Dog Blog

I’ve never been much of a dog person. I like them. I am very much in support of dog rescue organizations and my heart breaks if I see one that is neglected or hurt or suffering. I will also help one out if need be. But I’ve always been way more into cats. In my adult life I have had nine cats and only two dogs, but those two dogs were/are very special.

Pasha

Pasha

Currently I have Pasha, a rescue dog that I got about four years ago. He is a giant, or king (so I’ve heard), black Pomeranian. Meaning, he is very big for a Pom. Most Poms are 5-7 pounds. Pasha is more in the 20-pound range. He came to me after I sent word out to the universe that I was ready to have a dog after a many year break. I had a close and loving relationship with my previous dog, Rainbow, a collie mix, and it took me a few years to want a dog again. Eventually I needed to have dog energy in my life. I was looking for the companionship that only a dog can give, and I was ready to once again have that special bond that can only be found in the dog/human relationship.

I really wanted a Pom or a Maltese, but I was insistent that it be a rescue. Yes, there are breed specific rescue organizations, but there was not a Pom or Maltese one near me. So I waited, and sure enough a Pom turned up. The vet tech overheard me talking about it one day at the vet, and she happened to work for a no-kill shelter that had just picked one up.

Because we are not full blown dog people, my husband and I had some pretty specific criteria we were looking for in a canine companion. For one, I don’t do puppies. That is way too much for me. I also cannot handle a super high-energy dog. We wanted a nice, mellow, house-trained, non-barky, cat loving not chasing, friendly dog that didn’t chew stuff up. I wanted one that would fit in a purse, and I was into Poms because I love super fluffy, long-haired dogs (Rainbow had an amazingly fluffy coat).

So I drove way out into the country to the shelter to see this Pom. They brought him out to me and he was huge! The tech had neglected to mention that this was a king Pom. But we hung out and I decided I wanted to give it a try.

Honestly, it was a little rough at first, and he almost went back to the shelter. He wasn’t really potty trained, and he was peeing on the walls and white carpet of our rental house. I spoke with a lady reputed to be the “San Antonio Dog Whisperer” who told me to do everything she said. I did, and I also said to Pasha, “look, we have to turn this around or I can’t keep you…. and I’d really like to keep you”.  And Pasha turned it around.

Pasha and his cat brothers.

Pasha and his cat brothers.

Now he’s my bestest, most loyal companion. We are a match made in heaven and he is the perfect dog for me. Oh yeah, my hubby really loves him too…but Pasha and I have a special relationship. He is a cuddly bugger and he gets to come in the bed with me every morning when my husband goes to work. My hubby even lifts him up into the bed when he gets up because it’s a little hard for Pasha to jump up there on his own. And he’s here right now sleeping beside me on the couch.

I would consider what Pasha has brought into my life to be textbook dog symbolism. He has given me unconditional love, loyalty, and fidelity. He offers me protection (basically…he’s kind of a scaredy cat…sometimes it’s hard to tell who is protecting who) and we definitely communicate with each other. Although he is not a barker (yay) we still connect and communicate in so many ways. Dogs are supposed to teach us about obedience, but that’s a skill Pasha could work on. He’s actually very stubborn at times, which is a Pom characteristic, so he can’t really help it. He’s very spoiled (SBOD- spoiled brat only dog) because he’s my special guy, my bestie, and I am super crazy for him. He also sorta’ acts like a cat, and he gets along very well with his feline brothers and sister. One cat in particular will lie in his fur and let Pasha lick his face and ears for long stints of time.

Although I do not consider myself to be a dog person, I certainly love my Pasha. And he really does demonstrate so many of the typical characteristic dog meanings and symbolism. He has taught me so much about what it means to be a good companion and to love someone no matter what. I know I can tell him anything, and he will always be there for me, as I will for him.

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Bowl of Beetles

Ok, ok, I’m not going to write about a literal bowl full of beetles. I was just trying to get your attention. But I will take a moment to briefly address each item. I did say I was only committing to one post per letter, but I’ve been thinking more on “B” words and I can’t resist giving a little shout out to bowls and beetles.

Fun pic from a fun website- FunInTheMaking.net. Click the pic to visit.

Fun pic from a great blog- FunInTheMaking.net. Click the pic to visit.

I love bowls. They’re so cool, all curved and smooth and ready to accept whatever you’re about to put in them. They can be such a mundane, everyday item. They can also be very sacred vessels. Of course I use bowls a lot for eating, even foods that aren’t necessarily bowl foods. And I have a lovely collection of kitchen bowls. None of them match each other or any of the other dishes because I like to buy them individually when one speaks to me.

