Excerpts from

with Cat Stardust and Pony Freedom
and Dog Sage


This story is about a little girl called Joanna.
But you can pretend it is a story about you.
We use our imaginations to pretend
and our imagination is the key 
to magic and miracles ~ and hearing
what our animal friends have to tell us.

Chapter One  ~  Joanna and Stardust

Joanna was a little girl who lived in the country, and like most children, Joanna liked to dream. The only difference between Joanna and other children was that other children dreamed when they were asleep, and Joanna liked to dream when she was awake.

Joanna had no brothers or sisters. Of course she had friends at school. But at home, there was only herself and the grown ups ~ and Stardust the old cat, and Sage the middle aged dog, and Freedom the small white pony who lived in a field at the bottom of the garden, and didn't seem to belong to anyone.
These were Joanna's friends. Her best friends. Stardust and Freedom and Sage. And so she dreamed that they could talk with her. Actually, she didn't have to dream very hard because they really could talk. The dream part was that Joanna could understand them, and nobody else would even listen. The animals didn't have to dream, because they knew. They understood everything.

"You really do know a remarkable amount," said Joanna to Stardust one day. "Do you know everything there is to know?"

The old cat smiled to himself and began gently purring. He knew that when one knows everything there is no need to say so. And if perchance there are a few things one doesn't know, then why tell anyone? Joanna squished herself up beside him on the window seat and stroked him lightly from the top of his head all the way down his back to the tip of his tail. She liked to close her hand gently round his bushy black fur and feel his tail pull firmly through her fingers. He waved it back and forth.

"More," he said. "More." He didn't speak out loud of course, he spoke inside her head. "Do it again. And harder this time." He pressed his head up inside her hand to make sure she understood, to show her what he meant. And the harder Joanna stroked him, the louder he purred. This purring had a very soothing effect upon Joanna. It made her feel very peaceful and extra dreamy. She was feeling just about as relaxed and content as Stardust seemed to be.

"That's what cats are for," said Stardust. "To calm you humans down. You'd be all jittery and looking for something to do if I wasn't here to help you be at peace with yourself. And while we are catering to your needs, we are observing. Cats are great observers you know. Oh, we don't just notice things like when you go to bed, or what time you have your lunch. We observe real things, like what makes you happy, and what makes you sad and how the room feels when you are irritable. And how it makes me feel when you laugh." He stared at her through half closed eyes.

"We feel these things you know. You call them your moods and emotions. I call them your fields of light. When you laugh and sing ~ I feel all these little waves rippling out from you, and your fields of light dance and shimmer with a crystalline  radiance. They tickle my whiskers and make me warm and snuggly all over. But when you're cranky, oh boy! The lights grow dim, and all those bristly spikes shoot out from you and stab me all over. I'm very sensitive you know, to your moods."

"What about when I'm a bit grumpy?" asked Joanna. "If I get quite disagreeable and don't want to do what the grown ups think I should?"

"Ugh," said Stardust. "Yuk." He went stiff and rigid all over, just for a moment, just thinking about it. "When you are a bothersome little girl, why I just get all churned up inside. Grieved, you might say. I feel sick at heart and it puts me right off my food. That's what anger does you know, distresses me because I love you ~ your unhappiness is my unhappiness sort of thing. When you're sad, it's different ~ I feel like a popped balloon!"

Joanna resolved that the next time she was about to became a bothersome little girl, she would stop and think about it first and try to figure out why she was so annoyed. She remembered reading somewhere, one is never upset for the reason one thinks. She liked that ~ it was a puzzlement! If she thought about it first, she could discuss things with Stardust and he would be able to help her decide how to express her distress without hurting anyone else. Maybe she could pound pillows! Joanna giggled to herself as she imagined Stardust pouncing on the flying feathers. (In Joanna's World, pillows were stuffed with feathers, you know).

Joanna  wondered what happened to all this stuff, this "yukiness," if Stardust wasn't around to catch it. She supposed the plants might take some of it. Or maybe it just got stuck in the walls and gathered there, like dust and cobwebs. It certainly would make a place gloomy and uncomfortable if that were so. Supposing she laughed and sang, and sent happy thoughts out into the air? Perhaps they could get stuck in the walls too. Joanna smiled to herself ~ and the whole room seemed to lighten, brighten.

"Thank you, Stardust," she said, as she kissed the top of his head. "You really are a most  remarkable cat!"


Chapter Eight  ~  Freedom and the Unicorns

Joanna's mother was making an apple pie, and Joanna was hovering around waiting for the apple peelings. Her mother smiled, cut a large green apple in half and added two extra slices to the pile.

"Don't get your fingers bitten," she warned Joanna, for she knew where the peelings were going.

