Category Archives: Rural Living

Nika’s Dream

Nika curled in the cave. Although the darkness covered her, she had images in her pack memory. She wrestled with her brothers and sisters in her whelp. She nursed from her momma; nursing was always so safe and happy. Outside of herself, even in her sleep she whimpered and gnawed her own paw when her jaw didn’t throb.

She flashed back to a sunny spring day. Her momma was licking her fur, behind the ears first, then down her back. Nika had her eyes closed, and she thought momma had stopped licking. Just as she was about to yip at her momma, another tongue took over.

It was rougher and the smell was more male. It was strong, really strong. She peeked through a half-opened eyelid, and she almost yelped away in surprise. It was her momma’s daddy. He led the whole pack. He’d done it for years.

He was doing something usually only females did. His tongue, though strong, was as gentle as a female’s. As he finished between her ears and down her spine, he howled. It wasn’t the calling howl; it was the howl of an alpha who just won a big fight.

She didn’t understand, so she closed her eyes. The image faded, and she whimpered as the cold set in. She stretched and rolled, trying to bat at her sore jaw again, then she curled up and continued to sleep.

She started to feel like she was being licked, but in the wrong direction. It started at her tail and worked toward her ears. She hated it, but it was a strong tongue like her momma’s daddy. She whimpered in surprise as the tongue went down her snout and then back up to the eye and down the jaw, first the good side, then the sore side.

Nika was happy and afraid all at once. Happy that she felt like a young pup always cared for with no jobs to do and scared of who or what might be licking her. As the tongue kept licking the sore jaw, she sniffed. It was an alpha male, a really strong alpha male, stronger than her momma’s daddy. He smelled like nothing she’d ever smelled before.

As he went back along her snout and between the ears, she peeked. It was an alpha male, but he was pure white with pink eyes. She tried to control her shock so she wouldn’t give herself away. The old stories had a white alpha who put himself in the way of a lion to protect the first pack; he died and the pack lived. Sometimes, the pack and its pups thought they had seen him. But no wolf like that ever survived very long these days.

As he licked down her back, she rolled over to submit to him. He was gone. She felt loved and safe, but also scared that something had come into her safe cave. As she stretched and went to look out the mouth of the cave, she realized her jaw didn’t hurt anymore. She had no pain. She felt almost like a new pup.

After sniffing the air and looking around the cave and its mouth, she curled up again. She didn’t know if the white wolf was real, but she no longer hurt. She curled up again, feeling peaceful. True darkness again overtook her.


Nika’s Darkness

Author’s Note: A while back, I was researching a topic loved by my daughter who wants to train dogs. I must’ve gotten lost because I found myself watching videos in another language (Farsi, Ukranian, Mongolian — it doesn’t matter) of dogs just this side of wolf that shepherds in rural desolation had fighting things larger than those dogs . That session inspired this piece.

Nika shook, sniffed the air, and bolted without tripping over her tail for the little cave she used to share with the pack.

She was confused. She could follow leaders, but it was four-leggeds not two-leggeds.

Inside the cave, she curled like she used to when her mom was caring for the brothers and sisters in her litter. She tried to make her tongue reach where she ached, but it could never reach the jaw leading back to the base of her ear.

She didn’t understand the two-legged. She’d howled and snarled, trying to warn him that her former packmates though still her friends were scenting on his dumb sheep. She pawed at the place they’d marked near the flock so they could find it during lambing.

Nika stretched, began to roll in the dark dirt, and bat her sore jaw with her paws.

He did not understand, and he kept barking those two-legged sounds. They were painful to hear, and she didn’t understand. She smelled that two-legged angry scent. Most two-leggeds walk away when they get like this. But this one… she marked as she rolled while seeing his image in her pack memory, then she shook and curled whelp-style.

She was confused. Some of her kind ran with the pack, and some of her kind stayed with the two-leggeds and their dumb sheep.

She didn’t understand why two-leggeds loved sheep. The sheep couldn’t find food, couldn’t smell danger, couldn’t even stay out of danger. They don’t even play. Admittedly, the sheep do taste good when the two-leggeds give food.

She wanted in the pack that served the two-legged. Usually, he was good about feeding and watering them and getting them to run again when they’re sick. So she couldn’t understand when he started pointing that long branch at her what he was going to do. For the others, he threw it for them to find and bring. For her, he whacked her with it.

Nika stretched again, whimpering. She didn’t know what to do.

Should she go back to her old pack? They were rough and tumble. They did kind of smell awful. And sometimes food wasn’t there.

Should she crawl back to the two-legged and try again? His pack was somewhat older, and they needed new members. Dumb sheep usually mean the food is good. Maybe he’s not a bad leader. Maybe he’s just not used to how her pack runs.

Nika curled up again, and true darkness overtook her. She was alone and confused without a good leader. Sleep in a place hidden from dangerous predators was good food.

Community… the double-edged sword?

I’ve been doing a Bible study at my husband’s church. We’re studying the concept of community–what it is and isn’t, how to achieve it, how to fix it when it’s broken. We’re not very far along.

Already, I am having the inward waves of physical reaction to some bizarre form of reverse, quasi cognitive dissonance. I would say 80% of the members think community is a good thing. I with a handful of others are in the minority who aren’t quite there yet.

I don’t know why the others in the group are in the minority. I believe I’m there because I see it as a tool, a morally neutral tool. It depends on how that tool is used and the motive behind the tool usage.

For example, an ax is a morally neutral tool. In the hand of a firefighter, the ax is a good because the human is using it to save lives and prevent destruction of property. The ax would be an evil in the hands of Lizzie Borden… you can see where I’m headed.

