Those year end reflections…

I’ve been slurping up the “best trash cans of 2017” stories that most media organs pump out this time of year.

Why? So I can muse about 2017 without thinking too much about reality in America. You haven’t seen “Greatest Hits of the 115th Congress,” have you?

As indulgent as they may seem, this NYT story got to me:


When you lose a dog, you not only lose the animal that has been your friend, you also lose a connection to the person you have been.

I hit 62 this year- old enough to qualify for senior housing. I walk with a cane, slowly. I’m grateful when I can remember your name. And at each wave of aging, there’s a wash of nostalgia/regret for what used to be.

It’s hard on me, losing a pet. This year my bright spirit Charlee (above right) was suddenly killed by a passing car. Four years ago I lost my old black dog- she presided over an important and eventful 15 year slice of my life. At 44 I had so many options to work with. Now I feel doors closing, firmly closed, on chapters in my life. It’s sobering.

I still have my Young Dog, Lily (above left) At 11, she’s considered old now, her vision dimming. Can’t see the squirrels to chase anymore.

I’ll never be the globe-trotting artist I was when Seneca was young- not again. I’ll not careen around the city on my bike. I’m most likely past my last great romance, and glad for the lack of emo drama.

My Wiccan priestess would challenge me: “look for your unfolding challenges! The crone has plenty of important things to learn.”

Okay. Perhaps it’s just year-end blues, all this looking back with poignant feeling. And the cold and darkness that Winter brings. Let’s light a lantern and look ahead.

Do you Fear? or Understand?

Our species has travelled a long and twisty road to get to where we are today. From hunter-gatherers to farmers and fishers, to city-builders, machine-makers, and space travelers, we’ve survived by adapting to our changing world.

Not too long ago, fearing the Dark Forest and the Big Bad Shark was necessary for our survival. But when we learned more, we came to a new viewpoint: The lion, the wolf, the shark aren’t evil. They are just predators, as God made them. They are predators, like we are.

“The basis of our fear is our lack of understanding.” Lisa Mondy, Shark bite survivor

It’s an evolutionary step  – from fear to understanding. If we really are the smartest animal on the planet, then we can see the whole context. The wolf hunts to eat, and keeps the tundra rodents from over-populating. Considering the predator for their role in the ecosystem doesn’t mean there’s no danger. It means we have a fuller understanding.

In the video, the surfers and divers are all survivors of shark attacks. Yet they have come together to advocate for these predators, who are disappearing at an alarming rate. Because of myth and misunderstanding.


Don’t Fear the Fin. Support your world’s oceans, as if your life depended on it. It does.

12 Steps to Living with the Election Results

Dear readers: I have started several posts since last week’s election results and haven’t decided which impassioned essays will live or die. In the mean time, I come bearing gifts, this one from Nicholas Kristof of the (notoriously liberal) NY Times. 

Link to complete original article

My Shadow, the Fannibal

One definition of myself holds that I’m a kind-hearted person who shouldn’t love violent and scary stories, serial killers or for god’s sake CANNIBALS.

But, due to the mysteries of fandom, I find myself on the edge of my seat tonight, and tweeting with a few hundred thousand, maybe more, Fannibals for the finale of the NBC TV series Hannibal.

I swore I wouldn’t watch it. I didn’t like the books, and Silence of the Lambs was too creepy. I don’t need a vicious killer show to watch, life is too short. I don’t remember what changed my mind, but it was only a few months ago that I watched the pilot episode and I was hooked from the beginning.

I’ll not try to sell you on the show; it’s been cancelled, (although vigorous Fannibal lobbying may have some clout) it’s about an elegant murderous cannibal and a mentally unstable profiler who have an unhealthy obsession with one another – not everyone’s cuppa.

If I did make my case, it would sing the praises of the writers and particularly their excellent gender swapping of key characters. Also, the use of myth and alternative states of consciousness is fascinating as well. The Wendigo and antler theme are amazing and beautiful.

