Category: consciousness

The power of good food!

Connections: connections!

In my recent post Diet is so crucial to good health, published on the 11th January I opened it thus:

Sometime over the next few days I will write a post about an amazing connection that Jean made, via Richard in England, with Colin Potter. He is the founder of the site Fight Parkinson’s.

It is mentioned as an introduction to today’s post because Colin stresses the critical importance of the right diet for us humans.

Richard lives with his good lady, Julie, in Minety, a village in North Wiltshire. He and I go back many, many years and we have been close friends from the day that we first met. Richard was diagnosed with early-stage Parkinson’s Disease (PD) the same year and month as my Jeannie: December, 2015.

Last New Year’s Eve Richard and Julie were at a local party and the subject of PD came up. Richard subsequently told me that he was speaking to a fellow party guest who said that he was, in turn, an acquaintance of a Colin Potter. He went to add that Colin had also been diagnosed with PD but had decided not to ‘give in’ to the diagnosis but undertake comprehensive research into the causes and whether it was possible to go into remission. He later launched a website Fight Parkinsons.

This is Colin’s video that appears on the home page of Fight Parkinson’s.

Here’s some more of what Colin writes about on his website.

Parkinson’s RecoveryThis is where you find the answers to the causes of Parkinson’s and the actions you can take which may bring about a recovery.

There are actions that I’ve taken which have required guidance from a doctor (of Functional Medicine) or special practitioner. Other steps, such as changing to a better diet, I have done independently based upon my research.

Nowadays, there are so many ways that we fall foul of nature and the kind of life we are built to lead. Industrialisation and technology expose our bodies to so much stress and toxic substances, it’s no wonder that chronic disease arises. It also means that there are many things to put right.

This has been a journey of learning over several years and, with subsequent knowledge, there are some things I did at the start that I would do differently now. Nevertheless, I did them and can’t turn the clock back.

I share this with you because the chances are that you know someone who knows someone with PD. The information on the Fight Parkinson’s website is too important not to be shared as far and wide as possible.

The subscription price for signing up to all the information is just $5/GBP3.60 per month. Both Jeannie and Richard are subscribers.

Mercy For Animals

Sent to me by John Zande!

John, he of the blog site The Superstitious Naked Ape, recently sent me this appeal. I am very pleased to republish it here.

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Hello,
When I started Mercy For Animals nearly 20 years ago, I was a kid from the Midwest with a big dream and an unwavering determination to help animals. Building MFA was not easy. Our first meeting had three attendees. We had no money. But as we grew, I surrounded myself with incredible supporters like you, passionate volunteers, and committed colleagues.

MFA is the most meaningful endeavor of my life so far. My journey has been moving and inspiring. Working alongside such brilliant colleagues and implementing our shared vision of a kinder world for farmed animals has been an honor. Together, we have built MFA into the powerful organization it is today—one that achieves groundbreaking successes as the result of teamwork.

As MFA has grown in the past few years, I’ve found the personal and creative space to think about how I can best continue to shape our movement—and help more animals. This space led me to launch Circle V, the first vegan animal rights music festival, and to conceptualize and co-found The Good Food Institute, an organization that supports innovation in food and science to produce alternatives that are superior to animal products.

I’ve determined that I can be most effective right now by helping launch exciting new companies and initiatives. This means remaining in this creative, big-picture space and handing over much of the day-to-day operations at MFA to other skilled and respected leaders within the organization.
I’m proud to announce that our executive vice president, Matt Rice, has been promoted to president of MFA. I will continue to serve MFA as chair of the board of directors and will remain intimately involved in strategic decisions as the organization’s founder.

For more than 15 years, Matt Rice has been a central leader in the animal protection movement. He shares my vision for MFA and has implemented it with determination, tireless dedication, and compassion for animals and people.
Matt began in MFA’s New York office carrying out grassroots outreach before being promoted to director of operations. He later moved to Los Angeles to take over as director of investigations, working closely with our brave undercover investigators. Matt has overseen many of MFA’s biggest cases, most successful campaigns, and other victories. As executive vice president, he has overseen all departments.

Click below to watch a video about Matt and MFA’s priorities for 2018.


Matt is steadfast in his commitment to MFA. He is an ideal team player with sound judgment—a true powerhouse for animals. I trust him completely.

