Monday, June 15, 2009

Their Lives Our Voices

Just got back from the TLOV (Their Lives Our Voices) conference in Minneapolis. (My old stomping grounds).

Flew from NC to MPLS for the weekend of tabling, speaking and seeing my oldest friends.

TLOV was fabulous. Got to finally meet my email and cell phone buddy Colleen Patrick Goudreau ( and got to hang out with some of the best vegan activists on the planet. Heard Nathan Runkle for the first of the best AR speakers I have ever listened to. My plan was to just look in on his talk because I was busy with other things at my table..but, an hour later I found myself still sitting, totally engaged.

My old Minnesota/Wisconsin friends actually came to the talks I led on Sunday. They worked their butts off at my table and took me out for dinner. It was the first time I felt like my being vegan was not something they thought was too foreign to ask about or want to think about. I was so moved by their curiosity and genuine interest in this new possibility. That was the biggest gift of the weekend. This work, this lifestyle practice that is at my core became a connection point rather than a distancing fence between me and my loving friends.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Hitting the Road.....

Rolling out of Athens and into the unknown…

I just have to say that having a blog seems like a strange thing to do. Who gives a hoot about our daily breaths and farts?
JC and I are on the road. Sold our house and living in our camper on wheels.
A bunch of folks have pretty much begged for a blog. I love writing, they obviously love reading about everyday mundane things like gratitude and food and menopause and misshaps ... so this blog could very well be a perfect match

Everyone asks us ,”Where ya headed? What’s your plan?” So before you think that this blog has a plan or we have a plan, let me just get this out of the way: We have no plan. We are headed into all unknown and so is this blog.
After we lead some workshops in Ohio late July, we have no idea where we are heading or what we are doing. I keep picturing that great bumper sticker “All Who Wander Are Not Lost”.
Then, I was in the laundromat waiting for our clothes to dry and looked at the lost and found and saw a paperback called Rolling to Nowhere. "Perfect", I thought, "someone already wrote our book."

We are on our friends land in the Celo Community about an hour north of Asheville. Celo Community (Quaker community that has been around about 60 years borders national forest and the view outside our windows is of the mountains. Up on the ridge of those mountains is the Appalacian Trail....and I have walked that whole ridge at different times in my life. So great to be looking up at it now. There is a cold clear river across the road and we dunk with the dogs when it gets too hot (90 yesterday).

I went to yoga taught by an eighty year old woman yesterday morning. This woman is in better shape than I was in my twenties. I am not kidding . I could not do half of what she could do. She shouted over to me in her Katherine Hepburn-esk accent, “Come on Rae, you can get that leg lower than that…breath into it and try harder.” I tried. No go. Ten minutes later she was doing these sit-uppy things that require abs of steel. When she started pushing me to get my self up I begged her for a tow rope. She kicked my butt in that class for almost two hours. I was inspired to take better care of myself. Even when on the road.

A neighbor found a half dead baby possom full of wounds and blood at her place yesterday. She brought him to the camper in the afternoon and asked me about him. I said I would take him and nurse him back to health if I could. He had yellow fly eggs filling every deep flesh wounds and covering his tail and ears.

I made a mixture with softened dog food, mashed banana, water, bach rescue remedy, salt, agave syrup, and a little bit of antibiotic powder out of a stash of veterinary antibiotics I keep in the dog first aid kit. I gave it to him every few hours with a dropper and cleaned up his fur and wounds.

