Howling Dogs

 

 

My wife and I live at the end of a dirt road in a small valley deep in the forest, with a big garden outside, just near to a creek. Besides some distant neighbors, and the mail lady, we seldom have cars come down our road. Most of the year we go to bed to the sounds of the crickets, peeper frogs and katydids. We awake to birds singing. We think of it as idyllic. We have lived here for three years. About six months ago some people moved into a house on the crest of one of the valley ridges. Just close enough to hear their dogs howling fiercely. We at first found that a bothersome addition to our paradise, but no more than a small irritation.

Then it got worsts.  The owners of the dogs began letting the them roam late afternoons and evenings. We began being awakened by their barking and howling, as they roved our forest hunting our beloved deer, foxes, skunks, possums, raccoons and their kin.

I took to cursing these dogs terribly. I was very bothered by our loss of solitude and tranquility, but, being a civilized person I drove up to the house a few times, until I was able to catch the couple at home. I went to the door and rang the door-bell. The woman who opened  the door was very stiff,  with a very unfriendly look. I stated my concerns. She did not seem very interested or concerned. Her husband came and stood beside her. He felt somewhat aggressive, a business person who decided that country-side was now his new playing-ground. I tried to explain that hunting was illegal hereabouts, and that their dogs were disruptive to everyone, especially to me. They matter-of-factly stated that they had moved to the country to be able to have dogs. Then they dismissed me and closed the door in my face.

I endured the noises a while more. Then one afternoon, as the sun was setting, I was hiking out in the forest and I spied a mother deer and her young fawn. I sat down and watched as they nibbled leaves. Then, like banshees, the dogs descended on the young fawn and ripped it apart. They did not eat it, instead they race off after the escaping mother. I was shocked, but still decided to follow them, only to eventually see them catch her and kill her. Again, they left the carcass and raced off for more pray. My fears had been confirmed. They were brutal killers who killed just to kill. I went home and told my wife. We were both unnerved. The howling seemed to get worse after that.

About three weeks later I was walking in the forest as the sun was setting, and the dogs came out of nowhere. Going for me. One bit my leg. I kicked it with my other foot and grabbed a large branch and began swinging it wildly. The dogs stood their ground. They saw my leg was bleeding and wanted to finish the kill. I kept swinging the branch, while I awkwardly bent down and managed to clutch a large rock. I aimed, and hit one of the dogs in the nose, splitting it and drawing blood. He stopped growling and whimpered some, but the other dog became more aggressive. It advanced on me. I struck it hard on the nose and my branch broke and it kept coming at me. I tried to hold it off with my broken branch, but tripped as I backed up and fell backwards. My right hand fell on another rock, I picked it up and smashed it into the dogs open mouth. It yelped and ran away with his partner following. I limped home. My wife urged me to call the sheriff. I lodged a detailed complaint and they said they would investigate. Nothing seemed to happen, however. I called twice more with the same response and no results.

A few weeks later I had to be away a week on business. I have left my wife alone. She had always been fine with being alone. But, this time she called me on the sixth night I was away, and she was very shaken. She said that the dogs had come up our stairs and tried to claw their way into the house, howling all the time. She had locked the door and searched for some friendly sort of neighbor’s phone numbers. The neighbor couple had come to the house after a long agonizing time. Together the three of them had eventually chased the dogs away.

When I returned home I was terribly bothered. But, I just couldn’t come up with a plan. The howling seemed to have increased to most hours of the day and even louder in the early dark mornings. We kept pipes by our door and carried them on walks, and even walking to the car. We considered buying guns, but this was so against our principles that we just couldn’t. The idea of shooting and animal was disgraceful.

However, the dogs and their howling took over our lives and permeated everything we did. It seemed like it would never end. I would even jump out of bed from dreams of the dogs in our house, tearing us from limb to limb. I felt I was possessed and going mad.

