Two Dog Nights


I have this cool page I keep bookmarked in my browser bar.  It’s a page that keeps account of whether Mercury is retrograde or not.  Most New-Age-y types such as myself know about the Mercury retrograde thing, but in case you don’t, here is a link to the Wikipedia page on the topic.

If Mercury IS retrograde, the page informs me:  “Yes.  That may account for the weirdness.”

Mercury copy

If it is NOT, then:  “No.  Something else must be bumming you out.”  I love the Sixties language of these two responses.  Not being a scientist OR an astrologer, I am not about to try to explain this idea to you, but what I do understand is that if Mercury IS retrograde, things are likely to not exactly turn out the way you expect them to.  It is not a good time to start new projects, supposedly, or to try to go places or do things.  The results may not exactly be bad, just unexpected.  This is the short version.  Obviously, there is much more to this whole Mercury thing.  I have at least two friends who are Vedic astrologers and would probably scoff at this explanation, but There It Is.

Now, whether or not I believe in astrology kind of depends on which day you ask me about it.  Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t.  My teacher, Hazrat Inayat Khan, says that this kind of belief tends to fall away as the soul evolves, and has less and less influence.  That makes sense to me.  Yet as an Indian, he had great respect for these occult sciences:

The science of astrology was based on the science of cosmic vibration. Everything depends on vibratory conditions, including the position of the stars and planets, individuals, nations, races, and all objects. A great deal of the secret power, which the Hindus have found in the science of music, has been derived from the science of astrology. Every note of Indian music corresponds with a certain planet; every note has a certain color; every note denotes a certain pitch of nature, a certain pitch of the animal world.  — Inayat Khan

It seems that, whether or not the soul grows beyond the science of vibration, life is always governed by it.

I have been struggling with some big issues lately, and I cannot deny that I have been letting them get to me.  So last week I came up with the idea of taking off for the beach for a few days, and my husband liked the idea.  We did not think to consult my Mercury page, and I am wondering if we should have.  I doubt that if I’d known that old Mercury was in retrograde that I would have decided not to go, but maybe.  I guess it would depend on whether it was a day when I believed in such things (skepticism is a convenient thing!).  In any event, we set off for the beach with our little Westie (West Highland White Terrier), and for the most part, all was well.  The weather was good for this time of year, and we had rented a cottage on the beach.  I find Sister Ocean to be very healing.IMG_0039

However, friends, it was a WEIRD week.  The morning after we got there, my husband and I decided to take off for Ocracoke Island, just because we love the drive through the National Seashore.  Prior to that, however, my husband took our little Westie (aka “Spud” aka, formally, Hamish) for a walk on the beach. IMG_0914 Thinking he might be able to let him off the leash for a bit to frolic in the waves, he did so, and immediately Spud took off for the nearest houses, quickly disappearing.  Westies are bred to be vermin-hunters, and they move FAST.  My husband took off to look for him on foot and I took the car, terrified that in the fast-moving traffic on the beach road he might be killed very quickly.  Continuing in the parlance of the 60s, what a rush!  I was terrified.  He is my child-substitute, my own human children  being officially grown-up.

The beach, at this time of year, is mostly deserted.  Most of the vacation houses are closed down, and one would think there was no one around: but not so.  Immediately, a man appeared across the street, saying he’d seen Spud and would go look for him on his way to work.  My husband had disappeared to somewhere he thought he might have scampered off to.  I continued to panic, slowly driving and looking for the little devil between houses and lots and dunes.  Turning onto a side street, I saw my formerly unknown neighbor driving toward me, and he had my little guy in his front seat.  He said he’d seen another neighbor taking him up to his house to try to find his owner, and all was well.  The whole enounter was a friendly and kind one, resulting in our getting to know a few neighbors we hadn’t known were there, when we thanked our other new neighbor and his mother, both local real estate mavens.  I wanted to murder my pup, but that would have been counterproductive.  My husband and I, who had been kind of cranky and strung-out that morning, were in a completely different space.  We were flooded with gratitude and relief, and we put our little man in the car and headed off to look for breakfast and a ride up the beach road.  It is amazing how a simple incident can change everything.

Mercury retrograde.

