It’s also the title and subject of Zadie Smith’s essay in the New York Review of Books.
I won’t attempt to retell it—you can read “Joy” for yourself (please do). Until then, here’s a snippet:
“…I experience at least a little pleasure every day. I wonder if this is more than the usual amount?…I don’t think this is because so many wonderful things happen to me but rather that the small things go a long way.”
I feel exactly the same—“the small things go a long way”—and sometimes I’m embarrassed at how easy it is for me to experience pleasure in a world frayed by madness and thoughtlessness. Yet I’m grateful that I can, for it knits one day to the next and eases my path from the past to the future.
As the New Year unfolds, may you, too, find pleasure in the small of Life. [Hand-carved ivory netsuke pictured is part of Edmund de Waal’s inherited collection, which he writes about in The Hare with Amber Eyes.]
Now that I have your attention—for who doesn’t want to double their money?—please allow me to make a plug for animals.
If you have any spare greenbacks this month, here are three organizations where your dollar will go further: the National Audubon Society, Catskill Animal Sanctuary (CAS), and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Each organization has a special donor or group of donors who offered to match other donations dollar for dollar up to a certain point ($150,000 for Audubon; $30,000 for CAS; $70,000 for HSUS). Even a $10 contribution on your part will transform into a $20 donation.
BUT you have to donate before the clock turns to 2013. Yes, you have only until midnight tomorrow to cash in on this great deal.
If you give to Audubon, your money could help rebuild habitats destroyed by humans and weather, collaborate with architects to develop bird-safe high-rises, or continue the collection of at-risk bird data for improved conservation and protection. Donate more than $20 and you can be an Audubon member.
“Well, I guess we have to move to Iceland,” my husband lamented this week.
“Excuse me?” My husband has been talking about visiting Iceland for some time now, but moving there seemed extreme—especially considering his aversion to wintry climes.
“According to this NPR story, Icelanders love books,” he explained, his trusty iPad in hand. “Books are the gift of choice at Christmas—everybody reads there.”
An entire population of readers? Hmmm. Sounded like science fiction to me. However, I was touched that my husband would move closer to the Arctic Circle so I could be with other bibliophiles. So sweet.
A friend of mine apparently isn’t as positive about my reading obsession. For Christmas she gave me a canvas bag (with which to carry my library books, she said) with this quote on it:
“She is too fond of books, and it has addled* her brain.” —Louisa May Alcott
This may be true, but it doesn’t stop me from reading more. After all,
books are more than the information and imagination they contain. Books
have a life (rarely viewed) of their own:
* Actual quote is from Alcott’s Work: A Story of Experience and reads: “She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain.” [Pictured are tiny Icelandic horses. Photo by Marketa Kalvachova. Video is from Type Books of Toronto.]
Another birthday has rolled in for me; another day to celebrate life and assess what I’m doing with it. (Some Lull readers may remember that my family surprised me this year with an earlier summer birthday, but today it’s authentic. Today I’m older.)
Just in time for my annual assessment, by way of Mary Oliver’s A Thousand Mornings, comes this wisdom—which we would all do well to take to heart:
“The life that I could still live, I should live, and the thoughts that I could still think, I should think.” —C. G. Jung
Last week I started a little game. I asked Lull readers to invite a guest—living or dead, famous or not—to a dinner. The responses have been trickling in and, so far, assure us of an interesting evening of conversation.
However, someone just added Ruth Reichl to the festivities and now I’m anxious. Now I actually have to cook something fabulous.
Yes yes yes: I understand this is only an imaginary construct, but my anxiety knows no bounds. I am NOT a cook.
Did you see the film Toast based on food writer Nigel Slater’s memoir? I’m like his mother who’s so nervous of getting a recipe wrong that, of course, she gets the recipe wrong. Whenever dinner didn’t go as planned/hoped, Mrs. Slater served toast, which her family came to rely on and expect for sustenance.
As the cartoon above notes: “In the kitchen, I’m more of an aggregator than a content creator.” However, I don’t think my superior aggregating skills will pass muster with Ms. Reichl or the Lull reader who suggested her. I must put on a better show.
