Quiet moment at home with Burnsie

We’ve got a Darwinian situation at Las Golondrinas. I mean, old Charles would be beside himself with glee checking out our corral. No, it’s not Iguana lizards morphing into Goldie Locks. It’s lips. Donkey lips. More precisely, donkey lips that think they’re hands.

Full view of the threaded canvasI like to think I have strategic advantage over my animals. The truth is, I need all the help I can get to stay even with them!

My Scotties are too smart for their own good–way too smart. Burnsie now employs his new eyes in the back of his head to monitor my feet and me when I walk him to the door. You see, until recently it was enough for me to walk to the door with him, acting like I was going outside. He would anticipate and dash out the door ahead of me.

It took about three such ruses. Now his new eyes in the back of his head tell him when I pause at the threshold and he stops dead in his tracks quicker than an Austin-Healey roadster with brand new brakes. And he stands statue-like, unmoving, if I’m not also going outside. He’s too smart for his own good. Evolution is alive and well in the Scottish Terrier. He figures things out.

Until recently I took comfort in knowing at least my donkeys and goats were inferior. I reassured myself that I had intelligence and opposable thumbs and all those homo sapien features that put me at the top of the food chain. Well, get ready. Turns out evolution is alive and well in donkey DNA. We’re all in trouble.

Close up of the donkey's My Galapagos Island discovery at Las Golondrinas occurred one morning recently as the Scotties and I walked the fence line from the gate to the donkey barn at morning feeding time. There it was in front of us: empirical evidence donkeys’ lips are prehensile opposable thumbs in the making.

Pulled completely through several of the 2 inch by 4 inch openings in the field wire fence grid were long sections of a canvas car cover that had been folded and stored on the other side of the wire fence. The car cover was not torn into ribbons but was still whole, making pulling it through the small wire openings at numerous locations in the wire grid, quite an accomplishment. I don’t think I could do it with my homo sapien opposable thumbs!

Because the gate was fastened when I entered, I know the donkeys were inside the corral area when they threaded the needle with hunks of that car cover. They had to stretch their prehensile lips through the wire grid to reach the canvas on the other side and grab the car cover with sufficient grip to pull sections of the 20 ft by 10 ft canvas into and through the heavy wire mesh.

My Scotties looked away furtively when they saw me reconnoitering. They knew I was putting two and two together … connecting dots they and the rest of the animal kingdom don’t want humans to connect. This is spooky. We should all be scared. Very scared. Can you imagine the vindettas, the mayhem to be wrought on humans when animals unite in evolutionary triumph over man? Look out KFC. The chickens are coming … and they’re pissed!

Come to think of it, how do I know my fastened corral gate is conclusive that the donkeys were not outside my fence? If their lips are morphing into opposable thumbs capable of threading flat canvas through wire mesh, who knows, they may be capable of not only UNlatching my thumb-required gate latch, their teeth may be capable of cracking the tumblers on a bank safe and their ears capable of tying Boy Scout knots … or untying them … then tying up the Boy Scouts! Holy Darwinism. We’re in trouble …

Be advised, human race: H. G. Well’s Animal Farm is real and we’ve been lapped by the four-leggeds in the food chain and old Darwin is rolling over in his grave.

Joseph Harvill, publisher Great Scots Magazine

Quiet moment at home with Burnsie

Recently I’ve enjoyed getting back into my woodshop “making sawdust”. I’ve been away from woodworking the past couple of years. Oh, I’ve sawn a board or two doing fix-it jobs, but not a creative project from start to finish creating furniture out of raw material.

Sketch plans for badside tableThe process of creating something beautiful and functional from scratch feeds my soul. It’s intensive and often frustrating but I recognize the importance of creative energy in my life in the rear view mirror, that is, by default when I’m away from it too long.

As Rollo May wrote compellingly in his book The Courage To Create, it takes risk-taking courage to be creative. Especially for perfectionists. That’s why the most terrifying thing in the world to an artist is a clean, blank canvas. So, too, the woodworker’s intimidation over working backwards, having to know the ‘end’ before the ‘beginning’, having to make umpteen ‘decisions’ up front before making sawdust, all the while knowing imperfections of wood and woodworker will hijack plans necessitating “work-arounds” before the project is finished.

But the older I get the clearer I see my soul’s code. I am my creative Mother’s son. I need the challenge to create in order to feel whole. Blogger's finished bedside tableMy Mom’s hands were never idle. Making things, always useful, often beautiful, was her nature. She crocheted or knitted, quilted or stenciled; she sewed clothes for us kids in the early days and right up to the end of her life she sewed and gave away slippers to “old folks” at nursing homes. Having given her heart to God, she gave her hands to work.

Strange as it seems to many Great Scots Magazine readers lamenting now the end of GSM, I know I must end the magazine in order to make way for new challenges. Over the course of my life I’ve reinvented myself about every 20 years across three different career domains.

Shaking one’s foundations, free-falling from the ‘known’ and familiar into the weightlessness of what-am-I-going-to-do-now?, is high-risk, spooky living. But it’s also what keeps me leaning into my fears, not avoiding them, creating days of what Mary Engelbreit dubs “artful living.”

So, as creator/publisher of GSM, as I wind down the final episode of the creative work that has been my ‘Mistress’ for the past 19 years, and as I look ahead to the bend in my road, I’m seeing my recent bit of ’sawdust’ — my little bedside table — as symbol of what is new and also fingerprint of what is ‘old’ in me.

I’m reading in a sawdust pile my soul’s code calling me yet again to make-from-scratch, one-of-a-kind, adrenalin-rush, artful living.

Joseph Harvill, maker of Life’s “sawdust”