Matt is already working with other senior MFA leaders to implement new systems and structures, and we will launch compelling new campaigns this year. Matt is supported by a team of some of the best activists I’ve ever met.

I know that MFA will continue to break barriers and exceed expectations worldwide. Much remains to be done for animals, but we’ve proved time and again that for a movement built on love and persistence, no company is too powerful, no factory farm too big, and no government too mighty.

I’ve never been more optimistic about the future of MFA and our movement. Our greatest victories are still ahead.

Nathan Runkle
Founder

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Let me add that there is much information about the charity on WikiPedia, from which I quote a little:

Mercy For Animals (MFA) is an international non-profit organization dedicated to preventing cruelty to farmed animals and promoting compassionate food choices and policies, founded in October 1999. Nathan Runkle is the group’s executive director and founder.[1] Focusing primarily on advocacy on behalf of farmed animals, MFA runs a number of campaigns that aim to educate the public on animal protection issues and to encourage them to adopt a vegan diet.[2] It has engaged in several undercover investigations, primarily of egg farms, and has produced television commercials showing the treatment of animals in slaughterhouses and factory farms.[3] MFA is headquartered in Los Angeles.

Plus the charity’s website is here Mercy For Animals.

If you didn’t watch the video then, please, do it now.

Finally, please do what you can to support them.

Thank you, John, for sharing this with me.

 

Winter games

As seen through the eyes of an Australian shepherd dog.

Slowly perking up each day, so thought it would be good to share this short, delightful video with you all. As presented on the Mother Nature Network site.

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Australian shepherd loves to go sledding

NOEL KIRKPATRICK    January 3, 2018

When you think about dog sleds, you may think about a team of huskies pulling a sled across a snowy and icy landscape.

Perhaps you should change that image to an Australian shepherd confidently riding a sled down a hill.

Secret, a 3-year-old Aussie shepherd and the canine companion to 17-year-old human Mary, took advantage of there finally being enough snow to get some sledding in. And by “some” we mean around 50 shots down the hill, according to Mary’s Instagram caption. Secret drags her sled all the way to the top of the hill, hops on and gets her own snowy version of zoomies on as she slides down the hill. Once at the bottom, it’s right back up again, sled in mouth.

If only every day were a snow day for Secret.

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Well done, Secret. Gorgeous!

Another fabulous guest post from Rohit.

Three years have passed by; just like that!

In the first couple of weeks of the New Year in 2014 I received an email from Rohit Agawal asking if I would like to receive a guest post. Of course I said yes.

That started a wonderful series of guest posts coming in from Rohit.

Here is his latest.

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Five Questions to Ask Before Adopting a Dog
Dogs are like children in a broader sense and when you decide to adopt one, there are many things that you need to be responsible for. There is not much difference between adopting a dog and having a child as you will need to take responsibility for another living being by giving him the necessary care and support.

Therefore, adopting a dog is a huge decision and should not be taken on a random impulse. You need to be aware of all the pros and cons before taking your decision and a major part of estimating them involves asking yourself some important questions. To help you get ready for an important life changing decision, we have listed a couple of questions that you need to ask yourself before adopting a dog and therefore without any further ado, let us get started!

  1. Can You Afford to Buy and Maintain a Dog?

The first question that you need to add yourself is quite obvious because a dog will need constant love and support throughout its whole life. To give him the best, you will need to shell extra bucks. The expenses that are involved include adoption or buying fees, spraying (no needed if you are adopting a dog from any rescue shelter), dog food, dog accessories like collar, dog crates (you can visit this website to explore your options) etc and annual veterinarian checkups for your pet’s well being.

Additional expenses can also include monthly heartworm medicines and flea and tick prevention but these vary from dog to dog.

  1. Do you have the time?

Dogs are tactile beings and they need to be given a suitable amount of time. Young puppies without their mothers will need an extra touch and support. The amount of tactile contact is different for different breeds but all domesticated dogs do need their owner’s love and affection to survive. You would also need to dedicate some time to go on walks as a dog needs to out at least 8 hours a day. If you are busy with work the n employ dog walkers.

  1. Are you prepared to commit for a long time?

This is an important question that you need to ask yourself at every step of the process. Dogs can live up to 18 years and therefore you need to be prepared for a lifelong commitment and not change your mind after actually adopting one. Abandoned dogs are a common sight and this is even true with fancier and smaller breed that people adopt for certain reasons and wash their hands off their pets after a few years, citing reasons like job relocation, marriage etc. A dog deserves a stable home and if you can’t provide that for a long duration then it is better to not adopt.