I have a whole bunch of altar and sacred bowls as well, and I know we can all relate to how useful they are for magic and spell work. They’re ever so handy for holding and mixing magical herbs, potions, and oils, and they’re a perfect vessel for making offerings to one’s deity of choice.

The bowl itself has wonderful symbolism. They are capable of holding just about anything, so they speak to acceptance, tolerance, and diversity. They are great for mixing things together, so they speak to blending and unity. Once your bowl is full it’s contents are in there chilling out in harmony and unity, ready to be offered, used in a crafty way, or eaten.

Yep, bowls are cool. We all have them and use them everyday, and probably have kitchen bowls, magic bowls, and altar bowls. What sweet little vessels. Give your bowls a little love the next time you use one, which will probably be very soon.

June bug/Watermelon bug

June bug/Watermelon bug

So how about those beetles? Those are pretty cool, too. I’ve always loved beetles and used to play with them as a kid. We had huge ones that are pretty common across the United States. We called them June bugs or watermelon bugs. They had beautiful striped shells, wondrous fluffy antennae, and furry little chests. I want to say they’d hiss at you when you plucked them off the window screen (they loved to hang out on the window screens) but I’m not sure if that’s true or not. I also love the metallic ones, and the crazy rhinoceros beetles with the giant horns.

Of course we all know about scarab beetles, which were highly revered in Ancient Egypt. I like those as well, but I really am into the shiny jungle beetles and the everyday backyard beetles the most. Side story: I have no tattoos and probably never will because I am so scarred of needles. But back in the day when I was younger and more tolerant to pain I wanted to get a huge metallic beetle on my back. Although I was down to get the tattoo at that time I was super poor, being a young college student. So that ended that. It’d be pretty sweet to have a giant beetle tattoo. But unfortunately now that I have the money I also have the fear.

Your basic beetle has to do with resurrection and change. Just as many insects do, the beetle goes through some pretty crazy life stages from grub to adult. They develop tough shells or exoskeletons, which protect their bodies and also hide their delicate wings. This speaks to both protection and defense. It is also like they are hiding a little secret that they can fly. Although, they do not fly well. Here in Texas we get some sort of little brown beetle that tends to get trapped in the house. They fly in heavy, wild bursts, hitting the walls and the furniture and driving the cats’ nuts. It’s all I can do to try and save them and release them outdoors before the cats strike. Here my brain wanders to the big beetle in “A Bug’s Life” who had some issues around the grace of his flying or something like that….my memory is a little cloudy…

Maybe I will come up with a little spell or ritual that uses beetles in a bowl. Something that calls for resurrection, protection, unity, diversity, something along those lines…I’ll let you know if I come up with anything. Of course no beetles will be harmed. Yes, I do have a little collection of dead beetles that I have found over the years. If stored well you can hang onto a dead insect for a very long time.

Long story short, take a moment to appreciate the coolness of your bowl the next time you use one. And love those little beetles the next time one crosses your path.

A Tale of Some Kitties

In my world, cats are the most magical of beings. I firmly believe they are enchantresses and completely capable of weaving spells. I also believe that I am part cat, and I identify with the cat in many ways. I have learned this through living with them, in particular, living with a very close family of cats.

For all of my adult life I was partially defined by these cats. They were my children and my world, my witch cats and familiars. If they could talk, the stories about me they could tell.  I really lived my life for those cats, and we were all connected.

And just a few weeks ago I had to put the last of the line down.

My cat odyssey began when I was eighteen, and had just moved to Seattle to go to art school. I was really lonely and one day I came across someone giving away kittens out of a box, and she only had one left. My mom had warned me not to get any pets, but my heart just broke for this kitten, and I took her home.

She was a black and white tuxedo and I named her Melanie. We fell in love instantly.

Seattle didn’t go so well, and I moved back to my hometown pretty fast. After returning Melanie had some sort of accident. I’m not sure what happened. She was gone a few days and then reappeared unable to walk. Turned out her pelvis was fractured, but she would make a full recovery. Meanwhile, she went into heat.

Let me point out that I am a huge proponent for spaying and neutering your pets. I think that is a critical part of pet ownership. With any recent pet addition they have been spayed or neutered as soon as I could get it done. But in the next part of my story I was young, and working some things out, and long story short I didn’t follow through on my spay and neuter responsibilities.

Anyhow, Melanie goes into heat but the vet says, don’t worry, with her mending pelvis she’s not going to let any male get near her. I also did everything I could to keep her inside, but I lived with multiple roommates, all of us young and crazy. So she got pregnant, and had a huge litter.

Out of her litter I ended up keeping two. The runt of the litter was the only black and white tux of the bunch and I decided instantly that I’d be keeping that one. I named her Pearl.

