Saturday, June 09, 2012

Redux: I'm About To Say Something Unthinkable

       Or, if not the entirely unthinkable, then certainly the ill-advised.  I am about to blog on no sleep.  None.  I got up at 8:30 am Monday morning, and haven't slept since.  But enough about me.  Let's talk about -- and mock, denegrate and otherwise deride -- others in my general vicinity. 
       This would include the lady who has let everyone, BUT EVERYONE, know she's pregnant by telling us how the smells of our coffee/cinnamon buns/banana nut muffins/chewing gum bother her.  Because she's pregnant.  In case you hadn't heard her the first four times she made the point.  So, could we please either discard our food or go sit somewhere else, so she doesn't feel sick.  Because she's pregnant.
        I'm becoming increasingly alarmed at the number of women in the world who actually think that being pregnant means something to the rest of us.  Let me clarify.  It doesn't.  Hey, I wish you well.  If you want advice, I'll gladly share my experience with you.  I'll even look at your ultrasound photo, at least for a bit.
        But if you think for one hot second I'm even remotely impressed by your pregnancy, you have landed on the wrong redhead.  To me, you're just another dame who got herself knocked up, so quit acting like it makes you somebody.  Women have been doing it since our Australopithecus mother, Lucy.  And she didn't have ovulation predictor kits and basal thermometers.  She did it the old-fashioned way.
      American women behave as if Betsy Ross stitched motherhood together from the scraps of the first flag.  Who does it better than we do?  Who wants it more than we do?  Who knows more, cares more, tries harder?  Why, we do, of course, because we're Americans, and we invented every fucking thing. 
     So it only seems reasonable that when some twenty-something sweet young thing decides she's going to take time out of her busy insider trading-and-pilates schedule long enough to reproduce, we should be more than willing to forsake our coffee and banana nut muffins for her convenience, even though we don't know her from Adam's housecat.
      You know what, sister?  The ladies' room is right over there.  Why don't you high-tail it in there so you don't get sick on the carpet?  Because if you try and use your microscopic little embryo to manipulate me again, I'm going to take this banana muffin and shove it some place with which your as-yet-to-be-hired doula will become intimately acquainted in about eight months. 
     See?  What'd I tell you?  Ill-advised.
     On the upside, the TSA and American Airlines staff has been stellar this morning, and I want to marry them and have their babies.
     Talk to you guys later.  We're boarding soon.

(Originally published on MySpace in 2008, on the day I was leaving for a vacation with my BFF, Kim, in North Carolina, I sadly had to fly coach while sleep deprived, thereby forcing me to tolerate... people... other people... I did not know... like... strangers. This was the resultant blog.  The one thing about sleep deprivation is this. It is my pentathol.  I cannot lie exhausted. So here's what I really, really think about certain types of women who manage to experience the solitary miracle of pregnancy.)


I finally broke out my copy of Brian Kiteley's The 3. AM Epiphany: Uncommon Writing Exercises That Transform Your Fiction and decided to start doing some exercises to get the creative juices flowing. I kind of meditated on it, opened my mind a bit, gave up resistance, and this is what came of it. I wrote it at the sushi restaurant over some of the weirdest, yet most delicious sushi I've ever eaten---and now, I'm going to reward myself by finishing it. (The sushi, that is.)

The exercise, called Reluctance, challenges the writer to write a fragment of fiction from the first person POV, but limits the usage of personal and personal possessive pronouns to only two in the entire story---the point of which is to encourage the fictive voice to merely be a first-person observer without insinuating him/herself into the story except as an observer and reporter.
I’m sitting two tables away from them, close enough to overhear their conversation, but not so close as to be overly conspicuous as an eavesdropper. She knows they’re being watched, but he has no idea. She is utterly self-aware and conscious of the impression she gives. Every one of her moves is intentional and studied. He, on the other hand, has no thought for anything past their table.