  1. Select the Dog Breed That Suits Your Lifestyle

When you finally decide to adopt, the first thing that you need to select is the breed that you want. Now different types of breeds have different needs and wants. You need to know everything about the same before you select any breed and therefore concentrate on conducting an extensive research about the same.

Also make sure that the dog you adopt will be able to adapt to your lifestyle.

  1. Dogs get sick and are you ready to handle that?

Dogs are prone to sickness and you need to accept that you would need to shell out extra money for healthcare emergencies. It can be something simple as a weight issue or it can also be a serious condition that might require surgery. Pet insurance is a great option that dog owners can look into to cover any emergencies.

So these were some significant questions that you need to ask yourself when you adopt a dog. It might seem too much of work but the joy that a dog will bring in your life will be second to no other and I promise that you will never regret your decision if you take all the necessary steps.

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Author Bio: Rohit is a dog lover and pet enthusiast; he owns two adorable and wonderful dogs that include a German shepherd and a Labrador retriever. As work keeps him away from home, concerns arise about the safety and comfort of his pet friends, which made him try out various products that facilitate the same.

As Rohit makes so clear at the end, the joy that a dog will bring in your life will be second to none

Consuming the living planet.

The eating habits of us humans have to change!

Funny how things go!

For just two days ago I published a post under the heading of Meat is Heat. It featured an essay by Michael Greger. He of the website NutritionFacts.org. That essay promoted the message:

What we eat may have more of an impact on global warming than what we drive.

Just cutting out animal protein intake one day of the week could have a powerful effect. Meatless Mondays alone could beat out a whole week of working from home and not commuting.

Many of you read that post.

On the same day that I published that post, George Monbiot published an article in The Guardian newspaper that offered the same message, albeit coming at it from a different place but nonetheless just as critically important.

Here it is republished with Mr. Monbiot’s very kind permission.

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We Can’t Keep Eating Like This

This is the question everyone should be attending to – where is the food going to come from?

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 11th December 2017

Brexit; the crushing of democracy by billionaires; the next financial crash; a rogue US president: none of them keeps me awake at night. This is not because I don’t care – I care very much. It’s only because I have a bigger question on my mind. Where is the food going to come from?

By mid-century there will be two or three billion more people on Earth. Any one of the issues I am about to list could help precipitate mass starvation. And this is before you consider how they might interact.

The trouble begins where everything begins: with soil. The UN’s famous projection that, at current rates of soil loss, the world has 60 years of harvests left, appears to be supported by a new set of figures. Partly as a result of soil degradation, yields are already declining on 20% of the world’s croplands.

Now consider water loss. In places such as the North China Plain, the central United States, California and north-western India – among the world’s critical growing regions – levels of the groundwater used to irrigate crops are already reaching crisis point. Water in the Upper Ganges aquifer, for example, is being withdrawn at 50 times its recharge rate. But, to keep pace with food demand, farmers in South Asia expect to use between 80 and 200% more water by 2050. Where will it come from?

The next constraint is temperature. One study suggests that, all else being equal, with each degree Celsius of warming the global yield of rice drops by 3%, wheat by 6% and maize by 7%. This could be optimistic. Research published in the journal Agricultural & Environmental Letters finds that 4°C of warming in the US Corn Belt could reduce maize yields by between 84 and 100%.

The reason is that high temperatures at night disrupt the pollination process. But this describes just one component of the likely pollination crisis. Insectageddon, caused by the global deployment of scarcely-tested pesticides, will account for the rest. Already, in some parts of the world, workers are now pollinating plants by hand. But that’s viable only for the most expensive crops.

Then there are the structural factors. Because they tend to use more labour, grow a wider range of crops and work the land more carefully, small farmers, as a rule, grow more food per hectare than large ones. In the poorer regions of the world, people with less than 5 hectares own 30% of the farmland but produce 70% of the food. Since 2000, an area of fertile ground roughly twice the size of the United Kingdom has been seized by land grabbers and consolidated into large farms, generally growing crops for export rather than the food needed by the poor.

While these multiple disasters unfold on land, the seas are being sieved of everything but plastic. Despite a massive increase in effort (bigger boats, bigger engines, more gear), the worldwide fish catch is declining by roughly 1% a year, as populations collapse. The global land grab is mirrored by a global seagrab: small fishers are displaced by big corporations, exporting fish to those who need it less but pay more. Around 3 billion people depend to a large extent on fish and shellfish protein. Where will it come from?

