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Pull up a chair, my tribe, and I’ll tell you a story, of the Before Times, which I rarely speak of – of my life before illness, which was an unusual one by anyone’s standards. It is a bitterly cold night here on the Mountain, 8 degrees and snowy, and gazing at that snow, so incredibly fine due to the very cold air, I see it sparkle in the deck lights, and am reminded of another snowy night, so long ago, almost half a lifetime now…

I remember…
…being a single mom living with my 7 year-old daughter in a very poorly-built log cabin, with no running water, in Ohio. I hadn’t planned to be there on my own… a marriage had recently ended badly, leaving me broken-hearted and financially-ruined. I found myself enrolled in college, learning to be a naturalist or forest ranger by day, and returning home in the evenings to a great deal of responsibility… “living rough” had seemed a fine idea when I was married to someone who people compared to the “Marlboro man,” but it was a daunting prospect for a woman alone…

After a long day of college classes that involved much hiking, near sunset on a bitterly cold Winter evening, I wearily climb the steep hill to the cabin, my daughter at my side. It is cold inside, too – the cabin is heated only by a woodstove, and, being incredibly drafty, requires a constant, roaring, fire, but the fire has been banked all day, down to a slow burn. I pile on wood and get it warming up, then move outside to chores as the daylight fades.

I break the ice in my rain barrels, and tend to my two horses, and feed far too many wolves. With what little energy I have left, I scrape together dinner for my daughter, and try to be there for her. I don’t do a very good job. My situation is overwhelming, is desperate, and I don’t know how I will get through it. I am deeply depressed, but trying not to show it.

But after she is tucked in bed, I pull my boots, coat and warmest gloves back on, and go back out into the biting cold to split wood. I have just used up all the already split wood to warm the house for the evening. Cutting and splitting the wood by myself is a never-ending chore, and I cannot get caught up.

The Moon is full and bright overhead, reflecting off the snow, and I can see my way clearly. I have no outside lights, so I glance up, thankful of the Moon’s brilliance. The snow crunches and squeeks under my boots, as it only does when it is so cold. I struggle to put a snow-covered log up on my chopping block. The splitting maul is lifted and brought down on the log with a well-practiced, if exhausted, stroke, and that moment is when the Magick happens, when everything changes…

The snow and ice on the top of the log suddenly explodes up around me in a powder-fine cloud, and every single flake, every single speck, sparkles in the moonlight with glittering rainbows, as it flies up around me and ever, ever, so slowly falls.

It is as if I have been showered with finely ground diamonds, or fairy dust, each speck shimmering with all the shades of the rainbow – deep blue, purple, scarlet red, fire orange – and the bright white of the Moon as they fall.

It is perhaps the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, and all because we were out of wood on a cold winter night.

I stand there in astonishment, as the cloud of glimmering diamond snowdust settles on and around me, and then gaze up at the bright Moon above me.

If I had needed a sign that even in one’s darkest hour there is Beauty, there is Hope, then I had surely been gifted with one, and I had, indeed, needed just such a sign.

It seems it is a fine and beautiful night for chopping wood after all, and I split enough for several days, laughing like a child as the rainbow-sparkling snowdust falls all around me and the glorious Moon shines down from above.

The memory of the unexpected and breathtaking Beauty of that night is a treasured one, and one I think of often. It holds and sustains me through the dark hours, and helps me find the Beauty, Inspiration, and Hope, to keep going… just as it did then.

The Moon is Magick and Mystery,
yes, and so are many other things.
If we but look,
there are signs and guideposts
all around us, pointing the way…
We have only to open our Hearts and truly See.

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There is a lovely little book called “A Little Dog Like You,” by Rosemary Sutcliff, that sits always on a shelf above my bed. As one customer-reviewer writes:

If you’ve ever loved a dog, this book is for you. This slim volume is written and illustrated so that even a very young child could appreciate hearing it read, but any adult who considers himself or herself a dog lover will be enchanted with it. The book follows a dog through its life and, sadly, to its end, but the story doesn’t stop there. There is so much love between the author and her dog that the author is certain she hasn’t seen the last of her pup — and she’s right. You may need some Kleenex tissue for the final pages of the story, even though the book ends on a decidedly high note.

I believe we are all – animal and human animal as well – the combination of not only our environment, and experiences, and genes, in this life, but that even more, that an eternal soul lives in all of us, animates us, and gives us life, and contributes heavily to who we are.

It’s pretty easy for me to believe, to know, without a shadow of a doubt, in reincarnation, because I have always, my entire life, had past life memories. My earliest memories are not of this life – they are of a very horrible death in a previous life. That shaped my childhood in many ways, as I tried to sort out who I was, what had happened, and why no one else seemed to remember anything. (Had I been born in Tibet or India this would have gotten figured out much quicker, as no one doubts a child when they talk of past lives there. But I wasn’t, was I?)

