Friday 29 April 2016

Tree Buddies and Bird Song (Not What You Might Expect)

It wasn't until I started carrying a camera with me on my walks that I began to notice so many details of the area in which I live. Trees, in particular, have entered my radar in a big way.

Like this one, which was pruned severely, although it's not clear why. The trunk lies between two power lines, so it doesn't seem to have been trimmed to avoid the lines.

I like to think this tree is sending a message to passers-by: "Peace, People." Or maybe, "Victory!" Over what, I don't know, but probably not the chain saw.

And this large tree trunk covered with vines. In the summer it's green and beautiful, covered with leaves that ripple in the slightest breeze. At the moment, though, the vines are bare, and it gives the tree a fuzzy look that is unique and endearing.

"Embrace your hairiness, and dance like no one is watching!"

I've also been doing a lot of bird-watching, not the kind with binoculars and a guide book, just the ordinary kind, like people-watching, but with birds.

These ones look like notes on a page of music to me.

If you enlarge the photo, you should be able to see the individual toes on the bird at the left. I mean, on the note at the left.

It's a pretty short song. This is clearly the soprano part.

Update on The Neighbour Crows: they've gone very silent since the nest-making. I've read that the eggs hatch in March-April in this part of the world. Either the parents pulled up stakes and moved, or they are pretending not to be home. I really think it's the first; otherwise I'd have seen some kind of activity, I think. Ah well, I hope they're happy, wherever they are.

Happy birdsong, everyone. And may your trees always tell you interesting stories.


Monday 25 April 2016

House Mouse

Warning #1: Contains rodents. Well, one rodent. But, awww, it was really tiny and cute.

Not this rodent:

And not this thing named after a rodent:

 No; it was this kind of rodent, except smaller and darker:

Not my mouse, not my hand ... because ...  not enough time or inclination to take a picture at the critical moment.

Warning #2:  This is a bit long-winded. I write like I talk, except I talk fast so my stories are finished sooner. Sorry. There is a limit to the number of things in my life that I'm willing to put on the internet, so ... mouse stories it is. I completely understand if you move right along without reading. I'm trying to learn to edit myself but some days it's harder than others.


My post here - about the bird in the stove (found by BoyCat) - reminded me of other wildlife that occasionally gets in our house. Tiny, grey, furry wildlife, with miniscule feet and beady black eyes, whiskers and tails ... yeah, I'm talking about mice.

Our house was built in 1988, so - as houses go - it's not all that old. It's well-built and tight, and we have no idea how the mice get in, but they're tiny little blighters and run like the wind, and they've found a way, whether it's through a knothole somewhere, or through the door when we're entering or leaving the house.

The first few mice that got in must have found some way other than the door to enter, because they ended up between the walls, and there was nothing to do but sadly listen to them scratch for a couple of days and then deal with the smell of their poor wee carcasses in the kitchen closet. I don't know if I felt sorrier for the mice or for myself having to move the entire closet contents so they didn't take on that very special odour. Let's just say I was really, really sorry they died under such circumstances.

The fourth time I heard rustling and scratching in the same closet wall, I begged my husband to cut a hole in it to try and rescue the unfortunate beastie before it perished. Since the alternative for him was to deal with a very emotional spouse, he did it. Once the hole was made - and no mouse came out to greet us - he barricaded it with a heavy board held in place with heavy books.

Clearly not heavy enough. A few hours later, with my husband asleep for the night and me about to turn in as well, something caught my eye in the kitchen. Something small with a long tail. It was sitting on my yellow raincoat which I'd hung over the doorknob to dry earlier in the day.

After I scraped myself off the ceiling, I considered the facts. There was a mouse on the doorknob. We have three cats who are not allowed outdoors. My husband was asleep. If I took my eyes off the mouse for a fraction of a second, whether to obtain a cat's services, lock them all in the basement so there would be no murdering or running out the door, get a receptacle to trap the mouse, wake my husband, get the broom, get gardening gloves, or just to blink, let's face it, that mouse would be long gone. And it would be in the same house as us. At night. The only thing I really needed was something to catch the mouse in. The closest container was the wastebasket in the bathroom off the kitchen. As quietly as possible, I nabbed it - but the mouse had disappeared as anticipated. I'd only taken my eyes off it for a couple of seconds, so I checked all around the perimeter of the kitchen and felt certain it had not made it to the floor.