"Oh, mother," said Joanna, "Freedom would never bite anyone." She was pleased with the apple slices because she liked to hold the tip of each one and let Freedom bite them in half for himself. Not the regular way to offer apples to a pony she knew, but Freedom was no regular pony, he was her milk white steed with silver wings! Joanna danced down the garden path swinging her treasures in a paper bag, and singing the sort of songs a fairy princess might sing. It was late in the afternoon and Freedom was standing at the gate to greet her. He saw the bag ~ and up went his head, ears pricked, eyes lively with interest. He made a soft little pony noise that sounded rather like huh-huh-huh-huh-huh. He tossed his head eagerly as Joanna climbed over the gate, and followed her down to the tree. Every so often he nudged his nose under her elbow and flipped it sideways, just to remind her that she had something to give him. Joanna set the paper bag down on the rock and carefully removed the two slices. She tipped the apple peelings on the grass and scrunched up the paper bag.

"Help thyself, oh spirit horse," she said. "This is the magic potion that shall change thee into human form."

Freedom snuffled up the last peeling and looked at her expectantly. He knew there was more to come.

"You've got your stories mixed up," he informed her. "You are confusing myself with the frog prince. Now, what about the rest of the apple?" He poked her gently in the tummy with his nose. Joanna giggled and held up one slice.

"Whoever gets the biggest bit has their wish granted," she said, waving it slowly in a circle.

"My wish is granted," said Freedom, grabbing the whole slice and swallowing it in one mouthful.

"That," complained Joanna, "was coarse and vulgar." She gripped the second slice more firmly. Freedom knew the rules, if a thought is focused upon strongly enough the intent must be recognized. And Joanna was thinking such a strong thought he was only able to take half the slice. He bit the apple neatly in two, and Joanna took a nibble herself before handing him the last bite on her outstretched palm. She ran her sticky fingers through his shaggy forelock. Sometimes she wove it into a big fat braid and tried to make it stand up, so she could pretend he was a unicorn.

"First a frog, then a prince, now a unicorn," said Freedom tossing his head to loose the braid. "Perhaps I would be content to remain a pony. Contentment brings peace of mind, you know. Were I to become a unicorn it would be in etheric form only, which means I would be invisible to you, to your physical eyes that is. With your inner sight, in your mind's eye ~ you would see me of course."

Joanna began to wonder why there were no physical unicorns around. She had never really thought about it before. Now she was in the grip of a burning, overwhelming inner compulsion to know why. What gave people the idea of unicorns in the first place she wondered? Somebody must have seen one.

"The vibrations upon this planet are too dense to maintain the magic of a unicorn," said Freedom. "The sound of unicorns throughout the land shall be no more. They danced through moonbeams, nested in secret hollows, sustained themselves upon young flowers and drank from dew drenched dells. "And when human thoughts of anger, strife and malcontent began to permeate their land they could not live. For them the air became so thick and stagnant that they could not breathe. And so they fled ~ to worlds beyond the stars, where still they dwell. In peace and gentleness they live, and sometimes dream of this fair Earth Star they loved so well."

Joanna was silent. Her mind filled still with thoughts of gentle unicorns. When she grew up, she thought ardently, she would work to clear the land of all things that caused the earth's vibrations to condense. Pollution, she thought. THAT would be a good place to start.

"Pollution of the mind." said Freedom. "Cleanse the people's minds of polluted thoughts and you shall change the world. Thoughts are things, you know." Joanna sighed, this was going to be more difficult than she had realized.

"Start now," said Freedom. "Wait not till you are grown, start now. Think only gentleness and love, and by the time you are as old as I ~ maybe the magic sight of unicorns shall grace the land once more. To the pure in heart nothing is impossible."

Standing straight and tall, Joanna laid one hand upon her chest and the other upon Freedom's brow. Out loud she spoke the words:

"I AM pure in heart."

"Remember what you speak," said Freedom softly, "for the words you speak make shadows of what is to come, and by speaking them ~ shall you cause them to be."


Chapter Nine  ~  Sage and the Cookies

Sage was in disgrace. He had eaten an entire batch of freshly baked oatmeal raisin sunflower seed cookies set out to cool. He was also feeling rather sick.

"Why did they leave them just where I could find them?" he asked. "They know I can't resist temptation."

Joanna didn't really think leaving the cookies on top of the kitchen table was exactly >just where Sage could find them', but she didn't want to add to his misery. And anyway, the smell was just where anybody could find it. She herself had found it out in the garden.

"Well, they'll get over it in time," said Joanna. This is what the grown ups usually told her when she was upset about something. Time heals all wounds they liked to say. Joanna didn't think that was particularly helpful. Who wanted to wait for time to heal their wounds? There must be a better way.

"There is," said Sage brightening. "Forgiveness heals all wounds. Especially of the heart. Forgiveness is the key to happiness. I'm glad you reminded me." He bounded to his feet.

"I forgive them for being cross with me," he said. His heart beat lighter, his sickness and hurt feelings gone. "And I forgive myself. I let go my feelings of remorse and guilt." He was feeling happier by the minute. "Woof," he shouted, wagging his tail. "Woof, woof. Now I ask that they forgive me, and the circle shall be complete."

