When we are confronted with that which is amazing and wonderous and profound, too often our first response is to reduce that experience with mundane explanations, even if in doing so, we are compelled to distort and forget that which we knew, if even for a brief moment, to be true.

These are the wonderous stories of the Heart Family.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

What did he do? What did he do?

Noble Heart

One evening near bed time, my lower back started to hurt. A general ache unexpectedly escalated to a tremendous pain in a matter of minutes. I tried to ease the pain by laying down, but the pain was so much that ultimately I crawled back out of bed and started pacing around the room, hands pressed on my lower back and tears running down my face. Nothing would ease this pain. Again I crawled back into bed, still crying from the pain, and hoped against hope that I could doze off, looking for any escape. This went of for about thirty minutes.

I laid on my side, knees pulled up and quietly continued to cry. I don't know how long I was in this position. I was mildly aware that one of the cats had jumped on the bed behind me, but didn't give it another thought.

In the next moments something amazing and inexplicable happened.

Noble Heart had jumped up on the bed and was standing behind me. He leaned and rested his side very gently against my back, right at the point of the excruciating pain.

In the amount of time it would take for someone to exhale slowly, the pain was gone. Completely gone.

I couldn't understand what had just happened and was afraid to move, lest any movement brought the pain back. I know that my eyes had flown wide open and I kept asking, "What did he do? What did he do?"

JH smiled and kept telling me to "Just breath. Everything's ok, just breath."

She had "heard" Noble Heart before he came over to help me with the pain. She heard him sigh in resignation and say "I"ll get it" as he came over to help.

His message to me was, " you can do this too." I have been puzzling over this for a long while as I do not know any way to heal someone by touching them. I don't know any way to heal anyone at all.

In the following years, my cats have repeatedly told me I can make them feel better by touching them but "mom doesn't know this yet." Light Heart has back pain from time to time and asks that we work the energy on his back with our hands. My resolution instead is to take him to our most wonderful vet who has many skills, including chiropractic skills. I told her Light Heart's request for healing through hands, saying I can't do that. She softly replied that she thought I could.

Sometimes is seems everyone around me knows more of the wonder of life than I will ever understand. As I told a friend recently though, it doesn't matter where you are in your path, only that you keep growing.

I have tried over and over again to share this story with people, trying to tell them the amazing ability Noble Heart had to take away the pain. Almost no one hears the story I am actually telling. They come up with their own explanations that fit with their own understandings and perceptions.... the pressure of the cat and the warmth caused healing.... things like this. My attempts to explain this was not the case usually aren't heard or understood.

We all are usually limited to seeing only that which fits into our understanding of "all that is". I am on a joyful path of expanding that understanding, paying attention to life differently, and trying to learn, trying to grow.

I am so very lucky to have these companions helping me along the way.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

I live with Giants

Noble Heart

One is frequently accused of "anthropomorphizing" when describing animal behaviors when in fact we are simply acknowledging their true nature. Our cultures, our religions and our science are all dependent on the belief that humans are somehow separate and different, when in fact we are all connected.

Even before I truly understood who my cats really were, I experienced many instances of wonder and amazement with them.

One example is how Noble Heart, our grandfather spirit, at a young age would find ways to constantly challenge himself.

One challenge he especially enjoyed was to put a small brown paper bag or small box on his head so that he could not see his surroundings. Then, with his head held carefully to keep himself purposefully "blind-folded" he would attempt to walk the length of the room he was in. His body would be stiff, his steps slow and purposeful, as he slowly made his way. Inevitably he would gently walk into a solid object such as a chair or wall. When that happened, he came to a complete stop, paused to consider his situation, then deliberately took two to three steps backwards, rotate himself so that he would be pointing in a slightly different direction, and then move forward again, trying to maneuver around the obstacle without ever removing the bag from his head.

Only when he reach the far end of the room would he drop the bag and visually assess his route and his success.

I have no idea what "science" would say about this behavior, but to me, it was absolutely clear that he was testing himself, with a physical and a thinking challenge, to see how well he could manage to maneuver through a space without using his sight. There was no denying the gears running in his mind as he deliberately worked himself through his blinded obstacle course.