I have seen how community can be immoral.

Look at the southerners who looked the other way as the KKK terrorized African Americans, Jews, Catholics, and anyone else who didn’t fit their (distorted) view of what an ideal reality would look like.

Look at the German people in WWII who turned away as the Jews were rounded up into ghettos and as Jews, Catholics, homosexuals, the mentally ill, and the disabled were sent to the gas chambers that caused an impure human ash snowfall.

Look at the Americans who turned a blind eye to the way the government treated Native Americans during Manifest Destiny or Japanese Americans at the beginning of WWII.

But I have seen how community can be a great benefit.

I have seen suburban communities do benefits to support wounded veterans. People make homemade baked goods that get sold to the crowd that doesn’t cook. Others share their talents in a public forum while a bucket gets passed; attendees empty their wallets of bills large and small. Sometimes, people may even give new or gently used goods to be distributed.

I have seen rural communities unite in ways they never thought possible. A while back, a local family had lost a huge number of children in a fire. They needed money to rebuild, clothes to replace what had burned, and comfort for empty arms and quiet ears. Churches and community groups took collections.

It was even rumored that westboro baptist “church” was going to picket. I don’t know if the rumor was true. I couldn’t see how anyone could be that cruel in the death of children to claim it was the “judgment of god.” (Yes, I am not capitalizing certain words and I am using punctuation–writer’s privilege and the only way I can cognitively survive getting through that story.)

But I digress… The entire county even made provision for the possibility of truth in rumor (or God used the people to provide for the family). We couldn’t legally keep them out, so we just threw up a love wall. Bikers lined the path to the country church. Other people showed up to pay respects and show support. Yet others just prayed from home.

Sorry, I avoid cities like the plague (I am truly a child of my earthly father 😉 ), so I can’t give you urban examples. However, I would assume soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and women’s shelters would be some good examples of community as a moral good in an urban setting.

So, like an ax, community and participation in community is a tool. We can wield it for encouragement or destruction.

Choose wisely, young grasshopper.


TKs and PKs (Birds of a Feather?)

I grew up as a TK (teacher’s kid) in a small community.

In some ways, small communities are great. You know your neighbors. You look out for each other. You take care of each other.

There is a darker side. Some seem to not have enough of their own lives to manage, so they busily try to manage others’ lives. Some don’t seem to have enough interesting reading or viewing material so they watch everyone else and report on it.

It was worse as a TK.

On the bright side, most people look out for you out of respect for the teacher in the family. Most people will keep an eye on you and give a well-timed word of advice.

But the clueless minority in the dark can make life… rather, well… interesting. I would almost equate it to a fish bowl.

I couldn’t catch the pond bug on my own without someone telling the teacher. I’m glad the conversation was positive, but it would have been nice to be able to brag on myself a bit.

Nor could I knock over the swimming diver without someone immediately running to the teacher to report on my misdeeds. Yes, lying is wrong, but it might have been nice to do the usual teenage thing and dabble in a little deceit to have the experience even if I never chose to use it.

And the aerator would start really throwing off lots of air bubbles and rattling the fishbowl if the teacher did something considered out of character. It was once reported to the non-teacher that the teacher was transporting people of the wrong gender and reputation. Oh, to have the mental prowess of the non-teacher who offered to have the teacher pick the glubbing little fishes up for prayer meeting on the way!

And I can’t count the number of times it was reported to me, a mere child who could change nothing, that the teacher flopped the wrong way in the fishbowl or wiggled a tail the wrong way or bubbled too fast or too slow.

And let’s not talk about the fact that no one seems to remember your name. Yes, I have a name. It would be nice for it to be remembered and used in real life. I love my teacher and non-teacher parent; I love my siblings; I love my kids. BUT I love me enough to want to be known as an individual. Assimilation is futile, and resistance is everything 😉

It wasn’t until I was much older that I started to think about what fun I could have had. For $10, I could have rocked the fishbowl. I could have bought a wild outfit at Goodwill and looked so Rom Gypsy that gulps would have been had. I could have danced in that outfit while I got gas and played “I spy” through the car windows with my kids. I could have thrown on a cowboy hat and sunglasses and pranced through town. The water in that fishbowl would definitely have stirred.

But I digress…

In reality, when I got older, I started to watch for other people to have signs of mental distress from too much time in the fishbowl. And more often than not, it was the PKs (pastor’s/preacher’s kids) that were even worse off.

In addition to the fishbowl standards, every Tom, Dick, and Harry knew the parent was a preacher/pastor. Bible verses would fly almost as quick and thick as the gossip if the PK wasn’t perfectly perfect. The glubbing would get so fast and furious you had to wonder if someone didn’t spike the water supply with caffeine.

And most of the PKs I knew did throughout my life one of two things:

  • Survive by flopping out of the fishbowl into another fishbowl, aquarium, or pond that had more nourishment for their system
  • Create such a stir through unwise choices that they flopped out and had to flop back in to survive, then serve as the source of glubbing and tail-swishing for the others in the fishbowl

So, if you’re a teacher or preacher, please consider not living in the same community you serve. It may mean a longer commute or a little more family disunity during the teenage years, but it will give your child the opportunity to be more of an individual and less in the spotlight.

And if you’re a TK or PK, and you see me staring–that’s my fishy way of telling you I see you, and I’m here. We’ve had our feathers rubbed the wrong way for so long by the current in the fishbowl that we might as well just flock together. Come on over and introduce yourself because I’m sure the fishbowl stories don’t do you justice!