Tuesday, September 27, 2011

All Cats Are Hunters

All cats are hunters.

People with ‘outdoor’ cats inevitably receive offerings – dead mice or birds or other small dead things – as tokens of both the cats’ prowess and esteem.

'Indoor' cats can get pretty bored. Feline boredom is not good. It’s not good for cats or furniture or for other cats who may share an abode.

I have two indoor cats, both rescued strays purchased from the local Humane Society. Recognizing their hunting instincts, I have literally littered my home with cat toys. And I try to play with the cats for at least a few minutes every day. 

But it's not enough. I tend to get busy, working on the computer, being – in my cats’ eyes – pretty boring.

Therefore it's a really big deal whenever a small flying insect, such as a moth, invades the house. Immediately, my cats’ lives perk up. Their every nerve and muscle focuses on the fluttering prey. Darting impossibly fast, in and out of impossible places, the cats pursue their victims. 

Moths traditionally head for light sources – daytime windows or nighttime lamps – with the cats hurtling after. I monitor chases as closely as I can – trying to protect any fragile objects that may get in the way.

At times the drama can last several minutes, involving action on both the first and second floors. Other times, it’s over quickly. But the ending is always the same. 

Inevitably, sooner or later, the moth, pawed and dazed, falls and is eaten. The mighty hunter is triumphant. And, inevitably, sooner or later, the mighty hunter throws up.

How ephemeral the pleasures; how enduring the messes.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


On the first day of autumn 2011, I gave myself a day off. I had no agenda other than escape – and time in the mountains. Wildlife would be a bonus. Especially bugling elk. But nothing was required. It was amazingly liberating.

First stop: Estes Park. After finding a good selection at the excellent card shop, I spent an hour or so drinking tea and reading a friend’s manuscript on a sun-drenched patio. I then wandered to a favorite shop but bought nothing. Then ambled to a favorite restaurant for a nice long lunch, reading more of the manuscript.

It was time to go into Rocky Mountain National Park. There was elk drama going on before the entrance station!

Once in the park, I drove to Sprague Lake and, although unable to walk its perimeter, I did manage to, for the first time in my life, take a photograph of trout. I then retired to a picnic table to read more of the manuscript. Once, looking up, I saw a raven eating a tiny trout. I didn’t even know they fished!

Eventually moving on (no agenda means no hurry) I drove to good elk viewing spots. First, Moraine Park, which looked too crowded, then Upper Beaver Meadow. At the end of the road there was one young bull at the very edge of the parking lot. Posing!

Driving further, I stopped next at West Horseshoe Park, attracted by the tailgaters leisurely enjoying snacks as they waited for the elk show. After some pleasant, casual conversations, I moved on – to a spot that seemed to have more ‘action’ at Sheep Lakes. And indeed, I could see the whole saga – the bull protecting his harem with bugling and feinting. Fascinated, I watched until about 6:45 before getting back into my car.

There’s a steakhouse about a mile outside the park that I’ve been meaning to try but its parking lot was overflowing. I found another, more unassuming, restaurant on the east side of Estes and after a nice dinner drove down the canyon and home.

A great day. A perfect way to celebrate the equinox … and restore my equanimity.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Raspberry Lesson

Today was a big harvest: 25 little raspberries from the bushes in my back yard.

I’ve often told people that had I known about the raspberry bushes, I would have paid more for my house. (Raspberries are my very favorite fruit.)

I also have a magnificent, almost historic, redbud tree in my backyard. Like all trees, it grows slowly. But it does grow. And over the nine years I have lived here, the shade it provides has grown denser and denser.

And my raspberry crop has grown smaller and smaller.

I’ve decided that that’s okay.

Shade is wonderful. The tree is wonderful. And I think I appreciate each scrawny individual raspberry more than if there were an abundance of fat, luscious fruit.


Actually, it’s a good lesson: to pay attention to small gifts.

And big trees.