That meant, of course, that the mouse was in the folds of the raincoat. Carefully I took it off the doorknob, opened the door, and threw it onto the deck outside. By this time the cats had strolled into the room, and by the way they were lazing around, showing no sign of interest in anything but their food bowls, I figured my assumption about the mouse's whereabouts was probably right, and breathed a sigh of relief.

But I checked that raincoat three times before I took it back inside. Just for good measure. And even then, I felt kind of jumpy having it inside again.

There are more mouse tales to tell. Spoiler alert: they all lived - even though two of them spent time in a cat's mouth ... But that's a post for another day.

Do you have a story about wildlife in your house? Or have you been lucky and not had to deal with it?

Friday 22 April 2016

Tiny Blue Flowers May Be Blue From The Cold


I promised several people in the comments on the last post that I would take a photo of the starflowers once they had opened.

People, when I went out to take that photo, the tiny quivering blossoms were still tightly shut, pulling their stalks around them as best they could, asking each other where the hot water bottle was, and wishing they had stayed in the ground a month longer.

All except for a trio of renegades ...

And even they were hanging their heads in defeat. (They're supposed to have their faces open to the sky.)

Poor things. I'll try again when it warms up.

Notice that one of those brave renegades also has a broken neck. There were fewer blossoms than I recall seeing a few days ago, which I suspect is the work of the deer who roam the neighbourhood. The deer that strip our rhododendron bushes of all buds and foliage except the odd leaf they can't reach.

This is what our "best" rhododendron bush looks like this spring (and every spring);

It should be covered with leaves and the buds that came out last fall, so it would be ready to burst into blossom with the warmer weather. Instead of beautiful deep pink blossoms set against shiny green leaves (that sound you hear is Donkey sobbing into her sleeve), our selfless shrub's tastier parts became part of a whitetail deer or two.

By the end of summer, this rhododendron will have struggled to make more leaves, and will probably be covered in buds again as well. And the cycle of life will continue once the cold comes and the deer can't find easy grazing in the woods.

And why don't we use deer repellent or burlap or land mines? Because I really hate to see wildlife go hungry.

On a brighter note, two robins visited our back yard today, and I got a lovely blurry photo of one of them. But I'm going to put it up anyway, because it makes me smile. This fellow/gal was looking at Missy the cat sitting in the basement window, while I took the picture through another window. He/she was looking mighty suspicious, and no wonder. Missy was making threatening k-k-k-k-k-k sounds while twitching all over.

"I say, old chap, is that a CAT? And what's that donkey-ish looking animal in that other window??"

No worries. Our cats are all indoor cats, and besides, as soon as Missy realized I was close by, she abandoned the bird and came running to meow for food.

Note to self: The basement windows could use a good cleaning.

Back on Monday :)

Wednesday 20 April 2016

New Posting Schedule, and Tiny Blue Flowers

I've decided to scale back, and post on Mondays and Fridays instead of every weekday.

This blogging thing, she is more time-consuming than even I thought, and I thought I had a pretty good idea of how time-consuming she'd be. Add that to a busy work life at the moment, and it was easy to make the decision.

I'll leave you with a photo of some bulbs that were popping up the other day. For years now, I've failed to see them bloom because they're in a spot where I have to go out of my way to see them. But this year, because of this blog, I not only went looking for them but now I also have them captured for anytime viewing. (I think I need to get another shot of them after they open up more.)

Tiny blue flowers have a special spot in my heart. Why? I don't know. They just do. Last year's leaves are still protecting these little fellas, because the snow is not over for the season quite yet. And also because I never have time in April to clear them away anyhow. That works out well, doesn't it?

Thank you for reading.

See you Friday :)

Tuesday 19 April 2016

What On Earth ...?

Here is a photo and a video of the same scene, taken on the same day, only seconds apart. The photo doesn't show how much snow was coming down; the video does.




Like everything else I don't understand about technology, this seems like magic to me.

(But feel free to explain, if you know the real reason this happens. And if you can also explain how to get the snow to show up in the photo, so much the better!)

