Archive for the ‘grief’ Category

They came to take Minstrel’s body away yesterday.  I remembered the day 20 years ago when he came to us.

I had driven over to Matlock to fetch him in a horsebox which had an open internal body so that the horse could see the driver and vice versa (my choice).  There was only a short partition between us meaning he could lean over, just, to us. He did not like the journey much and was shivering with stress so we stopped early on in the journey at a Newsagent to buy him some mints: horses usually LOVE mints.  Minstrel certainly did and my companion fed him polo mints all the way back to our house.  Minstrel’s stomach always ruled his life!

Saxon our remaining pony was adopted from a local animal sanctuary when Spot our first and oldest pony died.  Spot had been Minstrel’s companion and when Spot went blind Minstrel became his guide and security, leading him around the fields and standing guard over him when Spot lay down to sleep and rest.  When Spot died at the grand old age of 32 Minstrel was beside himself with grief: it came off him in waves so tangible that it affected all who came near him.  Before that I never knew that horses could shed tears.  Minstrel became iller and iller with grief, hence the adoption of Saxon.

Now Saxon is left alone.  He does not appear to be grief-stricken as Minstrel was all those years ago.  We left Minstrel’s body in the field for 24 hours so that Saxon could come to terms with what had happened and so that he was in no doubt that his friend had not just left, but had died.  For the first day and night Saxon stood beside Minstrel’s body but after that he drifted around the field.  After Minstrel’s body was taken away we brought Saxon into the stable for the night: the place where he felt secure.  But yesterday afternoon and today he has been standing at the top of the field looking for – what?  Something.  He is constantly scanning the horizon.  Is he looking for Minstrel or any horse/pack that he can find?

Saxon has always been a nervy pony and clearly hates being alone: in the horse world this means that he is vulnerable to attack by predators.  Some horses can cope, some cannot.

So what to do?

Husband resolutely states that this must be my decision.  However, he refuses to let local farmers run other animals on our land, which would provide company for Saxon.  He also refuses to let anyone else come and pasture and stable their horses with us, which would have also helped.  He suggested getting a pig or a goat, but they would be lots of work and more vets’ bills.  If I were younger I would leap at the chance but having a gammy knee is not the time to take on more work.

This appears to leave two alternatives.  One is to return Saxon to the Sanctuary.  But he has been here for over 12 years and is at home here.  He is also bonded to us.  I rang the Sanctuary today to find how they were doing and it appears that things were so bad this summer that they were one month away from having all their animals put down.  The last thing they can manage is yet another animal.  So that one is off the agenda.  Of course there are other sanctuaries but it seems hard on Saxon who is an old horse (27) with not many years left to him.  The second choice is another horse.  The lady at the Sanctuary said that they have a 12 year old Shetland pony who is beautifully natured and will get on with anyone.  He was abandoned some years ago on Shetland itself.  Forewick ChesterI don’t know much more about him yet.  He is only 35 inches tall at the withers (about 8.75 hands) so would, in theory, be easier to manage than a large horse.  Saxon himself is only 12 hands.

Also it appears that Shetlands are good-doers, hardy and easy to care for.  Tick, tick, tick.

The upshot is that Chester, for that is the name of the Shetland, is coming on Sunday morning to see how he and Saxon get on.  Of course this will be explained by husband to family and friends with uplifted eyes and a deep sigh, as being my choice:  I suppose it is, but only because all other avenues were closed off to me!

I hope that this will help Saxon to be happier, give Chester a good home and help the animal Sanctuary.  Nothing will fill that particular hole in my heart though.

(Husband has just come in and said that he dislikes Shetlands! OK but what does he want to do?)

As for me, apart from the internet I am holed-up and taking some days off away from the world.  I cannot speak to anyone yet without breaking down and it is taking all my energies just to get through at the moment.  Minstrel was cremated today and his ashes will be coming home in a few days.  I will scatter them along with those of his oldest and greatest friend, Spot, whose ashes I still have.

I have asked for a tiny piece of his forelock to keep in a drawer because it still smells of him.  These animals, they do so get into your heart.

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I have felt hugely supported by those of you who have contacted me.  Thank you so very much.

