Saturday, October 23, 2010

Seasons and Time

Well, it's been a couple of months since I last posted here.  The seasons have changed, if not the temperatures.  It's 75 and sunny right now, and though it's nearly November, we still haven't had any frost or freezing weather.  My flowers are still blooming and enjoying this last bit of sunshine, being completely prolific and without thought for tomorrow.  I can sit on the deck and watch the vibrant scarlet and yellow sugar maple dance in the wind, gloriously, outrageously beautiful... I can sit and watch it for hours.  It reminds me that changing seasons are not what they seem, and that all this beauty is a celebration of the eternal nature of life.

I have a couple of new residents here at the Sanctuary.  Lucky Duck and Miss, a couple of ancient beagles whose owner died and who no one wants.  The seasons of their lives have definitely seemed to change... but here they are, enjoying the autumn sunlight with great joy and pleasure, reminding me again that changing circumstances are not what they seem, that life in all its disguises is infinite and good.

And so I am grateful for this autumn day, with its warmth and sunshine and outrageous colors and scents.  And I'm grateful for the changes that will come.  Because beneath it all lies an unchanging reality that is comforting and good, and that continues beyond the changing of forms.  That is what The Claire Foundation Animal Sanctuary celebrates.  I care for each of the animals that live and love together here... but I also know that life is infinite, and that as we each have our seasons, life goes on.  We each have our purpose in the changing of seasons and time, this rich palette of experience called life. 

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Different Kind of Sanctuary

My mother is in a nursing home suffering from dementia.  She rarely remembers my name anymore, but she ALWAYS remembers her cat, Mrs. Murphy.  When I take M.M. to see mom, she smiles in delight... Mrs. Murphy is just as delighted, and curls up on mom's bed for the duration.  I always hate to separate them again.

If I were to create a new model for elderly care, it would not involve more emphasis on keeping bodies alive.  It would involve loving relationships between animals and people living together in harmony, as well as between all individuals living under the same roof.  It would involve magnifying the beauty that is always present, the comfort of being together, the joy of sharing and communing.  These are not the values stressed in corporately modeled nursing homes.  Although they make a good show of 'caring' for the body and being 'nice', their aim is monetary, and the model is medical and pharmacological.  It's all about the survival of the body (which brings in cash), not about quality of life.  In other words, the doctors and investors (and the drug companies) make a lot of money, and the business provides a lot of low-end jobs without benefits to give the illusion of social responsibility.  What is even worse, many of these obviously for-profit organizations accept donations under the guise of non-profit foundations.

What does this have to do with Life in Sanctuary?  I have committed the Claire Foundation Animal Sanctuary to the very model that I would implement for elderly care for humans.  It doesn't involve more emphasis on keeping bodies alive, although we take good care of the creatures here. It involves loving relationships between animals and people as well as between all animals living under the same roof. When there is conflict, as there sometimes is, it is always lovingly and compassionately resolved, with the aggressors reconciled and happy once again.  Life in Sanctuary involves magnifying the beauty that is always present, the comfort of being together, and the joy of inter-species sharing and communing.  It is about Life, not about survival.  And when a creature passes on, it is from a life well-lived and well-loved.

So why not non-profit Sanctuaries for the elderly? 

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Educating the Human Mind

"The ultimate goal of Sanctuary should be to change the ways that humans think of, and treat, non-human animals.  The Claire Foundation Animal Sanctuary is committed to the deep ecology of our human/animal connection, and how it can change the world." -- The Claire Foundation Mission Statement

As I read over the mission statement for our Sanctuary, I am filled with awe and love for the gift of this work.  Each and every life form on this land is a part of Sanctuary, not just the animals that have been 'rescued.'  There is a web of life that has nothing to do with the forms themselves, and everything to do with the larger Self that we all share.

In this little miniature of the world, we strive to awaken to the Love that lives us.  We strive to respect all life, without expecting it to be human, or ascribe human thoughts and limitations to it. 

You may think it strange that I call it Love that lives us.  After all, the feral cats sometimes kill the birds and bunnies, and the coyotes sometimes eat the cats, and the hawks and owls and black snakes all eat what is smaller.  So the appearance is one of competition and conflict.  But there is a larger context in which none of those human judgements are true at all.  There is a beauty and safety and harmony that simply IS.  

Without our human judgements, we fall again into the rhythm of Life, which is infinite.  Claire, my beloved canine companion of 15 years, passed on in December of last year.  But her wisdom, spirit, and even the remnants of her body, are forever a part of this land and its inhabitants.  Each and every frog and mushroom and bird and cat and dog and horse are forever contributing to this collective Being that we are.  

All fear and competition falls away as we realize that Life is One.  And my hope is that you will also provide sanctuary, even on a small scale, for the Life that we are.  Because we are all blessed by it beyond measure.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Berries and More

The mulberries on the mulberry trees are dwindling now... fewer and fewer berries each day.  But what a feast it has been for the past month and a half!  I've never seen so many mulberries... and the birds love them so... as do some of the dogs!  They actually 'graze' around the base of the trees and happily munch fallen berries.  Such economy in nature.  And I notice that the birds always leave a few within easy reach every day, so I can enjoy them too. 

