Be first a good animal

I’ve just let the cats and the hens out with the usual instructions: Have fun. Be careful.  Don’t get hurt. Don’t hurt anyone else (this to the cats, who have the usual unholy feline interest in wild birds).

They don’t listen:  They are off to revel in the joys and risk the dangers of their own animal lives.

Their existence apart from me is largely a mystery: too simple to be apprehended by the endless machinations of a human mind and too complex to be appreciated by my relatively impoverished, under-utilized physical senses. When we are together, though, I feel nourished in a way I usually don’t with members of my own species.

Here I will avoid waxing romantic about unconditional love and otherwise anthropomorphizing animals, who deserve better than to be likened to humans. In truth, I have no idea how my cats and chickens feel about me. feet 005

But this much I know: My animals are masters of careful attention. When they choose to keep company with me, they see, hear and respond to me just as I am in that moment.  They are not projecting their own fears and hopes onto me; they are not preparing a response to what I am doing or saying. They are not inwardly composing a grocery list while feigning interest, nor critiquing my appearance or mannerisms. They are fully with me until they turn that same,  singular attention elsewhere.

This may seem a simple thing, and it is. But simple does not mean easy, and I have yet to meet a person as accomplished at paying attention as the most distracted animal.   This matters.   Poet Mary Oliver describes attention as “the beginning of devotion,” the necessary prerequisite to love.  When another truly attends to us, we feel seen.  Appreciated. We feel as if we matter for just who we are.

More often than not, we humans fall short in this foundational act of relationship; preoccupied by our own wants and needs, we fail, again and again, to be fully present with each other.  How lucky we are, then,  to have animals with whom to share our lives.

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34 comments

  1. […] Meditato Ephemera – Be First A Good Animal […]

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    1. Thanks for sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. UNFORTUNATELY SINCE HIS DEMISE HIS BROTHER HAS NOT BEEN THE SAME. HE HAS WITHDRWN AND GOTTEN FAT. HE LIES AROUND MOSTLY BUT WILL RELAX ON COUCH WITH MY WIFE, HIS MOMMA…though he loves me…I know…but I cant help but think he blames me ..somehow.

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  3. Surely there are so many animals in this world that when one closely enjoying our love…dies, so many others can take their place. Unfortunately as has been said….Love is Love is Love…but when it ends and is jerked from us…the sheer pain can burden our hearts. A picture of my departed “Redboy” , a favored dog proclaims that love is a four legged word…so very true.

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    1. Indeed! Your Redboy is part of a legion of dearly departed four-leggeds (and winged ones, in my household). Animals are the truest experience of unconditional love many of us ever experience. Sorry for and empathizing with your loss.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks Cate. He’s been gone a year now…still can’t get past it. He was a shelter dog that was deemed shy and fearful. When he first came to my house he chose a closet to hide in…that was his safe place. An we put his bed in there and food etc outside of it. But with love and patience he became the most loving and giving dog. He also smiled..never had a sniper before.. He ran away one night while we had a campfire cookout. Unfortunately I used a flashlight and for some reason they scared him.jumped the fence. 40 friends looked for him. I don’t exaggerate that number. 3 days later …dead on nearby hiway…..yes it was heartbreaking….more so I’m sure because of time spent taming him. His brother is still here, but he will be the last. Thanks for the platform to rant on.

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        1. Good to hear your story, sad as the ending is. You gave a scared and likely abused animal a safe home and a good life, even if it wasn’t as long as you’d hoped. You obviously really loved him. Makes me glad for Redboy.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Love is tender and true.Shine on dear love and guide our way. Hinder not the desired flame. Empty hearts simmer in pain and ignorance of love…. is coldly seething, but even so and even though…Love

    Dear Meditatio, yours is extravagance, mine is a crude attempt of admiriation for your words.
    I find them glowing with a certain glimmer approaching excellence.
    Randy Cobleigh@ Grandad storys

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    1. Your words touch me. Thank you so much.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. […] 5.“Be First a Good Animal,” Meditatio Ephemera […]

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    1. Thank you for sharing!

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  6. to give “singular attention” is a worthy pursuit. Thanks for your writing.

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    1. Perhaps THE most worthy pursuit. Thanks very much for reading and commenting.

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  7. […] Excerpt from “Be First a Good Animal” by Meditatio Ephemerahttps://zenofhen.wordpress.com/2019/01/07/be-first-a-good-animal/ […]

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  8. Reblogged this on Playing God: The Dark Reality of Dr. Ross and commented:
    Happy Valentines Day:
    God is Love and all living beings are mere fragmented reflections of that infinite truth. Love is true and Truth is Love. That is all it is.

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    1. Thank you for this lovely and wise observation, and for re-blogging this post. A Happy Valentines Day to you, too!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. […] “Be First a Good Animal,” Meditatio Ephemera […]

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    1. Thank you for sharing!

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  10. […] “Be First a Good Animal,” Meditatio Ephemera […]

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    1. Thanks for sharing!

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  11. Awww … animals are indeed the master of attention and we are better to be aware of this.

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    1. They are indeed fine role models, in many areas.

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  12. There are those who can’t understand why others have such love for animals, after all, they are animals. You have captured the essence, the reason, in a way that I think even the most obstinate non-animal-lover can understand.

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    1. Thank you kindly! It’s certainly obvious enough to many of us, isn’t it?

      Liked by 1 person

  13. sweetly poetic, Cate
    your cultivated
    awareness
    & relations!
    if only humanity
    wakes up 🙂

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    1. Time’s a’wastin on that one, my friend. Maybe already too much of it gone …
      Thanks for reading and commenting, David; I appreciate you.

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  14. Absolutely profound, Cate. A real key to understanding why my many years of living with animals has so much significance in my life.

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    1. Me, too! We are kindred spirits in a large community of humans who look to animals not only for comfort and joy, but wisdom.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. astrea333 · · Reply

    Dear Cate, I comment rarely, not because I don’t appreciate, but usually because your comments reach me on a level at which words only cheapen the experience. So, please know that a lack of commentary definitely does not mean a lack of love.

    Regarding your post today, I think, “Yes, absolutely,” is the best I can do.

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    1. And more than enough. Thanks so much!

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  16. Having never been an animal person myself I can only wonder about what it is like. But you make me stop and wonder about what I might be missing! Thanks always for stopping to make me think!

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    1. My pleasure. Thanks for reading! Keeping close company with animals has been perhaps the greatest consistent joy of my life. Their attention feels healing, and their fully embodied presence in moment-to-moment existence is a terrific model for sane living. Not to be missed, in my view!

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  17. Yes! And in my experience, each animal has some unique influence on my perceptions/actions … while I proved to myself a while back that yes, there IS such a thing as “too many cats” at given time in given limited space – no way ever “too many cats” encountered in a life! Have learned so much from feline association over 70 years. My husband would like to add chickens to our animal mix (1 dog, 2 cats) … This post is lowering my reluctance …

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    1. I’ve greatly enjoyed hens, but my experience is that almost all dogs will hurt or kill them; loose neighbor dogs have been the greatest threat to my girls. The instinct probably could be trained out of them or managed, especially if one starts with a puppy. But I’ve never tried, having had only cats in the 15+ years I’ve kept chickens. They won’t mess with the hens once they’re grown.

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