Wednesday, August 22, 2007

It Takes A Cat to Create A Village

It is with deep sorrow that I announce the passing of a truly great personality and personal friend, Gracie the cat.

Last night, at about midnight, there came a knock on my door. It was my neighbor Casey, and she was obviously in distress. Apparently Gracie had been found in a neighbor’s yard after having been missing for several days, and she was not looking good. Casey said she did not think Gracie would last the night and asked if I would come and see her. In my official capacity as an animal energy healer I would have done this anyway, but as Gracie and I had shared special moments as friends I immediately replied that I would be there.

While I gathered my mesa and other healing tools together I reflected on our friendship. Gracie had the most open and trusting heart of anyone I had ever met. Everyone, friend or stranger, was greeted with joy by Gracie. Apparently she had never met someone she did not want to know, and in conversation with the neighbors I discovered that she literally knew more people on the block than any of us did (see Gracie the Cat Star). She would run down the sidewalk or cross the street to greet you, meowing in welcome, and when she reached you there would be purring and great affectionate gestures. If you were really open to her, and willing to crouch down a bit to her level, she would make her way into your lap, eventually placing herself across your shoulder, rumbling purr vibrating in your ear. A little kneading to soften you up further, and when you were putty in her capable feline paws, she would drape herself, like a boa, around your neck.

When she was in need of healing she would instigate a variation on this theme (see Gracie the Cat and Fireworks); she would lie in wait outside my house, and when she had my attention she would curl herself up in my arms, tuck her head under my chin, and get as close to my heart chakra as possible. At those times I could feel how open she was; Gracie was 8 lbs. of unconditional love, and my feelings of affection for her would just well up.

As I recalled her energy, her sunny disposition, and the many memories I had of her including my recent pajama-clad photo shoot of Gracie (see Gracie by Morning Light) I felt fear that she might be lost to us. What would we all do without her?

As I entered Casey’s house to see if there was anything I could do to help Gracie I made a deliberate effort to put those fears and memories aside so that I could best be a hollow bone for the healing energy that she would need. At my first sight of her my heart sank into my feet, she could barely raise her head, and she seemed very out of touch with her surroundings. As I knelt by the chair I acknowledged that we might lose her and put that feeling aside.

And then it happened—Gracie broke through my hard-won professional balance. She heard my voice; the voice of the person who had always helped her when she had been sick in the past, and although she was very weak, she began to crawl toward my heart chakra which was level with her on the chair. As I leaned forward to meet her Gracie shoved her face into my chest and wrapped her right paw around my bare arm, claws digging into my skin and leaving marks, and she hung on for dear life like someone drowning, I could feel the tension and the fear in her and there was no purring this time. At her demonstration of complete trust in me I felt my heart break into little pieces, and I had to put that aside, too. Gracie needed me.

As I began to assess her energetically I could feel some strange kind of disturbance in her upper energy field, something like disconnected signals. I dimly registered that information and continued looking for what might be causing the problem. She did not appear to have any external injuries, there was some evidence of what was probably arthritis (Gracie was 13), but nothing jumped out at me for what could cause these symptoms, and it became clear to me that Gracie was not going to be able to tell me, Whatever was going on was causing her ability to communicate to break down.

At this point I needed to open my mesa and turn the session over to the universe. When in doubt my philosophy has always been to get out of the way and let the energy and the client dialogue. It is then that miracles can occur.

It became very clear to me that I could not disengage Gracie to open my mesa in order to open sacred space, thereby create a place for healing between the worlds (consensual reality and the spirit world; this is the realm of the shaman). Gracie made it very clear that physical contact was emotionally important to her, and she wanted to be able to draw on the Reiki energy freely. I had to ask Casey to open my mesa and to distribute the stones in a circle around Gracie and I. It is a tribute to my mesa that it allowed this, as the general rule is that no one handles the mesa except the shaman.

As Casey distributed the stones, and the rest of her family watched quietly, the energy began to build. Search as I might I could not see a thread of possibility that led to Gracie surviving this, but neither could I find certainty that she would not. I set my intention for her highest healing good, allowing the shamanic energy to enfold both of us, opening my feelings, feeding the energy with my love for her, and at the same time attempting to put aside my fear of loss.

I performed a Reiki attunement for her, re-connecting her fully to Source for her highest mental, emotional, physical and spiritual well-being, and I could gradually feel the tension in her body ease, her fear subside. She entered a trance-like stage of healing where I sensed her soul journeying through the universe. Her breathing slowed, and I wondered if possibly she might choose to use the energy to leave her body permanently. As I had no idea of the outcome I clearly set intent for her to receive whatever she needed. I built a Bridge of Light for her so that whenever it was her time to leave she might do so in as joyful and a painless a fashion as possible, and then be met and guided to wherever she was to go next.