I would also laud the art department, including the food stylists, who work under the direction of none other than Jose Andres of restaurant fame. Everything to look at in this show is a feast for the eyes.

Well, one more surprise, for me, as I am still scratching my “I’m supposed to be a nice girl” head: I’m cleaning out folders on my Mac and find a painting from 2010 called Integration, that I created for some very deep and intense therapy work.


It’s very Hannibal-esque. I guess I should have known.

you are beautiful

This video broke my heart. Again.

  • Why are we so hungry for approval and appreciation from others?
  • Why do we equate how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ we ARE with how we LOOK?
  • Why is it so difficult to create and build our inner sense of worth?

Please tell me how this video makes you feel.

You Never Know

It happens every day. Every second, actually. Someone is breathing one moment, then not the next. It’s nature’s way: we’re born, we die.  But my mind refuses this. No, she can’t be gone, not that kind of gone. Not dead.

The word landed with a leaden thud, flat black, that sucked all the air out of the room. But I need that word. My child’s mind refuses to understand. Dead. Gone.

Monday I got a strange email from a friend-of-a-friend:

“Has anyone heard from F-?”

I called F’s cel, and got a wrong number. Idiot, I told myself, and dialed again. This time, a strange and business like voice answered, and asked me who I was.

“Who are YOU?” I demanded, confused.

“This is [name forgotten], County Sheriff’s department. Are you a relative?”

This was the moment when the chill of dread descended, when I knew something was terribly wrong. Why would cops be answering F’s phone in the middle of the day? It’s not like her to have been arrested, unless it’s finally illegal to be a snarky blogger in Florida.

Nice Sheriff Lady realized she had to tell me now, because, pretty much, I already knew.

“I’m sorry to tell you that F has passed away.”

The room went all echoey. She asked me if I knew any next of kin. Sorry. I was busy falling backwards through a tunnel, remembering last week when I called F on a whim.

“Hey you. Not interrupting a hockey game, am I?”

“You know you aren’t, or I wouldn’t have picked up.” I hear her short breath, sucking that damn cigarette, or maybe just gasping for air.

“I’m just calling with the neighborhood gossip report, and to let you know not to worry about the weather. You should really stop watching the news, you know. Bad for your blood pressure.”

“Well, you never know.” There’s that breath again.

“How’s the Bench?” We can always talk cats.

“He’s fine, but no more catnip for him. He bites me when he gets a buzz.”

I laugh, but now I’m the worrier. The last cat bite was serious.

“Please, Ferne, explain it to him again: you don’t bite the hand that feeds you!”

It was a silly conversation; like Seinfeld, about nothing. We were hanging out over the cellular ether. I want to grab those minutes back, and hold them.

I’ve been looking for photos of her, so far no luck. The last time I saw her was two years ago when I was in St. Pete. We wandered on the beach, went to the movies, ate thai food and hung out with her writer friends. I can still see her, in her Yankees cap and capris, an ageless platinum pixie with a cigarette and a smirk.

Bon Voyage, Ferne. Love ya, and don’t forget to write.


Ferne Horner, artist, writer, blogger at the Hairball Gazette  1945-2015 

What Holds Us Back

I know so many beautiful creative souls, caring people, passionate healers, teachers, creators: women with a deep longing to contribute  to the world. A passion to heal, to love, to nurture, support, to create beauty from their genuine and authentic hearts. And yet we hesitate, procrastinate, talk ourselves out of taking the chances that would move our dreams closer.

And I think know what it is that holds us back.

I’m reblogging this photo from thinkbannedthoughts, who wrote today about the dream she had hidden away.

There are certain passions I’ve had, certain dreams – the ones that meant the very most to me, the ones I hold closest, that I’ve been afraid to live out loud. There are lots of reasons for this. And I know I’m not alone. I know I’m not the only one.

