Is it really possible to change facets of your personality and behavior with a specific outcome in mind? I’ve always believed in my heart of hearts that it is, and I know that I’ve grown and changed immensely over the years – but, was my growth intentional or merely incidental?  I decided to do some research on the topic to see what I could dig up.  What I found were many fascinating quotations that all seemed to come about as a response to my question of change.

“To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.” [Henri Bergson, French philosopher, 1859 – 1941]

“The important thing is this: To be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.” [Charles DuBois, American chemist, 1912 – 1971]

“There’s only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.” [Aldous Huxley, English writer, 1894 – 1963]

“People grow through experience if they meet life honestly and courageously. This is how character is built.”  [Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady, 1884 – 1962]

All of these quotes suggest taking control over one’s change, as opposed to it coming about by mere accident. That can be seen in the action words “creating,” “sacrificing,” and “improving.” It follows then, that many respected persons throughout history have strongly believed that purposeful, intentional change in a human is not only possible, but quite desirable and necessary for living a meaningful existence.

But how does this desire to change come about? Are most people so in tune to themselves that they know how to make important changes just in time for them to be valuable? Or do they discover the need to change as a result of  life experiences? The answers lie again in the words of others.

“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.” [M. Scott Peck, psychiatrist and best-selling author]

“Most people can look back over the years and identify a time and place at which their lives changed significantly. Whether by accident or design, these are the moments when, because of a readiness within us and a collaboration with events occurring around us, we are forced to seriously reappraise ourselves and the conditions under which we live and to make certain choices that will affect the rest of our lives.” [Frederick F. Flack]

This notion of “reappraising” oneself is a perfect way to explain the kind of change I’m talking about. It’s the kind of change that results from knowing that you’ve failed, or reached a road block, and wanting to make a significant difference in the way you handle yourself and certain situations in the future. It’s kind of like a dandelion pushing through the earth and on its way having to weave through concrete and brick, but in the course purposely changing its growth pattern to come out of the dark and into the light. Like the dandelion (and many individuals throughout history), I too am battling obstacles in order to make some changes for a brighter future. And, let me tell you – it’s nice to know I’m in such good company.

Philosopher with baby bird

My garden has always been a place of rest, recovery, and salvation for me, but it plays an even greater role for the many creatures that fly, crawl, or scurry about within its boundaries. One of the major draws is the Celtic birdbath that provides a daily offering of fresh water for drinking and bathing. It is this birdbath – overgrown with algae and leaning so far to right after years of water has intruded its foundation – that lies at the heart of this story of serendipity. It is this birdbath that beckoned me into the yard on this breezy and overcast day for its regular filling. Even though I had many tasks that needed to be completed and errands to be run, and there was still a small amount of usable water in the structure, I couldn’t stop my brain from cycling round and round over this birdbath. “Weird,” I thought,” but no big deal…I’ll just fill it!” So out I went into the backyard, with four-footed canine friend in tow, and immediately spotted a tiny bird rustling in the tall grass just a few paces off the doorway.

For some reason, I just knew this bird was downed, even before I saw her try to fly. So I approached at a normal pace, just to see her reaction…and, not surprisingly, she flapped her wings frantically but failed to journey further than a couple inches off the ground. My heart beat with anticipation realizing that my wannabe bird dog, was going to chomp down on this tiny winged morsel at the first opportunity.  I had only one chance to make the play and beat Dublin the Dog to the finish line, but could I do it? As weeds, wind, and fur rushed by I threw my cupped hands to the ground in wild desperation and then froze…peering out from between my joined hands was the tiny bird, safe and sound inside my finger hut. I carefully scooped her up as Dublin the Dog looked on in lust and fascination at the juicy treat just inches away in the palms of my hands.

Upon taking the delicate creature behind closed doors, away from the drooling hunter, I was able to examine her in close detail. She had not a nick or scratch on her, but a very unusual tangling had occurred between her tail feathers and her left leg and wing. Somehow, the downy threadlike feathers of her tail had completely encircled her leg and bottom part of her wing, creating a strong knot that entrapped the left side of her body. Fortunately, she did not mind being handled, as I delicately snipped the looped threads, to free her leg and wing. In fact, she almost seemed to enjoy the process, and when it was over perched on my finger like a queen on a throne. I pet her gently on the head, waiting patiently for her to launch, and finally she did….landing up high on the shower curtain rod. That flight alone was enough proof that I could set her free amongst her feathered friends in the garden.

I carried her outside, half delighted, but half terrified for what she would face in the wild. She paused for a second in my palm, looked up at me, and flew gracefully up to a tree branch. I wished her luck and turned back to the house, trying to remember what had brought me out to the yard in the first place. “Oh yeah, the birdbath,” I thought, and smiled to myself at the “happy accident” that had just taken place.

pawprint-in-the-sand

So many of us go about our day to day business never really knowing the importance we have in the lives of others. I have personally struggled with this in my life, especially in recent times. In recent days, even. Yesterday, Dublin the Dog and I found ourselves downtown at high noon, thirsty and hungry. We decided to dine outdoors at Mary’s Secret Garden in beautiful downtown Ventura because we noticed that the outdoor tables were all populated by people with dogs. Ordinarily, I shy away from outdoor dining, especially when the sun is shifting and can get uncomfortably glaring. But on this day, I was drawn to the thought of sharing my time with strangers and their dogs while enjoying a salad at my favorite restaurant. So we sat, and ate, and watched…and enjoyed the attention and tummy rubs from passersby. Well, I enjoyed the attention, and Dublin enjoyed the tummy rubs. 🙂

When we got up to leave, we walked by a table at which sat an earthy, smiling, middle-aged couple. Between them sat a huge Rottweiler with the softest brown eyes and the gentlest temperament. His name was Elvis. Dublin and Elvis exchanged sniffs and kisses and then settled quietly beside each other, after Elvis failed at retrieving the treats in my pocket with his giant wet nose. I stood there for about fifteen minutes chatting with these very articulate people (Val and George) about how Elvis, way into his senior years, had recently had cancer treatment and was actually on the mend.  We talked about my sweet border collie, Sadie, who was a month shy of her 16th birthday when I put her to sleep after her hips failed, just four short months ago. We talked about how I’d thought I’d never get another dog, but how adopting Dublin had eased the healing process by saving the life of another. We talked about issues such as how food production in this country is going so perilously wrong. We talked about music, and they revealed that they are both musicians, and that they have been looking for a violinist such as myself to record on their next album. We exchanged cards as we left, and then discovered we were all headed for the same place…the Wharf – a wonderfully, fun place to shop if you have pets.

