The Circle of Life Brings Comfort

There is evidence all around us of rebirth and renewal.

Grief is a horrible thing to experience, and it washes over all of us sooner or later. Things fall apart. The center does not hold.

Personally, I take great solace from the evidence all around us of rebirth and renewal. I will pass away one day, but someone or something will step in to take my place. It will grow through me or out of me or in spite of me or because of me. Nature will out. That’s why Spring is such a glorious, vitalizing time, after the death of Winter.

Recently, this photograph showed up on my cell phone wallpaper, and it really caught my imagination. I mean, here’s a ship, half sunken, abandoned, rusting and rotting away, and enough sand and soil has gathered within it’s broken hull to provide a place for trees to sprout. A ship becomes an island. That intrigues me.

I learned that this hulk started its life in 1863 as the SS City of Adelaide, a steam ship. It was built in Scotland, and had a regular route between Melbourne, Sydney, Honolulu and San Francisco. In 1890 its boilers and engines were removed and 4 masts were added.

By 1902, this vessel was only fit to be a hulk for coal storage, It caught fire in 1912, and it took days to put the fire out. In 1915, the hull was stripped, and what was left was sent off to Magnetic Island to become a breakwater on the coast, but it never quite made it. It ran aground in Cockle Bay, and has been there ever since, slowly turning into an island. During WWII, the hulk was used for bombing practice, but one of the planes accidentally hit a mast, and 4 military men were killed.

I like this story. Created by man and a slave to man’s whims, then attacked by its creators and then tragic retaliation. This thing has now become part of nature. Talk about the circle of life.

While researching this post, I came across many other vessels that are now sporting trees, including this abandoned ship outside of Anacortes, Washington, and also the SS Ayrfield in Sydney.

Mother Nature reclaims everything, if only we leave her alone to do her thing. When I die, I’d like to become compost and nurture a tree in an abandoned ship. I think that would be very satisfying.

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Who’s the Animal in This Scenario?

One of the most distressing features of social media is that it really highlights the more despicable aspects of humanity. If I’m not reading about some sick $&*@(% who buried a dog alive, leaving only its snout exposed, causing its eventual death, then I’m seeing pictures of men cheering as roosters slice each other to ribbons. If I’m not hearing about people who get off on torturing black cats at Halloween, then I’m learning that the Amish (whom you would expect to have a moral compass), are some of the worst perpetrators of puppy mills, because they see dogs as livestock to be exploited. And how does one hunt not for food, but for fun, Trump Junior?

And then there are all those animal rescue videos. It warms your heart that all these animals are saved, rehabilitated, and given forever homes, yes, but it’s horrifying that they were abandoned in the first place. Seriously, how hard is it to spay or neuter your pets, or, here’s a thought, not take the responsibility of owning one if you don’t have the maturity to follow through?

And don’t even get me started about people who tie their dogs up in the back yard, all alone, even in the worst weather imaginable. Because I’ll cut a b****, if I have to, to prevent that. I really will.

There is nothing lower than someone who abuses, neglects, abandons, or tortures a helpless creature. How do people who do that carry on with the rest of their lives? How do you send out for pizza while you have dozens of animals starving in their own filth in a shed somewhere? How do you read your kid a bedtime story after having reveled in the painful death of a creature that you’ve forced to fight for its life? How do you decorate your Christmas tree after dumping kittens on the side of the road like so much garbage? How does that work?

Trump Junior

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Child Witch Hysteria

Every day in Africa, hundreds of children are declared to be witches. Once this happens, their lives are effectively over. They are tortured for confessions, abandoned by their families or murdered by villagers. Schools will no longer teach them. Hospitals will no longer treat them.

These children are blamed for any family misfortune. Disease, miscarriage, unemployment, death in the family…all these things surely must be because the most vulnerable among us is a witch. You can also be considered a witch simply by virtue of being born with a deformity. It is claimed that these children feast on human flesh. They are stigmatized, feared, and cast out by society.

