Last Sunday towards evening it rained and thundered.
A community cat crouched at the entrance of a bank for shelter. The lashing rain and swaying branches must have been a fearful experience for the one-eyed black & white feline.
A few steps from her by the pillar was a cardboard box, a bowl of water and a bowl of kibbles. This cat has a feeder.
But for a frightened cat in the midst of a thunder storm, the short distance from where she was to her cardboard refuge might as well have been from Jurong to Changi Airport.
Any attempt on my part to comfort her by stroking her might stress her even more because I was a stranger.
So I dedicated a prayer for her well being before I walked on. I knew I wouldn’t be of much help hovering over her in the only spot that she felt safe in. And the last thing I wanted was for her to dash into the rain to avoid me.
After moving away from the cat, I paused at a shop by the cardboard box to look at their window display.
A while later, a man emerged from the shop. He went to the fearful feline who was still immobilized at the bank entrance.
With a few gentle words, he managed to coax her to get up and scurry to her cardboard shelter which happened to fit her snugly. It even had a flap to shield her from curious eyes.
I moved on, very grateful that my wish was granted even if it was a coincidence.
Yesterday at pre-dawn a dog appeared in my friend’s dream. It was a longish dog with light fur.
Not having much contact with animals, my friend’s default reaction at seeing the creature was fear. But the dog approached my friend calmly and brushed his face gently against his back. Upon this contact, the dreamer woke up. The time was 4.15am.
My friend tried going back to sleep but couldn’t.
What could this dog mean? He was puzzled. He hadn’t been thinking about dogs or any animal
But the peace he felt at the encounter both intrigued him and contradicted how he had been taught to view dogs as a threat.
And since sleep was no longer possible, my friend decided to perform his morning prayers, and included the welfare of animal beings in his supplication this time.
It then dawned on him that the canine that came to nuzzle him in his dream and got him to get up & pray at 4.45am was Shoya, my dog that had passed away in 2014!
As my friend didn’t want to read too much into a dream, Shoya or otherwise, he tried to shrug the dog off.
But throughout the day at work, the dream dog remained in his mind.
So on his drive home he decided to tell me about the dream. He was also wondering if he was just being overly sentimental.
But what my friend didn’t know prior to sharing this dream with me was that in about a week’s time, it’s Shoya’s 5th Anniversary (8th Dec).
And for the past two weeks, by way of blessing my departed dog, I’ve been putting Shoya’s picture in the gentle morning light streaming through the window.
Also of late I’ve been looking at pictures of Shoya with this friend that was taken on the morning of Hari Raya 2013. That was also the year Shoya was diagnosed with a liver tumor. My friend had come straight from the mosque after morning prayers to bless him.
For someone who knows little about dog care, my friend has certainly done more than his share at critical moments.
And yesterday being Friday, Shoya could have visited his benefactor in a dream to thank him for his kindness, and to assure his mama that the physical forms will decay, but all prayers and gestures of love will stay.
I first learnt of Barry Lopez maybe 10-15 years ago while reading up on issues related to animals & conservation. At that time I was trying to read “Of Wolves and Men” by him but somehow his language eluded me.
But still, each time I visit a bookshop, his name would catch my eye and I would find myself saying an inward hello.
The day after this new moon, an interview of Barry Lopez by Vincent J Miller popped up on my FB feed. So I read it, counting on the fact that words from an interview might be more accessible to me.
It was a long interview called “The Literary Landscape of Barry Lopez.” And every word from him felt like God speaking to me!
After I recovered from the near spiritual experience, I felt compelled to share Lopez’s interview with two friends. One is still on his pilgrimage at La Verna where St Francis of Assisi received his Stigmata and the other will be taking a retreat in a Cistercian Monastery two days after I leave for Nepal.
The La Verna pilgrim texted back to say he would be drawing on Lopez’s interview to close his journey.
The Cistercian pilgrim thanked me for the share and he’ll be reading the interview as part of his preparation for the retreat.
Their responses rekindled my courage to read Lopez, especially now that his new book “Horizon” was available at the Jurong East Regional Library.
