Death Will Tremble to Take Us

tremble

I am angry today.

Angry and sad, but not in equal measures, but the math of it doesn’t matter, what matters is the reasons and the cure.

I go today to say farewell to a friend, someone I have known for much of my life, someone who is only a couple of years older than I am and is going on the journey far too soon.

I am sad at Joe’s passing, sad at the number of funerals that have come through my life in the last couple of years, sad at the pain that death causes for the living and sad because of the beautiful lives that are simply missing from us now.

I am sad because the goodbyes were always incomplete, sad because of the loss of hope at the end and sad because those of us left behind must try to figure out how to comfort each other. I have many facets to my sadness, but I can sleep easy with the sadness, it is the anger that keeps me up at night.

I am not angry at death, as that would be pointless. It is an inevitability, an eventuality that is waiting for us all and I am at peace with that. I am also not angry at those who have passed, as they have done nothing but followed the course to its eventual end.

I am angry at the dead who still walk among us.

The complacency and disregard for this tremendous gift of life that we are given is devastating to me. We stagger forward, awash in our indifference, armored in our fear and quick with a proverb or an excuse as to why we are not living to our utmost and making every day shine like the precious thing that it is.

“I don’t have time.”

“I don’t have money.”

“Mommy didn’t love me enough.”

“I picked the wrong ___” (spouse, career, neighborhood, major, sports team)

“God hates me” (Or life, or my car, or the world, or my computer, or my car, SOMETHING hates me.)

“I didn’t get that part in the play when I was 13.”

“Mom hated me.”

“So and so broke my heart.”

“I’m too old.”

“I’m nothing special.”

“I’m too fat (skinny, plain, weird, crazy, emotional, dorky, ugly, male, female)”

“I’m too young.”

“I can’t…”

That last one really pisses me off.

You were born with the tools you need to DO, to BE, to LIVE!

Stop waiting, stop putting off your joy, your love, your very lives! What are you waiting for? The next time? Your next chance? Your next spin on the coaster?

There isn’t a next time. And even if there is, it will not be one where you remember this time, and so, once again, you will be complacently sitting around, flipping channels, scrolling screens, thumbs upping worthless bullshit and lamenting the dead.

Fuck that.

Stop giving death so much say in your life. I don’t want to see you celebrating the anniversary of someone’s death anymore. “Oh Prince died a year ago, I need to raise a glass of purple kool-aid in his honor.”

No! Stop it!

If you want to celebrate someone, celebrate their birthdays, even after they are gone. Celebrate their accomplishments, not their deaths unless their death was the single greatest achievement of their lives.

Bukowski said, “We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.”

This will be a short post because I want you to spend the rest of your day living, loud, beautifully and full of love! Love for people, places, music, animals, or for the sheer joy of the fact that you are living.

No more excuses.

There isn’t any more time.

This is all we are going to get.

I dare you…

I double dog dare you.

To live…

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Up from the Roots

sunset

We just emerged from the longest night of the year and the morning dawned grey, unseasonably warm, but with a true sense of winter to it and as we walked to the car, I felt myself inhaling it into my breast and I felt renewed.

During the long night, the Holly King dug in the earth, down through the forest mast, the rich loam, through the clay, until there, curled in the roots, he found his sleeping brother.

The Oak King.

Carefully, reverently, the normally cold and cruel monarch of winter lifted his sibling up in his arms and laid him in the leaves, acorns and twigs of the brown understory of the great ever forest.

His blue eyes fell on his brother’s face. He leaned there on the rim of the grave, his breath slowing, each exhalation coming in a bellows gush of mist, until he saw, finally with the sky growing pale in the east, his twin taking his first massive inhalation, taking in the cool, clear air that his brother offered him.

With the first breath that the Oak King took, the Holly King slumped and fell, sliding heavily down into the roots of the world trees, into the dark womb of their mother.