Sigh. What to do? I suppose I will have to take my cue from Mrs. Slater: If all else fails, make toast.
I’ve just finished reading the awkwardly titled The Cat Who Came Back for Christmas: How a Cat Brought a Family the Gift of Love by Julia Romp. It’s the perfect feel-good, breezy read most of could use to lift our spirits.
Yet I’m not sure Temple Grandin, who endorsed the book with “Cat lovers will adore this book,” got it right. Cat lovers may squirm with impatience through the first 64 pages, wondering whether the cat will ever enter the story. If all you’re looking for in Romp’s memoir is an animal story, then you may be disappointed—for it is so much more than that.
Romp, who is not a professional writer, gives us a temporary view into her world of unexpected single motherhood. We share her distress when doctors fail for years to properly diagnose her baby’s odd behaviors, we suffer her embarrassment when she’s in public with her unusual boy, and we nod knowingly as her absolute and unshakeable love for her son George motivates her to constantly seek a connection with him.
George is autistic (hence the reason Temple Grandin was asked to comment on the book). As much as the general public is aware of autism through the mainstream media, there remains a grave disconnect between our knowledge and our understanding. Romp magnifies for her readers how other people—children, teachers, strangers—respond to George and how George perceives the world he shares with them. We learn quickly that they may as well be two different planets.
If you know someone who is dealing with autism in any capacity, I encourage you to read The Cat Who Came Back for Christmas (also published as A Friend Like Ben). On second thought, you should probably read it regardless, for if recent statistics are accurate, you WILL cross paths with autism at some point in your life. And if you’re informed about autism’s effects on families, you may enhance your understanding and compassion for those families. When an autistic child starts screaming in a mall, you may refrain from tsk-tsking over his bad behavior and realize instead that he may well be in pain from the lights and blaring music or that he feels threatened by the scores of people around him. In this respect, the book deserves a wider audience.
As for animal lovers, the book provides a terrific role model (Romp herself) of animal advocacy. Cat and animal lovers should read it if only to learn how to find a lost pet. Romp’s search for her son’s beloved Baboo (aka Ben) is a showdown of determination and desperation. As her net widens, so does her stewardship: False leads (cats mistakenly identified as Ben) get new guardians or are returned home through Romp’s efforts. She helps others along the way because it’s the right thing to do—even when her hopes of recovering her own feline are fading.
Romp writes of the cruelty that percolates during a search—the people who cursed her out for putting a leaflet on their cars, the people who simply meowed into her answering machine, the person who claimed to have Ben and said, “We’ve got him and you won’t get him back.” She writes of the loss of the small, furry family member: how it devastated her son—“I can’t breathe. I can’t swallow. My heart is coming out,” he said over and over—and how it unraveled her relationship with him.
The Cat Who Came Back for Christmas probably won’t win any literary awards, but don’t let that stop you from reading it. It’s engaging and instructive nonetheless. It’s a story of loss and fierce love—for a child, for a cat, and for the family unit made whole by each.
If it were a movie, you wouldn’t believe it. This local news story is as uplifting and melodramatic as any Hallmark Hall of Fame program. And it all started with a feisty little dog named Nubbin.
The first half of the tale started on November 28, when Nubbin chased a groundhog and ended up caught in a fence. Nubbin is the only companion of Jessie Brothers, an elderly man who survives on disability with a host of health challenges while residing in a house he may soon lose. According to a neighbor, Brothers has no family (and, may I add, no perceived purpose in life) other than Nubbin.
Somehow Brothers managed to get his Jack Russell to a nearby clinic, where a stark diagnosis would change his life: Nubbin’s leg, broken in three places, would require complicated and extremely expensive surgery. If Brothers couldn’t afford it (and we already know he couldn’t), the only other alternative was to euthanize little Nubbin.
“My dog, my dog,” Brothers moaned as he crumpled in grief to the floor. A 911 call was placed and firemen (as the first responders) arrived on the scene. When one of them, Anthony Johnson, realized the tragedy that had prompted this emergency, he made the unusual choice of getting more deeply involved.