Monday 18 April 2016

Geeky Jokes

I love good clean jokes but the only one I can be sure of remembering is this one:

Q. What's the difference between an onion and a set of bagpipes?
A. Nobody cries when you cut up the bagpipes.

Now, my fondness for this joke may make more sense if I tell you that I live in the midst of an area settled by Scottish immigrants, and also visited by lots of tourists every summer - tourists who love hearing bagpipe music. About twenty years ago this sort of tourist entertainment was at its peak, and during the summer days there was a bagpiper stationed at the door to the grocery store we frequented. Playing constantly. Every day. Do you know how loud that instrument is up close? I don't know why bagpipers aren't all deaf from the constant onslaught. Perhaps they wear ear plugs. I don't know. They must be hardy souls.

I should also mention that previous to that time (and since that time), I did (and do) enjoy the pipes; it was just that particular summer of bagpipe overkill which made me go a bit cranky and claim the above joke as my pet.

Anyway, because I like a good clean joke, this headline last week on MSN caught my eye: World's Geekiest Jokes. Turns out that it wasn't a very recent article, just a headline hunter's recent discovery, but good jokes don't age so I clicked through to check it out. I found not just geeky jokes but explanations of them, too. For the non-geeky, I guess. And one of them jumped out at me because Elephant's Child had just left a comment on one of my crow photos last week reminding me of the name for a group of crows - a murder.

Which leads me to the geeky joke I found and loved:

Q. What do you call two crows on a branch?
A. Attempted murder.

(Because technically it takes three crows to form a murder.)

So, this is not a murder of crows ...

And this is not a murder of crows, either ...

 ... but this ... this is definitely a murder of crows ...

... and from the noise they were making, I can understand how the expression came to be.

Then, I decided to check out the original Reddit question where the geeky jokes came from, because the crow joke was pretty easy to understand, wasn't it? ... and found only ONE that I really, really understood. I could follow the explanations given for most of them, but couldn't have come up with them on my own. And some of them were just too far out of my league to even understand the explanations.

Here's the single one I understood all by myself, and it's probably because this is not really a geeky joke after all:

A duck walks into a bar and asks, "Got any grapes?"
The bartender, confused, tells the duck no. The duck thanks him and leaves.
The next day, the duck returns and asks, "Got any grapes?"
Again, the bartender tells him, "No -- the bar does not serve grapes, has never served grapes and, furthermore, will never serve grapes." The duck thanks him and leaves.
The next day, the duck returns, but before he can say anything, the bartender yells, "Listen, duck! This is a bar! We do not serve grapes! If you ask for grapes again, I will nail your stupid duck beak to the bar!"
The duck is silent for a moment, and then asks, "Got any nails?"
Confused, the bartender says no.
"Good!" says the duck. "Got any grapes?"

(No ducks were harmed in the writing of this joke but the bartender may have had his ego bruised.)

So, tell me, what's your favourite joke?

Friday 15 April 2016

Stan & Oliver & Fred & Ginger

To say that Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers could dance is like saying that Elvis could sing, or that Stephen Hawking knows a little about physics, or that Bill Gates made some money from his computer knowledge: an understatement of huge proportions.

I was reminded of the Fred and Ginger magic a few days ago, when Geo., of Trainride of the Enigmas, wrote this post which included a wonderfully hilarious clip of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy dancing (if you haven't already done so, go see it; you'll be glad you did). They were sedate, they were coy, they were sweetly funny. And somehow, in the midst of their dainty - yes, dainty - footwork, and fluttering of coat tails, they reminded me of Fred and Ginger in a clip from Swing Time, one of the many musicals those two made together. I've watched a good number of their dance videos, and this one remains my favourite. They just made it look so easy. Of course, it isn't.


P. S. .......

According to Ginger Rogers' official website, this 1982 cartoon by Bob Thaves is the original source of that great quote. Imagine!

Thursday 14 April 2016

Queen of Hearts, Despite Some Bad Habits

Introducing our third and final feline, GreyGirl. Somedays I call her The Queen. Other days I call her StopThatRightNowMissy - Missy for short. Maybe I'm not so bad at naming critters after all. I mean, that cat has three names. I'd say I'm doing okay, quantity-wise at least.