Then one day the howling and barking just stopped. I felt off balance and confused. I drove by the house of the owners of the dogs, but could not see any sign of the dogs. I took to roving the woods and did not encounter them, or even hear them. They still haunted my dreams, but with time that began to lessen. Then, one day, while hiking far from our house I stumbled upon the decomposing remains of the dogs. I got on my knees and examined them. Something had gnawed on them, but more importantly their skulls seem to be crushed. It seemed that someone else had had enough.

Nearby there were a couple rocks with what must have been the remains of dried blood on them. And, oddly enough, by the rocks was also a handkerchief, looking just like one my wife and I shared. It too had blood on it. I thought this was a strange coincidence. Walking away from the scene I almost stumbled over a lead pipe. I was really confused, but in the end, I decided life is strange. The dogs that had so ruined our quite paradise were finally gone.

Yet still sometimes I awake at night, and think I hear their howling. Then, I find myself wondering if mean dogs have ghosts and if these ghosts are unforgiving?

(This is my attempt at fiction. How did I do?)

Fight the Holidays Blues

 

 

 

Ho, Ho, Ho. Happy holidays: Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Warm Winter Solstice. Most cultures through the ages, all over the Northern hemisphere, have holidays of rebirth and new beginnings.

Ho, Ho, Ho. Happy holidays: Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Warm Winter Solstice. Most cultures through the ages, all over the Northern hemisphere, have holidays of rebirth and new beginnings.

But, because days are becoming shorter here in the North, and because expectations for holidays are high, many people fight with depression, anxiety, aloneness and disappointment. The first thing to remember is that many people share these challenges this time of year. The next is to give yourself permission to feel some sadness and all the related emotions, but not to get lost in them or wallow in them. In our society many people use some form of opiates, or anti-depressants when feeling low. Sometimes this may be necessary over a period of time when the deep hole of depression, or the crushing immobility of anxiety, keep us from functioning at all. But, I feel that we are usually better off without them, and that they are definitely not the solution for a bout with general holiday blues. If we lower our expectations of the season, and raise our acceptance of whatever happens, we can do better.

Think of a holiday meal, for example. Maybe you are invited to a family gathering. You know uncle Eddie (or uncle Bob or aunt Jean) will be there and that he always ends up attacking your political beliefs. Well, if he always does, he probably is going to this year as well. So, why not be ready for him? Have questions ready, such as what he feels is working well on his side of the political arena. Then listen to him, but take none of it to heart. Uncle Eddie is just who uncle Eddie is. It is not your work to change him.

But what if you find yourself alone and lonely? Why not help someone less fortunate than you? Many churches, charities, and food kitchens either give out, or serve up, holiday dinners. One year during the holidays I had moved far away from anyone I knew, and I had very little money. I volunteered packing food for giveaways and served up holiday meals. I met all kinds of new people and made new friends. I was simply too busy to feel bad for myself.

Anxiety during holidays can be very tricky, of course. What if you think of the family gathering and you get an anxiety attack? What if you think of shopping for gifts and you feel you have no control? You can beat it! I have seen so many people get on the other side of those feelings. Take baby steps. You can call in sick to family gatherings, just as you would to work. If you have anxiety, your life is probably overly demanding, and not serving you well. Give yourself time out, reflect on what you can change, and make a new plan. Or, read up on self-hypnosis, affirmations and guided imagery. See yourself next year as a person that doesn’t have anxiety. You can manifest the changes you desire.

This is a season of unique beauty. There is a deep history of people coming together to celebrate the return of more sunlight. The year I was far away from everyone I knew, I walked down the nearby Downtown. I was an observer as you can only be if you are new to a place, and have no specific role in it yet. I observed people shopping, laughing, fretting, scurrying. I saw the beauty of the snow and the cold and the decorations everywhere. Most of all I observed it as just life and just another season.

The holidays have the potential to be miserable, or to be joyous. The only thing that can make a difference is our attitudes, our expectations, and our acceptance. The good news is that this is something we have influence over. This season is a time of giving and loving and that applies to ourselves as well. Let’s teach ourselves as you would a child you love and are responsible for. Set some standards, expect the best, applaud every victory and be loving and forgiving all the way. Then you will also have the energy to give others what they need – to be truly generous, as we should be during the time of the holidays.