I have had comments here on the blog, on Facebook, phone calls, emails, and a wonderful bunch of Spring Flowers sent to me through the post.

(Image from Google)

It has been a surprise to realise that some people actually quite value this little blog: very humbling but also so encouraging:)

And you all struggle to improve your part of the world and spread help and compassion as you are able.  It is inspiring.  And although I feel rather self indulgent having written about my own struggles as if I were alone with my feelings it has been hugely helpful to have this concrete proof that I am not alone in feeling thus.

Some of you have explained to me how you manage with these feelings:

Several have said that they find it necessary to keep some distance from events in order to avoid becoming submerged or immobilised by the cruelties and unhappinesses we hear about.

Unfortunately I was born/developed without firm boundaries and seem to be on one end of the empathy spectrum which has become unhealthy for me.  I have always felt a deep connection to, and embedded in, the world around me and find that distancing myself is not an option.

I have heard of instances of friends deliberately ‘passing the baton’ to the younger generation and allowing themselves to take a back seat after a lifetime of work and struggle to improve situations.

But I was born a fighter: I have always had to fight, I know no other way.  It has got me through some terrible times but it leaves an impossible feeling of impotence when one comes up against a fight that one cannot win.  This is a large part of what is upsetting me at the moment.  I don’t understand the point of my existence if I cannot make a difference.

Others blame social media, in fact media in general, for spreading so much hyped news and melodrama.  There is a huge amount of truth in this.  Reading all the petitions that come my way has exposed me to knowledge of injustice and cruelty that I would never have known about without these organisations.  In fact one friend just signs and never reads because she says she cannot survive the huge amount of unhappiness they represent.  Others never sign because they cannot take any more exposure of the harsh side of life.

Based on your and others’ comments I have been doing some research.

Professor Nicholas Christakis from Yale (Director of the Human Nature Lab at Yale) makes the point that Networks will magnify whatever they are seeded with.  His research has demonstrated that meanness will ripple through Social Networks, as will altruistic behaviour.  Networks will magnify Ebola and fascism and violence and unhappiness but also they will magnify love and altruism and happiness and information.

He is the author (with James Fowler) of Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives.

Here’s his TED talk:

He makes the point that much research (as well as common sense) shows that the people around you influence your behaviour. In fact, they influence it a lot more than you might think and probably more than you’re comfortable with admitting.

But here’s the really unexpected part: not only do your friends affect your behavior, so do their friends. And their friends’ friends. Here’s Nicholas:

“Across many different kinds of behavior: voting, cooperation, smoking, weight loss and weight gain, happiness, cooperative behavior, public health behaviors, we and others have been able to show that people are very meaningfully affected by the behaviors of other people to whom they’re connected. And here’s the kicker: they are also affected by the behaviors of people to whom they’re not directly connected.

When your friend’s friends quit smoking or your friend’s friend’s friend become nicer and more cooperative, this ripples through the network and affects you. Similarly, when you make a positive change in your life, when you start running for example, or you participate in our democracy and you vote, it ripples outward from you and can affect dozens, hundreds, perhaps even thousands of other people.”

So, these are my thoughts going forward.

Instead of being influenced and manipulated by Media Networks I am going to try to do good and improve what I can through them.  I don’t mean that I am going to try to somehow change all you readers of my blog: you regulars are already way ahead of me in trying to do your bit in the world.  But I do want to try to shed the occasional ray of light into dark places and catch some of the occasional visitors here who may not know some of the worst practices.

Instead of being beaten down by all the petitions illustrating tragedy, I am trying to change how I view them: thank goodness for people who are turning a spotlight on these dark parts of life.  They have found out, and are trying to publicize and change, the horrific practices going on.  Without these petitions the cruelties would still continue but unabated and without possibility of change.  I will contribute a small amount where I can and circulate the news and offer emotional support.  Not much, but better than nothing.

I have discovered so many kind, compassionate people in other countries who devote their lives selflessly to helping people and animals.  They have been there working tirelessly, I just did not know about them.  Now I shall search them out on the Internet and through word of mouth, and not be a passive recipient of the News that someone else decrees I should know about.

I have taken out an annual subscription to a newspaper (now in magazine form) called Positive News. 

