Saturday, October 31, 2009

Canine Kayak Hood Ornament

Abandoned Pup with Mange

Two days ago I woke up grateful for not having to get in a car and drive to a job or sit in traffic or sit in a cubicle. I have had this freedom for most of my adult life, but finally realized how rare that is and had big gratitude. We are in South Carolina checking out the land that will be the future home of Bicycle City ( Our little home on wheels is parked on the edge of a 50 acre lake with no one else around. There is one vacant cabin here and two kayaks. It is one of three lakes/ponds on the Bicycle City land.

It is the rural there is everything that goes along with that. I have an obvious bias....Honestly, maybe it is just anywhere USA..not specific to the rural South. But, it sure seems to crop up a lot when we are here. Within 12 hours of getting here I was talking to animal control about a mange covered mother dog and one of her litter who were trapped in a barbed wire topped locked chain link fence area (abandoned factory). The puppy also had mange. I gave them water and food and tried not to be too judgemental (I did not succeed in this) of the person I was told "owned" her. I found a neighbor who told me about the dog's "owner" . When this neighbor suggested the idea of getting her "fixed" to her "owner", the "owner" said "The bitch just keep getting pregnant" and he laughed.

Short soapbox glossary: They are not our property and we are not their owners. We are their guardians, their family, their caregivers....As soon as we call them property, we can do whatever we want to matter how neglectful or violent. Men do not own women, no one owns children and no one owns any living being...not in a caring and awake world.
I told the neighbor that I wish that the dogs guardian understood what that responsibility entailed and that I wish the "owner's" parents had gotten "fixed" before they had him. This fella gave me that "uh oh, trouble maker who is about menopausal age and has out of state plates" look.
I could not get to the dogs in the fenced area.....they were stuck there in the hot sun on concrete. So began my relationship with the local animal control folks.

Other than the dog neglect, the atv noisely cruising through on the trails across the lake last night and the sound of the interstate during rush hour, this place is peaceful and sweet. Lots of great hiking trails for us and the dogs. This is just the ease we wanted after a hectic schedule of travel and leading programs. We have been kayaking here with the two dogs. Our preference would always be to leave them on the dock sitting peacefully and awaiting our return. That would be someone else's dogs. By now you know that we have one dog who is the Buddha (Tikvah) and one (Bean) who is the Anti-Buddha or the Devil as we call her for short. Even the Buddha Boy does not like being left on the dock and will howl like an ailing coyote until the kayaks bring us back to him. So he has to go with us. The Devil will swim miles after our boats, so even if we try to leave her behind, her little wet ass will show up and climb into the kayak. To make it all easier, we just take them. The Buddha, as you can see, just sits there or curls up and is content to just meditate on the scene around him.He is truly a dog you can take anywhere....well almost anywhere. He did roll in pig shit at the World Peace Yoga Conference and then slipped in the door of the largest group of Yoginis and got them all to pet him....But that was just his way of sharing.
The Devil, on the other hand, does not sit still and moves from the front of the kayak to the back. Here she is on the front being a hood ornament.

And here is how she gets from point A to point B:

And one of her more peaceful moments:
I can't help but compare the life of these two dogs to the dogs who have "owners"...people who treat them like property you can just ignore and let fall into total disrepair. My heart aches for these innocents who want nothing more than comfort. Some people tell me my dogs are spoiled. Some people tell me they would like to come back in their next life as my dog. These dogs of ours get Tofurky everyday with their veggie food. Tikvah eats up two whole heads of raw organic cabbage every week. Bean will not drink her favorite (unsweetened soymilk) unless one of us holds the bowl. She gets an organic dry mission fig everytime she just looks cute and we notice. They get hours of hiking everyday. They are never hungry for a minute and they are never too cold or too hot. JC will wrap Bean up in a blanket if she is cold...and she stretches out between us under the covers everynight. As my dear friend Lora says, "That is not spoiled, that is just having her needs met." Absolutely.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Lives Connecting!