GreyGirl came to us after she was hit by a car, taken by the police to our vet, surgically rehabilitated by him, and never claimed by anyone. We were looking for a companion for BoyCat after his brother died from liver problems at less than two years old. The brothers had come from the cat shelter as identical black fluffy kittens who played together, slept together, got into trouble together and were mighty cute together. After BoyCat's brother died, he was lonely. We decided he needed a friend.

GreyGirl did not turn out to be a friend. She turned out to be The Queen. She bosses BoyCat as if he's her servant. When she plops down in front of him, she's not looking for company. She's looking to have her face cleaned, and pronto.

Sometimes, she doesn't even plop down in front of BoyCat. Sometimes she plops down across the room from him, and just stares at him. First he tries to avoid her stare, then he tries to ignore it, then he helplessly bumbles his way to her and does as she has commanded with her demon eyes. He doesn't like it, and he usually ends up rebelling and jumping on her near the end of the face-cleaning, but it's amazing that he never refuses to do it.

GreyGirl, aka The Queen, aka StopThatRightNowMissy, has a bottomless pit for a stomach. And her girlish figure has suffered for it. We have tried several diet foods but she has a delicate system (she is The Queen, after all) and could not tolerate them.

When Missy wants to be fed, which is every second she is awake, she will sit by her food dish and meow as if a very large imaginary person is standing on her tail and perhaps even grinding it into the floor with their big heavy imaginary workboots. It is pitiful and it is like nails on a chalkboard and it drives me to grind my teeth and forget important things. Even if she has just eaten and should by all accounts have a happy tummy, she will meow anyway.

This behavior is getting worse as Missy gets older. My current theory is that she has some worsening brain damage caused by her run-in with that car, and she actually forgets that she has eaten. This theory of cat dementia has not caused her to stop meowing, nor caused me to feed her less - it has only allowed me to keep my sanity. She remains convinced that if she meows long enough and hard enough, food will appear in her bowl. And you know what? She's right.

GreyGirl/The Queen/Missy is a wonderfully affectionate cat, however. She will lie in my arms and stretch out one paw to touch my face, and purr until she finally falls asleep. Ahhh ... peace. And love.

Here she is:

Missy with  her piercing stare. She was looking at the birds here. But this is the same look she gives her adopted brother when she wants her face washed.
 Snap to it, slave. Spare no spit.

Wednesday 13 April 2016

A Cat and a Bird

You've met Sweetie the cat already. We also have two older cats, a female with a gimpy leg and an insatiable appetite, and a timid male who's easy-going, smart, and fond of beating up miniature fake mice and my purse. The few times we've had a real mouse in the house, he was faintly interested, but nothing like the two females we have. They knew what the mouse was and they knew what their kitty skills were for. But our boy cat really came through the other day, for us and - in a good way - for a bird.

In our family room is an airtight wood stove with a window in the front, used only if the power goes out in winter. On this particular day BoyCat suddenly started paying close attention to the front of the stove, patting it gently all over and craning his neck to see something inside. We've had birds enter via the chimney in the past, so I knew the drill: remove all cats from the room, close door, open exterior door, open screen door, open stove door, and retreat. As I opened the stove door, I had a vague impression of a dark, medium size bird, probably a starling, and a pointy orange beak about two inches long. And a beady eye looking right at me. I didn't hang around watching, just left the room and hoped the bird would understand what to do. He did. When I returned a few seconds later, he was gone without a trace.

I was so glad BoyCat alerted me to the trapped bird. A number of years ago, we found a dead bird in our cottage stove in the spring. The poor thing had entered through the chimney there as well, but was not lucky enough to have a cat, or people, living there at the time, as it was the off-season. I wept for that bird. It was so light and frail. I hope it had a quick death in the cold of winter. This recent event has made me remember that we need to look into covering both chimney openings with some kind of mesh.

Anyway ... here's the modest hero of the day, trying to avoid looking at the camera:

BoyCat. Yes, I named HIM too. Also known as Buddy.

This is his favourite perch when I am on the computer. If I try to ignore him, he just sits for awhile, then politely reaches over and taps my shoulder. If a series of taps doesn't change the situation for the better, he gives up on the subtle approach and jumps between me and the keyboard, walking back and forth with his floofy tail in my face until I offer him my lap. Only then is he happy.