When we finished Gracie was calm, but still clearly not right. Realizing that we had done all that was possible, it was now time to get her to a vet.

As Gracie drove off with her family my heart was heavy with the sense that I might never see her in body again. When I re-entered my house my animals clearly picked up on how I was feeling and decided that it was time to lighten me up. So, at 1:00 a.m. we had a silly play session, re-affirming our connection to one another and joy in life. When I finally crashed for the night all the cats snuggled up with me, blanketing me in care and concern.

I woke up once during the night with the sense that something had happened, but it was not until after noontime that I learned that Gracie had passed. All tests at the Burien emergency clinic showed no elevated levels of anything, however her behaviors indicated neurological compromise, and the conclusion was that Gracie had a brain tumor. With great difficulty her family made the decision to humanely euthanize her.

When Casey called me the next day I heard in her voice that my worst fear was confirmed—Gracie was gone. A part of me was glad that she would not continue to suffer as she clearly had been; another part keened in grief at the thought that she would never wrap her paws around me again. It was as though for me a light had gone out in the world.

Casey shared with me some of Gracie’s early life. Apparently Casey and her then-husband had been looking to adopt from the shelter. Casey said she did not see Gracie because she is short, and Gracie was in a top cage, but her tall husband saw this paw reaching out at them, and suggested they check out the eager cat.

In the petting room Gracie leapt from one lap to the next in a frenzy of affection. She had been found behind a building with her kittens and was about one year-old. The kittens were weaned and Gracie needed some more beings to love. Casey and her husband complied and adopted her.

So, how did an unwanted stray with no place to raise a family maintain an unlimited amount of trust in the goodness of the universe and the kindness of mankind? I have no idea, I only know that Gracie is my hero. As the neighbors and I carried the news of her passing from one house to the next, and stories were shared, I realized that Gracie, a small gray and white tabby of unknown origins, had woven a thread of friendly connection through a block of disconnected people simply through the power of her unconditional love. One little cat created a village.

Good-night, Gracie, may your legacy of love live on.

In memory of Gracie I invite you to post your comments and share your memories of Gracie here, or perhaps you have stories of other animals who have inspired or blessed your life like Gracie blessed ours.

There will be a Peruvian despacho ceremony held at Wild Reiki and Shamanic Healing LLC for all friends of Gracie once her ashes are returned. A death despacho is a beautiful celebration of the life of the individual and all participants get to share in the ceremony and add their prayers and memories. A notice will be sent out at that time.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Who's Alpha Now?

I recently went on a road trip to Eastern Washington to visit Kimberly who is interested in turning her property into a workshop retreat center. Newly-minted Reiki Master Teacher Rhonda Hanley and my dog Puma were also part of the adventure.

Kimberly and all of her animals (cats, dogs, horses, donkey) welcomed us heartily. Puma had never really seen horses up close, and it was interesting to note that he attempted to communicate with them as though they were really big dogs, turning his body sideways so that they could sniff and wagging his tail to let them know he had friendly intentions. One of Kimberly's horses, Tulle, kept an eye on Puma throughout the visit. I think she was trying to figure out if he was part wolf (-:

Tulle has a dominating nature, she was trying to show him who was alpha as Puma is an alpha dog. Puma, bless his heart, ceded the field to what he considered a vastly larger being. His respect did not extend to staying out of the grazing area—while I was doing some Reiki and shamanic work with one of the horses Puma felt he needed to be part of the action (as he is in my healing practice) and perhaps protect me from the other large horses who were crowding around me wanting to be part of the action, too. This led to a somewhat tense moment as he ducked under the fence, and being on his leash could not easily get back to the safe side. I had to move quickly to get to him first; Tulle was clearly intent on teaching him whose pasture it was!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Tikki, Photographer's Model

I have many cat friends throughout the neighborhood, Gracie, who I have blogged about before, is one of them. Another is Tikki, the calico cat who lives next door.

I first met Tikki before I met the new human neighbors that she shares a household with. She strolled into my cellar while I was doing laundry, introduced herself, and, for the first of many occasions to follow, appointed herself my companion and project overseer. As long as my cat, Kiya is not outside with me Tikki will be by my side, being companionable and offering comments from time to time. If Kiya is out, Tikki sees how far she can push her luck, testing Kiya’s jealousy meter to see how close she is allowed to hang with me that day.

This week I needed to get some shots of some new pendulums I had gotten in for sale and that I wanted to offer on the internet. I did not have the proper lighting for an indoor shoot so I thought I would experiment with setting up in the natural light at sunset outside in my front yard.