But, because days are becoming shorter here in the North, and because expectations for holidays are high, many people fight with depression, anxiety, aloneness and disappointment. The first thing to remember is that many people share these challenges this time of year. The next is to give yourself permission to feel some sadness and all the related emotions, but not to get lost in them or wallow in them. In our society many people use some form of opiates, or anti-depressants when feeling low. Sometimes this may be necessary over a period of time when the deep hole of depression, or the crushing immobility of anxiety, keep us from functioning at all. But, I feel that we are usually better off without them, and that they are definitely not the solution for a bout with general holiday blues. If we lower our expectations of the season, and raise our acceptance of whatever happens, we can do better.

Think of a holiday meal, for example. Maybe you are invited to a family gathering. You know uncle Eddie (or uncle Bob or aunt Jean) will be there and that he always ends up attacking your political beliefs. Well, if he always does, he probably is going to this year as well. So, why not be ready for him? Have questions ready, such as what he feels is working well on his side of the political arena. Then listen to him, but take none of it to heart. Uncle Eddie is just who uncle Eddie is. It is not your work to change him.

But what if you find yourself alone and lonely? Why not help someone less fortunate than you? Many churches, charities, and food kitchens either give out, or serve up, holiday dinners. One year during the holidays I had moved far away from anyone I knew, and I had very little money. I volunteered packing food for giveaways and served up holiday meals. I met all kinds of new people and made new friends. I was simply too busy to feel bad for myself.

Anxiety during holidays can be very tricky, of course. What if you think of the family gathering and you get an anxiety attack? What if you think of shopping for gifts and you feel you have no control? You can beat it! I have seen so many people get on the other side of those feelings. Take baby steps. You can call in sick to family gatherings, just as you would to work. If you have anxiety, your life is probably overly demanding, and not serving you well. Give yourself time out, reflect on what you can change, and make a new plan. Or, read up on self-hypnosis, affirmations and guided imagery. See yourself next year as a person that doesn’t have anxiety. You can manifest the changes you desire.

This is a season of unique beauty. There is a deep history of people coming together to celebrate the return of more sunlight. The year I was far away from everyone I knew, I walked down the nearby Downtown. I was an observer as you can only be if you are new to a place, and have no specific role in it yet. I observed people shopping, laughing, fretting, scurrying. I saw the beauty of the snow and the cold and the decorations everywhere. Most of all I observed it as just life and just another season.

The holidays have the potential to be miserable, or to be joyous. The only thing that can make a difference is our attitudes, our expectations, and our acceptance. The good news is that this is something we have influence over. This season is a time of giving and loving and that applies to ourselves as well. Let’s teach ourselves as you would a child you love and are responsible for. Set some standards, expect the best, applaud every victory and be loving and forgiving all the way. Then you will also have the energy to give others what they need – to be truly generous, as we should be during the time of the holidays.

