Ranger and I Find a Fish

Ranger and I Find An Invasive Fish

Today I opened the porch door and was greeted by a dead fish. It is not only dead, but completely dry and hollowed out. It’s so dead that Ranger doesn’t even sniff it, which makes it very dead. Darryl did an identification and said it was a South American Sailfin Catfish, an invasive. We conjecture that one of our numerous raptors (osprey, eagle, caracara, hawk) caught it, spit it out and then it was attacked by beetles and ants. So Ranger and I spent some time talking about invasives.

Ranger didn't even sniff this fish. It was that dead!
Ranger didn’t even sniff this fish. It was that dead!

Me: “Humans and animals have evolved over time, and usually over the long slow haul have figured out how to live together. But when humans started traveling more it became a problem due to stuff getting out of its natural and controlled habitat and let loose on a different habitat that may not have the checks and balances that evolved over time in the original one.”

Ranger: “Remember a few weeks ago when Darryl made the Youtube video on the Florida Water- hyacinth?  Talk about a problem!  What started out as a cute little gift being handed out at a fair got tossed into Florida waters and bam! It had no natural controls… still doesn’t.”

Folks can view this at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TIzGnXi5uc0&list=PLQM-L68fNvtEDkWhQyM0ZuyL7iSIcyzTe

Me: “So let me ask you, isn’t all this stuff just the thing we can expect from humans doing their thing? Things change, and stuff gets lost, like the Ivory Billed Woodpecker for example, which is gone because humans logged the bird’s habitat.”

Ranger: “Okay, I hope you’re not just shrugging your shoulders and accepting this as the natural consequence of doing business with nature. I’d say it’s time to figure out what to do so other birds don’t disappear. Actually, I’d say we’d be better off if we classified humans as the invasives.”

Me: “That’s pretty radical. Are you saying we don’t belong here? After all, humans evolved over long millions of years. We are at the top of the food chain.”

Ranger: “It’s not radical at all to talk about how humans have messed it up, and how out of balance our culture is. We all need to accept the fact that natural resources are finite, and that we could possibly improve things if every one of us gets over ourselves and does their share. You’ve talked about when you were growing up (a long time ago…) when people just rolled down their car windows and threw out their litter. They thought nothing of it. Is it because they didn’t get the connection between that action and how the earth responded, or was it because humans simply cannot stop themselves from using as many resources as possible even though they know it will lead to its ultimate destruction? If the first idea is true, that humans just don’t get it, we might be able to impact climate change. If the second idea is true, that humans don’t care and compulsively continue to use resources even though they know what will happen, we’re in a heap of trouble.”

Me: “What’s that got to do with an invasive fish?”

Ranger: “Well, the invasive fish is another canary in the coal mine, demonstrating how truly delicate nature’s balance is. There are so many examples along these lines. I mean, did people even care about the Ivory Billed Woodpecker’s disappearance? Would they care if this particular fish destroyed the balance in your lake so much that the birds of prey went elsewhere and eventually disappeared? You and I are already agreed that we MUST believe that they care once they get it. Otherwise we might as well just hole up here in the house and not do anything to help them get it.”

Me: “I guess we’re back to simply doing what we can to make ourselves straight with nature and talk about our own experience with the expectation that we can make other people care more.”

Ranger and I Muse About Healing

Ranger and I muse about healing

Me: “I need to talk to you about how we physically and spiritually rub up against each other. It’s uncanny. Let me give you a specific thing I witnessed yesterday and ask you about it.”

Ranger: “Okay, shoot…. I’ll even stop reading the newspaper so I can really pay attention.”

Ranger stops reading the paper to talk to me.
Ranger stops reading the paper to talk to me.

Me: “Darryl has been working many hours every day on the film edits for the next movie. He came out of the studio rubbing his hand, announcing that he would need to take Advil in order to continue working. But first he went to the couch and closed his eyes. You jumped up and placed yourself with your head on his stomach. After a bit you sniffed his left hand, and then sniffed his right hand, which had the pain. You began to lick that right hand, and you kept licking it for a while. Then you both took a bit of a nap. In 15 minutes Darryl went back to work, pain free and without medicine. Explain that!”

