The rain today is a welcome respite from the scorching heat that had weakened my resolve to walk to the nearby shops to get flowers and snacks for this Vesak Day weekend. 😄
A gentle breeze in the on off drizzle this morning gave me the courage to sally forth.
It’s the first day of June, make it memorable. Don’t waste the beautiful weather. So I asked my brother to join me for a meal.
In the spacious heartland coffee shop, two grey haired siblings had an ordinary but hearty meal, like they used to in their primary school days.
After that we stopped by the young hindu florist to pick up fresh jasmine garlands, and flowers for the gods. And for the humans visiting my home tomorrow, I got them cakes and pineapple tarts from the happy muslim baker. ❤️
It was Buddha’s birthday. All the 12 zodiac animals were invited. Everyone was punctual, except Rabbit. It turned out that on his way to Buddha’s party, Rabbit stopped for someone who was sick and gave him medicine. Hence the delay.
For his deed, Rabbit now lives on the Moon where he assists the Moon Goddess to prepare medicines & elixirs of longevity.
The above is one of the stories that my dad told me on nights when we sat under the full moon.
Last Friday, a friend drove from the east to the west to help me carry medicated supplies to another party who would then hand the precious parcel to rescuers of street animals.
After the handover was settled, we had the best charred bee hoon (fried vermicelli) among other dishes in a cafe by the Changi Beach
That vermicelli dish was extra special because it had to be consumed straight from the pan to the plate to savour its crispiness. And the sambal that went with it was like no other. It is a dish that truly demands that you be fully present.
Our meditative lunch was further augmented by the company of another friend who supports our medicine journeys for homeless animals.
While chatting over coffee, I realised the 3 of us were born in the Year of the Rabbit. And thus it is only befitting that we should take such an interest in medicine gathering. 😄
As we look to the Vesak Day public holiday and the Full Moon, may all gatherings hold potentials for goodwill, gratitude & grace. 🪔
Of all the birds that catch my eyes, the flamingoes take first prize. Apart from their pinkish plummage, their straight legs are a thing of beauty as they strut confidently from one spot to another in the mud without losing momentum.
Birds taking flight from tree branches or from the arm of their handler, while their talons rip off barks or leave marks on the protective arm cover is a delight to me. And those perfect landings on flimsy laundry lines & bobbing along with the wind is ballet!
If I can make a personal wish in this life, it will probably be to know what it feels like to walk without limping and without swaying from side to side. Even if it is just for one day.
“Where are you going? Do you need a wheelchair?” asked the young staff with a look of concern mixed with hesitation. He was unsure of how I would react to his offer of help.
It was closing time at the newly opened Bird Paradise at Mandai Lake.
“I think I can manage. Cos that was how I got in.” I assured him brightly. My heart was already full from an afternoon of avian magic with friends and now this young man.
He would later tell me on our way to the taxi stand that his heart simply couldn’t take it to see me walking like this, while he was standing around with two strong legs. And no, he didn’t want me to think he was pitying me.
His parents have taught him to help others and not expect to be praised.
We went on to exchange views on decision making in life and the need for time to create emotional distance before we can accurately process an experience that has happened, especially if it is not aligned to our plans.
By the time we said goodbye, I realised we wouldn’t have this moment if I had two good legs.
Meanwhile my admiration for flamingoes and those who can move about with ease will never diminish.
As I was waiting for the rain to stop, a man was trying to restrain their dog from entering the Harvest Bowl Salad cafe where his wife had gone to buy their takeaway dinners.
Their dog, being larger than the usual street dogs, was a challenge to contain. And the rain had forced passers by directly onto the path of the duo. Most people looked at man with dog kindly, but a few gave disapproving looks as if to say, “Dunno how to control your dog, why take him out?”
I would learn later that this was the first time the nervous dog had been in a rainy and crowded setting.
The man appeared apologetic for blocking the path. He was also looking increasingly stressed by the constant stream of people brushing past them.
“What a lovely dog you have!” I called out to the man. It was an attempt to break the spell of unease. It worked. He smiled. The dog also stopped rearing up & charging at the cafe entrance.