Johnson couldn’t begin to take on all of Brothers’ problems, but he could spare Nubbin’s life by paying for the surgery, and he knew just who to turn to for the best medical care—a veterinarian he’d met during a fire inspection. The vet agreed to take Nubbin’s case as part of an instructional component of his vet students’ classwork. And when an employee of the vet clinic recounted this story to her father, a retired fireman, he offered to pay for half of Nubbin’s medical care.
While Nubbin underwent surgery, Brothers was recovering at the aptly named Good Samaritan Hospital. His neighbor, the one mentioned earlier, picked him up from Good Samaritan and vowed to help him care for Nubbin during the dog’s crucial recuperation period. (If Nubbin’s leg doesn’t heal properly, he might need it amputated.) After surgery, the clinic staff began worrying about Nubbin, though: He seemed depressed, which could impede his healing. But as soon as the pooch caught sight of Brothers, Nubbin regained his vigor. Fireman Anthony Johnson stood by to witness the heartwarming reunion, and gratitude flowed in all directions.
End of story?
Not by a long shot. Across the country in Oklahoma was a woman who had a dream.
On December 1, Carla Kinnard dreamed that she and her husband, Jessie Kinnard, had at last found the biological father he’d spent years searching for online. Thinking the dream might be significant, Carla took one more stab at trying to find Jessie’s father, whom he hadn’t seen since he was a child—a child nicknamed “Nubbin.”
You see where this is going, don’t you? Carla found the news article about Nubbin the dog. Immediately, the cast of characters expanded to include some long-lost and unknown siblings; the plot thickened to reveal a tragic past; the string of coincidences twisted into a brief time years ago when the two Jessies, father and son, actually lived within two blocks of one another. And a reunion of epic proportions was in the making.
But the story still isn’t over. Many questions are yet to be answered: Will Nubbin’s leg have to be amputated? Will the siblings accept one another? Will the old man lose his home?
Time will tell. But no matter how it unfolds, the bond between Nubbin and his companion certainly sparked the compassion of a lot of people and pulled them together, if only for a short time. If not for one little dog, one lonely old man may never have stumbled upon the happiness he experienced when his first Nubbin returned home.
Earlier this month I warned you about Advance Reading Copies—what they are, where you might see them, and where you shouldn’t. I ended the post in a snit because I’d accidentally purchased an ARC at a used bookstore. And I’d paid a good amount for the book to boot.
Well. May I just say
Of COURSE used bookstores sell ARCs whenever they can. Here’s why: 1. Collectors and fanatics – You never know who they are nor which author they lust after. ARCs are delicacies for them. 2. Author signatures –Many writers sign their ARCs before sending them off to reviewers and friends. This is gold for some readers and worth whatever price tag the bookstore sticks on the cover. 3. The Process Revealed – Fledgling writers and editors enjoy comparing ARC versions to the final ones, for kicks and for education.
So there you have it. The price is whatever the market will bear.
In the case of the ARC that started all this, I was just miffed that I’d paid so much for it—even though it’s signed, even though it’s in mint condition. I bought it simply for information, and I hope the copy is at a late stage in the editorial process (i.e., has few corrections to be made). The problem was not that the store was selling the ARC; the problem was that I wasn’t paying attention!
Fridays are one of my favorite days of the week, because Friday is recycling/garbage day in my ’hood. On Friday, I feel cleansed and new for having LESS in my home, and I feel warm and happy knowing that I performed a good deed for the planet. (I fill my big recycling bin every week, whereas it takes two weeks or more to fill a single 13-gallon garbage bag.)
The city makes it so EASY for residents to recycle. So it bothers me to see some of my neighbors dumping plastic milk containers, cardboard boxes, and glass bottles into their garbage bins rather than into their recycling bins. Wouldn’t they feel better if they recycled? Maybe not as giddy as I get, but still…
I’d like to introduce them to Norman: (If you’re a routine FreeKibbler, you probably saw the video already.)
I realize the video is a weird blend of PSA, advertisement, and public relations, but if a cat can learn to perform a dog-and-pony show like this, surely humans can figure out what belongs in the recycling bin.