All this would be hard enough. But as people’s incomes increase, their diet tends to shift from plant protein to animal protein. World meat production has quadrupled in 50 years, but global average consumption is still only half that of the UK – where we eat roughly our bodyweight in meat every year – and just over a third of the US level. Because of the way we eat, the UK’s farmland footprint (the land required to meet our demand) is 2.4 times the size of its agricultural area. If everyone aspires to this diet, how do we accommodate it?

The profligacy of livestock farming is astonishing. Already, 36% of the calories grown in the form of grain and pulses – and 53% of the protein – are used to feed farm animals. Two-thirds of this food is lost in conversion from plant to animal. A graph produced last week by Our World in Data suggests that, on average, you need 0.01m2 of land to produce a gram of protein from beans or peas, but 1m2 to produce it from beef cattle or sheep: a difference of 100-fold.

It’s true that much of the grazing land occupied by cattle and sheep cannot be used to grow crops. But it would otherwise have sustained wildlife and ecosystems. Instead, marshes are drained, trees are felled and their seedlings grazed out, predators are exterminated, wild herbivores fenced out and other lifeforms gradually erased as grazing systems intensify. Astonishing places – such as the rainforests of Madagascar and Brazil – are laid waste to make room for yet more cattle.

Because there is not enough land to meet both need and greed, a global transition to eating animals means snatching food from the mouths of the poor. It also means the ecological cleansing of almost every corner of the planet.

The shift in diets would be impossible to sustain even if there were no growth in the human population. But the greater the number of people, the greater the hunger meat eating will cause. From a baseline of 2010, the UN expects meat consumption to rise by 70% by 2030 (this is three times the rate of human population growth). Partly as a result, the global demand for crops could double (from the 2005 baseline) by 2050. The land required to grow them does not exist.

When I say this keeps me up at night, I mean it. I am plagued by visions of starving people seeking to escape from grey wastes, being beaten back by armed police. I see the last rich ecosystems snuffed out, the last of the global megafauna – lions, elephants, whales and tuna – vanishing. And when I wake, I cannot assure myself that it was just a nightmare.

Other people have different dreams: the fantasy of a feeding frenzy that need never end, the fairytale of reconciling continued economic growth with a living world. If humankind spirals into societal collapse, these dreams will be the cause.

There are no easy answers, but the crucial change is a shift from an animal to a plant-based diet. All else being equal, stopping both meat production and the use of farmland to grow biofuels could provide enough calories for another 4 billion people and double the protein available for human consumption. Artificial meat will help: one paper suggests it reduces water use by at least 82% and land use by 99%.

The next Green Revolution will not be like the last one. It will rely not on flogging the land to death, but on reconsidering how we use it and why. Can we do this, or do we – the richer people now consuming the living planet – find mass death easier to contemplate than changing our diet?

http://www.monbiot.com

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As many of you know Jeannie and I changed our diet to a vegan diet some four weeks ago. It was done more for personal health reasons than from an awareness of the difference that it made to the future of the planet. But over the last few weeks we have had our eyes opened to the broader benefits of not eating meat. George Monbiot spells out the urgency of change for all of us, especially the richer people in the richer countries.

Am I hopeful that there will be a mass awareness of the need to change? I truly just don’t know. I will close be repeating Mr. Monbiot’s closing sentence.

Can we do this, or do we – the richer people now consuming the living planet – find mass death easier to contemplate than changing our diet?

Interesting times!

Get lost in one’s dreams!

A very beautiful photograph.

I’m sure I have mentioned previously the fun, education and sheer enjoyment that I, and many, many others, get from the photography forum Ugly Hedgehog.  I drop into the forum several times a day.

Thus it was that yesterday morning I went to an item posted by Kalina. It was called Moonset in Greenland.

This is the photograph that Kalina had shared on the forum:

And how that photograph was described by Kalina.

This is a moon, not a supermoon, not a fancy moon, not even a full moon, just a moon rising outside of Scoresby Sound, Greenland. What a magical place..