So – in an effort to reach out to anyone else who is on the path that I’m stepping off, I want to take just a moment to talk about some of MY whys. I hid these loves, these passions, these things that make me tearful happy because…


I was afraid that they weren’t worthy things. I was afraid that if I shared them out loud I would be told that my dreams weren’t good enough for me – that I needed to reach higher, stretch further. That anything that was this easy and brought me this much joy couldn’t be the thing I did, because we’re supposed to WORK for it, struggle for it, suffer for it.

I was afraid that if I took something that brought me so much joy and turned it into a JOB, it would kill the joy and take away the deep down, soul quenching fulfillment that I got from it. I was afraid that if I tried… I might fail and that would CRUSH me. Because… If you fail at your biggest, deepest, truest dream… Well, what’s left? Just sorrow and regret and pain, right?

I’ve lived long enough to have failed at quite a few big things. I still feel some shame, but no longer hesitate to admit this. I’ve fallen down, I’ve suffered setbacks, sometimes pretty serious. But I keep getting back up. And each time, I commit to hiding a bit less of who I really am. I realize that so often I am afraid. Afraid? Of what?

Everything I have done that was worth doing has meant overcoming some resistance, some fear. And facing down that insidious liar, fear is what I need to do, now, and every day.

Recently I posted about Blog for Mental Health 2014. Since then I seem to have this heightened awareness for people ‘coming out’ with who they really are. And as I’m writing this I’m watching videos of the Grammy performances, and its the theme that ties so many of them together.

Carol King and Sara Bareilles sing “Beautiful, Brave:”

“Say what you want to say, let the words fall out, honestly I just want to see you be brave…
You’ve got to get up every morning, with a smile on your face and show the world all the love in your heart…”

Stand up, everybody. Speak out your truth, and live who you really are.

PS: this just arrived in my in-box from 360Soul, and it’s an interesting take on the whole ‘fear’ challenge:

Spring brings friends out of hibernation

I’m waiting for spring. And I’m dreading it.

(click to listen to peepers)

I’m eager for song: choir, bird, frog. And blossoms: those first wild daffodils push a silly grin up from my belly. A forecast of snow, cause for joy last week, makes me angry today. I want to frolic by the river with dogs, and laugh with friends on the deck.

But then, the spider walks across my bedroom floor and there’s a tick on the dog.

It’s not that I don’t like bugs; I am appreciative of all sentient beings, and my definition of sentience is broad. But I still have a lingering horror of arachnids. Creepy wolf spiders and those Lymes-spreading deer ticks can all just DIE, my karma be damned.

Of course, strictly speaking, neither ticks nor spiders are true bugs. ‘True bugs’ are of the order Hemiptera, comprising around 50,000–80,000 species of critters like cicadas, aphids, planthoppers, leafhoppers, shield bugs, and more.  That distinction gets lost in the common speech, however. The word bug comes from bogge, the Low German word for goblin. Clearly the word implies a pest, if not a monster.

But back to those arachnids. They are pretty much on my hate list. The purported source of my arachnophobia is a story of my young parent’s ill-fated trip to Arkansas in 1956, where upon I was traumatized by the sight of my mother being chased from the shower by a tarantula. The legend continues to describe the horrors of southern life for these innocent Michiganders: coral snakes on the patio, 300 ticks on the dog, and my favorite: baby Patty playing with a scorpion in her bath.

As symbols go, the Scorpion has a mixed message: fearless and resilient, but with a sting. I am indeed proudly November born, and astrologers have been known to apologize to me when they see my chart. Scorpio Sun, Moon, Mercury with Saturn sitting on my natal sun. Saturn, the task master. But that is a post for another day. Suffice to say that I’m well acquainted with the celestial Scorpion.

