Caturday Thoughts – We Had a Very Full Day

Closeup of three eggs in wire basketIt turned out to be an even fuller day than I imagined when I posted Caturday Thoughts would be a bit delayed. I had a truck full of things from the storage that I unloaded early before I left for the farmer’s market. I brought it all in and put it in the appropriate room. Then off to stop at the bank for cash and shop at the farmer’s market. Since I bought meat and eggs as well as veggies I then had to go back to the house to put it away. It certainly couldn’t sit in the back of the truck while I worked at the thrift shop.

We were very busy there too. A few weeks back Nita got some proper store shelving at an auction and we finally finished getting it all up in an arrangement that fit the shop. In the afternoon a really nice couple pulled up with a flat trailer filled with donations. They’d had a yard sale and saw our sign. Loving our rescue goal they decided to give us what didn’t sell. It was all really good quality and there were nice kids toys, Christmas decorations, several dozen DVDs of really good movies and a stack of tubs of things we didn’t even get to look at that day.

Straightaway after the shop closed I went home to drop off some cat pictures I had put on layaway and some of the DVDs I bought from the donation. As it had gotten hot and sticky I skipped the hardware stores and only went to get my free-with-coupon first aid kit bag, which turned out to be a cheerful bright green bag which would indeed fit nicely behind the seat of the truck.

Woodstock copper water bell bowl fountainFrom there I went to the anniversary celebration at my friend’s store and hung out with her until she closed. I bought myself a fountain as a housewarming gift and as it happened ten percent of any sales were being donated to the local food bank as part of the celebration, so multiple parties benefited. It’s a lovely fountain with little copper cups that float around and bump stationary copper cups making a chiming sound. You can put tea lights into the cups as well so it will be a nice accessory to quiet, relaxing evenings. I’ll have to put it somewhere where feline curiousity will not cause water damage. I wish the late, great Shinki were still around so I could watch him with it. Bengals actually like to play with water. I don’t expect more from my furry crew than attempts to drink from it and perhaps bat at the floating bells.

By the time I left Sally’s store it had cooled and the humidity had dissipated so I decided to stop at the storage again to get a few more things. While I was doing this the live-on manager came by on her end of day rounds and invited me for a drink on her deck to celebrate getting the house. Then I drove home, stopping by the takeaway sushi. I had been so busy I had forgotten to eat all day!! I had been going so long I was the last order they filled before closing at 10:00PM.

Thank heaven when I dropped off the things from the thrift store I had done a quick fill-up of cat bowls with some crunchies to tide them over. When I got home finally, they got their wet food before I got to eat my sushi. In case you are thinking they are deprived, they all have been offered sushi without soy sauce or wasabi and don’t want it. I’m talking about the kind that sits on top of the rice, not the rolled variety, so I was just offering the fish. No takers. They’d rather have the canned stuff.

Close up of sushi segment, rice on outside

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Shuffle, Shuffle, Shuffle

We have gotten very busy thanks to the delightful upturn in our fortunes. There is a ten by twenty storage unit to be emptied, since now we know we are not moving. Of course summer is here we want to take advantage of the farmers market, which means a busy Saturday morning. Summer also means the yard is growing madly and needs lots of work. This Saturday my friend Sally is have an anniversary party to celebrate 22 years in business at her storeand five here in the local area. So I am having to shuffle my schedule a bit to fit things in smoothly. I go from unloading the last load from the storage to the farmer’s market and then home to put the food away. Saturday is rescue thrift day and from the thrift I will stop at ACE hardware to use my reward dollars on a pair of work gloves, to CVS to use my coupon for a free first aid kit bag, to Harbour Freight to look at serious eye protection for working on the house. These places are all in a line to Sally’s store, where I want to go show my support and buy the chiming fountain I have always wanted as a housewarming gift to myself.

Tomorrow is just as busy, so the time my posts come out will be adjusted a little. So many Caturday thoughts are rushing through my head and this week has been so busy I’ve had little time to write. But I certainly want to share the joys of life after sharing post on post of life’s conundrums. In the meantime I leave you with this little update and hope your Caturday was a good one.

