Circe and me

by Andrea Elizabeth

Maybe I’m like St. Mary of Egypt and was prevented. Whatever the main reason, I was not directly anointed with the Holy Theotokos of Iveron myrrh-streaming icon during Holy Archangels’ feast day Tuesday.

Image result for iveron myrrh streaming icon

My reason is that I have a special needs dog. I have written somewhere and on Facebook about Circe, who was rescued from the local shelter a month or two ago. She needs a lot of supervision and assurance. She has extreme stranger anxiety, and is only comfortable around George, me, and our one son. She was rescued to be a companion to his dog, Loki, but he is gone too long and she started acting out by destroying first her bed and then his. She ripped out a big chunk of his foam mattress. He’s gone too much and the apartment is too small for her.

I believe she is a Dutch Shepherd. These are great dogs who are very loyal, intelligent, obedient and fast (greyhounds were bred into them), and are often used as police dogs in the Netherlands. They also need a lot of land to run around in. They are usually outgoing, but she is hardly socialized. Her reaction to almost everyone else is to escape or to very loudly and deeply bark, which combined with her very erect build, is intimidating. We had to put her in a choke collar because her neck gets thinner as it goes up, and her head isn’t much thicker than her neck. She used to wiggle out pretty often and go to a safe spot. Since the bed incident I have acquired her. I love her so much for her beauty, sweetness, and intelligence. She is not aggressive at all, but she is high maintenance.

I figured that the state park near the monastery in the fall, during the middle of the week would be a good place to start her socialization and leash skills. I took all three dogs to the monastery during Vigil on monday night, but she barked at anyone who passed by the car, where she was to stay. My husband came out and watched her as I went and stood in the back of the Church for 20 minutes. It was a blessing just to be in the same room with the icon, my friends, other worshippers, and the wonderful monks. I think they may have been singing O Gladsome Light because as they were Byzantine (Greek) chanting, one of the monks started swinging the huge candlelit chandeliers, and I heard “Doxa” which means glory, I think. “Oh gladsome light of the holy glory”. I tried to get up closer on the women’s cloistered side to see the icon, and did from about 20 feet. I didn’t want to venerate it with everyone around the perimeter watching. If someone else had, I would have joined them.

Since the dogs couldn’t really wait in the car or at the campsite by themselves, or with any of my friends or family at home because of Circe’s anxiety and requirement of a high level of engagement, I didn’t go back during Liturgy the next morning. My husband, other son, and daughter were able to participate fully. George’s forehead was very fragrant with the miraculously ex nihilo holy streaming myrrh, and he transfered it to my forehead. Really that’s good enough for me.

Meanwhile, Circe gradually calmed down about the few people we encountered on our beautiful, long hikes. I had to explain that she wasn’t mean, but was scared of them and just wanted space. So walking calmly across the parking lot from other people without barking or escaping was accomplishment enough for me. Thank goodness for my two sweet dogs who give her the security of a pack to belong to, and a calm example.

good art is pagan

by Andrea Elizabeth

Title inspired by this meme

Not that the above is good art, but it exemplifies my point by how it draws us in by personifying nature. This is animism. And thus the word, still-life.

This, however, is good art:

“one may guess the power of the north wind blowing over the edge, by the excessive slant of a few stunted firs at the end of the house; and by a range of gaunt thorns all stretching their limbs one way, as if craving alms of the sun.” (Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte)

bad art is dead and lifeless. 1920’s writers come to mind. I wonder if it’s because they didn’t believe souls continue after death. Theirs is an atheist’s eulogy.

Speaking of, here’s a pretty touching one:

“I’ve been doing a lot of what some people would call soul searching lately. I’ve looked at many religions and learned a lot about science. Bev, known to many of us as Mom or Grandma, was a Catholic. If she were to speak, I think she would state her excitement at going to Heaven. She would be glad to see all of her friends that parted with our world before her. She would be able to see Grandpa again. She would live in eternal happiness, waiting for us to join her. And all of us who believe similarly should be glad that she’s there. We should be happy that she’s been re-united with her loved ones and will be waiting to welcome us home when our time comes, likely with plenty of the chocolate and desserts she loved! (Hopefully you don’t gain weight in Heaven!)