As they talk, she tosses her hair once or twice in a grand gesture, in case some foolish person is too involved with their buffalo wing starter to notice she’s there. After the long, impossibly shiny hair settles back into place, her chin drops and her mouth slides into a wet-lipped seductive little bow. She seems to be quite focused on him, but she is also regarding the audience in her periphery.

She is quite beautiful. No doubt this is what drew him to her in the first place. Like most very beautiful women, though, much of her energy seems to be drawn from the outside in. This display between them tonight is not new to her. She is accustomed to luring, to drawing attention, both wanted and unwanted, to herself. She’s probably been at this since she was a young teen, and has had years to cultivate and hone her skills at commanding the room---any room. People must look. They will have no choice. It is expected, required. It is part of her seduction of the world at large.

However, at their little table, there is no seduction going on---at least no obvious one. In fact, they are quarreling, these two lovers. They speak mostly in low, tense whispers, hers a bit more stagey and audible than his. She has made him jealous, it seems, by flirting inappropriately with someone. Foolish boy. Does he not know this is just her way? Does he not comprehend the rare, fragile creature with whom he has become entangled? She can no more stop her wooing, her flirtatious luring, than she could the beating of her own heart. She might not sleep with them. But she must draw them to her; she must entice and seduce them, at least emotionally, just to reassure herself that she can. If he does not see this, he will lose her. Already, in the middle of this little café, at their tiny table, as the waiter sets down their meals and they momentarily hush their contretemps, she has taken time out to clandestinely seduce the entire room with another small toss of her glossy caramel mane, her flashing eyes, and her sotto voce self-defense.

“Look at me,” she says with every bewitching molecule of that flawless body. “See how he punishes me? See how he victimizes me for the very thing that brought him to me?" 

And, in this at least, she is right, of course. He has failed to see the essential truth of her. Beauty is not a thing about her. It is her. It is not skin-deep in this one. It is woven in the strands of her DNA, lodged in every corpuscle that bursts through her veins. That perfect skin, those finely chiseled features, the delicacy of her small, full-lipped mouth---all were brought together by some alchemic force during the prenatal division of her cells to create this vision of womanly perfection.

If he does not see this soon, if he does not accustom himself to her innate caprice and exhibitionism and learn to accept the essence of her, he will certainly have to lose her. She will tire of his efforts to turn her from goddess to ordinary woman, and she will move on to the next conquest, until she finds a man who can handle her by keeping her attention while allowing her to be what her nature dictates she be---the object of unattainable, unpossessable sexual desire.

They are through with their meal, neither of their plates having been touched by fork. He sullenly throws money on their table for the bill, and she dabs softly at the corner of her eye with the cloth napkin. Are her tears real? Even from this short distance, it is difficult to say.

As they leave, in his anger, he strides ahead of her, allowing her to fall a few paces behind. Another mistake on his part, for this gives her one last chance to work the room before she leaves, to leave one last taste on the tongue of all the desirous males who watch her with an idea that she might be theirs, and, should such a miracle occur, they would certainly know how to treat her better than this handsome, petulant boy. This last she does with a sensual expertise that says that she may soon be available, that she is willing, that for the price of some tenderness and understanding, she will gladly give of herself. Her smoothness and facility in accomplishing this last bit of intrigue would make even Aphrodite blush.

As the door closes behind her and she is on the street with her silly young lover, their fate as a couple seems all but sealed. She will leave him, of course, and soon. He will almost certainly be completely undone by their ending, unable to hold his goddess and incapable of returning to the world of merely mortal women.

Her fate, on the other hand, could take one of many paths, some exalted, and some tragic. I am left alone over this now-cold entree to wonder where the trajectory of her perfect beauty will finally transport her.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

ANIMAL MAGNETISM: Taming the Wild Things at Home

(In 2006, I was completing my Bachelor's Degree and required one more science course.  I chose Environmental Landscapes, because it was the only class that qualified that quarter.  Because I've been observing instinctive animal behavior up close for the past few days, with regards to my cats ambivalent meetings with my newborn grandson -- simultaneously dying of curiosity, while wanting nothing to do with him -- and with a friend's newly adopted Australian shepherd puppy as she gleefully "herds" a couple of extremely put out ducks in a barnyard, I've decided to revisit one of my favorite undergraduate papers.  

