I wanted to take a moment this week to give a “shout out” to all of those wonderful people who have been on the front lines of helping to save the animals from the Houston area after the Hurricane Harvey. And, now, I’m assuming we’ll see more stories of animals being rescued from Florida. So many animal shelters have stepped up to take care of animals in need.
It’s been on my mind ever since the images started coming in from Harvey – a lot of people in rescue boats with cages full of their cats, dogs, birds, guinea pigs, etc. Of course, I have been worried about people getting to safety, but it was especially touching to see people with their pets. I keep thinking about how happy I am that there are people with the resources and ability to help save so many of the animals. It’s quite touching to see people come together to help others in this great time of need.
I know a lot of people have friends and family that are now in Hurricane Irma’s path. Sending prayers and love to all of those in the Houston area who are working on recovering after the devastation, and to those in Florida who are bracing for Irma’s landfall.
I’ve talked to my cats about what’s happening in other parts of the country and asked them to send happy kitty thoughts to all animals in harm’s way. I’m also sending prayers out to the humans who are in harm’s way.
I was recently in Switzerland and reminded again at how much the Swiss love and take good care of their animals.
Two years ago I was in Switzerland for the first time. I was struck at how the dogs are allowed everywhere. It seemed that every time we were on the train, there were at least five dogs in tow with their humans. The dogs were always super sweet and appeared to be used to the crowds of people at the various train stations.
By the way, did you know that the original blood line of the St. Bernard dog is housed in the St. Bernard Foundation in Martigny, Switzerland? On my last trip I was lucky enough to see the beautiful dogs, including a few puppies, and they were so adorable. These St. Bernards are treated as royalty and live in a wonderful facility.
Every time I saw a cat all I could think about was, “Wow…these cats look very healthy.” I can’t confirm this, but I imagine they get quite a bit of the wonderful milk or cream from the Alpine cows. In the adorable city of Thun, there is a great store that is all about cats (and officially “owned” by a cat). The human owner told me that the cats in Thun are well cared for and that the Swiss people really care about animals. I told her about a cat that greeted me on the steps to the ancient castle. He meowed in German and managed to lead me to the top of the stairs all the while stopping to gently remind me to pet his belly. When I left the castle I saw that same adorable Swiss kitty – he accepted a few more pets from me, but he was busy attacking the lizard a few feet in front of him.
And, how can I not include a post about the animals of Switzerland without mentioning the cows. They all have their cow bells on, which creates this beautiful tune of continuous bells ringing in the Alpine air. They are free to graze wherever their strong legs take them, and they seem to be so relaxed and happy. How can I tell? Well, have you ever tasted real Alpine Swiss cheese?! Several towns and villages have festivals for when the farmers lead their cows up and down the Alps. I would love to see one of those festivals as they honor their beloved cows.
From the people with chickens, goats, and other animals in their yard to the cats, cows, and dogs that seem to have all the freedom they want, it was so wonderful to see these happy animals.
This summer I have noticed more birds and sounds of birds. I think it may have been the positive influence of one of my friends from the Bear River Writers’ Conference who is a nature expert. We had a conversation about being able to appreciate nature even in the midst of the concrete jungle of Chicago.
Whether I’m out for a walk, running errands, or running along the lakefront path, I’ve come to notice the birds and the beautiful sounds of their summertime chirping. I also notice, and stay away from, the Canadian Geese…that’s a story for another time.
If I happen to see a dog on the path stalking a bird or a squirrel it brings a big smile to my face. I know the dog isn’t going to kill the bird or squirrel, so that’s why it’s a cute interaction. It’s especially funny when the squirrel outsmarts the dog and runs around to the opposite side of the tree and the dog is left in utter confusion. I can just hear the dog saying, “Where did that pesky squirrel go?!”
For my cats, I have always felt bad that we don’t have trees right outside our window so they can do their own stalking. This year, though, we seem to have a number of birds flying by on a regular basis. There also must be a tree that has gotten bigger or has become a safe place for birds to land, because I feel like we’re hearing more birds when the windows are open. Or, could it be that I’m paying more attention to the calming sounds of nature? Hmmm….
