With Gratitude for Patsy Terrell

 

 

I was on vacation when I heard.

For more than a week I have been trying to wrap my head around what it means, what I want to say, how to make sense of it.

Many years ago, when the internet was still mostly new and online communities functioned with yahoo group lists, I found some of my people – people who wrote things by hand, loved words, believed in the power of words and the worth of communication, kept journals, practiced gratitude, aimed for grace, embraced the wider world, lived consciously.

We didn’t know each other. Not really. We were a far flung group. But we shared. For years. And when social platforms moved on, we moved our friendships to Facebook. We kept in touch, some of us.

That’s where I originally met her – way back when. I ran some groups she participated in, she ran some groups I participated in. I can’t say we were close, but we knew what mattered to the other, we cheered each other on in life, and through the years we kept in touch. Journals and journal keeping was a shared passion. We’d send each other articles we knew would be appreciated. Exchanging bits of wisdom, thoughts on art and writing. She sent a collection of notes from a writing class she took on Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. I sent little care packages of antique linens or fabulous costume jewelry when one of my clients was downsizing such things. Contemplating community, happiness, beauty, inspiration.

She was an inspiration alright. Indefatigable. A powerhouse of ideas and a wellspring of kindness and compassion, always seeking to understand, learn from and appreciate others. Even from a distance I knew she could bring out the best in people.

We always said we’d meet.

She promised me lunch at Roy’s when I eventually got there to visit – which I assured her I would, someday.

I’ve done a lot in the journal keeping community in the past. She supported everything I did and everything I dreamed of – a magazine, an archives. I appreciated and learned from her input.

Recently she could no longer stand by and watch unfairness and corruption in the political world so she stepped up and she ran a grass roots campaign. Fighting a long time incumbent to gain a seat on the Kansas Legislature. And she WON!

It was so exciting to watch the results of a Kansas election from my home in Connecticut and brag to those around me – “I know her! She’s wonderful. She’s running for all the right reasons. She’ll be so good at this.”

And she was good at it. Insisting on respectful discourse, she said she would not participate in debate that was not respectful on both sides, always. Such class.

My vacation was a whirlwind thing. A road trip planned in a week and consisting of nearly 6,000 miles in 17 days.

My honey wanted to visit his mother in Utah. He said – “Check the price of plane tickets.”

But no. I think flying these days is hateful. I pushed for a road trip and I won.

We’d been to Luray Caverns in Virginia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, Kanab Utah, Zion, White Pocket, scenic Rt 12, Back through Colorado and now we were driving across Kansas.

We didn’t actually have time to stop in Kansas, plus I knew that if she was in Topeka she was likely busy with the legislature, and if she wasn’t in Topeka, she’d be too far off my path there in Hutch. Nonetheless I thought I’d take a quick look at her facebook. It was dinner time. Maybe if she’d just posted, “I’m having dinner at such-and-such place in Topeka,” I might swing by for a quick, surprise, drive-by hello. I knew that was unlikely. But I looked.

Her most recent post (earlier that morning) – “You’re waking up in a Kansas where the Brownback experiment has ended. Good morning!” And a few other posts about the successful override.

How exciting!

I sent her a text.

“Patsy. I’m on a quick road trip and passing through Kansas headed east. 40 or so miles from Topeka at the moment. Had hoped to make time to meet you but it’s not going to happen today. However I did look at your Facebook page to see what you’re up to as I pass by and I have to say CONGRATULATIONS and thanks for all your work making Kansas and the country a better place. PS. It’s gorgeous here!”

She didn’t answer. Yep. Must be busy.

We stayed in Missouri that night and the next day headed for Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. My sweetie was driving.

That was when I saw the text from a creative maker friend whom I’d introduced to the amazingness of Patsy on Facebook.

His text said “I’m so sorry” and included a link to the news story “Kansas Legislator found dead in hotel room in Topeka.”

My mind stumbled and I looked up at the world around me in a blur. Then my eyes focused on a passing highway sign – Paducah this exit.

Seriously?

This can’t be right. In fact it’s quite wrong.

Patsy was from Paducah.

Patsy doesn’t exist any more?

How can that be?

Ten days later and I still trip over this fact, daily. Patsy is no longer smiling in this world. Patsy is gone. I never got to meet her.