At the Wharf, we spoke again briefly as Elvis and Dublin sniffed inquisitively around the generous assortment of bones and cookies that spill over from tubs located throughout the store. Before they left, George found me in the back of the store and gently shoved a CD into my hand. He was giving me a gift of his and Val’s music. His generosity warmed my heart. I thought about them last night before I went to sleep, and smiled.

This morning, after a completing a three-mile hilly hike with Dublin (quite a feat for a woman with a mystery neuro illness and a dog recovering from a severe upper respiratory infection), we came home, plopped ourselves down on the couch, and I immediately opened my email. There in my inbox was a letter with the subject “Thanks to Dublin.” I don’t think Val and George will mind if I share that email with you here. Please check in with me again, at the end of the email. I know it’s long, but it’s worth it. Here goes:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Hello Samara…

Just wanted to send a special thanks to you and Dublin. You were the last new friends Elvis made in his life.  He died this morning. We will be in touch, but I wanted you to have the message I sent out to everyone and thank Dublin specially for being his new friend and helping him on his journey.

Peace and love to you,
Val and George


Hello Dear Friends,

Thank you for your thoughts and prayers during our time of fighting Elvis’s cancer. The good news is that we beat the cancer. He saw the vet yesterday and she said he was winning. She was really impressed with how great he was doing and how great he looked. The bad news is that he died this morning. It was probably a heart attack brought on by the chemo drug, but we won’t know for sure ’til the PM is done this week.

He seized in the hallway on his way out to walk with me and we brought him back with CPR. He stood up, got his leash on and proceeded to drag me out the door and down the sidewalk. We got him in the truck and he seemed fine. About 2 miles into the drive he seized again and I pulled off. George and I kept up CPR for a long time…he came back twice but we just couldn’t keep his heart beating.

When I looked up to see where we were, I couldn’t believe it. I stopped the truck right near the farm where our mare, Rosie was kept. We could see her stall from the place we stopped. We put Rosie, our rescue, down this past Monday because her body was finally tired of being in pain from the torture she endured. She was completely ready and we all did well. She died peacefully and quietly. Once she was gone, we found that, indeed, the coffin bone was going to push through the sole of her hoof very soon, causing great anguish and rendering her unable to stand. We knew it was a good decision because we saved her from this pain.

Now Elvis has gone to run with her. The only logic I can see from him is that he saw how heartbroken we were to say goodbye to Rosie, so he decided to go to so we wouldn’t have to be heartbroken twice. What a great love he was.

Yesterday was a big day. We went running around in my new truck visiting people, went to the vet, and walked in the woods with our friend Greg and his new dog Molly. It was a fine last walk. We ate breakfast at an outdoor cafe with some other folks and their beagles. We had lunch at our favorite restaurant, Mary’s Secret Garden, in Ventura. Elvis sat on the sidewalk and ate Mary’s almond cheese with fresh vegetables. He met lots of other dogs there too. It was a great last day. The last dog he played with was “Dublin”, fitting on the Saturday of the St. Patty’s Day Parade.

Thank you all so much for your love and support during these trying times. Please hug your pets for us today.

Love to all,
Val and George

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I say right now, as I dab the persistent tears from my eyes, that you just never know what this life will bring. You are guaranteed sorrow and you are guaranteed joy, and often they will arrive together. But through it all, there’s always a place in your heart for the friends you have met and the beauty you have shared together. That, in itself, makes it all worthwhile.

Peace and Love,

The Philosopher



Out of my gord, originally uploaded by Samara Iodice.

Well, not entirely, but I did have quite a fun time photographing the season’s offerings at our local pumpkin patch. You can see more of that on my Flickr site at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/samaraiodice/

And, to those people (all three of them) who have asked “Samara, when will you be writing another essay of epic proportion?” I tell them to sit tight for a few more days. I will be publishing again soon. But, for now, if anyone comes here looking for a good (or at least unique) read, please peruse the links to the left under “Recent Musings.” I recommend “Made in China” to, hopefully, put a smile on your face.

PEACE TO YOU ALL ~ Samara

Fly

Those eyes. They know things. They’re attached to a tiny being who’s
been so many places and seen so much. He has a heartbeat. He has a
life. He’s even quite beautiful in his own special way. Yet, most of the time,
we would just swat him away and consider him a mere annoyance. Maybe
if we looked closer and harder at many things in our lives we’d discover a
similar truth. Maybe we should all slow down, look around, and give our
world a second glance.

The Philosopher

Samara Iodice is a writer, multimedia producer, and hobby musician living in Southern California. She has created marketing and training productions for such clients as London Business School, the U.S. Navy, Rice University, Southern California Edison, and WellPoint. She is currently employed as a Training Producer for lynda.com. In her spare time she is a self-confessed photography addict and loves walking for miles and miles with her very silly cattle dog, Dublin. She is also a dedicated environmentalist and animal welfare advocate. Find out more at www.samaraiodice.com.

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