Then I suggested that he led his dog away from the cafe and to my side to limit the canine’s range of vision & thus reduce his fixation on the other human caregiver. (Thank you NatGeo & Caesar Milan)
So under the drumming rain in the sheltered walkway, we chatted about animal rescue work. The dog whose head reached my waist, started sniffing the air and looking at the passing street cars like a curious child.
The man & his wife had been feeding stray dogs in forested areas. It was where they found their dog and his litter mates.
Finally the man’s wife appeared with their long awaited dinner. Their dog pranced in delirious joy to see that his family was complete again!
Before we parted, the wife who preferred the company of animals to humans, asked me gently if I had an umbrella and how I was going to get home.
Looking back, wherever there is kindness, we’re home. So that come rain or shine, separation or union, we will always belong. And even if the path is narrow, our heart can be wide. 🙏
My friend’s orange kitty, Sage, is selective about who gets to hang out with her, for how close and for how long.
My efforts to promote animal welfare do not impress her one bit.
My repertoire of animal knowledge is worth less a kibble to her.
But, if I know my place, Sage doesn’t mind eating a store bought treat from my hand. This means not trying to touch her when she’s trying to eat, or assuming that just because I have the means to buy things, I’m King.
Sage reminds me that I’m only a creature, just like her.
So whenever I need a dose of reality & liberation from egoistic tendencies, I make an appointment with Sage.
I was sitting on one of the benches facing the Boudha Stupa when 3 old persons with rickety gait came by.
I made room on the bench for them. They bowed lightly, and took their places while adjusting their belongings amongst themselves.
The grandpa spoke to me in a language I didn’t understand. He had a fedora on and was bundled up in winter clothing. The two grandmas smiled. I smiled back at their weather beaten faces and gentle eyes.
Lacking the vocabularly to ask about another’s nationalities, beliefs, marital status or occupations, our exchanges were reduced to gestures of smiling, bowing and nodding. That was truly a John Lennon’s “Imagine” moment for me.
One of the grandmas handed the grandpa a small packet which he raised towards the Stupa and then placed lightly against his own forehead. After that he took out a tiny piece of reddish looking substance from the little bag. It resembled blusher that had been chipped off from a make up receptacle.
He then broke the terra cotta red bit into tinier pieces with his fingers and placed a bit of which on the open palms of each grandmas.
Turning towards me, he offered the same thing. Seeing how reverently they treated the powder, I held out my palms too.
After that, as if they had rehearsed it many times, the three of them looked up at the Stupa, placed what was on their palms into their mouths and brought both palms together in prayer.
As I stared in wonderment at their synchronised actions, the grandpa turned to me. He puffed up his chest to indicate that the powder would make me strong like them.
For added effect, he also slapped his forehead & sniffled dramatically to show that it could keep head & respiratory troubles away.
Now, I have my reservations about taking unknown substances from strangers.
But the simplicity and earnestness of the 3 sages to share health & strength with me neutralised all misgivings.
The encounter was made all the more poignant when I realised how far we had travelled to share this moment of healing under the Stupa. The following year, travel restrictions of all kinds would make it hard for me to visit Nepal.
Perhaps at the heart of all communicative intent, it is not eloquence, but kindness that causes the mind to open.
And Bella has gone home to God. Even though we’re sad to lose him, we’ll not let fear or hate win.
Given the threats of animal predators and manmade errors that community cats face daily, Bella’s 16 years on earth is a miracle.
When he was a kitten with gender still unknown, the Canadian swim team named him Bella.
The student athletes whispered their secrets to him.
Local & international coaches & staff fed him or asked about him.
Visitors and parents took pictures of him, and sometimes with him (far away in the background).
Overseas athletes saved up their allowance to buy him treats.
Adults helped out with his veterinary needs.
Despite having a low tolerance for touch, and a high need for distance, Bella has succeeded in bringing many people & nationalities together. He has taught us to be generous with our heart, our money, and our time. And love doesn’t mean ownership.
Rest well, Bella Boy. Even though your entry into & exit from this world were not ideal, in between you were loved by many, and now multi-faith prayers from Singapore to Cambodia, and beyond Asia to the West are being dedicated to you. 🙏❤️