Later on, as I was seeking, and being given, permission to share the image with all you good people, Kalina answered my question as to what had brought her to Greenland. Her answer:

I love the absolute raw beauty in Greenland. I was on a schooner built in 1909 sailing through the largest fjord system in the world, words cannot describe the beauty. We never encountered another soul the entire time, there is no evidence of humans..polar bears and musk ox but no people. I will add that this image is not photoshopped..

Just go back to that image and get lost in it.

Get lost in one’s dreams!

Then when you return to your real world, go across to WikiPedia and read more about this magical place. Here’s an extract from that WikiPedia entry.

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Scoresby Sound

Scoresby Sund (Danish: Scoresby Sund, Greenlandic: Kangertittivaq) is a large fjord system of the Greenland Sea on the eastern coast of Greenland. It has a tree-like structure, with a main body approximately 110 km (68 mi)[2] long that branches into a system of fjords covering an area of about 38,000 km2 (14,700 sq mi). The longest of the fjords extends 340–350 km (210-216 mi) inland from the coastline.[1] The depth is 400–600 m (1,310-1,970 ft) in the main basin, but depths increase to up to 1,450 m (4,760 ft) in some fjords.[1] It is one of the largest and longest fjord systems in the world.[3][4][5]

On the northern side of the mouth of the Scoresby Sund stands Ittoqqortoormiit, the only permanent settlement in the region, with a population of 469 (in 2010). The name of the sound honours English explorer William Scoresby, who in 1822 mapped the fjord area in detail.

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Plus wanted to share another photograph of Scoresby Sund taken by Hannes Grobe, seen on that WikiPedia page.

Dr. Hannes Grobe 20:10, 16 December 2007 (UTC) – Own work

More details of Dr. Hannes Grobe may be read here.

Friendship cat and dog style

It’s stories like this that put a smile on one’s face (and heart!).

Most evenings, after we have finished supper we go into the den, as we call it, and watch a few hours of television. This room has doors to the other rooms in the house and, therefore, during the day may be closed off. Reason why that is useful is that the den is home to our three cats.

Thus, after supper the dogs and the cats get to mingle together, as this photograph of Pedi and Mitts so well illustrates.

All of which is a great introduction to a post that was recently seen over on Mother Nature Network and is republished here for all you good people.

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Dog and kitten are best friends in hiking and life

The best place to see the world is from atop your BFF’s head.

MARY JO DILONARDO   December 6, 2017.

Baloo’s favorite spot to hang out is on Henry’s head. (Photo: henrythecoloradodog/Instagram)

Henry wasn’t the first dog Cynthia Bennett and her boyfriend spotted when they went looking for a canine pal a few years ago, but he’s certainly the one that won them over.

“I had my eyes set on a golden mix puppy, but when I saw the lanky Henry sitting there I had to see him,” Bennett tells MNN. “When we got into the pen with him, he immediately climbed into my lap and went belly up. It was then I knew that we were taking him home.”

 The couple brought the pup back to their home in Colorado where they hoped he would fit into their active, outdoorsy lifestyle. Fortunately, bold Henry was all in. But not long after it became clear that Henry was also extremely stressed out. Cynthia thought maybe a kitten companion might help ease Henry’s anxiety, while also offering another adventure buddy for the family.

She spent several months looking for just the right feline friend. Most, she says, just didn’t have the right personality she wanted for an adventurous cat. Then she met a Siamese kitten mix named Baloo.

“Baloo however convinced me to bring him home in under a minute. He was super playful and curious and the biggest love bug.”

Henry and Baloo hit it off immediately and are the best of friends, Bennett says.

“They do everything together, eat, sleep, hike and have become inseparable. It took only one day of them getting used to each other and then they started immediately snuggling and playing. It happened so quickly.”

Not only are the pair adventure buddies, they also have quite a following on Instagram. One of their most popular poses is Baloo comfortably perched (and sometimes sleeping) on Henry’s head.

It’s a natural fit, Bennett says.

“Baloo feels much safer with Henry around and is constantly looking up to him. So if he is on Henry, he feels even more comfortable,” she says. “They are the best of friends, especially on hikes. Baloo follows Henry and Henry just lights up when he realizes that Baloo is coming too.”

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That photograph of Henry and Baloo is so wonderful that I will close today’s post by sharing it with you again but cropped to really focus on them both.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Let us always remember them.

Another wonderful guest post from Susan Combs

Some eighteen months ago I published a guest post from Susan entitled: How To Meet The Nutritional Needs Of Pregnant Dogs

I am delighted to offer another guest post from Susan.