Appreciation is the the foundation of joy.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Routine Chore --- Plus Cats

Recently, Wednesdays have been my change-the-sheets days. A simple process in many households. An entire morning's production here. First, both cats were snuggled on the bed -- Herbie at the foot, Guinness in the middle. I removed the pillows/pillow cases, no problem. Then walking around the bed, discovered cat vomit on the rug. Cleaned it up. Removed the quilt. Discovered cat vomit on the rug on the other side of the bed. Cleaned it up. Started to remove the blanket. Discovered cat vomit on the blanket. Removed the blanket for future transport to the laundry room. Decided to just go with the quilt. It's not that cold. Unfurled the clean bottom sheet over the mattress (and Guinness -- Herbie had left). A button came off the blouse I had retrieved from the back of the closet (a blouse appropriate for the cool, wet weather today). A forgotten pair of underpants flew across the room, evidently inadvertently tucked into the bottom sheet after the last washing. Guinness stayed, escaping only at the last minute when I finished securing the bottom sheet to the bed. But getting back on top, of course. So. I unfurled the top sheet over the bed. Guinness didn't move. Okay. So I hauled the quilt up onto the bed. Guinness didn't move. I put the two cat toys back on the bed. The lump under the quilt/sheet moved. Guinness emerged to play. We played for a bit. Herbie, who had been observing all of this from the hallway, decided to join us. So we all played for a while but, for heaven's sake it was approaching 11 a.m. Enough already. I retrieved the pillows, put their clean cases on and declared an end to the process. Except for carefully taking the vomit-embellished blanket down to the laundry room. And, while downstairs, finding needle and thread with which to re-attach the button.

The button reattached, the bed made, it was time for lunch.

Friday, September 9, 2011


In a recent edition of the New York Times, Edward Rothstein wrote a review of the National Watch and Clock Museum in Columbia, Pennsylvania that contained some (if you will excuse the phrase) eternal questions.

“What exists everywhere in the universe but occupies no space?”

“What can be measured – but not seen, heard, smelled, tasted, nor held in our hands?”

“What can be spent, saved, frittered away or killed – but never destroyed?”

Time of course.

“Where does time go after it passes?

“What are we really measuring when we tell time?”

“In what ways does measuring time end up shaping time? How does shaping time affect how we think and act?”

Rothstein proposes, “The measuring of time may be the defining act of civilization. It makes planning and strategy possible. … It increases awareness of both constancy and change.”

Humans may have first “become aware of time through repetition. Something happens again and again, yet at each recurrence something else has changed: Time has passed. Sunrises, shadows, solstices: the regularities of such phenomena give pattern to experience.”

Rothstein goes on to describe some of the 12,000 timepieces in the museum.

What he fails to consider is the Buddhist belief that time (like separation) is an illusion.

Things to ponder – when you have a moment.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


In a lunchtime conversation, a teacher spoke about the freedom he felt after teaching for several decades. No longer worried about his grasp of the subject matter or teaching methods, he begins a school year confident, and eager to share these treasures with a new crop of students. And in staff meetings, he says what needs to be said without fear of censure.

He recounted a recent meeting on a very hot day as teachers and administrative staff gathered. One topic: how to teach the kinds to infer. My friend piped up: “Perhaps we could ask them what they might infer when all the classrooms were un-air-conditioned and sultry and the room in which the staff was meeting was air-conditioned and comfortable.” That is something, he noted he would never have had the courage to say was a beginning teacher. [A friend of his afterward remarked that his comment had enabled him to simultaneously be smart and a smart ass.]

I am not a teacher. But I have recently had a milestone birthday. I too have a kind of tenure. I must remember to enjoy the concomitant freedom – to say and do whatever needs to be said and done.

While the tenure holds.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Blanket Statement

Last night for the first time in probably three months, I pulled my summer blanket up over my shoulders.

The breeze coming through the bedroom window was more than cool (less than cool?). It was chilly.

And the act of snuggling under a blanket felt euphoric.

Until I fell asleep.