Blackberries have been in full swing for a couple of weeks now.  I've made endless pies and crisps for family and friends.  And my ever-bearing strawberries are now yielding again.  Such abundance!  There are always a few blackberries with holes in them from bird beaks... I leave those for the birds to finish.  And I always leave the low-hanging ones for smaller creatures.  In the strawberry patch, turtles and mice feast along with a giant preying mantis who patrols the plants like a guardian angel, looking for smaller bugs to feast on.  The birds pretty much leave the strawberries alone, preferring the wild blackberries and mulberries that are everywhere.

Why all this berry talk?  Besides the fact that I have been picking berries everyday and have them on the brain?  Well, the berry patches and mulberry trees here in Sanctuary provide a huge lesson in how the world really works.  Wall Street may think world markets thrive on competition and self-centeredness... but I can see that this is a distortion of how the world works, based on the belief that there is a limited supply, and that we have to take all we can before it's gone.  Like we view fossil fuels, or a real estate boom, or any other economic opportunity in our world... it's take, take, take... eat or be eaten.

Actually, there is a natural rhythm and sharing, if we step back and observe.  There is plenty for everybody, including the rodents and insect pests (the ones that make it past the preying mantis!).  I never spray, I never cover anything with nets, and there is always abundance and balance.  All my neighbors (the ones who protect their gardens and spray everything in sight for insects) have been complaining about grackles and Japanese beetles.  But though there may be a few here and there, they don't really diminish the abundance of berries (or any other vegetable).  Even my roses look good, in spite of the fact that Japanese beetles love to munch their blooms. 

Could it really be so simple?  Could it be that if we respect and embrace all of life, and go with the flow of life instead of battling it, that we are actually included in the abundance and sharing that goes on effortlessly?  Could it be that if we look with larger eyes, the eyes of the large Self that Deep Ecologist Arne Naess wrote about, then we come to know our Self as part of the whole?

According to Naess, every living being, whether human, animal, or vegetable (including fruits!) has a vital and equal need and right to live and grow and blossom.  And it is only when we yield to the flow of the large Self that we (and all of life) experience ourselves as a natural part of the whole, in a natural rhythm and harmony.

Life in Sanctuary is not just altruism.  It's by living in the flow and harmony of life that we return to sanity and oneness.  Loving the plants and animals and people, loving the changing and ever-flowing abundance and variety of life is as necessary and vital to our planetary well-being as economics.  Berries and more berries... that's the way of life well-lived. 

Monday, July 12, 2010

Letting Go...

Life in Sanctuary is a microcosm for the rest of the world.  Animals come here to live in safety and harmony, in as close to a natural setting as possible.  We are a family here, and like all families we have to learn to let go.

Sometimes it's a mother cat, learning to let go of her kittens, as one of them dies, or as they learn to fend for themselves, or as I take them to be spayed or neutered.  Sometimes it's one of the older animals passing on, in the natural rhythm of forms that come and go.  Sometimes it's watching the 200 year old elm tree lose more branches each year, as it gracefully yields itself to the earth.  And sometimes it's counseling pet owners who can no longer keep their animals, and are struggling with letting go.  I have to let go of wanting to rescue, and simply be with them in the natural rhythm of their life choices.  I have to trust that there is an order to things, and that whatever happens, it all works for good. 

I remember the first time I really understood the wisdom of animals.  I was very young, and my grandfather was aggravated at a cat.  He was unfailingly kind to animals, but this cat got into the milk while he was milking a cow.  So he picked her up and tossed her away.  She landed gracefully, and sat and gazed at him, blinking to show non-aggression.  She didn't hold it against him.  Animals naturally let go from one minute to the next, naturally trusting the organic flow of life, even when it appears cruel.  Nothing is what it appears.  Life is unfailingly kind, unfailingly giving, unfailingly flowing and renewing if we can learn the art of letting go.  This cat sat patiently, completely unfazed, letting go and trusting the situation.  And when he was done milking, grandpa gave her a big dish of cream. :-)

Life is like that.  And offering Sanctuary to animals has given me this gift, something I didn't learn from my family, who never let go of anything or anyone!  To my surprise, I find that all true joy comes from this relaxed awareness and trust, even in the face of challenges.  The flow of life naturally takes us back to joy when we learn the art of letting go... 

Friday, June 18, 2010


I'm making my peace with slugs.  It has been a rainy few months, so they are pretty much everywhere, yard and garden.  They ooze their way around amazingly fast.  Isn't it funny how creatures that ooze aren't nearly as appealing as creatures with furry feet?  Or even birds, with their reptilian feet... at least they have cute feathery bodies.  But slugs?  Not much to appeal to human aesthetics.  Unless you're two years old.

My two year old grandson helped restore my sense of appreciation for slugs tonight.  We were outside watching all the toads come out for the evening, chasing some lightening bugs, and marveling at the clearness of the evening star.  Then he discovered a really, really big slug.  I'm a country girl, and I even like worms... but slugs make me want to go 'eeeeewww.'  Like the good grandma that I am, I got down and admired this giant bit of ooze, and before long I really was seeing it, for the first time.  Yes, it still oozes.  Yes, it still sucks holes in my hostas.  But it is alive.  Its antennae move and communicate as we get closer and talk to it.  There is awareness.

