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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To Those I Missed…

a rain

My sojourn to the Northwest was not my favorite part of the trip so far.

I actually love the northwest, but this time around it was not where I needed to explore.

You might notice, from an earlier post, that on a deep level, I was aware of this. Yet I persisted. Because there were so many people that I wanted to see.

A few miles west of McMinnville, Oregon a woman who was not paying enough attention to the realities around her, pulled out in front of me. Now, I’m a good driver but I have to admit that I even impressed myself with my ability to avoid colliding with her car. And, to avoid colliding with the guardrail. However, my extreme maneuvers, while enough to avoid vehicle to vehicle contact, were not enough to keep me from slamming myself into a ditch.

A witness was ecstatic when he stopped “That was some of the best driving I EVER saw! You avoided that like a pro! Are you okay?”

The woman did stop and took full responsibility for her mistake, and her insurance company is covering all costs that come from this. But it was really a bit of a wake up call for me. I’m not supposed to be here.

But now I had no choice for a few days.

I transferred all my belongings to a rental car while mine sat at a body shop awaiting attention in the form of getting the rocks out of my tires/rims, re-mounting and balancing, and an alignment.

So I went on my way north. The events of the afternoon caused me to miss a planned dinner with some of my favorite people in Portland. (Will her insurance company pay me for that? I think not.) I stayed one night with my dear friend Hank there, then went to Olympia, Washington next day to stay with a wonderful old friend Andrea and her awesome husband Robb.

On Sunday the three of us went further north to watch the Super Bowl with one of my favorite people in the whole world. It was great to hang with Dana and her fabulous family and watch Seattle trounce Denver. I’m not much of a football fan but to be in Seattle when this went on was highly enjoyable.

As Monday rolled to a close, spending time talking with Andrea by the fire all day, it began to sound like my car might be ready the next day. I was looking forward to that reality and knew I wouldn’t come north again once I got my car back. I REALLY wanted to see the restaurant of my grade school friend Bob, so to make sure I didn’t miss that opportunity, I blasted up to Seattle to have dinner at The Wurst Place in Seattle and reacquaint myself with a hometown friend. We took the ferry to his house on Bainbridge Island, drank some wine and talked about what the world is like now. I’m so glad I made the time to do this.

Next morning I was on the road again back to McMinnville to get my car. (It’s safe to drive but there will be cosmetic fixes ‘ll need to address later.)

I was supposed to go back up to Portland to stay a bit – see the people I missed last time around, and see a friend I haven’t seen in maybe 25 years, but once I got my car my entire being screamed – GO SOUTH – get the eff outta here!

So I did.

I told myself that now that I was headed south I could take my time. Visit all my friends in Eugene, Grant’s Pass and Redding. Then I’d cut over back to the coast and see everyone in Northern California that I’d missed on my way north. But that wasn’t what the songlines had in mind. Plus the weather. Threats of snow loomed and I was in no mood for snow – hell, that’s part of why I’d left Connecticut when I did.

So Eugene got only a quick drive-by hug with one dear friend (Lonnie it was great to see you – wish it could have been a longer visit!), Grant’s Pass got dinner. (Hey Corin, thank your lovely boyfriend for making up the guest room for me, sorry I couldn’t stay…)

Everything in me was pulsing “Home. Home. Home.” (In this case it didn’t mean Connecticut, it meant Timmy’s house in Vallejo. Some places just ARE home – ya know?)

And snow was coming next day. So I drove and drove, through the mountains, through the night – home, home, home.

So many of you, I missed.

Tim and Patti – I love you guys, it’s been too long. Kim that was a most awesome invitation for a day on the water – maybe some summer? My cousin Lisa, whom I had hoped to surprise. Kelly in Gig Harbor – it would have been wonderful to stop and say hello. Bobby – I really wanted to step into your world for a visit – maybe next time? Sachita – it’s probably good that you’re on vacation, yes? Paul – we’ll reconnect. Steve and Kathy I appreciate the invite and sorry I didn’t get there. Chewie – ah Chewie! Big love and hugs my friend – stay well and keep smiling. Bob and Marie and Ginny – I smile even now to think how I was going to surprise you. Laura – thank you so much for the invitation to crash at your place. Steve – I’ll have to catch you next time – I love you lots and lots – I really do! Lisa, I wanted to meet your daughter and see your smiling face but I just didn’t get there. Bernie, Bernie, Bernie – it would have been SO fun to visit with you! Breck – have I missed you completely, I hope not. Brice – I wanted to come see the llamas and meet your boys.

 

So I hope you’ll all love me anyway and forgive my not visiting.

I’m just gonna sit here in the Bay a bit and enjoy the rain before I start to work my way home.