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The Big Day

Stone castle tower surrounded by treesFor a long time now I have been writing here about having a forever home for the cats. There have been so many problems and setbacks over the years. Now, thanks to my late aunt, who I miss talking to every week, the goal is achieved. Tomorrow we are going to the attorney’s office. This old house will become our old house.  This is one of the things that has kept me so busy I’ve found myself changing publishing times on posts. The house needs an awful lot of work and some of it should have been done months, if not years ago. But it will be ours and we can remedy the faults.

The delays on my poor aunt’s estate were inexcusable and almost everyone involved contributed. Like Charlie Brown with Lucy and the football, I have had the rug pulled out from under me so many times over the years, not just with my aunt’s estate but in other situations, I have been afraid to talk much about it for fear of jinxing it. But the money is in the attorney’s escrow account and all is set. Fortunately, my experience upgrading my former employer’s house when I was an estate manager makes the rehab process on this little house much easier for me. And of course the house is liveable, we’ve been living in it all along.

I’ve written about happily being able to do Feng Shui on the house and pick room colors other than white, which I’ve lived with for years in rentals. There is a lot more than that to do, though. When I went to the bank to wire the money to the attorney’s escrow I asked the assistant manager at the bank if they wrote contruction loans. Her reply was “We write home equity loans. How much equity will you have?” There was about a thirty second delay as she realized she was writing a wire for a cash purchase. “Oh that’s right. You’re paying cash!”

So not only will we have our little house but we won’t owe any bank or loan or mortgage company. What a relief! And no more rent! So I probably won’t be taking the bank up on the home equity loan offer. Why jeopardize that freedom? My focus once the ink is dry will be on fixing upthe house one step at a time in increments I can afford. Yesterday I took all the doors off the kitchen cabinets after Mi Sun got her tail stepped on and went and hid way at the back corner of the botton cabinet. I wanted to make sure she wasn’t really hurt but couldn’t reach her. I no more want to get down on my hands and knees to drag out food or pots and pans than Mi Sun. Those cabinets are coming out!! That corner is next to the sink and the perfect place for a dishwasher instead

Japanese garden with large red maple and stepping stone walkwayNot only in the house but in the yard I can finally do as I want. The first thing to go will be all that useless lawn. I want gardens. I want a small herb and vegetable garden. The rest of the back yard I plan to turn into a Japanese stroll garden. At some point I will replace the concrete back steps with the gaping hole in the top with a proper porch. Ideally it would be partially enclosed and double as a catio with big windows that would have screens in the summer. I could buy a couple more of Furrwood Forest’s big cat trees to put in it.  Maybe Steve would do a custom one for me.

Today’s post is a short one as I will be off to my storage unit to bring home some of the things that have been in there since my landlord first announced the house was for sale. Not knowing what would happen and not wanting to get stuck moving in a hurry with no help as happened when I first came here, I gradually moved as much as possible into storage last spring. Now it can come out and come home. I had the attic tested for asbestos and now know it is safe, although very dusty and dirty. The floor insulation is only cellulose, not even fiberglass, so I can use it for storage until I eventually finish it. I just bought plastic sheeting to keep the dust off everything. I need to do these trips in the morning before the humidity and heat bring on thunderstorms. And of course I have to do it on sunny days. The last two have been rainy and lots more rainy days are in the forecast. So I am leaving after I finish these last words. It’s goig to be a good day.


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Alchemy of the Four Elements – Calcinatio – The Alchemy of Fire

Red flames

The classical four elements play a role in alchemy and each of the four elements has its own particular operation. Calcinatio is the fire operation. Solutio is the matching operation for water, coagulatio for earth and sublimatio for air.  As this shows, calcinatio is one of several major alchemical operations, each one a center of an elaborate symbol system.  Most lists of alchemical operations begin with calcinatio. A few authors say solutio comes first. However, the sequence of operations (with one or two exceptions) does not seem to be significant whem alchemy is applied to psychology. Any operation may be the initiating one, and the others may follow in any order. 