Well, even though my cats are getting more real-life experience with birds these days, I occasionally will play bird videos for the cats on YouTube. It’s so funny to watch them get so enthralled with the computer screen! I love that they think the bird is in the apartment when the bird flies away on the computer screen. Sometimes I’ll play the squirrel and bird video and Abby gets a little upset with the squirrel. I’d hate to see what would happen if they met in real life! The best part is seeing them intent as they watch the birds fly in and out of the screenshot. Ten minutes of bird videos means they will all sleep through the night.
I hope everyone is able to enjoy the nature in your hometowns this week. Enjoy the cuddle!
I first wanted to wish all of the fathers, uncles, grandfathers, step-fathers, and fur-fathers a Happy Father’s Day! I hope today is a day where fathers are honored and have moments of relaxation.
This past week the idea of “being still” kept coming to mind. Reggie made me think of this early in the week. Sometimes Abby and Reggie will go on the stairs for a quick run up and down a flight. Occasionally, I’ll take Reggie on a “walk” up about five or six flights to give him more exercise and some quality time with me. He gets a small bite of a treat when he runs up each flight, so he’s come to love hanging out on the stairs.
Throughout the week I noticed all the cats in their moments of chillin’ and being quite comfortable with being still for a long period of time. I saw an adorable dog the other day stalking a squirrel. I watched this dog look like a statue for several minutes. He was all set on staring down that squirrel for as long as it took. (I wish I had a picture.)
Then, once again, I was reflecting on my time at the Bear River Writers’ Conference at Camp Michigania on Walloon Lake (check out last week’s blog). There are many reasons that I love Bear River, but one of the reasons that I think many of the participants love our time is our chance to be still. Being in nature, among fellow writers, and away from our busy lives allows us a few days to be still with our thoughts and our writing.
It was a somewhat crazy week for me as the end-of-year “stress” piled up; graduation, finals, finishing grades, cleaning and packing up the classroom, and the like. I finally realized that I needed to find moments in my day to be still. Whether it’s sitting down to reminisce about Bear River, or watching Reggie sit on the stairs for five minutes, it was so helpful to me to do something as simple as being still for a few moments. I hope we are all able to find a moment or two to “be still” and appreciate the world around us, as well as, the world within us. Now, if I could only figure out what Reggie is thinking when he’s sitting still!
Some of you may know that I was off last week to attend a writing conference. This is no ordinary conference. It’s a retreat, a chance to re-connect with nature, make new friends, and re-connect with old friends.
The Bear River Writers’ Conference first entered my life in 2015, and I was blown away by the wonderful feeling of being surrounded by like-minded, friendly people for five days. The conference takes place at the University of Michigan Alumni Association’s Camp Michigania on Walloon Lake. During the summer, Camp Michigania is host to Michigan Alums for weeks of family camp. The week before family camp starts, 100 writers and 10 authors/instructors invade the camp for several days of writing and camaraderie. After my first year at Bear River I would say, “It’s time for writing camp!”
This was my third year attending the Bear River Writers’ Conference. For the third year in a row I had a magical time and realized how much I missed the setting as soon as I drove around the bend and saw Walloon Lake. I love everything about it – the intense hours of writing, working hard with your fellow group members, the wonderful food in the dining hall (and soft serve ice cream), staying in a cabin, being disconnected from TV and internet most of the day, being in nature, and the list goes on. For the third year, I felt a little bit of pain in my heart as I left because I didn’t want to leave.
Upon my return home after the 6-hour drive, my cats greeted me with a lot of purring and meowing. I kept saying, “Did you guys miss me?” When they meowed in reply I was thinking they either said, “Yes! We missed you!” or “Hmm…not really…we just want you to feed us.” Well, even though I love going on little trips (and I absolutely love going to the Bear River Writers’ Conference), I also miss my cats when I’m away.
At this point, I’m carrying my positive energy I gained at Bear River this year with plans to return in 2018. It will probably hit me some time in April of 2018 how much I miss Bear River and I’ll start doing the countdown once again. I love the peace and serenity of Camp Michigania, and connecting with so many amazing writers. I’m sure all of my “cuddlers” have a place they love, too! Hopefully, this post has brought you to the place you love.