Image from Google

When I first picked it up in a local hospital I was suspicious of the title: is this another bland “Everything is fine, everything will be alright” kind of journal.  But it is not: it was begun by one of our most respected BBC Foreign Correspondents, who went on to become an Independent Member of Parliament, and is now the Patron of the paper.  It just tries to give a more balanced, less dramatic and more informed view of news, instead of regarding good news as no news.  I find it a wonderful counterbalance to the usual stuff pedalled by our 24 hour news culture.

Although I find it a hard fact, everything in this world is recycled eventually, one way or another.  And this includes both human institutions and human behaviour.  Everything tends to decay and corruption and needs to be remade or renewed.  This seems a waste of experience and effort as well as being painful: but it is what happens and I must come to terms with this.  This is why accurate history teaching is essential in education.  So whereas I will do my best to help maintain the good that has been achieved I must accept that the process will necessarily involve some letting-go along the way.

I have been reading about life in the UK in the C10 and C11.  When you could literally not call your soul your own: when you could not decide which crops to grow: where to live: whom to serve: whom to marry: where there were no options for most people: when cruelties and tortures were rife.  We have made progress for the majority of the population in this country although in recent years some of these safeguards have appeared threatened.  The wheels of history grind so slowly.

Despite the bad weather I have made contact with more people than usual, as a result of the adoption of our two Romanian stray dogs:-

eddie 1 031

1 In my last post I mentioned the kind, unexpected gift from the woman at the call centre for an international hotel chain.

2 When investigating dog harnesses for the car I spoke to the Managing Director of a company.  It turns out that she has adopted strays from Greece and the Gambia and supports a Rescue in Spain.

3 When staying in a hotel with the first of our strays all the staff came over to fuss here and fell in love with her.  A guest passing through saw her harness which mentions the Dogs Trust and complimented us and said she contributes every month.

4  The Dustmen stopped their cart for a chat and wanted to know all about the dogs and what was happening in Europe to unwanted animals and children.

5 At the vets the nurses came and crouched down and were so kind to these poor, mistreated pooches.

6  When out walking people stop and talk and are so interested and kind.

7 I have met the wonderful people who foster these animals as part of their resettlement programme.  These people are not rich but devote their lives to helping others.

8 Friends have come over to help look after our other animals and help me socialise these dogs.

9 The landlady of a pub came over to meet the dogs and to make a fuss of them.  They were welcomed warmly, not turned away as ‘unclean’.

10  On several occasions parents of children in a local park have brought them over to make friends saying, “That dog looks like a friendly one”.  The care and gentleness of the small children who asked which part the dog would like stroked and could they give them a treat.

I have met all sorts and all kinds of people in the last few weeks: all working people, mostly not well-off, but full of the milk of human kindness.  I have found it to be true, that those who have compassion – have it for all: it is such a fallacy to say that people either like animals or humans.

And religion and culture are not the definition of compassion either: some people from cultures who do not value dogs have been interested and surprised and happy to make friends with our dogs too – despite an initial hesitation.  I have learned about the people working hard in Romania, Greece, Spain and the Far East, to mention just a few, rescuing, treating, combatting cruelty, often at considerable danger to themselves.

Through research I have discovered so much good being done by so many:-

For example, the ex-soldier from the UK who has raised the plight of the lone children refugees in Europe, despite being taken to court for his compassion.

The unfailing efforts of Greek Islanders who leave their own work to pull drowning refugees from the Meditarranean.  Over and over and over again.

The Palestinian men who are striving to rescue their Zoo animals from slow starvation and illness despite the troubles in their own country.

The brave whistle-blowers in Thailand who are slowly winning round their Government to halt the deliberate torture of animals for food.

The people offering free health care, legal advice, physical care and food here in the UK.

It is a disgrace that so much evil is allowed to flourish in the world: but the bad news is totally unrepresentative.  There are legions, literally, of good, kind people, quietly and determindly helping.

They are not sitting back comfortably in the UK as I have been doing, feeling depressed and hopeless.  They are out there working hard.  I am so grateful to have discovered a little about some of them.  They, and you, have saved my emotional sanity.

This blog will go forward, but will try to highlight some of these wonderful people, alongside my own little sorrows and joys.

