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late night observances.

September 6, 2009

I didn’t help out with the birds because I was planning on going to the Highland Games, but didn’t go to that either. My aunt and I decided we’d both had a very long week, and needed to rest. My dad was ok with this – the first football game of the season at the junior college was tonight, so I brought him down there, and he decided to walk back. I took a nap, read awhile, watched some tv, and decided to write.

Here are some thoughts on..

Animal Care, Captivity, Suffering.

Working wit the animals at the wildlife rehabilitation center can be a sad thing, and I don’t just mean it’s sad because some of the animals that come in we have to put down. Some animals are brought in badly hurt. Last week we were brought jackrabbit with shredded back legs – dog or cat must have got at it. I’ve never euthanized an animal at the center before, just had to kill a couple neighborhood birds my cat injured but did not kill. But I offered to put that rabbit down, and I did it.

It can feel strange.. I work hard to care for animals, but..

I eat meat at times, and also consume dairy products, and therefore participate in animal suffering for which I am not proud. However, going vegan causes too much stress for me, so I am back to old eating habits. However, I do not hunt nor fish, and do not want to personally take a life of an animal. Yeah, I know, I am being a hypocrite.

But, the reality is, sometimes killing an animal is best for it. I asked to put the jack rabbit to sleep. I want to become more experienced at veterinary care, and can only do so if I ask to do things, and putting an animal to sleep is an important part of the job. I won’t go into details about how I did it, but I felt good that the rabbit no longer suffered.

It is often hard for me to accept the world as it is.. I have these Platonic forms in my mind – Plato’s idea of there somewhere being a perfect .. whatever, but these examples here on earth fall so short of the ultimate ideal. Same with longing for heaven, or heaven on earth and no pain or any bad feelings or wars or suffering or obnoxious neighbors who play really bad music.

Perfection mostly does not exist, although one can drink a beer that tastes perfect on a particular night, or watch a perfect sunset, or have a perfect sexual experience, etc. But what I mean is life often hurts, or it may not be pain, but we get tired, people hurt each other’s feelings. We spend time feeling lonely.

So many other bad things happen. Sometimes animals get hurt and need to be put down, or are brought into the center, and unfortunately turn out to be non-releaseable, and so they stay there, in fairly small rooms, and live out their lives, and some of them do not seem happy. Perhaps they are ok and do not seem happy to us, but as far as I can tell, some of them are not happy, and I feel sad about that.

The barn owl I work with, who is my favorite resident animal (these birds and other residents have names, but they can be googled, and I don’t want anyone at the center finding this blog).. This barn owl.. I’ve heard a few stories about how he came to be here with us, something to do with being caught as a chick and raised illegally as a pet in someone’s home, and somehow being released and getting hit by a car..barn owls tend to fly low.. So then how did the people at the center who took him in know his previous living situation? I never have gotten that story straight – but the owl sustained some permanent damage to one of his wings, and would have died out in the wild. That may have been better for him than being brought in, and it being determined that he could not survive on his own, and therefore had to be kept in captivity.

He’s in a small cage:

I can walk into it, but he has no room to fly, even though his wings work well enough to fly a little here and there. He mostly just sits on his branch. I am sure he is there now, just as he is when I go into work during the day. He looks out at the world from behind chicken wire, and observes, and sometimes sleeps. Gets fed 3 dead mice everyday, his cage cleaned, given fresh water in a little bowl, and a bit of human contact.

I am the only one who takes him out regularly, unless there is a nature talk scheduled at a school. He is brought out a few times a month for those events. Otherwise though, he receives no contact at all except from me, and a few people who bring in animals that need help. After they’ve turned in the animals to one of our staff, they sometimes walk over to take a look at the owl, and the other 2 resident birds who are in the other two adjoining cages.

I go in to clean the owl’s cage and feed him, and talk to him and make little noises like he makes. Hisses and chirping sounds.. I hope he likes this.. sometimes he seems to.

I take him out securely leashed to my glove. He, after years of being in captivity and being handled, still flaps his wings and tries to fly away.  He pulls hard at the leather straps, called jesses, like falcons wear, and I have the leash attached to the jesses, so there is no way he can fly off, but he sure wants to.

I hope getting him outside the cage helps him, because at least he has a lot more to look at than he does otherwise, but he wants to fly like any other bird. Also, he often seems stressed being outside of his cage and leashed to my gloved hand. I don’t know if I am doing him any favors by bringing him out. I hope I am. I do what I can.