Opening his honey colored eyes, the Oak King looked around, expectantly, hopefully, the frost burning off of his brown curls, melting out of his beard, falling away from his broad, heavy antlers. He looked around for his brother, but knew where he would be.

He rose, stretching like the light that reached up from the horizon, his fingers brushing the clouds that swept by from west to east. Sighing heavily, he stepped over to the edge of the grave and looked down to see his brother, already withering, shrinking, becoming a husk, as he himself had been mere months before.

With a tear threatening to spill onto his cheek, he leaped down, taking his twin’s almost weightless form into his arms, he curled him into a fetal position, like a seed waiting within its shell and tucked him into the pulsing roots of everything.

As he leaned in to his brother’s brow, the Holly King’s antlers crumbled, falling to dust in a soft grey halo around his shaggy silver mane.

The Oak King climbed from the hole, up into the light of the first lengthening day, he stood, his chest filling with winter air and exhaling life, letting the sleeping green world know that he has arisen and that once again, the wheel had turned.

He paused, as his brother had done six months before, and sang. His voice a rich, deep baritone, made slightly hoarse by disuse and an eternity of laughter, he sang to the earth, to his mother, who swelled, heaved, contracted and swallowed the grave of her other son.

The Oak King sang until his tears made him choke.

He knew the way of things.

He knows how it must be.

But on this day, he misses their play, he misses their gamed, roughhousing in the shallows of a rumbling stream and eating from the land as they sang by the fire.

On this day, he wishes it could all stop.

He will grieve for a while, and so, in his brother’s honor, he will let it remain cold.

In six months, during the longest day of summer, the Oak King will come, he will dig, he will harvest his twin from the rich earth, and for a while, it will remain warm, as the Holly King mourns.

Blessed Solstice to you my friends, Blessed Yule, Hold your loved ones close.

Please take care of each other.

The Fire Monkey’s Sermon

ganesha3

There is no cost to kindness.

There is no calculable worth to forgiveness.

There is no equivalent weight to love.

There is no purchasable happiness.

All of these are free for the taking, but are unattainable to us while we find ourselves unworthy.

2016 has been a trying year, but for me it has been one of tremendous awakening and transformation. The year of the Fire Monkey, in the Chinese Zodiac has been the year in which I finally emerged from my chrysalis and am striving toward the mountain with new, powerful wings and a joy in my heart that resounds like great drums.

One hears so much talk about mindfulness, meditation, living in the present and so many other wellness clichés that it becomes like snow, like background noise, present but meaningless.

Sure, once in a while a particularly stunning image in a meme will brings us to a halt long enough to digest the message that comes with it, and even more rarely that message resonates on the frequency where we feel things, where we truly experience things and then, for a moment, or an hour, or perhaps a day, we change. And if feels good, and we wonder how we can make sure that we feel this way all the time.

Then the feeling fades. We do not pursue it. We flirt around with the edges of it, but gradually it lessens in its impact, and then poof, it is gone.

That is not happening with me anymore. The feeling doesn’t fade, I have been living on this level of passionate intensity for about ten months now and if anything, it is gradually increasing.

I have a certain primal excitement within me that makes me feel like a child, but with an adult’s awareness. Each day holds some raw fascination, each thing that comes along is an invitation to adventure. I do not see warnings about winter storms as things to dread, instead, I curl up to watch, to experience, to immerse myself in what might be.

What changed?

I committed to an attempt at genuine mindfulness. I tried to slow down, actually read the memes, listen to the talks, examine the paths, and to listen to what others said, not so that I could respond, but to truly hear what they had to say.

I attempted to live in the moment as much as possible. I immersed myself in experiences, some as simple and small as a warm breeze on a chilly spring day, others more intense like the rolling, post storm surf under a cloudy sky in North Carolina.

I took time to breathe when people cut me off in traffic, I stopped to sit on the ground and pet the dogs and cats that crossed my path, I watched hawks and vultures soar and circle in the summer thermals and listened to the sparrows titter to one another at first light.

