get me to stop already and let him have some. Well, because I must maintain my position as the jefa, I pushed back. And then of course Tosha was ‘helping’ me with herd regulation policies, instinctive but not well honed, and all of a sudden Kinto bumps me with his hip (Mate says it was a reaction to the dog, which apparently I missed with a huge bundle of hay in my face) but because I had nothing else I threw all of the hay at him and then chased him from it. ‘Watch it, Mister – don’t you bump me ever’. I proceeded to chase him up the road, and the other two horses were watching and thinking, ‘uh-oh, I hope she’s not mad at me – think I’ll just keep my attention on her and scoot way out of the ways  here…’  I told them that they were not in trouble, but when I got to Kinto – he was on the first pile of hay up the road – we had a discussion about things. I looked him right in the eye – he looked at me from the sideways full attention mode – and I gave him fair warning that next time I would not be so forgiving, but considering what Mate said about the dog…

With horses and dogs, when one is dealing with correctional maneuvers, timing is everything – you cannot wait. There is only a so-many-second interval of response time to get your point across, and if you miss it you have to be really ready the next time – and rest assured there will be a next time because they are creatures of habit and anything can instantly become a new habit, or re-enforcement of an old habit (wow, sounds like human behavior, 101). The dogs and horses need a good foundation of ‘rules’ and respect is required on both sides. For my Heeler dogs, being what they are, they will take advantage of an opportunity – watch to see if you are watching them, paying attention, and then bend the rules as much as they dare (especially when instinct grabs them and they feel required to help) – and if they get away with it (acting on their own without orders), it then can become a new ‘rule’ and you go back to lessons again. With a horse, there is herd politics, always ‘the boss’.  Maintaining my position as ‘lead mare’ or ‘alpha bitch’ is important, so when Kinto was ‘testing’ me with his power trip, it was very important that I make my point. I have been caught in an unexpected position with him before where he tested this hierarchy status designation thing and I was surprised and did not respond effectively fast enough. So I had to be ready, attention on, for when it showed up again. And a hungry horse has good impetus to bring out that test – for him. I had to bring out my ferocious side, just as sometimes I have to growl at a dog. I let Kinto know, and I had done the same with Tigre at another time when he tried to establish dominance, and Chuck as well – they all test the waters. It is being consistent that counts and being ready for a ‘surprise’ when it happens again so that you catch it in the act – they associate it and remember it. Dogs the same, but the smart ones will watch for a moment at different times to ‘test the waters’, just in case you changed your mind. For example, since Tosha is a banana thief, as I am preparing the grain for the boys they each get a scoop of grain and some bananas. Well, the dogs like to eat the grain too, but they really like the bananas and she will take each one out of each bucket if I allow it – and a well-timed growl works until the lesson is learned.

We welcomed two new grandsons into the world this past couple of weeks, one of them is a first child and the other is #3 – his siblings are an eleven year old brother and a ten year old sister. They are so in love with their brand new baby brother, and will assume certain new roles within their family ‘pack’ now with the new addition, but I was musing about this…as they engage in watching the baby grow and depending on the personality and roles each tends to assume, they will respond accordingly. They are gentle and careful with the newborn, but as the newborn learns to ‘talk’ to them, roll over and eventually crawl…and when he starts ‘invading’ their personal ‘territory’ (i.e. ‘stuff’, or our personal space when amongst horses…ahem) things will adopt maneuvers and responses vying for pecking order within the ‘pack’ or herd– and within the boundaries of Mom and Dad’s watchful eye, the ever present alpha male and female.

Witnessing this again now, around the grandchildren, takes me back to when my mother had a brand new baby – unexpectedly. I was 14 years old and the youngest at the time; I wanted a sister, as I already had two brothers and I was not happy to hear I had received another brother. My responsibilities towards this, um…how do you say – new sibling, were questionable, especially since my best friend and close neighbor was required to watch her toddler brother, a 12 year difference, 90% of her home time since her mother was ‘not present’ (unfortunately an alcoholic absentee mother). How very interesting the current events that yank us back for a different perspective of times gone  by…and see through different eyes who we were then – in our own personal pack. A very good moment for Ho’o ponopono. We are truly unique ‘animals’ – seeking on planet Earth – and this is just another topic to ponder and muse.