This is life, there is sadness, but there is joy too. I hope the owl gets some joy from my company. Some of the other animals more noticeably like people – our crow and raven like to be petted and talked to, and so does our red fox, so that is something.

A Life Sentence.

This next part is not about animal care, so if that is what you wanted to read about, feel free to skip this section.

Sometimes, life can feel like a sentence to be served – as I read in one book, “We Are All Doing Time.” This is a negative way of looking a life, of course, but sometimes that is just how it feels. At some point in time many of us have to relinquish our dreams, accept that no matter how many years we spend working on something we are passionate about, it is the wrong thing to work on. Once we reach this point and are actually able to give up a dream, it can be freeing.

I have given up on several dreams, because pursuing these dreams has been just awful, caused massive stress, mini-mental breakdowns. Sometimes when trying to express how I have felt while pursuing these dreams, words fail.

I wanted SO desperately to play guitar really really well. I wanted, by this time in my life, to have my own place out in the country, I wanted to have had many amazing sexual experiences with many amazing women. It turns out that I am not Gene Simmons or Eddie Van Halen, or even that super-suave guy playing lead guitar in the local dive bar you might have gone to last night, that guy who really does well with the ladies. Nope, that wasn’t me. Friday night I was working out at the gym even though I’ve been doing so for years and still haven’t been able to develop the kind of body I want, and tonight.. going on into early morning, I had a few beers, watched part of a movie, and am alone, sitting at a computer writing a blog.

The giving up of these dreams is fairly recent, and I am left sort of tired and reeling .. instead  of feeling drastically impassioned and horrifically unfulfilled and unsatisfied.. the way I more often feel. Now, I am experiencing a sort of tiredness, and have a lack of enthusiasm. But this is peaceful.. and blah is much better than feeling terribly terribly anxious and crazy because I could not fulfill my dreams.

But still, life can feel like a sentence. None of us asks to be born, and most of us do not determine when we die. Some believe in God, and for some believers, this helps. For others, even a belief in any supernatural power can be very very damaging.  I know this from experience.

I do not believe in God… certainly not as God is talked about and explained by preachers, priests, rabbis, imams, or gurus.

I believe in GOOD, good people, good things, good actions. I believe that most religions have some truth in common that is good for us, I believe in some Buddhist principles that I have read about, but I also believe that no religion should be swallowed whole, and I believe that I will just keep on breathing until it’s time for me to stop, whenever that time will be.

As Ram Dass said, “Remember, Be Here Now.”

There is a time for action and a time for rest. It is good to rest and not worry, but do my best to live in the moment and not cast my gaze into the future. I don’t think there can be any happiness found in gazing into crystal balls. If you look into your imagined future when things will be “perfect,” you will feel miserable about living right now, even if what is going on right now is actually pretty good. If you miss this, how are you going to enjoy yourself later? If you can’t live in the present now, then later, you will still be thinking about…later.

Yep, this is hard, it takes work, and it can even be hard not to beat up oneself for not getting this right. Most of us will not get this right all the time – so no worries. Being mindful of the present even some of the time is good.

Sure, it’s ok to wonder here and there about what may come, and yes, we do need to look into the future sometimes, in order to plan a budget or attempt a move or a wise career change. But, I think spending one’s time daydreaming away the hours can be very bad.. leading to a mental state where one loses touch with reality. This is what drug addicts do.. they spend their lives in fevered dreams and waste away.

We can’t afford to be lost within our own heads. We need to be here, now.

Thoughts on the coming day.

Today, I am not going to be making love to anyone, I am not going to be playing a musical instrument or working on an amazing novel or making a lot of money. That’s alright. It really is, even if sometimes it doesn’t feel alright.

I might go to the gym, I might not. I might take my dad to a movie, then go buy a portable hard drive to back up our photo collection and my videos and iTunes music database. I might go to a bookstore and buy the latest “Pearls Before Swine” treasury and have LOTS of good laughs, or maybe save some money until later in the month, and just buy the latest issue of Mother Jones or The Atlantic, or maybe buy nothing at all but sit and read, and maybe have a cheeseburger before returning home. Maybe I will actually start my meditation practice, sitting on a pillow and breathing, or maybe I’ll never start meditating.

Life is still interesting. I can still walk out on the back patio and look at the trees and hear the birds sing. I can still work with the animals, and can still learn things at school and wherever I go, so enough of writing for now. I am going to get on with my day.

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