BoyCat isn't fat, he's fluffy. Yes, we have two pudgy cats (you've met Sweetie already and will meet the other one tomorrow) and I admit right up front that they're pudgy, but this guy is ALL FLUFF. It's hard to keep indoor cats trim and svelte, unless they aren't all that interested in eating - and BoyCat really doesn't care much about food.

Tuesday 12 April 2016

Stress and the human mind

Yesterday in the street I heard the familiar sound of a diesel vehicle approaching behind me; a mid-sized vehicle, like a small bus, a large pickup ... or an ambulance. I looked around sharply, because that's a sound that runs a chilly finger down my spine.

I've talked about my father's stroke and disability in this post. I explained that during his last eight years of life he faced difficulties including being confined to a wheelchair without the use of one side of his body. I briefly mentioned his cancer, surgeries, appointments, and loss of sight.

For all those medical issues, he had to travel by ambulance because the receiving hospitals did not have the correct patient lift which was required in order to move him from his wheelchair to a stretcher or operating room table and back again. And in some cases he would not have been able to return to the wheelchair anyway; his paralysis even on a good day caused him to list to one side - or, worse, to the front - and after surgeries he was safer and more comfortable lying down.

I didn't keep track of all the ambulance trips he had to make - although I could dig through my files and count the invoices he had to pay - but I do know that he had two cancer surgeries, two cataract surgeries, and one hand surgery in those eight years. He also had numerous abdominal ultrasounds (for an aortic aneurysm) and echocardiograms (heart ultrasounds), regular cancer checkups, several hospitalizations for pneumonia, eye appointments, CT scans, lung x-rays, specialist visits, and on and on and on. I accompanied him on all of these appointments except if I was sick or recovering from surgery myself, either travelling with him as a family member in the front of the ambulance, or meeting him in the ambulance bay of the hospital as he arrived, staying with him through his treatment, and seeing him off as he left to return to the nursing home.

I got to know the distinctive sound of an ambulance engine very, very well. And because of the stress involved each and every time, it wore a sore spot in my mind and my chest. Those occasions were stressful for him, and thus for me. And, now, for a little while on every occasion that I am exposed to that sound, the soreness returns, along with new pain from the sorrow at the reminder that my father is gone.

How much worse it must be for those who have experienced extreme stresses - of war, of inner-city violence, of childhood abuse, of horrors of any kind. I cannot know how it feels, because I have never experienced those things, but I can imagine. It is only in a small, limited way, but still ... I can imagine.

And I can start to understand.

Monday 11 April 2016

Spring Snowstorm

I've had to start using comments moderation - sorry, folks. But never fear: I generally check in every day, and I'll publish your comments then.

Remember Spring is a Fickle Thing three days ago?

Crocuses were showing, grass was bare.

Look what happened yesterday:

And by the time I went for my afternoon walk today, it had melted on the bottom layer because the ground was heating up from the sun, but the top layer was still fluffy snow - which meant that instead of stepping into fresh snow and creating this kind of footprint:

sometimes I stepped into snow that looked exactly the same but created this kind of footprint:

That's very wet there. Like walking in an inch of rain. If rain could pile up into a vertical inch.

Yes, I was wearing boots. But not rain boots. Probably should have been wearing rain boots.

In contrast, the streets were bare, because most of the snow was plowed off in the morning and then the sun melted all the bits left behind. There were a few puddles as a result, and that made for some interesting sights, like this reflection of a tree ...

So clear you can see the blue sky!

Further along, the snow was piled up on my favourite bench ...

Utilitarian, but comfy.

... and my not-so-favourite bench ...

Picturesque, but those slats - ouch.

and made a clean white background for the railings to throw their shadows on at the look-off shelter:

The crows were having a convention, or maybe a concert - it was hard to tell but it sure was noisy:

This rock wall made a nice contrast to the snow:

Beauty everywhere. And when it melts, there will still be beauty everywhere. I feel incredibly lucky to have so much nature at my doorstep.

Friday 8 April 2016

Spring is a Fickle Thing

Early April is unpredictable in these parts. One day it's cold and snowy; the next, the snow melts again and it feels like May. Sometimes the temperature swing happens in a matter of a few hours. Sometimes the frigid and the balmy happen at the exact same time, with wind that's cold to walk into, and sunlight putting out real warmth .

