When I’m feeling especially low, I like to pull this out and read it. It was written by a fellow animal rescuer on the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. That day brought many memories floating around right back up to the crystal clear screen of all our minds. I can make a few substitutions and this could be Harlan and Safe Hands. This is our journey and the journey of animal rescuers everywhere. The highlighting and italics below are mine. The rest is from Laura.
(and as a total aside…two of my kids came home from Hurricane Katrina, from St. Bernard’s Parish – see below)
Spider on the Buddha
So here we are, one year after Hurricane Katrina. Hard to believe – it seems at once as if it was last week and yet a thousand years ago. So much has been done. So much has not.
I had been struggling to decide out how to mark this day and it came to me to observe the (Korean) Buddhist tradition of performing 108 bows. You begin in a standing position, drop to your knees, touch your forehead to the floor with palms up on either side of your head, stand up, and repeat. The gesture is somewhat akin to lighting a candle in a Catholic church, but the end result is that your ass hurts a whole lot more when you’re done.
So I awoke this morning before dawn and shuffled outside to my memorial garden, equipped with my trusty zabuton, some incense, a couple of candles, and a very foggy head.
As I was bowing and standing, bowing and standing, the past year flooded over me. I saw the images, remembered the names, relived the stories, and experienced the intolerable heartbreak anew. Linus, Big Yellow Dog, Mee-Moo, 8 State Kate, Cleo, Leaf, Little Joe, Pasados, Noah’s Wish, Camp Katrina, Best Friends, Gonzales, Lamar Dixon, the Superdome, the Ninth Ward, St. Bernard’s Parish…St. Bernard’s Parish…St. Bernard’s Parish…
Our hearts have broken a thousand times in the last year. And they will break at least thousand more. But, for many of us, we chose the heartbreak over inaction because inaction would crush our souls. We are each of us climbing an arduous and, at times, forbidding mountain. Day after day, we go on.
Some days, your heart is light and you run on the swift legs of the deer.
Some days, your heart is on fire and you prowl with the powerful legs of the tiger.
But on some days, your heart is drowning, and your legs are like lead.
On those days, stop, for the love of God. Sit down, rest yourself, say a prayer for Shannon Moore and then and sit some more. Call a friend, get drunk, go to church, meditate, scream, tell your pets and your family that you love them. Whatever you have to do.
To paraphrase the mighty Ani DiFranco:
i could wake up screaming sometimes but i don’t
i could step off the end of this pier
but i’ve got a litter of puppies to bottle feed and an appointment on tuesday
to have 47 cats neutered
Instead of looking up the mountain to the terrain you have yet to cover, try to see behind you to all of the lives you have saved, the lives you’ve tried to save, and the innumerable lives you have touched. The number is unknowable, but I assure each of you that it is profound and it is precious beyond words. This is the revolution of Kindness that Michael Mountain talks about. We touch so many lives that we don’t even know about.
If you rescue, if you make phone calls, if you transport, if you cross post, if you change someone’s mind, if you donate or meditate or light a candle or say a prayer – all of these things change the world. Never underestimate the value of what you do. One step at a time – one dog, one horse, one mind, three dozen cats (come on cat people, that’s funny!).
So as I was struggling back to the standing position after my 108th bow, I glanced up at my little Buddha statue and saw something that struck me. A miniscule spider was blithely repelling down the face of the Buddha. I don’t even like spiders, but this one seemed to me as a messenger. As if my little Buddha was winking at me. “Life is here. You are here. All of Life is in this moment. It’s OK. Go ahead, girl.”
Can I get an AMEN?
“Namaste” represents the belief that there is a Divine spark within each of us. It an acknowledgment of the soul in one by the soul in another. “Nama” means bow, “as” means I, and “te” means you. Therefore, Namaste literally means “I bow to you.”
Namaste. I bow to you all.
On the bad days it is good to remember that some days are a deer and some are a tiger and that the number is unknowable but that it is profound and it is precious beyond words. That, my friends, is what keeps me going.