Visiting Avalo

I recently took a much-needed trip to my best friend’s farm – what a departure from the nuttiness around here! Avalo Cat Sanctuary is an official non-Profit (501c3) created to “make the world a better place for Cats through Care , Compassion and Companionship.” Animal lovers of any ilk will appreciate that foundation. ❤

Avalo’s goal is simple:

To be the best guardians possible for domesticated hybrids and small
exotic felines that have particular needs, require medical attention or
can not stay with their human guardian for whatever reason.

I’ve mentioned Avalo before...a few times…and I no doubt will again – it is, always has been, and always will be my second home.  The one place I can actually sleep better than when I AM home (which, for me, is incredibly noteworthy!)  

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Kemisi’s enclosure (outdoor portion)

My friend Michelle is hands down one of the most amazing people I have ever met – she would feed any of her 114 cats, or 13 horses, before feeding herself…and, minus her husband a student or two, she does this by herself!  (She also teaches Parelli Natural Horsemanship, at which she naturally excels, hence the horses!)  

While I have no knowledge of the goings on (regarding horsemanship) myself, I am a former competitive figure skater, a competitive ballroom dancer, classically trained / performing ballerina, and a current martial artist and lifter – so I can see the difference(s) a mile away.  I see her with her students, and I see her with her horses – it is like watching a dance. 

She has no idea that I’m writing about her, by the way…she would never ask.  Michelle and I are the kind of people who don’t like pushy individuals – neither of us can stand proselytizing, imposition, or sycophants.  But I like to share what she is doing because it is truly, sincerely, AMAZING.  And I just had the fortune to be there – at a time when I REALLY needed a break.  

Avalo is home to my beautiful F1 Chausie, Kemisi – as mentioned in other posts, I had to rehome her (to my great devastation) along with my male, Khonsu, some years ago.  My career in Fashion was soaring…but the more-and-more frequent trips to China were frankly painful for my felines – they wouldn’t eat, they’d get depressed and lethargic…it was awful.

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The process of finding the RIGHT guardian(s) was arduous, felt nigh impossible, and is far too complicated to get into here… But let’s just say, Michelle was the light at the end of my tunnel!  

Khonsu and Kemisi have an indoor and outdoor enclosure that Michelle and her wonderful husband, Steve, put together.  We worked on the outside, which was emotional and fulfilling at the same time – it is a perfect space for them and, minus a few large Southern spiders, I LOVE hanging out in there! 😀

My little man would have been ten and a half – he passed in September last year.  Kemisi is also ten and a half, and I was overjoyed to see her – she looks as beautiful as ever.  The wonderful thing about the outdoor portion – at Avalo – is that there aren’t just snazzy little bugs flying about, or varying weather to sniff at… There are tons of cats running about!  While she is never particularly thrilled – Kemisi always was a bit territorial! – she loves to see who’s running by, and what antics are taking place in neighboring enclosures (with other Chausies and Jungle Cats), or with the outdoor “kids” as they fly by.  

I managed to hose down my iPhone while filling Kemisi’s fish pond (fear not, she never troubles the fish, but rather prefers to drink from a pond than a bowl! 😉 ) But in a way, having less connection and down time was a GREAT thing! I have always been a believer that time in Nature is one of the most rejuvenating things a person can do for him or herself – no devices, no social media…just good friends, quiet time, animals…and the natural world around us.  It isn’t only for us Empaths and energy people either – I sincerely believe ALL human beings need that “down time.”

I scheduled a bunch a posts prior to leaving…enough to carry me a day or two after I got back.  Technology allows us to stay on top of the more hectic Life of 2015, if absolutely necessary…but we can do that without taking away from our recharge time.

Owning and maintaining a farm is HARD work, but for Michelle, taking care of all those animals is her “peaceful time.”  Cats are sent to her because they have behavioral issues, injuries that others would euthanize over (I’m sorry, but the handful of three-legged cats around?  They are having a BALL – loving Life, enjoying their surroundings, and managing just as well as the others!!)  