I lit candles around the house, as often as I could and burned good incense when the mood struck me. I meditated. Sometimes for thirty or forty minutes a day, sometimes guided and sometimes just sitting with my back to a tree, or the bricks of a building and let the world fuse into watercolors around me.

I loved with all that I have, I forgave old grudges, even ones against myself and I reached out and am still reaching out to old friends. I visited memories and examined them with a Sage’s eye and learned from them more about who I am. I visited places that I thought were lost to me and found pieces of myself there as well.

Gypsy and I began to re-follow old family traditions, we celebrated birthdays with the importance that they deserved and we let whimsy lead us to some breathtaking places, and gods, we laughed a lot this year.

We began to eat at home more, we grew herbs and vegetables in buckets on our back deck, we ate what we grew and we grew spiritually from our connection to the earth. We spent the second half of the summer and well into fall obsessed with a single beautiful Zinnia plant that arrived next to our parking space without human intervention. It sprang up from the mulch by the parking lot and over the course of four months, it gave us 16 blossoms, huge, beautiful and unexpected in its gift.

Gypsy too went and is continuing to go through her own awakening. Her photography has grown from brilliant to breathtaking in the year of the Fire Monkey and she had changed people’s lives with it, at least their perceptions of their own beauty. (Isn’t it odd, yet wonderful how sometimes it takes someone else showing it to us for us to see our own beauty?)

We stopped fearing the future, we stopped asking, “What are we going to do?” and started being excited about it and declaring, “This, this is what we are going to do.”

We joined an orchid society and immerse ourselves in the beauty of that once a month. We welcomed a handful of rescue animals into our lives and gave them the care, love and compassion that they needed and in return, they thrived for us and have become members of the family, or have moved on to brighten the lives of others.

We traveled as often as we could afford to, and sometimes traveled when we could not afford it, because we needed the road more than we needed other things. We visited her family, we visited our family and we gained new family as they months progressed and I never cease to be amazed how wonderful and kind some people can be. But that is, after all, the key to what I am talking about here. We all have the potential to be beautiful, kind, mindful, loving and loved.

But you cannot alter the world, except by altering yourself.

This year was far from perfect and we fell. We lamented. We lost. We cried. We raged. We felt unworthy and we lost our way more times than I can count. We struggled, I struggled and am struggling still but I am also hopeful, grateful and at peace with the process.

As each day passes, I pause as I walk through our home and I offer gratitude and honor to the gods that populate our space. I pause before the Morrigan, strong and fearless, and I offer her a candle and I stand a little straighter, knowing that she has prepared me to protect my family. I cradle the tiny white Mother Goddess in my hands and thank her for all that she has given me over the decades of my life. I give a nod and a smile to Sun Wukong, the monkey King, Equal of Heaven, Great and Holy. I thank him for my sense of humor, my relentless hunger for what is right and my ability to persevere. I give a moment to the Buddhas as they watch from the windowsills and book shelves, always high so that they can be seen and their lessons remembered. And lastly, I give thanks to Ganesha, I tell him of my gratitude for his help in bringing down the barriers that for so long held me in stasis.

Find someone, something to lean on, until you can rely on yourself. If I, who for so long lived in doubt, rage and suspicion can make this progression and transformation, then you have the potential. I promise you, it is better on this side.

I am by no means a guru, or a sage or a Buddhist master, but what I am is in love with the beautiful kaleidoscope of life and I am willing to help. I cannot ferry you over the river that lies in your path, but perhaps, if you are wanting and willing, I can help you learn to swim.

In Celebration of the Lizard King

morrison

“Is everybody in?

Is everybody in?

Is everybody in?

The ceremony is about to begin.

The entertainment for this evening is not new, you’ve seen this entertainment through and through you have seen your birth, your life, your death….

you may recall all the rest.

Did you have a good world when you died?

  • enough to base a movie on??” ~ James Douglas Morrison

~

In a way, on this wintery edge of ritual, I am offering a prayer, I am offering a lament, I am burning candles in a dark room for my profane father on this, his seventy third birthday.