I went for a walk on one of those days not long ago, and pwetty nearwey fwoze my wips - while working up a sweat under my jacket. I had my hood up, then down; gloves on, then off. It was a weird day.

The snow that had fallen was mostly melted - but this was what all the trees along the walking trail looked like:

The only snow on this - and all the other trees - was on the north side of the trunk.

This was happening, too:

See the ice on the tips of the branches (left and slightly right of center of photo)? Many of the branches I saw had those little icy nodules on their very ends.

The sun was warm enough to melt ice and snow, but only where it could get directly at them. In shady areas and where the ice was thicker, the cold was winning.

Lucky for us, the little garden in the front of our house gets direct sunlight all day long, and so I'm happy to report that we now have these:

Not many, and not open, but they're there. One of fickle spring's better things.

Have a good weekend, my friends. And for my overseas friends - a good Sunday and Monday.

Thursday 7 April 2016

What's In A Name? Sometimes, A Little Too Much ...

If you've ever had a pet, how did you figure out what to name it?

I have no imagination at all when it comes to finding a suitable name, but thanks to the internet I know how clever other people can be. A very short search brought me Goober Mcfatkins, Lord Chubby Pruneface, Rosie Picklebottom, and Schnitzeltooth for dogs, and Dusty Mop, Edward Scissor Paws, Piffington, and Toby Turbo for cats (all from this website). And these plays on the words cat, kitten and purr: Catapult, Catastrophe, Catatonic, Kitkat, Kitty Kitty Bang Bang, Purrfect, and Purrkins, as well as Flufferton, Tiddybombom and Spaz (found here). I have known cats named Him and Her, as well as a dog named Bear. And there are lots of simpler names like Fluffy or King, and the whole spectrum of human names, and finally there are those generic names we use for every cat or dog we come across, like Kitty or Pup.

It's that last category that I decided to draw from when our newest cat, a stray, showed no signs of moving on to someone else's home (someone with a better imagination, I suspect). I spent most of my time calling her "sweetie", so I thought, why not just name her that? It made me feel sensible and competent to always be able to remember my cat's name, very unlike the feeling I've gotten at other times such as when I addressed my son by my own name.

So "Sweetie" she became.

Then I took her to the vet for her first checkup. We got registered by owner name and pet name. No problem. Sat down to wait. Finally an older male vet entered the waiting area and bellowed the cat's name. Sweetie! There was nothing to do but stand up and go in. It didn't faze the vet - I'm sure he's heard worse - but my embarrassment level was a little high.

I spent several days after that agonizing over a new name, and finally Sweetie officially became Lulu - four letters, two identical syllables - should be easy to remember, right? - and completely unremarkable for future visits to the vet. Gotta say I still can't remember it half the time, and revert to "Sweetie".

Tell me, how did you decide on a name or names for your pet(s), past or present or both?

Sweetie may look laid back ... and possibly overfed ...
... but she's a total ninja at hiding in gift bags and hogging the computer.

Wednesday 6 April 2016

Donkey Turns English Teacher, Just For Today. Wait, Why Are You Running Away??

April is National Poetry Month in Canada and the United States. I think it should be in every country, but having it in most of North America is not too shabby a start.

If you live in either country, you would only be doing your patriotic duty by writing a poem in the comments. And if you don't live in either country, that's no excuse. You should write one, too. It doesn't need to be long - Ogden Nash could pack a lot into two lines and so can you. Here's one of my favourites from Mr. Nash:


Had 'em.

There now, isn't that easy? Go on now, give it a try. Rhyming, not rhyming, limerick, haiku, ode, sonnet, ballad, free verse   - anything goes!

And just to show you that quality does not matter, I offer from my personal writing vault this clunker from 2010, back when I first heard of National Poetry Month. You will notice that it is written in free verse. In other words, just like talking. See! YOU could do that, too. (Apologies to Robert Frost. I do love his poetry.)


Reply to The Pasture
   - by Procrastinating Donkey

Some experts think that Robert Frost wrote deep poetry.

I honestly can't see it.

Even if they ARE experts.
I still can't see it.
In fact, I see other things when I read this Robert Frost poem:

 The Pasture 

I'm going out to clean the pasture spring;  
I'll only stop to rake the leaves away
(And wait to watch the water clear, I may):
I sha'n't be gone long. You come too.