It is 5 am on day two with him when I am writing this.
I got up to feed him. This possom raising is a lot of intuition and a little science with me.
I went into our camper bathroom, turned on the light, looked in the bathtub where I left him sleeping a few hours ago and he was gone. Wait, this is the cut up, bloody, yellow ooze out of his eyes, spine sticking out skinny, can't walk little possom. At least he wasn't still covered in fly eggs when I last saw him. (I had gotten them all off of him with a flea comb). My mouth was literally wide open when I saw he was gone. I picked up the towels lining the bathtub. Nope, not under there. I picked up the little cardboard clubhouse that I made him and turned it upside down, like in a magicians show, just to prove to myself it was really empty. I searched every nook of the bathroom including the inside of all 15 toilet paper rolls and our dirty laundrybasket. I was wearing my headlamp. No kid to be seen. (we just call him KId so we wont get attached to him). I cannot imagine how he got out of the tub. It is a long way down the side to the floor. Somehow he did get down there. Then I saw it: Under the door is a gap big enough for a possom. I had closed the door to keep the dogs from eating him, I never imagined I had to worry about him walking out under the door. I looked all over the floor and ledges and couldn't find him. Still using my bright headlamp, I went outside and checked all around in the field and woods that are nearby, hoping to catch him before he went too far. I know he is not ready for the big wild world yet.
I came back in the camper, amazed that he got past both dogs and somehow made it out of here. The door is wide open for the dogs to go in and out. It just has a little screen flap.
I decided to do one more check inside, even though, by this time, I am convinced he has gone outside to die somewhere. I was disappointed because I was really sure we were making quick progress.
As my headlamp lights up the area next to my side of the bed, I am so relieved to see one curled up little possom who has made a bed with my socks and has gone to sleep. I picked him up and got his food ready. He ate like a carb loading marathon runner. This was one hungry little fella. With a full belly, he went to sleep in his favorite spot: a little marsupial pouch made out of a pillow case at my belly. He is there now while I type. This means I am not going back to sleep. I cannot take a chance he will wake up and be a dead possom walking. Although our dog Bean leaves him alone when I am around, I have a feeling she would think of him as one of her squeaky toys as soon as I turn my back. I will take a photo of him in marsupial pouchland if I can. I hope you can see his gigantic yoda ears.
He is healing fast. His eyes are getting clear and his wounds aren't bloody or caked in nasty stuff (medical term) anymore. I dont know if he has internal injuries. If he does there is nothing I can do but give him lots of Reiki and picture him healing.
I think it is so sweet that he went to my side of the bed and probably tried to wake me up to feed him. After less than 10 hours in my care, he knows who the sugar mamma is. Who says these animals are not intelligent?

JC and I and many of the neighbors here have fallen in love with this little possom. There is no other way to put it….we are all in love.


I woke up because I heard the kid breathing heavy. When I picked him up from his little bed, one of his legs wouldn’t work. This told me that something must be going on with his brain or there were other injuries I hadn’t found and cleaned because they were either internal or not big enough to notice.

I got the magnifying glass and looked in his ears. The first thing I saw was the wiggling end of a maggot. I got the tweezers and began what turned into over 4 hours of pulling over 50 maggots out from a wound that was deep in his ear. The yellow fly eggs must have been laid in there, but I had no way of seeing them.

When I was satisfied I had cleared all of them out from the hole in his ear and from under his scalp, I held him on my chest to keep him warm. He fell asleep there. I fell asleep with him there. An hour later, I woke up to find him dead on my chest.

I held his little body and cried until the sun came up and JC came to see what was wrong. We both cried. The neighbors cried when they found out. We buried him at Becky’s beautiful critter cemetery on that magical land at Celo. We covered his grave with a beautiful stone and wild flowers and pine cones. We all cried some more.
That is how love is. We get to know an individual and they wiggle into our hearts and this big love can break our hearts when they die.
I thought of everything I could have done differently. Finally I let myself just be grateful that his last few days were filled with love and care and great treats.

I thought about how we can love a little foreign individual like this baby possom and mourn his death so completely. But, most of us take part in the much more violent and painful deaths of billions of farmed animals and animals who are part of cosmetic testing and medical testing and military testing….everyday.
We don’t know the individuals. When we do, it changes us. We want them to know joy, not suffering.
It happens all the time…this inconsistency.
Dog and cat shelters have fundraisers and serve burgers and hot dogs. Wildlife rescuers work long hours to save a wild bird and then go home and make chicken for their family to eat.

I wish we would all be more consistent in our caring. I wish I would. I wish we could look in the eye of every being who’s fate we hold in our hands or wallets. I wish we could look into those eyes and say “I want what is best for you. I want you to have a peaceful life free of unneccesary pain.” I wish we would all act on what we know.