We weren’t close but she meant so much to me. She was so very important to the world.

I can’t wrap my head around how hard this has been on me. I can only imagine the grief of those who actually knew her buoyant energy.

And I feel for her dearest friends Mark and especially Greg.

If you guys see this – all of my hugs and love to you both.

Thank you for being in Patsy’s life.

And Patsy, thank you for being in my life – however much on the fringe, you mattered.

Peace.

  • The photos here were taken from Patsy’s Facebook page – photo credits to Greg Holmes, Kristen Garlow Piper, and David Bell
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Pyramids and Rivers

[This series of posts is brought about by my attempt to relive what I did on my vehicular walkabout which lasted from December 8, 2013 to May 3, 2014. I’m attempting to sorta keep pace with myself last year.]
I liked what I wrote last time, so that stopped me from writing.
I don’t even think what I wrote last time was all that, but yet… I was pleased with it. So I congratulated myself on finally writing something I didn’t hate completely, on being able to see the smallest glimpse into my own potential, and I shelved it amongst the laundry, dishes and recycling, caused by the xmas carnage of two expensive cameras, lobster dinner, and life.
I really need to stop that. I need to commit to the daily process. Sometimes I write relatively well, sometimes I suck – but that is part of the process. Just keep writing.

My desire to relive and document my experience from the now – as it happened a year ago – seems vitally important and I cannot let it get away from me. There is something here to learn that I’m quite sure I can pinpoint if I look closely enough. Some juxtaposition between then and now and the past. I think.

Trying to remember what each city felt like to me. How I felt when I was there. What stills stands out with its memories and its lessons yet unnoticed?

So yeah. It’s an exercise in writing – but more than that it has the added benefit of learning what the point is. I hope.

I left myself off headed to Nashville in the last post and that leaves me quite far behind myself; for as of today, one year ago, I was in Tucson. That means I am 2000 or so miles behind myself. A lot happened that week. I’ll get as much of it as I can today.

Nashville meant nothing to me. I stayed one night, felt nothing at all and moved on.

Oddly, and part of the dimming of Nashville I’m sure, Memphis was calling to me. Who thinks of Memphis? I certainly hadn’t. Not by a long shot. And yet here I was, close enough to hear it beckoning.

I loved everything about Memphis. One planned night turned into three.
The downtown décor, where I landed,touched me. It seemed soft and elegant while at the same time a bit rouge. Untamed. Blue. Blue stands out in my mind. Memphis
The trolley cars were gaily decorated with wreaths and garlands and pine and bows. Everyone was as friendly as can be. Jolly and welcoming. I gave xmas cookies to the front desk clerks and the valets, Trolley drivers told me the stories of their lives, the history of Memphis, and that if I ever visited in May I’d never leave. One kindly driver with sparkly eyes grilled me about my own life choices as I rode the trolley loop around and around. And too, I’d come from Atlanta, where MLK’s presence loomed, where his tomb rests, to the place where he was killed. I passed the Lorraine Hotel every day. Somber.
The Pyramid that was a developer’s dream, a concert venue for a minute and now defunct with hotel dreams. The majestic river and bluffs that account for Memphis’ placement in the world. The Peabody Hotel and their famous ducks – ducks that spend their days in the lobby fountain and their nights in a luxury duck penthouse. Watching them parade towards the elevator to call it a day, as tourists jostled for a view from the mezzanine around the massive xmas tree. Famous record studios and radio stations and many music museums. A Cotton Museum that I truly enjoyed. Housed in an old cotton exchange, they made it seem like the entire history of America as we know it pivoted on cotton. I had a very strong moment of… recognition?… when I came upon the small tools for carding the cotton. Something akin to a wire scrub brush, raked across another of its kind in order to comb the cotton. I’ve seen this before. I’ve DONE this before. I still cannot place any event of such in this lifetime of mine but I have deep awareness that I’ve used these tools. I knew at once the certain way it had to be done, the angles that make it work smoothest. It was a powerful moment. I stood there with my head cocked, thinking, reaching, trying to remember, trying to understand the moment.

I didn’t go to Graceland. I had joked that it was required since I was here, but I felt liberated in not going. I didn’t go to Al Green’s Church either. I also didn’t go to the Museum at the Lorraine Hotel – but that was only because I saved it for my last day only to realize all too late that they were closed on Wednesdays.