My boyfriend at the time decided he wanted one and he picked out the grey and white tux. This little kitten had some crusty goo on her that Melanie didn’t get cleaned up right away. Due to this she was named by this boyfriend and for the rest of her life had to bear the unfortunate name of Goober. And when boyfriend and I broke up I of course insisted on keeping Goober.

Guess what? I didn’t get them spayed right away, and nature took its course. Not even a year later Pearl had kittens.

I swore I wouldn’t keep any, but then I got attached. There was one black, longhaired male I called Sammy. I actually found him a home and gave him away, but then my heart was broken. I contacted his new owner to see about getting Sammy back and it turned out that Sammy had not stopped crying in his new home. The new owner was about to call me to tell me to come get that yowly kitten. So I got my Sammy back.

In bed with my babies. This picture is pre-Moe.

Sammy had a sister he was very close to. Again I tried to give the sister away, but then couldn’t. And that same boyfriend stepped in and said I should just keep her. That kitten was Ishtar, a mysterious, black warrioress.

Finally, with the help of my awesome mom, I got everyone spayed and neutered.

Then the moving began. I moved seven times with those five cats, and five of those times were cross-country. But I was completely bonded with my babies. I would never give them up for anything. And fortunately of the five, there were two black and white tuxes, two all black, and Goober. So I told landlords I had two or three cats. I figured as long as they never saw all the cats together they’d never know. That actually worked. I was never caught with cats that weren’t on the lease.

During my college days it was love me, love my cats. I was leery of dating boys who were allergic to cats, and any romantic relations in my life knew the cats and I were a package deal. If forced to choose, guess what- I’m going feline every time.

And we really were a close family. They would lie in a big pile on my lap and purr. Their purring could heal my soul, and their love and warmth could melt my heart. We were a total team, and we lived for one another.

I did have a dog in all this, Rainbow, who I also loved very much. Rainbow and I had a tight bond as well, but I really am part cat. I connect one hundred percent with cat energy while dog is a bit more difficult for me. But Rainbow was the perfect dog for me, and I could blog on her endlessly, just as I could with the cats. When she died it was tragic, but she had lived a long and fun dog life. She was a major part of the family and even the cats loved her.

And there was an addition to my cat family in 2001. A little black kitten appeared crying outside my window one night. Of course I fed her, and the boyfriend at that time asked what I’d be naming my new kitten. Bah said I! I’m not taking that cat in!

A few days later the kitten strolled into the apartment, and never strolled out. The lady cats did not accept this, but Sammy liked the kitten, and the kitten toughed it out.

I declared that I would find this kitten a home, and named her Moe, because I could not take on one Moe kitty. But she purred on me, and kneaded my lap, and got me with her magic. So I kept her, because after all, when you have five cats, what’s one Moe kitty?

About a year later, Sammy died, and for a little while my world stopped. He got out at night, and was hit by a car. He crawled back to the house, and I stupidly did not rush him to the emergency vet, a decision I’ll always regret.

He died in the night. I was broken. This was the first of my brood that I’d lost.

Then Melanie started having seizures. And this happened just a couple weeks before we (myself and the man I would eventually marry) were moving from Colorado to Ohio.

With a lot of heavy vet care, monetary help from my parents (thanks parents), and tenacity, we got Melanie’s medical situation sorted out. But we were left to give her phenobarbital and eventually insulin (yes, she turned out to be both epileptic and diabetic) injections twice a day. This made traveling difficult, but we still did it, either by traveling with the cat (not recommended) or spending a small fortune on a pet sitter.

And then my Goober got breast cancer. At first it was treatable by simply removing the tumors, and we were able to do this for a few years.

Melanie actually died next. For all her ailments she died from a mouth infection.

A few months after that cancer got the best of Goober, and I put her down. At this point I had lived the process three times of taking my baby to the vet and holding them while they died. I did this for Rainbow, Melanie, and Goober, (Sammy died at the house, another source of guilt that he didn’t die in my arms) and there aren’t really words for what it’s like to hold your babies as they go to the spirit realm.

But Pearl, Ishtar, Moe, hubby, and I continued to live, and love, and move.

Ishtar was next to get cancer. She had an awful go of it, and I’ve written about it here, so I won’t hash out the details. But she lived well after we had her tumors removed, and got her eating.

And in this little interim I got another dog, Pasha, who is also my love and my light. He’s a 25 pound black rescue Pomeranian, and again I could spend countless blogs on him. I’m still not really a dog person, but Pasha and I understand one another. He’s a perfectly perfect dog for me, and we have a close bond.

Just this year I lost my Pearl. Again, I share the tale here, so I’m not going to retell it. But it was sad, and now I was truly worried. Of my original pride of five, I had one left, plus my little Moe.