For those who don’t believe in Heaven, there is still a better way to look at this than as a tragedy. Grandma lived a wonderful, fulfilled life. She had seven children, who mostly turned out okay. She has more grandchildren than I care to count. She has friends in this room that I’ve never had the pleasure to meet and likely many more. And what’s important to us is that her passing will not go unremarked. We all speak to that. All of us were touched by her and will all remember her. So if you don’t think we will all meet again in heaven, then keep this in mind:

In our universe, energy never disappears. Everything that made up grandma is still around; she is now among us, a part of our planet, our Sun, our galaxy, and our Universe. She is among the stars!

And never forget! Never forget that all of the photons that ever bounced off of Grandma’s face, all of the particles of light that were interrupted by her smile, the twinkle in her eye as she cheated at another game of Chinese Checkers, and the spoon of ice cream she raised to her mouth in joy; all of these particles of our universe ran off like little children in delight at having encountered her, their paths changed forever by her touch.

And that energy that was Grandma will go on forever inside of all of us as well. In our memories are the photons of light that reflected off of her smiling beauty into our eyes. We will always have some of her energy inside of us and that’s a scientific fact.

According to the Law of the Conservation of Energy, not a bit of Grandma is truly gone. She’s just less orderly, her energy spread out to encompass us all.” http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2014/05/18/an-atheist-delivers-a-eulogy-for-his-religious-grandmother/

Notice though that he still animates the photon as it is now Grandma’s childlike messenger.

transcendence and freud

by Andrea Elizabeth

I have been thinking how to articulate my criticism of “transcendence” for a while now. Today I saw a Freud meme that said, ‘A fear of weapons is a sign of retarded sexual and emotional maturity.’ The single quote marks are because the attribution is not exact. See here.

Transcendence can have gnostic implications regarding escaping present circumstances. Then I hear in Liturgy that God is transcendent. Yes, he is and beyond all that we can imagine. However, we know Him through the Incarnation. Our experience is incarnate, not transcendent. We can’t revert back before the big bang, if that’s when creation began.

The claim we go high when they go low is hypocritical because they are perfectly capable of going low as well. As Trump said, “playing holier than thou doesn’t work for you, Hillary”, who is sick and tired of us deplorables.

Not all claims of going high are hypocritical. Some people can attain a “head in the clouds” level of detachment.* Buddhism can help you escape in such a way. But like Chuck Swindol said once, “I need a Jesus with skin on”.

Back to Freud. If I have fear that leads to escapism into a dream world full of unity, brotherhood, and peace – where the nitty gritty cannot be coped with – it may mean that I have some growing up to do. Where I don’t need a political father or mother to get me out of all my scrapes. A partner, and dare I say, paraclete, yes. We can transcend fear, but not to the extent of denying reality.

So should this make us gun-toting waries? Not necessarily, though someday I may hope someone is if it comes to that. Still, I don’t think we need to be head in the clouds. Just not afraid of death, if we are prepared. And being properly prepared for death is what takes maturity.

*I am currently working on an idea that I think came from the epilogue in The Great Divorce where a couple of people who have reached the heights of heaven are looking down on the world and having some effect on their lives before they died. Timelessness isn’t necessarily transcendence, but perhaps eternal incarnation, so that one doesn’t have to escape the nitty gritty, but can see the bigger picture of what can be done about it and what it means. This way every moment and molecule remains significant and inhabited.


If people and God are more important than animals, why train animals?

by Andrea Elizabeth

The answer I can most confidently give, but is not probably the first, is therapy. Such as when normal human relations aren’t working out so well. There are a couple of equine therapy centers around me that I’ve heard give injured people a sense of control, whether it’s ptsd, physical handicap, or other emotional issue. This is not necessarily to say all animal involved training is done by injured people. Well, in a sense everyone’s injured. Animals used to be employed for physical work, perhaps this is their new job. As physical human and animal work decreases, perhaps emotional stress increases without the outlet. We are created to move.

Regarding control. Used to be, we didn’t attribute much of an emotional life to animals. I’ve heard Black Beauty was a break-through in attributing emotional pain to animals in response to abuse and separation. While animals may not be as anthropomorphic as they are in Disney movies, studies have shown that animals are very much affected by their treatment and have long memories. So with the previous understanding, control was a one-way street from higher life form to lower life form. This traditional view also translated in family and social human hierarchies such as husbands over wives, women over children, etc. though I’m sure that is not the only way things were. It’s just the rule that was passed down, not necessarily always the actual way it worked out.