Here in Memphis I met another old friend that I only knew online. Dawn.
Back in the day she ran a newsgroup for diarists and artists called Purple Ink. We were in close touch for years. She even wrote a couple or three articles for my magazine when I had it. But as the years had gone on, newsgroups faded, life went on, facebook came along and she never joined the lemmings. We’d lost touch. I only remembered that she worked for Downtown Memphis which made her pretty easy to find. Bonus points – Her office was about three blocks from my hotel.
Any city gains extra layers when you can explore it with a local. A nice drive around the city outside of downtown revealed coffeehouses, restaurants, bookstores, and all of it in the conviviality of the Holiday Season. Dawn’s crew had been responsible for most of the holiday decorating I was appreciating so much, so I got a full tour of trees and lights. We ended that evening with a late night wander along Beale Street. Dawn was a trooper on a work night and I had so much fun meeting her and hanging out. So classy she is, with things like a personalized glass drinking straw that she carries in her purse for her iced tea. I hope I get to visit Dawn again someday.

And.
Memphis had my favorite restaurant of my whole journey. There’s a few others that stand out – but none quite as much as Flight. Found by accident on my first arrival night because it was the only thing open near the hotel. Anything could be ordered in a full size app or entrée, dessert or drink, but their brilliant concept was that everything was generally offered in flights. Everything you can imagine came in flights. This was made for my way of wanting to eat. I always want the different tastes.
Wines flights determined by region or winery or type. Martini flights, bourbon flights. Salad flights and soup flights! Ah the choices! The flavors! Beet Pear Salad, roasted veggie soup, – Ah! Where have I put the menu? Of course I took a copy. I salivated over every option both times I visited. Suggested flights could be mixed or matched to one’s choosing. The Fish Flight, the Meat Flight (which had better names) with Bison, Elk, Filet Mignon. The Foul Flight with small portions of duck, Cornish hen and chicken. And Oh! That chicken dish. I have yet to recreate it, though I talk about it often. It was my first ever chicken and waffles. And though I tried many more chicken and waffles dishes on this journey, none was so inventive and well executed. The key was the mushroom maple cream sauce. Yeah, I want that again – I will have to invent it soon.

From the food to the land to the people – Memphis mattered.

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“Well Nashville had country music but Memphis had the soul
Lord, the white boy had the rhythm and that started rock and roll
And I was here when it happened don’t you all think I ought to know
I was here when it happened, yeah, yeah, yeah
I watched Memphis give birth to rock and roll, Lord, lord yeah.”

Roy Orbison

Muddy horses

This series of posts is brought about by my attempt to relive what I did on my road trip which lasted from December 8, 2013 to May 3, 2014. I’m attempting to sorta keep pace with myself last year.

 

I cruised into Christenburg, Virginia, hunted up a small church on a side street, and arrived just barely in time for a Toastmaster’s meeting. I participated in the meeting and had a good time but I had missed out on the pre-meeting gathering and couldn’t stay afterwards because I had to connect with the Airbnb host who was expecting me deep in the mountains.

She was a veterinarian’s assistant for large animals and had a couple horses. On the Airbnb ad the place looked comfortable and I liked the idea of spending some time with some horses.
I called her and she said the place was kinda hard to find and since her and her boyfriend had yet to eat dinner, did I want to meet in town for a bite first?
Sure! Awesome!
I’d been renting out my extra bedroom on Airbnb for a few years. I didn’t find it uncomfortable at all to invite strangers into my home. In CT I had been feeling a lack of worldliness and I’m pleased to say that opening my home to travelers was a wonderful experience. A German couple, an artist from West Virginia, a grad student from Oxford, a chain saw carver, cross country cyclists who arrived in a rainstorm, a young Russian man who’d just landed a great job here and was looking for an apartment to bring his family from Russia. I found it wonderful to sit and chat with these folks, or go out to dinner on a couple occasions, so I was delighted with her invite.
Only one time with an Airbnb guest did I have a poor experience. A lawyer father of a Wesleyan student.
“A single woman living alone here?”
I was trying to show him around the house. He starts peeling off his shirt.
“Oh I hope I don’t make you uncomfortable, I have to change quickly and be at a function. I’m sure if I have any questions I’ll find you. And if you need to find me my door will be open all night if you need anything.”
Yeah. Unh. Thanks.
He called a couple hours later, said he’d be out late and asked if he could stay an extra night. I told him no. I couldn’t accommodate that.
I slept with a milk crate in front of my bedroom door, with a vacuum cleaner balanced on top of it. I didn’t actually expect any trouble from this guy. He was just sorta creepy and smarmy. He and all his stuff were gone when I woke up.