We’re only 12 days away from C’mas—after which we’ll begin the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas.
For another take on the Twelve Days, check out Linda Carson’s 7MSN Ranch. She’s dressing her critters for the holidays one by one, just as she’s done in the past. For example, pictured here is George. Click on his name and you can see his conversation with his photographer/blogger/rancher (Ms. Carson).
On the Twelfth Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…
Thirteen words, that is, for the 13th of December.
“The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
Pictured above is a Sweetgum fruit, from Deb’s Field Guide to Ohio Trees and Shrubs. These gorgeous, spiky little wonders of Nature fall plentifully on the sidewalks of my neighborhood this time of year. I used one as a tree-topper for a small magazine Christmas Tree; I’m tempted to collect a basketful of them and fashion them into a wreath. I can’t lay any claims to wisdom, but I’m full of appreciation for “the miraculous in the common.”
One of the stories I heard while visiting with my family last week involved car trouble. My sister was travelling in her powder-blue vintage VW Bug (similar to the one pictured) with her trusty terrier when the trouble began. A tow truck was called to get the Bug to a repair shop, but the driver refused to allow a dog in the cab of his truck. What to do?
The solution must have turned a lot of heads as the convoy made its way through town: Manning the wheel of the vintage vehicle (which attracted attention all by itself) was a small, buff-colored terrier—who looked for all the world as if driving a car was no different for him than fetching a ball.
But maybe driving really isn’t all that extraordinary for dogs. Check out this video from New Zealand:
Granted, it’s a crazy gimmick. Yet I hope it gets the message across about the intelligence of shelter dogs. After all, my sister found her accomplished chauffeur when he was but a pup abandoned in a parking lot.
I started Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything and read this description of Sir Isaac Newton:
“Newton was a decidedly odd figure—brilliant beyond measure, but solitary, joyless, prickly to the point of paranoia, famously distracted (upon swinging his feet out of bed in the morning he would reportedly sometimes sit for hours, immobilized by the sudden rush of thoughts to his head), and capable of the most riveting strangeness.”
Boy, can I relate to getting immobilized by the whirlpool of thoughts in my head. The difference is that my thoughts aren’t changing the world.
The more I read about Newton’s quirkiness, the more I want to invite him over for dinner. And quirkiness at the dinner table reminds me of a fellow I knew eons ago in Chicago.
I was paying him (I believed) to get a job for me; he took my money to…I don’t know, coach me into getting a job myself? (This was long before life and business coaches came into vogue. I was ahead of the trends and didn’t realize it.) Our mismatched goals made for a hopeless situation.
However, the fellow—who had connections with movers and shakers everywhere—held dinner parties at least monthly that focused not on the food but on the guests. The fellow delighted in seating diverse and visionary minds of all disciplines at his table and watching sparks fly. He never mentioned names, but sometimes shared the results of these mixers with me if there was a lesson in it for me.
You probably have a long list of people—living and dead, famous and otherwise—you’d like to have a conversation with. I know I do. Close your eyes now and randomly pick a name from your list. Who is it? I’m curious about the kind of party we could have if each Lull reader brought someone from his/her fantasy list.
I’ll start the game with someone else from my list: my great-great-grandmother whose physical shape (but apparently not her world view) I’ve inherited and who performed in a rodeo.
Now it’s your turn: Tell me who’s coming to dinner. I’ll get out the Fiestaware.
My husband started receiving a magazine recently that he didn’t subscribe to. Nor is he anywhere close to the demographic the advertisers are targeting.
I threw the first issue into the recycling bin without so much as glancing at it.
The second issue, for some reason, compelled me to open it. And what did I see? A DIY method of creating Christmas trees from magazines!
Good golly, Miss Molly: At last here was something to occupy my OCD tendencies, serve as a proxy for art, and make use of an unwanted periodical. It’s all about folding—no cutting involved, so even I can do it.
In my continuing efforts to be green, I’d considered making a tree from books this year; I liked the idea of renting a tree but the closest vendor is in California. So a magazine it is.
Who knows? Maybe origami will become my next special interest.