Nowadays cooperation is more in vogue where you have comprehensive discussions, and ,while the alpha may ratify a solution or course of action, the effects and happiness of the lowers is compassionately considered. Watch Buck, the original horse whisperer, or Cesar Milan’s dog training shows for what is now considered the proper, persuasive approach. The human alphas are still the ones in control, however.

One show on military ptsd equine therapy I saw talked about what it meant for the soldier that the horse wanted to listen to him and do what he asked. I’m not sure why that’s such a breakthrough if the issue is control. If the horse had to be intimidated to obey it wasn’t as therapeutic, even if he had the same outcome. Animals are capable of love, and this is what many people positively respond to. I wonder if soldiers who believe in their mission and feel well-directed from their superiors suffer as much from ptsd. Maybe they suffer because they are put in dangerous situations where it is up to them to survive: the ones who charge ahead of the safe zone. There’s probably different types. I think many just don’t feel supported, and to have a horse willingly support you is very nice.

For some, human relations for some reason do not make a person feel supported. Having an animal cooperate and show affection feels more safe than humans who for some reason don’t seem to know how to deal with damaged(?) people to the same effect. Maybe it’s because society is so deluded and damaged, and the sensitive ones who need things to be more natural are the only healthy ones.

I’m a pagan

by Andrea Elizabeth

because I love dogs and nature. I elected to stay home from Church today because I believe Circe needs me. She was getting bolder and bolder till I left her for 7 hours Thursday while I went to far away Denton to Liturgy, Church cleaning and fiddle group for Rebecca. When I texted my son, who was home, to let Circe out on a leash, he said it was too late and she had made 3 messes near the front door. She hadn’t done that all week. And, I found out when I got home, since he didn’t trust her, he tied her to a tree and left her in the back yard. By the time I got there she had dug under the deck barrier and her choke collar was pulled very tight. When she saw me she nervously came out half way but wouldn’t continue till I unhooked the leash, even though I had pulled her some slack. She was a lot more nervous after that, though she would follow me and the dogs a little ways from the house. She bounded a bit Friday and was more attracted to our deep woods section where she can disappear. She waited longer to come to me when I called as well, but at least she came. Since she wont come to this son, not her owner, I told him that if he’ll sit on the porch with the door open in the morning, she would follow our other dogs out and do her business. He’d just have to watch her and call them all in afterwards. His other mistake was having the other dogs outside while she was inside alone. I should have given him more direction before I left. My bad.

So, while Liturgy was going on, I cross-stitched and listened to St. John of the Cross’ Ascent of Mount Carmel on Audible.com, which my husband had downloaded and recommended. I feel that there are such extreme views in the Church. Either you’re a total ascetic, creation is contemptible and only spiritual contemplation on God is good (St. John), or you’re a liberal who thinks that gay sex is good because they love each other’s createdness. It is very hard to find balance. I don’t believe creation is bad or that it cannot be loved. There is a difference between selfish, exploitive love and selfless appreciatory love. And to the other side, there is a difference between selfless appreciatory love and indulging in inordinate desire. What should be emphasized is obedience to God’s commands and will concerning what to do with one’s time. There is a time to devote oneself in action and affection, and a time to withdraw to pray. Hopefully one can develop prayer while with others. One should love God more than creation, but not despise it as he doesn’t. He assumed created flesh so thus it is hallowed.

This dichotomy is why I believe some people carelessly exploit contemptible nature, or forsake the Church and say they feel closer to God in nature. I do think one can love nature too much and not give God His due. Normally one should abstain from nature and go to Church on Sunday mornings. One should sometimes abstain from hiking with their dog and cook dinner for their kids who are either too busy or disinclined to hike. Finding the right balance is very much the struggle, and I believe discerned by learning to walk in the Spirit.

Hanging out on the porch

by Andrea Elizabeth


Rehabilitating Circe

by Andrea Elizabeth

Circe is a psychologically complex possibly Whippet/German Shepherd mixed brindle colored, elegant dog. She was put on the urgent list at the shelter for extreme shyness. My son and I were looking for a companion for his dog who is left alone a lot while he is at work. Circe, then “Juniper”, is a medium to large dog and had to be carried to the greeting pen. She was very gentle, but cowered next to the fence. I could not coax her away from it, so I just sat with her and hugged her, which she did not resist. The only budge she gave was to lean against me a little while also leaning on the fence. In her favor was very steady, intelligent eye-contact.

