Thursday, August 18, 2016

Fun With Misty (Miss Tabby, Miss T)

I have a wonderful new kitty. She is a small, soft, brown tabby teenager. The neighbor who found her on the street described her as a lap cat. She likes my lap well enough, but even more enjoys lying on my shoulder.

She was a sweet, cuddly creature for the first few days, as she was learning her new territory - my flat and the backyard.

Then she felt enough at home to graduate to twilight terrorist, or night-time nut. She runs from one end of my home to the other, bouncing off walls. When I offered her a toy to play with, she'd chomp down on it and munch till it was dead. Even when she was in my lap, stroking her elicited claw-tipped paws as often as purrs.

Almost immediately, she took up hunting duties in the backyard, slaying a rat and stalking birds.

This morning, however, she had brought a bird inside and was tearing at its innards when I got up to visit the bathroom, as if to chide me for being late with her breakfast.

And after eating the cat food I provided, she brought inside a partly killed mouse - injured enough that it wasn't running around, but still breathing. After thanking her for the gift and praising her prowess, I should've drowned the mouse out of its misery. Instead, all I could think to do was get it the hell out of my home.

I left it on my back porch, near the eviscerated bird. Bedarned if she didn't follow it outside and resume playing with it. In the absence of furniture to bat it under, she found a space between two boards to knock it into. So my next joyful participation in her play will be to fish it out with some chopsticks and deposit it in the compost bin. Oh boy.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Protest Vote

Protest Vote

Sometimes we want to use our vote to oppose something else. The problem with protest voting is that we get what we vote for, not the opposite of what we voted against. For example, the proponents of the Leave campaign in the United Kingdom incited anger towards immigrants and fear of terrorism as reasons for leaving the European Union. But they didn’t explain what would happen to the country if it threw away a quarter-century of trade relationships and progress. The pound plummeted. It’s not enough to know what you’re voting against, if you have no idea what you’re voting for.

In our country, too many people support Donald Trump to express their hatred of President Obama and their fear of terrorism. They might be very surprised to learn what they’re voting for. There are only two ways to govern a really diverse country: politics and dictatorship. In politics, the major factions have to compromise, so each gets a bit of what they want and nobody gets everything they want. Otherwise, it takes a dictator to hold a diverse country together. In Iraq, we toppled a dictator without creating politics to take his place. We broke the country, and failed to put it back together – which led to death, destruction, and the rise of the Islamic State.

Since the election of President Obama, the Republicans abandoned any possibility of compromise. They openly vowed to make him a one-term president, even if it ruined the country. Their failure to compromise as fiscal deadlines loomed brought the country to the brink of defaulting on our obligations, which harmed our credit rating and our standing among nations. I don’t know why charges weren’t brought against them. Doing deliberate damage to the country in order to spite the sitting president sounds like treason to me.

Fortunately, there were enough Democrats in Congress during the first term to pull the US and the world back from the financial mess that the Bush administration had left us in. However, the Republican refusal to negotiate and compromise has resulted in total Congressional gridlock since then. Guns cannot be controlled even after horrific massacres of children, despite nearly total support from voters. Immigration reform is impossible. Nothing happens in Congress except futile votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

If politics can’t work, dictatorship is the only alternative for governing a diverse nation. That is why Trumpism is so popular. He’s not a politician, he has no use for compromise. He says that he’ll fix everything, and some voters believe him, because of his pathological self-confidence and vast experience with failed businesses. Anyone with the least sense of history is reminded of Germany in the 1930s. Trumpism is Fascism, and he is running not for president of a republic, but for dictator. Vote for him only if that’s what you want.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Despair and Delight

Yesterday a friend invited me to share her free tickets to see the musical Cabaret. I jumped at the offer, and we went to the Golden Gate Theater last night. The production very movingly presented the rise of the Nazi party and its anti-Semitism. The company did a wonderful job of making me feel horrible. I disliked all the characters, and hated that period of history. The final tableau of a death camp prisoner wearing a yellow star and a pink triangle left me thoroughly bummed out - sad and angry and ashamed to be human.

Then I drove us home. When we turned up Hyde Street, we saw City Hall, all lit up in rainbow colors. My jaw dropped and the car stopped, fortunately not too far from a red light. After we turned the corner onto McAllister, my friend suggested we pull to the curb to admire the view. So we did.

The illuminated building was so very beautiful. There was a layer of lights at the street level, another layer at the base of the dome, and other lights at the very top of the dome. They changed very slowly, as if the spectrum was gradually playing over City Hall.

The beauty of the display was like a beacon of hope in the darkness. We could feel the colors entering our eyes and skin; they came into our open mouths and we tasted them. We were nourished, and warmed, and inspired by the profound and magical beauty of those glorious colors against the stone building and night sky. We felt their textures and inhaled their aromas, and just drank them in with total awe and gratitude. I was moved to exclaim, "God bless the City and County of San Francisco!"

That was quite a palate-cleanser.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The End of Einstein

Last month I learned from the veterinary oncologist that my cat Einstein had weeks to months before his life would become more of a burden than a boon.

So I decided to make his last weeks as pleasant as I could make them. The vet suggested I cook for him, but prescribed suitable canned food after I told him I don't even cook for myself. So I provided him with the prescription food (of great flavor and calorie count) and other flavors of moist, stinky canned food for his eating pleasure.

Last week, I brought home some salmon from my breakfast, and he galloped across the kitchen to investigate that new scent. He was still sunning himself on the back stairs that week.

This week, however, he stopped galloping and secreted himself in a hiding place under the desk in the back hall.

I called a friend to help me decide if it was time, and she urged me to call a vet. The vet took one look at Einstein and suggested that he had reached a state where euthanasia was a good medical decision. So that's what we did this afternoon.