Joanna was rather astonished at all this and suspected that last part might be the most difficult of all. Her mother really had been quite cross. All that time she had spent assembling the ingredients and baking the cookies, not to mention all the washing up. Now she would have to do it all over again. Joanna wasn't sure when she might forgive Sage. And her father had been displeased too, he didn't like the idea of a thief in the house.

"A very dishonorable and untrustworthy act," he had said withering Sage with a blast of scornful contempt. No wonder Sage had felt sick. It wasn't the cookies that made him ill, it was the ugly waves of war billowing forth to encircle his innocent heart and hold it captive, that made him feel so dreadful, thought Joanna poetically. On a more practical level, she wondered how they might best present their case for forgiveness.

"I shall go forth and zap them with love," said Sage, already trotting towards the house with jaunty step. "They won't stand a chance."

The grown ups were having a little afternoon sit down with newspapers and things. They refused to even look at Sage, the dastardly cur. He sat down between them, eyes riveted on his beloved lady human. She was the one to win first, he knew. He wiggled closer. He laid his head upon her knee and beamed her full force with unconditional love. She wilted. He uttered a low moan. She laughed. The love-laugh! Sage knew all was forgiven. He whirled in dizzy circles.

"I love. You love. We all love," he shouted and crashed against the outstretched legs of Joanna's father. Everybody laughed. Joanna's father said it was impossible to concentrate on the stock market with a bunch of demented hooligans on the loose, and suggested they all go for a ride in the car.

"We can go on an Ice-Cream Quest," he said, "and take a walk in the park."

Joanna and Sage sat in the back of the car grinning at each other. Joanna  was very impressed with his strategy. Forgiveness was obviously a very powerful force. One which even her father was helpless against, it seemed.


Chapter Sixteen  ~  The Birthday Party

It was Joanna's birthday, and the guests were assembled. A family affair her father always called it. No need to get dressed. That always made Joanna giggle, although she knew that what he really meant was there was no need to put on one's best clothes. Well, she thought, the animals were dressed in their birth-day best! These birthday festivities had become traditional and the weather was always beautiful. And as usual, Joanna's father had been battling the shrubbery that captured the gate into Freedom's field. After a certain time, probably about mid morning, there had been a great holler from the bottom of the garden and Joanna and her mother went running down to the gate.

"I think I've done it," Joanna's father panted. "I think he can make it." And he heaved on the gate until it opened just a few inches. Joanna sighed loudly:

"Oh Daddy, you know Freedom can't get through there!" And then there was a lot more huffing and puffing and stone moving and ivy pulling, and the gate opened just a little bit more. Joanna knew that when the time came, with both her parents pulling as hard as they were able, they could hold the gap wide enough for Freedom to come through and join the birthday party.

It was all very exciting, and as soon as lunch was over, Joanna helped her father carry the small wooden table and four chairs outside. They were very special, this table and chairs. Antiques, her father said, inherited from the grandparents. Joanna  made pretty little cards for each chair saying Mother, Father, Joanna and Star Cat. She usually wrote Stardust, and her parents didn't seem to notice the difference. She also put Stardust's favorite lavender velvet cushion on his chair. Sage preferred to sit on the ground. Actually, he preferred to keep moving from chair to chair seeking an ever better view of the table. Freedom would stand patiently throughout the party with his halter rope dangling down in front of him ~ like a ship anchored in the ocean, thought Joanna dreamily.

And what a feast! There were wooden bowls full of sliced carrots and apples for the pony ~ excuse me, the gallant steed. There were elegant little fish sticks for the star cat, and there was a beautiful birthday cake with green icing and blue candles, in the shape of a dog bone. There was also a small silver bowl of dog cookies and a bigger bowl of animal and people food, because most of those present seemed to prefer people snacks ~ especially Sage. He loved birthday cake. So did Joanna. Her birthday cake was always an especially delicious carrot cake with extra nuts and raisins, and a not-too-sweet pale green organic cream cheese topping. 

And now, the guests had assembled, everything was perfect, and no one could eat another crumb ~ the humans that is. Sage and Freedom could always eat more it seemed. And Stardust ~ well it was hard to tell whether he was actually full or merely thinking of his health. Sometimes Joanna wondered if Stardust really enjoyed her birthday party at all, or if he would rather be off by himself some place, and the thought came into her head:

"I am free to choose, and I choose to share my love with those I love." She smiled at her beloved cat and looked at Sage. He beamed love at her:"Me too!" he said, madly wagging his tail in all directions. She looked to Freedom. What did Freedom think? Was he bored? No, she knew he enjoyed being with them all.

"I too am free to choose my thoughts," came the voice in her head, "and I choose to think peace and love and eternal friendship between all kingdoms."

"This gathering," said Joanna's father, rather grandly ~ and who hadn't heard a word the animals were saying, "reminds me of the Garden of Eden, where all the kingdoms are said to have lived in peace and love and eternal friendship."

Joanna was so happy she thought she would never go to sleep that night. But she did.

That's all for now folks.
Watch out for Joanna and the Dolphins.
And Joanna and the Star Children.
And who knows what else.



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