Catastrophic Thinking

(story from the Barnstorming archives)

Chores at our farm are rarely routine since our batch of four male kittens were born 6 months ago. They were delivered unceremoniously in the corner of one of the horse stalls by their young mother whose spontaneous adoption we accepted a mere four weeks before, not realizing we were accepting five kitties, not just one.

They were born under a Haflinger’s nose, and amazingly survived the ordeal and managed to stay safe until the next day when we came in to clean and discovered them nicely warmed near a nice fresh pile of poop. What a birthing spot this mama had chosen. Thankfully Haflingers are tolerant about sharing their space as long as you don’t ask for a share of their food too…

We moved them and mama to a safer spot in the barn, away from big Haflinger feet, and they thrived, getting more adventuresome by the week, until they are now in full adolescent glory, mock fighting with each other, scrambling up and down the hay bales, using the shavings as their personal litter box, doing rodent patrol, and most of all, strolling along the shelves that line the stalls, breathing in the Haflinger smell, and rubbing their fur up against Haflinger noses through the wire. They are best of friends with these ponies in the light of day, as after all they were born right in a Haflinger bed.

But at night it’s another story. Each evening as I come out to do chores after returning home from work, it is pitch dark and the Haflingers, out in their winter paddocks, must walk with me one by one back to their box stalls for the night. Only this is now far more of an adventure thanks to four cats who glory in stealth attacks in the dark, like mountain lions in the shadows, waiting for their prey to pass by.

These four rascals are two tabbies, one black and one gray, all four perfectly suited to be camouflaged in the northwest dim misty fall evenings along a barely lit pathway between paddocks and barn. They flatten themselves tight on the ground, just inches from where our feet will pass, and suddenly, they spring into the air as we approach, just looking for a reaction from either the horse or myself. It never fails to unnerve me, as I’m always anticipating and fearing the horse’s response to a surprise cat attack. Interestingly, the Haflingers, used to kitten antics all night long in the barn, are completely bored by the whole show, but when the tension from me as I tighten on the lead rope comes through to them, their head goes up and they sense there must be something to fear. Then the dancing on the lead rope begins, only because I’m the one with the fear transmitted like an electric current to the Haflinger. We do this four times along the path to the barn as four kittens lay in wait, one after another, just to torment me. By the end of bringing in eight horses, I’m done in by my own case of nerves.

You’d think I’d learn to stop fearing, and start laughing at these pranksters. They are hilarious in their hiding places, their attempts to “guard” the barn door from intruders, their occasional miscalculations that land them right in front of a hoof about to hit the ground. Why I haven’t had at least one squished kitten by now is beyond my comprehension. Yet they survive to torment me and delight me yet another night. I cuddle them after the horses are all put away, flopping them on their backs in my arms, and tickling their tummies and scolding them for their contribution to my increasingly gray hair.

I’m a slow learner. These are like so many of my little daily fears, which seem to hide, blended in to the surroundings of my daily life, ready to spring at me without warning, looking like much bigger scarier things than they really are. I’m a highly skilled catastrophizer in the best of circumstances, and if I have a kitten sized worry, it becomes a mountain lion sized melodrama in no time. Only because I allow it to become so.

Stepping back, taking a deep breath, if I learn to laugh at the small stuff, then it won’t become a “cat”astrophe, now will it? If I can grab those fears, turn them over on their back and tickle their tummies until they purr, then I’m the one enjoying a good time.

I’ll try that the next time I feel that old familiar sensation of “what if?” making my muscles tense and my step quicken. I just might tolerate that walk in the dark a little better, whether it is the scary plane flight, the worry over a loved one’s health, the state of the economy, where the next terrorist will strike, or the uncertainty of what tomorrow might bring.

I’ll know that behind that mountain lion is a soft loving purring fur ball, granting me relief from the mundane, for which I’m extremely grateful. Life is always an adventure, even if it is just a stroll down a barn lane in the dark wondering what might come at me next on the path.

photo by Nate Gibson
photo by Nate Gibson

Being Remodeled

pusswillows

 

Be a womb.
Be a dwelling for God.
Be surprised.
~Loretta Ross-Gotta

 

pusswillows2

 

Imagine yourself as a living house.
God comes in to rebuild that house.
At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing.
He is getting the drains right
and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on;

you knew that those jobs needed doing
and so you are not surprised.

But presently He starts
knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably

and does not seem to make any sense.
What on earth is He up to?
The explanation is that He is building
quite a different house from the one you thought of –

throwing out a new wing here,
putting on an extra floor there,
running up towers,
making courtyards.
You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage:
but He is building a palace.
He intends to come and live in it Himself.
~C.S. Lewis from Mere Christianity

 

moydalgan1

 

Whenever I’m tempted to hunker down
in retreat from
the rest of the world,
or from God Himself~
whenever I’m content with the status quo
and reluctant to stretch beyond
clear boundaries I’ve carefully constructed
for my one weary life~

I am surprised.

Whether in hiding inside a bud or bunker or cottage,
trying to seek safety or simplicity,
it is not enough for God’s blueprint.

I am not a dwelling for God
until His remodel project is finished~

until He puts down His chisel, hammer and saw,
looks me over
and declares it good.

 

stirlingcastle3

Prepare for Joy: More Than a Cottage

 

moydalgan1

Be a womb.
Be a dwelling for God.
Be surprised.
~Loretta Ross-Gotta

Imagine yourself as a living house.
God comes in to rebuild that house.
At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing.
He is getting the drains right
and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on;

you knew that those jobs needed doing
and so you are not surprised.

But presently He starts
knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably

and does not seem to make any sense.
What on earth is He up to?
The explanation is that He is building
quite a different house from the one you thought of –

throwing out a new wing here,
putting on an extra floor there,
running up towers,
making courtyards.
You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage:
but He is building a palace.
He intends to come and live in it Himself.
~C.S. Lewis from Mere Christianity

Whenever there is the temptation to hunker down
in retreat from
the rest of the world,
and God Himself,
content with the status quo
and reluctant to stretch beyond
clear boundaries I’ve carefully constructed
for my one weary life~

I am surprised.

Whether in bunker or cottage,
when I seek safety or simplicity,
it is not enough.
I am not a dwelling for God
until His remodel project is finished~

He puts down His chisel, hammer and saw,
looks me over
and declares it good.

stirlingcastle3

stirlingcastle2

Beyond Me

pearbark
pear bark

core of a tulip by Josh Scholten
core of a tulip by Josh Scholten

So strange, life is. 
Why people do not go around
in a continual state of surprise
is beyond me.
~William Maxwell

If I stop and really look at something I usually pass by with only a cursory glance, I am astonished at what I didn’t see before.
Inside and up close is an unfamiliar richness and strangeness, as if of a foreign world, that I might miss altogether if I didn’t find the time to be surprised by life.

It is beyond me how much is beyond me.
It is all beyond me.

eveningpink
pink dogwood at sunset

campfire by Josh Scholten
campfire by Josh Scholten