Monday, December 12, 2011
"I am convinced no one comes to my door by accident."
Lorrenne bubbled as she invited me into the sun porch of her home at Sunnybrook Farm. It was March then, many years ago. Bare trees were bending and creaking in the gray and white winter's last hurrah in Iowa. And now it is Christmas, many years and endless miles later. As I write, I am looking out over a snow dusted sunny morning, breathing in a Claude Monet living painting before my eyes. Monet loved snow shadow blues, subtle oranges and violets. I see blue-violet and red-violet superimposed with an imaginary paintbrush.
I flash back to winters long ago in Western Pennsylvania. I think of deep snows that blew icy talcum powder swirls and sparkled like blue and silver diamonds in the light of Christmas nights. We had a live pine tree spreading invigorating fresh scent in our home. We watched the large multicolored lights sparkle bright. One year we had a tree lit with all blue lights! My Dad and I set up the electric train. Some of my plastic farm came out of the attic every Christmas.
I am a little girl again playing in the attic. "Little Iowa Farm," was complete with farmhouse, barn, and many animals. The farm was up all year. In winter I set down a white sheet for snow. Summer I had a green sheet showing. I wanted to live in Iowa because Steve Field lived in Iowa and raised prize collies. My first collie, Lad, traced down to Steve's champion Parader Collies. What city in Iowa would be good for my future farm? I got in a map and zeroed in on the Cedar Rapids area.
My imaginary farm grew and grew. My dad helped me get enamel paint. I repainted each plain brown, black or white animal figure with realistic coat markings, each one different. Now I had Holstein cows with spots of black on white. I had my favorite cow and calf! My chosen horse had a tiny star on his coal black body. Painted plastic collies in golds, tri-color, and blue merle danced in front of my sign: Sunnybrook Kennels.
Christmases passed. Many dogs, cats, and horses raced across paper and canvas. Meanwhile we had relocated to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. One summer day, I found myself driving down a dusty hot gravel road. I "felt" strangely familiar here. The farmhouse and barn came into view, the black and white Holstein cows were in the field. The sign said (wait for it) SUNNYBROOK KENNELS! I turned into the driveway and was greeted by a happy chorus of barking from the boarding kennel. I felt warmth and love. I approached the door and knocked. Lorrenne answered. I was taken by the fact that Lorrenne looked so much like my silver haired Collie breeder friend, *Bobbee Roos, in Washington D.C. area where we had lived. Both women also loved to write!
I talked to Lorrenne about boarding our silver Collie, Sky, and two ornery cats, Zar and Zara. There were farm cats a-plenty. There were kittens in the barn. Tony, a giant gray rangy Egyptian looking tabby cat, could knock you over with his friendliness and thunderous purr. Lorrenne had prize Schipperke dogs, coal black "Little Captains," so eager and alert.
Warm feelings of Sunnybrook grew like grain. Lorrenne and I became friends. We shared memories and spiritual dimensions of thoughts, prayers, and realities. Sitting in Lorrenne's warm kitchen over steaming coffee and warm cookies, one day she said to me, "I have a simple faith."
Lorrenne continues: "I know a priest who was at a spiritual retreat center. He stopped to rest on a bench by himself. Another man came and sat beside my friend. When they talked, the priest was astounded that this man knew all about his life in great detail even though they had not previously met. Later, in the group gathering, the priest's companion was not there!"
"I am convinced this teacher was an Angel!"
Seasons rotate and evolve in a cosmic dance. Our family moved on to other locations where the winters are not as sharp and cold as Iowa was. Silver shrouds of snow melt more quickly here. Skies can be cloudy gray from smoke to pearl. I have continued my path to explore spiritual directions taught to me by God's teachers, Lorrenne and Glen.
I have my kennel/ zoo retreat center on my walls now. Cheetahs, lions, tigers, snow leopards, zebras and wolves join the animal parade. There is an occasional barn and a "fortress deep and mighty," Mont-Saint-Michel, along with horses and dogs. Angels join in to grace my heart-mind.
Albert Payson Terhune, author, comes to mind. He banged out his Sunnybank Collie stories on an old typewriter from his home in New Jersey. "One or more collies lie sleeping at my feet as I write." He continued, there are also, "furry ghosts that haunt my memory." Terhune wrote so vividly, I can see photograph clear images as I read his words. I know these Collies deeply!
Meanwhile Sunnybrook Farm also nestles warm in my memory. The tree is trimmed and lit, presents await eager young children. Pie is baking and coffee brews. I can see again twilight settling in over snow banks. I feel again the blueness in the dusk of an Iowa Christmas. Golden light radiates from curtained windows. I know God is Love!
** "In prayer we discover what we already have," Thomas Merton
Related Posts: The Human Angel (Oct 2011), Out of Box Experience (Who were the Sunnybank Collies? Aug 2011), Encounters With Michael (The Artist meets the Archangel, Feb 2011,) The Christmas Rose (An Angel at Christmas, Dec 2010), Winter Wolf, (Nov 2010)
http://www.shirleymaclaine.com/ Shirley MacLaine, author, actress, mystic The Camino and other books. Accompany Shirley on a walking pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella and find yourself.
* Mrs. George H. "Bobbee" Roos, Wickmere Collie Kennels, is author of Collie Concept for Alpine Press. Illustrated by Dahlis Roy, the first edition won second place in Best Breed Book category in the Dog Writer's Assoc. Annual Awards 1982.
Albert Payson Terhune, (1872-1942) journalist, author, mystic. Author of Lad A Dog, Gray Dawn, Sunnybank Home of Lad, and many other books.
The Master of Sunnybank, by Irving Litvag Who is "The Visitor" at Sunnybank? "The dogs are here!"
Your Life and Love Beyond Death by David Hyatt, has a section about A.P. Terhune. "Word renowned writer...returns after death to reassure his beloved wife Anice of his continuous adoration [and journey] from the next dimension." George W. Fisk, Cosmic Concepts Press, Publisher, 1992.
http://www.pamkircher.com/ Pam Kircher, M.D., Reflections Tab, Tribute to Hans: communication across time and space between humans and animals. Audio Book, Love is the Link, A Hospice Doctor shares her experiences of Near Death and Dying. Pam is also a Master Trainer in Dr. Paul Lam's International Tai Chi for Health Teaching Team.
http://www.merton.org/ Thomas Merton, Zen and the Birds of Appetite plus other books and writings.
http://imaginehealing.info/ Joel P. Bowman, Ph.D., and Rev. Debra Basham
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Snow Tree photo and December Sky photos by Paul