The process of calcinatio derives in part from a chemical procedure. The chemical process of calcination entails the intense heating of a solid in order to drive off water and all other constituents that will volatilize. What remains is a fine, dry power. The classic example of calcination, from which it derives its name (calx = lime), is the heating of limestone or slaked lime to produce quicklime, a caustic ingredient used in things as diverse as cement and water purificaion. When water contacts quicklime it has the interesting characteristic of generating heat. This property gave rise to the alchemists belief quicklime contained fire and was sometimes equated with fire itself. Any image that contains open fire burning or affecting substances will be related to the calcinatio. There is a rich and complicated wealth of fire symbolism, including Jung’s demonstration that fire symbolizes libido. 

The wlf devouring the king alchemical illustrationIn The Twelve Keys of Basil Valentine we find the following recipe for calcinatio: “Take a fierce gray wolf, whichis found in the valleys and the mountains of the world, where he roams almost savage with hunger. Cast to him the body of the King, and when he has devoured it, burn him entirely to ashes in a great fire. By this process the King will be liberated; and when it has been performed thrice the lion has overcome the wolf, and will find nothing more to devour in him. Thus our body has been rendered fit for the first stage of our work.”

The calcining fire combines several alchemical themes: calcinatio as cremation, the death and blackness of mortificatio; extraction of essence, separatio; and the making of gold, the goal of the magnum opus.  The dead king is the object of calcinatio and would suggest psycologically there is a major life value around which the personality has been structured is undergoing re-evaluation and refinement.

Alchemical image of the three headeddragon frpm Splendor SolisIn another text the calcinatio is described as follows: “Then take out all the feces which remain in the retort, and are blackish like unto soot, which feces are called our Dragon, of which feces calcinein a fervent hot fireuntil it becomes a white calx, as white as snow.”  Here the matter to be calcined is called “dragon” or “black feces”that is, shadow stuff. The texts above demonstrates the nature of the substance to be calcined. It is called “ravening wolf”, “black feces” , a “dragon”.  These terms tell us that the calcinatio is performed on the primitive shadow side, which harbors hungry, instinctual desirousness and is contaminated with the unconscious. The fire for the process comes from the frustration of these instinctual desires themselves.

The end product of calcinatio is a white ash. This corresponds to the so-called “white foliated earth” of many alchemical texts. It signifies the albedo or whitening phase and has paradoxical associations. On the one hand ashes signify despair, mourning, or repentance. On the other hand they contain the supreme value, the goal of the work. One text says, “Despise not the ashes for they are the diadem of thy heart, and the ash of things that endure.” Another says, “The white foliated earth is the crown of victory which is ash extracted from ash, and their second body.” The ash is the incorruptible “glorified body,” which has survived the purifying ordeal.  Sometimes the result is a vitreous mass; hence there is an overlap between the symbolism of ash and glass.

How can ash, the seeming remains of complete destruction become the symbol of glory and the crown of victory? What turns the ashes of failure into triumph is revealed by the fact that ash is alchemically equivalent to salt. Salt symbolizes Eros and appears in one of two aspects, either as bitterness or as wisdom. Jung wrote “Tears, sorrow, and disappointment are bitter, but wisdom is the comforter in all psychic suffering. Indeed, bitterness and wisdom form a pair of alternatives: where there is bitterness wisdom is lacking, and where wisdom is there can be no bitterness.” 

In another respect, calcinatio is a process of driving off excess water and a drying out of the substance. The classical alchemist working with chemical substances can easity see what he is working with. In psychological alchemy, first the substance must be located.  The unconscious, unacknowledged desire, demand, expectation must be recognized and affirmed. That urge that says “I want” and “I am entitled to this” must be fully accepted by the ego. There can be no effective calcinatio until the ego recognizes the material to be worked with.  In most lives people are provided with plenty of occasions for the calcinatio of frustrated desires. Primitive , undifferentiated desires, implictly assuming they are entitled to fulfillment, when denied become enraged. Reality generates the calcinating fire by challenging or blocking such desires. Ripley says: “Calcination is the purgation of our stone, Restoring also of his natural heat; Of radical moisture it leaveth none”.  The psychlogical alchemist transmutes the energies of the archetypal psyche by purging the murky prmodial water and leaving the substance in its eternal state, restored to its proper healthy energy and functioning. 