This practice has experienced an extreme resurgence this century, mainly thanks to the movies put out by the Liberty Gospel Church, an extreme Pentecostal sect in Nigeria that combines a weird brand of Christianity with ancient cultural beliefs in witchcraft. One of their movies, “End of the Wicked” goes into graphic details about these witches, and claims that this information is in the bible, and that these things are all facts.

A lot of the adherence to this practice probably has to do with the extreme poverty in which these people live. They are unable to support these children, and witchcraft is an effective excuse for society to abandon them. It’s really the only “acceptable” excuse.

To exact confessions from these kids, people will beat them, deprive them of food, put acid in their eyes, force them to sit on fires, or drive nails into their skulls. Once a “confession” is exacted, many of these children are buried alive, or have stones tied to their legs and then are thrown off bridges, are abandoned in the bush, or are poisoned.

A big industry has grown up to take advantage of those parents who do not want their children to suffer from this stigma. Unscrupulous people claim that they can exorcise the witches, and it will “only” cost a year’s income. If the parents can’t pay, these evil people will hold the child captive, torturing them all the while, until the parents pay up.

According to Wikipedia, this practice is common in Angola, Gambia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Congo, and Ethiopia. This movie on Youtube, entitled Dispatches: Saving Africa’s Witch Children, will tell you all about the practice in Nigeria. I have to warn you that it will also break your heart.

I cannot stress enough the importance of education to combat these horrible beliefs. Until then, though, these children need to be protected, housed, educated and treated so that they can reclaim what little childhood may be left to them.

If you would like to help these children, please join me in donating to Safe Child Africa. Since it’s a British-based organization, your donations will be in pounds, not dollars, but they do accept credit cards.

If you are reading this on a computer or another electronic device, chances are you are much better off than these children will ever be. Take a moment to appreciate that. And please help if you can.

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The “witches” of Africa thank you.

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Textilelandia

Do winter scarves go to that same place where socks go? If so, they enter by a different portal. Socks seem to exit our universe through the dryer, perhaps via some complex law of physics having to do with heat and centrifugal force. But scarves just seem to dissolve into thin air. They were on our necks a minute ago…

Gloves must have complex relationships, because they often seem to get divorced. One minute they’re together, happily spooning in your pocket, and then at some point, without so much as a by-your-leave, they go their separate ways. We’ve all seen that lone glove, sitting on a park bench, looking depressed and unloved. Pity the poor glove.

But if I could hear the end of but one story in my life, it would be the one about the abandoned shoe. Why do so many individual shoes find themselves sprawled on the interstate? Were they cast out violently by their owners? (“Out! Out! Damned shoe!”) Is it the aftermath of some Khruschev-like shoe-banging incident, more common than we’ve been led to believe? Were these shoes so desperate to avoid foot odor that they preferred suicide?

These are things I think about.

I shall leave you with the poem “The Second Coming” by William Butler Yeats. Written nearly a hundred years ago, this poem is becoming eerily apropos.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

one-shoe

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Traveling with Quagmire

Way back in March (my, how time flies) I adopted a little black Dachshund and named him Quagmire. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with him ever since. To say that this dog has issues would be putting it mildly.

First of all, I had no idea how stubborn Dachshunds are as a breed. But then add on top of it that this particular dog was abandoned to wander the streets of Olympia, where he was found dirty and half starved, and then, from his perspective, he was put into puppy prison for God knows how long before I came to his rescue.

What you get is a headstrong dog who finds it nearly impossible to trust, and even less possible to relax. He is extremely territorial. If someone even walks down the street in front of the house, he barks incessantly. And for such a little dog, he has a big, deep, “I’m really a Rottweiler” kind of bark, which is impossible to ignore.

He once busted through the screen door and nipped a cop on the ankle. Well, actually he gummed him on the ankle. He has no front teeth. When I adopted him I discovered they were all cracked and had to be removed. Still, I’m amazed he survived that one.

He also barks and lunges at what few visitors I have. This does not make for a warm welcome.(As if I didn’t already have a hard enough time finding a boyfriend.)

When I come home, even after a short absence, he’s hysterical with joy. He’ll throw himself into my arms, wrap his paws around my neck and press his forehead firmly against my lips, all while crying. He sticks to me like glue. He has to come into the bathroom while I shower or he’ll stand outside the door and cry. He spoons with me in bed. When I’m lying there working on my laptop, he sort of perches on my shoulder and the pillows, presses his ear against my cheek and watches the screen intently.