IMG_0042When we reached the Hatteras ferry,  we were feeling adventurous and positive, and as it happened, a young man wearing a big backpack and carrying a camera spoke to us, and we ended up having a pleasant conversation with him.  His name, he said, was Juan Pablo Cardoña (great name!) and he is from Colombia.  He is creating a blog for the folks back home, in order to show them how to travel with very little money.  He had started his trip, as I recall, in New York City, and had traveled through Philly, DC, down the East coast, and was now headed–on foot–for Ocracoke and then to Cedar Island, and on.  He planned to return to his parents’ home in Orlando to sort out his photos and write his blog.  A nice kid (well, anyone under 30 is a kid to me; he is 26).  We gave him a ride into Ocracoke Village,ocracoke-silver-lake-harbor and he had to decide where to spend the night.  He had so far slept in at least one church, camped out, been offered accommodations by people he met, and he was kind of up against it on Ocracoke, as the campgrounds are closed at this time of year.  But we gave him a small tour of the village and parted with him since we were going in the opposite direction, and the next day, he contacted us on Facebook to let us know he was okay.  I hope he still is.  Again with the 60s theme:  I was reminded of those days when people like me took off for parts unknown whether or not we had money, quite often barefoot.

And given the number Mercury was doing on our lives, I hope he’s okay!

IMG_0133My daughter brought our other two dogs down to spend a couple of weekend days with us:  we had (notice the past tense) two aging Shelties (Shetland Sheep dogs, aka “miniature collies”), both fairly elderly.  The older one had a rough time climbing the steps to our cottage, and we had to haul him up.  On Saturday morning, as we were about to head out for further adventures, I was sitting on the back porch meditating.  I was listening to the waves, and as well, I had the earphones to my iPod in my ears.  I was aware of a distant whining, but I thought it was our young Westie, who gets kind of excited about things.  When I got up, I saw that our oldest Sheltie was in obvious distress, heaving and whining, unable to respond to anything.  It was clear to me that he was very likely dying, and while I was essentially okay with that (he was, after all, quite old), obviously I was distressed.  My husband and my daughter carried him to the car to find a vet, and I stayed with the other dogs.  Of course, he was dying, and the nice young vet they found put him out of his misery and soothed their feelings of guilt and didn’t charge a penny for doing that.  In these days when medical care for one’s animals costs as much as it does for human, that was really quite decent.

And that was that.


Do animals project their thought and feeling upon the human being? Can man reflect the feeling of an animal? Yes, sometimes human beings who are in sympathy with a pet animal feel its pain, without any other reason. The animal cannot explain its pain, but they feel how the animal is suffering. Besides, the most curious thing is that on farms one sees shepherds, reflecting the feelings of the animals; they make noises, sing, or dance in a way that resembles animals’ sounds and movements, and show in many ways the traits of animals. – Inayat Khan

What is it, though, about having a well-loved animal die?  One feels so responsible for its welfare!  And I am reminded of something the psychic Edgar Cayce was said to have given in a “reading:”  animals, he said, don’t have individual souls, but rather a group soul.  I don’t know whether that is true or not, but I have noticed that at the moment of death, the animal’s presence leaves quickly, and there is no fight, no resistance to the moment of death.  Just as our animals love and serve us in life, they are willing to die without resistance.  We were and are heartbroken, but he died a good death, our Wellington the Sheltie, no doubt returning to the Great White Sheltie in the sky.  Why not?  He is with Maggie now, although of course we are anthropomorphizing (to say nothing of philosophizing).

What can we say about Wellie?  Another saintly dog.  This makes sense, as he was raised by Maggie, who taught him how to be a loving and kind-hearted dog.  I never saw him growl or bite in a mean way, only a warning one.  He barked far too much, but he was, after all, a sheepdog.  He did nip at the mailman’s heels once, but after all, he was herding him!  Our nice mailman understood.  Wellie loved his family most of all, not having much use for anyone else, as is typical of the breed.  It is fascinating to me how different breeds of dogs have such completely different personalities:  Shelties are incredibly intelligent and well-behaved dogs.  “Just give me a copy of the job description, and I’m on it,” they seem to say, and so it is.  Spud, on the other hand, is a feisty little so-and-so, empathetic and loving, but far more independent.  He loves everyone.  An opportunist most of all, his predominant answer to any request is “What’s in it for me?”  Not so with a sheepdog.  They are on the job at all times.  We have one cat, Sita, and her general attitude is “leave me alone,” unless, of course, she doesn’t want to be left alone, in which case we’d better comply.  I am quite fond of Sita, but ultimately, I am a dog person. IMG_2041_2.JPG

If we can distinguish ourselves from other beings, it is only in the things that animals do not do that man can be different from them. When it comes to eating, do not both eat? Both sleep; both seek comfort. Man does all the things that animals do; man can only be greater than animals in things that they do not do. And what are those things? Building houses? Birds can do this. Ability to fight? Animals and birds fight. The showing of art and skill? Animals can show these things; think of the spider and how it weaves its web; it is wonderful.