She also has more hybrids, like my babies, some of whom are larger and unhandleable (There are Asian Leopard Cats, a Serval, a Caraval, Bengals, and other Chausies, as well as a feral cat or two.) But for her, it is a joy – to know she has touched the lives of those animals, and been a guardian to them for whatever time they have, is the biggest gift in the world.  

Avalo is a Sanctuary not only for the animals there…but for her…for me…for anyone blessed to spend time there.  

And blessed is exactly how I feel when I am there.  ❤

 

 

A Good Laugh!

I’m going away for a few days to see my best friend (who really is more like my sister!), and my beautiful F1 Chausie, Kemisi who lives on her farm,  Avalo Cat Sanctuary.  ❤

It’s been a tough week, and I have a TON on my plate…so it’s a much-needed getaway.  And the thing about Avalo is that it is, without question, the ONE place I have EVER gone that gives me a total, all-encompassing sense of peace.  

When I’m there, my spirit, my heart, my soul…can just BE.  It was that way from the first time I stepped foot on that soil, and it’s never changed.  

Part of it is being with people I call family.  Part is being surrounded by Nature, in the company of over 100 animals. And part of it is because of the way we laugh.

Utter nonsense and tomfoolery will have our sides in stitches!  I get a solid abdominal workout on a regular basis down there from the sheer laughter alone! Whether the result of cat puffing and hopping sideways (you know how threatening the movement of a household, inanimate object can be!)…or I “levitated off my horse” to avoid wearing a spider (AND it’s web) as a chest plate…there is always something to be snickering about.

Kemisi, not to ally sure what's taking place, and flattening her ears - not MEANT to be cute of funny, but she's too precious not to smile at!

Kemisi, not to ally sure what’s taking place, and flattening her ears – not MEANT to be cute of funny, but she’s too precious not to smile at!

And that’s the point.  There is NOTHING better than a good, hearty laugh.  I maintain that we all take time to giggle, or guffaw, as much as possible!

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I was speaking to my Cranial Sacral teacher today – also a best friend, and my mentor in many ways.  We’ve worked together doing Alexander Technique, Cranial Sacral, and Somatic work for probably over a decade now – he’s phenomenally gifted, remarkably attuned, and incredibly down to earth.  

In our discussion today I said…“I sometimes forget just how much of a whirlwind my Life has been over the last 20 years!  I’ve been in a constant ‘crisis mode’ of varying degrees and I’m not sure I have had a chance to catch my breath…or make sense of it…until NOW!”  

We spoke at length about the challenges and growth of the last many years, some of which were incredibly painful and impactful…and along the way, we laughed.  Not just kind of, sort of…but really LAUGHED.

Certainly not AT the experiences I’ve had – because those don’t deserve to be diminished, nor (ever) brushed under the allegorical carpet.

But we laughed just because.

We laughed in honor of recovery, accomplishments, new horizons…

We laughed when doing exercises – some of which I recalled tough memories and purposefully sqwunched up my face, and bared my “claws” in response to them.  Directed at the poor skeleton on the Human Body poster on the wall, no less.  “He can take it!” Vincent said as I giggled and sqwunched again.

And as we laughed, my heart lightened even more.

It’s been a long and arduous journey in many ways – with the kind of injuries that aren’t visible, especially when you are always the smiling, happy, or “tough” one.

But laughter has never, ever failed me…and it never will.  

I (much to their chagrin) sometimes video my father and my hunnie with my phone.  I KNOW they don’t like it…but as I always say, “when I’m sad, or having a really rough day…I pull them up, and watch…and LAUGH…and everything is better.”

And I mean it.

Everything is ALWAYS better when you laugh.

Even just a little.

One giggle won’t part the seas…but it WILL part the clouds.  And once that happens?  The sun sees the opening. ❤

Laugh on.

XX ❤ X

 

 

Animal Kingdom

When I was a little girl I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up…  Some children said “fireman!”  Some said “my mom!”  Others said “ballerina,” or “hockey player.”