The King in the Swea Box alchemical illustraion The King in the Sweatbox Maier, Atalanta Fugiens, (1618)


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Caturday Thoughts – Feng Shui of the Bathroom and Other Complications

Bathrooms are problematic in Feng Shui. It’s all those drains, you see, synbolizing draining away not just water and toilet waste but the enegy of whatever life area the bathroom falls in. This was not so much a problem when the toilet was in an outhouse and people bathed in tubs not connected to plumbing. Think of the fellow coming into town in the wild west movies. He heads to the hotel to wash off the trail dust in a tub that looks like an oversizsed wooden bucket. Modern bathrooms break a major rule in having the toilet, even if it is flushable, in the same room where you are supposed to be getting clean. And all those drains together, toilet, tub or shower and sink create a powerful energy of yin water.

Depending on which life area the bathroom falls in, that is where you may find the negative influence. My bathroom is in the southeast. That’s money and abundance. No wonder it’s been a struggle!! Not only that, feng shui is ultimately about qi flow and this closet of a bathroom had neither exhaust fan nor window. Bad feng shui all round. Now the phase of the southeast is wood.  In the creative cycle water nourishes wood, so all this water would seem to be fine in a wood area. But draining water is yin water. The colors for wood are brown and green. These are yin colors, quiet and soothing. If you use these colors you will being adding to the yin energy.

To balance yin you need to add yang. In the destructive cycle metal chops wood, so I have seen a lot of advice to use metal colors of white and grey. I already know this doesn’t work well in my case, with an almost entirely white bathroom and my financial struggles! Beside that, I don’t want to suppress the wood element in it’s natural home, it’s the yin water I want to counteract, so that the wood element is neither overwhelmed nor overstimulated by the water. Feng shui is about balance and harmony. Wood feeds fire and earth dams or absorbs water. A small amount of fire, like some container candles will add yang energy. Or I could use a fire wall color but those colors are a bit much in a tiny room. I could use earth colors. I could also use a green with a lot of grey in it and some grey trim, since metal “collects” water.

Two black and white cats in cat cup

You’ll have to use cunning and stealth to clean that ear!

Now you see why people throw up their hands or just go straight away to a feng shui consultant. And I threw up my hands at trying to load pictures in this post. A persistent http error notice blocked me every time. There is a complicated back door way to fix this but on a Saturday mrning there isn’t enought time. Even this shot of Skye with her mother Milk took four tries to load into the post and I’ve used it before.I’ve had to reschedule a couple of posts in the last week or so because of all tha’s going on, I don’t want to do it again. I’ll add the pictures when I can and my apologies.

This morning is the farmer’s market, then a day at the rescue thrift, then tonight I need to clean Skye’s ear, which will be a challenge with my most skittish former feral cat. We had three vet appointments this week and yesterday I had to see Dr. Kim, my dentist, for a chipped tooth. I have to drive about three hours but I think he’s the best dentist there is. When I was really young we had a great dentist. He belived in saving teeth. If the root was still good he filled it and unlike many friends and relatives I am not missing teeth due to extraction. Now, however, a lifetime of use is taking it’s toll and little cracks are showing up in teeth which are mostly filling. Dr Kim has already had to do two crowns. He does such great work even I can’t tell which are the crowns and ‘ve had no trouble at all.

I stopped on the way home at a couple of garden centers and got replacement catnip plants. Ours died last year. I also bought a replacement rue for the one the lawn man accidentally whacked down. Gardens are getting started late this year. So tomorrow I have several plants to go in, plus a lot of cultivating & weeding. Thankfully, while it got hot yesterday, the weaher has been really good this week You can see fiddling with WordPress will have to wait.



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Grain in Ear máng zhǒng 芒种 Jun 6th

Mángzhòng 芒种 in Chinse, or Bōshu in Japanese, Mangjong in Korean, Mang chủng in Vietnamese, is the ninth solar term. It begins when the Sun reaches the celestial longitude of 75° and ends when it reaches the longitude of 90°. In the Gregorian calendar, it usually begins around June 5 and ends around June 21.

Long shot of man planting rice in terraced fieldsDuring Grain in Ear  芒种crops like barley and wheat mature and are waiting to be harvested. In addition, it is the deadline for the last sowings and farmers are in the fields sowng millet. During this period, areas around middle stream and downstream of the Yangtze River enter the rainy season. Sensing the dampness, the mantises emerge, the shrike starts to sing and the mockingbird becomes quieter.