I used a black wool cloak from Peru as a background, and made certain to clean it carefully of animal fur (living in a multiple cat/dog household always offers these challenges). I draped the cloak carefully over my Adirondack chair and then created an ingenious way of suspending the pendulums against the background. With all in place I got my camera and began taking a few shots. I did not get very far before Tikki showed up and, sizing up the situation, she determined that there was definitely something missing from the composition…her!

Despite my verbal protests, which of course included pleas to not get cat hair on the cloak, she climbed up on the chair, turned to face the camera, struck a pose and stretched both front paws out with an expression of great satisfaction. And note, she was very careful to not even brush her very fluffy tail on the cloak and pendulum display. I could not resist such thoughtfulness, forcefulness and charm, I took many photos of her, one of which appears here. I regret to say that the product shoot was not a success, but thanks to Tikki’s wisdom I did at least get a great picture of her and a wonderful memory (and she now has her own greeting card, note cards, and journal too).

Monday, August 6, 2007

Gourmet Recycling

Like many people I lead a busy life. As an entrepreneur I wear many hats in my business and practice, and in my personal life I am sole caregiver for several cats and one dog. Sometimes this means easy-to-fix meals for myself consumed while working at the computer. And at the end of the week it can also mean overlooked leftovers and food items that are not spoiled, but that are not fresh as I would like them to be.

Rather than toss the food in the garbage, or the yard waste recycling bin, if it's not spoiled I'll offer it to the local wildlife first and see what happens.

This has resulted in some very interesting and unusual discoveries. It is very clear that crows have taste buds and preferences for certain foods. For example, if you place out a variety of disparate items such as fruit, garlic mashed potatoes, cream cheese, and gourmet cheese, most crows will go for the garlic mashed potatoes first, followed by the cheeses, leaving the fruit. Who knew that crows liked dairy products? And it is a very funny sight to see a crow with cream cheese squeezing out either side of his face trying to grab just a little more before flying off!

Another day's offering included cheez-it type crackers, BBQ potato chips, and cheese puffs. That day afforded me a bird ballet, as the crows would fly off with a tidbit (BBQ chips first, then cheez-its, and finally the puffs) and then a wave of starlings would sweep in followed by a phalanx of sparrows. As the crows returned the smaller birds would retreat. It looked like a beautiful and carefully choreographed display, and the ground was clear of food in no time.

Today's offering was cherries and cream cheese. I was alerted by crow alarm calls to the presence of a different form of wildlife in the courtyard, one of the local cats was sampling the cream cheese! I laughed as I took her picture because you can see the footprints of a former cat resident in the cement next to her.

A while later one of the three triplet squirrels born in my attic this past spring found himself a treasure trove of cherries. Daintily consuming the first cherry, after finishing he neatly buried the pit in one of the cracks in the cement. Hopefully we will not have a tree growing there next spring!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Gracie by Morning Light

As outgoing as Gracie is, being the official greeter of our block, still she is shy of paparazzi. Rhonda, one of my Reiki Master students, has been armed with camera for the last several weeks. Every time she has come by for class she has kept an eye out for a Gracie sighting, with hopes of being granted a photo op. So far Rhonda has landed only one opportunity, and of course on that momentous occasion she had been late for an appointment and could not dally for more than a couple of shots.

And, of course, Gracie is not an easy subject because she is so friendly (see Gracie the Cat Star). As seen in the photo that accompanies that blog, the best shot that Rhonda was able to capture was at very close range with Gracie sitting on her knee. (Check out Rhonda's other photos.)

Many students and clients have quizzed me on whether they have had a Gracie sighting, offering descriptions of every other cat on the street (and there are quite a few). It was really driven home to me this past weekend while teaching Reiki Level I class just how much of a celebrity Gracie has become. While the students were practicing offering Reiki through chair sessions someone spotted Gracie across the street. There was a sudden rush of excitement that went through the class and I noticed that the students that were receiving Reiki had to quell an impulse to stand up and try to see her!

Yesterday morning as I greeted the day and looked out my windows across the street, I saw Gracie enjoying a morning sunbath before beginning her busy day of greetings and rounds. In the spirit of a true paparazzi I grabbed my camera, ignoring the exclamations of disappointment from my animals who were expecting their breakfasts, and headed out the door in my pajamas.

Despite the fact that she had not yet completed her morning toilette, sans briskly groomed fur or breakfast, Gracie graciously consented to a star turn in front of the camera. Several shots were taken in the doorway, with Gracie even turning her head to present a perfect profile. Next she posed surveying her domain, and then obliged me with her signature walk, always used when hurrying to greet her next new friend. I thanked her profusely for taking the time to work with me, she curled up against my side for a moment of affection, and then strolled off to begin her day.

And so, you see it here first, folks, a star is born! And since every star has her fan memorabilia, Gracie now has her own greeting card, journal, note cards, and pin-up poster!