A Tale of a Cat and a Bell

At our house, we consider bird watching from our deck an Olympic sport.    We maximize  the conditions at our bird feeders with sunflower seeds, niger thistle, suet bars and poultry scratch.  When the baby wild turkeys arrive, we flood an area so they will have a place to wade and cool off in the heat.  We host a remarkable variety of avian friends.  Imagine our horror when our cat, Emmie Lou, stunned a slow moving house finch by catching it between her jaws.  Efforts were made to save the unfortunate bird, to no avail.

So we decided that Emmie Lou's instincts must be reined in.  We had watched her for months hide in the weeds nearby waiting for the right opportunity.  A few times she leapt at the wild turkeys, but they merely did a cursory sidestep to avoid her sailing by, paws outstretched.  

I went to the pet store and found a pink collar dotted with tiny turquoise stars with a pink bell attached.  There were many similar collars to choose from, so I figured that lots of people use this strategy with their hunting cats.  Our cat happens to be a bit "sensitive" so we knew it would be tricky attaching the collar around her neck.

Steve donned his protective gloves and waited for just the right moment to snap the collar around the unsuspecting feline's neck (although by nature, cats are never truly unsuspecting).  When she took a step, a strange jingling sound followed very close behind her.  The faster she moved the more boisterously the noise resounded in her ears.  In two bounds she was up a flight of stairs.  She would not come near us or even speak to us for two days.

Immediately we realized the error of our ways.  We were interfering with nature by feeding the birds in the first place, then trying to prevent a cat from doing what comes naturally--stalking innocent creatures. It had taken Emmie Lou four years to learn to sit in someone's lap for more than two minutes.  She would allow petting without strafing us on her terms.  This had always been an edgy cat.

The goal changed.  How were we going to get this collar off  if she never approached us again?  Emmie Lou was convinced that she had a jangling ghost sitting on her shoulder.  She no longer strolled as before, but dashed and leapt as though banshees were on her tail.  Our efforts to summon her with our high pitched cat reassuring voices only drove her further afield.  At one point I was prone in the dirt trying to snag her from under the truck.  It didn't work.

The basic tenet of cat psychology is....don't try so hard.  Our well meaning efforts to detach the offending collar had been spurned, so we decided to wait.

Emmie Lou, like all  of us, is a creature of habit.  All things being normal, while Steve and I watch tv in the evening, she visits us insisting that we reach out at arm's length & pet her.  She then allows Steve to scoop her up and will sit in his lap for up to ten minutes until an inner directive causes her to spring down to the floor.  We no longer drink from regular drinking glasses, only bottles, because she is compelled to drink from any open container.  Even placing a book on top is ineffective, as she will push it off and proceed to imbibe.

Forty-eight hours after the crime of putting on the offending bell collar,  Emmie Lou decided she had punished us with her absence long enough.  She couldn't resist my ice water (in a cat enticing open cup), so while she leaned over to drink from it, I quickly unsnapped her collar.  It was so easy, it was anti-climactic.

So that's the lesson of the cat and the bell.  Never again.



Thoughts on Turning 65

Today is my birthday.  Hooray!  I am oddly exuberant about turning 65.  I have the feeling that I am looking down a corridor full of mysterious unlocked doors.

First of all I feel lucky to have survived to 65.  The world is a crapshoot full of potentially dangerous twists and turns.  A quote from Tony Bennett from the documentary "Amy" said it all.  "Life teaches you how to live."  So here I am.

I've pondered many of life's big questions over the decades:  life vs. death, good vs. evil, predestination vs. free will, religion vs. atheism, individualism vs. tribalism, heaven vs. hell, nothingness vs. after life, and republicans vs. democrats (a no brainer),   Human nature has been a source of constant amazement, dismay, and entertainment for me.  I think I am closer to figuring some of it out, but I'm not sure it will do me any good. 

What a practical joke on the part of the Universe and Evolution that humans developed brains that comprehend their own deaths.  We have developed anxieties and incredible tales of the supernatural through the millennia to cope.  One of my escapes is into the realm of the Absurd.  Honestly, you can't make this stuff up.  Everyday life, that is.

After Mother died in 2001, one of her co workers commented about her, "She loved life and she lived it."  That is my goal.  To quote Mother, "It's the only game in town."  Another of her favorites was "That's the price you pay for being alive."  And while we're on the subject, she often said "People are no damn good."  I don't totally believe the last quote.  I just believe that people follow their nature.  Sometimes sublime, sometimes no damn good.

I recently rediscovered one of my favorite Woody Allen quotes from "Hannah and Her Sisters."  Woody's character Mickey was experiencing an existential crisis, even trying on Catholicism for size,  He tried to pull his Jewish father into a conversation and his father said, "How the hell do I know why there were Nazis? I don't know how the can opener works!"

So much for pondering the big questions.  I'm just busy figuring out how to post this blog.

Sandra Bland--a Texas Tragedy

As I was driving around the burg this morning doing the daily tasks I take for granted, I heard on my radio the audio of Sandra Bland's encounter with the Prairie View, Texas policeman.  My heart constricted in dread of what was in store for her.  This was a woman who was literally getting out of his way in consideration of the policeman's authority.  As we all do when an emergency vehicle approaches us from behind, she pulled over without signaling to let him by more quickly.  What a cruel irony that her action gave him the excuse he needed to harass her.

What followed was difficult to hear.  He expected full compliance to his every command, and what he got was questioning of his authority by a black woman.  With every one of her refusals to comply followed by an inquiry about his reasoning, the officer's frustration spiraled up.  She stood her ground while providing commentary on the situation.  When she refused to put out her cigarette, he reacted as though she had challenged him to a duel.

