Category: Spirituality

Further reflections on the natural world.

An inspirational essay from Arizona.

I was speaking recently with John Hurlburt whom Jean and I knew well when we were living in Payson, AZ. Subsequently, John sent me a wonderful essay with his permission for me to share it with all you good folks!

A quick web search found a photograph of Wildcat Canyon and that is at the end of today’s guest post.


Midnight in Wildcat Canyon

The dirt road maze in our Arizona forests covers hundreds of miles.  It’s quite possible to drive all day without encountering another human being.  I once ended up at a place called Wildcat Canyon at midnight after taking a wrong turn on a wet rocky mountain road.

Cell phones are problematical in the high country. It would have helped if there had been a back woods road map on board. Fortunately there was a GPS that worked.

Wildcat Canyon in the moonlight was well worth visiting. The heavens were open above without a trace of man made light. The impact was awe inspiring. As we intuitively agree, everything fits together or we’d be random atoms.

Although, it may seem random to the casual observer, we scientifically know that the cosmos is unified from the quantum level of physics up with the classical level of physics and back again through fundamental forces we have barely begun to understand.

Einstein’s theories prove that the cosmos turns inside out without breaking.  Slight earthly energy shifts can modify and potentially eliminate all life on earth.  There’s no need to contribute to the problem by aggravating the negative effects of climate shift through either our deliberate negative action or our thoughtless lack of action.

It’s difficult to understand why we’re fussing and fuming as though we owned the earth, the moon, the sun, and the stars. There’s consensus on the body of scientific fact that supports a holistic understanding of our relative insignificance and our corresponding responsibilities as a consciously aware biological species which is presently the dominate life form on a remote garden planet.

Signs of our cultural crisis of consciousness are clear. Science is ignored or denied unless convenient and/or profitable. World economics are systemically corrupt. Slick politicians twist reality on its ear without regard for truth, justice, liberty, or equality.

Knowledge, understanding and wisdom are disparaged.

Insanity, driven by both conscious and unconscious human fears, masquerades as truth and reason.  War is profitable and encouraged. Our politicians know better if they have any awareness or compassion at all in their hearts and souls.  It seems that even when most politicians are aware of reality to some degree, they simply don’t care for much beyond themselves in the long run.  Political ends justify the means without regard and without regret.  Hyper concentrated economic power takes no prisoners.

Insanity is cold. We light a fire to keep us warm and to heat our food.
As the flame burns, we realize that matter and energy are interchangeable.  We realize that the earth is finite. We know that we’re energized by the universe. We are children of the light. We are the voice of life and the hope of the future and we’ve lost our moral compass.

Nature always wins and doesn’t care about the quarterly bottom line.  Peace is a verb.

Without a unifying purpose, surrender and unilateral acceptance are dubious. What could be more unifying than our instinctive need to survive? Our common objective is to sustain our natural balance. Our immediate practical objective is to save our planetary farm.

We don’t become fully consciously aware until we are born. We begin learning about our world in our cribs. Consider that we live in a garden cradle at the edge of the Milky Way. Change is constant as our universe emerges. Adapting to change is the prime directive for all life forms.

Our problems are complex.  The simple answer is found in all our human wisdom traditions. “Be of service to the Earth which sustains all planetary life.”  The answer to our political quandary is similarly simple. We can vote for the Nature of Creation or we can vote for Mammon.

We can vote for Sanity (Greek: sanos; balance, wholeness and well being) or we can vote for the meaningless night shades of human insanity. We may vote for Nature or we may vote for global corporate financial interests.

It’s important to note that the unaided human mind is limited.  Dumb comes with the territory with no additional charge. Our lives are a learning experience with an ongoing purpose of growth and service.

It took about an hour to get back to a main highway from Wildcat Canyon. It was a matter of back tracking through landmarks noted along the way such as the occasional miniature lake in the middle of the trail or a stretch of jagged rocky out cropping.  It was a relief to return to an asphalt road about an hour later.

A wave is breaking. Take care and maintain an even strain.

an old lamplighter


Wildcat Canyon
Wildcat Canyon

You all have a very peaceful weekend. (Oh, and you may want to drop across to Sustainable Rim Country, a fabulous project that John and others have under way.)

