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Sunday, September 13, 2015


caterpillar among the wildwood flowers
Up this morning, took sunflower seeds to toss on the gravel where I feed the crows, the doves, the squirrels, whoever finds it, and a handful of carrots for the donkeys. They were up the meadow out of sight. I brayed to Jack. He brayed and came running. His front hooves slid about four feet in the thin mud at the gate, wet from yesterday's rain. It's fun for him to slide in the mud. His eyes sparkled. Jack has a playful spirit that finds play easily. I was especially happy to see them this morning, talked to them while they munched, and rubbed the underside of their necks. They like to be rubbed at the point on their backs where the lines of dark chocolate cross. When I want to touch them, this is the place I start. It calms them down immediately. I make it a point to rub Jack's neck after rubbing Jenny. They pay attention. Jenny goes first for carrots, for grain, for everything. Jenny shows her jealousy up front. Jack holds his jealousy such that I don't see it, but he gets back at Jenny. Feeling jealousy puts him in a bad mood. Jack automatically defers to Jenny, his babydoll, and Jenny's jealousy requires being first. I've learned their individual natures by now. As long as Jenny goes first, we have peace  in the meadow. No way could I ever change a donkey's nature it was born with. Jack adjusts his behavior to Jenny's jealousy about being first, and I do too, so we flow together smoothly. As we humor her jealousy, she needs to express it less and less, which eases her mind.
queen anne's lace
The morning I realized Caterpillar was gone, Jenny and Jack felt my sorrow. They were especially still. I saw it in their eyes. They could feel what I was feeling. I remembered the time Jenny lost her first baby, me crying with her, my arms around her neck hugging her while we both cried. I held Jack around the neck and cried with him awhile. Both were in deep mourning. I felt like I bonded with them on a deeper level that day sharing their sorrow. This time, they shared my sorrow. They knew Caterpillar lived with me in the human barn. A couple times I held her to let them smell her, one at a time, feel her fur with their lips. She pushed her face down into the crook of my arm. Their heads were bigger than her whole body. They were ok from a distance, but up close, they were frightening. I wanted them to be familiar with her scent, to understand Caterpillar belongs here so they would not hurt her if she were to walk into the meadow. I know she has. I found her once curled up in a bed of grass with wildflowers all around, fairly deep into the donkey meadow when they were in the meadow across the creek.

caterpillar walks among the wildwood flowers
Back to the house, I brewed some Sumatran coffee, called Carole and we talked an hour or more. All morning, Caterpillar dwelled in the front of my mind. I read some in a Cormac McCarthy novel and put on a documentary from yesterday's mail, Geronimo and the Apache Resistance. It took my mind off Caterpillar right away. I felt the people, felt their anguish, their determination. I felt like I was there with them. I wrung and twisted, gnawed a thumbnail, tied up in knots on the inside, feeling what those people went through. I'd read enough about them that all the generals engaged in their genocide were familiar names and faces. I felt a deep love for the Apache people. Throughout my childhood, I read about Indians, saw movies, tv shows, identified with the Indians. I knew early that white man spoke with forked tongue. There was no white man in my world that didn't lie to me, including the preacher. All of it was fake Indians, but I knew it. I thought it ridiculous the directors and producers used white guys with dark tan makeup and wigs. However, I lived in the white world and knew white attitudes toward the Indians I did not share, would never expect white film makers to make a film using real Indians. A few were made eventually, but nobody cared.

black eyed Susans and queen anne's lace

I was moderately devastated by the end of the documentary,  though knew their fate already from reading. I came out of it thinking about how devastating love can be sometimes, Geronimo radicalized by losing his wife, kids and mother to white soldiers. I was shaken to the core with the story of the Apache resistance. I have chosen for self the path of love. My unconditional love for Caterpillar made losing her a wound to the heart. My purpose has been to allow heart to open, to go about everyday life with an open heart. I was still reeling from losing my baby when I took in this documentary of the genocide of people I appreciate so powerfully it felt like I surely had some past lives among the Apache. I recall in childhood, a long time before I heard about reincarnation, a day when I became concerned about my white skin. I realized my people would not recognize me in this lifetime. I was born among the enemy. What could I do? Nothing but live out my life as one of the people that killed my people, isolated from my true people an entire lifetime for being born white. It is said, be careful what you hate; we become what we hate. I must have hated whiteman. I'd guess the white population has a large number of Indians trapped in white bodies for hate.

black-eyed susans and queen anne's lace

It is so very difficult to attempt to live in this world with an open heart. To do so, I allow vulnerabilities. I have come to believe shutting down vulnerabilities hardens and closes down a heart. I lived so much of the early life with a closed heart, it took awhile to allow it slowly to open, slowly from fear. I know how it hurts to lose a loved one, cat, dog, human. Caterpillar and I grew closer and closer in the recent months and years. I thought about it sometimes, when it is her time to go, I'm really going to feel some pain. That's ok. Eighteen years of unconditional love both ways is worth a few days of intense sorrow, weeks and months of grief. I've come to see grief is the last gift I can give my friend. I go ahead and feel it, unafraid, knowing from experience I come out of a period of grief with an inner clarity I did not have before. My mind was occupied today with how painful love can be sometimes. It's not all about Cupid shooting candy arrows. I've learned that real love is about engagement, not talking like an undertaker. I've even wondered if I over-loved Caterpillar, literally loved her to death. No. There is never too much love.

photos by tj worthington


  1. I enjoy reading about your open heart. Powerful essay. I always felt closer to the Divine when feeling love and loss. I like your gentleness with self and your animal friends.

  2. TJ - Such a beautiful blog. Thank you for being you and sharing your love of your animals and people with us. I love these pictures and your stories. Wrapping you around with infinite love and peace as you grieve the loss of your friend Caterpillar.

  3. Grieving deepens and defines our love. If there is no grief, there was no love. I love you, Tj, and through your words and photos have loved Caterpillar, Jack, Jenny and the wild/flowering space you hold for them. Bless you for sharing your vulnerability.