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7 Wonderful Ways to Cherish and Honor the Memories of Your Beloved Dog

by Susan Combs.

Our relationship with our dogs is arguably the most genuine and pious one. The shear nature of dogs to shower unconditional love to their owners makes them no less a family member. Their honesty, faithfulness and a deep sense of belonging to their families is the reason as to why they are so adored across all the cultures, communities and societies.

Since it is also the hard truth that dogs tend to live much shorter lives than their owners; which renders the relationship end abruptly in their passing away. This is certainly not a happy stage for any pet owner either.

Therefore, losing a beloved pet, especially a dog is one of the most painful situations for owners. Their affection towards owners in the times of adversity is the most nostalgic part of their memories long after they have gone. By being together through thick and thin with relentless love their owners’ lives are impacted in many ways, and their absence is deeply felt.

If you are also mourning the loss of your dog, it must be difficult for you to cope with this undesirable situation. However, we have some wonderful ways with which you can cherish and honor the memories of your beloved dog.

Here are they:

  1. Plant a tree in his honor

Planting a tree in the honor of your dog is an excellent way to let his legacy live on for a long time to come. Choose a nice spot in your garden or backyard and plant a young tree, preferably an eternity plant. As the day will pass, it will grow up signifying a new life form from the previous one. Eventually, you will witness a sapling grow into a beautiful and strong tree. Till the time you live, this tree will remind you about that special bond with your canine friend.

  1. Make jewelry with his ashes

If you want to keep your furry pal all the time with you, creating jewelry with his remains would be a perfect idea. You can turn his ashes into diamond and wear it in the form of a ring. So there cannot be a better way to pacify his soul than this. Whether you make a ring or wear it as a locket, the shine of the diamond will keep on reflecting his memories. Your friends will also see in awe that the sparkle of the diamond was once your dog himself.

  1. Donate in the name of your dog

You dog meant everything to you, he still does. So, what else would be more heart-felt gesture than to donate for a good cause in the name of your dog? It is also a great way to give back what your dog gave you unflinchingly. You can give money to animal shelters because donating to these organizations is the best possible way to support the lives of other pets. In the situation of cash crunch, you can still donate another valuable asset: time. You can be there, spend some time with them and take care of them. Helping an animal in need is the best chance to remember your beloved dog.

  1. Create a picture book

Since you spent a lot of time with your dog, you must also have taken plenty of pictures of his. So collect all the past photos of your dog at one place; you can also ask your friends and family members if in case they had also taken his pictures. With these photographs you can either create a photo album or a picture book by forming a large collage. It would be better if you take printouts of these pictures and cut & paste them on the wall.

  1. Write an obituary

Didn’t you ever think to pen down the journey of your dog since he was cute little puppy? Now is the time since he is not there with you anymore. So document an insightful journey from the moment when you took him in your hands for the first time to his final moments. Write down how you used to spend time with him, how you used to play with him, what activities did he do at home, and whose life did he touch besides yours. You can post this personal obituary online.

  1. Bury him with honor

From giving him a memorable funeral to making his cemetery, your dog deserves honor in his last rites. Gather all your friends and family in order to say final goodbye to him.

You can also often visit his burial site whenever you like. You can place a gravestone at this spot and write your message for him or whatever you used to feel about him.

  1. Adopt again

If the pain of separation is not endurable for you or if you do not want to let go off your happy life with him, adopting again is the only option for you. This is also a good way to pay your tribute to him as he would also want to pass on a chance to another dog in need.

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As was mentioned in Susan’s previous guest post here again is her background:

Susan works as a Pet Health and Safety Expert and holds expertise in the area of animal/pet care. She has over 6 years of experience in pet healthcare and is a pet parent to a dog named chilly.

Finally, I would like to add a wonderful way of my own to remember our dear dogs. That is write up your own memories of your dog and post them to the special section on this blog: We Shall Not Forget Them.

Happy Birthday, my darling Jeannie.

Philosophising about this ageing lark!

A few days ago Jean and I listened to an episode from the BBC Radio 4 series The Art of Living. Or as the home page of the programme’s website explains, The Art of Living is a …

Documentary series revealing how engagement with art has transformed people’s lives.