I dream.

Of there being a day where no animal lives out of sight of love.

Of course, when I speak of animals I have in mind those animals that end up in rescue shelters of one form or another: cats; horses; dogs; ponies; birds; and other species.

But on the broader topic of offering love to animals I must share something with you before going on to the main subject of today’s post.

That is that for the last few years we have been feeding the wild deer.

P1160187Slowly a number of them have grown to trust Jean and me to the point where one particular young female became such a regular that we named her: Doris. It is Doris that is in the picture above eating the cob that we put out twice a day.

Doris doesn’t warm to strangers plus she doesn’t come every day. When she does it is clear that she is familiar with us and perceives no threat from this ‘neck of the woods’, as the next photograph supports:

P1160243In fact, I can now gently stroke her neck when she is feeding and will share those pictures with you all in a future Picture Parade post.

I call the closeness of me and Doris love. I love how this animal trusts me and, in turn, the care and responsibility that is called for from me.

My dream is that the love, care and responsibility offered by people will one day be so widespread and extensive that there comes no call for animal rescue shelters.


A couple of days ago Cori Meloney signed up to follow Learning from Dogs. Cori is the author of the blog Three Irish Cats. As is my usual way I went across to her blog to leave a ‘thank you’ note for her decision to follow my scriblings. I immediately saw her latest post and knew without doubt that it should be republished here. Cori very promptly gave me permission to so do.


Every Day Should Be Clear the Shelters Day


Silly kitty Shadow.

I volunteer with a small (but mighty!) rescue group here in Southern Maryland called Rescue Angels of Southern Maryland. We mostly deal with cats, though we’ve recently begun to rescue dogs as well.

Most of the cats we find homes for come from owner surrenders, friendly cats and kittens from our feral colonies, and at-risk animals from our local municipal shelter, Tri-County Animal Shelter.

Saturday, Rescue Angels was one of the groups that participated in Tri-County’s annual Clear the Shelters Day celebration. Seventy-seven animals found forever homes that day. Watching the parade of happy animals and their new owners as they left the building was totally worth sweltering in the 95-degree heat.

As the only public animal shelter to serve the three Southern Maryland counties, Tri-County is a busy place. It frequently gets full, and organizations like Rescue Angels and others in the area step in when we can to remove animals from the shelter. This is not a no-kill shelter, so a full shelter means animals will die. New animals come in every day.


Gorgeous husky Damien.

Three things struck me when I was at Tri-County last weekend.

The first is that I wish Tri-County could be this busy every Saturday. Granted, adoption fees on Clear the Shelters Day were eliminated or reduced and there was a lot of publicity for this event, but there are always wonderful animals at the shelter that want to go home with a family. Many animals end up there because the owner surrendered them; the reason often given is “did not want.”

The second is that I am increasingly amazed by the dedication of the shelter staff. They have a difficult job, and it often goes without thanks. It’s not easy to be civil to an owner who is dropping off their pet because they don’t want it anymore. It’s not easy to put down perfectly healthy animals because humans have acted irresponsibly. I can only imagine that the staff constantly feels like it is in crisis mode; they may have nearly cleared the shelter on Saturday, but come midweek, those cages and pens will be filled again with animals in need.

The third thought is that we, the community, created this shelter, and we need to fix it. Tri-County has a terrible reputation here in Southern Maryland. The kill rate for cats is more than 50 percent. The facility is small and needs renovation and expansion. It is nearly always full to overflowing. Members of the community sometimes say terrible things about the staff.

Beautiful Nadine, who found a forever home on Clear the Shelters Day.

But Tri-County is constantly full because the Southern Maryland has let its companion animals down. Cats are not spayed or neutered, and they’re treated as disposable. Need to move? Drop your cat at the shelter, or worse, just leave it behind. Dog getting too big? Don’t feel like dealing with behavior or health issues? Drop the animal at the shelter.