There are many sayings among the farmer’s for ths period. It’s common to hear, “Get busy with farm work in Grain in Ear,” in many provinces. Grain in Ear is especially critical for planting rice. There is a saying in Guizhou that says, “If you don’t plant rice in Grain in Ear, planting will be in vain.”

Almost all the sprig flowers are gone, the tulips, lilacs, irises, and daffodils have drpped the remains of their blooms. In China, as the flowers withered away, people in ancient times used to hold ceremonial sacrifices to the “God of Flowers”, showing their gratitude and their eagerness to see the flowers again next year. This beautiful custom is long gone and people can only read the descriptions of it in classic novels.

It’s not any kind of celebration in China without food. In south Anhui province, after rice planting, people steam dumplings made with the new fresh wheat flour. They make the flour into different shapes such copying kinds of food like animals and vegetables and color . This goes with a prayer for safety among the villagers.

Mulberry leaves and berries with silkworm feeding on leaf

By Gorkaazk [CC BY 3.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

The best food to eat during “Grain in Ear” period though, as suggested by Chinese doctors, is mulberry. Around two thousand years ago, mulberry had already been considered as royal food and among common people, it was called the “holy fruit”. It has abundant glucose, Vitamin A, B and C and many mineral substances and is very good for humans’ heart, liver and kidney. don’t be put off by the insect in the picture, it is a valuable silkworm. They prefer the leaves and will leave the berries for you.

In Southern China, May and June are the seasons when plums become ripe. There is an ancient story that Cao Cao and Liu Bei, two of the central figures of the Three Kingdoms period (220-280 CE), talked about heroes while boiling green plums. Green plums contain a variety of natural and high-quality organic acids and are rich in minerals. They can help clean blood, lower blood lipids, eliminate tiredness and improve skin tone. Ffresh plums are very acerbic and need boiling before they are eaten, however.

The renowned doctor Sun Simiao of the Tang Dynasty (AD618-907) advised not to eat greasy or strongly flavored food during the Grain in Ear season. In general, vegetables and whole grains which work in lowering blood pressure and high blood lipids should be the first choice. Vegetables are recommended over meat and people should avoid thermogenic foods like hot peppers, onions and gingers if they are finding themselves feeling thirsty and tired much of the time.

Stack of Chinese bitter meolons up closeThe weather is starting to get really hot during the Grain in Ear period. While vegetables in general are preferred those with cooling properties are the best to eat in hot weather. Bitter melon is a classic representative. Belonging to same family as watermelon, bitter melon contains a lot of natural and nourishing water. It’s also said to have healing properties, which are good for patients suffering from either high blood pressure or high blood sugar. Watermelon is also recommended at this time so if bitter melon is too exotic for you or you are put off by the name, go ahead and indulge in watermelon.  It helpes replace potassium lost in sweating during the heat. Tomatoes are also good at this time. Being abundant in Vitamin C, tomatoes help clear away heat and toxins. Other vegetables such as cucumber, eggplant, celery, lettuce, and asparagus belong to “cooling vegetables.” These vegetables all eliminate excess internal heat, expel toxins and promote digestion.

Pears are juicy, and have a sweet and sour taste. Because of its cooling and refreshing properties, it is given the name “natural mineral water,” and is very good for the skin. In China and other part of Asia pear drinks are very popular refreshment. You can add strawberries to the list of recommended fruits as well. Certainly no one has to suffer while maintaining a healthy and seasonally appropriate diet.

Rain spahing into waterRainfall increases during Grain in Ear compared to the previous eight solar terms. Regions in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River in China are about to enter the Plum Rains season. Plum Rains, often occurring during June and July, refer to the long period of continuous rainy or cloudy weather accompanied by frequent and large amounts of rainfall. June and July are also time when the plums ripen and so these rains take their name from the seasonal fruit. Here we were getting rains like that earlier, The river running through town was getting very high and brown with runnoff. But for th last few days we have had almost perfect weather, just slightly cool at night and pleasantly warm during the day,  don’t thingk this will last, we too will probably go back to Plum rains.

