One day when we were quite a young couple, snuggling and giggling, I said to my husband, “You cuddle well!” He said, “That will be our last name!” And so it was. Mama and Daddy Cuddlewell.
Our children were told that their actual, secret last name was Cuddlewell, as we would snuggle them. Andy, Shyanne, and Emily Cuddlewell. Even today, that is our name.
Our animals carried the same family name, Ichabod Cuddlewell, Clara Cuddlewell, and so on. I recently told my granddaughter about her secret last name too. She laughed and wondered if I was serious. Maryjane and Ayla Cuddlewell. And so it goes on. Our secret family name. We cuddle well.
Many years ago, when were trying to come up with a name for our own land, should we ever get it, Doug nonchalantly said, “Cuddlewell Mission, of course.”
In our hearts, everywhere we have lived has been Cuddlewell Mission. We tend to rescue the animals that need us. The cross-eyed cat with the spinal injury, who lived and played and cuddled for thirteen years, Clara. The retired racing hound, Bumble Bear. The tiny, Siamese kitten that we are still bringing back to health, Taos Mouse. The blind chicken, Heihei. This is a sanctuary. We have always had a sanctuary.
We got off track, somewhere along the way, with books and studies and farmer friends. We went from friends aren’t food, to maybe we were wrong and that is how it is supposed to be, then to regret and heartfelt wisdom. Just because it is how has always been, doesn’t mean that it is how it should be moving forward. We also used to keep slaves, beat our children, and ate cockroaches. We humans can move forward and do things better when we see the error of our ways! We can create a new normal. A new this-is-how-it-should-be. We would never allow an assembly line of shelter dogs, swinging from one leg, having their neck sliced, then being cut open before they were dead, cut up and packaged and put in the store….what are we thinking? Cows and pigs and even chickens are sentient beings. Look into the eyes of any creature and see the life there.
I’m not here to convince you one way or another, I just wanted to tell you about Cuddlewell Mission and how we have arrived here. With land and places for animals. A sanctuary for people and animals. A safe place to commune with nature and not fear for one’s life, and if you are human, maybe have a cup of tea. Yes, this is a mission. We are home.
Ever since I was a small child, I always had the innate sense that time here on this earth is limited. That each day is anew with experiences and exhilarating breath. I feel like I blink and my husband is kissing me goodnight again. These days go fast. Better be living in a way that brings about joy! How do we balance living in the present, moving towards a future that we dream of, and learning from the past?
Let’s start with the past. Okay, great- now let that go. Seriously, the past is filled with learning lessons and decisions that got you where you are now, of bittersweet memories of when the children were little and of people past, and traumatic experiences. Tip your hat at it, close the door on it when things pop up, and then look around you in the here and now. Breathe. Look up. There is simply no time to waste on it.
Present. No time like the present. Several times today, just look up. Look around. Smile. No matter what is going on. Gratitude can get you through anything. It can fortify the best days. Notice the details. There is a breeze kicking up. The mountains look bright against the deep blue sky and the horse across the street is running circles around his house- all muscle and brilliance- to wake his dad, who has apparently forgotten breakfast. I am writing- my favorite occupation and pastime- and, I am afraid, I made my coffee too weak. The kittens are running around the house. All these moments make up a life here. Seemingly minute details of everyday life, each decision we make, moves us towards a life well lived, and affects the future of the next generations. How do you want to live?
In my lowest moments I have often wondered what is the point? If we are just going to be struck down dead at any given time, what is the point of pursuing a new career, or completing a dream, or dreaming at all? We are painting a picture of the new world to come, of life for future generations, for- depending on your beliefs- our own future when we come back to try again.
Each one of us are given a set of lessons to learn here. Every circumstance and coincidence in your life is a means of learning and mastering the lesson. Every passion, every talent, every dream is there on purpose to move you towards and through the lesson and gives you an opportunity to paint a brighter world and future. We are always one step into the future. Already, everything I just wrote is in the past. Let us live moving forward.
I tend to get stuck in the status quo, what always has been done, how things have always been, and figure they are the way to be. But we change, things change, our dreams change, we must morph with it. Even if it doesn’t make sense, or if it doesn’t seem possible, if you have it in your heart, and it feels right to you, then it is good. If you lead with kindness, and lead with love, you cannot go wrong.
My last post prompted me to reanalyze how I am living my life. I do that often, particularly this time of year, as Autumn always seems a good time for contemplating. Ask yourselves the same questions and see where they take you:
How do you feel physically? How do you feel mentally/emotionally? How do you feel spiritually?