I said I wanted to be a watersnake.

Yes, you read that correctly… A watersnake

I was born a dancer . . . a child who loved movement so much that it became the predominate “language” by which I could express myself.  Watching the deliberate and dodgy flight of a bird, the calculated gaze of a feline, or the way a snake would gracefully…silently…maneuver through a sylvan stream…was, to me, as a flat screen would be to a child today.  You couldn’t pull me away.

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I was born and Empath and an intuitive . . . a child who saw the World through a broader, infinitely magical lens, behind which the nuances of the animal kingdom were felt…not only seen.  I wouldn’t only see a mother feeding her babies…but I’d feel a sense of devoted nurturing.  I wouldn’t see two animals fight over territory or food, but feel a sense of power, and final sovereignty and submission.  Those things were palpable.

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I was positively captivated.  

Paralyzed by the beauty, inspired by the strength and perseverance, I was born with unmeditated love for animals as far back as I remember.

One of my dearest friends – truly a sister – manages a beautiful farm in Aiken, South Carolina.  Avalo Farm and Cat Sanctuary are home to at least 100 felines, several German Shepards (and, at one time, eight puppies!), a dozen horses, chickens, hens…and rather a lot of aquatic life! 

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Michelle deserves her own post altogether (and I have mentioned her in the past) – she touched my heart from the first moment we exchanged words, and now cares for my gorgeous baby girl, Kemisi, an F1 Chausie.  Michelle is the epitome of an “animal person.”  Every aspect of her Life is shaped by these beautiful creatures…the reward for which is only their love.  For her, that is enough.  

The love of an animal, ANY animal, and particularly one who is feral, is a gift beyond words.  

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If an animal has a “tiff” with you…you have a few moments of working it out and then it’s over.  (Kemisi and I had countless staredowns!  I’d not recommend it, particularly with a Chausie, but communication for us was an artform! Her averted eyes let me know that we could move on.) 

If an animal is hungry, it will let you know, and it will eat as it needs to.  

If an animal doesn’t feel well, it will often remain stouthearted…even heroic.  It will manage itself and do what it has to.  

If one of the clan is threatened, the others will rise up in its stead. Mankind could learn a great deal, the way I see it…myself very much included!  

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After going through quite a bit of trauma in my early 20’s, I had the opportunity to become the guardians of two extraordinary wild felines – Kemisi and Khonsu were only a few weeks when they came to me, and we were inseparable – loves of my Life. ❤ The gifts I received from the blessing of their love and friendship is well beyond measure… 

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The devotion, the compassion, the lessons about my own nature, and about theirs…these two impacted my Life far more than I’d have ever dreamed.

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My two precious rescues, whom I currently have the fortune to love, have been a beacon of hope and light in their own ways.  In truth, I’m not sure how I lived so long without animals in my home – it was a difficult few years…and lonely in such a way that only an animal’s presence could alter it. 

I’d find myself talking walks, periodically…listening to the songs in the trees above me, the silly, playful pants of dogs running in the park…even the symphony of crickets in the Night.  Anything to be around Nature…and to be exposed to the Life it bears, meant so much.

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There’s something about the animal kingdom that flares my alexithymia… I literally have no words to describe the majesty of what it offers humankind.  Even if owning a pet isn’t possible...being outside and truly noticing the sounds, perceiving the movements, basking in the splendor of the creatures around you…and really FEELING all surrounding it…will enrich Life like you cannot imagine.  

 

My Ninjas and My Samurai…

So I was going through a LOT last year.  A. LOT.  It tore me apart and broke me down and I was, frankly, a total mess.  Couldn’t leave my apartment without having a total, bawling-mess meltdown!  In somewhat a desperation, I went to visit a dear friend of mine – truly, like a sister – who I hadn’t seen in FAR, FAR too long.  Her home was, and always will be, a home-away-from-home…something I’ve never found elsewhere in my Life.  I get there and it is instantaneous PEACE.