I'm going out to fetch the little calf
That's standing by the mother. It's so young,
It totters when she licks it with her tongue.
I sha'n't be gone long. You come too.

Why would the writer
(Who is widely agreed to be a farmer)
Want a little calf?
Because he's going to turn it into veal, that's why.
He's not going to cuddle it.
He's not going to shoe it or milk it.
He's not going to bathe it or brush it or clip its hooves.
He's not going to teach it to sing or play checkers.
It's time for veal chops.
You know it's true.
That poem is far from a tender scene, if you ask me.
It's a horror story, for mom and the little guy.
No, I don't wish to "come too", Mr. Farmer.
Back off with your horrific invitation, eh.


(I'm not sure why this poem took the turn it did, but I do hope it is clear that I wrote it tongue-in-cheek.)

Your turn. And if you really don't want to write a poem, but you'd like to take part, you could share a bit of poetry you had to memorize as a child, or a song lyric that speaks to you. Doesn't need to be the whole thing; a line or two will be quite fine. Thank you for reading and playing along, and I hope class did not traumatize you too badly.

Tuesday 5 April 2016

Looking Up, Part 3

(A scheduling glitch - code for "still learning" - means this post did not go live at the planned time. But here it is, straggling in the door with rumpled clothes and hair all askew ...)

Today's photos are ones that I was surprised to have turn out as well as they did. I'm trying to learn how to better use my point-and-shoot digital camera, so I've been taking all kinds of different shots to see what happens. I used to love to take photographs with our 35mm film (non-digital) camera. We had several different lenses which made it easier to take good ones. Alas, I'm back to beginner status. It's definitely better than using the Kodak Instamatic I used as a teenager, because of the zoom function and different automatic settings like close-up and landscape, and because I don't have to pay for developing ten times as many photos as actually turn out. But it definitely has limitations.

Regardless, I was happy to get these shots.

Two crows in a wood:

In another month, this will be a leafy, shady spot for these souls to hide. There was no hiding on this day, however, and after only two photos, they flew off, protesting loudly.

A few streets further along, a different crow, and a completely different reaction:

This guy was drinking out of a puddle, which doesn't seem all that pleasant - and didn't seem to care that I was there.

Finally there was this:

To get all of the trunk of this tree in the picture, I would have had to lie down in someone's front yard, with traffic passing in the adjacent street. Because I don't like to make a spectacle of myself, I did not do that. Trust me when I say this is a very tall tree. I almost fell over from looking up. Remember, old-ish people plus falling over equals possibility of injury. I like my bones unbroken and my head unconcussed. I could not keep looking up and waiting for some birds to decide to pose up there. Ergo, no birds in this tree. Just lots and lots and lots of tree.

Special treat tomorrow! Although that may depend on your definition of treat, I suppose ...

Monday 4 April 2016

Looking Up, Part 2

Another day, another walk, more trees. Will the fun never stop? This time not all the trees are trees, though. And there are birds involved, too.

I know! Better hang onto your chair.

Let's start here:

I love the graceful twisting branches on this big old tree. And see that object right there in the centre? You're right, it IS pretty hard to see, so I'll just tell you: it's another crow. Not one of the neighbours, though, unless he/she followed me.
And here is a former tree, also known as a utility pole:

I could hear this gull - he was very loud! - but I couldn't see him at first. He blended in well with the pole and the sky. I think he was asking if I had any fries or burgers or doughnuts in my pocket for his dinner. Judging from his tone, he was used to getting what he wanted.  I picked up the pace to get away from his stern looks.

After that, I went looking for bluejays. On my walk the day before, there were a half a dozen in every other tree, calling out in their twangy, metallic voices, begging to have their pictures taken. Now they were nowhere to be found. Probably at a bluejay party somewhere, snickering over inattentive photographers and natural consequences and stuff.

So here's a photo nicked from Wikipedia, because they had a lovely one:

I truly hope Wikipedia doesn't mind me using their photo. If they do, they only need to say so, and I will remove it, and apologize sincerely from the bottom of my donkey heart.

Isn't he handsome? He's in the Corvid family, like the crow, which is something I didn't know until the past year.