As I know him now, I am not at all surprised he would do such a thing.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Getting back to it

GH and LH

It has been many years now since all four of these wonderful beings came together with me as a family, joined later by another two legged. The six of us make a cohesive family unit, each bringing their own special gifts, and each having unique and ever evolving relationships with the others.

We are growing older now, health issues arising among humans and cats from time to time. We weather them well enough and the family goes on.

I have been struggling lately, struggling hard against all the toxicity of my "outside" world, the world outside the safe borders of my home. At the end of each day what I long for most is to just get home, close the door to the outside, and be here in the middle of this Heart Family. My most favorite time of the day is going to bed at night, even as I have to negotiate my own bit of real estate on the bed. With a dozen cat beds lying around and other additional soft padded surfaces for them to sleep on, they choose instead to climb in bed with us at night, the whole family coming together. There is a tenderness to this that I have rarely seen in human-human interaction.

I have many fears in life, one of the biggest being that I will never grow to the person I am supposed to be within this lifetime. I have lost the dreams I may have had at one time, replaced only with the efforts to get through the day, pay the bills, and hope nothing bad will happen beyond my resources to cope.

My cats have frequently been and continue to be my main teachers and my guides, always giving advice and encouragement, patient with me beyond reason as I fail to live up to who I could and should be. When I have completely lost my way, when I have lost all sense of worthiness, I am reminded that I must be someone of value to have a family like this around me - this family of gentle giant spirits.

I jokingly say that I used to think of myself as a person living with four cats, and while saying this, I hold my hands out low to the ground, indicating four cats around me. And now I say I am a person living with four cats and I raise my hands above my head as far as I can reach, to indicate the magnitude of the giant spirits I have come to know these cats to be. While once I considered myself their caretaker, I fully know now they have come to support me, and I am the one in need of care taking.

If I could I would freeze this moment in time with all of us, stop the aging process and the physical passing of time, and whisk us all away to a quiet lovely place where we could simply live peacefully together. No human-centric religion has proposed a "heaven" that could be any better than just this family together.

In every fire ceremony I ask first for health and safety for the family. Everything else is secondary to that.

It is time I get back to this journal, get back to telling their stories. I need to do this for them, to honor them, and for me, to remember better all the life lessons they brought to me, and perhaps in the remembering, I will take one step further along in actually realizing the person in me they believe me to be.

It is time, but not tonight, because my bed calls, my partner already asleep and the cats watching me, waiting for me to crawl into bed so they can settle in around us.

Hang on everyone, I'm coming . . .

Sunday, August 23, 2009

What I Love

I have been working a lot lately with my Spirit Guide and he has suggested that I spend some time thinking about what it is I love about these four cats. This is a good an important exercise.

Light Heart

Light Heart - good faithful friend

I love that you are a faithful good friend, how you manage to sneak into our bed in the middle of the night without me ever knowing that you have come, and are there when I wake in the morning, nose in my face with your gentle nudging, how you love to cuddle in the morning and are as reluctant as I am to get out of bed. I love how your meows are just little cries, when in fact you are a very strong guy but you choose to speak softly. I love that you will "fetch" small balls of paper and drop them at my feet. I love how you roll on your back and stretch very long, and then tilt your head to see if I have noticed you in all your grandeur. I love how you let GH chase you after a meal, and how you lower your head and lean forward to me so I can give you a kiss on your head. I love your love of ice cream and cheese. I love how you crawl onto my lap in the afternoon - not taking "no" for an answer, reminding me that time together is more important than any task I need to do.


Golden Heart

Golden Heart - feminine and nurturing

I love that you love "girls time" together, sitting between us on the sofa, or purring like mad if you get to go into the backroom with us, away from the boys. I love that you have chewed up the bird clock between 6-8:30 trying to "get" the bird inside as it calls every hour. I love that you have learned to stand your ground with the boys without loosing your feminine side. I feel that you are "mom" over us, watching over us. I remember how, even as a kitten, you were taking care of me, a big job them for such a little one. I love how you will start to purr just because I have placed a my hand on you, and I love that you love your "necklace" so much that you almost pout when it is removed, even so briefly, for adjustment. I love that I know I can count on you loving me, even when I have annoyed you. I love that you voice your opinion and keep me focused on doing right by you. I love when you think no one is looking and let yourself loose with play and I very much love that you seek me out to cuddle with, and to sleep next to.