This paper, originally published on an old blog I used to post all my papers on, explores the symbiotic, baffling need that drives us to bring furry creatures into our homes to live with us. I hope you enjoy it.  One caveat -- I haven't checked the links in the citations in a while, so I have no idea if they're still good or not.)

Taming the Wild Things at Home
(Sci 335: Environmental Landscapes)
January 17, 2006

Our history of bringing wild things into our homes is at least 12,000 years, though most anthropologists estimate it’s more like 15,000. It is believed that the first animal to be tamed was the genetic precursor to wolves, the Tomarctus, which scientists believe looked like a cross between a wolf and a fox. The reasons this we can really only guess, since only a scant amount of archeological evidence of man and animal cohabitation exists.

Whatever the initial reason for bringing animals into the den or the cave, they made themselves quite at home, and have now managed to be fully ensconced in our lives. We take them with us on holidays, we buy them food and treats at huge expense that we think they will like; we get up at ungodly hours of the morning to walk them and feed them and tend to their needs. When they become sick, we spend small fortunes on their medical care. When they die, we grieve them as we would our own flesh and blood.

Six thousand years after we had mastered the domestication of the dog, it occurred to us that perhaps, if we tamed this nasty little creature, we could set about to taming something else, like a horse or a goat -- something that might actually prove even more useful to us in our newly minted agrarian lifestyle.

On Dogs
"Yesterday I was a dog. Today I'm a dog. Tomorrow I'll probably still be a dog. Sigh! There's so little hope for advancement." – Snoopy

According to the Humane Society of the United States, 65 million dogs are kept in the United States as owned pets. Slightly over half reside in single-dog homes, but nearly one-quarter live in a two-dog homes, and approximately 12% live in three-dog homes.

What many scientists do not exactly agree on is why. Some say it was in order to utilize them in the hunt for food – both as assistant hunters and – when the going got tough – as the emergency rations. Others say that early dog ancestors were kept as protection against invasions by neighboring tribes of hostile humans. Still others maintain that tamed wild dogs merely offered companionship and body heat in a harsh environment when both could mean the difference between life and death. (“History of Dogs”)

If the union of dog and man was initially a marriage of convenience, it grew eventually to love in a way most humans do not share with any other animal but the dog. It rests largely on what we have done to the species through selective breeding. Today’s dog is really a wolf pup in shitzu clothing. Ancient breeders chose dogs that held on to their puppy-like traits well into adulthood for breeding until they had bred an animal that, unlike a pure-bred wolf, would never grow up. This ensured that the obedience that a puppy shows its mother, or the other alpha leaders, continued throughout a dog’s lifetime. The key to a dog’s loyalty is not necessarily his undying love and devotion to us, but his reliance on us as the alpha leader of his ersatz “pack” to protect and provide for him.

It is for this reason that animals plucked from the wild, even as helpless infants, are capable of suddenly becoming aggressive and turning on the humans that raised them. Even if they do not become aggressive, they become decidedly less responsive and involved in the human experience. They have not been a product of the selective breeding that allows them to remain obedient, docile puppies. They grow into independent, territorial adults, who are programmed not only to not take orders from the alpha leader, but possibly to defeat the alpha leader and take over the pack themselves. It is for this reason that we do not ordinarly keep wolves, coyotes, jackals and other wild-bred dogs as pets. At the very least, they cease to desire to please us. At the worst, they see us as potential competitors, combatants and/or food sources.