Quagmire is the neediest creature on the face of the earth.

When it’s just the two of us, I don’t really mind. He’s a love sponge. And since there’s really no way to explain to him that he’s safe, he’s home, and he’ll never be abandoned again, I just do my best to reassure him. I know what it’s like to have been through a lot. I know what it’s like to have been let down. I know what it’s like to want nothing more than to be loved.

I just could do with a little less barking. And I wish he wasn’t such a bully to my other dog, Devo, who is sweet beyond words and wants nothing more than to be Quagmire’s friend. And I’ll probably never travel with him again.

I took them both with me recently, for a vacation on the Oregon coast. It was a 6 ½ hour drive. For the first 3 ½ hours, Quagmire sat in the back seat and whistle/cried. The first hour I tried ignoring him in hopes that he would settle down and fall asleep, which is what Devo always does. That didn’t work. Then I tried shouting “No!” That only encouraged him. I tried singing 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall in hopes of drowning him out, but by about bottle 63, I realized that it was a futile endeavor. I was beginning to see why someone abandoned his annoying little ass. I thought I was going to lose my mind.

After our second dog walk break he finally, finally went to sleep, and a very relieved Devo followed suit. I had tried to sightsee along the way, but Quagmire would bark and lunge at the other sightseers, so I gave up and just continued to our destination. I missed a lot of interesting things because of him.

After venting my frustrations to a friend, she said, “You know, you could always give him back.”

But he’s not a flaming bag of poo. I can’t just drop him on the front steps of animal control and run. I made a commitment to this dog. This is his forever home. I just wish he understood that.

At the end of our vacation, I left them in the room while I packed the car, and this freaked Quagmire out. He must have thought he would be abandoned all over again. So on the last trip from the room to the car, he bolted past me and ran down the stairs.

I dropped everything and chased after him, shouting, “Quagmire! Quagmire!” but he kept running. Now I was the one to be scared. Too scared to think how strange it must have looked to see some frazzled woman running down the street screaming quagmire for no visible reason. (That’s not something I had considered when I named him.)

I didn’t want him to be hurt. He charged around the corner and toward the street. I was sure I’d lost him. Then I rounded the corner and there he was, scratching at the car door, as if to say, “Take me with you.”

We stared at each other for a minute, and then I scooped him up in my arms and said, “I’m never going to leave you. I promise.”

But that didn’t stop the little shit from crying for another 3 ½ hours on the way home.

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Shield Man

Not far from one of the bridges where I work is an abandoned building covered with graffiti. A homeless guy is squatting in one of the sheds on the property. He likes to carry a bright pink shield that he seems to have fashioned out of scrap wood, duct tape and a plastic bag. He isn’t doing anyone any harm. He’s a lot safer there than he would be squatting under some overpass like the majority of the mentally ill in Seattle seem to do.

But the other day I saw four teenage boys descend on the place. They were probably only looking for someplace out of the rain to smoke weed. They went into the dark building and disappeared. This rousted shield man from his shed, and he started patrolling the perimeter of the property, brandishing his pink shield. He paced back and forth, back and forth, for about 15 minutes. I was actually kind of scared for him, because these four young men could have easily taken him out if they wanted to, in spite of his protection, or perhaps because of it.

Finally the boys left the building and watched shield man pace for a minute or two. They were obviously thinking. I contemplated calling the police before someone got hurt, but they would have kicked shield man out of his shed, too, and he’d be a lot worse off. So I simply watched nervously. First sign of trouble I was going to get on the phone.

Finally the boys left, and shield man went to where they had been standing and indignantly tamped out their reefer butts. Clearly he has some form of pride of place. He then went back into his shed. Crisis averted.

I can’t even imagine what this man’s life is like. He’s all alone in his damp metal shed with only his shield to keep him company. But he’s doing the best he can. Aren’t we all? Or are we? We should be able to do better for men like him.

graffiti

[Image credit: thedirtfloor.com]