Thank you, thank you, to all of you, and to all of them.  I’m OK now:)

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Charlie Ebdo


I’ve recently been reading two long posts from Recollections of a Vagabonde at:   http://avagabonde.blogspot.co.uk    in the aftermath of the Charlie Ebdo tragedy.  I felt I really must point you over in her direction because her thoughtful and learned posts are really worthy of wide distribution, in my opinion: I suspect some of you read her blog anyway, but for those of you who do not, please go over and read:)  They are most enlightening.


P.S. Clip art in this post is from a site which WordPress assures me is copyright free, at : https://openclipart.org



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I could weep for the journalists killed yesterday: and also for the good people who are trying to stand together and fight for our views on free speech whilst also confounding a back-lash on innocent and moderate Moslems.

I know that many species, including humans, are suspicious of ‘the other’ and also that we sometimes feel that we suffer from well-meaning authorities who force integration on people faster than is natural.

But do not let us forget the lessons of the past and Niemoller’s warning after the atrocities of Hitler and the Nazis:


One version of Martin Niemoller’s famous quotation:

First they came for the Jews

and I did not speak out

because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the Communists

and I did not speak out

because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists

and I did not speak out

because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Catholics

and I did not speak out

because I was not a Catholic.

Then they came for me

and there was no-one left

to speak out for me.

Please do not let another line be added after yesterday’s bombing in Paris:

Then they came for the Moslems

and I did not speak out

because I was not a Moslem.

That is just what the extremists want.



First they came …” is a famous statement and provocative poem attributed to pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) about the cowardice of German intellectuals following the Nazis’ rise to power and the subsequent purging of their chosen targets, group after group. There is some disagreement over the exact wording of the quotation and when it was uttered as Niemoller changed the wording slightly depending on when he was speaking, and to whom.

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Recently I had a short visit to the USA during which I had the privilege of meeting with three blogging friends.

Home again, unpacked, washing done, jobs caught up with, almost.

Time for reflection.  And a feeling of incompleteness.

We talked from the beginning to the end of our meetings but there was so much that didn’t get said.  Any life, shortened to a brief autobiography naturally concentrates on the things that give life shape.  But there has been so much more in my life, of  pleasure, excitement and wonder that I did not mention.

So for them, and you, here are some of the bylines, mostly in chronological order .

1) The day that the handsomest boy from the local College saluted me in public by doffing his boater and bowing to me in front of a whole coach load of my peers – teenagers en route to school.

2) Meeting a student from Prague University when on holiday on a small island in Yugoslavia with my mother and sister: my mother then arranging for me to go off to stay with him and his mother on a one way ticket, with instructions to buy a return ticket when there, on the black market.  The grilling by the Communist police, having guards lift up floors and take down ceilings on the train going through the border from West Germany, camping illegally in hayhouses in fields, sleeping in a vagrants’ hostel when we had no money, getting felt-up in a German cinema when sheltering from the cold, walking through snow fields in the High Tatras to the edge of Poland whilst hanging onto chains with shoes falling to pieces, etc etc.

3) Flying a kite on the North Cape.

4)  Having a Japanese hitch hiker make Origami  butterflies to distract me from a reindeer cull in Lapland as we drove past.

5)  Marvelling at hot springs in a white-out in Yellowstone National Park.

6)  Staying in a palm- leaved roofed hut on a beach in Turkey when C. S. Lewis’s great friend, Roger Lancelyn Green, came by, complete with silver-gilt traveling drink set, and we sat on the sand under the stars drinking brandy while the sea murmured and sighed softly.

7)  Sitting on cushions on a platform in a tree, the outside dining room of a family in Turkey, eating fresh honeycomb, butter and warm rolls straight from the oven

8)  Taking a trip to Petra with my mother where a camel driver offered my mother several camels to buy me as an extra wife:  racing a camel round the pyramids going off into the sunset with a stranger as I bounced around unsteadily on the back of said camel, going I knew not where, with I knew not whom, but determined to make the most of the moment.

9)  Being shown round the bowels of a cruise ship by a Jordanian security officer who was guarding the ship, complete with sub-machine gun, who cornered me in a cabin and offered to give me a Jordanian baby.