Strong Heart

Strong Heart - earnest and endearing and brave

First of all, I am very proud of you, of the guy you have grown up to be. I admire your path and I admire your courage. You are a spirit warrior, taking on the task of growing into the person you were meant to be, not letting physical challenges or emotional challenges stop you. I admire how you fearlessly jump in to defend the "underdog" in any situation. I love our lap time every morning and how you cannot contain your joy paying with "sparkle stick." I hope to someday be the person you see when you look at me. I love that no matter how much you have grown, you know how to remember to be a young guy, full of adventure, full of hope and full of fun. I admire how very brave you are at every vet visit, never trying to pull away and run, even when I know that is what you want to do. You stand your ground so well and make me think that your name is also Brave Heart. I am very glad you "found" me a the shelter, that you could recognize what I did not yet know, and that you called and called and called to me until I heard you and brought you home.

Noble Heart

Noble Heart - ancient and wise, guardian and teacher

I am honored that you have come to us again in this life, as you have done before, to watch out over us and help us and teach us. I am comforted knowing you are here, knowing I have one that keeps me safe, and I hope my efforts keep you safe as well. I love that you sit on the sink each morning when I take a shower, and patiently wait for your time to jump on my shoulders and play and purr. You are faithful, you are wise, you are patient, you are good. You remind me that I must be someone important that you have come to live here. I love that you let me sleep with my arm around you, I love that you sing at night when we have all crawled into bed. I am amazed that you never defend your food, even when you are hungry. You are a grandfather spirit. I love that you are always ready to play and that you sit at the door to say good-bye each day, reminding us you are with us wherever we go. I hope, in some life, to be as wise as you are now.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Its interesting that I paused my story right before my first phone conversation with a professional animal communicator. How do I adequately tell what happened next? I had entered into the consult with great reservations, having no idea what a transformative experience this would end up being in my life and in the lives of my family.

The phone call was short, maybe 30 minutes, and Noble Heart was given a chance to talk about what he wanted for his home. The communicator was surprised that he didn't have a sense of his home. I remember her saying that animals generally know where they belong.

We didn't come to a resolution that night about his destiny.

I remember telling him I loved him, and he turned to me and asked "Why? I didn't ask you to love me." I didn't have an explanation of WHY, only that it was so.

What did happen though as a result of the phone conversation was a quantitatively distinct change in his behavior. Whereas prior to the call I was forced out of bed literally half a dozen times a night to stop him from chasing Light Heart and Strong Heart (more later on how he didn't harass Golden Heart), immediately after the call, I was sleeping through the night and getting up only a few times a week to "break it up" between the guys.

Clearly, something real happened with this phone call.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

What is a cat?

What is a cat? Or, better asked, who are these cats that live with me?

Naturalists speak of the cat in the context of domestication, and remind us they are far less domestic than our canine friends. Certainly when I watch movies of wild cats, or observe large wild cats in zoos, I see much of my cats' behaviors in them.

Are these cats that live with me little lions, little cheetahs? Do they hear the echos of their wild cousins? Certainly cats become "feral" in one generation. They must remember, they must feel the call to hunt. They certainly are always alert and aware of their environment, as their wild cousins must be to survive.

I have heard many people speak of cats as "aloof" and "not needing human companionship." I wonder who these people are and if they have ever actually lived with a cat. My clan is ever present, involved in all that I do, inspecting my activities, joining in, voicing their opinions. Even as I type this, one is standing on my shoulders (ouch). I am always amused at the number of cat beds spread throughout our rooms that go unused at night (they are used in the daytime when I am not home) as the entire clan decides to pile in bed with us instead, and I usually end up struggling to negotiate enough real estate to just roll over.

They are wild and yet they are not wild. They have bridged the gap to live with us. Is it a compromise they have chosen freely or are they just amazingly adaptable?