Ranger: “I don’t know why this would be a surprise to you. My job is to herd the two of you, and that includes keeping track of your physical and mental state. Before you met Darryl he went through a very difficult time. He developed tremors, gained weight, and his vision blurred. The doctors didn’t diagnose his parathyroid tumor for quite a while, but I knew where the problem was located. I spent time trying to get him to understand where this problem was. I licked his face and neck whenever I could, because I knew there was something wrong in that area. After he finally got the right diagnosis, the tumor was removed and he recovered … I didn’t need to do that again.”

Me: “Come to think of it, I remember a few months ago, when Darryl had a kidney stone. You jumped up whenever he laid down and put your head on his stomach. You knew where the pain was coming from. When the stone passed you didn’t do that any more.”

Ranger: “I think you’re beginning to understand. There is a body of literature that claims curative power in dog saliva. Who knows if it’s true. But this whole discussion points to a bigger truth that transcends the therapy sessions you and I have and the physical attention you both get from me when you need it. It points to a general malady in the culture.”

Me: “Huh? That’s a great word, malady! I know you sense when my bunions hurt, and you pay attention to them, and you have calmed me down so much that I’m off blood pressure and anxiety medication. But you’ll need to give me that bigger picture so I can understand how the culture is sick.”

Ranger: “Well, it has to do with the cultural shift to viewing animals as separate from humans. Humans view most animals as they view the earth, something to be used and possessed. Don’t even get me started on how the beef industry is run. And if you would take a tour of the places where chickens are raised you wouldn’t feel like ever eating a chicken again. Humans have lost the healing power locked into their relationship with animals. It’s like people have separated themselves and regard animals as lesser than them. You and Darryl and I have a tiny sliver of that healing power here in our relationship. We hungered for it and found it. But the culture has lost the tie with the natural world, and it is paying a big price. Spiking asthma rates in kids, obesity in the general population, hypertension, stress…. I could go on and on, but it all points to the fact that the culture is bifurcated. New shopping malls, luxury hotels and bigger homes are built, which are touted as making a better life for humans. But the more separation there is between the earth with its animals and humans the more difficult and dangerous the situation is. We may be at the tipping point for climate change… we may be unable to save this beautiful earth…..”

Me: “How to we keep from getting depressed about it? While the three of us have found a bubble of healing, if the whole world is lost to climate change we’re all lost.”

Ranger: “Let’s go back to our spiritual understanding. Let’s agree that all of the earth is a miracle. It is holy. Somehow our culture has made out that holy is somewhere else, and it’s dressed up ‘holy’ in a clerical robe and built a church around it. The earth became a second-rate hand-me-down. Heaven was somewhere else, not here. Heaven would come at the end of a hard life here, a reward for bowing down to the robe and the church. If humans had kept the earth as the sacred place, they would not have begun to use and abuse it to satisfy their greed and lust for power. So yes, it’s depressing, but if you and Darryl and I, along with others of like mind, keep talking and believing and acting out what we believe….. will that be enough to turn the ship around? All we can do is hope and love.”

Me: “Okay. While I guess I remain depressed in the cosmic sense, I will bring my attention back down to the things I can control and let it go at that. Let’s go to the kitchen and chop some vegetables, and maybe I’ll just accidentally drop a bit of bread on the floor……”


Ranger Asks About Marriage

Ranger and I Talk of Marriage:

Ranger: “After we’re done playing ball I think we should talk about something that is bothering me. Since it’s close to Valentine’s Day I think it’s a timely topic. When I first got to know you I heard you emphatically state that you would never marry again. You remember that, right? So what happened? Don’t misunderstand me… I love this arrangement with you and Darryl, but I’m still a bit puzzled, especially since we’ve been doing the change theory thing.”