I couldn’t imagine life with only one cat, as Ishtar was seventeen and a cancer survivor. I knew her time was running out. So my husband and I decided to think about acquiring a kitten.

I wanted littermates so they could grow up together and lie in a pile and snuggle. I had just had a three-generation cat family and I wanted to recreate that as best as possible. But I knew getting a kitten and letting it reproduce was not acceptable.

In July my husband called me, and said he was staring at a kitten that needed a home. The kitten had crawled out from under a friend’s porch. Not one to look a gift kitten in the mouth, I told him to bring him home. The one unfortunate thing was it was only one kitten, no littermates.

Enter the new kitten, a little orange tabby that would come to be called Harold. I had a new baby.

This is how I woke up after my first night with Harold. It was instant love.

A few weeks later I had a rehearsal at a theater with my dance company. We were hanging out before rehearsal started when a little white kitten appeared. The little guy was playing in the cars and was dangerously close to a busy street. I grabbed him, and had a sense our relationship would not end here. But we had to rehearse, so I decided to leave the kitten in a safer place away from the street and deal with it after rehearsal.

Well, afterwards there he was, playing in the street again all alone. Needless to say, at that point I took him home.

He is a white color point Siamese with huge blue eyes and he holds a lot of magic. I named him Spooky, and he became friends with Harold. They may not be littermates, but because they are growing up together they are close, and they snuggle and play together. And I fell instantly and deeply in love with both of them. They are my new little boys.

After the kittens became settled Ishtar took her cue. I felt like she knew I could better handle her death now that I had Moe and the kittens. Her mouth cancer came back, and she stopped eating. I held her and talked to her, and I knew it was time, time to say goodbye to the last of

Here’s Spooky!

my original cat family.

It was the time I dreaded ever since I established my little family, the time when it all came to an end. It was a huge turning point in my life. I had those cats for 14-17 years, my entire adult life. I did not know life without them. It was profound change, and it made me feel my age and the end of an era.

The evening after I put Ishtar down I was a mess. I sat on the couch and Harold came to me. He lay in my arms and purred his little heart out while I sobbed. He began to heal my heart with the vibrations of his purr, and he stayed like that with me for a long time.

So that’s my story. It’s a long one, but something I had to share. It’s kind of’ funny that those cat deaths happened in the midst of this blog project, because without the project I would not have written about them at all. But those five cats deserve to have their tale told. They were special, and what we had was special and rare. I am sure we reincarnate together in various forms, and maybe sometimes I am the pet and they are the owner. Certainly we have reincarnated together in a myriad of relationships and bodies.

The last picture I took of my Ishtar…

This is a tale of death and sadness, but it’s also about change and new beginnings. And it’s about the amazing, touching, intense relationship that develops between animals and humans. Those cats were my kids and they were my world. I will survive, and I look forward to the new joys of my new family- Pasha, Moe, Harold, Ishtar, Hubby, and I…. and two lizards and a snake. But I will always love those first cats, and I will always be partly defined by those babies. And I will always be part cat.

Reptiles Can Be Your Friends

I think I’ve always liked reptiles, especially lizards. Growing up in Northern Arizona lizards and horned toads were pretty abundant and I remember catching dozens of them. I wasn’t crazy for snakes. I didn’t fear them but I had a healthy respect for them since poisonous snakes are common in Arizona. It’s been more recently in my life that I have really been drawn to snakes. And in recent years I have also developed a fascination with alligators. So it seems that I am drawn to reptiles in general, which tend to be animals that many fear and misunderstand.

Reptiles in general have some interesting shared characteristics. For starters, they are cold blooded; therefore they are dependent on their environment for survival. For people with reptile totems this can manifest as sensitivity to one’s environment. Reptile people can easily sense the energy of a place, and that energy can alter their mood.

Most reptiles shed their skin, which holds a ton of meaning if you really think about it. And imagine if every few weeks your outer skin dried up, separated from your body, then completely peeled off. Weird. But it’s pretty easy to see how this process represents transformation, removal of dead or used energy, regeneration, and rebirth.

These are very ancient creatures, and some survived through whatever killed the dinosaurs. Reptiles are common to every environment except those that are very cold, and appear in prominent positions in the lore of many cultures.

Rico, one of my beardies.

Rico, one of my beardies.

I am an owner of reptiles. I have two bearded dragons and an albino corn snake, and I love them. They have distinct personalities and I would go so far as to call them cute. All three of my reptile boys are friendly and for the most part reptiles make great pets. But let me add that I think a lot of their great petness depends on their size. Big lizards and snakes like iguanas and boas can be quite difficult to care for. And when I got my snake I had decided that I would never get a snake, or any pet for that matter, that could eat the cats or a small child should it escape. Because I own reptiles I don’t necessarily see them as totems, but they do have lessons to teach which I do my best to learn.