Seems natural for a community interested in compassion and wellness to gravitate toward Yoga, right? And seems natural for the Yoga community to embrace a path that embodies care for all beings and living lightly on the earth, right? I have been saying for years that if all the people who embrace compassion for all beings could come together we would be a loving force that could change the world. I did not know exactly how this “coming together” would look. I was looking for a model of this kind of connection, but not finding it. My yoga buddies did not quite understand my animal activism and vegan choice. Many of my vegan, animal activist buddies were not taking the time to care for themselves through a daily practice of yoga or other body/mind/spirit care. [16647_200279629072_746799072_3936391_2980338_s.jpg]

Then along comes the World Peace Yoga Conference (WPYC) and the two worlds meld into a perfect union. Imagine a place where those who care deeply about the environment sharing the stage with those who care deeply about all species and those who practice yoga and meditation. Mix in a little Non-violent Communication (NVC) for good measure. Imagine all this just outside of Cincinnati. Yep, plain old Cincinnati. Not California or Hawaii or Santa Fe. After JC and I led a program for Earthsave in Cincinnati, we ate a two thumbs up meal at the all vegan Loving CafĂ© (Don’t miss this place if you are in Cinti). Then to Grailville, 30 minutes outside of Cinti for the WPYC.

Harold Brown and Julia Butterfly Hill touched everyone’s hearts with their honest and open sessions. I loved Julia talking about how strange it is that non-violence is a double negative for something so positive. Jivamukti Yoga founders David and Sharron kicked our butts in tough love yoga with vegan teachings throughout. Will Tuttle inspired with teachings and piano. JC presented an abbreviated phytonutrient talk hoping that people would fall in love with this health powerhouse in plant foods (Hopefully those at the talk learned that they are not PhotoNutrients...that is the nourishment you get when you see a beautiful photo). Judy Carman brought her down to earth, easy to be with compassion. Elizabeth Farian, a vocal and energetic activist in her eighties (co-founder of the National Organization for Women) put fuel on our inner activist fires. Amy Ferguson delighted everyone with her caring, playful music. Doug Swenson had us laughing and sweating in our yoga postures. And Andrew Harvey gave us the fire and brimstone to send us out into the world electrified. I squeezed in other sessions when I could, but I was busy with tabling, dog walking and leading 5 sessions during the weekend. I had the pleasure of walking in on the end of Sheli Carpenters love fest on the last day….but missed so many of the wonderful speakers presentations. In addition to the ones I already mentioned, the speakers included:

Linda Bender

Arlene Bjork

Jeff Brown

Shelli Carpenter

Gabriel Cousens, MD

Elizabeth Farians

Anna Ferguson (Co-organizer of the conference)

Shanti Golds-Cousens

Yoga Dan Gottlieb

Harmony Gullette

Kamaniya and Keshavacharya Das

Jonny Kest

Dan Korman

Doug Kreitzer

Lila Lolling

Mercury Max

John Mooter-Great piano player!

Kali Ray

Katy Stahl

Mark Stroud (Co-organizer of the conference and creator of the best meals ever)

Madeleine Tuttle

Patrick Murphy Welage (Laughing guru)

Keep your eyes open for the second annual World Peace Yoga Conference 2010! (By then the name may change to World Peace Jubilee....stay tuned)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

To Seek or Not to Seek

Here it is...says it all....from my favorite cartoonist.
How many times to all of us come to this kind of crossroad in our day and not choose the path of truth, justice and wisdom? Even those of us who don't indulge in burgers often don't make choices that are in alignment with who and what we care about.
Looking at this cartoon made me think about wanting to slow life down and really think about it when I come to these diverging paths in my life.

We sat across from Tim today....we were all eating amazing quinoa and mushrooms made by Linda. Tim is a regular guy about 50 years old. Comes from your basic hunting/fishing Appalachian family. Tim has come to this crossroad more than once and chosen the unpopular route. He told about his family trying to get him to hunt. He shot a squirrel first time out and said it was a thrill until he actually hit the squirrel with the bullet and the squirrel fell out of the tree and landed on the ground. It was his first and last hunting experience. He also told us about having ducks and pigs on their land and how he tried to stop his family from killing them because he was so close with dogs for many other people. They killed them anyway and he refused to eat them.

Thanksgiving is a tough holiday for a lot of people. It has no meaning for me, but I like to celebrate it with fellow vegans. I know it is hard for most families to understand why we can't just ignore that giant bird in the middle of the table. The only way I could explain it was like this:
Imagine you find yourself living in some part of the world where it is common to eat dogs (I show photos of these dogs stuffed in cages waiting to be slaughtered in another blog posting). Most Americans would not be able to just go to a big celebration and ignore the skinned stuffed cooked dog with candied yams and mashed potatoes on the side and little paper frilly booties stuck on his paws, baked and basted to perfection. They would avoid that event. It is the same once you have gotten to know a turkey, or any of the animals killed for food. It is pretty shocking to see them in the middle of the table. My friend Carrie tells a story about her favorite turkey friend growing up. His name was Gimpy because he had a bum leg. One Thanksgiving when the lid was opened on the roasting pan, she recognized Gimpy by his leg. She flipped out when she realized that one of her companions had been killed and cooked for dinner.