Virginia Tech town. My host and her boyfriend were friendly but extremely spacey, both of them. Conversation was punctuated by dreamy stares. After a decent dinner at a student hangout I followed them up into the mountains. I had a few moments of – what the fuck am I doing?stardust
I called my then boyfriend, made sure he had the exact address, and if he didn’t hear from me in the morning he should do something about it. I dislike fear when it shows in me. What do I have to be afraid of?
Seriously.
Maybe you’ve not seen the meme, but it’s true –
Stardust. That’s all.

There wasn’t much to see of the place, it was dark. The horse pen did come pretty close to the back of the house. And two of them came to say hello. As they did I noticed they were standing ankle deep in mud.
Inside the room was comfortable enough but it turned out the internet wasn’t working, nor was there any cell service. I sat on the couch for a while with them and watched the local news. Snow coming. Overnight. Or starting early in the morning. Yeah. Deep in the mountains.
I half joked that I should leave now before I get snowed in. They made plans for how to deal with a morning of snow and assured me that I could stay a second night free if I got snowed in. I had zero desire to do that. I felt like I was running from snow. Like this send off onto my journey had a weather push that was still going on. And with no internet???

The place looked dingy in the daylight. The entirety of the horse pen was mud. It was still grey above, still threatening snow but I was getting out early enough. The horses looked tired and looking at them tired me. I wished them sunny skies and less mud as I backed out of the driveway.

I left early enough to have lunch with my friend Deb in Mooseville, NC and then I went on to Anderson South Carolina where I spent my first night in a hotel. I rather enjoyed it. Upscale wanna be highway-side food just steps out the door. Clean comfy room. It was a nice place to bring all my shit inside and rearrange a bit. I was excited about tomorrow’s itinerary.
And here’s two blog posts from last year about the next few days…

I Visited The Georgia Guidestones Today (One year ago Today!!!)

Atlanta Whirlwind

Pools

This series of posts is brought about by my attempt to relive what I did on my road trip which lasted from December 8, 2013 to May 3, 2014. I’m attempting to keep pace with myself last year. This post I wrote the other day and was reluctant to publish. But… I’ve edited it…

yellowstone

Yeah BFD. I got in the car and drove through some snow and met an internet friend.
Why do I act like (think in my mind like) it was some momentous thing.
Like I broke some restraint.
Whose restraint?
No one was trying to hold me back.
I can’t actually think of too many times anyone has tried to hold me back.
Me. Me who sometimes does amazing projects. Who tries to stop me?
There have been friends who laughed at me and told me I’d not go anywhere.
Luckily I managed to let them go. Since that kind of attitude is completely counter productive to the kind of life I want to live.
What did I think I was accomplishing? That morning. It was my first morning. It was cold and snowy.

Getting our cars out of Kari’s driveway and going to her corporate employment place, getting me a guest ID. Going to a Toastmaster meeting. And then hitting the road again when she went to work. Such a grey day it was, driving across the north of Virginia.

Luray Caverns, closed when I drove by. Or rather I’d be too late for the last scheduled tour. That had been a big one on my starting itinerary.
I visited Luray Caverns once in the 80s. On a lark on the way to spring tour one year. It led to a bit of a cave obsession over the next few year’s worth of journeys. Anything! Anywhere. To get underground and see what the earth can do.
Such wondrous places. Caves. Eons of time piled up to see. Glistening, towering stalagmites. Dripping, growing stone hanging delicately from vaulted ceilings. Deep blue green waters. I once saw some blind fish in a cave in Tennessee. Swimming endlessly back and forth in the pale green water.
But this day it was only pale grey skies.
I was not going underground. I was heading for the mountains instead.