I’ll be honest: My opinion of Tri-County and its staff has not always been positive. What makes it worse is that I had those opinions without actually visiting the shelter. I am ashamed of that fact. Since I started volunteering with Rescue Angels, I have visited the shelter many times to take cats that our rescue was putting into foster care. I have met some of the staff members, and they are always happy to talk with me about their animals. They’re ecstatic when an animal leaves the building. The shelter has a rescue coordinator whose job is to work with local rescue groups to remove animals from the shelter when they are at risk of being killed or when shelter life is impacting their well-being. These folks are animal lovers forced into a terrible situation by a community that treats its animals as disposable and Tri-County as its dumping ground.

So, now that Clear the Shelters Day has passed, I challenge my fellow residents of Southern Maryland: Visit Tri-County Animal Shelter. Talk with the staff. Visit with the cats in the free-roaming room. Take a dog for a walk. Take pictures and share them on Facebook. Volunteer. Follow Tri-County on Facebook and interact with their posts. Foster, which allows rescue groups to remove more animals from the shelter. Rescue Angels can help you become a foster family for dogs or cats.

All three Southern Maryland counties are working on plans to build their own shelter facilities. In the meantime, Tri-County Animal Shelter is our public shelter. It’s our job as the community to support the staff, help care for the animals, and reduce the number of animals killed there.

I hope to see you there, leash in hand.

By: Cori S. Meloney


So if any reader is within reach of Southern Maryland and wants to offer an animal love, care and responsibility then please make your way across to Rescue Angels of Southern Maryland.

How to draw today’s post to a close?

In searching for inspiration about all animals living in the sight of love I realised that what I was dreaming of was more about compassion than love; albeit the two states of mind being very close to one another.

That led me to perusing the Dalai Lama’s teachings on compassion: Compassion and the Individual. Here’s how that teaching concludes:

Compassion and the world
In conclusion, I would like briefly to expand my thoughts beyond the topic of this short piece and make a wider point: individual happiness can contribute in a profound and effective way to the overall improvement of our entire human community.

Because we all share an identical need for love, it is possible to feel that anybody we meet, in whatever circumstances, is a brother or sister. No matter how new the face or how different the dress and behavior, there is no significant division between us and other people. It is foolish to dwell on external differences, because our basic natures are the same.

Ultimately, humanity is one and this small planet is our only home. If we are to protect this home of ours, each of us needs to experience a vivid sense of universal altruism. It is only this feeling that can remove the self-centered motives that cause people to deceive and misuse one another.

If you have a sincere and open heart, you naturally feel self- worth and confidence, and there is no need to be fearful of others.

I believe that at every level of society – familial, tribal, national and international – the key to a happier and more successful world is the growth of compassion. We do not need to become religious, nor do we need to believe in an ideology. All that is necessary is for each of us to develop our good human qualities.

I try to treat whoever I meet as an old friend. This gives me a genuine feeling of happiness.  It is the practice of compassion.

Loving animals is very much part of protecting this home of ours.

That is my dream.

Feeding one’s inner wolves.

The wisdom of ancient minds.

The following was published by Val Boyco recently over on her blog Find Your Middle Ground.

It is republished here with Val’s very kind permission.


* How to Feed your White Wolf

Providing much-needed comfort

Our most favourite furry comforter!

Those of you that read my republication of Deborah’s article yesterday, Six ways dogs help us heal, would undoubtedly have picked up that one of those six ways was Dogs give us physical comforting. They snuggle and lie in our laps.

If we ever needed proof of that quality of comforting then an article from the Care2 site offers such evidence in spades.


Comfort Dogs Provide Furry Solace to People in Orlando

3180697.largeBy: Laura Goldman June 14, 2016
About Laura    Follow Laura at @lauragoldman

They were deployed to Newtown. They were deployed to Boston. And now comfort dogs have made their way from around the U.S. to Orlando, Fla., to comfort those affected by yet another terror attack — the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history that occurred on June 12 at the Pulse, an LGBT nightclub.

The dogs are available for anyone who needs a hug or a furry neck to absorb their tears. They wear vests with the irresistible invitation, “I’m Friendly. Please pet me.”

