Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Cat Stories.

I feel compelled to put together a post about Cats I Have Known.

I am not really a dog lover. (Not too keen on rug rats either, not until they can talk. Tsk.) My husband feels that a dog completes the family, I guess, and so when the YD was a year old, we got a mutt from the pound and kept dogs(3) from then until after both daughters left for university. We tolerated each other, the dogs and I. And yes, I have dog stories, but not now.

In spite of this sort of benign indifference, my journey through life has been littered with encounters with cats.

My grandparents’ farm had both barn cats and house cats and since I stayed quite a bit with my grandparents as a very small girl, and also since after my father returned from the Navy in 1946 we lived in a wartime house not far from their farm, the cats and I were on cordial terms. My youngest aunt was a cat fanatic and so the house cats were mostly hers. She used to wear one draped around her neck from time to time and she fed them all up to a magisterial plumpness. Another of my aunts almost packed one of these somnolent beasts into a box of Christmas gifts to be mailed. He was sleeping in the box, of course, and didn’t move until my poor aunt pushed down on the parcels to set the lid. There was a fine yowl and she unpacked.

The barn cats were a separate society and hung around my grandfather when he was milking but there was one old dame who always brought her kittens up to the back kitchen steps when they could see and left them there. My grandmother swore that she was left to babysit. I loved this, of course, and once brought a kitten into the kitchen (strictly forbidden) where it got in behind the refrigerator. My grandparents were due to take me home but could not do so until my grandfather moved the frig and hauled the cat out of there. He got hissed at, and so did I.

My mother was not so keen, but the cats liked her. One rode back from the farm to our house inside the hood of her car and she had to drive him home again. In my kindergarten year my school held a pet competition and I begged to bring in one of the cats from the farm. My mother (reluctantly) agreed and my aunt loaned me Schmoo*, who came to our place in triumph in a cardboard box. Before the pet parade, he got loose from the box and found the tin can under the sink where my mother kept used grease. This he ate and became even more dopey and relaxed than his usual self, so much so that he won the prize for best behaved pet.

A few years later we were adopted by a cat, an handsome black and white Tom who arrived on the cottage steps one day and demanded food. I named him Christopher (Columbus) for his exploring ways and when we moved back to the city when school started, we brought him along. And then one day he was gone. Sadness. My mother assured me he could take care of himself and she was right! A few weeks later we spotted him living at a butcher’s shop some blocks away.

This perfidy cured me, I thought, of cats. When my grandkid’s beautiful sort-of-Siamese jumped onto my feet in the wee hours, one night when I was baby-sitting, I was so startled I took a swipe at him and sent him flying across the room. We have not been friends since.

And then, a few years later a small and starveling cat turned up one day nosing around under the bird feeder. She was pitiful, all skin and bones and terror. JG and I decided on the instant to feed her and that was the beginning. I told her story here * and have been posting cat stories and cat photos ever since.


In the meantime, Miss M received a rather gorgeous part Siamese kitten for her second birthday. He was named Miso and has been a fixture at the ED’s menagerie ever since. An opinionated beast to be sure, but handsome and very photogenic. Miso and I do not agree much of the time; he regards me with suspicion since I flung him across the room by accident some years ago. 

But he does love to be photographed and is accordingly a source of much joy to me.

Callee took a great shine to my YD
  and, when we went on a trip, the YD boarded the cat. Her dog and Callee bonded and she stayed on at the YD’s, only coming back when the YD needed both of them boarded. In the city she, like Miso, is a totally indoor cat, but when she visits out here she reverts to her outdoor self and demands to be let out to play with the cat down the road, terrify (and sometimes eat) the small local rodents, and riot around the landscape.

And, of course, drive me nuts.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

More Poetry Last Month


Poem about Canada
by Douglas Le Pan

No monuments or landmarks guide the stranger
Going among this savage people, masks
Taciturn or babbling out an alien jargon
And moody as barbaric skies are moody.

Berries must be his food. Hurriedly
He shakes the bushes, plucks pickerel from the river,
Forgetting every grace and ceremony,
Feeds like an Indian, and is on his way.