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Before I Lay Me Down to Sleep – Compline

Medieval illustration of divnine office showing sun and moon and monk at desk

In the early centuries of the Church, in addition to the celebration of Mass, it was customary to hold a so-called vigil, a prayer service in three parts, on the night before a feast day. From this vigil service developed three of the canonical hours; Vespers, Matins, Lauds. The first began in the early evenng and the last was held in the early hours of the morning. This was the arrangement already in the days of Hippolytus in the third century BCE and these were the first “hours.” In the Roman office the threefold division of Matins was re-introduced even after the vigil service had split into Vespers, Matins, and Lauds, and the divisions came to be known as nightwatches or nocturns.

The two remaining hours were added later, under the influence of monasticism. The monks prayed Matins during the night and said Lauds (morning prayer) in the early dawn, then went back to bed.Vespers (evening prayer) were said in late afternoon, and then at bedtime there were devotions in the sleeping quarters (lessons, chapter of faults, abbot’s blessing), which developed into Compline, a sort of second night prayer.

The origin of Compline has given rise to considerable discussion among liturgists. In the past, general opinion ascribed the origin of this Hour to St. Benedict, in the beginning of the 6th century. But some researchers trace its source to St. Basil. Vandepitte states that  in his retreat in Pontus (358-362) Basil established Compline, which did not exist prior to his time. Dom Plaine also traced the source of Compline back to the 4th century, finding mention of it in a passage in Eusebius and in another in St. Ambrose, and also in John Cassian.These texts bear witness to the private custom of saying a prayer before retiring to rest. If this was not the canonical Hour of Compline, it was certainly a preliminary step towards it and show end of day prayer to be an ancient custom.

One of the main features of Compline is an examination of conscience, not a particularly favored activity these days. The whole office is meant to be contemplative and in our hectic and troubled times a period of quiet reflection might help more people sleep more soundly. Or perhaps not, as the case may be. Traditionally the same three psalms were prayed each night: 4, 90 and 133. Hence, the psalms could be prayed by heart, often in the dark. These three psalms contain clear references to the night, going to rest, dwelling in the shelter of the Most High, protection of the angels, etc., and so are perfect for the end of the day. In many monasteries it is still the custom to begin the “Great Silence” after Compline, as it was in Brother Cadfael’s day, during which the whole community, including guests, observes silence throughout the night until the morning service the next day.

Medieval illminated illustration for Compline of a devl tempting someoneWith Compline, the liturgical day marked by Lauds, Sext, None, and Vespers reached the sacred septenary, “septies in die laudem dixi tibi” (“seven times a day I have given praise to thee)”, while for the night office there was the text: “media nocte surgebam ad confitendum tibi” (“I rose at midnight to give praise to thee”).

In the Armenian daily worship there are two distinct services of communal worship which are recited between Vespers and sleep. These are the Peace Hour and the Rest Hour, although in some localities they are combined, with abbreviations, into a single service.But I love the naming of these offices. Far better to end ones day focused on hours of peace and rest than the way so many do.

The symbolism of Compline is perhaps my favorite.  The hour begins uniquely without introduction, and at once halts for an examination of conscience and an act of contrition. Thus, the hour expresses earnest petition; contrition, plea for protection, and deepest confidence are its main elements. While there are variations among denominations usually first there is a night-prayer hymn, then a consoling chapter prayer, then the psalms and a verse to be recited called the collect. While their is a certain magic to Vespers, going to sleep with a clear conscience and thoughts of being protected in the night while we are most vulnerable has not only emotional but real health benefit. Sleep is restorative and sleep deprivation is a real problem with people today. The collect verses are very appropriate before going to sleep and you don’t have to be a Christian to appreciate the thoughts reflected in these examples.

Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the hours
of this night, so that we who are wearied by the changes and
chances of this life may rest in your eternal changelessness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or
weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who
sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless
the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the
joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen.

Reading especially the second one I am reminded of policemen, firefighters, emergency services people and hospital and care home workers who in fact work, watch and weep in the night. Whether or not you even believe in God there are real people out there who tend  the sick, give rest to the weary, bless the dying and soothe the suffering. Thinking of them and knowing they are out there certainly helps me sleep better.

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