“We are reaching out to anyone that has been affected by this directly or indirectly,” Tim Hetzner, president of Lutheran Church Charities (LCC) K-9 Comfort Dogs, told WLS.

About a dozen dogs and 20 handlers from the nonprofit are currently in Orlando.

“Your blood pressure goes down when you pet a dog, you feel more comfortable and people end up talking,” Hetzner said. “They’re good listeners, they’re non-judgmental, they’re confidential.”

The dogs will be in Orlando for at least a week, providing comfort to survivors, first responders and Pulse employees. They’ve visited hospitals (many are trained to climb into hospital beds and calmly lie there) and counseling centers, and joined more than 10,000 people at a June 13 candlelight vigil for the victims.

LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs, based in Northbrook, Ill., deploys trained therapy dogs from around the country to areas where tragedies and disasters have occurred, as well as to local churches, hospitals and nursing homes. The nonprofit was created in 2008 after five students were killed at Northern Illinois University. To help ease students’ stress, handlers brought their therapy dogs to the campus, and the effort proved to be very successful.

When it started out, the nonprofit had four comfort dogs. Eight years later, it has more than 100 dogs in 23 states. The dogs are all golden retrievers — Hetzner told the Huffington Post this is because they’re a lovable breed by nature. “Also, because of their fur, they leave a little of themselves with everyone they meet,” he said.

Starting when they’re 8 months old, the comfort dogs-to-be and their handlers go through 12 to 14 months of intensive training before being deployed to areas that need them. Their travel expenses are covered by donations.

“Our dogs have to be able to relate with all age groups and stay calm in all circumstances,” Hetzner told the Huffington Post.

One of the LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs who was flown to Orlando is 5-year-old Gracie of Davenport, Iowa. She’s a comfort-providing veteran, having previously consoled people after the Sandy Hook massacre and in the aftermath of devastating tornadoes in Illinois and Oklahoma.

Gracie is known as one of the sweetest of all the LCC comfort dogs, Jane Marsh-Johnson, one of her handlers, told BuzzFeed News. “She’s always got a big smile.”

Therapy dogs are also helping people in Orlando cope. Zoey and her owner, Marc Gelbke, have been in town since Monday, comforting visitors to the GLBT Community Center of Central Florida. Zoey will also visit a church and hospital, and is available by request, free of charge, through the Loving Paws of Clermont to anyone in the Orlando area who needs a hug.

“We encourage those [in Orlando] who are grieving to sit down on the floor and pet dogs like Gracie,” Marsh-Johnson said.

“The dogs do more for those suffering than human beings can do.”

Care2 stands in solidarity with the LGBTQ community in Orlando, and against all forms of violence and discrimination.

Tell the FDA to fully lift the ban on gay men donating blood, and tell Congress to ban assault weapons immediately. Follow related coverage on the Orlando shooting here.


Over on YouTube there are many videos of these wonderful dogs in action. I selected a CBC News segment to share with you.

“Furry rugs with heartbeats.” Perfect!

Of days and nights.

That magnificient night sky above us.

On Sunday evening Jean and I were invited around to Jim and Janet’s place as their regular summer movie nights swung back into the calendar.

Around 10pm local time the night sky just shone with stars and planets and my old friend The Plough, or Big Dipper (Ursa Major), was up there pointing the way to the North Star.

BigdipISSThen as we all prepared to return to our homes, around 11pm, there was the wonderful, fabulous full Moon.

So it’s a special day today as for the first time in almost fifty years both the full moon and the Summer Solstice fall on the same day. Or better put over on Time and Date:

First June Solstice Full Moon in Decades

In 2016, a full Moon, also commonly known as Strawberry Moon, will coincide with the June Solstice. The 2 events haven’t occurred on the same day since 1967 and will not coincide again until 2062.

Now technically the exact moment of the Solstice was yesterday evening at 22:34 UTC. Or to put it as it was mentioned over on EarthSky:

On June 20, 2016, the moon turns full at 11:02 UTC. The solstice arrives some 11.5 hours later, at 22:34 UTC.

I will close with the gorgeous photograph of that full moon, again courtesy of that EarthSky article.