Jim Morrison came to me as a sort of inherited interest. My mother loved Jim. The liked The Doors but she obsessed over Morrison like no other person I ever saw her pay attention to. She collected facts, kept small journals full of notes, information, suppositions that she corrected over time.

She went so far to keep a small picture of him, taped to a thin piece of cardboard as a bookmark.

A couple of oddities about Morrison and me personally. I was born a month pre-mature exactly eight months after my mother got backstage at The Doors concert in Columbus Ohio.

After I discovered this fact as a teenager, any time The Doors would come on the radio within my father’s earshot, he would chuckle and say, “Your old man is on the radio.”

During my late teen years I bore a striking resemblance to Morrison. Does any of this mean that I believe myself to be Jim Morrison’s biological son? No. But in a way, he is most definitely my dad…

While I loved the music of the Doors as a teen, it wasn’t until I was nearly twenty five before his voice, his magic, his illness slipped into my bloodstream through my eager ears. I discovered a cd called An American Prayer on a shelf in a used record store and when the word POETRY glared at me from the cover, I knew that I had to dig into it and see what it held for me.

I bought it for a road trip, to listen to during a trip to New Orleans, a trip meant to drown out the sorrow in my head surrounding the death of my mother and how horribly I had fucked up the most amazing relationship that I could have ever had…

I was burning, I was lost, I was angry, terrified, drinking more whiskey than should have been possible and leaving myself vulnerable to any lightning bolt that had the guts to strike me down. I was ready to go out, but I was not going to fall easily, the world would have had to work for it.

But as I rolled down that grey Gypsy ribbon of highway, I slid that cd into the slot in the dash, listened to it him for a moment and then there was Jim’s voice asking, “Is everybody in?”

And he owned me.

From that moment until the cd ended some forty five minutes later with him uttering the lines

“I will not go

Prefer a Feast of Friends

To the Giant Family.”

His voice, honey and huskiness, soft and roaring, gentle and manic had ridden with me and through tears I could do nothing but re-start it and listen again. He was speaking of forbidden things, using words that made society tremble, still, twenty four years after his passing, he spoke to my gut, my raging sexuality, my bottomless pain now had a description and he had painted it with his tongue on the skin of a dark skinned Mexican girl that existed forever in the hotel room of my mind. A gift from my new lyrical father.

By the time my trip was over, I knew the album by heart, had purchased both of Morrison’s poetry books at a shop in NOLA and had already dog eared and stained them with tears, bourbon and chartreuse. I had a new voice curling in my void, it was sinuous and serpentine like smoke, but oily and smelled of male musk and by the time I put pen to paper again, I was forever changed.

Jim had seduced me, much has he had done hundreds, if not thousands of others, with his fingers on their throats and his teeth in their skins, he had growled his energy into me, thus ensuring his immortality perhaps, but without a doubt, marking me with his brand. I had been burned, I had been altered and it was not possible to hide it. I walked back into my life with a chip on my shoulder made of language and the arrogance of a fallen angel.

When he has screamed “WAKE UP!” I had done just that, and I have not slept since.

I ask you, I implore you, sacrifice yourself on this altar of silence and join me in wishing him, wishing Jim a happy 73rd birthday and I will finish with a quote about Morrison and one of his poems…

“Jim Morrison—it’s a strange story—that he drowned in a bathtub in Paris. It seems a Goddamned odd thing to happen. I never believed it for a minute.” – William S. Burroughs

jim-morrison-in-miami-1969

“Do you know how pale & wanton thrillful

comes death on a strange hour

unannounced, unplanned for

like a scaring over-friendly guest you’ve

brought to bed

Death makes angels of us all

& gives us wings

where we had shoulders

smooth as raven’s

claws” ~ Jim Morrison

Mailbox Dreaming

baker

It has barely had time enough to become December and the official arrival of winter is more than two weeks away, but spring began for me today with the arrival of the first seed catalog of the year.