10)  The Greek No. 2 Officer of said cruise ship who offered to show me the murkier night spots of Athens, much to my horror.

11)  Doing the night time feeds for my nephews whilst my sister slept.  Sitting in the stillness and quiet with a tiny baby who drank contentedly, looking up at me the whole time.

12)  Being taken on a private tour of a tomb in the Valley of the Kings by an Archaeologist when I mentioned that my father had been there in the 1930s digging with Sir Flanders Petrie.  She had special permission to visit a tomb closed to visitors because of the wonderful, fresh wall paintings, and she took me early one morning before the rest of the group were up.

13)  Standing, at 2.0 a.m. one cold morning  on a silent deck in the Dardanelles on the 60th anniversary of the Battle watching very old service men drop wreathes to their remembered comrades. Each alone, ranged round the deck, lost in his own thoughts.  I kept very quiet.

14)  Walking slowly alone through the room where Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill signed the Yalta accord in a handsome villa on a mountain side by the Black Sea.  Thinking – wondering – asking the floors and walls what was really said.

15)  Standing in a queue in Paris not knowing what language I had been talking to strangers, but all understanding each other.

16)  Sitting one New Year’s Eve in the Chapel in the Louvre as a Russian Choir sang soul-defyingly- beautiful folk songs and hymns, as outside the temperature dropped and the Seine rolled solemnly by to a New Year.

17)  Cold praline ice cream in a soft,  hot, sweet roll, sprinkled with icing sugar, walking through the Marais at night with the lights twinkling around me.

18)  Sheltering from the heat in St. Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai desert beside the Burning Bush.  Utter silence, stillness, and distance from civilization.

19)  Astounded by the beauty, colour and shapes of rocks in Arizona and the waterfalls in Yosemite: where a friend and I raced to complete three water-colour paintings each in a day.

20)  Lying, frozen with cold in a tent, under so many blankets that we could not move, listening to bears move in the forest.

21) Sitting in a box at the Bolshoi having walked earlier through a dimming Red Square with St.  Basil’s dome burnished by a late sun.

22) Visiting the Russian White House when our Foreign Office said not to travel, seeing the tanks, barracades and flowers all over the roads, and being offered Vodka by drunken Museum Officials who wept at the fate of Mother Russia and had learned their English from listening to the BBC and refused to charge us an entry fee because we were English.  Meeting in a dodgy back alley to exchange dollars for roubles at a better rate, whilst avoiding all the prostitutes who were soliciting my husband.

23) Standing pensively in Pasternak’s study in Peredelkino, looking through his window, by his desk where he wrote Dr. Zhiavago.

24) Visiting an artist I met in the street in Moscow, which entailed a long metro journey through brutalist tower blocks followed by an equally scary Trabant ride to an anonymous flat.  Going back next year with a suitcase full of clothes and necessities for his and his shy wife’s baby.

25) Going to the Kirov in St. Petersburg with a Texan Air Force fella we had met on the plane, who had never been outside the USA before and marvelled at what he was doing and where he was.

26) Exchanging scarves with a Russian lady on the Metro who fancied mine: getting lost and hitching a ride in a car to catch a plane.

27)  A terrifying helicopter trip over the Caucasus mountains in a machine whose seat belts not longer worked and where rain poured through the air vents in the ceiling: departing from an airport on which resided various crashed aircraft.  But a trip with views which were out of this world.

28)  Visiting a Caucasian public lavatory, where cubicle doors were unknown, and on entry one faced a line of anonymous bottoms hanging over holes in the floor.

29) Lying in a reindeer-drawn sleigh at night in northern Finland with my three year old grandson, who, as  we looked up at the stars, said, “This is something I will never forget”.

Somehow, amongst all the basic autobiography, none of this got mentioned.  Sorry ladies, that I never gave you the really interesting stuff;)

And now to this incomplete but illustrative list can be added, the magic of meeting friends made in the blogworld and a visit to the Met in New York to see Aida complete with live horses on the stage.

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Warning!  Horrific pictures are in this post.

I tend not to promote petitions on this site because there are so many just causes: how to choose without spending your whole life reading and perhaps signing. 

But I was so horrified when I discovered that products are harvested from live animal sources in this way that I had to publicise them.