Me: “You’re right to confront me on this. Okay. Let me see if I can answer that. I woke up one day about a year ago and felt different. I had met a man who was more than interesting. I realized I was happier with Darryl than being alone. He shared my values. We had fun together. We were gentle with each other in every way. But I was deeply cynical about marriage as an institution. I believed that we could have everything we wanted without the State of Florida blessing our relationship. Besides, Darryl already knew that my heart was dancing in his chest, and that I adored everything about him, including his dog! Why go to the trouble of buying a new outfit, procure rings and drag everyone into a celebration which we already shared?”

Ranger: “Well, so…go on..”

Me: “So, after weeks of meditation I decided that I wanted more than anything to tell the world about us. I wanted my family and friends to know this was personally earthshaking. Mild mannered reserved me had decided to climb on a rooftop with a banner announcing that my head had exploded with light and my knees had gone weak. I wanted to jump up and down, capture moonbeams to make a bouquet, dance with abandon in the litter of falling stars.”

Me: (continuing) “And, Ranger, I’m not sure anyone in my world would have listened or understood if we had not announced that marriage would be part of the relationship. Live with Darryl? Travel with him? Everyone already was used to that. But everyone also expected that my old life would continue as well. I would be embedded as an ‘expat Minnesotan’ in the perception of others. I would be mentally and physically living in Florida while identifying as Minnesotan and part of that entire culture. Don’t get me wrong…. I love Minnesota, but it’s not my life any more. In the eyes of the world, I would live in my little dark condo here and hang out with Darryl even while longing for a return to the ‘normal’ that was my previous life. Marriage was a shot across the bow, a signal that a new normal existed. And, it signaled a message for us as well. It gave us the obligation and challenge of truly listening to each other even when we didn’t want to. It required us to stay and love through things together rather than retreat. It gave us the chance to say this to the entire world… both of our worlds.” Once the decision was made neither of us has looked back. We belong together, and we want to be there for each other in every way. Marriage in a technical way allows us some benefits, like saving some money on car insurance and being able to be with each other in the hospital, but those considerations were not the ones that motivated us. We simply wanted to be together in every possible way and we wanted the rest of the world to know about it.”

Ranger: “So, you’ve been married less than six months. How is that working for you?”

Me: “I have never had a moment of regret. We go to bed just like we get up, in a state of euphoria and thankfulness. I’m telling you, at my age that is a huge and unexpected gift. We found a house that was full of light and moved in together. We had the wedding right there, and all of my kids and siblings came to shower us with their love. Darryl’s sister and friends all came. It was a goofy and wonderful event, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.”

Ranger: “So, how do you now feel about marriage?”

Me: “I still think it sucks, generally. But for us it’s the right thing… in fact the only thing!”

Ranger Coins A New Word

Ranger coins a whole new word: "Earthaholics."
Ranger coins a whole new word: “Earthaholics.”


Ranger was excited to talk when I got home today. He danced around my feet and yelped with joy.

Ranger: “I was close to asking you to never talk about change theory again after our last session, but I’ve changed my mind! We now agree that change happens when individuals or groups shift their thinking on a particular issue. Changing attitudes about homosexuality is an example. Passengers on the ship no longer looked for the crew and captain to tell them the truth about sexuality, but instead demanded change not only for themselves but for everyone. It’s happened pretty quickly. Maybe I should say it’s happening pretty quickly, since that ship isn’t completely turned around.”

Me: “Yes… good example. But to go back to the climate change discussion, I’d say that the passengers are still more interested in tonight’s dinner than asking for a change of direction, wouldn’t you?”

Ranger: “That’s exactly our point! We may be sailing on the Titanic, and the iceberg is out there. The facts are numerous and all around us, providing a ton of data about things that will impact our lives: increasing temperatures worldwide, rising sea levels, catastrophic weather events. But to have the passengers get on board? How will that happen?”

Me: “I’m pretty sure Faulkner was right when he said, ‘We don’t want the facts. We want the truth.’ The facts about climate change are clear, but people don’t want the Doomsday scenarios. They want a personal story so the truth can be embraced.”