And yet, for all his haste, time is worth nothing.
The abbey clock, the dial in the garden,
Fade like saint’s days and festival.
Moths, years, are here unbroken virgin forests.

There is no law – even no atmosphere
To smooth the anger of the flagrant sun.
November skies sting string like icicles.
The land is open to all violent weathers.

Passion not more quick. Lightnings in August
Stagger, rocks split, tongues in the forest hiss,
As fire drinks up the lovely sea-dream coolness.
This is the land the passionate man must travel.

Sometimes – perhaps at the tentative fall of twilight –
A belief will settle that waiting around the bend
Are sanctities of childhood, that melting birds
Will sing him into a limpid gracious Presence.

The hills will fall in folds, the wilderness
Will be a garment innocent and lustrous
To wear upon a birthday, under a light
That curls and smiles, a golden-haired Archangel.

And now the channel opens. But nothing alters,
Mile after mile of tangled struggling roots,
Wild-rice, stumps, weeds that clutch at the canoe,
Wilds birds hysterical in tangled trees.

And not a sign, no emblem in the sky
Or boughs to friend him as he goes; for who
Will stop where, clumsily constructed, daubed
With war-paint, teeters some lust-red Manitou?

When I was an undergrad, the man who wrote this was my professor for an overview course in English Literature geared to orient students in the Honours English stream. At that time the English department at my university was engaged in a debate as to whether it was relevant to consider the life and times of a poet, his reading and personality, in considering his work. Prof. Le Pan was on the 'no biography' side of the debate. And it never occurred to me to cheat and look him up. 

That may be one of the reasons why his poetry was opaque to me then. It was bitter, mannered, thick with allusion, dark to me. I could not extract much from it. I felt much the same about T S Eliot. And I recall my mother, who was a university lecturer in English literature at that time, telling me that when I grew up I would be able to grasp their meaning and grow to love T S.

My father-in-law fought his way up Italy in WW II, as did Le Pan. Perhaps none of us who have never been so seared can find their way into the world view that war engendered. I think Le Pan must have loved the quiet storied towers of his university a lot and was permanently scarred by being torn from them. He was the most impatient and exigent teacher I have ever had; my impression was that he despised us all, clumsily constructed poor fools that we were.

 "And now the channel opens. But nothing alters,"

What age and maturity have brought me is the ability to pity him. And while I have lines of Eliot's work echoing in my head, I have not reread Le Pan for decades, until today.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Because last month was poetry month.

W. H. Auden, Lullaby 
Lay your sleeping head, my love, 
Human on my faithless arm;
Time and fevers burn away
Individual beauty from
Thoughtful children, and the grave
Proves the child ephemeral:
But in my arms till break of day
Let the living creature lie,
Mortal, guilty, but to me
The entirely beautiful.

Soul and body have no bounds:
To lovers as they lie upon
Her tolerant enchanted slope
In their ordinary swoon,
Grave the vision Venus sends
Of supernatural sympathy,
Universal love and hope;
While an abstract insight wakes
Among the glaciers and the rocks
The hermit’s sensual ecstasy.

Certainty, fidelity
On the stroke of midnight pass
Like vibrations of a bell,
And fashionable madmen raise
Their pedantic boring cry:
Every farthing of the cost,
All the dreadful cards foretell,
Shall be paid, but not from this night
Not a whisper, not a thought,
Not a kiss nor look be lost.

Beauty, midnight, vision dies:
Let the winds of dawn that blow
Softly round your dreaming head
Such a day of sweetness show
Eye and knocking heart may bless.
Find the mortal world enough;
Noons of dryness see you fed
By the involuntary powers,
Nights of insult let you pass
Watched by every human love.
I would have been in my late teens when I encountered this 
poem, and it shook me to my core.
The song is by a man writing about a man, but that, to me, 
is not important. What resonates, like a peal of bells, 
is the calm, resigned knowledge of the cost of love and 
of its nature. In the still centre of the small hours the 
poet finds acceptance and peace. 

