25 November 2007

Thanksgiving meme, a little late

My friend Max has tagged me with a Thanksgiving meme. I like Max. Max makes me smile. Max makes me think. So I’m taking up Max’s challenge.

It just so happens that I wrote about twenty “things to be thankful for” for publication in the November issue of a slick local fluff magazine, so I’m well prepared for this. For that article, which focused on things to be thankful for in this part of the Sierra foothills, I mentioned long walks, hot soup, glorious coffee, apple pie and rain on the roof (along with where to walk and what local establishments to visit in order to find the soup, the coffee, and the apple pie).

We’re still waiting for the rain. Today there’s a dense, low, unbroken layer of gravid gray clouds, but there’s no rain forecast. I hope as the clouds move eastward, some lucky folks on the other side of the Sierras might just hear rain drumming on their rooftops before too long. With so much of the nation either facing or enduring serious drought, I’m thankful for rain wherever it falls.

And for today, I’m thankful for the gray. I know that sounds funny to sun-worshippers, but I’m not one of you. It’s sunny and warm (or hot) here almost all year ‘round. When the clouds come in and cut the glare, I’m thankful.

Okay, that’s two thankful things, Max. I’ll just count it as one, though, since the clouds, gray skies and rain are a theme by themselves.

Here’s another thing I’m thankful for: my friend PiB, which is short for Puss in Boots. Twelve years ago he turned up at our little hovel in the oak woodlands just outside Placerville, a skinny, pitiful, mostly feral black-and-white Sylvester kitten with a pink nose, golden eyes and four white feet. I like cats but prefer dogs, so he’d have remained feral if it had been up to me. Mr. Wren, however, was enamored of him and started coaxing him closer with promises of kitten food and gentle strokes. Within a week, PiB had his name and a permanent home. He rewarded us with the peculiar loyalty and affection of the Standoffish Feline Kind for many years, preferring to stay outside and rule his territory as a small, neutered but mighty tom, all scrappy claws and teeth. He always had scabs on his head and frequently brought us freshly-killed birds and lizards, laid with pride on the mat in front of the door. Once he snatched a low-flying little brown bat right out of the air, right before our eyes. We yelled at PiB, he dropped the bat, and it flew away while he licked a paw in nonchalant disgust. Incredible.

And then three years ago, on Christmas Day, he crept inside, subdued and looking unwell. We found a terrible, swollen and leaking abscess on his belly, caused by a puncture wound he’d received while mixing it up with another critter – cat, dog, coyote, raccoon, we never knew. It was dicey for a while, but PiB lived through the injury, saved by about $1000 to the local veterinarian and three weeks worth of daily medication pushed gingerly down his throat and a twice-daily wound-flushing, carried out by yours truly and the Fledgling while holding the furious but resigned PiB, shaved pink belly up, over the kitchen sink.

Amazingly, we lost only a little skin during the ordeal. He seemed to understand that while the flushing was grossly undignified and very painful, it was beneficial. He ‘d hide for hours afterwards, but each time, when he finally stuck his nose out again, we were forgiven. What a cat.

For his own good (and that of my bank account) PiB was forced to become an Indoor Cat after that. The first two years he was constantly trying to sneak out the door whenever it opened, but he’s used to the cushy life now. He rarely makes a break for it. And to my delight, he’s turned into a lap cat and one of the best furry friends I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. He’s always near and he seems to like being held as much as I like holding him. Mr. Wren may be the one who first enticed him to stick around, but it’s me PiB sticks close to now. I'm charmed.

I’m thankful for good health. I always thought that was an “old fart” thing to say, and I guess it is, but I understand and appreciate why they say it now that it’s clear I am not immortal like I thought I was when I was younger. My personal stage of “old fartdom” has arrived. To hold further deterioration at bay, I continue to walk – I’m averaging about 15 miles a week with a goal of more as I build up endurance and speed – and I’ve managed to stay off the cigarettes (seven months!) and stick to a very healthy diet. I feel good. Although I have rheumatoid arthritis, with the exception of an occasional twinge here or there, it remains quiet and doesn’t trouble me. And I think the exercise, the healing lungs and the good food have combined to make the symptoms of menopause, which I’ve been struggling to deal with without resorting to medication, much less annoying.

Two more. I’m thankful for family – Mr. Wren, my daughter and her boyfriend, my mother and sister, my aunt, her son and his wife, their new baby, and my other cousins and half-cousins, with whom I reunited recently over the passing of another aunt and uncle. We’re both a smaller family than we were a couple of years ago and a larger one in new ways. We’re stronger, sadder, maybe a little wiser, flung out further away in distance but not in spirit. It’s been a revelation, rediscovering the tough but gossamer threads that link us.

Finally, I’m thankful for the comforts of home – and for all these other things: For the roof over my head, for plenty to eat, for the soft bed in which I sleep, and for the time I’ve been given for contemplation and decision-making. I’m thankful for time to write, for time to sweep the walks, and for the gentle life I lead, knowing that it could all change tomorrow. I’m thankful that I’m aware and mindful, at least as much as I’m able to be, and most of all, I’m thankful to be alive, right here and right now.