My snake Nando, in his representation of unity..

My snake Nando, in his representation of unity.

Reptiles are incredibly patient. They can stay in the same position for hours on end and remain completely content. But when they do move they are very quick, and when they strike they are fast and accurate. In reptile symbolism this can be taken a few ways, but I see it as this. Sometimes it’s beneficial to be a silent observer and listener. Choose the right moment to speak up, or strike, and make sure your words or actions are appropriate and hit the mark.

Reptiles are very sensitive. They easily feel vibrations in the ground and the air. This behavior tells me to be open and sensitive to the different vibrations around me, and learn to recognize what the different vibrations are telling me. Is there a vicious predator approaching? Or maybe my next meal is coming down the bend. Whatever the case may be, there are other ways to sense what’s happening without using the eyes. I’ve actually heard that lizards can only see movement. Remember that from “Jurassic Park”?  If you’re being chased by a giant lizard, freeze.

They are also very quiet and only a very few species make any noise. Even when they move they are able to do so very silently. This teaches me to remember the importance of silence, and taking the time to let the brain and the body quiet down. I can also channel that energy if I need to perform any sneaky maneuvers or ninja skills.

And of course there’s that skin shedding thing. For me, I see it as a symbol and a reminder to frequently shed my emotional and material junk. I think I’m better at the regular emotional shedding, and I need to put more practice into the shedding of material goods, like the way to many clothes and shoes in my closet.

Although I go back and forth on whether or not I view lizards and snakes as totems, I do see alligators as such. The first time I saw an alligator in the wild was amazing. It was in a very safe way, but seeing such a powerful, mysterious animal just out doing its thing was intense.

Alligators are interesting because although they are reptiles, not amphibians, they spend a good portion of their lives in the water. They are like the gatekeepers between two worlds because they sort of patrol the shore. Some people see this as a guardian role akin to that of dragons. Alligators are the guardians of the mystical, emotional, watery world in which they can completely hide with only their eyes showing. They possess a special ability to slip between two worlds and live successfully in both. Although, they need both worlds to survive. They cannot live with only land or only water.

A very cool picture taken by my brother at my favorite spot for gator viewing.

A very cool picture taken by my brother at my favorite spot for gator viewing.

This duality gives them associations to mother earth, and through that to motherhood in general. Alligators are very good mothers, take excellent care of their babies, and guard them fiercely. As I am not a mother to any human children it’s difficult to see this in my life. But then I take a closer look. As a teacher I provide guidance to many students, and I have other relationships in my life that I would call motherly. I work a lot with people who are significantly younger than me and often times these relationships have something of a mothering quality. I can identify with the mother role even though I myself do not have any children.

I have a lot of dreams about alligators. Sometimes they are fierce and attacking me, and sometimes they are being harmed and I am trying to protect them. But my favorites are the dreams where I get to swim with them. In those dreams the alligator and I are at peace together, just lazily swimming in the river.

Of course I cannot discuss reptiles without mentioning the reptile brain. It is somewhat disputed, but many scientists and psychologists think humans have a “reptile” portion of their brain. Like reptiles, it is a very ancient part of the brain and accounts for traits such as aggression, territorial defense, dominance, and ritual displays. The reptile brain can help us with our survival skills, but also cause people to be obsessive compulsive, caught up in ritualistic acts they are unable to change, and be stuck in their ways. These people are aggressive and prone to protect territory. I.E., the big, drunk guy looking to start a fight because he thought another guy was looking at his gal is acting from the reptilian brain.

Reptiles do have a lot to teach us humans. Some of the most feared animals on the planet are reptiles, but when treated with reverence and respect they need not be. And many of them are downright cute and cuddly and in my opinion just want a little love and understanding.

Octopus Love

As a child I was fascinated by the octopus. I loved to draw them and I was intrigued by their watery nature, beautiful colors, and reclusive personalities. Then came a time when I wasn’t thinking much about the octopus.

Cardboard Octopus: Monk by Nubry

Cardboard Octopus: Monk by Nubry

About six years ago I was choreographing a dance about animal heaven. In working with the dancers I asked each one to think about the animal that rules their head, their heart, and their loins. Then I asked them to think about how their animals transferred into movement. After working on this awhile I asked each dancer what their animals were. One of them said hers was the octopus…but I can’t remember if that was her head, heart, or loin animal. I was taken aback for a moment, and immediately challenged with how one creates believable octopus movement without being in the water. This dancer went on to tell me her favorite animal is the octopus and ever since that moment my relationship with the octopus has been back on, big time.