He quickly put her in a no win dilemma.  If she remained inside her auto she would be tasered.  If she got out of her car, she was vulnerable to his violence.  

Why did this Texas policeman feel so frightened by this lone black woman driving in her car?  

The circumstances of Sandra Bland's death remain a mystery.  Her arrest was travesty enough, but whatever transpired during her incarceration must have been unthinkable.  

Can Smugness affect your life's events?

I am among the growing number of "nones" in this nation.  I adhere to no particular religious faith, but I join the rest of the human race in harboring a number of superstitions.

When we were children, we endlessly played the sidewalk game "step on a crack, break your mother's back."  Depending on how I felt toward my mother, a wonderful woman, on the day in question determined whether I would step on said crack.  She never seemed affected one way or the other, so I wonder why I continue to believe in superstitions.

I long ago eschewed the sidewalk crack superstition.  But others have replaced it over the years.  All of them pertain to one's level of smugness in a particular situation.  The first one I took on was NEVER BRAG ABOUT HOW WELL YOUR CAR IS RUNNING.  In my early days of car ownership most of my autos were parent hand me downs.  I don't think I need to elaborate on the challenges of owning old used cars.

The next superstition evolved over many years of being employed.  Occasionally I would notice that an inordinate number of people were calling in sick with the "flu."  I would think to myself "what a bunch of weenies, I feel great."  You guessed it.  Even a smug thought would bring about a sore throat that very day.  So the maxim is NEVER HAVE THOUGHTS THAT YOU ARE HEALTHIER THAN EVERYONE AROUND YOU.

I am one of those insane people who owns a couple of horses.  Believe me, there is no such thing as a "bomb proof" horse.  Most of the time my horses have greatly humbled me.  Any time I thought I had figured out the horse's mental process in any way, I was put in my place.  My horse Teddy reinforced another one of my superstitions NEVER THINK TO YOURSELF THAT YOU HAVE DONE A FABULOUS JOB OF WORKING WITH THIS HORSE.  Within minutes of my silent self congratulation, I found myself flat on my back gasping for air after his successful attempt to buck me off . 

Over the last two weeks during this horrendous Northwest heat wave, I added another one. I realized that I have been BRAGGING, not just feeling smug, to my family and friends in Texas about the WONDERFUL MILD SUMMERS up here.  I've been doing this for decades, so now I'm really in for it.  We are in the midst of many successive days of high 90's and over 100 degree weather.  So I leave you with my latest superstition DON'T EVEN THINK, MUCH LESS BRAG ABOUT, THAT YOUR CLIMATE IS BETTER THAN ANYONE ELSE'S.

So that leaves us with the question, can smugness affect your life's events?


Spacin' Out at Perkins

I must have seen someone in a tv ad eating pancakes yesterday, because this morning nothing else would do.  I headed over to Perkins by myself and ordered the usual senior special--with pancakes.  While reading my kindle and day dreaming, I poured coffee into my half full glass of ice water.  In shock at what I'd done, I laughed in embarrassment.  Which leads us to the question--if nobody observes you doing something idiotic, should you feel embarrassed?

My first impulse was to cover up what I had done.  When the server came to remove my dishes later, he or she would notice the oddly diluted liquid in my water glass.  So I poured what I could into my coffee cup to camouflage the deed, but was still left with 1/4 glass of very weak coffee in my water glass.  I considered drinking it to get rid of the evidence, but gagged at the prospect.   

So I did what is always best for the soul.  Full confession.  A nice young lady stopped by to take away some of my dishes, and I blurted out the entire episode to her.  She laughed, I'm sure because it is funny when someone else does something stupid.  She kindly offered to bring me another glass of ice water, which I declined.  I was done for the day at Perkins.  And anyway, she said, "I just thought it was apple juice in that glass."



head deep in bigotry--an homage to donald trump

when told that macy's cancelled his line of clothing due to his recent racist rants about mexicans he said:  "that's fine; actually I broke off the relationship because I was not happy with the inferior quality of the clothing made in china."


common sense meets kumbaya

My heart swelled with pride today when I heard the news on npr that the girl scouts of america had rejected a $100,000 donation because it would come with the proviso that the money could not be used to benefit transgender girls.

I went to the girl scout camp outside sweetwater, texas about 1959.  My camp name was "tater" because my favorite counselor went by the moniker "frito." The first night I used the latrine, I set my shining flashlight on the edge of the seat & watched it roll in slow motion into the bog below.  glug glug and there was only a faint glow down there.  the next day I tripped on a rock and my knee hit a tree stump, necessitating a trip to the sweetwater emergency room.  It was there that I first learned about butterfly stitches, which were much preferable to real stitches.  The letter home to mother and daddy read "dear mother and daddy, last night my flashlight fell into the latrine, and today I had to go to the hospital.  love, ralla sue."

I saw my first tarantula with our troop when we were walking back from the mess hall to our camp site.  Those texas girl scouts did not panic or scream, but gave it a wide berth.  Legend had it that tarantulas could spring up to 20 feet.  We stayed quiet so we would not upset it.  

We lit a fire under an overhang that looked like it was growing moss underneath.  Turns out it was millions of intertwined daddy long legs.  They scurried apart, and then we calmly toasted our some mores where the daddy long legs had been peacefully dozing.  

Today I felt glad that I had a connection with an organization that showed it has a heart.



"Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced."  James Baldwin, "As Much Truth as One Can Bear," 1962

First the Supreme Court approves Obamacare, then gay marriage.  And there goes the confederate flag.  I wonder if evolution is kicking in again.....