“We can’t enchant the world, which makes its own magic, but we can enchant ourselves by paying deep attention.” —Diane Ackerman
The more I read, the more I realize that the world is constantly showing us its magic—which we either don’t recognize or simply fail to see.
Cat Urbigkit, author of Shepherds of Coyote Rocks, stays on high alert. Partially she’s always watching for potential trouble around her sheep. But mostly she’s in awe of Nature and documents the remarkable when it unfolds around her.
This fall, Urbigkit witnessed what some thought to be merely legend: a coyote and a badger hunting and hanging out together. Read her account (and see more of her photographs) on Querencia.
This is a cautionary post for Lull readers who aren’t part of the publishing industry.
The title of this post—Advance Reading Copy: Not For Sale—may be found
on book covers inconspicuously printed as pictured or set in a mark or
sticker (see below, left). It means what it says, too. These books aren’t for sale.
They’re sent to early reviewers and promoters to initiate buzz on the
book. Advance copies are almost always soft cover and distributed with a
warning: Don’t quote or excerpt anything from this version. Corrections
are still being made.
“What kind of corrections?” you may ask.
Well, it varies. Advance copies may contain erroneous facts, typos,
misattributed or misquoted quotations; they may include information
that’s later cut from the book or not include information that’s later
added; they may be sequenced differently than the final publication. You
never know. In the case of a book I read recently, I hope to goodness
the final version is devoid of the plague of typos I found on EVERY
SPREAD (a spread in this context is two facing pages). It read like raw
manuscript rather than a nearly finished book. And it’s the reason I’m
writing about advance copies today.
Though advance reading copies find their way into the general public, you should never see one on the shelf at your local bookseller.
If you do, bring it to the attention of the manager—and the publisher
if you’re so inclined. Typically, you’ll find advance reading copies at
rummage sales or in charitable organizations (like the Salvation Army or
a church), but unless the advance reading copy is vintage, I don’t like
forking money over to an individual for it. I see it as breaching
contract with the publisher. It especially peeves me when the seller is a
used bookstore. But that’s just me. I’m not sure what commercial publishers think
about such shenanigans.
Sometimes, the path an advance reading copy takes from desk to sale is
accidental. When you’re culling books, it can be easy to miss that “NOT
FOR SALE” status on the cover and put the book in the wrong pile.
HOWEVER. I unknowingly purchased an advance reading copy from a library
sale last month. (I simply wasn’t paying attention.) For my purposes, I
didn’t mind. I would be reading that particular book for pleasure—not
for research purposes—and I would be donating to an organization whose
funding was shrinking.
HOWEVER. This particular book hadn’t been donated to the library for the
sale. It had been decommissioned by the library and put into the sale.
Meaning it had once been in circulation at the library and was now
removed from circulation. This was no mistake. Not only was it a
flagrant disregard of the publisher’s intent, but it showed a lack of
respect for library members. This was the book I mentioned earlier with
typos on every spread. For someone with typo sensitivities like me, it
makes for arduous and irritating reading. For someone with lower-level
reading capabilities, the book can become challenging or impossible to
complete—which, considering the subject matter, would be a shame because
the content is otherwise entertaining and insightful. What’s more, though, because an advance reading copy may contain factual errors, it shouldn’t be trusted. And because the general public—especially children—trusts what’s on library shelves, an advance reading copy has no place there. It’s a tremendous disservice to mix advance reading copies with final printings.
If you see an advance reading copy on your local library’s shelf, please
do everyone a favor and hand it over to a reference librarian. The
folks in your community who suffer from typo sensitivities will
* Addendum: Since writing the post above, I stopped at a national used-and-overstock bookstore four days ago. I quickly scanned titles in the animal section and chose a few I’d been wanting. I didn’t inspect the books—just the title and the price, which was decent but not the library-sale low of 50 cents and a dollar.