The octopus has steadily become more and more of an obsession of mine. I collect all things octopus, like art, jewelry, figurines, etc. and I convinced my husband that I absolutely had to have a very large, rather expensive but amazing octopus stuffed animal. But in spite of my octopus fascination only recently have I realized that the octopus has become a spirit animal of mine, and possibly even a totem.

Because of my late start in deeply exploring my relationship with the octopus I do not have a particularly developed idea of just what this animal means and what she has to teach me. However, octopus (and alligator…had to throw that one in there) have moved to the top of my spirit animal list and I am excited to delve into the symbolic meaning of these animals and learn from them.

I have discovered that the octopus is a very complex spirit animal. She interacts with the universe on many levels and has a lot to teach. According to whats-your-sign.com (which is an absolutely fantastic website in my opinion and I highly encourage people to visit) some of the symbolism tied to octopus are: will, focus, magic, reason, illusion, defense, mystery, strategy, potential, knowledge, diversity, creativity, flexibility, expansion, complexity, intelligence, adaptability, insatiability, and unpredictability. Whew. That’s quite a list.

So let’s think about the physical characteristics of the octopus. It has eight legs, or arms. But let me pause to point out that scientists have recently been thinking that the octopus actually has six arms and two legs. It uses its legs to push off and uses its arms to manipulate and explore things. The octopus can even do tasks like open jars and remove lids from tanks, making it a fabulous escape artist, which I will discuss in a moment. Regardless, the octopus has eight appendages which also equate it with the symbolism of the number eight and spiders. In addition, these eight tentacles represent the symbolism of spirals or whirlpools.

The octopus can spit ink when in danger. This ink is a fantastic cloaking devise enabling the octopus to make a quick getaway. This ability to create an inky distraction speaks of illusion, as does the octopuses ability to camouflage. On the whats-your-sign website the author makes a beautiful statement about this metaphor for illusion. She states, “The octopus reminds us that nothing is as it seems. Behind our physicality there is a vast reality imbued with subtle wonder and shimmery brilliance.” Nice.

The only hard thing in on an octopus is its powerful beak and the octopus can fit through any space that its beak fits through. This allows it to fit into some amazingly tight spaces and also helps with its escape artistry. Aquariums have found that their octopi regularly escape from their tanks. Some have supposedly escaped their tanks, gone to a tank containing something tasty like crabs or mussels, had a snack, and then returned to their own tank. This is pretty amazing to me. Beyond the amazement that the octopus is able to escape, have a snack, and return, I am amazed that the octopus can actually hang out on dry land long enough to navigate to a different tank.  This all speaks to the octopuses’ ability to reason. They are an extremely intelligent animal and not only have the power to reason, but they can also strategize and remember. And here I have to mention the story of Paul the octopus, who correctly picked the winning soccer teams leading up to the World Cup. He did get a few wrong, but he was about 90% accurate. That’s pretty impressive. To pick the team Paul was offered two mussels, each with the national flag of the competing teams. Whatever mussel Paul chose was his predicted winner of the game.

Another amazing feat of the octopus, it can detach a tentacle when threatened and grow it back later. This tells us that we are able to cut things loose, like excess baggage. It causes me to examine my life and ask what are the most important things/factors to me and what can I let go of.

There is so much more to the octopus that I haven’t even touched in this post. All I can say is if you are intrigued please explore this amazing animal. Again, I highly recommend whats-your-sign.com as a great jumping off point.

I could go on forever about octopus. She is a very complex symbol and guide and I am happy to really begin studying her and letting her into my life on a deeper level. Whats-your-sign.com addresses this complexity by stating, “It should be clear the octopus has expansive worlds of knowledge, experience and vision to offer us. Indeed, those who have been touched by her wonder are left with an insatiable desire to know more-“. Yep. I would have to say that is very true. I want to learn more and I am excited and maybe a little nervous about entering her watery depths to see what she has to teach me.

Killing Bugs

A particular piece of Pagan doctrine that always resonates with me is harm no living thing. I take that one pretty seriously. And in my Pagan eyes this applies to everything, including plants and bugs. Yes, I see the irony that we have to eat and therefore have to at least kill plants, but that feeds into the whole circle of life thing, and I’m not going to get into that here.

What I am going to discuss is bug killin’. I honestly try to never kill a bug. There are exceptions, but I’ll tackle those in a minute.

I try not to step on ants or other little critters, and I don’t particularly like swatting flies. Watching me sweep the house is probably fairly amusing as I attempt to not sweep up any little bugs I encounter with the broom.