Lots of religious texts came to my mind, all Christian in source.

First, the Nunc Dimittis: Lord, now lettest Thou thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy Word.

Then, Requiescat in pacem. May he rest in peace.

And finally, I played a recording of Benjamin Britten's Rejoice in the Lamb in his honor, because of a solo that I sang in a performance long ago, as follows: For I will consider my cat Jeffrey, for he is a servant of the living God, duly and daily serving God. For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in his way. For this is done by wreathing his body seven times 'round with elegant quickness. For he knows that God is his savior. For God has blessed him in the variety of his movements. For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest. For I am possessed of a cat, surpassing in beauty, from whom I take occasion to bless Almighty God.

Friday, May 13, 2016

What's Up with My Cat

Cancer is a learning experience, even in a cat. I heard the diagnosis a month ago, and thereby entered cancer college.

Squamous cell carcimoma is common in cats. In humans, it usually arises on the skin from overexposure to the sun, or in the lungs from smoking. In fact, my response to hearing that the lump on my cat's chin was probably cancer was to ask him if he'd been smoking on the sly. Turns out, cats probably get this cancer from carcinogens in cat food cans. Since I never gave him canned food, though, some other cause seems indicated.

I learned from the vets that this cancer was aggressive, and that cats didn't respond well to treatment with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or all three. Palliative care is the best option. After a few weeks to a few months, he would "decline," and it would be up to me to decide when to have him put out of his suffering.

I bought him luscious prescription canned food, food that would tempt any cat not actually within death's door. And he was prescribed pain-killing drops that I am supposed to wrestle into his mouth three times a day or "as needed for the pain." As if any cat is going to admit to being in pain. Au contraire. Cats are driven as a survival mechanism to hide any distress.

He has been drooling some, perhaps because he can't close his mouth all the way. But drooling may also be a sign of pain in a cat. Dogs drool as a matter or course. But cats usually drool only when they are in severe pain or are deathly ill.

I'm cheered whenever he finishes eating a can of food. And I applaud when he seems to enjoy lying in the sunny back yard, or sitting in my lap, on his recliner, or on the filing cabinet next to the window overlooking the backyard - which I call "kitty TV."

Short of interspecies telepathy, however, I can't know precisely when his life becomes more of a burden than a pleasure. But if he stops eating, that'll be a pretty big clue that the time has come to release him to the elements.

I worry a bit that he may go outside, tuck himself into a dark corner somewhere, and quietly pass on. But keeping him inside would remove a major source of his pleasure. If he becomes too feeble to navigate the two flights of stairs leading down to the backyard, that would be another clue that the time may have come.

It's a puzzlement to me. An ex of mine had a cancerous cat, and regrets that she let him live and suffer as long as she did. I don't want to act too soon or too late. But there's no way to be precise about this. I might as well admit that I won't be ale to make the perfect decision, ask the cat and myself to forgive me in advance, and do the best I can. As if there's any other choice.

I'm in cancer college now, and the final exam is a killer.

Friday, April 1, 2016

More Intense Editing

I've started working on my book, Tales of a Seeker, with Calla and LauRose, two friends of mine who also write. Once a week, we spend an hour or so working separately on our projects, then come together and read bits to each other for comment. Besides copy-editing and bringing a fresh, if befuddled, ear to their words, I'm not sure how I'm helping them.

But I do know what they are contributing to my project, and it's to recognize what's good in it and to demand my very best.

I've imagined the book as an anthology of my various spiritual writings, with a little introduction to put my travels in order and some interstitial bits to add context. My friends, however, want to see where my travels have brought me. What has stayed with me and how has it affected my life. Are there any themes running through the various pieces. What hangs together and what sticks out.
Questions like that.

If those are the questions that come to them on hearing some of my pieces, then similar questions will probably come to at least some other readers. In which case, I should make a stab at answering them.

So I've printed out the current version of the manuscript so I can spread out the pages and make notes in the margins, and see what comes of it.

Stay tuned.

Monday, March 14, 2016

I Love Me Some Greens and Blues

I didn't know that I loved all things that are green and blue. The plastic pendant I've had since junior high school that's blue in front and green in back. The blue and green rubber bracelet that says "inspiring civility." Any book cover or patterned cloth or nature photograph that mixes greens and blues. Greens of plants and grass, and blues of sky and water. Greens and blues in Monet's water lilies, and in a poster I bought in the 70's of a ship with green sails on a blue sea.

Greens and blues are the colors of growth and spirit, of the printed flannel cloth I bought when 12 years old and sewed into pajamas, making and correcting every possible error. My green and blue spring ensemble - light green lightweight corduroy pants, a royallish blue corduroy overshirt, and a blouse of palest green with a blue floral print. And don't forget my blackwatch plaid flannel pjs and blouse.

Even my eyes are green and blue. For most of my life, the DMV, friends, and I believed them to be blue. On close examination, they had hints of gray at the outer edge of the iris and flecks of yellow at the inner edge. But for the last five years or so, my mirror and friends tell me that my eyes are green. I didn't know that eyes could change color. Maybe they just appear to be more green than blue now that my hair is more silver than brown?

Anyway, I liked my blue eyes, and I really like my green eyes. And I love looking at anything that has greens and blues together. Like a latchhook mat I made of a dolphin against a background of greens and blues. Like nearly any nature documentary on TV, like fabulous necklaces and Christmas ornaments I'll never buy but love drooling over.

I've been thinking about the cover design for my first self-published book, Not sure whether to use a photograph of nature's greens and blues, or an abstract design of some sort, but those will definitely be the colors I choose. Green for growth and blue for spirit, intertwined in life-giving motion.