This morning I chose one of the books to begin reading. It’s about animal rescue work and ties in nicely with the book I just finished. As I usually do before beginning new content, I began studying the cover of the book, after which I normally read all the front matter, sometimes even the back acknowledgments and testimonials before finally reading the first page. But what do you suppose I saw that raised my blood pressure? Yes, small type at the bottom of the cover that reads: ADVANCE READING COPY • NOT FOR SALE • ADVANCE READING COPY
The “NOT FOR SALE” phrase was blacked out, as it also was on the back cover. Twice.
My fault for not bothering to look at the cover before purchasing, but I never imagined that a large for-profit organization would stoop to selling advance copies.
On the other hand, maybe they didn’t stoop. Maybe someone there made the same mistake I did and hadn’t looked closely enough at the book before pricing it. I’ll find out, though, because I’d like to know where this particular bookstore stands on the ethics spectrum. I’ll let you know in a follow-up.
In late June, a large box arrived in the mail with a warning: Do NOT open ’til July 4th!
The box was from my mother, who made a big deal of most holidays—gifts not only for Christmas, but also for pre-Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, and Halloween. This was a first for Independence Day, though.
But I was wrong. My mother’s brainstorm was to separate the birthdays of her daughter (Christmas Eve) and son-in-law (Boxing Day) from the holiday crush. As a child, I longed to have a summer birthday largely because I wanted to hold an outdoor scavenger hunt. However, Mother held fast to the official birth date. Until now.
Now she saw the benefits of shifting the celebration: She didn’t have to shop during the holiday frenzy, she could find colorful items that weren’t red or green, and we wouldn’t be getting yet another sweater. Now she could give her daughter what was asked for long ago. After all, there was precedence and a track record: A family friend had for decades celebrated his December 24th birthday on June 24th without incident. Plus, this shift felt tinglingly subversive.
Mother promised the early celebration wouldn’t affect our ages. We wouldn’t be getting older earlier or advance in age twice in one year. Nope, that numbers game occurred only on our real birthdays.
All good. Until now.
Not that what I’m about to say isn’t good; it just strikes me as curious. We’re celebrating Christmas tomorrow.
That’s right. We knocked off the 2 in December 25th and are just going for the 5th this year.
Actually, there’s a good reason for this craziness: Each member of my family lives several states away from one another and we rarely see each other. This week, my sister is visiting my mother and hatched a plan to meet with us halfway between the Land of Lincoln and the Bluegrass. And since it’s so close to Christmas, why not celebrate while we’re together?
Why not, indeed?
So tomorrow I’m headed for Story. You know—near Gnaw Bone and not far from Bean Blossom? Indiana, that is.
Ho Ho Ho…
[I’m hoping for a turtle on wheels like the one on the postcard.]
I scooped up an unexpected treasure last week at a library sale. It’s one of those “gift” books: small and easy to handle, photographs on every spread, lean on text. It’s Dylan Schaffer’s Dog Stories with black-and-white, sepia-washed photographs by Jon Weber. The stories are told by dogs from dogs’ perspectives.
I don’t often fall for such stuff. Heaven only knows how many blogs and books exist in this category. And the ones written by critters who have speech impediments or spelling challenges grate on me. (I know, I know: The I Can Has Cheezburger? captions fit squarely into this description. It took me a long time to come round to them.)
But Schaffer’s dogs are different. They’re wise and poignant and engaging. They’re a perfect holiday gift for the dog lovers in your life. Here’s an excerpt—a dialogue between a couple of Greyhounds, Merlin and Palermo:
M: What makes us dogs?
P: Why do you ask?
M: I sometimes think the things that make me easily identifiable as a dog—my bark, my smell—are the least important things about me, about us. We are unique among the species, but for reasons seldom articulated.
P: That is because we live in a borrowed world. Like all domesticated creatures we exist as a subset of the experiences of our masters. And like all slaves we are valued exclusively for those traits which make us useful: we are obedient, we are protective. But our trials, loves, hopes, and dreams, these are obscured by our owners’ need for us to be dog-like.
M: So what is the one thing that most makes you a dog?
P: I can serve without being servile. And you?
M: I can see into the hearts of those who love me.