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Old dog, no new tricks

I have just discovered that Blogger has deleted, or lost, all of the blogs that I followed from my Dashboard page. I do not know when, why or how this happened, but if you run one of the blogs I follow, this is the explanation for why I have not been to read you lately. Every time one of my apps upgrades, here or on my iPad, it takes me a long, long time to figure out what has happened and what the work-arounds are. I hope that younger folk who have grown up with social media figure the stuff out faster and better. Unfortunately I do not have a resident guru, and have to depend on my BIL by email to keep me informed, at least partially. I recall one of my favourite bloggers complaining about something like this a while back, but since my list seemed intact, I did not pay enough attention. Nor did I bookmark in the ordinary way.

I will figure out how to get you all back again. Somehow. In the meantime, I can still access those of you who cross post to Facebook. Even though I do not understand the latest upgrades there either. This is life in the slow lane, no kidding.

Speaking of lanes. Ours is glare ice as we had rain last night and a miserly degree or so above freezing. I went out to get JG's truck from the garage to the house so that he would not have to wear spikes on his boots to get to it and after I backed it out took about six tries to back it over in front of the house porch. In 4 wheel drive. Wheels were just going whrrrr on the ice and going nowhere. We are supposed to get some snow later today and after that I guess we will have to cover the ice with grit until we get good melting weather. (Theoretically this will happen, but I am finding it hard to imagine.)

And happy Spring to you, too.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Something Borrowed

A most skilled and amusing writer, Nance of the Deptof Nance, has taken up the challenge of a question meme for the month of March. I love what she is doing it and have decided to play along, sort of, starting a week late. The bolded lines are the questions from the meme.

What is the view from the window of the room where you are currently sitting?
Here is the view; I am sitting in my wingback recliner with my iPad. What you cannot see is that outside, even though it is mildly sunny, fine snow is falling, glittering, catching the light.
There is nothing more cheering than a big vase of pink and white tulips poised against the snow beyond the windows.

Is there anything you don't or won't cook?
If I had any choice, I would not cook anything. After over fifty years of meal planning and preparation for my family I am tired of the whole thing. We are acquainted with a couple who eat three meals a day in restaurants: there are three reasons this would not work for me, alas. First, it is a fifteen minute drive to one restaurant and over half an hour to any others from where we live. Second, Even if we lived in town, the energy required to get dressed and go to a restaurant is almost as daunting as the thought of preparing yet another meal. Third, and definitive. The husband would not co-operate.
As for what I won’t cook; shellfish. Stinks.

Where is the one place you have lived that you remember most fondly and why?
My parents’ cottage on Lake Erie, east of Point Pelee. They bought it when I was eight and we spent whole summers there, with my father commuting to work, for many years. It was a big old wooden frame building with a full screened porch across the front and a fine sand beach. I had friends there to play with and a fair bit of freedom to bike the back roads and wander the beaches alone or with them.
The cottage sat on a triple lot, with vacant lots to either side. There were birds and clouds and wildflowers, water and wind, the undivided attention of  my mother when I wanted it, visits from all of the extended family, fresh perch from the fishery down the beach, fresh produce from the roadside stands and market at Leamington, a stray cat that adopted us, and unlimited unsupervised places to explore and savour.
I regret that my cousin and I went back to see what the old cottage was like, a few years ago. The cottage was still there, in renovated state. But the lovely beach and the woodlands were all gone, replaced by a crowded confusion of cottages and homes. And the water was thick with algae and offal.

Can you, along with Edith Piaf, say "Je ne regrette rien"? 
I don’t regret the big choices. I have written about that in earlier posts (and if I ever find one or more of them I will add in links, not that you need to follow them but because I am like that). In your seventies, you can look back and see what your choices have made of you, and be content that you have done the best you could.
Little things are worthy of regret. I regret agreeing to meet my first love, a man to whom I was engaged for over a year, when we were both middle aged. It would have been better to keep, as I also did not do with my parents’ cottage, the unsullied memory. I regret procrastinating about many things and therefore not doing them well. I regret never bringing my French up to fluency level: it has never been more that classroom level. (Do you speak more than one language fluently?  If so, how did you learn it?)
It is no use regretting the loses that a long life brings. It is only necessary to summon up enough courage to live with them.

