Monday, November 26, 2018

What would you name me?

Since finding a beautiful pasture and barn for Dahlia near my home, I've been looking for a companion for her. I knew I wanted a small cow or steer for three reasons—1) cost of feed, 2) impact on the land, and 3) compatibility with Dahlia, who is a gentle cow with a submissive temperament.

Yesterday, through a series of miraculous coincidences, a miniature belted Galloway heifer fell into my lap. I met her at 2 pm. By 4, she and Dahlia were safely tucked into a paddock eating dinner together like old friends.

She needs a name, and quick! Bonus points if it has something to do with being red, small, sweet, or Scottish. In the meantime, I'm calling her Mei Mei—little sister—and my mother is calling her Petunia. Your ideas are welcome.

Mei Mei and Dahlia are staying in Oak Harbor at Moonstone Farm Sanctuary with my mom until January, when they'll go to Ballydidean Farm Sanctuary for long-term boarding. It's 2 miles from my home, and absolutely beautiful.

Dahlia and Mei Mei

Mei Mei with her parents, Josie and Tucker.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Thanks in advance, Universe

Thanks in advance, Universe, for your next miracle.

A couple of days ago I learned that my cow, Dahlia, needs a new living situation. She's been very graciously boarded by a family in Coupeville, whose caretakers are good friends of mine, for the last couple of years. They're moving on to other things, which means Dahlia must move on too.

Whenever one of my hoofbeasts has instability in his or her living situation, I get flooded with anxiety about living on a lot without acreage. I think crazy thoughts about selling the Ark or refinancing to cash out my equity. I imagine squeezing into a tiny house or building an Earthship out of tires and cans in order to somehow, once again, have my animal family together.

These are old feelings, from childhood—the discomfort I experienced alongside my mother when we had our horses boarded in a succession of arrangements that ranged from too expensive and too distant to too muddy and too crowded. Buying five acres on Whidbey was her solution when I was 11, and today when my mule or my cow loses a living situation I immediately log onto and start browsing property.

Arrietty and Fenway, my mules, were safely ensconced in the field of my friend Connie and Dennis until June, when Fenway suddenly died. Arrietty couldn't be made to live alone, and so June and July found me researching every option. Move the whole family? Borrow a pony? Adopt another mule? Board nearby? Place Arrietty elsewhere? In the end, due to the limitations of my time, money, and energy, I decided that placing Arrietty in a care lease a couple of hours away was the current best option. She's very safe there, and has become good friends with her new horse companion. A trusted friend trims her hooves and sends monthly updates. I hope that someday we'll be together again, but I know she's happy and safe.

This evening, I'm meeting some folks who live about ten minutes away and are open to considering a cow. I have my fingers crossed—on paper, it sounds like a too-good-to-be-true situation. Given how many too-good-to-be-true things have unfolded in my life thus far, I'm optimistic.

Wish us luck!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Susan, Susan, Susan, Susan, and Kate

photo credit greenbrier aussies

As longtime readers may remember, I have a thing for Susans. I have blogged about my Susans before—women who have been meaningful as mentors, friends, and elders. Dear Susans—I love you. 

I also have a thing for Kate—one Kate in particular, board chair of the Whidbey Institute and co-president of the Marnie and Kate Mutual Admiration Society. 

I've been actively dreaming lately, and each morning I wake up with a thrilling dream adventure to retell. My nocturnal subconscious rambles provide extensive opportunities for conversation with my boyfriend and for self-analysis. Lately, I've even been having dreams which I believe to be my subsconscious mind's attempts to resolve what my conscious mind thinks my boyfriend's subconscious mind might be wrestling with—that is, I've been exploring his favorite landscapes and private longings in my sleep. 

A couple nights ago, I had a delightfully lighthearted dream in which I met a litter of Australian Cattle Dog puppies. Australian Cattle Dogs are the pinnacle of dogdom—they're smart, loyal, strong, brave, energetic, beautiful, squishy, sweet-smelling, and adorable. I cannot go on enough about how much I love puppies in general and this breed in particular. 

In my dream, the puppies all had names. Their names were Susan, Susan, Susan, Susan, and Kate.