I can barely contain my excitement!

The Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalog was folded carefully into my mailbox this morning and the truth be told, they sent me two of them which is a boon because the Baker Creek catalog is beautiful, huge and worth keeping, so I have one to mark up with place markers, post it notes and bright pink pen stars indicating which seeds I want to buy for the coming year and one to keep pristine for future perusal and plotting.

I inherited my love for seed and plant catalogs from both of my parents. Dad received catalogs of bonsai, cacti and succulents on a regular basis and mother collected vegetable, herb and flower catalogs. I remember times when the biggest event of a given day was the arrival of a seed catalog and us gathering around the kitchen tablet to discuss what we were going to try and grow the coming spring.

It takes a certain kind of magic to the spirit to find fascination in shopping for nature. We are, if you think about it, pondering the creation of temporary biological Edens. This year I am already obsessed with trying to grow several kinds of Basil and Gypsy wants us to grow salad greens again! We found a type of super tiny bok choy that maxes out at about 2 inches tall. As we have no ground to plant in and do everything in containers, that one may be a possibility.

We spent over an hour flipping through the pages, marking and sharing as we went. A half dozen kinds of rare squash caught our eyes, tiny yellow tomatoes that grow like currents and get only as big as blueberries, an odd heirloom pepper that when mature looks like it has been engraved and a watermelon whose flesh is white and is supposed to be superbly sweet. We also marked Zinnias, Morning Glories and a gorgeous little flower called Butterfly Peas which can be used to make a delicate blue tea.

I am going to try and raise a type of small, white cucumber this year, grow it in a five gallon bucket and build rustic (translated as cheap) trellises out of sticks and twine. I love our container gardens, but gods, what I wouldn’t do for a quarter, even an eighth of an acre of good soil…

This year we had wonderful little successes with an heirloom variety of Crimean tomato what were red and dark green mottled and had a very earth, sweet taste to them and made wonderful Bruschetta topping. I also grew amazing little African Cherry Peppers and our one plant produced over forty peppers for the season. They were hot on a mild Jalapeno level and were spectacularly good stuffed with asiago and the roasted in olive oil.

We had an odd variety of mini banana peppers that though delicious, did not produce very much fruit and I think we may have harvested only six or seven of them and so they will be off of the list for next year.

I think next year is going to be all about the herbs, mini tomatoes and oddities like the aforementioned cucumbers.

For herbs I am thinking about growing them this year is sections of rain gutter attached to the support beams for our back deck. I have seen people growing strawberries overhead in rain gutters with amazing success and I thought herbs, grown at chest height for ease of care and harvesting would be ideal.

I once had a dear friend named Molly, who was in her 70’s and we met through a local gardening group when I lived in the northern suburbs of Pittsburgh. Every year for Christmas (and my birthday if she remembered when it was) she would give me gift certificates to Burpee Seeds, and I always used them to purchase oddities, something I would normally not have bought for myself and through her and that habit, I found some varieties of vegetables that I confess to having an addiction to to this day.

I miss those little gift cards, but I miss Molly more. She was a curled up little apple doll of a woman who always seemed to have dirt on her hands, leaves in her hair and a smile on her face. We had been raised in different places, had different values, vastly different belief systems but once our conversation turned to the dirt and what sprang from it, we were family.

My friend Barb, an amazing author, knitter, kitty mama and all around awesome person is just as bad as I am! Or worse. She seldom ever comes to visit without seeds, seedlings, or plants that have appeared in her very green life. She not only keeps her own garden but has her hands in the dirt for several other people and places who are damned lucky to have her. I am hoping her catalog came today too so that we can compare notes.

Over the years I have given many plants, seeds, herbs and edibles as gifts for holidays and birthdays. I remember making candied violets one spring and gave them to a friend who was having a June wedding and she covered her wedding cake with them. I have some of those African peppers in the fridge right now, pickling in Balsamic vinegar along with some garlic cloves and mini onions, and I do apologize but that is ALL mine! You should smell it, it is enough to make you woozy with its sweet, spicy goodness!