So I think the dance of fear with my arachnid cousins is significant. Scorpio is said to have a dual nature:

Scorpios are known for their impenetrable defences, and for their ability to beguile opponents into underestimating both their resilience, and the fixidity of purpose that fuels their interminable self-will.   [snip]

Transcendence from the crawling scorpion to the soaring eagle, still predatory, still conveying the essence of patience and penetration, but capable of flight and height, brings together the theme of destruction and renewal …- supports the view that in this respect the eagle is representing the ‘Scorpionic myth’ of the phoenix.


So much rings true here; I have always been intense, moody, charming, resilient, determined. I have passions that run deep. Unchecked, they can get obsessive, stalker-ish. I’ve been known to get fanatic about what’s ‘true’, and I can spin mystery and imagination into new truths that I uphold as realities unseen.

I certainly rekindle myself out of the ashes of the past. My life has been a series of reinventions, and with each one I’m a bit more trusting that this isn’t a malfunction, it’s my fate, my truth.  Live, soar, fall, get up, dust off and rise again.
I saw the eagle this week; they are awakening for spring as well, and this one, splendid whhite head and spread tail, was diving for a squirrel in the road. Whenever I have to ask: “Was that an eagle?” I know it isn’t, for when I see the real thing I am always stunned by how big they are. Unmistakably grand, beautiful and fierce.

Fortunately scorpions do not inhabit the forests of Southern Maryland. However, should I migrate to the south west, which on occasion I have threatened to do, I will have them to contend with. In the meantime, I have the spiders and the ticks, and most frightening of all, I have my own peculiar nature to contend with.

Spring Awakening

Patrise on a Rock

Fifteen years ago I climbed this hill, carrying only a bedroll, a sheet of plastic, some twine and a gallon jug of lemon-maple cayenne water to carry me through a three day fast. Today I am sitting on the rock that I slept on back in 1997, listening to spring awakening the mountains. Here a hawk, there a crow. Further down in a valley, an owl calls, a fox barks.

The wind comes, I hear it chasing along the ridge through bare branches, coming closer until it passes overhead like a wave. Last time I was here it was July, mountain summer sweet and green. I slept in the forest with no roof and no tent for the first time in my life. When the sky showed first light the air began to stir and the sound of birds began, like the wind is coming today, first faint from afar, then moving closer riding the edge of sunrise. Theoretically I knew about this everyday miracle: Continue reading “Spring Awakening”

God is in the Body

After my recent mountain trip, I was pretty unhappy with my level of fitness. My balance, flexibility and endurance were not adequate for rock-hopping and hiking steep slopes. So, upon returning I got my butt to the gym (for the first time in over six months!) .  First stop: yoga class.

When last I did yoga the most difficult thing was my fear and shame. My self-criticism has been quite unbearable in yoga in the past, defeating all the ‘peace-of-mind benefits. I despised how little I could do, felt tidal waves of shame, was deeply afraid of pain and injury, and experienced profound feelings of failure. The only place from there was despair.

YUCK! Who would volunteer for this experience?

But something has changed. I went into the gym dreading that yoga class, and yet when I was there, moment to moment, I was completely OK. I would feel my limitation (“I can’t do it right”) then came the shame, then fear.  This time I was able to take in the direction “just breathe”  because I prayed for help.

I’ve recently come back to a 12-Step program after a long absence, and just celebrated 9 months of new-found serenity and health. I’ve been actively learning to pray, and with the help of my sponsor and others, get comfortable with God.

Religion was not presented to me in a favorable light growing up, and although my spirituality has always run deep and wide, I’ve missed out on so much that mainstream religion has to offer. The biggest challenge for me in 12-Step (and everywhere else?) is to Let Go and Let God.

But a simple miracle occurred in that yoga class. When I prayed deeply for help I went from feeling desperate and broken to a sense of deep peace, where I could stop fighting and let go of pain and fear. It has revolutionized not only my experience of yoga, but my relationship with my own body.

By asking for help I was able to stay present and “just breathe.”  I feel like I’ve met God inside in a really tangible way. And I carry God with me where ever I am.

Now I not only get through a yoga class, I can enjoy it. And all the benefits!