Something I've known for quite awhile, in contrast, is that bluejays love to hide peanuts. For many years, our exterior Christmas decorations included a fake garland wound over and around the front porch railing. Every year without fail, when I took that garland down, I would find peanuts hidden under it. To truly appreciate this story, you must know that our decorations never went up before December 20 and came down by January 1. That doesn't seem like a lot of time for a bird to check out the new "evergreen growth" on our rail, decide to hide food in it, and actually get around to doing it. Maybe that's just my procrastinator's nature speaking. I always felt bad disturbing the peanuts, but I'm pretty sure the jays were hiding them all over the place, so it was probably okay.

More trees and more birds tomorrow, which will exhaust my small store of photos and cause me to move on to another topic. No updates yet on the crows who are moving in next door. Perhaps they have finished framing up the nest and are waiting for the drywallers to show up. If you've ever had a house built or a reno done, you'll know just how that feels.

Friday 1 April 2016

Donkey Thinks a Deep Thought

Yesterday I was driving home from the mall, when this song by BRIIA came on the radio. The song is called "Fake It 'Til You Make It", in case you don't care to follow links.

Some of the bloggers whom I visit regularly may know from my breadcrumb trail of comments that my father passed away last summer. He had a serious stroke in 2007, which paralyzed him on one side of his body for the remaining eight years of his life.

The stroke changed my father's life almost completely. He went from being an active, outdoor-loving man to being confined to a wheelchair. He was dependent on others for some of his most basic needs. My life changed too. Suddenly I had not just my own responsibilities as a wife and mother and part-time employee and cat servant, but also the overseeing of all my dad's affairs - finances, wardrobe, appointments, disposition of his home - and I also took on the occupation of chief companion.

Dad spent seven months in the hospital waiting for a bed in a nursing home to become available. I visited him daily during those months, often twice a day, to help him eat and shave and wash and pass the time -  trying in some small way to help him cope with the sudden and devastating change in his life.

But Dad was definitely an optimist. He dreamed of getting back to his old abilities and his old life. And I got to see a side of him I hadn't seen before. Or maybe it was a product of the stroke; there can often be a reduction in inhibitions in stroke survivors. Whatever the catalyst, he blossomed from a quiet man into a sociable and gregarious person. He loved visits from ... anyone, really, as long as they didn't stay too long or say stupid things. (But aren't we all apt to get impatient with those kinds of people?)

We soon noticed there was a regular visitor to the hospital wards, a middle-aged man who made the rounds every few days, stopping to chat with each patient for just a few moments. He was friendly and upbeat and you couldn't help but feel better by the time he left. He joked about the nurses. He joked about the food. He asked each person how their day was going. His favourite expression was "Fake it 'til you make it, eh?!" and Dad always agreed. Because what else can you do in a situation like that? But he put words to it. His words gave us a life preserver to hang on to, in those early days of uncertainty. His presence gave us warmth for the cold reality we faced as time went by. His matter-of-fact cheer gave us a few moments of normalcy in the hospital routine.

Dad never did "make it" in his definition of the words. To him, "making it" meant being able to walk again. He was paralyzed to the end of his life. But he kept faking it, almost every day. Being upbeat when he didn't feel like it. Being helpful to others despite often being the one most in need of help himself. Being brave on the outside to cover up the fears on the inside - fear of cancer, of surgery, of loss of sight, of the final sleep.

But even though he never walked again, he "made it" in a different way. He made the most of what he had left in his life. He kept in touch with all the family and friends he could, even when he had to have the phone held to his ear for him. He made new friends at the nursing home with his warmth and humour. Either his radio or his TV was on most of every day, and he could tell you the latest news and what the weather was supposed to do, who had died and who'd been born and who'd been elected. He knew how to wring the most from every moment. And he continued to be a loving father when I needed a listener or a word of encouragement, even as our positions of parent and child seemed to have been reversed in so many other ways.

Some people say that faking it until you make it is a stupid way to handle adversity. They say you can't fake it. There's no point in faking it. Feel all the feels. If you feel terrible, let it all hang out. In some cases, for some reasons, and at some times, I agree. But sometimes - and the trick is to know when those times are - you can get pretty far by faking your way through. I've seen it done, and done well.

How about you? Tell me your story of adversity, or of good advice in the face of it.