Many years ago I was suffering through something almost as painful – a situation that resulted in two eating disorders and severe PTSD – ugly, painful, TERRIFYING…nearly lethal.  Fortunately, through some serious determination, discipline, support around me, and a silver “brass knuckle” that I wore around my neck every day…I fought through it, and came out stronger and healthy. ❤

But I am still firm in that the two cats I adopted were my truest Life-savers…because there was nothing easy about it, and they gave me one more reason to Live and love.  They weren’t “typical” in ANY way, and definitely not for the faint of heart – they were melanistic F1 Chausies…and the most beautiful animals in the World to me (saying a lot because I am a HUGGGE animal lover.) ❤  They also happened to be NINJAS on the HIGHEST level…not just in spying, but doing “ninja things!”  I’d catch glowing eyes in the dark often! 😀

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They grew up with me as “mom”…and it was a love story from day one.  

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But then my Fashion career picked up, and Life got crazier and crazier… Trips to China were longer and more frequent…and my “babies” just weren’t doing well…at ALL.  Deciding to find them a new and permanent home…at 5 years old…was EXTREMELY painful…but I couldn’t bear to leave them for those trips – no one could replace me while I was away on business, and I knew I had to do the best thing…for THEM. Loving an animal is the most extreme exercise in selflessness.

Between searching, and interviewing, and corresponding, and MORE researching…I was beside myself.  I prayed every Night to find them a good and loving home.  I didn’t want money.  I didn’t want ANYTHING.  I wanted them safe and happy.  I knew it wasn’t going to be easy…for any of us.

By some great fortune, for which I am still so utterly grateful (there are NO words!), a woman named Michelle caught wind of my scenario.  I was adamant that the new owners had NO pets and NO children.  She sent me an e-mail to say she DID have many pets…  In fact…MANY.  But she took the time to write one of the most loving and thorough and THOUGHTFUL e-mails I have ever gotten. ❤  This was about 4 years ago and I am getting goosebumps as I write this now.  The moment I read her first e-mail, I knew.  I connected with her all that time ago and have loved her, and her husband, and her “family” of animals since.

Michelle manages her farm, teaches Natural Horesmanship, and runs a formal non-profit Cat SanctuaryAvalo Cat Sanctuary – in Wagener, South Carolina.  https://www.facebook.com/AvaloCatSanctuary http://www.avalocatsanctuary.com.  She has about 100 cats, a dozen or so horses, chickens, hens, and about four German Shepards.  The woman is AMAZING.

So she made a beautiful enclosure – indoor and outdoor – for my babies…and they have lived their since.  My male passed away in September of last year – we were both devastated – but my female is there, and as gorgeous as ever.  Going down there gave me time with her, and time to try to pull myself together.

In the meantime…a beautiful black male was rescued – he was as sweet as could be but…as a melanistic feline, everyone assumed he was “bad luck.”  Fortunately a friend of Michelle’s kept him safe!  He was adopted…and then returned…because he was melanistic (can you even IMAGINE?!)  

MY fortune, because Michelle said…amid my tears…“why don’t you get a KITTEN!?!”  I hadn’t even PONDERED it because I was such a wreck over rehoming my babies year before… But I thought about it… And I decided it was a GREAT IDEA.  

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I went home, bought some supplies and was ready to bring home a new baby boy.  In the meantime, a SECOND melanistic domestic male was rescued!  He and the one I was bringing home got along FAMOUSLY.  It was FATE!

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A few short weeks later, I came home with two baby boys – six and seven months old.  I’m not entirely sure what I would do without them – they make me giggle, and bring such joy to my home.  They are the sweetest, most wonderful boys…and they also happen to LOVE Martial Arts.  Musashi (my Samurai) likes to Aikido roll over all the toys, his brother, and even the laser dot.  And Keku (my Ninja) is as sweet as can be, and SUPER stealthy with food.

I feel so blessed.  I would never be where I am had I not brought them home.  Animals are such amazing treasures and I cannot imagine Life without them – everything seems so much brighter when they are around.  EVEN when causing trouble!