In his book, Man Meets Dog, Konrad Lorenz describes his experience with a Dingo he raised from five days old, which he gave to a nursing dog he owned, to foster until the pup was weaned. At first, the Dingo displayed all the reverence and eagerness to please that any puppy might, eagerly greeting Lorenz when he returned home, becoming distressed when Lorenz disciplined him. However, when the pup was about eighteen months hold (sexual maturity in Dingos), Lorenz began to notice the change in him.

... He still accepted every form of punishment, even a beating, without resistance, but, as soon as the business was over, he shook himself, gave me a friendly wag of his tail and ran off, inviting me to chase him. In other words, his frame of mind was in no way altered by the punishment nor did it have the least influence upon him or hinder him from immediately repeating the crime for which he had just been punished, as, for example, making a renewed attempt to murder one of my most valuable ducks. At the same age, he lost all inclination to accompany me on my walks and simply ran off anywhere without paying the slightest attention to my calls. Nevertheless I must stress that he was extremely friendly towards me and greeted me, when ever we happened to meet, with all the usual canine ceremonial. One must never expect a wild animal to treat a human being differently from a member of its own species….

My Dingo evidently harboured the warmest feelings for me that such an animal, when mature, can ever feel for another one, but submission and obedience play no part in these feelings. (Lorenz 22)
Lorenz learned something from his wild Dingo that most people never get the chance to learn – all animals, but particularly wild-bred ones, revert to some sort of wild state, regardless of our efforts in the opposite direction.

We can buy them diamond-studded collars left and right, but in the end, even Paris Hilton’s Chihuahua carries the DNA of the wolf. We have merely infantilized them to keep them puppies for the rest of their lives.

On Cats
"Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea." – Robert Heinlein

Cats have been in our homes for a far shorter time than dogs – about 6,000 years. All domesticated cats are descended from African wildcats, which were tamed quite by accident. In true “cat fashion,” it was the cat who initiated first contact with the humans, and the motive was undeniably mercenary. When humans finally settled in one place and got a handle on the farming thing, one of the crops they were able to store with success was grain. Grain attracted vast amounts of rodents. Rodents, in turn, attracted vast amounts of cats from the surrounding wilderness, who subsequently realized that the wild was just fine, if you like that sort of thing. However, hanging around grain silos and waiting for the mice and rats to fall into your mouth has a certain appeal as well, and might leave more time for the truly important things in life, like napping. This first symbiotic interaction between cats and humans can be considered Step One in the process of feline domestication. What demarcates Step Two -- and whether there actually has ever been a Step Two, remains a point of contention in people who know and love cats.

Konrad Lorenz is one of those people. He has several cats, and points out that domesticated cats, even those kept indoors, have lost none of their innate wildness. African wildcats, in the wild, do not live in packs. They are solitary hunters, who mate on the fly, and rear their children in single-mother litters. Our domestic cats have retained this independence and desire for isolation. Lions in their prides are the exception, not the rule.

The cat is not a socially living animal; it is and remains an independent, wild, little panther, with nothing in its character of that infantility of domestication which makes the dog such a grateful recipient of attention and ‘spoiling’. (Lorenz 159)

Indeed, cats neither ask for nor demand human attention every minute of the day, but rather only when they want it. Thus, the cat has developed a reputation for aloofness. Anyone who has spent time with young kittens knows that they are anything but aloof. In reality, cats' seemingly stand-offish behavior can be attributed to the fact that, like Lorenz' Dingo, they merely grow up. While a well-fed domesticated dog will occasionally bite, he will rarely hunt and kill for food. The same cannot be said of cats, who, if left to their devices and taught to stalk, hunt and kill by their mothers, will continue the practice, even if they are being fed regularly at home.