Man was created in order that he might overcome that which animals have not overcome. – Inayat Khan

Our surviving dogs, now that we are home, are wandering around looking as if they don’t quite know what has happened.  It is particularly hard for our second Sheltie, as Pippin is only a couple of years younger than Wellington.DSCF0051  Spud is our “gap dog,” because we knew this day was coming, and figured Pip would want a pal to get him through, and it seems to have been a good idea.  I suppose in a year or two, we will need another “gap dog.”  Everyone should have someone to hang out with.IMG_0607

Some of our friends do not want to have animals.  Animals tie them down, they say. They are a lot of trouble.  To my way of thinking, animals are the real teachers of humanity:

Nature does not teach the glory of God; it need not teach this as nature itself is the glory of God. People wish to study astrology and other subjects in order to understand better, but if we study astrology then we are sure to arrive at an interpretation which is given by a man, whereas what we should read from nature is what nature gives us and not what any book teaches us. There comes a time with the maturity of the soul when every thing and every being begins to reveal its nature to us. We do not need to read their lives, we do not need to read their theories. We know then that this wide nature in its four aspects is ever-revealing and that one can always communicate with it, but that in spite of this it is not the privilege of every soul to read it. Many souls remain blind with open eyes. They are in heaven, but not allowed to look at heaven; they are in paradise, but not allowed to enjoy the beauties of paradise. It is just like a person sleeping on a pile of gems and jewels. From the moment man’s eyes open and he begins to read the book of nature he begins to live; and he continues to live for ever.  — Inayat Khan

We are home now, and our dogs are with us.  For the forseeable future, we will be having Two Dog Nights.  Yet best friends never entirely leave.


A Bunny Day

When I took high school French, I remember our class chuckling when we translated the phrase “cette une bonne idée,” which means “that’s a good idea.”  The translation sounds like the title of this blog post, “a bunny day.”  Cute.  And apropos of this morning.

Our little Westie pup is, as some might know, bred to be a “ratter.”  In other words, he kept those cold, Scottish castles, from which he originated, free of vermin of all kinds.  Our little guy, nicknamed Spud, is simply thrilled with his first mature Springtime (he was a newborn last Spring), and the proliferation of bunnies on our property.  If he gets half a chance, we are well aware that he will sieze one by the throat and make bunny mincemeat out of it, but we have a large portion of our yard securely fenced for our dogs, and hopefully he will never get to act out that particular fantasy.  But he is definitely enthralled by the idea, and the bunnies seem to realize he cannot get to them, because they hop near the fence while he stands there, tail wagging, and barks his head off (fortunately we live in the country, and there are no neighbors nearby to complain about this).  He tells that bunny in no uncertain terms what his plans are for it if he gets half a chance, and the bunny laughs in his face, saying “Come on!  Show me what you got!  Make my bunny day!”  A bunne idée.  By the way, he gets a good bit of practice with our cat, Sita, who loves nothing more than to taunt him at a much closer range, knowing that even if they are approximately the same size, she is one who is faster than he.  Spud simply loves this, but he knows that if he goes too far, she has twenty sharp ways to defend herself.


Meantime, by the time I got out to the porch for my second round of porch-rocking of the morning, the dogs were frolicking together, and in-between Spud bringing the ball to me to throw (and then snatching it out of my grasp… he just doesn’t get it!), I looked out over my “view,” which includes a fenced pasture with too few trees (we’re working on that, but may not be around long enough to appreciate the resulting shade), the shed that needs work and the distant trees and pond that edge our property.  I have to admit it:  sometimes I do not appreciate this view.  I am distracted by all the work the shed needs (and the house), I think that it is time to pick up dog poop, and that the grass needs mowing (all husbandly chores, I am grateful to say).  But this morning, the light of the sun took my attention, as it always will if my ego is not out of proportion, and there were enough luminous clouds to filter the light between my lashes as I was taught to do on my retreat with Pir Vilayat many years ago, in the French Alps, so as not to burn my retina.  Now THERE was a view.  But this is about my own homely view, and this morning I saw that the same sky that is over my head is the same sky that was in those mountains, or by the ocean which is my all-time favorite view.  I breathe the same air, however polluted, as the rishis in the Himalayas breathe, or the whales spouting in whatever sea we care to consider.  If I look deeply enough into the core elements of any phenomena, there is the same perfection of Being, right there gift-wrapped and ready to be opened, ready to be assimilated.

Today, I have the good sense to be grateful.


The following is not my Westie, but I was prompted to do a search in Google Images, where I often steal photos, of Westies chasing bunnies.  Hopefully the proud owner of this Westie and her or his bunny will not mind my sharing it.  I’m not sure I’d have the nerve to let Spud get this close to a bunny, but obviously this Westie has a special relationship with this rabbit.