Rising nearly full moon – near San Francisco, California – on June 19, 2016 via EarthSky Facebook friend Amy Van Artsdalen.
Rising nearly full moon – near San Francisco, California – on June 19, 2016 via EarthSky Facebook friend Amy Van Artsdalen.

I must admit that there’s a strange feeling inside me knowing that this was the last time that I will see such a coincidence of full moon and summer solstice.

Treasures Within and Without.

We must never let go of admiring beauty.

It’s Sunday lunchtime and I have come in from outside to check my emails and to put together the post for today. For reasons I can’t exactly put my finger on I’m feeling a little distracted. I sense a yearning for being transported away from the ‘outside world’ and turning inwards: Even giving blogging a rest for a couple of weeks (but I won’t).

So thank goodness for the blogging contacts we make all around the world. Just last Saturday Sue, of Sue Dreamwalker’s blog, published an exquisitely beautiful poem. Sue very promptly gave me permission to republish it in full. Sue’s poem speaks to me just now; speaks to me in this rather introspective place. I hope her wonderful words speak to you as well.

Here it is.


Mother Gaia ~ The Blue Dot.

11 Jun 2016 .

Three Sisters Glen Coe Scotland.

How many times have you gazed at the stars?

To ask the question of whom we are

This Blue Dot in the vastness of space

Have you questioned the existence of the Human Race?


Did we really evolve from Neanderthal Man?

From Ape to Human imagine if you can

Woolly Mammoths along with Sabre Tooth Tigers

Ice Ages and Floods, Volcanoes and Fires


Mountains crashing, rising from ocean floors

Fossils created into stony forms

Petrified wood in glaciers saved

While Crystals grow beneath deep dark cave


How many times have you asked ‘Who am I?’

As you gaze longingly at the starlit sky

So many treasures now upon this Blue Dot

So sad that we’ve evolved, but we also forgot


That we Humans just like the Dinosaur race

Could soon disappear without a trace

As our superior brains seemed to have lost the plot

Of our coexistence within this amazing Blue Dot


As we pollute our Mother who brings such life

While we rage in greed creating more strife

We poison our land modifying crops

Caring less and less until the last Bee drops


Long after we’re gone as the planets realign

A new dawn will break over the memory of mankind

His legacy I’m sure one day will be discovered

As some future traveller his fossils will uncover.


But it’s never too late to alter our future

When we live in harmony and learn to nurture

Holding onto LOVE and Letting go of Hate

We can all help our Blue Planet Regenerate.

Copyright Sue Dreamwalker 2016.

This is just one of the beautiful slides from Sue’s slide show. As she writes, “The above slide show are the photo’s I took that inspired the poem above. They were taken in Scotland where I visited a crystal and mineral centre near Fort William. It was a delightful find holding a wealth of Treasures of The Earth which can be found here. “


 (Please view the full slide show here.)

Sue then completes her beautiful post; as follows:

There is so much more that lays hidden beneath our Earth Mother, as well as within ourselves.

If only we dig deep enough to find the Treasures Within.  

Love and Blessings


I am still digging Deep How about You?

Life is an endless dig to find treasures within.

Beautiful, Sue!

Gratitude – the Penguin model!

The Bricklayer and the Penguin.

The following glorious story, a true story I should have made clear, was sent to me recently by Cynthia, wife of my long-term Californian friend Dan Gomez. It’s a story that was broadcast by TV Globo, not a station I had previously heard of. Unsurprising really when a quick web search finds their details:

Rede Globo, or simply Globo, is a Brazilian television network, launched by media mogul Roberto Marinho on 26 April 1965. It is owned by media conglomerate Grupo Globo, being by far the largest of its holdings.

Here’s that story.


The Bricklayer and the Penguin

This penguin swims 5,000 miles every year for a reunion with the man who saved his life.

Mail Attachment
Best buds (Picture: TV Globo)

Todays most heartwarming story is brought to you from a beach in Brazil. The story of a South American Magellanic penguin who swims 5,000 miles each year to be reunited with the man who saved his life.