Plenty of books blaze titles about animals who taught authors the secret to happiness, love, health, finding a soulmate, etc. News media pick up stories about pets who rescued their humans from certain peril. But somewhere in between lie the subtle acts of kindness animals perform on our behalf that we’re not quick to recognize:
It may be the first of December, but as you can see in the photo, no one told the roses.
On a walk toward the grocery store, a tent sign stood outside near a dog
groomer’s business. On one side, the sign read: Full Grooming Packages
$45.00. On the other side was—well, you can see for yourself in the
The groomer isn’t SELLING just any puppies but CHRISTMAS puppies!
Ohsospecial. Like there aren’t enough puppies looking for homes
already. I could go on about the pitfalls of trying to housetrain a pup
in winter, but I’ll let it go.
Fortunately, to revive my good mood, there’s usually a splendid sunset to watch in the Bluegrass.
It’s the final day of November and time for me to admit that Autumn is waning. The “Season of Giving” has been poking at me since July and now that Thanksgiving is over, I guess I’m ready to embrace it.
Adieu, Autumn. [Pumpkins Experiencing Life by Lana Gits.]
“I have striven not to laugh at human actions, not to weep at them, nor to hate them, but to understand them.” —Baruch Spinoza
Mr. Spinoza, I’m trying really hard to follow this path but sometimes—well, too many times—I just don’t get people.
Human Thwarts Evil In Homer’s Odyssey, Gwen Cooper recalls a first date. When he picked her up, she invited him into her apartment for drinks. She left him in the living room while she made cocktails in the kitchen. Upon her return, she found the date towering over her tiny, terrified, BLIND cat (Homer)—whom he’d trapped in a corner and was hissing at.
Yes, you read that right. The MAN, not the cat, was hissing. The man’s explanation? The animal was headed for him and everyone knows black cats are bad luck.
Thankfully, the author ended the date right there—no cocktail, no second chance.
Human Bags Dinner In my efforts to understand both sides of some issues, I’ve been reading Stephen Bodio’s Querencia, where I found this photo of deer in a backyard. Beneath the pic, Bodio writes:
“Part of the neighborhood deer herd, a healthy population that lives well on our landscaping. My friend Tyler took a doe from this group last week by bow, shooting from a blind he set up near the swing set.”
“A day spent without the sight or sound of beauty, the contemplation of mystery, or the search for truth and perfection is a poverty-stricken day; and a succession of such days is fatal to human life.” —Lewis Mumford
My Thanksgiving kicked off with an unexpected and magnificent visitor. He was staying with a neighbor who knew I’d want to meet him. What she didn’t know was that I had been reading about his relatives in Shepherds of Coyote Rocks by Cat Urbigkit. Now my neighbor’s guest was about to bring part of the book to life for me—the part about the great guardians of sheep the world over, the Anatolian Shepherd.
Yup. I got to hang with a massive, laidback pooch named Luke.
He never looked at me, but Luke never hesitated to let me know he thought I should pet him nonstop. We were outside on a warm and sunny morning, so why not take advantage of the beautiful day? I sat in the yard and fulfilled my obligations to my new friend.
It was hard to reconcile the oversized lap dog beside me with the fight-to-the-death guardians Anatolians are bred to be: working dogs used to protect livestock from all predators—including wolves, mountain lions, and grizzlies. But my time with Luke made it easy to understand why the sheep in Shepherds of Coyote Rocks put their absolute trust in their canine guardians. Anatolians are an unlikely combination of extreme gentleness and extreme protectiveness.
At one point, Luke sprawled out next to me and extended his front leg across my lap—to make sure, I guess, that I didn’t try to get away from him. I didn’t mind. I could have stayed like that all day.
Did you know that black cats and dogs, like old or disabled dogs and cats, are the last to get adopted from shelters? Here are a few reasons why they get ignored:
1. Their online pictures don’t look like much—black coats are difficult to photograph—so they’re overlooked by potential adopters.
2. Black fur and faces are difficult to read, so people can’t easily understand the intentions or emotions of black animals (even some canines have trouble reading black dogs).
3. People are idiots. I mean, SOME people can’t get past their belief that black is bad luck, especially when it’s on a cat.