If a female Australian Cattle Dog ever comes into my life again, I think I know what I'll be naming her. Kate Susan4 Jackson, are you out there? 

Sunday, November 11, 2018

A view from atop the Ark

Mr. Ark is up there on the roof right now—sweeping off pine needles, loosening moss, and hosing out gutters. He's been at it for two days now, while I've lain in bed recuperating from a cold and reading a Dick Francis novel and two entire magazines, including the advertisements (Outdoor Photography and Dwell). In Dwell, I found a men's ring so perfect for Mr. Ark that I now find myself wondering if a $67 Christmas present (already bought, wrapped, and hidden) is sufficient for a partner of such devotion.

I show my love through gift-giving, and through cards and postcards, and through little notes hidden here and there. He shows his love through service, and always has the same reply when I try to thank him. "Service is my life, Ma'am."

I'm a modern and independent woman—I earn a living, own my house, and can keep up with young men in a hay-bucking contest*—but cleaning roofs and clearing gutters is not on my list of strengths. My comfort on ladders only lasts as long as I can keep at least three limbs in full contact.

Here, then, is a view that I may never see in person: the roof of the Ark—cleaned with love.

*an actual thing, apparently. And no, I don't literally compete.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

It's Possible

I bought a journal with this cover a couple of years ago because I have a tattoo of a flying pig on my back, and because it's my favorite shade of teal. The message—"it's possible"–was fine. The pigs were what I was really after.

My tattoo represents forgiveness, and thinking the best of people. When my first daughter was an infant I was really frustrated with her dad, and he gave her a Balinese crib angel in the form of a carved wooden pig with wings. The pig came to represent a lot of things, including the power of love and the futility of thinking anyone "should" do, think, or be anything other than what is. He and I became cooperative co-parents, and the crib angel became my second tattoo after the one of Mirri, my late great heart dog. 

I like the message—it's possible. A world in which animals are no longer enslaved in factory farms—it's possible. A just and equitable human future, in ecological balance with the planet—it's possible. A career that feels more like play than work—it's possible, and I'm grateful every day for it. A dying dog turned back from the brink of death, shining and thriving again—it's possible, and Brodie proved it. A joyful and unconditionally loving relationship—it's possible, and we are celebrating our second anniversary this week. 

Don't stop hoping.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018


I brought my camera to work Tuesday morning, hoping to get a photo of the albino squirrel my coworkers have been telling me about. My daughter and I walked into the woods near the Sanctuary, a cedar and fir timber-framed building a few hundred yards from the office. We heard a high-pitched "chip-chip-chip-chip-chip" from the treetops, then saw a frantic squirrel battle: rolling, chasing, biting, tumbling, falling. The albino squirrel was being told, in no uncertain terms, to get off the turf of his reddish-brown cousin.

S/he eventually made to an apparently undisputed tree, where s/he settled down for a snack of fir seeds. Near the horizon, a stocky buck whom I had never before seen skirted the edge of the forest. "Come closer if you'd like to have your pictures taken," I called out in his direction. Robin and I walked back to the office, where the cook offered us breakfast.

We were sitting in the dining room enjoying fruit and oatmeal when Robin said, "look, he's closer!" The buck, who had apparently heard my invitation, was standing right outside the dining room window. He sauntered past, then stopped near the Apple Tree Garden at the bottom of the hill to graze. I looked into his white right eye as he passed, wondering what compels humans to shoot people like him. It's hunting season on Whidbey Island and I wonder what role that played in his sudden appearance in new territory. 

I've been wondering lately if the wild creatures are trying harder to reach us. The whale Tahlequa, a member of the Southern resident orcas, carried her dead baby for 17 days. I would not have been surprised if her thoughts were along the lines of, "she died because I cannot eat. I cannot eat because you've killed the fish. I need you to see what's you've done." 

Buck encountered another one of my coworkers yesterday, appearing as if out of nowhere within feet of her. I'll let her tell her own story (she'll do so, on the Whidbey Institute's news page, soon). Let me just say that yes, the animals are talking to us. They might be saying, "we're here too. Let's work together for a change." 

I ended the day with "Leave it to Beavers," recommended by my dad and available on Youtube. It's another good reminder that much of what humans take for granted—in this case, fertile landscapes—is a gift from our animal kin.