The oft-quoted (and misquoted) observation by Charles Darwin in On the Origin of the Species, describes how keeping an animal so close to its feral wild self has a direct impact on the environment in which man lives. Darwin's observation is detailed by Robert Ezra Park in his published essay, Human Ecology. In the mid-nineteenth century, England experienced a population growth, which in turn spurred a profusion of rodents, who thrived on human refuse and crops. This threatened to wipe out England's native humble-bee population, which then created a sudden dearth in the amount of red clover plants along English country hillsides (humble-bees being the only type of bee that will pollinate red clover). Darwin, a native of Shrewsbury, Shropshire, which is surrounded by rolling hills, agricultural land and (now that much of it falls under the National Trust) much wide open space, began to observe a rebirth of red clover immediately outside of towns and villages in the west country region.

Near villages and small towns the nests of humblebees are more numerous than elsewhere and this is attributed to the number of eats that destroy the mice. Thus next year's crop of purple clover in certain parts of England depends on the number of humblebees in the district; the number of humblebees depends upon the number of field mice, the number of field mice upon the number and the enterprise of the cats, and the number of cats --as someone has added--depends on the number of old maids and others in neighboring villages who keep cats. (Park 22)
In fairness, Darwin did not originally mention the old maids in Origin of the Species, but he does draw the direct correlation of the re-emergence of red clover with the proximity to human populations which kept domesticated cats.

On the Good News and the Bad News
It is a long established statistical fact that people enjoy a myriad of health benefits by having pets in their homes. In 1987, the National Institutes of Health published a consensus from a two-day conference in which medical experts put their heads together and came up with some interesting facts which they deemed required more study. One was that people who owned pets were in overall better health, and general had a more positive outlook than non-pet owners. The conference posited that pets were good for everything from loneliness to hypertension. This consensus kicked off nearly twenty years of scientific study which yielded the following conclusions: Pets can be really good for people.

The combination of companionship, nurturing elements and the opportunity for pets to get their owners, especially among the elderly, out of the house and mingling with others meant that pet owners were less lonely not only for their animal companions, but for human companionship as well. Organizations like the Delta Society even specialize in using pets as rehabilitation for non-pet owners as well.

That is the good news. The bad news is that pets can be bad for people as well.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which cites the Delta Society's work with human-animal rehabilitation, on a different page lists a staggering list of health concerns that accompany pet ownership (cat scratch fever, toxoplasmosis, Lime disease). As it happens, snakes carry a fairly aggressive form of salmonella which requires that they be handled with extreme care, lest snake owners run the risk of contamination. Furthermore, the CDC's section on pandemic flu indicates that, while avian flu has heretofore only been contracted by humans who have had direct contact to infected birds, a slight mutation allowing mammals to become infected might be the gateway to human avian flu infection. No such cases have been reported, but the CDC and World Health Organization (WHO) both report an increase world-wide in zoonotic (animal-to-human transmission) diseases, and, on the heels of the SARS outbreak in 2002, expressed concern that, should an avian virus mutate to infect humans directly, the disease might be spread from agricultural birds, to pet birds, to migratory birds so quickly that stopping it would be daunting if not impossible. (Pearce)

On Ferals and Other Wild Things
I had a Doberman pinscher/Weimaraner mix when I was a teenager. His name was Siegfried, and it must be said that he was the most docile, loving creature I have ever owned. Afraid of thunder, undone by earthquakes and cowed by every cat and squirrel in the backyard, Siggy was the dog equivalent of the 90-pound weakling. He fostered three litters of rescued feral kittens, doing everything short of feeding (not that they didn’t try, mind you), until they were old enough to be adopted into other homes. He was an exceptional mother.

My grandparents had a home in Idyllwild, California, where we used to spend every holiday and vacation. Sometime in the early seventies, they acquired a little puppy of dubious parentage (but of enormous feet and head) which they named Barney. When the puppy Barney met the two-year-old Siggy, it was love at first sight, and they were inseparable during our many vacations up to Idyllwild. Over time, Barney grew (and grew, and grew) until it became clear that he was less a dog and more a carnivorous pony. He was also a dog of exceptionally sweet disposition and temperament. The fencing around the Idyllwild house was inadequate to contain either the Doberman or the… whatever Barney was (part Russian wolfhound seems a likely guess)… for any length of time, and the two took to rambling the woods surrounding the house. My mother and grandfather thought little of this, since they always came directly when called, and never seemed to venture far outside the perimeter of the house.