23 November 2007

Happy Day After Turkey Day! Recovery is ongoing.

The celebration of family, good food and good friends was here at the Wren's Nest for the first time this year. I roasted and mixed and cuisinarted all morning, then uncorked a bottle of wine at noon and managed -- three generous glasses of cold white plonk later -- to get everything on the table piping hot.

I had help. Three generations of females -- family and friends -- crowded into my wee kitchen and chopped apples, sliced cheese and salami, and tossed salads. In the end, the feast itself was the only organized part of the day, but we all had a lot fun.

Mr. Wren contributed sprays of maple leaves for vases, bringing Autumn indoors for us. The woodstove blazed and soon had us opening all the windows and fanning ourselves. DVDs of "The Matrix" made up the background noise. We had lots of people here, lots of laughter and lots of love. What more can you ask from life than this?

Well, OK. Now that it's over, a foot massage?

13 November 2007

Essay on November

There is at times a small fire
In the brain, partita for violin,
Brier, black stem,
All burning in the quarter notes.
And the hedgerow
Beyond the barn
Calls its starlings in.
Then frost, sere leaves,
A swollen half-moon
Like a drowsy fingertip
Above the apple trees.

--Steven Kuusisto
"Only Bread, Only Light"

Another love bites the dust ...

They're putting teevees in Borders.

Yeah, that Borders. The giant chain bookstore. I go there occasionally because I love bookstores. The smell of all that paper and ink just does it for me. I love the variety of books in the stacks, and it delights me, all that soaring (and occasionally thudding) human thought gathered into one place, printed and presented so that anyone can read it. I love the idea that I can open a book and step into a new world, and that each time I read a book I forever change my perception of the world and how I react to it.

Since Borders and Amazon.com ate up all the little local booksellers, Borders is the only brick-and-mortar bookstore I go to these days. I sometimes spend more than I ought to there, but I don't love Borders and I don't go often.

The news that Borders is putting big, wide-screen TVs in their stores forever kills my love of bookstores. They've made sure that I'll never walk through their doors again. The very thought of a television blaring in a bookstore gives me a headache. I don't like TV. I stopped sitting in front of the tube, eyes glassy and mouth hanging open, years ago. I can't stand watching it.

And now it will be in bookstores, one of the last sacred places. As I peruse fiction stacks, the blathering talking heads will be yammering on. As I skim through pricey magazines, debating whether $12 is too much to spend on something that's mostly fashion ads, TV commercials frantically selling me cars and designer drugs ("ask your doctor about how Snake Oil can help you!") will form my auditory background.

You know, I don't go to the bookstore for lattes. I don't go to buy music. I'm not particularly interested in overpriced book lights that go through batteries like kids through their Halloween candy, and my "boughten" bookmarks last for decades. The fact is, I go to the bookstore for the books. I go to have my imagination awakened. I go out of curiosity, out of a longing for discovery and adventure.

I don't want a television blaring at me while I look for a good book to read by the fire while it rains outside.

I don't get the same satisfaction from buying my books online as I do from buying them from a bookseller. I like holding the book in my hands, reading snippets to find out if I like the writer's style, or how good (or bad) the writing is. I like being able to put the book back on the shelf and look for one that appeals more if it doesn't meet my personal standards. I like feeling the book's heft in my hands, and savoring the quality of the printing and the paper before I open my wallet.

But I'll just have to adjust. With the installation of televisions, my love affair with bookstores has ended once and for all. It's like finding out after the wedding that your Prince Charming farts at the dinner table and neglected to mention his under-the-bed mushroom farm.

Lance said it best, I think: "When I want to be forced to watch television, I'll go to the grocery store."

12 November 2007

08 November 2007

Echoing light ...

When I was beginning to read I imagined
that bridges had something to do with birds
and with what seemed to be cages but I knew
that they were not cages it must have been autumn
with the dusty light flashing from the streetcar wires
and those orange places on fire in the pictures
and now indeed it is autumn the clear
days not far from the sea with a small wind nosing
over dry grass that yesterday was green
the empty corn standing trembling and a down
of ghost flowers veiling the ignored fields
and everywhere the colors I cannot take
my eyes from all of them red even the wide streams
red it is the season of migrants
flying at night feeling the turning earth
beneath them and I woke in the city hearing
the call notes of the plover then again and
again before I slept and here far downriver
flocking together echoing close to the shore
the longest bridges have opened their slender wings

-W.S. Merwin

05 November 2007

You want change? Vote.

I was surprised that 20 million women haven't exercised their right to vote. Twenty million. Ladies, we need to change that.
Register. Inform yourself. Vote. Make change happen.

03 November 2007

The trouble with torture

Oh, do take a few minutes to see this:

Animator vs. Animation by *alanbecker on deviantART

and then, this:

Animator vs. Animation II by *alanbecker on deviantART

Art is always relevant. Art makes the point. Animator Alan Becker gets it.