I wish to grow grapes, full, heavy, glowing muscadines that I can eat off of the vine or make into wine as the mood strikes me. I want a garden heavy with harvest that will provide a tomato for a sandwich or fifty pounds of them to make sauce for the winter. I want small, delicious eggplants for moussaka or baba ganoush. I want peppers from so sugary sweet that you can’t do anything but eat them raw and ones that are so hot that they become the fodder or asinine games of who is toughest.

As I was telling Gypsy earlier, I want to have dinner parties (yes, you are all invited) where there is a menu that tells you what every vegetable and herb is and if you fall in love with one of them I want to send you home with seeds, or plants so that you can have it for yourself. That is one of my fondest dreams.

Come and sit with me my friends, in the garden of my fantasy. We will sit in the sun, with broad hats shading our eyes, we will sip too sweet tea with freshly crushed mint floating in it and listen to the thrum and hum of the bees working their bliss along the garden rows. Butterflies and moths like satin gemstones will flit around us as the dogs roll around in the tiny patch of grass that still remains.

On a small table will be a salt shaker and a bottle of olive oil and when the mood strikes us we can rise, pull off a tomato, cut it, dip it in oil and salt and let its juice drip from our chins as we drink in the taste of summer through its flesh.

We are fifteen days away from the first day of winter, and I am already dreaming of what comes next…

Take care of yourselves and each other…

They are not disposable

Yesterday Gypsy and I spent several hours cleaning the cages of our reptile family and taking time to interact with each of them along the way. It was a lot of work but at the end of it, it was also incredibly rewarding and though it left us tired and ready for bed, it also left us with a sense of almost Zen like calm.

During the day, during one of our breaks for tea, I was perusing my wall on Facebook and noticed that someone had posted a video from an animal shelter somewhere. The video showed a Belgian Malinois joyfully celebrating the return of the family that had surrendered it there, only to switch to the dog’s utter dejection when it turned out that having only given up the Malinois a few days before, they were apparently there to adopt a different dog.

I swallowed my anger, my building rage, the bitter feeling in my stomach, I closed Facebook, put some music on through Pandora and did not look at social media again until much, much later.

Let me start by saying that the Belgian Malinois is not for most people, in fact it isn’t even a dog suitable for a large minority. The Malinois is a creature of intelligence, great will, strength, stamina and the relentless pursuit of its job, and if you are not capable of giving it a job, it will find one and I almost guarantee you that you will not be pleased by the choice it makes.

So, the be all and end all is that this family, with their young children and busy schedules were not the right fit for that particular dog, but the time to find that out should have been BEFORE they purchased the dog, before they allowed it to fall in love and gain trust in the family and before they betrayed that trust by abandoning it at a shelter.

A ten minute internet search would have yielded a dozen stern warnings of what dogs like that are like and what the requirements are to keep them happy, safe and out of trouble. The information is available to anyone, but some people think that the rules don’t apply to them, or worse, they don’t care, because it is “just a dog”.

But it isn’t just a dog, just as our little rescued leopard gecko Simone is not just a lizard, or our beautiful rescued Columbian red tail Usnavi is not just a Boa, no, these are commitments, living creatures that once you purchase them, rely on you for their welfare.

Are you failing them?

About half of our reptiles are rescues. Rescues from all manner of circumstances, but the most common one, is that they have been abandoned. They were purchased with the idea that they were neat, a novelty, something trendy or out of the ordinary to have as a pet and with the market such that many exotic animals can be had for a song, they are easy to view as disposable.

But these are living, feeling, thinking creatures.

I am going to repeat that.

They are living.

Feeling.

Thinking creatures!

Let me hit you with some facts.

Ball pythons can live up to 30 years in captivity. As a matter of fact there is one documented male that is still living and thriving at 40.

Leopard geckos average 6-10 years but there is a male still living and breeding at 27.

Corn Snakes can easily live to nearly 20 years, some more than that.