Songlines in Progress

 

I began this journey telling the people around me that I was “going walkabout, ‘cept I’m taking my car.”

At first it just meant, to me, that I was going wandering.

 

Aboriginals in Australia go Walkabout and they follow the songlines. The Songlines have been there ever since the ancestors sang the world into existence during the Dreamtime. I’ve always been one to appreciate a good creation myth thanks to my early fascination with Joseph Campbell. Singing the land into existence? Wow, that’s beautiful. And powerful.

They go Walkabout in order to keep the land alive. (I don’t remember where I copied the following quote from…)

 

            “So important are Songlines to Aborigines that unsung land is dead land, and if a song is forgotten, any land which is no longer sung over, will die. To allow such a thing to occur is the worst possible crime for an Aborigine. To be able to sing a Songline indicates an historically unbroken, intimate knowledge of the land. In short, it marries people to place. This is called ownership.”

 

Traditionally this was done as a sort of coming of age ritual. It is a time of transformation from one stage of life – childhood – to that of adulthood, and responsibility. If they followed the Songlines etched in their entire beings, and etched in the story of the land, they could not get lost in the vast expanse of the Australian Outback. If I pretended to be an expert on the origins of the Walkabout I’d be a liar. (Or I’d be up all night turning myself into one.)

 

Modern day Walkabouts are not rare. Many people do them in an attempt to define the direction of their lives. A Walkabout is a time of solitude and soul searching. Which is exactly what I needed, what I wanted, and what was required for my life this winter. (Who the hell have I become at this age? Am I still who I think I am? And what do I want to do now/next?)

 

So off I go on my Walkabout. It’s nearly two months ago now, that I left. Telling myself I’m following the songlines. MY songlines.

 

There’s something tricky about following the songlines. Most especially because I’m not completely sure what I mean by that. Be it etched in the land, or etched in my own psyche, I just know that there is a path out here. Through this country. For me. And maybe (likely) it’d be a different path at a different time, but right now there is a very specific path. There’s a story. Of the now. And I need to find it and follow it.

I’m trying very hard to do just that.


Sometimes it’s about something to experience or a place to be. Sometimes it’s about someone to meet or a friend to see at just the right time. Sometimes it’s about a particular road to travel.

Sometimes I lose the songlines. Or I think I do.
I struggle at times with exactly where to go and what to do.
There are things and places and people I want to see but what if the songlines don’t go that way?
Some mornings I make up my mind on the direction to go, then I get out on the road and go a completely different way.

 

This happened in Atlanta. I thought, from there, that I was headed to visit my best friend’s parents and then I was going to Birmingham. But then the songlines pulled me north, into Tennessee. I went with it.

 

This happened also when I was in Dallas. I had determined all along to visit Austin on my westward journey. But I stayed in Dallas longer than planned and then the songlines dragged me west to Las Cruces for Xmas Eve. Literally, I woke planning to head for Austin, but got on the road and went west instead of south.

 

Okay.

 

It happened again as I was leaving Las Cruces. I wanted to go to Tucson. I’d been feeling the pull of the Sonoran Desert since before the journey began. But then a friend in Albuquerque was going on vacation and offered me his apartment while he was gone. This sounded ideal. So I forced myself north to Albuquerque, but when I got there I felt it in my whole being – no. no. no. This is wrong. wrong. wrong. I knew I’d veered from my songlines so I had dinner with said friend, brought him to the airport at 5am and high-tailed it to Tucson to reunite with my path.

 

I’m not kidding when I say it’s hard to follow the songlines. The wester I get, the feinter they seem. (Is feinter even a word? Well. I guess it is now.)

I wrote the following a few weeks ago –


“Just now, around noon on January 7th I’ve pulled over in order to type this.
I left Scottsdale yesterday sure that I was headed for San Diego directly. I still think I’m headed there. Just not so directly.
I thought I was headed for Yuma when I left. But no. The songlines steered my car to Blythe. I didn’t know why until I woke this morning. I knew I was headed towards the Salton Sea. And this road!
Oh my! THIS road!
It’s wonderful. Two lanes. 65 mph. I am mostly alone rolling through the desert. At first it zoomed through fields that the great majority of America’s veggies come from this time of year. Then came the small mountains – the road winds through and around them in glorious sweeping curves. And the desert here is lovely.
The road swims through dips. Up and down. Up and down. Up and down. So much fun to cruise along. 65 mph. The sun. The sand. The scrub. Me. My car. The land. The day. This country. This lifetime.
And where I’ve just stopped, ahead of me are sand dunes. The Imperial Sand Dune Recreation Area.
Looks like the Sahara.
And I’m gonna start driving again. And I’m gonna pull over somewhere and take a walk in the sand because that is where I am, and that is why I am here.
Yay for songlines!”