Retired bricklayer and part time fisherman Joao Pereira de Souza, 71, who lives in an island village just outside Rio de Janeiro , Brazil , found the tiny penguin, covered in oil and close to death, lying on rocks on his local beach in 2011. Joao cleaned the oil off the penguin’s feathers and fed him a daily diet of fish to build his strength. He named him Dindim.

The prodigal penguin returns (Picture: TV Globo)
The prodigal penguin returns (Picture: TV Globo)

After a week, he tried to release the penguin back into the sea. But, the bird wouldn’t leave.

He stayed with me for 11 months and then, just after he changed his coat with new feathers, he disappeared, Joao recalls. And, just a few months later, Dindim was back. The penguin spotted the fisherman on the beach one day and followed him home.

Look who's back (Picture: TV Globo)
Look who’s back (Picture: TV Globo)

For the past five years, Dindim has spent eight months of the year with Joao and is believed to spend the rest of the time breeding off the coast of Argentina and Chile. It is thought he swims up to 5,000 miles each year to be reunited with the man who saved his life.

(Picture: Rio de Janeiro Federal University )
(Picture: Rio de Janeiro Federal University)

I love the penguin like it’s my own child and I believe the penguin loves me, Joao told Globo TV. No one else is allowed to touch him. He pecks them if they do. He lays on my lap, lets me give him showers, allows me to feed him sardines and to pick him up.

It's thought Dindim believes the fisherman is also a penguin (Picture: TV Globo)
It’s thought Dindim believes the fisherman is also a penguin (Picture: TV Globo)

Everyone said he wouldn’t return but he has been coming back to visit me for the past four years. He arrives in June and leaves to go home in February and every year he becomes more affectionate as he appears even happier to see me.

(Picture: Rio de Janeiro Federal University)
(Picture: Rio de Janeiro Federal University)

Biologist Professor Krajewski, who interviewed the fisherman for Globo TV, told The Independent: “I have never seen anything like this before. I think the penguin believes Joao is part of his family and probably a penguin as well. When he sees him he wags his tail like a dog and honks with delight.”

And, just like that, the world seems a kinder place again.


Unsurprisingly there are numerous videos of Joao and Dindim to be found on YouTube but I have selected the following one for you.

It’s wonderful how our worries about the nature of us humans can be swept away just as easily as an ocean wave breaking on a beach near an island village just outside Rio de Janeiro.

The magic of touch!

At all levels and in so many ways it is life-giving.

dt14Animals must see touch as a natural way of living. We humans are less natural about touch especially with people that we don’t know so well. Not everyone, of course, but as a general statement it is probably not wrong.

The topic of touch has come to me today as a result of a recent item read over on The Conversation blogsite; specifically about the importance of touch between a doctor and his or her patient. Here it is republished within the terms of The Conversation:


Touch creates a healing bond in health care

May 23, 2016 8.23pm EDT

Touch is a powerful tool in medicine. Hands via
Touch is a powerful tool in medicine. Hands via

In contemporary health care, touch – contact between a doctor’s hand and a patient – appears to be on its way out. The expanding role of CT and MRI imaging is decreasing reliance on touch as a way of making diagnoses. Pressures to move patients through the system more quickly leave health professionals with fewer opportunities to make contact. Our experience suggests that when doctors spend fewer minutes with patients, less time is available for touch.

Yet despite the rise of scanners, robots and other new medical technologies, the physician’s hand remains one of medicine’s most valuable diagnostic tools. Touch creates a human bond that is particularly needed in this increasingly hands-off, impersonal age. Medical practice is replete with situations where touch does more than any words to comfort and reassure.

The USC psychologist Leo Buscaglia, whose habit of hugging those he met soon earned him the sobriquet “Doctor Love,” bemoaned our neglect of touch in his book, “Love,” in these terms:

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.

For thousands of years, touch has been recognized as an essential part of the healing arts. Native American healers relied on touch to draw out sickness, and kings and queens were long believed to possess the “Royal Touch,” through which the mere laying on of hands could heal. The Bible contains numerous stories of the healing power of touch.