As an animal lover and caretaker of the Sanctuary here, I have enormous respect and love for animals great and small, wild or tame.  But I realized that the exclusion of love and respect for even one life form can lead us to be careless of Life, and set us on a downward spiral.  We can't say some parts of creation are perfect, and exclude the parts we think inconvenience us, or aren't pretty or comfortable enough.  If we except parts of Life, we can't see Life's wholeness, and we are no longer whole.

As I get older, I discover I'm returning to that childlike wonder and appreciation of ALL of it.  And I feel the wholeness of that, and revel in it.  I hope that each person who reads this will take some time to notice what aspects of life they have been rejecting, and start to notice whatever it is again with love and appreciation.  The joy this brings is indescribable.  Another precious day of Life in Sanctuary.   

Thursday, June 17, 2010


There are tadpoles in the horse water tank.  A few weeks ago, I noticed a big ol' frog sitting on the edge, and wondered what he/she was doing so far from the creek.  Now I know!  She found a source of abundant food and fresh water for her eggs to hatch in!  It's amazing watching what must be hundreds of the little guys feeding on invisible algae on the tank sides... and how they dive to the depths to avoid being suctioned into the horse's mouths when they drink.  Savvy little guys... changing every day... I find them a source of wonder and also of inspiration.

Tadpoles begin their lives as amoeba-like creatures, and gradually grow legs and lungs and the ability to live outside of water.  We are often inspired by the transformation of caterpillar to butterfly, but rarely do we think about how amazing a frog's journey is.  And when their physical transformation is complete, they effortlessly know to leave the water, to eat different food, to look for different environments.  If only change were that effortless for we humans!  Or is it?

As I watch the seasons and the rhythms here in Sanctuary I am soothed and comforted.  Even in the midst of seeming suffering and death, there is renewal.  Transformation and change are effortless and orderly, and no amount of human control issues has ever or will ever stop that.  The gift is becoming a part of the wonder of natural rhythms, discovering that they are our rhythms, too.  We are always growing new skin, replenishing cells, transforming.  We are always discovering new ways to experience love and joy in life.  Animals, reptiles, and all the natural world are always here to teach us and remind us.

If you have lost your sense of wonder at such things, spend some time with animals.  Donate your time and resources to animal rescue groups near you.  Take long walks and allow your natural rhythms to re-attune to Life.  Allow the effortless joy of Being.  That is what Life in Sanctuary celebrates.  

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Day at The Claire Foundation Animal Sanctuary

It's 5 a.m.  The birds and parrots are already stirring and making their pre-dawn noises.  The horses will be at the barn soon, hoping for hay even when the grass is lush and green as it is now.  The dogs, the pushiest and most demanding of the creatures here, want outside, NOW.  The house cats simply stretch and gaze at me, knowing I will provide their every desire.  They are so very wise.

Out in the early morning air, I see the orphaned kittens waiting for me in the hay, eyes wide with trust and love.  The older feral cats are more cautious, more fearful from a lifetime of struggle and abuse.  The horses snuffle, whinny softly, and wait their turn.  Finally they get their taste of good alfalfa hay for the day... for horses, it's more addictive than candy!  After replenishing food and water for all, I head to the garden to water.

Back inside by 6 a.m., I feed the dogs and indoor cats and parrots.  I clean the litter boxes and scoop the dog yard.  Finally, I make tea or coffee, depending on how I feel.  It's time for MY Sanctuary.  I go in my office, light a candle, and dedicate this new day, and all my days, to the amazing Life that lives and breathes us all, and eventually shows us other realities.  I call this Life God, but it doesn't really matter.  What matters is that this Divine Life is the real Sanctuary, the real safety and security.  And our sacred space here at The Claire Foundation rests on this Life as its Principle, its Rock, and reflects it.  

Someone asked me the other day if I wouldn't like to be taken care of as completely as these animals are.  That gave me pause.  The caring for all these animals has become natural to me, grounding and yet liberating.  They teach me daily how to drop my stories and self-created stresses, and to be fully present with Life, to allow the flow of it to embrace me.  They are a gift.

This made me realize again that we receive by giving.  By pouring myself out to these animals and to Life, day in and day out, I am able to really experience what I am and what I have.  I am able to be in the flow of Life.  There are, of course, many ways of giving.  This is one that gives me more than I could ever have imagined.  And so this blog is born, as a way of communicating this incredible gift, and giving you the opportunity to be a part of it. 

Where is your Sanctuary?  Do you have a place of safety and security and sacredness that you make for others, animal or human?  Or perhaps for your family?  Don't diminish your own sacred places or your own giving.  We are each precious and vital to the Life I call God.  And so we are to each other.  

We demonstrate this by donating time and money to Sanctuary.  And if you are led to contribute to ours, you can do so at  Each day or so I'll be posting news and stories and reflections from Life in Sanctuary, to share this joy with you.

Blessings from Sanctuary...