Isn’t that just like life? Plan one thing and another happens.
I had reservations at an Airbnb place near Virginia Tech. And if I was on time, a Toastmasters meeting in the same town – Blacksburg Virginia.

hours later…

Stream of consciousness takes over sometimes…

Little brass hummingbird drinks from a brass water dish thingy. Sitting in the utility sink with a softly glowing green pool in its dish. Reminds me of an underground cave pool. Caves. That’s the second time today.

The desire to see those types of pools again, often, is strong. Always.
Sigh, it’s just brass polish. Not a magic pool.
That’s why Luray was such an important destination as I set out. I need to see it. I knew it as one of the most commercialized caves even back in the 80s. But with good reason. I remember the formations as impressive and accessibility as a joyous walk through the world. I want to experience that majesty again.

Is that why I’m on this road trip?

Partially, yes. But I just had to pass it by.

This Road Trip is bigger than Luray.

In dreams I often see such a deeply colored pool in my front yard. It’s as large as the yard (different yards in different dreams) with comfortable looking craggy boulders splashled around. The water is the clearest thing I’ve ever seen. I see the depths – more boulders, like lava, artfully tumbled below. And the colors! All colors of the rainbow, so bright, electric even. Inviting. I’ve seen pictures of places with underwater scenes almost as vibrant as my dream but I’ve never seen one in person. Sometimes the photos I see of Yellowstone’s Old Faithful give me the same impression of the pool and colors in my dream. But not quite.

It’s my anniversary

12-8-2013 Deer Park

One year ago today my car sat parked up on the lawn outside my front door. It was cool and sunny in Connecticut but apparently there were some weather issues to the south. Rather attention grabbing weather issues.

I was preparing for a mad dash to Baltimore as the first leg of my journey. I had picked the date rather arbitrarily. It was a Sunday. I would leave at noon. But with reports of Baltimore having snow currently and, more of concern, by early evening it would turn to rain that would freeze on contact. Baltimore drivers were cautioned to avoid driving if possible. And I wanted to go there?

I wanted to visit my childhood friend Donna. Perfect yes? A little check in with my past as I stepped into what some friends called, lovingly, my mid-life crisis. Five and a half hours. A good first day’s drive.
Do I delay? Is it smart to drive into guaranteed frozen roads? Funny question. Is anything about this road trip “smart”?

The weather system, moving north, would be here in CT tomorrow. If I didn’t leave as planned I’d probably not leave tomorrow either. I asked the cat’s opinion and got nothing.
Okay. Well. Maybe I wouldn’t get as far as Baltimore but I could get somewhere. Drive as far as is safe then get a hotel. No procrastinating on this. I shall not be stopped by weather. Sheesh. Part of the whole point of this trip is to get away from the winter weather.

I threw some final, questionably necessary, items into the car, locked up the house for the house sitters arrival later in the day, said my goodbyes to the lovely seven pound elephant Miss Voodoo, and went to say goodbye to Vette and Rob at the Wadsworth Mansion Xmas craft fair thingy.
And that was it.
I was on my way. On the road again!

It was smooth sailing right onto and over the George Washington Bridge. Splendid day for the start of an adventure.
And then it started to snow. Pretty at first, I drove right into the thick of it. By the time I reached Elizabeth, NJ there was two inches on the ground. As I moved south the snow piled up quickly. Driving started to become treacherous in spots. Somewhere this side of Philly an 18-wheeler nearly ran me into a bridge abutment. That was a bit nerve wracking. It was kinda sleety. Traffic was slowing down.
What was I thinking? How many people are pulling over now to grab hotels and wait it out? Ugh.
How much farther to Baltimore? I can do this… Donna was on alert that I was attempting this. I texted and told her I was still on the way as far as I knew.
Traffic stopped.