And the bigger question, what of their spirit? What of my spirit? I am a biological being with a genetic heritage. So are they. How does our biology contribute to our essence? How much of our spirit is tied to our biology and how much of us is greater than that which we were born into?

Little did I know, I was on the path to beginning to find the answers to these questions.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Finding Home

One thing I have learned over the years is that the animals know where they are supposed to be, they know where their home is and usually come into this life already focused on the intention of getting to their home and family, when the time is right. When friends tell me that they are thinking about acquiring a companion animal and wonder where to go to find them, I smile and tell them to just announce their intention to the universe, and the animal(s) will find them.

My family found their way home in their own unique ways. What I was unaware of at the time, was that a family member had made his way to his family (our home) and I had adopted him out to another family. The foster kitten who had left to live with the young couple then had to double his efforts to get back home to me. He did this by destroying everything he could in the home he was in, including destroying books, creating serious deep scratches into wooden bookcases, scratches I would not believe a cat could make, and by incessantly harassing the other cat in the home. After five months of tornadic activity, the nice young couple felt they had no choice and returned him to me.

He was bigger now, quiet a handsome fellow, full of more energy than any other cat I had met. I had always liked him and had kept tabs on him after he was adopted away. Now that he had returned again, I felt quite bad that in his first nine months of life, he had changed homes five time. Clearly we hadn't done right by this guy and my heart went out to him, trying to image the world from his point of view.

He spent his evening chasing my two boys (he didn't bother my girl) but when the chaos finally did end, he would not sleep with the rest of us, choosing instead to find a place alone in another room. Like a child in foster care, he didn't have the feeling of belonging.

Sitting with the desperate feeling that we needed to do better than we had done for this young guy, I dug up the name and phone number of the communicator given to me many months earlier, to consider a consultation - something I still had great doubts about. I read again the name and thought it seemed familiar.

It suddenly dawned on me - I had just read her book on animal communication.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Animal Communication

I carefully approached my pile of books on animal communication. I would read one book and then sit with the stories for a good while before I was willing to start the next. I read with great skepticism, but I kept reading.

How can this be, that there are so many people that believe in this way of connecting, and yet I had never heard of this for the thirty some odd years of my life? It was as surprising as realizing the sky actually was green, but I had never known, because I had always been told it was blue.

I spent many months working my way through these books. One of the shelter volunteers admitted he "talked" to his cats through a professional communicator and he gave her name and phone number to me. I stored it away on my computer and quickly forgot about it.

A More Surprising Encounter

During this time a number of important events happened, of which I will only summarize here. My mind took a left turn, as if someone turned down the dimmer switch for no apparent reason. Then, several months later, the dimmer switch was gently turned back up. The surprising result was that I came back with my brain rewired. At the time, there was no explanation. In retrospect, I can see that I couldn't have moved any further in the direction I was supposed to grow until parts of me were rewired.

While before there used to be three or four simultaneous streams of thought running through my head, now there were only two, or sometimes one. What I thought was an extraordinary ability, to mentally juggle many things, now I have come to see was a real handicap. I would not have been able to hear the universe until the din and commotion in my own mind quieted.

As the lights came back on, I had an extraordinary experience that I could not explain. I had an encounter with a dying animal where I heard its cry in my head. It lasted for only a moment, scared the #%$#^ out of me, and left me profoundly confused. There was nothing in my understanding that could explain what I had encountered.

I had the opportunity to share my experience over dinner one evening with the cat socializers team. I had expected my story to cause a chuckle and provide some entertainment. Instead, they began to share their own stories of animal communication.

Animal Communication. What was that?

I did the only thing the scientist in me knew to do. I went to the internet and bought a pile of books about animal communication.

My life has never been the same.

A Surprise Encounter

One Sunday afternoon, the shelter foster coordinator approached me and asked if I could temporarily foster a kitten who had been unexpectedly returned to the shelter that day. Kittens were not allowed to stay in the shelter, around older cats, to protect them from shared diseases. I told her very sternly that I was NOT a foster home. I had three cats in a small living space and no room for more. She was desperate and kept insisting until I relented and agree to take home this kitten, temporarily, until a more suitable foster home could be found.