Anyway, the episode that we listened to was a delightful 30-minute discussion between Marie-Louise Muir and the Belfast-born poet Frank Ormsby. The reason we selected this episode to listen to in particular is revealed by republishing how the BBC introduced the programme. (For Jean was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in December, 2015.)

Frank Ormsby’s Parkinson’s

The Art of Living

When the poet Frank Ormsby was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, his response was unexpected. He embarked on a newly fertile creative period, documenting his experiences and finding a voice in his poetry that he was beginning to lose in his daily communications.
His first act was to search Google – for jokes. “Which would you rather have, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s. Obviously Parkinson’s! I’d rather spill half my pint than forget where I left it.”

As he discusses with Marie-Louise Muir, the illness has changed him. It’s mellowed him. After a career as a school teacher, his daily life is now quieter and more solitary. There’s a poetry, almost, in his pauses and silences.
Frank belongs to the generation of Northern Irish writers that has followed in the footsteps of Seamus Heaney and Michael Longley. His medication, he believes, has aided his creativity. But it has also induced hallucinations. He finds himself sitting on his own in his study but surrounded by people, by the ghosts of his mother-in-law and unidentified visitors. And he’s also haunted by a fear that the earth will open up and swallow him.
But if you ask how he’s doing, he writes, “I’ll tell you the one about ‘parking zones disease’.
I’ll assure you that the pills seem to be working”.

Photo credit: Malachi O’Doherty, With readings by Frank himself and Ciaran McMenamin from The Darkness of Snow. Produced by Alan Hall. A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4.

That wonderful joke offered by Frank, this one: “Which would you rather have, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s. Obviously Parkinson’s! I’d rather spill half my pint than forget where I left it.” comes a little after the 5-minute point in the interview. I strongly encourage you to listen to the full interview. Here’s the link to the radio programme.   

Jean and I were sitting up in bed a couple of mornings ago reflecting on how recent it has been since we ‘got it’ in terms of what becoming old really means. For me and Jean, for different reasons, it is only in the last twelve months that ageing, the process of becoming older, the decline in one’s faculties, and more and more, has been truly understood. Yes, before then of course one understood that we were getting old. But it was an intellectual understanding not the living it on a daily basis understanding we now experience.

Back to Frank Ormsby. Or rather to a feature in the Belfast Telegraph published in 2015.

Frank Ormsby: Life at Inst was very different from my upbringing

Leading Belfast poet and former Inst. Head of English Frank Ormsby on his tough Fermanagh upbringing, losing his father when he was 12 and how humour has helped him cope with a Parkinson’s diagnosis.

Write stuff: Frank Ormsby at his home in north Belfast

March 23, 2015

As Frank Ormsby sits in the study of his beautifully-appointed 1930s home in north Belfast there is no hint of his much more austere upbringing. As befits the workspace of a poet and long-time English teacher at one of Belfast’s leading schools, the bookcases that line the walls are crammed with a wide range of literature.
It could not be a more different environment from the rural home where he grew up just after the Second World War.

When Frank was born in 1947, his father Patrick was already in his 60s. “I remember him as an old, grey-haired man”.

It was Patrick’s second marriage. His first had produced 10-12 children. “I was never totally sure of the exact number”, Frank recalls.

“I never met them as they had dispersed to Scotland and other places by the time my father, by then a widower, had married my mother. As far as I know the last one of them died last year.”

Frank’s home was about a mile and half outside Irvinestown. His mother Anne had worked on a relative’s farm – “she could build hay or cut turf as well as any man” – and his father as a farm labourer who occasionally sought work in the factories in Scotland.

“The conditions in which we lived were lacking in luxury. We had no running water. We had to carry it in buckets from a well half a mile away. There was no electricity and it was a long time before we even had a radio, or wireless as it was called then,” Frank says.

You may read the rest of that article here.

Here’s one of Frank’s poems that was published by The New Yorker in March, 2013.

BOG COTTON

By Frank Ormsby

They have the look
of being born old.
Thinning elders among the heather,
trembling in every wind.
My father turns eighty
the spring before my thirteenth birthday.
When I feed him porridge he takes his cap off. His hair,
as it has been all my life, is white, pure white.

Maybe that’s how it is. Having the look of being born old!

But there’s one thing that I treasure beyond gold itself. Having the fortune to be living out my final days, however many there are, in the company of my beautiful Jeannie and all the loving dogs around me.

Puppy Cleo coming home – April 6th, 2012

 

Happy Birthday, sweetheart!