 

So a few weeks ago I was clearly still on my songlines. Or at least I felt like I was.

But today. Not so much. (I think.)

I’ve been pondering this the past few days and have come to some conclusions.

 

Northern California and the Northwest really isn’t (aren’t?) part of my songlines this time around. Well. I suppose that’s not completely true, since, here I am.

It’s more of a nostalgia trip up here.

 

I knew this. Knew it before I left.

But I’d spent so much time out here in my younger days. There are so many people I love out here that I haven’t seen in 20 years and more. San Diego was definitely part of the lines. I’d spent two days there when I was 17 and didn’t feel that counted as really having been to San Diego. And I had to go to Riverside and find Tony’s grave. That was a part of the songlines too. But from there it gets a little cloudy.

 

I was lured ever onward by tricks and trails of the heart.

 

I considered not exploring California this time around but there were people I REALLY wanted to see.

So I figured I’d go to Laguna Beach. Either way, I needed a dose of the sunny pacific. There I would stop a few days and think. And consider if I was indeed going north.

 

And since I was this close I simply HAD to go in to LA. Some of my favorite people have four new girls since I saw them last and I want to know who these girls are as people. That’s important to me. Especially since I’m this close. And in LA there are some museums I would love to visit. So I went to LA.

 

One of my best friends in the world recently bought a house in Vallejo. I’d really like to see him and his new house and he really wants me to visit and smile at his choices. So I went to Vallejo. I wanted to.

 

Now. Once I’m in the Bay Area there are so many people to visit. But I’m off the songlines and I know it. I can turn back soon. I’ll just go visit my friends in Novato and have a night at Terrapin Crossroads. I mean. Since I’m this close. I would be silly not to do that much.

 

And there’s a bunch of friends in Santa Rosa. And some of my Oregon people are in Santa Rosa for the weekend too. It would be crazy not to go there for dinner. Especially since I’m this close.

 

Do you see what keeps happening?

 

And those who live in the mountain towns of northern California off 101. It’s only a couple more hours. And how lovely it would be to drive those vistas. I’ll go for dinner and a mini-reunion. It will be fun and I’ll get to see people that I haven’t seen in forever, children that are grown and starting their own families, towns that used to be so familiar to me. I had a wonderful dinner with old friends.

 

As I drove north from Redway, towards the Oregon Coast my mind and heart were stressed – what am I doing? What am I doing? What the hell am I doing?

Why do I just keep moving north? I should get to the border of CA and just turn around and head back south till I can find the songlines again.

Ah!

But that would be crazy – I’m really not so far from Seattle and all the people I love and would love to see in Seattle, Portland, Eugene. Some are very close friends and some are weak connections with a beautiful chance to strengthen relationships. Turn acquaintances into friends. Yes? This kind of thing is what life is all about.

A grade school friend with a creative restaurant. A close high school friend’s ex boyfriend. (Yeah. Follow that thought a minute.)

I want to know these people better. And if I turn around now, I might never get the chance.

And that night, as if he read my mind, I got a text from a friend I met in 1983 and I haven’t seen him in possibly close to 30 years, that said “Come to Portland, Please!”

 

Lured onward still.

 

And I’ve been trying to figure how I can squish everyone in as quickly as possible; see everyone and move on. ASAP.

 

My friend, on the phone the other night, said that I’ve seemed slightly annoyed ever since I left LA. Not that I’ve consciously felt it, but he might be right. There has, perhaps, been some resentment in my soul that I’ve left and/or lost the songlines.

 

And I told one of my favorite people in the world (She’s in Seattle!) that I was feeling squished and rushed and like my dance card was over-full. And she said that if I didn’t have time for her, she understood. But I should tell her where I will be and she’ll drive to see me. “I’ll drive 100 miles for a hug.” She said.

 

Stop.

 

I am on a most fabulous adventure.

And if I’ve veered from the songlines I imagined, so be it.

I am exactly where I’m supposed to be. Songlines or no songlines.

I chose to travel this road so I could visit with people who make my heart smile.

I will not rush this.

I am in no hurry. So what if I take longer to get home. What’s home?

 

So I’ve had to adjust my perspective. I’ve quieted the voices asking “what the hell am I doing?”

I’m visiting.

I’m may not be on the songlines at the moment.  (Or maybe I am?)

Right now it’s not about that.

Perhaps I’m singing this land to make sure it doesn’t die to me. From the quote near the beginning of this post – “any land which is no longer sung over, will die.”

I do not ever wish to forget this northwestern song.

 

It’s about people and relationships and if I think I’m off my path I’m likely wrong.

The thoughts that I am off my path are about me not living in the moment.

 

And that, right there, is the crazy part.

 

Be. Here. Now.

 

Seattle, Portland, Eugene, here I come.