Once I agreed to this, I went over to meet the little guy. He had been adopted by an older couple who had found him just too much to handle and at four months of age, he was back in the shelter system again. His cage was covered by a towel, usually done to help cats feel more secure. I carefully lifted the towel and found my self face to face with a LARGE kitten, alternating between hissing and emitting a low growl. Oh boy. What did I get myself in to?

He came home and I settled him into the only spare room I had. To make sure he had some company, I alternated sleeping in my regular bed with my family (which was my sofa) and on the floor in his room with him. He was very affectionate, and would body slam himself against me as he laid down to sleep with his entire body pressed against mine. Although he was full of frenetic energy, he was easy to love.

Days turned into weeks as we worked to find him his new home. Eventually a very nice young couple adopted him, hoping he would be a good companion for their female feline. I liked them very much and felt we had found for him a good family.

Quiet time, growing time

For the next few years our little family - Light Heart, Golden Heart, Strong Heart and I - continued to find our path to connecting to each other. I had learned a lot more about the "science" of cats, but was also discovering the bonding one has with their four legged family. I remember many nights while I sat typing on my computer, Strong Heart rested his front legs on my arm, sitting peacefully for hours beside me. Sometimes I would lean my head toward his, and he would press his forehead against mine, and the two of us would just sit, resting our heads together, for long quiet stretches. Peace and contentment and the joy of each other's presence.

I was growing in different ways, exploring different ideas and different ways of being. I became a vegetarian, but cannot tell you the day it was decided. I had been consciously or unconsciously avoiding meat for a while before I had realized that was what I was doing. In retrospect I think it came in part because my relationship to the four-leggeds was changing, and caring for some while eating others was a practice of convenience, not of true honesty.

Of the three, Strong Heart was the "ponderer," one who drew into himself and dreamed of far away places. I don't know if his somewhat limited vision inspired him to turn more inward. I remember one summer evening, when a storm was blowing in, we lay together with our noses to the screen of the window. I watched him close his eyes and smell the storm breeze, reading its messages. I closed my eyes and tried to do the same, to feel the storm, to smell the storm, trying to connect with his vision of his world. To this day my senses remember that encounter - a gift he gave to me.

My family was gently molding me, preparing me for what was to come - an adventure so different I could have never dreamed it to be so.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Life moving on

The next few years were filled the many good things. After a short time at a bad job, I landed a job that I loved - good work, good coworkers, good pay. I continued my volunteer work at the cat shelter, first on the cleaning crew, then on the vet crew where I learned a tremendous amount about health care for cats, and finally, more by accident, discovering where my real talent was, working with scared and depressed cats.

I started doing this informally, going into the shelter during the quiet times to visit with the cats who needed special attention. Other volunteers were doing the same thing and in time we became the "socializing" team. We would compare notes on the different cats, trying to identify which needed help and what worked best for each individual cat. A depressed cat that stops eating can start to go into liver failure in as short as three days, and it was not uncommon for the stress of being in a shelter to make a cat scared and depressed. We were all aware of the importance of what we were doing.

I met some tremendous people and many unforgettable spirit cats during this time. Luckily my job was close to the shelter which made mid-day visits possible, when the shelter was the most peaceful. Sometimes I would sit next to a cat that didn't want to be handled and read poetry, thinking that a soft musical voice would be soothing. From time to time, the cats would peek over my shoulders at the pictures on the pages of the books from which I was reading. I pretended not to notice as I would read on.

Its been many years since I was a volunteer at that shelter but I remember fondly many of the cats I met there. I may share some of their stories from time to time, but as my grandfather spirit cat is reminding me tonight as I try and wrestle keyboard access from him, right now its the story of our family I need to tell.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Joy of Home

Strong Heart didn't have any obvious transition to being brought to a home with two other cats. He wasn't bothered at all by them, he simply seemed overjoyed to be home.

Light Heart and Golden Heart participated in the obligatory hissing that any respectable cat would do when faced with an introduction. Strong Heart didn't seem to notice.

I remember well his first day integrated in to the family after a brief period of separation. He would sleep on my chest as I lay on the sofa, only to wake from time to time, LEAP off me to the floor (he never carefully climbed down - he always bounded everywhere he went), played like mad with some toy until he was exhausted, and them climbed back up on my chest to sleep again - always sleeping on me.