One late afternoon, the local police showed up during a light snow, a couple of days after Thanksgiving, and threatened to destroy both dogs if they weren't contained immediately. It seems they had attacked a neighbor’s son and had bitten him severely on the upper thigh. This was shocking news to us. Two sweet lumbering dogs, beloved house pets who, individually, had weathered the storm of being crawled on by small children and tiny needle-clawed kittens without baring a single tooth, had coordinated a fairly vicious attack on a pre-adolescent human. The boy was physically fine – the bite, apparently inflicted by Barney, had left considerable bruising, but had barely broken the skin. He was an emotional mess, however, and I am quite sure suffered from the after-effects of the attack for a long time. My grandfather placated the boy’s family with promises that we would keep the dogs locked up, which we did from that day forward. Their rambling “wolf” days were over. We remained mystified about their behavioral anomalies, however.

Years later, I was relating this story to an acquaintance who was a professional dog trainer (and self-professed pet psychic, but that’s another story). He explained why two dogs so dear and loving apart became such dangerous allies when left to their own devices.

“It’s quite simple, really,” he told me. “They formed a separate pack, with a whole new hierarchy that didn't include people. It’s what they do, you know.”

In their respective human homes, Siggy and Barney were subordinate to their alpha leaders (me and my mother, in Siggy’s case, my grandfather in Barney’s). They would not act without our say-so. But paired together, for the several weeks during the year that we spent in Idyllwild, they formed an entirely new pack, with Siggy as the alpha, and Barney as his loyal sidekick. The unwillingness to venture past a certain radius from the house was actually a display of extreme wolf-like territoriality. A male dog by himself with no particular delusions of grandeur will be more inclined to wander off and explore the outlying areas. The need to patrol the cordoned off area they’d staked as their own was a very wild thing to do. The neighbor boy most likely innocently stumbled onto the perimeter, unwittingly setting off a canine turf war.

It only serves to demonstrate that, in spite of our best efforts to breed the wild out of them, our pets still are to wild. One small shift in the balance of power, and they easily revert back to their wild states, by instinct and inclination.

“It’s what they do, you know.”

Our control over our animals – even the ones we have bred into precarious domestication – is tenuous. The proof comes when domestic animals find themselves living wholly outside of human aegis. When abandoned and left to fend for themselves, even the tamest cats and dogs can turn feral in short order. Hunger and the need for self-protection drive otherwise tame and loving dogs to commit acts of unspeakable “wildness” – such as attacking seemingly weaker humans, terrorizing children and even devouring each other.

Even dogs which have not been abandoned, but have been reared without proper supervision and care, can turn spontaneously aggressive. As reported on recently, on November 27th of this year, an elderly Texas woman was mauled to death by her neighbor’s six Pit Bull/Rottweiler mixed-breed dogs for what appears to be no reason. The dog’s owner was mystified by the attack and claimed that the dogs frequently played with his own young grandchildren without incident.

As the Pitt/Rottie mixes (and my own Doberman) demonstrate, when domesticated dogs find the company of other dogs, rather than humans, the "pack DNA" can still re-emerge and make them scary, sometimes deadly forces. This is why feral dogs are dealt with so swiftly by animal control agencies. Feral dogs are not perceived to offer any benefit to society, and to present an outright danger.