I think it is ok to just spend this holiday with folks who understand this and can celebrate this harvest time with the thousands of other foods that make a great feast without a dead bird on the table. Last year our Thanksliving celebration had 50 people who all brought the most amazing delicious beautiful food. There was a whole room for desserts! I made a gallon of shitake mushroom gravy to go on the mashed potatoes. It was gone in an hour. JC made luminaria (candles in paper bags with sand in the bottom) and created a path of them that led people to a fire circle in the far back of our lot. We started the meal with a giant circle and everyone shared one thing they were grateful for. It was heaven. A true celebration of LIFE.

This is how all holidays can be....we can re-create them in new traditions that celebrate life and health and abundance and that expands beyond our own blood family, community that expands beyond our own species.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Greed Eats Love

Outside wall of a local bakery in Ann Arbor

We are driving south in Ohio….At the same moment I am starting this blog posting called Greed Eats Love we pass exit 57 north of Dayton…the name of the road is Needmore. I hope the next exit is for a road called HaveEnough.

After 2 months in Ann Arbor, we pulled out of Adena’s driveway with our little home on wheels. We still haven’t named our home….so please send any ideas our way. It is our peacefull little home with everything we need…so a name related to that or something as simple as Sylvia or Ernie is fine. We will know when we hear the right name. For awhile we just called it HOME. But that got confusing when we were staying next to other people’s homes. We heard it was bad luck to not name a travel trailer. If this is bad luck, I can’t wait to see good luck. Must be from great to greater.

Ann Arbor was fantastic. If it had big wilderness and mountains nearby and more sunlight we would want to be there for part of every year. There is a big beautiful coop run by quirky people and a library I would like to find everywhere we go. I still think all libraries are the best human invention. It is a magical place where you can go and find any book (or get it through inter-library loan) and music and movies. When I got my Ann Arbor library card I announced to the person at the desk that it was a very special day…and she understood why I was so excited. OK, can I just say one more thing about that library: ULIMITED NUMBER OF DVDs that you can have for a week or renew on line! One of my Ann Arbor mantras “I LOVE my library.” (When I was living in Sweden I got teased for my 12 library cards…I wanted one for every library near where we lived) I know it sounds greedy…but I used them all. And library collecting is not the kind of greed that eats love.

Ann Arbor has a bunch of Fairy Doors ( Little doors around town that are at ground level. I took this last night while lying on the floor of the Crazy Wisdom Bookstore

I am starting to think that the utility poles in a community are a good indicator of how creative and loving a community is. Remember the blog about Yellow Springs Ohio and its knitted covers and peace messages on the utility poles? That is another community I could spend a lot of time in. Every day that I road my speedy bike up Miller St. in Ann Arbor, I rode by these two poles that say it all about that town

In our two short months there we got to be around some of the most open minded and kind people I have ever met. I will miss Aaron and his partner Dwayne, Ellen Livingston’s yoga class with raw foods treat at the end, M.A James the sock tester for Maggie’s Sox, and the many dogs and their people who have entertained us in the woods and schoolyard. We will miss the farmers at the farmers market who have kept us in greens and cabbage and corn. We will really miss Earthen Jar delicious Indian veg buffet with great food and terrible feng shui and dirty floors that make it authentic Indian. Most of all, we will miss Adena and Taylor and Crystal…but not for long. They will be leaving Michigan and joining our little caravan in three weeks!

We saw Michael Moore’s new movie last night, Capitolism, A Love Story. (Reminds me of a story I wrote a few years back called I Hate People, A Love Story..I love oxymoron titles.) The film was great. My favorite part was when he wrapped AIG, Citibank and other financial institutions run by criminals with bright yellow CRIME SCENE tape. I hope he continues his journey to expose those who get rich at the expense of others, the environment and all life on the planet. I cannot wait until he gets the animal agriculture piece. When he makes that film, I will be celebrating BIG.

About three weeks ago we saw the soon to be released Peaceable Kingdom. If greed eats love, then does love destroy greed? If so, this film will be at the top of the love warriors list. The people in the film exude love. It is one of the few films I have seen that expose the reality of our relationship with animals without making me hate people. That is no easy task.

Greed Eats Love, Love Eats Greed and Love Eats Hate…
Jimi Hendrix said it all:
When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.