First appeared in December issue of The Echo World Magazine

The Art of Living Life Magically

The Art of Living Life Magically
Okay, so this month is June. I seem to have been confused about that last issue, but I am pretty sure this piece of writing will be printed in June. It is easy to get confused when you are working on three issues of a magazine at once. Believe me.
As I write, I think of magic as I often do. For me magic is a way of viewing reality and moving in the world. It can have moments like those we imagine the magician Merlin had in the legends of King Arthur, or similar to Gandalf in Lord of the Rings, and even those experienced  by the characters in Harry Potter. But usually, it shows in the simple things.
There is no TV in our home. We don’t watch it. Occasionally we watch a downloaded movie for relaxation. But usually, we try to spend our time savoring our lives, rather than escaping into the make believe and far-off dramas of mainstream media. We try and keep our food intake simple and healthy. We are hardly purists, but we eat lots of vegetables and greens from our garden and drink many homemade herbal teas.
Real magic, I believe, has lots to do with intent and expectations. If I intend my life to be filled with magic, it is more likely to be. If I expect magic to exist everywhere in my life, it is more likely to.
We are taught in countless ways that reality is only what we can see and touch. What if the material world we live in is only one slice of the reality of existence?
I often ask “what if?” questions: What if other dimensions and expanded realities not only exist but parts of us already exist in them? What if we can use the possibility of these other realms as a source of magic? What if I could do magic, what would bring me and those I love the most happiness, love and laughter? What if I could talk to gods and goddesses, what might they say? What if there were forest folk living around our home, and what might their reality be like? What if I could talk to the dead, what might they tell me I need to hear? These questions open me up to possibilities that because I choose to try them out, become realities.
When we do watch movies, I enjoy them. I mostly choose movies which uplift and inspire me. I have found, however, that my personal imagination becomes kidnapped by the memories of the movies. This makes magic more difficult and challenging for the next twenty-four hours, or so, after we have watched one. I’m still not sure why that is for me. I’m not sure if TV and movies affect most people this way. But I do advise people who want to live more magically, to take a two-day or longer break from media and see how your imagination changes.
While doing this, I encourage any who are interested to play with magic. Start by giving gratitude for all that is good in your life. Let the forces that be, know you want more good of the things you enjoy in your life. Then ask for something specific. Start small. You can pray for more magic or for something to occur. You can pray to God, or to Christ, or to any spiritual being you prefer. You can walk and repeat affirmations of what you want, or visualize all the details. Or you can write down what it is you want, and place it where you see it all the time. It is your ceremony, so set it up so it feels right to you. If you need inspiration on how to perform ceremonies, I speak of some ways of doing them in my books, as do many authors. There are also many sites on how to perform rituals and ceremony on the internet.
I have found any of the above techniques to be great for simple things – such as to bring old friends I can’t find back into my life. They also work well for finding lost items. Once you begin having small successes, build up to a better job, or a great relationship, or major life change you want to manifest.
I still cannot fly, or translocate, but I will let you know if I manage to. Or, as my wife would have made me say it: when I manage to. In the meantime, Happy Magical Life.

Spiritual Traveling in Bolivia

Spiritual Traveling in Bolivia
Anytime is a wonderful time to visit Bolivia. It is autumn now  in the southern hemisphere and the number of tourists, unlike our summer which is their winter, are not overwhelming.
 If you shop around you can get a round trip ticket from Washington D.C. to La Paz, Bolivia for as low as $450. The value of the dollar is amazingly good in Bolivia. Just a few years ago, I spent six weeks traveling around Bolivia, staying at middle range hotels and hostels and spent $1200 for those six months total. More so than many countries, Bolivian people are very friendly and it is easy to meet native people, as long as you give it a bit of extra effort.
I began my trip by bus, arriving at Copacabana on the shores of Lake Titicaca. From there you can visit the Isle of the Sun and the Isle of the Moon; both are where the Inca believed the gods were born. You can also visit the Uru floating islands, where generations of native people have lived near the middle of Lake Titicaca.
From Copacabana, I went on to La Paz. La Paz is located in west-central Bolivia forty-two miles southeast of Lake Titicaca. It is set in a canyon created by the Choqueyapu River. It is located in a bowl-like depression, surrounded by the high mountains of the Altiplano. Overlooking the city is the towering, triple-peaked Illimani. It is thought to be one of the holiest apus, or mountain gods, by the native people. Its peaks are always snow covered and can be seen from many parts of the city. At an elevation of roughly 11,975 feet above sea level, La Paz is the highest capital city in the world. La Paz has an unusual subtropical highland climate, with rainy summers and dry winters. I stayed by the bus station up by the high rim and to go down town had to walk down the steep streets. After exploring the city each day I had to climb back up the steep streets in that high altitude thin air. My favorite place in La Paz was the Witch’s Market. It extends for miles over many city streets. You can find whole streets of shirts, cosmetics, under wear and shoes. My favorite part is the shaman stalls where you can buy any magical supplies from potions that will improve your love life to llama fetishes, which are traditional offerings to the gods. If your Spanish is even marginal you can get the booth owners to explain how things are used in rituals and ceremonies.
My favorite trip from La Paz is to take a bus to Tiwanaku and Puma Punku. These ruins are not well known or very well visited by tourists. Yet they are ancient and more impressive than Machu Picchu in nearby Peru. There is an ancient wall of carved stone heads which have facial racial features that can be interpreted as being from every race on earth. You can also find a stone sun gate which has an ancient accurate twelve month solar calendar and a carving of an elephant on it. The first archeological finds of llamas, corn, potatoes and quinoa were also found near here. There are those who believe that these ruins were part of the sunken Lemuria.
I went on this trip, as well as other trips, by bus to the Amazon rainforest. You can take the bus down the road that is estimated to be the most dangerous road in the world – North Yungas Road (but I cannot with a good conscience recommend this). I took this road by mistake and it was breathtaking. The worst thing that happened, however,  is that we got stuck in the mud for twenty-four hours. This allowed me to become friends with everyone on the bus. The road ends at the town Rurrenabaque, on the edge of the Ichilo River. Rurrenabaque is a quaint fishing town and the entry way to the Amazon. I stayed there in a fifth-floor hostel overlooking the whole village for two dollars a night. Each morning I would go to the market place and have a big bowl of great fish stew and a coffee for seventy-five cents. Near noon I would walk to the river and watch the fisher people catch fish from their boats. They would then bring them to their booths in the market place, clean them and fry them up for lunch.
From there, I went up the river and stayed for free at a big game preservation compound for almost a week, in return for helping out. You can go many places into the Amazon River basin from here. On previous trips there, I explored small villages and met authentic shamans. Up the river you can find the Mididi National Park. After a report from Conservation International in 1990, that recognized this area as Bolivia’s most diverse eco-system, the Bolivian government declared it a national park. It is recorded by National Geographic as one of the world’s most immense biologically diverse reserves on the planet. There are so far recorded about 988 species registered as well. This is truly a wonderful place to visit.
From the Amazon, I took a bus to Sucre. Sucre is also known as the “White City,” for most buildings are white. It is the Constitutional capital of the Republic of Bolivia. It is home to the Supreme Court and is the central axis of judicial power in the country. Situated on a hill top surrounded by low mountains, it’s a beautiful city. It has a great climate. Its population is estimated to be about 100,000. It has wonderful cathedrals, museums, restaurants and many old colonial buildings. I met some great local people who showed me many of the local favorite spots.
From here my trip by bus led to Cochbaamba. This city’s name originates from the Spanish sound derived from the Quechua name Kochapampa, which speaks of an area subject to flooding – literally “The Plain of Chacos.” It is in the heart of Bolivia, halfway between the large eastern flatlands and the high plateaus. It was tropical hot when I was there, but the market places and restaurants were very unique and worth sweating for. Sipping iced lime aid, while watching the local inhabitants shop, was wonderful.
From here, I was on to the city of Potosí. Founded in 1545, the city enjoyed a period of time where it thrived. Due to “Cerro Rico de Potosí,” meaning, the rich hill of Potosí, which was a mountain mostly made of silver, it is said that the Spanish shipped enough silver back to Spain to make a bridge from there all the way to Spain. At its high point, it was transformed by European architects and artists. They made the city into a symbol of riches, luxury, and splendor. Now mostly it is in a state of decay. You can imagine the ghosts of the children who died in the mines roaming the streets.
From there, it is easy to get to the Salar de Uyuni. They are the world’s largest salt flats, located in the Daniel Campos Province in southwest Bolivia, near the crest of the Andes. They extend as far as you can imagine in every direction.
Seeing huge flocks of  pink flamingos on the salt flats at sunset was one of my picturesque memories before I headed back to La Paz and onto Peru.
I love Bolivia. It is so colorful. One of my favorite things about Bolivia is that a large majority of the native people still wear the traditional dress. I strongly advise a  trip for anyone wanting an inexpensive but exotic holiday. This piece first appeared in The Echo World Magazine  www.TheEchoWorld.com