Today is Black Friday at shelters across the country. They’re offering special deals and deep discounts on black critters of all ages. If you’re in the market for a pooch or kitty, go BLACK today. I guarantee their ebony coats won’t bring you bad luck.
Since enjoying Tom Ryan’s Following Atticus—a memoir about identity and leading a meaningful life set against a background of Ryan hiking the White Mountains with his unique Schnauzer, Atticus—I’ve been following his blog. This May, Ryan got wind of a 15-year-old Schnauzer on Death Row.
The dog was left at a kill shelter by the very family who had cared for him all his life. The facts are a tad murky, but it seems that for some time they had been keeping the pooch in a crate all day for the sake of convenience, for the Schnauzer had become deaf and mostly blind. He was also extremely arthritic, making mobility a challenge, and the family had given up on him.
The Schnauzer’s health, not surprisingly, quickly declined at the shelter and euthanasia was looking like his only future. That is, until a Schnauzer rescue and Tom Ryan stepped into the picture.
Ryan believed the pooch deserved to be loved and to live in comfort. Judging from the dog’s health and age, he had only a couple of months left before reaching a natural end. Ryan wanted to give him dignity for those two months. So he adopted Will.
Will wasn’t an easy customer. He’d grown to distrust humans and bit Ryan repeatedly. But Ryan knew all about betrayal and distrust, knew relationships take time to develop; he didn’t hold it against Will.
Ryan did whatever he could to give comfort to Will: “Will likes to be tucked in and feel secure against the night. He likes flowers. He likes music playing near his head where he appears to get more out of the vibration than the actual sound. So we get him flowers, cover him at night, and play music for him. If all it takes to make someone feel loved is to give them a few simple pleasures in life, why not do it?”
What surprised Ryan was how much Will began to change, physically as well as emotionally. With proper medical treatment, his pain was managed, his mobility stabilized, and his personality started to emerge. Will wanted to live.
It’s now well past that two-month mark Ryan originally thought he was dealing with, and Will is a new dog. He nuzzles rather than bites, hangs out with Atticus, attends book signings with Ryan, and has even taken up mountain hiking (albeit in a stroller) with his new tribe. This month for the first time, he showed interest in sleeping with the humans in their bed. He’s proof positive that old doesn’t mean done, that a meaningful life may be achieved even at the geriatric stage of life, that love is always worthwhile.
November is Adopt-A-Senior-Pet Month. If you’re in the market for another critter or in a position to foster one, please consider an elder animal. They have so much left to give to those willing to recognize it. Watch a video (second from the top left) of Will romping in the yard. If you want a “pawtographed” edition of Ryan’s book, here’s the info.
[Top photo of Tom and Atticus by Ken Stampfer; middle photo of Will and bottom photo of Will and Atticus by Tom Ryan.]
If you’ve been reading Lull for any length of time, you probably know that cooking scares me. I keep doing it, and my sister—whose culinary gifts far exceed my limited kitchen imagination—keeps encouraging me.
So I created a simple menu for the holiday and started by baking a pumpkin pie. After using the name-brand canned pumpkin, I noticed that the can was rusty. Just on the outside. However, the expiration date is fine.
Why would the can be rusty? I don’t know. But if you don’t see any new posts on Lull after today, you’ll know why.
Of course, death by pie isn’t a bad way to go…
[Photo: I don’t know who is pictured or who took the picture. For some reason, my whole “Google experience” has dramatically changed today and limited my research capabilities. Oh, Google, why have ye forsaken me?]
Each photograph here is from an autumnal stroll through our ’hood.
Some milkweed pods caught our attention one day and, upon closer inspection, my husband noticed the array of colorful bugs.
Hedge-apple trees were plentiful in the country when I was young and somehow they’ve stuck with me as something wholesome and good. Lucky for me I don’t have to travel to the country to find them anymore. Our neighbors have one in their yard! They create fall arrangements with the fruit.
This past weekend we walked down a street that was breathtakingly golden. The sun illuminated both the leaves still clinging to branches and those that carpeted the ground and sidewalks. Nothing but ginkgo leaves and fruits for an entire block, yet the street sign read “Catalpa.”