Category: Animals

Pilgrim people

Pilgrimage is a significant Old Testament theme. Abraham and Sarah, first generation migrants, moved (at age 75 for Abraham) from Ur to Canaan. This was the first of many migrations that took place for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they were welcomed, sometimes they were viewed as illegal immigrants. To think biblically includes put oneself in the situation of a migrant–or to at least having empathy for those who journey from one place to another.

Some pilgrimages were permanent life resettlements. Some were occasional or annual, such as journeys to Jerusalem for Passover. In the OT, Psalms 120-134 were sung as pilgrims made their way to the Temple mount in Jerusalem. The one biblical story of Jesus’ youth was about his separation from parents during a pilgrimage of Nazareth folks to the Jerusalem Temple. Pilgrimage can be a way of remembering our roots and i can be a journey to new and better days.

As part of a month-long camping trip, much of yesterday was spent at the Roosevelt Campobello International Park, just across the Maine border in Canada. Unexpectedly, I became emotional. The park’s spirit of international cooperation, the leadership role played by the US, and the extraordinary leadership of Eleanor Roosevelt reminded me of the America I remember before our detour into lesser things with the rise of Trumpism. Campobello was a healing pilgrimage, a homecoming.

Friar and a piltrim


After reading the latest “Trump did what?” article in Friday’s Washington Post, I ran across Cathy Free’s article, “A dog was missing. Cavers found her two months later 500 feet underground.” I don’t remember the Trump article. They all run together after awhile, but I’ll remember Abby’s story.

I’ll also remember Gerry Keene, a 59-year-old spelunker, who was exploring a cave 500 feet under Missouri. He saw Abby curled up on a rock in total darkness. She was too weak to wag her tail or whimper. Keene took a photo of the dog and climbed out of the cave to get some help.

Caver Rick Haley, 66, heard about it and went with Keene to help carry the dog out. Meanwhile word spread that a dog had been found. The two men put her in a padded duffel bag, with her head poking out, and hauled her out of the cave. Abby had been missing for two months. She’s 14-years-old.

Abby was reunited with her grateful family–a story with a happy ending. No search warrant. No political posturing. Just a lost dog and two guys with soft hearts and a love of spelunking. This week, let’s look for more stories like this. From now on, if Abby sees Gerry or Rick, I’m sure she’ll wag her tail.

From “A caving project became a rescue mission after a dog was found 500 feet down,” by Wynne Davis, NPR, August 12, 2022

My context is too small

Yesterday, after giving my aunt’s room a spring cleaning (while she’s at a rehab facility), I stopped at Burger Station 120 for a Southern Railroad burger on my way home. I didn’t know why I was humming “The Circle of Life” theme song from 1994 film, The Lion King until I read responses to yesterday’s post from Ernie and Kathy. Memory loss is sad. Aging is a pain. But, it’s part of the circle of life.

It was an epiphany, a splash of cold water. When I’m sad (Ukraine) or depressed (church secession), or worried (health), or angry (politics)… invariably I’m reminded that in the Big Picture, “it’s all small stuff.” Without diminishing the urgency or pain of any of the “stuff,” I find energy and healing when I can put our problems within a larger context, such as faith, or the circle of life, or the Universe.

J.B. Phillips (1906-1982), biblical trail blazer, wrote Your God Is Too Small (1952). To paraphrase the Paraphraser, I continually say to self: “Your context is too small.” When I look at problems with self-centered tunnel vision, it’s like seeing the Universe through a cardboard toilet paper roll, as a child might, thus hiding from my view the grandeur of the earth, the Milky Way, the Universe.

In the Big Picture, my aunt–including her diminished memory (whose isn’t?)–is a whole person and a vital part of the circle. So are you!

From “Who is God?” an excellent introduction to the contributions of J.B. Phillips at Sarah’s Musings, January 26, 2018

Nature journaling

My friend Ernie Stokely, retired after a long career in biomedical engineering, recently tried his hand at “nature journaling,” which is taking a sketching journal into the field on hikes and drawing observations of animals and plants encountered on the outing. Watercoloring can be included.