Feral cats seem to survive better than their canine counterparts, probably because they are smaller and more elusive. For one thing, they do not tend to organize in a pack and attack the nice old lady next door while she’s mowing her lawn. Also, as was the case when man and cat first came together, feral cats offer a benefit to the human quality of life. I have already documented in journal entries past the tragic results of misguided attempts to exterminate the feral cat populations at major motion pictures studios. The dessimation of the animals (based on the idea that cats are dirty) left both Paramount and Twentieth Century Fox studios dealing with an infestation of far dirtier than cats -- rats. Big ones. Los Angeles rats, who don't suffer any of the climatic challenges of their brothers in rougher weather patterns, and graced with many man-made habitats (huge ivy beds, landscape shrubs, crawl spaces) get positively enormous. In both instances, the cats were eventually returned to the studios, usually after a highly placed production executive watched a cat-sized rat waddling across her $160-per-square-yard Berber carpet, and decided that maybe life with Mittens wasn't so bad after all. The cats came back, the rat population was brought quickly under control, and foolish notions of tampering with what appears to be a well-ordered food chain evaporated.

In other cultures which are more cheek-by-jowl with wildlife, the taming and owning of truly wild things has begun to cause trouble -- to the people, to the animals and to the environment. In Nicuaragua, animal control agencies have been cracking down on so-called wild animal brokers who claim they can deliver any exotic to your door in twenty-four hours for between $50 and $100 American dollars. The result is startling.

Walk through Managua's neighborhoods-from the gritty ghettos around the airport to the lush enclaves above Lake Managua where affluent homes peak from behind high walls-and it sounds like a rain forest at dawn. The city is filled with the chuckle of parrots, the shrieks of toucans and monkeys, even the occasional low growl of a puma. (Hendrix)

The majority of pets do not go to Nicaraguan households, though. The vast majority of exotic pets rounded up by the brokers in Managua will be shipped here or to Europe, where the demand for unusual wildlife brings top money, especially for a depressed Central American economy.

Our deep yearning to bring home wild things has impacted our environment (and now environments thousands of miles away from ours) for over 12,000 years. Each animal that we add to our list of domesticated things -- the dog, the cat, the horse, the sheep -- both adds to and detracts from our quality of life in some way. They make it, by turns, more companionable, less lonely, more dangerous, less burdensome, more full of humble-bees and wildflowers, less full of rats and field mice. If we change the ground we live on just by living here, then it must be certainly true that the wild things we bring home with us changes the ground as well.

Our initial needs to domesticate animals -- for food, for pest control, for body heat and protection from predators -- have all but evaporated. So why do we still feel a need for them in such large numbers? The attraction that pets hold for us now may lie in their utter and complete lack of self-consciousness. It counterbalances our tendency to overanalyze quite nicely. D.H. Lawrence once said, "I never saw a wild thing feel sorry for itself. A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself." Maybe we keep them so close because we have so much to learn from them about life. And they catch the big rats for us. That's nice too.

Works Cited

"Avian Influenza Infection in Humans." 15 Nov 2005. Center for Disease Control.

Darwin, Charles. Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection: Or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life. New York: P.F. Collier and Son, 1901. Questia. 2 Dec. 2005 .

Hendrix, Steve. "WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE - More Than a Quarter of Nicaraguan Households Keep Wildlife as Pets, but Now the Country Is Cracking Down." International Wildlife Sept.-Oct. Questia. 2 Dec. 2005 .

Lorenz, Konrad. Man Meets Dog. London: Routledge, 2002. Questia. 2 Dec. 2005 .

Pearce, Fred. "Pests and Pestilence: Why Humans Are More Vulnerable Than Ever to Animal-Borne Diseases." Foreign Policy July-Aug. 2003: 92+. Questia. 2 Dec. 2005 .

United States. National Institutes of Health. The Health Benefits of Pets. 11 Sep 1987.

Monday, July 12, 2010


World, meet Sylas.

He was born on July 9, 2010. He was 8 lbs. 8 ozs., 21" long.  He also had a wicked little lung infection that necessitated a stay in the NICU, where he seems to be doing well.

Unfortunately, it meant my daughter was forced to leave without him once she was discharged yesterday. All the time since has been trekking back and forth between home and the NICU, so that we can see him and spend time with him, his parents can feed him... He's increased his food volume tenfold in the past 24 hours, and he looks less like a newborn and more like he's around two or three months old.


