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May 17, 2013
Those jerk squirrels have already found the woodpecker feeder I hung outside my office window at the church a few days ago, before the woodpeckers have even gotten wind of it. As all bird people know, the squirrel is the most successful small mammal out there. No squirrel-proof bird feeder is ever really squirrel-proof, not for long. They figure it out, and then they tell all their jerk friends.

Other members of the animal kingdom coexist with us fairly smoothly, but not without effort on our part. We court some of them and tolerate others, in preferences that fall considerably south of rationality.

And we are fickle in these love affairs. I for instance, have long been a cat person, apt to disparage the entire canine wing -- too affable, too enthusiastic, not sufficiently discerning. Cats were the thing: aloof, quiet, snobbish enough so that any demonstration of affection from one was a treasure. I still feel that way -- although certain cats in our home are wearing out their welcome (more about that later). But suddenly I seem to be in the process of faling in love with a dog.

A dog! My great-granddog Cookie is still a puppy, I believe -- I'm not sure how long you get to stay a puppy, actually, but she's about 10 months old, so I think we could say that she's still a puppy. Most puppies I have known didn't weigh 60 pounds, though, and none of them could best me in a game of tug-of-war, as Cookie can. She walks me around the neighborhood once or twice a day, flinging me back and forth like a sack of flour at the end of her leash. My upper arms are going to become as toned as Michelle Obama's, I hope, from walking Cookie -- although at present they are merely covered with bruises from her winding the leash around me, pinning them to my sides. Michelle probably doesn't take blood thinners. And maybe Bo, our First Dog, is a gentler walker than Cookie, who is one strong puppy.

The cats ignore Cookie, which surprises me a little, as they have not known many dogs in their long lives. But then, this is yet another index of their growing self-absorption. Earlier and earlier each morning they campaign for breakfast, congregating on the porch outside our bedroom window and issuing demands. If he thinks we have not arisen soon enough, Santana deliberately deposits a turd on the floor, a silent but eloquent rebuke.

The youngest of the group, Kit Carson, is a fine cat, but I have been thinking for about a year that it is high time Ben and Santi went home to Jesus. It is evident, though, that Jesus doesn't want those cats either: both are pushing nineteen, with no signs of going to Jesus anytime soon. Of course, whose fault is this? It is squarely ours: if we didn't keep taking them to the vet, they'd surely have gone home by now. They are in the process of outliving the vet, in fact: after having funded the Ivy League educations of all his children, Ben and Santi have been seen by his heir apparent lately instead. With such fidelity, we have prolonged our own captivity. This is because I lack backbone where the cats are concerned: I don't want them to get sick and suffer. I guess I just want them to ascend into heaven, like Jesus. Or maybe they could have a dormition, like the Virgin Mary.

On the brighter side, the hummingbirds are back. They arrived arguing, as usual: three feeders in the garden, each with four feeding ports, a total of twelve opportunities to sip nectar, not to mention all the flowers. But no: each wants to be the ONLY hummingbird here, and establishing a no-fly zone for other hummers is each one's highest priority.

I close with the earthworms: the compost pile is very heaven for them, as it has been throughout the long winter. Dark and rotting, soft and ready for their progress through God knows what leftover produce, in whatever they have that serves as a mouth and out the other end, rich and ready to course through the veins of the new plants. The new garden is so much smaller than our old one, as our new house is tiny by comparison. But the beauty and the humor of it all is still the same: large or small, old or young, vertebrate or not, well-behaved or annoying -- all of us welcome another spring.

Two opportunities to study with Barbara Crafton in New York:

Retreats, Quiet Days and How to Lead Them, a course with Barbara Crafton at General Seminary, June 6-8. Contact the Rev'd. Jeanne Person at the Center for Christian Spirituality at 212-243-5150 for more information about this course.

Saturday, June 8: Forgiveness: What It Is and What It Isn't
This quiet day, open to the public, is the conclusion of the three-day course in leading retreats. Register at the Center for Christian Spirituality, 212-243-5150.
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