Through my life – this life – I’ve been blessed with some wonderful experiences, often coming out of the blue, of connecting and re-connecting with soul-family, spirit-family. I think we are often reunited with those we have spent previous lives with.

When it comes to animals, that means that, given their short lifetimes, and humans’ long ones, we sometimes have the chance to re-connect in this life with those we’ve loved and lost.

Which, having been said, leads me to Kasha & Kyla, and our new pup, Kodi, and Shunka.

Longtime readers will know of the connection I had with my beloved black German Shepherd, Shunka, who passed away two years ago. I always knew he would come back into my life, or rather, his soul in another form – it would be him, but not him, because while the soul would be the same, he would have had experiences in this life that would lead him to be his own unique individual self.

Kasha is a very good example of that. When we found Kasha, in the Richmond ASPCA, I wasn’t looking for a dog – my eldest daughter, Terra, was. But there she was. I felt what I described as “the soul tug” when I told the story of finding Kodi.

Kasha seemed to know me, desperately wanted to see me and be with me, just as Kodi did, and I felt, looking at her, that she was the reincarnation of one of my wolf-dogs, Kyla. In the first days of having her, she exhibited some of Kyla’s unique canine characteristics, like sleeping in a particular position with her head hanging off of the bed – one of Kyla’s preferred sleeping positions.

There was also the matter of her “telling” me her name was Kasha – we had adopted her, and since she had been picked up as a stray, were trying to figure out her original name – trying out a slew of female dog names on her to see if she would come. But she didn’t. Until I sat down with her and stopped thinking about it, and she looked at me, and I heard the name “Kasha” in my head. I tried it. She came. And has come reliably to that name ever since!

But Kasha is, and isn’t, Kyla. As the days passed, she stopped sleeping with her head hanging off the bed. Some of the other traits unique to Kyla also faded away, as I accepted that she was, and wasn’t, Kyla.

Enter Kodi. Who seems to be, and not be, Shunka.

I really didn’t think he’d come back to me that fast. I thought he’d find someone else who needed his help. I knew, in a way I cannot really explain, when he was born into another body – Shunka’s spirit still came when I called, but it was slower, more distracted, and I could “see” that he was linked into a body.

When I felt the soul-tug with Kodi, I tried hard to not compare him with Shunka. Not to look for Shunka in him. To just accept that he was Kodi.

But then yesterday happened, and what an interesting day it was.

First, Kodi became convinced there was something under a pile of plastic tubs and a stuffed duffel bag in a corner of my room. He was going to excavate it himself, so I helped avoid general destruction, and then when I’d moved enough things, he stuck his head into the mess and pulled out a plastic squeaky ball that had been Shunka’s, a present to him on his last Yule (and which had likely been in the same place ever since he passed). Kodi carried it around the house and played soccer with it and generally enjoyed it for hours… this dog who didn’t even know what a toy was when we brought him home just over a week ago.

Then a couple hours later, Rhiannon came into my room, literally speechless. Kodi had been playing with his ball, but when it landed by a large rough quartz stone in her room, he chose to pick up and chew on the rock instead. Shunka was renowned for his love of rocks, and we still find rocks he dug up outside and brought in scattered in dusty corners.

Rhiannon and I had a talk, then, on the “forbidden subject:” about things Kodi had done that were so uniquely Shunka-like. The way a dog who didn’t seem to have had much time with humans reliably knows the command to sit the particular way we do it – with a hand signal instead of saying it. Wrapping himself around my head on my pillow. Seeming to know where everything was in the house. Seeming to know Kasha, and Kasha seeming to know him (she who really couldn’t stand my grand-dogs when they came to visit). Even the way he treated me as a canine, wrestling me, and the time he bashed his head into my lip, causing my teeth to cut the inside of my lip. Shunka did that many times.

There was only one way to really tell. And I hesitated to do it. I didn’t want to be disappointed. I didn’t want to expect too much.

But as Rhiannon and I sat talking about the two boys, who look so different, Kodi started barking & pawing at the door, because he likes to lay in the doorway (any doorway). I called him. I shooshed him, Cesar Milan style. Told him “no,” a word he doesn’t seem to respect a lot. Told him “stop it,” words he does seem to respect. And still he stubbornly continued.

So I did it. I said it. “Shunka.” One time. Not loud.

His response was instantaneous. He stopped his pawing, whipped around, a slightly quizzical expression on his face. He came, looked into my soul with his big brown eyes, and sat, looking up at me.

Tears ran silently down Rhiannon’s face, and swam in my eyes.

He is.
And he isn’t.

I feel very blessed. Twice blessed.

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