Hopefully, he'll be home this coming Saturday or Sunday.  All his tests have been coming back clean, and he's responding well to the antibiotics.  He started developing a little baby jaundice today, but nothing a trip under the bilirubin lamp won't fix.

Meanwhile, I have a job interview tomorrow, so I'd better get to bed.

Just wanted to share a Nana's joy.

So, World, meet Sylas.  Sylas, meet World... And remember Nana loves you more than... chocolate. Yes... even more than chocolate....

(cross-posted at The Catharine Chronicles)

Monday, June 28, 2010

"In The Heights" Flashmob

Conroe Brooks, Staci Lawrence and the FlashMob America group did a flashmob at Universal Citywalk this weekend in honor of the opening of the musical "In The Heights" at the Pantages. The creator and composer (and original star) Lin-Manuel Miranda was there to watch it. Apparently, he knew something was up, but wasn't expecting what he got.

Take a look at his face as he watches them dance. Classic....

I wanted to do this flashmob, especially since one of the prizes was a ticket to the show. But with Savannah so close to having the baby, it didn't seem advisable to be spending hours away from home with the cellphone shut off. Besides, I need to lose some weight before I even think about dancing again.

Enjoy... and go see "In The Heights". Besides supporting live theater, you'll also be treated to a really amazing show. I have the recording and the sheet music.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Whe... Whe... Where Am I?

It was the oddest thing... I awoke this morning -- Friday morning -- in my own bed, in my own room. Yet, I was completely disoriented.  I spent at least half to three-quarters of a minute trying to figure out where I was, what day it was, what time it was, and if I needed to be anywhere.

Even after I got my bearings, I wasn't able to completely shuck the feeling of not knowing exactly where I am in space or time.  It's bothered me the whole day.  So I'm blogging about it, right before bed, in hopes of trying to nip that feeling in the bud.

I'm going to try a new meditation tonight.  It is, I'm told, a guided remembrance of who I am.  I'm hoping this will help my untethered feeling of late.

Wish me luck.


Friday, June 11, 2010


It's been a while since I've updated this blog. I've been busy -- with school, with job hunting, with the impending birth of my first grandchild, with general, free-floating anxiety and depression.  I've probably been watching too much news, too.  And reading too many newspapers.

Between school and baby talk and dealing with the dark, I haven't been able to do much free writing. I had to pick a blog, and this one wasn't it. 

After long consideration, and realizing that I am, indeed, human and that something's gotta give, I've decided to take a leave of absence from school for a year, and try and get things sorted out.  It's for the best, really.  I can't concentrate on what I read, I can't enjoy what I'm writing, and though the material is fascinating to me, I can't keep my mind in it for longer than an hour at a time, because I'm so torn up about work and money.

When I was an undergraduate, all I wanted was to be able to go on and get my MFA.  I couldn't wait for the workshops, for the reading, the writing, the residencies.  My first residency began on my last day as an undergrad. Exhausted as I was from the last minute wrap-up that always accompanies graduating with a bachelor's degree, that first residency was heavenly.  That whole first semester, I was floating on air.  I was a writer, and I was learning to write from other writers, and all was as it should be.

Then my father began to get worse. There was only one of us among the daughters who was in a position to move in with him, and that was me.  I let go of my rent-controlled apartment, any hope of a good night's sleep and my life, and moved in with my father. That last year of his life was so awful that I had nothing left for the MFA program.  I was like a shell-shocked WWI soldier -- stunned and empty inside.  It killed my joy for school.

Now, the struggle of finding work and trying to keep things going here are doing the same thing to this program, and I can't have that.  So I'm leaving for a little.  Not forever, just long enough to be able to pick it up again and feel the love and the joy of it, without the oppression of panic and anxiety.

I will miss it, though. I will miss the day-long seminars and the study of religions and stories and ideas that never occurred to me.

Until we meet again, Myth Camp....