Touch is an essential part of our well-being

An indication of our need for touch can be found among our primate relatives. Psychologists have observed that many such species spend upwards of five hours of each day touching one another, partly through grooming. For many human beings, however, the daily dose of touching would be measured not in hours but minutes, perhaps even seconds.

Lack of touch can be hazardous to health. In experiments with primates some 60 years ago,

 A young mother participates in a ‘Kangaroo Mother’ program at the National Maternity Hospital in El Salvador. Luis Galdamez/Reuters
A young mother participates in a ‘Kangaroo Mother’ program at the National Maternity Hospital in El Salvador. Luis Galdamez/Reuters

researcher Harry Harlow demonstrated that young monkeys deprived of touch did not grow and develop normally. Mere food, water and shelter are not sufficient – to thrive, such creatures need to touch and be touched.

The same can be said for human beings. During the 20th century, wars landed many babies in orphanages, where their caretakers observed that no matter how well the infants were fed, they would fail to thrive unless they were held and cuddled on a frequent basis. Touch offers no vitamins or calories, yet it plays a vital role in sustaining life.

More recent studies have corroborated these findings. “Kangaroo care,” using papoose-like garments to keep babies close to their mothers, decreases the rate at which they develop blood infections. Touching also improves weight gain and decreases the amount of time that newborns need to remain in the hospital.

Touch creates a bond between doctor and patient

Novelist and physician Abraham Verghese has argued that touching is one of the most important features of the patient-physician interaction. When he examines a patient, he is not merely collecting information with which to formulate a diagnosis, but also establishing a bond that provides comfort and reassurance.

The notion that touch can reassure and comfort has a scientific basis. Ten years ago researchers used MRI scans to look at the brains of women undergoing painful stimuli. When subjects experience pain, certain areas of the brain tend to “light up.” The researchers studied subjects when they were alone, when they were holding a stranger’s hand, and when they were holding their husband’s hand.

They found the highest levels of pain activation when the women were alone. When they were holding a stranger’s hand, the pain response was decreased. And levels of activation were lowest of all when they were holding their husband’s hand. Interesting, the higher the quality of subjects’ marriages, the more pain responses were blunted.

Touch from parents helps kids in intensive care

We have been studying this phenomenon in our own institution, looking at the effect of touch not only on patients but on the parents of patients admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit.

The project, called ROSE (Reach Out, Soothe, and Embrace), sought to determine whether increasing opportunities to touch patients could promote parent well-being without compromising patient safety.

Instead of merely determining whether patients could be taken off the ventilator or fed, we also identified patients who could be safely touched and even held in their parents’ arms. When a patient was deemed safe to hold, a magnet bearing the image of a red rose embraced by two hands was placed on the door to the patient’s room.

While we are still analyzing the results and further study is needed to fully delineate the health benefits of touch, several findings are already clear.

First, increasing opportunities for touch does not compromise patient safety. Second, the subjective well-being of family members is enhanced when touching is encouraged. Third, promoting touch empowers family members to become more involved in their child’s care.

To be sure, inappropriate and unsafe touching can be harmful. But when touch is encouraged in the right ways and for the right reasons, it is good for patients, family, friends and health professionals alike. Touch is one of the most fundamental and effective ways to create a sense of connection and community among human beings.

In the words of the 20th-century theologian Henri Nouwen, who wrote in his book, “Out of Solitude”:

When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.

So next time you find yourself confronted by a person in distress, remember the power of touch. Medicines and words both have healing power, but so does touch, and it is perhaps the most widely available, financially responsible and safest tool in the healing arts. When we touch, we connect, and when we connect, we create a healing bond for which there is simply no substitute.


“When we touch, we connect, and when we connect, we create a healing bond for which there is simply no substitute.”

Jean with my mother back in July, 2014.

P1150928The healing touch!

Or to repeat the elegant words of Leo Buscaglia:

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.

3175758.largeWho have you given a hug today?

What really is important.

So much to learn from our animals.

It is so easy to become disillusioned with the world around us. But then all it takes is a little story or an act of kindness to remind us of what really is important.

That was my emotional reaction when I recently read the following item over on the Care2 website. I am taking the liberty of republishing it in full.