Ernie takes pictures and does the art work “off line” once he gets home. A couple of days ago, Ernie was looking online at watercolor paints and pencils, and it occurred to him that nature journaling in 2022 is a retro hobby! He realized that his grandson is learning to create art with a digital tablet, using sophisticated software, while Ernie was buying pencils and paints!

It reminded him of people who dig out old turntables and 33 1/3 vinyl records from closets, attics and basements, while mountains of free music are readily available. Ernie asks, “Is it nostalgia, or is it a rediscovery and fascination with old technology by recent generations?”

Cornell’s ornithology videographer (yesterday’s post) and Ernie have turned my mind toward nature and the creativity it inspires. I asked Ernie to share a sketch or two. What inspires you?


The Jewish day begins at sundown with a mini-Sabbath, a time of celebration and rest. A meal, family time and rest are preparation for the workday. Sundown Friday ’til sundown Saturday is a day of Sabbath. Some Christians continue the tradition of Saturday Sabbath. The earliest Christians, virtually all Jewish, gathered in synagogues on Sabbath, then met in someone’s home on the first day of the week (Sunday), which came to be called “the Lord’s day.” Whatever one’s practice, Sabbath celebration and rest is a source of renewal and a time of harmony with the earth and earth’s creatures.

In that Sabbath spirit, I offer Rita Clagett’s 2/10/22 post, “Hargila,” from her Morning Rounds blog. It’s about the endangered greater adjutant stork, and the work of Dr. Purnima Devi Barman, a conservation biologist in Assam, India also known as “Stork Sister.” The local people in northeast India call the bird Hargila. Barman and her women’s conservation movement are known as the “Hargila Army.”

Adult Hargila and their chicks in a tree-top nest, from the video cited below

Hargila: A Story of Love and Conservation,” is a half-hour video by photographer Gerrit Vyn and videographer Andy Johnson of the Cornell University Ornithology Lab. “The film reveals the awkward beauty of these birds, which may have evolved as far back as 15 million years ago, as well as their present peril.” A 100-foot bamboo tower was built to capture images from tree-top Hargila nests. They followed the birds to their feeding ground (a garbage dump) 10-kilometers from their nesting area.

Hargila scavenge for meat carcasses and other food while humans scavenge for recycled goods to sell, from the video cited above

First walk of the year

I stayed up too late looking for Dick Clark. It was daylight when I woke up. First memo in the new year: “Don’t do that again.”

Friar brought me the leash for our first walk of the year. He was saying, “We’re behind schedule.” It was a balmy, windy, tee-shirt day. Alabama has great weather between storms–like life itself, sometimes.

We had the road to ourselves, so the leash stayed in my pocket. As we walked, I considered changing my breath prayer. For many years it has been, “Jesus, keep me simple.” Jesus prayed to Abba. Should I?

Is “Abba” too limited? I asked Friar’s opinion about gender-neutral prayer. His eyes said, “My name is Friar (“brother”), but I’m gender-neutered. It’s not my issue.” Deer scents were far more interesting.

I searched via my phone for “gender-neutral word for Abba.” I found three sites (below). More tomorrow.

“Abba, Father: Inclusive Language and Theological Salience,” by H.E. Baber.

Word Study: Abba-אבא,” by Chaim Bentorah.

Abba, Amma, Adonai: An Australian Journey in Gender,” by Alexis.


Nativity: motherhood

On Monday, driving my aunt back to her assisted living home, I borrowed a line from her mother. About 66 years ago, as a pre-schooler, I arrived at her mom’s house and asked, “Where’s Pete?” Of the many delights of those visits, Pete was near the top. She said, “Pete’s in heaven.”

We were on our way to Buddy’s BBQ, a delight of our monthly trips to the retina specialist for an eye injection. With undying motherly concern about her son’s lunch plans, she asked, “Where’s Charles?” I thought of her mother as I replied, “Charles is in heaven.”

