This is Rue:
She was named after a character in The Hunger Games and sometimes goes by the alias, “Rue-Rue.” She 11 years old and weighs 8 pounds, 2 ounces. As she’s gotten older, she’s had seven teeth pulled. She also has a “collapsing larynx,” meaning she often snores. But she doesn’t seem to lament her fate, or question why she’s here. She makes the best of each day.
This is Sita:
Aliases include “Sita-Ram” and “Ram-Stine.” She’s 12 years old and weighs 69 pounds, 8 ounces. She now struggles when she gets up in the morning due to arthritis, and her right eye is partially closed. But she doesn’t seem to lament her fate, or question why she is here. She makes the best of each day.
This is one of the “Unicorn Tapestries”:
It’s about 520 years old, and currently lives in New York at the Cloisters Museum. I don’t know how much it weighs. There are many opinions about what it means.
The first time I saw it was in the office of a long-time friend and Jungian therapist whom I would visit when facing important decisions. We’d explore my dreams to understand what was going on within me, and we shared an appreciation for spirituality, myths, symbols and metaphors.
Her office was in downtown Santa Barbara. One day I came for my appointment, saw her door was open, and went in. She was busy finishing something at her desk and invited me to take a seat. As I sat there, I looked around her office. I noticed the print of the unicorn tapestry on her wall. I was curious why it was there.
She finished making her notes and came to sit across from me. I asked her about it.
“It’s a famous image from the Middle Ages,” she said. “Some say the unicorn represents the experience of being alive. Our soul instinctively feels like we are magical creatures and should be free to travel anywhere and do anything. But the corral keeps us constrained in a space that seems too small, like the limitations of our physical body. The question is: do we resent the limitation? Or do we accept it as part of being an incarnated spirit?”
I purchased my own copy of the “Unicorn Tapestry” and had it framed. It was on the wall of my office at La Casa de Maria Retreat Center when the 2018 debris flow swept it away, along with the entire building. But I still think about it.
Do you ever feel like the unicorn? Within yourself you sense your soul, your spirit — an awareness of being alive and unique that you first felt in childhood? At times you delight in the freedom your spirit has to dream, to explore, to create – to be like a magical creature.
But then there’s this body, and the limitations of life. Sometimes this body is a delight of its own as we experience so many wonderful things through our senses. But other times our body seems to work against us. We get sick. We get injured. We age. We don’t belong in this corral!
There have been at least two ways to look at this in spiritual traditions.
Some have held that physical existence is a curse. We are born into “original sin,” and deserve to suffer whatever befalls us. Years ago, there was a funeral in our town for a young man who had died tragically. The priest said, “God could have saved him. But why? Who wants to live in this world of sin?”
Other traditions hold that suffering and limitations are not a form of divine punishment, but simply a natural aspect of being biological creatures. Why we are here, where our awareness comes from, and where we are ultimately headed is a great mystery. But if we try to fathom all the amazing processes which make it possible to simply be alive, how can we not say life is “a marvelous work and a wonder?”
This is me:
I’m 69 years old and decline to give my weight. On my bathroom shelf are two 7-day pill containers – one for the morning, one for the night – to help me remember to take my medications. I sometimes don’t recognize myself in the mirror. I often wish I was younger and could do activities I used to take for granted. I’ve seen some terrible tragedies in my life that still haunt me, and have abiding respect for people who have endured great heartbreaks, limitations and loss.
This is me with our new granddaughter, Selah Rose:
I’m holding her in my lap on Christmas day. She’s 3 weeks old. She weighed 6 pounds, 6 ounces when she was born.
I don’t know how I’ve made it this far, and don’t know how much longer I’ve got. But when she held my finger as she slept, I was reminded what a miracle it is for all of us to be alive. And to make the best of each day.