Umbrella cockatoos can live 60 years and many large parrots can outlive us.

Sulcata tortoises average 50 to 150 years but can live much longer than that.

But all of these animals I have found available today on my local Craigslist.

So, they have been purchased, the shine has worn off and like a used car, an overplayed video game or an impulsive purchase like a purse or a motorcycle, the owners are now trying unload them and recoup some of their expense.

But for every one of the snakes, lizards, turtles, birds or what have you that ends up getting a second, third or fourth chance with different families, there are dozens, maybe hundreds that simply wither away, starving to death or dying of easily treated diseases because their owners didn’t want to spend money on vet bills.

And since snakes, lizards and what have you can be had so inexpensively, the attitude is that they are really not worth all that much, and so are by and large, disposable.

Life, isn’t disposable.

I am going to use one of my favorite kinds of animals as an example.

larry

This is a picture of me holding an sub-adult male Savannah Monitor (Varanus exanthematicus). This particular monitor belongs to a local pet store and his name is Larry. As you can see, Larry is puppy dog tame, very sweet, and handsome and has already been through three owners, not counting the pet store.

Larry is a terrestrial monitor species from the plains of Africa, he will grow to between 3 and 5 feet in length, he requires a minimum enclosure of about 6×6 feet with enough sandy soil for him to dig, and burrow in, and will require heat in the form of uv bulbs that will five him basking spots in the 120 degree Fahrenheit range. He will eat pretty much anything offered him from rats and mice to fish, birds, raw poultry, snails, insects, I mean all kinds of things and if he is taken care of properly, he can live more than 20 years.

Baby Savannah Monitors are available at almost every reptile show we attend and they are seldom more than $20 to $30.

So every year, thousands of beautiful baby Savannah’s are purchased by people with little to no reptile experience. They are taken home, placed in the wrong kind of enclosure, fed the wrong diet, they aren’t given substrate that they can dig in, they are not kept warm enough, and when they are not worked with correctly they can become (or remain) fearful and aggressive and a bite from a monitor of Larry’s size could very easily remove a digit or put you in the hospital needing stitches.

Thousands are sold every year, but where are they all going? We know that there are not thousands of new ones growing to thrive as adults out there in people’s homes each year, so that leaves us with only one solution, they are dying because of improper care.

I adore Larry and would simply love to give him a home with us, but I don’t. I don’t because I cannot afford to do it properly. I do not have the space, the enclosure, the budget for food, nor to purchase additional specialty lighting that he would require, so I leave him, where he is, hoping that someone who CAN afford those things comes along and gives him a good, healthy, and happy home.

Here we sit, right before Christmas, right before the biggest commercial holiday in our country and I am asking you, no, I am begging you, that unless you are experienced, equipped and knowledgeable animal keepers, do not purchase any animals, or especially reptiles as gifts.

Our best guesses are that at least 80% of reptiles sold as pets are not living a full, healthy life and at least 50% of them aren’t making it through their first year without dying, being rehomed or becoming ill.

We have a beautiful Yellow Rat Snake. His name is Salazar and he is my familiar, my buddy and one of my biggest inspirations.

salazar

He was produced as a breeding animal, but he turned out as an adult to be an escape artist and spent much of his time with his owners (a petstore) as an escapee, wandering their shop where he acquired some nasty scars and some trust issues. His owners gave him up because he was relentless in trying to escape, he was too active and was just too much trouble.

Salazar has been with us over a year, has never escaped a single time. He is very intelligent, especially for a snake, he is charming, very docile, easy to handle and is easily one of the coolest snakes in our collection and all of those things made him intolerable to his previous owners.

It makes me angry and it makes me sad, it makes me frustrated, often to the point of tears that we cannot stop placing ourselves upon these pedestals where we think that our lives are so important but the lives of these other, beautiful and magical creatures are simply disposable entertainment.

These are not stocking stuffers, they, are, lives!

 

Take care of yourselves, and be kind…