Does your work bring you joy? How does it serve others? How does it serve you? (It has to go both ways.)
What are your dreams right now? What are your goals? If you could do anything and not fail, and had ample money to do it, what would you do for work? What would you do for play? What experiences do you want?
What is heavy on your heart?
What are you passionate about?
I tend to look at the past to govern my future, but the things that made me happy before do not do so now. The ways I have lived in the past do not serve me now. So, even if it is difficult, not socially acceptable, or risky, answering these questions helped me paint in my mind what I do want my life to look like. When you paint that in your mind, the universe goes straight to work painting it with you. (So, watch your thoughts and words!)
Using bullet words helps it all come together. Animals. Farming. Herbs. Writing. Health. Homesteading. Family. Vitality. Life. Kindness. In my life now, I don’t feel the need to be a professional herbalist in the ways that I have been. I don’t feel the need to do a lot of things I used to do. My job and life desires have changed, as I have.
Create a new mantra. I do this every year and it really helps me make decisions and move myself to where I want to be. “Never make a decision based on fear” was one year’s. I think my new one will be, “Lead with love and promote life.”
My daughter and I are now working as Doulas. (http://SacredHeartbeatDoulas.com) A new way to use my herbs and my expertise but very different from what I have been doing. I have a great desire to farm, and I can visualize my herb gardens, my vegetables gardens, the orchard, the wild land left untouched so the wild life have a place to be and the wild herbs can flourish, and the animals. But the animals are not going to be for meat and milk. We will rescue some furry farm kids and allow them a life of fun and ease and love. That feels tremendously right to us. I will eat plant based, because I am spiritually, emotionally, and physically healthier when I do. I will continue to write to inspire. My family is the most important aspect of my life. Everything else will be filed under, the past. All of that matches my new year’s mantra;
We loaded up the cat kennel in the Fiat (our urban farm vehicle) and headed hours north. Through our old county, our old town, past our old farmhouse, and down the Kiowa-Bennett road. The prairie is breathtaking even in winter. Golden strands peek through layers of snow as the sun glistens across the vast expanse of country. The western sky a watery blue stretching far and wide. Singing to country music on the radio and a good feeling in our hearts, we drove towards Danzig’s Roost, a rooster and animal Sanctuary in Bennett, Colorado.
Sometimes the carefully protected public get glimpses inside factory farms. What we consider family, humane, free range, and all the other marketing words that help sell meat is all a façade of chicken houses crammed with suffering birds and sometimes people are able to get a peek at those and the whole operation is exposed. The huge chick rescue in northern Colorado this month made the news and raised thousands for resourceful sanctuaries. But then so often apathy returns and people continue their habits. Sad that animals are suffering, but unwilling to omit them from their plate.
We were on our way to take home some of those rescued birds. Chickens are snuggly, sweet, and have all different personalities. One of the chicks we brought home is tiny, fluffy, and sings day and night like she is singing her songs of thanks to the heavens. She doesn’t like to be put down. As it happens, we went to get between four and six birds and ended up with seven, soft, white babies. They are in the guest room. They have every disease you can think of from parasites, E coli, to upper respiratory infections. That is what is in meat. I am treating them with my herbs. So far they are thriving. These lucky few were saved and will live their life here on Pumpkin Hollow Farm dust bathing, getting treats, and sitting in the sun or on our laps.
We are only allowed poultry in Pueblo but one day we will have land where we can take in more animals, save more lives, do what we can. But every life counts.
Jewel Straightedge runs the sanctuary that we picked the chicks up from. She has, what looks to be, hundreds of roosters that she has rescued. Two calves with big, heartbreaking eyes are from the dairy down the road. The little girl fights to live. Darling sheep and goats and geese that clearly know the friend that rescued them all add to the raucous singing of the farm. Turkeys strut about. The wind picks up and turns cold and we hasten our tour.
Jewel and her team rescued over six hundred chicks from the thousands and thousands that were being inhumanely killed and dying without food and water. With the swift turn in weather, we help her chase hundreds of chicks trying to get them back into their warm enclosure. It is every bit as hilarious as it sounds. We are happy as we head back towards home.
(Note: the chickens we rescued ended up dying anyway because they are meat chickens. We still had a bit to learn about that breed! This experience reinforced in us the desire to buy from friends who have small farms or raise our own.)