To this day, I don't think I have seen a living being express such joy as he did in those early days, when he knew he had found his way home.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Family Building 103

Strong Heart

Over the next few weeks an amazing interaction unfolded. Each time when I entered the shelter, before I was in his line of sight but as soon as this little guy heard my voice, he would start to cry and cry and cry and would not stop until I pulled him out of his cage and sat down with him on my lap. He passed up on the opportunity for floor time to just stay on my lap, continuing his unique practice of pushing his nose up mine, causing me to giggle every time. Admittedly I started to look forward to my visits with him, and held my breath through each open house, hoping no one else noticed his charm and that he would still be at the shelter the next day.

A cat with an obvious medical condition, as this little guys cataract clearly displayed, isn’t always at the top of the potential adoption list but there are actually many more good souls that I would have thought that do come into shelters and look for the “less than perfect” cat. These are likely the folks that have learned what I was in the process of learning – that our relationship with our companion animals is profound and not limited by such things.

Soon it became clear to me that we had a bond and that I wanted this guy to come home with me. One of the other volunteers on the cleaning crew was also an adoption counselor and was more than happy to expedite the paper work. Before I knew it, I now was a three cat home, wondering what I had done, as growing my family was never in my plans. (Little did I know!)

Strong Heart had worked hard to find his way home. I pieced together what the shelter knew of his history. He was abandoned at an apartment complex and was one of a number of cats left there to forage on their own for food. A kind family noticed his eye, thought he should have medical attention, caught him up and brought him to the shelter. By the time I met him, he already has his own ophthalmologist (yes, there are veterinary ophthalmologists!).

I believe now that our animals find their way to us, having the intention before they are born of knowing where they need to go. Strong Heart had to choose to be born with congenital eye problems, be abandoned, and then travel many miles to be at the right shelter at the right time for me to find him. What I once thought was nothing more than happenstance, I now see as intentional universal design.

My little buddy found his long way home.

Strong Heart

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Moving On

I was growing accustomed to single life and starting to enjoy the new found freedoms that came with deciding all things for myself for the first time in many years. I had a chance to define myself instead of being defined by another.

One of the benefits of my job at the time was that I received the entire month of August off as paid vacation. While it was delightful to have that much free time, I didn’t have any extra cash to take any trips or do anything out of the ordinary. Not sure what to do to fill the time I decided to return to the shelter where Light Heart and Golden Heart came from and do some volunteer work. I worked on the cleaning crew, which came twice a day to clean cages, change water and record all eating and litter box activities of each cat. It was meaningful and fulfilling work and the experienced volunteers shared with me a lot of what they knew of cats.

One morning, as I was working my way down a row of cages, cleaning each one, I noticed that one cat had vomited in his cage. I wasn’t really looking forward to cleaning that up, and initially skipped his cage, and moved on to the next, putting off for a few more minutes having to address the situation.

What happened next was interesting. I had a strong feeling that I hurt this cat’s feelings when I passed over cleaning his cage. It was a strong enough feeling that I went back to his cage, apologized for what I had done, and started right away to clean up the mess. Of course, at the time I am sure I convinced myself that it was I who called up those feelings. It was not in my believe system to think this cat could know my intentions and of course I could have no way of knowing what he was feeling.

I still had so much to learn.

After I finished up cleaning his cage I took him out and sat down in a chair with him on my lap. He needed drops put in one of his eyes which had a mature cataract, even though he was believed to be only six months old. An experienced volunteer showed me how to administer the drops and afterwards I held him close, an apology of sorts for putting the drops in his eyes. He was content to stay in my lap and would get up from time to time and shove his face right into mine – literally putting his wet nose up my nostril, not once, but almost any chance he could. I had a wet face in no time.

Eventually I needed to finish my tasks but as I tried to put him back in his cage, he suddenly resisted being separated from me. He literally, just as you would see in a cartoon, spread his legs as far as he could so he would not pass through the cage door. I wrestled him until I finally got him inside and just when I thought I had outsmarted him, he turned and deliberately ran back up my arm and clung to my chest. He would not be separated from me.