Please boycott these firms and if you feel so moved, sign and publicise these petitions.

Really, have humans no depths to which they will not sink?

I have copied and pasted the following articles from two petition sites:


Sign the Petition To Ask Ralph Lauren to Stop Selling Angora!



Recently, PETA investigated 9 angora fur farms and released bone-chilling footage of workers violently ripping rabbit fur from the animals bodies as they scream in pain. In response, several major clothing companies have stopped selling angora — but retail giant Ralph Lauren is still marketing angora.

I started a petition asking Ralph Lauren to stop selling angora until they can prove the rabbits used in their clothing aren’t being tortured. Please add your name. When the rabbits endure this horrific, violent yanking of their fur, they scream in pain and to go into extreme shock. Then they are thrown back inside filthy, tiny wire cages with no bedding to lie alone, motionless in shock. This is repeated every 3 months, for 2 to 5 years, until the rabbits are hung upside down to have their throats slit, and are skinned. More than 90% of the world gets its angora fur from rabbits farmed in China, where there are no animal welfare standards, and no penalties for animal abuse on rabbit farms. In January, the Wall Street Journal reported that nearly all of Ralph Lauren’s clothing is manufactured in China. When European companies including H&M heard about this harrowing investigative report, they stopped selling their angora products and announced that they would be investigating their supply chain. Now that H&M has done the right thing, I’m confident that if enough of us speak up, Ralph Lauren will follow their lead


Tell Outdoor Gear Companies to End Down-Plucking Torture of Live Geese



  • author: Susan V
  • target: North Face, Patagonia, Rab, Allied Feather & Down
  • signatures: 109,008

Update #2 January 6, 2014

The Biomimicry Institute is working to develop a non-toxic alternative to natural down. Perhaps the outdoor gear companies and others who are unable to ensure that down is obtained cruelty-free could help fund this important work. http://www.asknature.org/strategy/5797a30d2419a61e81b0ae7e6d0e299f

Update #1 January 7, 2014

In 2010, North Face and Patagonia reportedly admitted that some down used in their products was from cruelly treated geese. In 2012, North Face pledged to find a source of down that was not the product of force-feeding. Now North Face reports on its website that it’s been working on a “Responsible Down Standard,” which it says will be completed in 2014. Keep the pressure on North Face and other billion-dollar industries to end this torture now – not later!

About this Petition

Down feathers are sometimes cruelly and painfully plucked from live birds. But consumers and most retailers don’t know which products contain this live-plucked down.

Peta and Four Paws have obtained undercover video footage of workers pulling fistfuls of feathers from geese as the ravished birds shriek with pain. During the torture the geese are often squeezed between pluckers’ knees or sometimes have their necks sat upon. The traumatized, suffering birds are often left with gaping wounds, which many don’t survive.

But the horror doesn’t always end after this torment, because many of these tortured birds are further victimized by the foie gras market, and then some go on to be slaughtered or dumped into scalding water – also while still alive.

Most upsetting is that none of this cruelty is necessary. Imitation materials that mimic down are warmer and washable and now available, and outdoor gear company Coleman says it has already made the switch.

More important, the Biomimicry Institute is working to design a nontoxic alternative to natural down, and the outdoor gear companies could pool their resources to fund this project.

Tell The North Face, Patagonia and Rab to support non-toxic alternatives to down and stop supporting this cruelty!

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A very sad morning here on the ranch.

Debra has been sitting on her egg now for 32 days.  Hatch times vary according to species of goose from 28-35 days.

When i went to let her out this morning I found that during the night she had somehow stood on the egg and smashed part of the shell and rolled it out of the nest.  An absolutely perfect gosling, with its head tucked under its wing and its eyes open, was lying in the carnage, cool, not yet cold, but quite dead.  Judging from the blood vessels in the shell and the remainder of the yolk, the gosling was just on the point of beginning the hatching process.

So no little pipping or squeaking baby here today.  After all this time, on the point of a successful hatch, it was killed.  Debra has not noticed but I feel so bereft.  And I did not even want any more geese.  But I am a soft touch for anything small and feathery and am sitting here with my eyes full of tears for what might have been, and so nearly was.

A tiny blip on the world’s radar, but a real, albeit small, tragedy here this morning.

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