Here’s a confession that would really freak some people out- I have a little collection of house spiders. When a little spider sets up shop in a corner of my house I generally let it be. Those little spiders do a great job with flies and mosquitoes, making it so I do not have to personally kill these pests. I just leave it to the circle of life.

My house spiders and I have a deal. They don’t bother me, and I don’t bother them. This deal seems to work as I have never suffered from spider bites nor is my house overrun with myriads of spiders.

Sometimes I wrestle with dilemmas about my house spiders and guests. I realize that not everyone who comes to the house is comfortable with a few spiders hanging around. Usually my little eight legged friends are in basically hidden spots, but I have one that really likes a window ledge in the guest bathroom. She makes her web between the bottom of the blind that is pulled up a bit and the window ledge. The last time someone came over I very delicately lowered the blind so the spider was hidden.

Recently I got in my car and discovered a spider had made an amazing web from the passenger sun visor to the dashboard. I was impressed. Later that night someone that I work with had to ride in my car. Before she got in I made her take a moment to admire the web because her sitting in the seat was going to ruin it. I’m not sure if she was as impressed as I was.

For the most part I have always been a protector of bugs. I like bugs. They’re pretty cool, especially beetles. But I do have a dark confession. This story from my past still bothers me to this day, but I share it now because I think it was a key turning point in my relationship with the six-to-eight legged world.

Warning- this story is graphic! Feel free to skip this paragraph if you are sensitive to stories of bug harming…When I was a kid our house backed up to a field and the forest. This field was always full of grasshoppers. One day I had a seriously evil streak. I found some duct tape in the garage and taped pieces of it on a chain link fence so the sticky side showed. Then I stuck live grasshoppers on the tape and let them roast in the sun. After torturing about fifteen grasshoppers I came to my senses, and had the horrible realization of oh my god, what have I done? The worst part was I couldn’t undo it because I couldn’t take the grasshoppers off the tape. I wrestled with intense guilt and was wracked with nightmares that night. The next day (even though I was raised Christian) I had a little Pagan ceremony where I asked forgiveness and laid the taped grasshoppers to rest in a flowery bower. And ever since I have tried to be a protector of bugs.

As I mentioned, there do have to be a few exceptions to my no bug killing policy. Some bugs are vermin and if you let them live they will infest your house, your body, and your pets. I’m thinking of cockroaches, fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes. When I find a giant roach in the house am I supposed to just let it scurry about freely, maybe let it crawl in the bed or run across my foot? And I live in Texas. Roaches here average at least two inches in length, and they fly. So I must admit, I kill roaches, but it ain’t easy. For one, they terrify me. Second, I am very conflicted anytime I take away something’s life force, even a roach. The same applies to the other above mentioned vermin. I can’t let the dog run around covered in fleas so I have to take preventative measures to kill them, but that still means I’m killing something.

We did suffer through a recent flea outbreak where I had to get down and dirty with the poisons. I had tried everything but it had come to the point that I had to break out major poison (which of course I hate for many reasons). Then someone told me I would have to do the yard to really take care of the problem. So I went to buy some yard poison. I was standing in the yard poison aisle looking at the various inorganic chemical compounds when I realized that this poison would kill the fleas, but it was also going to kill every other kind of bug in the yard. Essentially it was going to wipe out all the little life forms living in my weedy yard.

I couldn’t do it. I could not bring myself to poison the entire yard. I did not buy any yard poison that day.

Luckily, through diligence and a very heavy hand with some chemicals and some natural remedies (like tea-tree and lavender oil) I got the fleas in check. And I’m so glad I didn’t have to take out all the bug life in my yard.

I do try and pass on this respect of all life forms to my students. The one’s that know me well know not to kill any little creatures that make their way into the classroom or studio. They just scream and then I come take care of it. My patented method is to put a cup over the critter then slide a piece of paper under the cup. Then you can carefully pick up the cup and paper and take the little scared bug outside.

One day not long ago the student dance company was helping me put costumes away. I was upstairs in the costume room and they were downstairs in the studio folding laundry. The costume laundry had been dried on the line at my house, then I scooped it all up and threw it into a bag for the students to sort and fold.

I came downstairs and the students were all in a dither. Seems they had found a spider in the bag, freaked out, and convinced the one male in the company to kill it. I used this as a teachable moment.

“Why did you have to kill it?” I asked.

They came back at me with all sorts of crazy responses, most of them stemming from some sort of fear that the spider would suddenly jump on them and attack.

“The spider is not going to jump on you,” I said. “It’s more scared of you then you are of it.” I also went into my diatribe about how some cultures revere spiders and think of them as our ancestors.

Here they laugh and call me crazy, but at least I planted the seed that we don’t have to kill little critters just because we can and we’re scared. And it’s always my mission to help people understand that 99.9% of the time the bug is not going to jump on you and attack. It really just wants to get away.