Dangerous Dog Rescues Helpless Hummingbird in Grass

3176813.largeBy: Laura S. May 10, 2016

About Laura

One can only speculate why a rescued dog named Rex refused to leave the side of an injured hummingbird lying in the grass. Was it compassion or simple curiosity?

According to Rex’s guardian, Ed Gernon, his German Shepherd mix was homeless for a very long time and had a reputation for getting along poorly with other animals.

“He was dangerous” told CBS News. “I mean, he fought with other dogs and he killed cats. He was an animal that had learned to live on the streets.”

During a neighborhood walk, Rex came to an abrupt halt with a laser-focus on the ground in front of him.

“He suddenly stopped and he would not move,” Gernon said of Rex’s discovery of the near-death hummingbird. “It’s tiny and it’s dead as far as I’m aware. It’s covered in ants. It’s got no feathers.”

But Rex apparently knew better. Not only did he realize that the bird was still alive, but he refused to leave it.

“He was trying to protect her, so I thought I’d go the distance.”

So, Gernon did the only thing he could think of at the moment. He scooped up the hummingbird and took it home. And there began a year-long process of rehabilitation inside Gernon’s home. That included using a hairdryer to help Hummer fly as well as regular feedings of sugar water.

Today Hummer is strong and ready for return to the wild, only she shows no interest in leaving just yet.

“It’s time for her to start mating,” Gernon said in his recent interview. “I keep leaving the doors and windows open thinking she’ll leave.”


Laura closes her article by including the sensible advice:

Wildlife experts advise that licensed rehabilitation specialists should be consulted when caring for an injured wild animal.

As I said in my preamble all it takes is a little story or an act of kindness to remind us of what really is important.

You all have a wonderful weekend.

Death is part of life.

Slowly picking up the pieces from our internet outage.

The fact that I was sitting in front of my PC at 4:30am yesterday morning writing this says a lot about the inconvenience of losing our internet connection last Friday evening. We love living in this rural part of Southern Oregon surrounded by such dramatic scenery but it does have a couple of downsides, one of which is that we are very limited as to internet service providers.

Anyway, on with the show!

One of the posts that I had in mind for earlier this week was this rather poignant piece from Chris Snuggs. Chris and I go back many years to the time when he was Head of Studies at ISUGA; a French college based in Quimper. I was a visiting teacher at ISUGA covering entrepreneurial topics.

IsugaEnough of me, here is that story from Chris. It was sent to me on the 10th May.


My sister’s dog died last night. Margaret woke me at 03.00 in the morning saying she needed my help. I found her at the front door, where Jasper was lying motionless, having crawled there in his last moments.

“I think he’s gone,” she said, sobbing quietly.

I knelt down and felt his side; indeed, there was no sign of breathing, though his body was still warm. Jasper had died. He had been ill for a few days, been down to the vet and got some medicine, but it had been to no avail. Maggie said he had been unusually quiet and motionless that last evening, making  strange noises as his lungs failed him. At 12 years old, one cannot say it was a surprise, but until the last few days he had been right as rain, barking senselessly at nothing in particular when let out into the garden, getting under my feet as I did jobs around the house.

But death of any companion – or indeed of any living creature – is moving, shocking. He was not my dog, nor do I see him often or for long, but the one thing about dogs is that once they make friends with you – as Jasper had with me – you are a friend for life.

No matter how depressed you are, no matter how low an opinion you have of yourself, no matter how sheit your day was, whenever you walk through that front door, a dog will greet you with his tail wagging. They have infinite love, devotion and optimism; they take you as you are and love you whatever you are.

And so Jasper will be missed by me, but of course more so by my sister, who had him from a puppy. As anyone who has lost a companion knows, the house seems empty afterwards. There will be no more greetings with the wagging tail, no more forbidden jumping up onto the sofa to be patted, no more barking at the seagulls in the garden.

Death is a part of life, but hard to accept even so.

Chris Snuggs


Chris also forwarded some photographs of dear Jasper that are offered in memory of the little chap.


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Embracing the reality of death: One of the most important lessons that we learn from our dogs.