I have always loved to read about and study wild animals, and cats are some of my favorites, as are primates, and elephants, and the whales and dolphins…all of them, really. Well anyway, the African lion pack is very similar (generally speaking) to Apes and Chimpanzees and wolves in their social structure. There is always the alpha male and female, and then the others follow. There are aunties and uncles and it is the roles that these kin play in the family unit that are so endearing, like with child rearing – uncle watches the kids while Mom and Dad go on a hunt. Or Dad tolerates Juniors’ rough housing – until it gets a little too rough, and then rules are established. It’s funny, a mama horse can lay down the rules on Junior WAY better than any human can, ruthlessly, and this is good reason why orphan colts raised by humans are so pushy and ill mannered – very similar to the way some people turn out. Yesterday, as I was in a store and Mate was parked out front waiting and he spied a female walking along the sidewalk in stiletto 5-6” heels, short very tight skirt, very alert and darting eyes with lots of make-up, warily looking every which way, trying to not trip in the cracks and holes of the sidewalk as she made her way through town. The entire population around her had their eyes on her – paying attention to this most definitely other kind of critter with a very unique set of rules, certainly brought up in a different kind of pack – possibly an orphan of sorts…the kind of critter that begs caution. The animal kingdom sports many different roles and rules, but we as humans have been given the gift of self-awareness. And I have heard mention also ‘common sense’, however sometimes I wonder if this has yet to be discovered by the many, sigh.

Well, this is all interesting stuff and I can go on and on, but this started out with weather and critters. And since the sun is shining, the horses are fed and the dogs are dry, it is time for me to go out and transplant critters of a different sort – seedlings, while it is dry… I managed to get half of them done and the laundry is almost half dry as the storm builds and moves down the impressive and wild immense water canyon behind us – giving us a little time to prepare for the day’s deluge, whatever it shall be. The hornets and wasps are on the attack again, this is not good when they come after you in your own space…setting boundaries can be difficult in times of imbalance and chaos and shadow selves being in aggravated states.

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A big storm is a good opportunity to explore more shadows, since it is rapidly getting dark outside – and it is only noon. Since I ultimately must make some kind of point in all of this and as my grown children pointedly ask, ‘and the point is?’ Let’s just say that we are all creatures of earth, and the energies of the earth are all stirred up, unpredictable and chaotic. Each of us critters is required to respond to these energies as we are bombarded, assaulted, or lovingly caressed. Overall the world wide energies are not nice, they are aggressive and chaotic – and this requires our attention for the surprises that undoubtedly come with. How good our attention is and preparedness (anything is possible, both positive and negative – expect the unexpected) for those surprises certainly depends on how much diligence we have applied to our individual learning and growing experiences in life. There is no escaping the aggression, even here in this most incredible and peaceful total earth mother space that we live in, the hornets and wasps are angry and aggressive; the river is fast, harsh and dangerous; the horses are agitated and pushing their power (and a horse is very powerful) around; the Howlers are howling…yet despite the individual agitations there is pure joy in a bath, after being drenched in a storm. The storms will keep on coming, different than ever before – thus paying attention to our own personal energy, automatic responses or slow reactions even is a must-do; there is power in our thoughts and perceptions to all that is around us…we have the gift within to adjust our own personal dial to a good station. Herd mentality is for real – it is now the time for us as hu-Be-ings to step into the eye of the storm and detach from the herd, take those surprise challenges (mudslide comes to mind) and make the best of them (mud pies?)!😉 Establish that safe personal space around your Self(vibration), utilize the cosmic energies of Venus conjunct Jupiter and manifest the best you possibly can, no matter what form the storm!

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