Finally after I gave up, she was willing to walk back towards her pen following loosely on the leash, but when I detoured before getting there, she determinedly went behind an air conditioner and had to be carried back to her pen by a shelter worker. A bit skeptical, I went ahead and thought we could give her a shot. Another reason was that the spot on the fence she chose in the greeting pen was right in front of a domineering German Shepherd’s kennel, separated by a sidewalk. I could tell she liked his alpha male protectiveness. My son’s other dog, Loki, is a male alpha husky/Pyrenees mix.

After her neutering surgery I took her home for a couple of days till my son was off work and could meet her and possibly take her home. Looking back I think some of her reticence at my house was due to being in pain. She cheerfully greeted my two female smaller dogs when I put her down, and she followed them into the living room under her own steam. I put a dog bed there, and that’s where she camped the rest of the evening and night. The next day she followed them onto the porch, loosely on the leash, and to the grass to pee. I thought she’d like to be tethered there, and mistakenly left her and went inside. About 20 minutes later I found her empty harness next to our deck. I was afraid she’d run off, but a flashlight revealed she was just beyond arm’s length in the 9″ high clearance under the deck. I blocked off all the other exits with firewood and tried to entice her with food to come out. She didn’t budge for 6 hours. Finally, after placing several heavy 5 foot high pen sections around the one opening, since she wouldn’t come to the entrance to be caught, I called one of my dogs, Cassie, into the pen where Circe could see, hoping she would want to rejoin the pack. I praised and pet Cassie for following me, and that’s when Circe, with a cry of pain, squeezed out of the narrow opening and came to me to be pet and praised. Wow. Such a relief. This was after I had desperately ordered a dog-catcher pole and noose that would take a week to come in. It was that or take apart the deck. I had also tried flooding her out with a water hose, but she went to a high spot and let herself get wet.

Anyway, I didn’t leave her unattended in our unfenced back yard after that, but kept with her on a leash which she cooperated with if my dogs lead the way. My dogs have radio collars and 1.5 acres bordered by an electrified underground wire makes the collar first beep then shocks them if they cross it. The collars are expensive and it takes a couple of weeks to gently train dogs on it. The next day Loki and my son came over and the two big dogs were very happy nudging each other and playing a little bit. Circe was the initiator of most of it. My son took her home and she was very happy with him and Loki, but not so much with being in a pen while he is at work, evidenced by shredding the dog bed she had loved at my house and sometimes peeing on his bed.

After about a month, this week I am dog-sitting to give them all a break and let her get out more. Monday morning I held her on the long 25′ tether, and she loved bounding after my dogs. Her whippet body can really cover a lot of ground. Later that day, since she is so shy about venturing out by herself, I took the leash off. At first she stayed on the porch, but then when my dogs got excited and ran after something, she forgot herself and let herself go with them. Once she even went past them over their border. Afraid she’d keep going I nervously called her back, and she came! I put her short leash back on her hoping that dragging behind her, it would caution her a little, and allow her to be caught if need be. Since then, leash-less, she mostly stays on the porch or with my dogs, outrunning them easily till they stop, then mostly she stops. I have had to call her back a few times. This is why I wont leave her out by herself. She loves our quiet, spacious yard. She needs to visit often to get her energy out and to stretch her long legs. Loki could use it too, but he’s much more independent and does heedlessly run off. Maybe he could be put on a long leash with a running human to keep up with the other dogs when he visits.


by Andrea Elizabeth

And then it gets worse.

Lord help us

by Andrea Elizabeth

I really wish the choice wasn’t between soft racism/bigotry and WWIII/baby killing. I say soft because I don’t see hate behind his comments. Shallow, simplistic, overly and exaggeratedly defensive, yes. Sadistic, premeditated pleasure in causing certain groups pain, no.

My plodding through yielded a payoff

by Andrea Elizabeth

“he didn’t even plan his books, as complex as some of them were. Plotting them, he said, would take out all the fun. He claimed that for him, writing a book was like finding a brilliantly colored string in the grass and following it to see where it might lead. Sometimes the string broke and left you with nothing. But sometimes—if you were lucky, if you were brave, if you persevered—it brought you to a treasure. And the treasure was never the money you got for the book; the treasure was the book.”

Excerpt From: King, Stephen. “Lisey’s Story.” Scribner. iBooks. 
You’re welcome