She and I are comfortable with such conversations because it’s hard to remember who’s where. In a phone call last winter, when I asked about snow, she said, “Not here, but I called mom and they had some snow.” Her mom has been with Pete in the Greater Realm since 1995.

I said, “You cared for Charles a long time before he died. A mom always makes sure her child is OK.” As we motored through the Appalachian hill country, I began humming “I Wonder as I Wander.”

In memory of Pete, from “English Pointer: The All-Around Companion Dog,” by Ben, Critter Culture, October 5, 2020

Dog training

Intelligence and patience vary greatly in dogs and humans. I see much of myself in our dog Friar. Like some of his fellow labs, he can be stubborn or very gentle and patient. Like many of his fellow labs, the next meal is life’s top priority. I think I’m part lab. Fortunately, he seems to understand and this makes him more patient.

Friar constantly sharpens his training skills. A fleet of toys reside in his bedside tub, or anywhere in the house from time to time. Two are purple balls, a football and a round “jolly ball,” with a handle so he can carry it with his mouth. The jolly ball has resided on a barstool with his leash. A mention of “leash” and he fetches it.

Lately, about an hour before dinner, Friar has begun to bring me the football. I take it, thank him, and say, “Let’s get the jolly ball.” He delicately fetches it from the barstool and presents it to me. We go outside to play toss and fetch, with a few treats to tide him over until dinner. He’s visibly pleased that training me is paying off.

Today, the jolly ball is in a new home at his level so he doesn’t need help to get it. Will he by-pass the ritual of exchanging the two purple balls? Will he directly invite me to our toss-and-fetch game with the jolly ball? Will he wonder why it took so long for me to figure it out? It takes the patience of a dog to train a human.

Sharpen the focus

In my youth (roughly 15-55), I was blessed with an abundance of energy, like a dog I knew that was very large and always very happy to see me (or anyone else). What he lacked in intelligence he made up for with enthusiasm.

Now in middle-age (roughly ten years either side of now), lights aren’t as bright, hills seem steeper, sounds are more muffled, and my memory is no longer “on call,” but rather “on break.” Fortunately, there’s intentionality.

When my mom began chemotherapy, her oncologist said she would lose her hair. She took cancer in stride but she was determined not to lose her hair. I humored her stubbornness and she tolerated my skepticism. She died months later without losing one follicle. I’m just sayin’.

Another word for intentionality is focus. Focus is life’s lesson for middle age. When tasks overwhelm, when bad news comes in waves, when things don’t work out, when ignorance or injustice abound … I tell myself: focus. One day at a time, one foot in front of the other.

Harry Denman’s intentionality (yesterday’s post) reminded me of John Wesley and Wesley’s mentor William Law, who taught Wesley the importance of intention, or will. Law showed Wesley how to sharpen his focus. Tomorrow’s post will focus on William Law.

From “How to Sharpen Your Focus This Year,” by Annie Zelm, Writer’s Guild at, January 22, 2021 (photo of Haddie, Zelm’s dog)


Yesterday was my Aunt Margaret’s 90th birthday. We spent six days at two Tennessee state parks making our way to her assisted living facility. While there, our dog Friar befriended two dogs who live there with their humans. Friar would be too large to qualify for occupancy there, but he likes to visit.

The two smaller dogs tend to bark at newcomers. As he approached, they followed their instincts and warned the rest of the “pack” of a potential intruder. Old Friar just lumbered up the sidewalk wagging his tail. I’ve learned that if the larger dog wags his (or her) tail, the smaller ones usually relax.

Watson, a Terrier, was skeptical but his human let Friar sniff her hand then she let Watson sniff her hand. It worked. The UN might try that sometime. Dolly, a little Pomeranian, bravely but gingerly walked up to Friar. They each lifted a paw as if to “shake.” Friar lay so that he was eye to eye with Dolly.

Missing was Izzie, who moved into the facility years ago with her human. When her human died, Izzie remained and became the official resident dog that she already was. Izzie died a few days ago, friendly to the end. A memorial will be installed. Meanwhile, someone left this remembrance: