What horse person isn’t into dogs and cats? Just in case you’re interested and happen to have the radio on, listen to this:
What horse person isn’t into dogs and cats? Just in case you’re interested and happen to have the radio on, listen to this:
Whenever disaster strikes, there is the rush to aid. Someone dies, and remaining loved ones are showered with attention from friends and family. An auto accident produces offers of assistance in the form of casseroles, rides to the doctor’s office, errands run. Natural disasters like the recent earthquake in Haiti create a huge flurry of activity in the form on international aid and reconstruction.
Until, that is, people reach a kind of empathy overload. It’s a natural part of the human psychology to harden a little bit, to have their empathy less and less stimulated by the triggering event. This is the same mechanism that makes pornography so dangerous and even, some would say, our ability to turn away from cruel horsemanship practices like LDR and soring. In these cases, it’s obviously not empathy that gets overloaded, but the appetite for stimulus that gets satisfied in the same way. There is the mental need to move on to increasing foci.
I have experienced this phenomenon so many times I can’t count. I know it intimately. We as a family have had more than our share, more than the share of several families, of sudden disaster. Early on, there were a great outpouring of kindness and offers of assistance. In fact, I don’t know if I could have made it through my daughter’s first grade year without the assistance of the entire lower school of the Princeton Day School. But as the tragedies continued, I found folks to become more and more inured. Whether it was a case of “there before the grace of you go I,” or whether we as a family revealed to them the truth that you can’t really protect your child, I don’t know. All I do know is it became easier and easier for them to make an initial offer and then to turn away. To protect themselves.
This brings me (finally!) to the point of this post.
Elisha Goldstien, PhD iis offering downloads of his ebook, A Mindful Dialogue: A Path Toward Working With Stress, Pain and Difficult Emotions for $9.99, with 100% of the proceeds going to the organization Hope for Haiti Now, which donates to The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, Oxfam America, Partners in Health, Red Cross, UNICEF, United Nations World Food Programme, and Yele Haiti Foundation. Whether this will still mean hope for Haiti in ten years, time will tell, but even as you read this, empathetic minds are wandering, and pocketbooks are dwindling.
The reason I have chosen to donate through Elisha Goldstein is that learning mindful coping mechanisms can only increase and sustain my source of empathy for others (horses included). I develop myself as a being while coming to the aid of others.
Here’s a description of the ebook:
A Mindful Dialogue was written to be a companion through life when dealing with stress, pain and difficult emotions. Through 24 interviews with leaders in the field such as Jack Kornfield, Dan Siegel, Sharon Salzberg, Tara Brach, Jeff Brantley, Zindel Segal and Others and 23 short explorations of simple quotes from leaders such as Thich Nhat Hanh, the Dalai Lama, Rumi, Hafiz, Pema Chodron and others, you’ll uncover a mindful path toward working with the stress, pain and difficult emotions in daily life.
That’s quite a list of contributors. I’ll be please to throw my little hat in with their very big ones and add to the continuing aid for Haitians, who have so little right now.
May the quest for compassion by one individual inform the greater empathy of all.
Rubydog and I encountered them all on our walk yesterday.
Ruby lives in eternal hope that she will one day be allowed to tackle a mongoose: I can’t allow that to happen. They are dangerous when cornered. I’m thankful that they are so swift and antisocial. Usually. Ruby found one who wanted to sit up and smile at her, maybe share a cup of tea. A Disney Mongoose. I had to pull her away holding the entire harness.
We were barely recovered from our mongoose encounter when we spied a young man sitting on the side of the road holding a jerry-rigged bag of golf balls (made from his soccer shirt) between his knees and cradling a young goat. I did a double-take. I asked him where he found her, because she appeared to be only about two weeks old, if that. She was incredibly beautiful–a kind of graphite color, with matching eyes. I was worried about her. She sat silently in his lap as I looked around for her mama. Amazingly, Ruby ignored her, much as she had the turkey the week before. The young man told me that he’d been hunting golf balls to sell back to the club and found her nestled in the brush. I told him I hoped he’d put her back because her mama would come looking for her. I assured him she was not lost. He held her tightly and I had no choice but to walk on. It doesn’t do to tell strange men what to do out in the country.
On the return loop of our usual three-miler, we were looking for our friend the young Green Sea Turtle who browses the sea walls of Keauhou Bay for seaweed snacks. We didn’t see her, so after touring the dock to check for the pink Moray Eel who lives in the lava rocks, we headed for home. And almost tripped over our friend the turtle, who was beached about fifteen feet from the receding surf and making no effort to move. She looked very dry. I wondered if she’d made a mistake and laid eggs during the day. What an odd time and place to choose. I didn’t hesitate. I picked her up, and walked her out about five feet into the sea and cut her loose. She flipped with all her might against me, and swam off once I placed her in the water.
I don’t know if I made the same mistake as the boy with the baby goat. I really believe that wild animals and people don’t mix, because good intentions don’t always align with the larger plan. As I look back, my knee-jerk reaction to help her back to the sea before someone plowed her under with a canoe was just that: automatic and unthinking.
I’m just glad we didn’t accept the mongoose’s invitation to tea.
****Edited to add: I DID make the mistake. Speaking with Linda about this, I learned that, even though the turtle was in the lane where kids and adults take their canoes in and out of the water and in imminent danger of being crushed, I broke the law by touching him. As a protected species he is legally off-limits to humans. Golf-ball boys aren’t the only ones lulled into mistakes by adorable animals. It’s hard in this case to say I should have known better because it was a real conundrum for me.
Superbowl eleventy-six drones on in the distance, floating from many open windows at once.
Two deeply tanned Rastafarian wannabes climb fifty-foot coconut trees wearing only a thin rope against the possibility of a disastrous fall. They bear machetes. To the oohs and ahhs of a party of onlookers, they hack down large clusters of young coconuts that thump and shudder to the earth. Older, dried coconuts rain down one by one with airy thops that raise clouds of coconut-scented dust.
In the soft afternoon breeze, one man descends to lop off the ends of green coconuts for the onlookers to drink. They settle on the large lava rocks in the yard, shade their eyes from the bright January sun, and greedily drink the fresh, rich coconut water as they watch him ascend another tree.
They pry the coconuts in half (careful with that machete!), slice a scoop from the husk. Appreciative fans use the scoop to scrape another island delicacy from the bowls: coconut jelly, the soft, semi-sold young coconut flesh. The elemental elegance of this food (container, utensil and delicacy all in one) is roundly applauded. Dogs wait hopefully for a share.
The agility of the young men and the precariousness of the work they do lend the proceedings the air of a major sporting event. Hefting coconuts with delight, more onlookers join the party, declaring its superiority to televised football. The clash of titans, beer and hotdogs cannot equal the freshness
A rare day of total play today allowed the opportunity to try something I’ve long wanted to do. Standup Paddleboard can be a wild sport like surfing. Especially here in Hawaii, it would not do to call it surfing for wimps and ladies over 40. But it’s my version.
You do it by first kneeling, then standing on a wide, extra-long board and using a paddle to move around rather than riding the waves like a traditional surfer. Today was my first time, so I started out on a huge cloddy board like a foam raft (think training wheels) and worked my way up to a really nice skinny board that was light enough to haul around and easy to get up on from the water when I fell off.
Even though I prepared for the massive wake of a parasailing boat by kneeling before it got to me, I still managed to do a face plant long after the boat had left the scene. I didn’t need its help. There was an elderly lady fishing off the nearby pier who watched me paddle around and who witnessed my splasheriffic fall. I asked her if it was fun watching people learn. She said she mostly worried about people’s safety. “They fall off a lot and lose their paddles and seem to get stuck up on the lava or in the way of boats.” She told me she wasn’t worried about me, though.
What a relief. The fact that it was a huge effort to remain balanced and upright didn’t show! For those of you who have complained of having trouble keeping even weight on both seatbones while riding, I recommend standup paddleboard. If you don’t learn quickly to keep your weight evenly placed on both feet, from your knees, hips, and shoulders, you will fall. Every time. There’s no horse there to prevent it. It’s a great way to get instant feedback and practice mindful movement while having fun.
I spent the afternoon touring the shallows and gazing at yellow tangs and all sorts of colorful tropical fish whose names I should know. They swam right under my feet. In the larger bay, I would take aim for a moored sailboat and determine to make a loop around it and navigate a straight path back to the little hut where I rented the board. Keeping to this kind of path was very hard work. I’m told it’s a good core workout. It was an incredibly peaceful way to pass the time, rivaled only by sailing, my all-time favorite activity next to riding. Solitary, intimate contact with the elements and wildlife. So similar to what I love about hacking out.
This evening I’m pleasantly tired and I know tomorrow I”m going to have those sore muscles that hurt so good.
I can’t wait to do it again.
Yesterday Rubydog and I took our short walk (we only take the long one every other day, for Ruby pretends to be elderly and adopts a hangdog attitude if pressed) down to Keauhou Bay and over to the Sheraton and back. It’s roughly a mile and a half, if you count Ruby’s unscheduled side trips in pursuit of mongoose and feral cats.
On the main road, we encountered a sight that still makes me laugh out loud as I write of it: A woman, patiently but emphatically herding a turkey across the road. Noticing the look of incredulity on my face, she said flatly,
Don’t mind me, I’m just walking my pet turkey.
Hawaii has a lot of turkeys. But I had no idea that they hung around golf courses and marinas at cocktail hour. This old lady turkey felt compelled to walk the yellow line, much to her peril. The giggling woman was attempting to save the turkey’s life. Surfers and paddlers often disobey the 25 mph speed limit in their rush to the bay at “pau hana” time, and turkeys are no match for the giant pickups so favored here.
Uncharacteristically, Rubydog, a keen hunter, wandered right by her in favor of other aromas, nose to the ground!
So the lady, the turkey, the Beagle and I walked companionably toward the Bay for a while until we found it necessary to part company. Turkeys are slow walkers.
Once by the water, we watched the crews of canoe paddlers practice their drills: turning, which is quite a complicated affair; short bursts of speed; and long hauls of sustained power that make my back ache just thinking about them. While we watched and Ruby yearned for a taste of the bait used by nearby fishermen, a sea turtle visited us, ghosting wetly through the lava rocks by the wall where we stood. Now and again he would lift his head to peer at us. We peered back.
Just as I was scolding myself that I must put my old low-res digital camera in my fanny pack for days like this, the day’s crowning visual glory appeared. A young man in a kayak hove to in the bay, with his dog aboard.
Now past the nearly naked beach volleyball players and the puka-shell-necklace-wearing ukulele player singing softly to himself on the jetty, we turned for home.