Have you heard the song Let It Go from the movie Frozen, and if so, do you like it. No, thank goodness.I don't need any more earworms.

Do you get regular mani/pedis?
Although I do not regret having spent a lot of my younger life in swimming pools (swimming is my only skill), it has brought me grief in the fact that fungus, from wet, contaminated dressing room floors, has infected my toenails. I spend more time and money that I like with podiatrists and cannot wear sandals or get a pedicure, ever, lest I infect others.
As for the fingernails, I did once get a manicure. Ouch.

Did you watch the Winter Olympics?  Which events did you enjoy seeing the most?
I love the skating. And this year, for the first time, I got to see it without interruptions or anchors or ads. The CBC streamed the coverage and from my iPad I could hook in, watch at my convenience, and pause and bookmark if I had to do something else.
The extreme skiing contests were more than mind boggling, although I did watch some of it. How those young people get up the courage to slide down railings and sail high in the air over immense jumps is beyond me. Nor can I really relate to eye-hand co-ordination that can place a rock less than an inch from a line to score, especially when it has to bump aside other rocks to do so. I have a friend who is a curling fanatic, but she has never been able to explain the fine points of the game in a way I could understand.
What I love about the Olympics is the emotion – the joy, the sorrow, the determination, the sheer improbability of what they do. What I do not love is the sheer improbability of some of the judging and refereeing (if that is a word?) and the way the medal scores for a country are hyped. It makes the words and tune of ‘Jingo is my name” play over and over in my soggy brain.

I think that I have now done most of the prompts and I will try to keep up for the rest of the meme. If I don't procrastinate too mcuh.

Monday, 20 January 2014

More about Snow, Among Other Things

And here we go again ... another five days of Arctic air mass and minus twenty something temperatures. Ah well, it can't be more stressful than our drive home from Fort Erie (opposite Buffalo, New York, American friends) through Toronto to our home just south of Ottawa. Slush. Very srong crosswinds. Blowing snow. Sloppy salt spray. Tentative drivers creeping along. A massive blockage on the four lane throughway (401) that we tried to avoid by taking a secondary road where the slush, creepers and spray were aggravated by uncertainty as to when and where we ought to rejoin the freeway. I HATE winter driving, I really do. Even when my intrepid husband is doing it.
On top of it all, the so-called smart sensors in the car went nuts and kept howling at us when there was no reason to do so. Ice build-up, probably. And the owner of the car (me, alas) has no idea how to kill the system.
Enough about winter already. My BIL is in Cuba on holiday, lucky for him. That is why we were on the road, to check in on my mother-in-law in his absence. She'll be 97 if she makes her birthday.
We stay in a hotel when we visit, just to give ourselves a peaceful bolthole. But the hotel where we like to stay was full of hockey players, aged 7  to 14, since the hotel is next to the town arena where a hockey tournament was in progress. Peaceful it was not. While many of the team coaches and parents hasd made provision to amuse the kids when they were not playing, some did not. One set of parents set up a party room -across the hall from our room, alas- booted their kids out into the halls and ignored their behaviour, which was atrocious. After enduring screaming, thumps on our door, and assorted nastiness, around 11:00 pm I went out into the hall, did my best hall monitor act on the brats and stormed down to the desk where I, among other civilians, threatened to call the police. Then I happened upon a couple of tournament organizers who, when they told me THEIR kids were not the problem, were treated to my very best ice cold tantrum mode.
I am almost ashamed to admit that I enjoyed evey minute of doing this, especially freezing the kids with a gorgon stare.
Although it is not really their fault, poor things. I blame it on the  careless, selfish parents   who would rather party (and shout in the halls themselves, the louts) than care for their kids.
My BIL is forbidden to take any more vacations on hockey tournament weekends.
(Just kidding, BIL! I know we didn't have to make the trip.)