So that’s my somewhat wordy post on killing bugs. I guess it’s wordy because I do feel strongly about this. Bugs are an important part of the ecosystem, and part of the energy of life. We need to have bugs around and they play an important role. Our society has a lot of crazy views regarding bugs, most of which center around eradicating them. I try and stick with my holistic, Pagan doctrine and make it a point to harm no living thing.

Jay Bird don’t give a S%^#!

We all know this bird, a beautiful bird that inhabits most of the United States. Blue jays are very common except for the western states, where instead of blue jays they have stellar’s jays.  Blue jays are in the same family as crows, ravens, and magpies, and they have similar personality traits.

I find that the blue jay appears very frequently in my life. This doesn’t surprise me, because I have a deep, deep love of crows and ravens. I grew up in Flagstaff, AZ, where crows and even ravens are very common and I’ve spent hours observing these amazing birds. I’ve even done a dance piece about crows….

But now I live in Texas, where crows are few and far between.

I think this is where the blue jay comes in. I believe jays have come into my life to fill the void left by my beloved crows (side note: I saw a crow in my neighborhood the other day and I was ecstatic. I was driving at the time and I actually pulled the car over and sat and watched the crow for a while. There’s another one to add to the list of crazy things the neighbors have seen me do.).

Jays are very talkative and quite loquacious. They are also determined, assertive, curious, and vibrant. Yeah- I’d like to say that I am all of those things. Jays are also aggressive when it comes to protecting their mates, young, and territory. I’d say this also fits me. Although I have no human babies of my own you better think twice before you mess with my animal children, my students, or my husband.

Like crows and magpies, jays love shiny things…. need I say more? Just take one look at my jewelry and bead collection, not to mention all the curious knick-knacks around my house. Blue jay people love to follow their curiosities and go in many directions. They tend to be jack-of-all-trades, and love to know a little bit about everything.

I think I found a new spirit animal that I had overlooked before. I’ve always admired the beauty of the jay, but had never thought of it as a totem until one particular encounter. The blue jay did not just come quietly into my life. Instead she made a big show of it.

I currently live in Houston. Before that I lived in San Antonio where my husband and I were happily settled. Then I lost my job.

We were planning to make the best of it and stay in San Antonio when out of the blue I got a fantastic job in Houston. I couldn’t turn it down, but in order to take it I had to be living in Houston within a two-week span. So I grabbed the biggest, cheapest one-bedroom apartment I could find and my husband stayed in San Antonio to tie up loose ends. I spend the next few months driving back to San Antonio every weekend to pack up the house, and eventually my husband moved into the apartment with me.

I only had a six-month lease on the apartment because we knew we could not live very long in that situation. We are just not apartment dwellers, and we were crammed into 625 square feet with three cats, one dog, two 55-gallon lizard tanks, and one snake terrarium. Yikes. Plus we had no yard and we lived way to close to too many people.

But after those six months we moved into a large three-bedroom rental house with a nice backyard. We were thrilled.

Here’s where blue jay comes in….

It was only our second night in the house. We were both reveling in the fact that we could sleep with the windows open and enjoy the breezes and the quiet of the neighborhood. The sky was just beginning to lighten when I was awakened by the call of the blue jay.

This is not a beautiful thing. Jays can mimic many bird and even human sounds, but their common call is a very loud, high-pitched “pew” sound.

This particular jay was sitting in a tree as close as possible to my bedroom window just pewing and pewing. I yelled at it, but blue jay don’t give a s^%#.

I got up, and barefoot and wearing my nightgown I went after that blue jay. I ran into the yard, where I could barely see anything yet, and began fumbling for sticks to throw at the jay. I threw those sticks and the jay just sat in the tree “pewing” at me. She knew there was no way I’d actually hit her, and really that was not my goal. I just wanted to scare her so she’d fly away and quit bothering me. I think the jay thought this was all very funny, and I’m pretty sure that jay was messing with me on purpose.

Then, in my furry, it hit me. I actually have a yard again with trees and sticks and annoying birds! I was suddenly overwhelmed with happiness because I was out of that tiny apartment and once again had a little patch of nature to call my own.  There I was, barefoot and half naked in the yard, drawn out by the jay, moved in a few moments from rage to total happiness.

And the whole time that jay never did shut up.

I gave up, made my peace with ol’ jay bird, and tried to go back to bed.

So that is how the blue jay announced herself in my life as a totem. She was tired of my pining away for crows and ravens and had to find a way to say, “look stupid, I’m a perfectly good spirit animal right here in your backyard.” And to that I say, thanks blue jay. I am really happy to have you in my life.

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