Category: Animals

Dynamic stability

This is the third post about Thomas Friedman’s 2016 book, Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations. A brief excerpt of Friedman quoting Eric “Astro” Teller:

There are some ways of being, like riding a bicycle, where you cannot stand still, but once you are moving it is actually easier. It is not our natural state. But humanity has to learn to exist in this state. …

When that happens, said Teller, “in a weird way we will be calm again, but it will take substantial relearning. We definitely don’t train our children for dynamic stability.”

We will need to do that, though, more and more, if we want future generations to thrive and find their own equilibrium.

My understanding of dynamic stability is this: Our tacit knowledge (what we learned from our parent figures, in school, in our life experience, our humble share of the accumulated human wisdom and common sense) coupled with new, lifelong learning discoveries and insights we make each day. (Tomorrow: Some personal examples.)

From “George the Skateboarding English Bulldog,” a 4 1/2 minute video from ClarkCountyNV, via YouTube

Waiting for good news

For St. Nicholas Day: As we drove to an Advent worship service, she marveled at the brilliant colors of the trees. When she took off her sunglasses, she realized that without them the tree colors were less vibrant. Later, inside the sanctuary, she said, “I don’t like those blue candles.” I said, “Put on your sunglasses. They’ll look purple.”

The lens through which we view the world does make a difference. My first word was “lights” at Christmas when I was a year old. Lighted trees are mystical–putting me in a reflective mood. When I rub Friar by the tree, both of us are calmed. In the early days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, we saw countless dogs and cats fleeing with their humans. I wondered about those people and critters as they wait for news of peace.

Some friends and family wait for news of healing. Some are displaced by layoffs, darkened by damaged power grids, confused by changes in their faith communities, frightened by random acts of violence. Uncertainty abounds. And so we wait. From Reddit comes this light-hearted video clip of how waiting works at doggie day camp.

Down to earth

She’s measured, level-headed, analytical, and deeply committed to fairness, justice and the rule of law as expressed in the US Constitution. She served as US Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama (2009-2017). Since 2018 she has been a contributor to MSNBC and since 2021 has co-hosted the #SistersInLaw podcast with Jill Wine-BanksBarbara McQuade and Kimberly Atkins Stohr.

Her Civil Discourse is among the “first reads” in my email inbox. Yesterday’s post may be her best yet: “Why prosecutors are entitled to Mike Pence’s testimony.” She applied everything in my first sentence (above) to whether former Vice President Mike Pence should receive a subpoena in the Justice Department’s investigation of Donald Trump’s involvement in the January 6, 2021 insurrection. From her closing paragraph:

Pence needs to be reminded that the law applies to him too. He’s a witness to a crime and in our system of laws, not men, high office doesn’t and can’t insulate a person from their responsibility to testify about facts they observed. The sooner we get back to enforcing those basics in a serious way designed to instill confidence in the rule of law, the better off we will be. The glare Mike Pence used on the journalist who interviewed him won’t work on DOJ. The American people deserve to know the truth.

Joyce Vance is very down to earth. Some of her Civil Discourse posts are about her pets, as in “A Saturday with Chickens,” November 19, 2022

Annie, a graying lab

Hair color is partly a function of age. I went from blonde to brown to gray to white. It’s my Combs genes. Grandma Combs (nee Mullins) lived to be 104. I only knew her as white-headed. She produced a flock of white-haired descendants. It could be the Mullins genes, but all my white-haired kin are or were named Combs. Sadly, some folks don’t live long enough to experience this trichological trajectory.

I feel a trichological kinship with Annie, a black Labrador Retriever, age 19. She’s pushing the age envelope for labs. She was featured on Today. I learned about Annie shortly after spending a memorable afternoon with my aunt in her new memory care facility. My aunt’s caregivers inspire me. They understand the world of those whose memories are slipping away. Annie’s inspire me, too.

Annie’s new adopted friends were told she might have a month to live. They are now into month four and Annie is enjoying an impressive “bucket list.” Love is about helping others sing their song, or experience their bucket lists–looking beyond wrinkles, limps and trichological transformations.

From “After a 19-year-old dog was surrendered at a shelter, two best friends took her in,” by Liz Calvario, Today,

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.