I was completing some errands at Clementi Mall when the thought of borrowing “Horizon” came. I resisted the urge to make a reservation and told myself if I was meant to read it, it would still be there by the time I took the train and walked to the library.
When I got to the library, I looked up “Horizon” on their online catalogue & noted its call number on paper.
As I was walking to the lift and trying to visualise where the shelf that held “Horizon” might be, I asked a library staff for direction.
“You just take a seat & wait here, I’ll bring you the book,” the young lady offered enthusiastically!
In no time time she was back. She smiled triumphantly as she placed a beautiful blue book in my hands.
When I opened the book, the first thing that greeted my eyes was a painting with the Himalayan Mountains as its backdrop. The painting, known as “Remember,” was by Nicholas Roerich, who spent time among the Himalayas.
I’m heading for Nepal in a weeks’ time and I couldn’t have hoped for a more suitable book to begin this trip.
And this whole experience feels that forces beyond my understanding were collaborating to assist my learning.
So I wish for everyone the grace to remember past aspirations & the faith & patience to wait for the alignment of causes & conditions to bring their aspirations to fruition.
A couple of days back I was in the Lavender Street area after attending the wake of a pioneer street animal rescuer.
She had served the needs of homeless and dying animals faithfully even as she knew her life was ending. It’s now time for her to rest and let someone continue The Work.
At the traffic light junction outside the funeral parlour I asked a young lady in her late twenties if the way I was headed led to an MRT station.
She cheerfully offered to walk with me as she was also going in the same direction.
It turned out that she was learning to travel alone for the first time in her life. She had picked Singapore to be the first country for her solo practice and appreciated the predictability and order of our little island.
In her 4 days’ stay here she had memorised the MRT map and even knew I was living on the west of Singapore when I mentioned Jurong East. 😊
Solo Girl’s family has 7 dogs and care for a number of street cats. Her eyes opened wide in a mixture of horror and relief when I gave her the real reasons why unlike in her home country, she didn’t see any stray dogs or cats roaming Singapore streets.
I was to alight at Chinatown Point and she at Bugis Junction. Before we parted, Solo Girl asked me if I had any children. And when I told her I never married and never had any kids, she smiled warmly while her eyes lit up in amazement.
I believe this had to be the first time in my life that the mention of my unmarried and child free status solicited such looks of admiration! 😄
Solo Girl revealed that she felt very pressured to get married by her family and community. People told her that happiness could only come from being married and having children. She was getting a little stressed as she neared 30 and all her friends were settling down.
“Your family wants you to be happy and to them getting married and having kids is happiness. And because you’re such a pleasant girl, they cannot imagine you being alone. But it’s precisely because you’re such a lovely girl, you shouldn’t just marry anybody out of pressure,” I said, and we both laughed heartily at my touch of theatrics as I shared my opinion.
The tourist couple seated opposite us smiled. They could be wondering what kind of joke these two women from different races and generations were sharing.
Solo Girl was still laughing when I wished her a life of happiness on her own terms as I alighted the train.
In hindsight, Solo Girl’s short stay in Singapore might not be about sightseeing or shopping. It could have been a brief respite to recalibrate her emotions and clear her thoughts from gossips back home.
Maybe our meet up outside a funeral parlour of all places is a reminder for me to take responsibility for the choices I make, even if I have to make them alone.
Yesterday afternoon I took a quick picture of the building that used to house the photo studio in which my parent had their wedding pictures taken over half a century ago.
It was the cheapest studio that my 25-year-old dad and 20-year-old mom could afford at that time.
My mom is now a grandmother with grown up grandkids. But still she has the habit of pointing out the now non-existent studio along Outram Road that took her picture when she was a young lady.
It pleases her to be reminded that the cheap studio has given her some really good pictures that have lasted all these years. 😄
And so when we look back on the past, be it through a building, or a picture, it’s not about trying to hold onto youth or to find fault, but it’s more about understanding our circumstances so that we can set the past free to merge with our collective sacred memory that inspires further journeys.