I looked at the map again. I was hours behind schedule already. This little jaunt to Baltimore was becoming an ordeal. I looked at the map again and saw Newark Delaware not too far ahead of me. I had a friend there. A friend I’d known for years but had never met face to face. We were both in an online book group many many years ago.
The book-a-week group had always been a favorite of mine. Members read anything at all with the mere goal of trying to read 52 books each year. Then we’d write blurbs about what we’d read. I got many great unexpected reads from years spent reading with those ladies. The group kind fell apart when our beloved leader Donna got a nasty brain cancer and left this plain of existence. (Although I had never met Donna either, we were close. I still miss her.) She was our center and without her we drifted apart. I kept in touch with a few of the members, and facebook brought a few others back into my world. I always expected I’d meet Kari someday. We clicked right from our first emails. And she had extended an invitation to me to stop by. I figured I’d do so on my return. But. All this snow…
Wonder if she’s home? Wonder exactly how far it is? Wonder if she’ll let me crash there? I don’t have her number do I?
Traffic absolutely crawling. Snow and sleet and other icy particles collected everywhere.
I opened facebook to send Kari a message. It was the only way I had to contact her. I sent her my number and said “Text me, I’m stuck in snow traffic.”
She called right away!
Ha! She was stuck in snow traffic too. Had gone to a funeral today in Wilkes-Barre and was now trying to get home. Different highway. Same reality.
Sounded like we were both about the same distance from her house.
Of course I’d be welcome!
There was a big rest area just before her exit. We’d keep in touch and meet there.
Text message received – “I’m here.”
“What do you drive? Where are you parked? I’m two miles away.”
Cars are crawling into the rest stop and there’s no parking in sight.
But look! There! Through the slapping of the wipers, there’s a person standing outside a car widely waving arms! What a fantastic sight! Yay! Kari! You look like a crazy lady! Hello friend!
I have the biggest grin on my face reliving the moment.
Who would have ever thunk this is how we’d meet? Ten inches of snow on the ground. Sleet pelting our faces. A quick hug and a “follow me to my house” shouted over the general roar of the highway and the sleet.
Fifteen minutes later and we were warming and drying at her kitchen table.
A half hour after that we were out in the world again at a pub for some late night drinks, some warm food and to finally get to know each other.
The late night snow silence of the University of Delaware and the fire-warmth of The Deer Park Tavern were so far removed from the life I’d been living for years. I was elated to have launched. And to have landed, not just safely, but oh so enjoyably.
Thank you Kari!

(Alright here’s the deal folks. I’d like to think I’ll spend the time to relive my journey in a way I didn’t have time to write as I did it. Plus I should be writing and I haven’t been. I’m rusty. Bear with me.)
(Oh and hey. It’s not the first time I’ve written this story. Look there if you want to see pictures, or to see how I spent the next morning with Kari.)

Big Cats in Tampa

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I’ve always loved cats.

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I learned that from my mom. At one point, when I was a child, we had as many as nine cats. My Mother was simply incapable of turning away anyone or anything that was hungry or unloved or needed a place to crash for a while. So you can guess that every stray animal (or human) ended up at our house.
She gave me a good foundation in responsibility to animals.
I’ve always had a cat or two or four in my life. I’ve always helped turtles cross the road. I’ve always helped animal rescue organizations when I can. And I’ve always known it’s a bad idea to personally own a tiger or a lion. But at the same time I’ve always wanted to own a medium sized cat of my own.
I love cats. They are all gorgeous. And their personalities please me. All of them. Even the mean and crotchety. So the idea of owning an extra large house cat-well it can’t help but be appealing.

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The truth is that big cats, even the small big cats, are not meant for house living.

Last week, in Tampa, FL., I paid a visit to Big Cat Rescue.

What a fantastic organization!

They are one of the world’s only accredited big cat rescues. And they are very good at what they do.

A tour of the grounds consisted of a leisurely meander among the cat cages, heartfelt tellings of many of the cat’s individual stories, and a good dose of education about the plight of large and medium sized cats forced to live in quarters designed for humans.

I’m very glad an organization like this exists. They take great care of these majestic felines and it shows. The cats are happy and lolling about smiling and grunting and licking bloodsicles. (Bloodsicles are just what they sound like.)

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Many have access to lakes and ponds for swimming if they like. Animals who were rescued together continue to live together. Ah, the story of Cameron the lion and Zabu the white tiger, rescued from a zoo. Or the five servals saved from a NY basement after nearly 14 years!
The biggest cats have a sort of vacation land. They rotate time on multiple acres where they can run with enough room reach their top speeds.

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I hope you enjoy these photos as much as I enjoyed my visit to Big Cat Rescue.  (And just for the record, I’ve given up my desire to own a bobcat.)

If you have 10 or 20 or 100 bucks you’d like to toss their way, you can find their donation page here and their wishlist page here.

If you aren’t moved to do that then consider a donation to your local dog or cat shelter.
It’s good karma to help beings that cannot help themselves.

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