Ranger: “Well I totally agree, and let me suggest that I’ve got a new word for truth about climate change. It’s Earthaholics. You know, like alcoholics or drug addicts? Only our whole culture is Earthaholic. We use too many resources, we use the world for our own pleasure rather than respect and honor it. We all need a trip to detox and then a good recovery program.”

Me: “Well, that’s making it personal all right, but addiction like this is complicated. Realizing that we need to make a change in our attitudes may be too little and too late.”

Ranger: “All I can be is hopeful.”

Ranger on Change Theory, Part II

Why does climate change get a bad rap?
Why does climate change get a bad rap?


Ranger: “I see you’re probably ready to talk change that is NOT personal choice, but forced upon you. You’re committed to eat differently, for all the right reasons. That change is something you have control over, and you reap the benefits in your body and your peace of mind. Now, let’s talk about a change that is outside of your control. This is Florida, so there is no better place to talk about climate change than here. The coastline is changing as the oceans rise (did you notice the new flood maps that are forcing many thousands of Floridians to buy flood insurance?). Temperatures are higher, both for the air and the water. Extreme weather events are now commonplace, and not just here. Remember Hurricane Sandy? Of course.”

Ranger…. Continuing: “You say change happens through personal, incremental commitment. Hurricane Sandy didn’t allow for all that nice rhetoric. It slammed into the coast without waiting for people to agree on anything other than to get out.”

Me: “Actually, while you raise an important point, I am not changing my mind. Catastrophic events offer the challenge for change just like eating differently. I’m eating lower on the food chain because I’ve considered the evidence and am acting. Climate change asks the same from me and everyone else , a collective response. Considering the evidence led me to a personal action. It’s no different except the change needs to become part of a cultural response. It’s like turning an ocean liner around in the middle of a trip over the ocean. Here we all are, steaming along, and we’re all on deck. What is required is that all of us lining the rails make first a personal, but then collective response. We want to be in control and we want to be accepted by our friends and family…. but we also want to survive. Humans usually do a pretty good job of getting together when an external threat is there. Consider World War II…. a distant memory for me, and not part of your life at all. The problem with climate change is that the threat doesn’t seem real to our everyday lives, and even catastrophic events can be labeled a one-time crazy thing. We’re all able to get through the day just fine thinking about our own stuff, getting to work and then collapsing at the end of a hectic day. Bunches of data coming at us about climate change? Easy to ignore in those circumstances.”

Ranger: “So are people just going to continue ignoring the data?”

Me: “I hope not. But we have to stop making this all about scientists and politicians. In the case of politicians, they FOLLOW the lead, they are not leaders. They want to be loved (and reelected) by their friends and relatives. They are definitely important, but it’s the folks right here on main street who need to make the changes…. And as you know, I believe we make massive changes not because some expert is telling us what to do. We change because we want to be happier, and healthier. I don’t want asthma ruining my grandchildren’s lives. I want to not be dependent on medications. I will fight a war and lose my life rather than lose my freedom. I want to believe that the cattle farmers could limit their production because it’s good for the planet (and because there is little demand!!). I want to swing that ship around in mid-ocean and believe we can do it. It is personal. It will become collective when it becomes a crisis, which I believe it already it. I just hope we survive it.

Ranger: “It’s not that I don’t love you that I disagree. It’s because the talk about this topic is so polarized and ugly. Isn’t it just going nowhere?”

Me: “For once, let me give you counsel! You’re the best counselor I’ve ever had, but on this topic you should listen to me. We’re not going to get out of this thing unless we decide collectively to make a difference, and that difference is when we on the ship decide to not just rearrange the deck chairs but to demand that the wheelhouse be changed. Our brains are hardwired to ignore the data and concentrate on the immediate. So how do we as a species become ready to take control of the ship? It’s through personal and intimate actions that eventually (and hopefully in time) affect the outcome.”

Ranger: “Okay, my ears are hurting again. Time to take me out.”