Friday, February 28, 2014

By This Time Last Year

my own bluebird had been knock, knock, knockin' on the door and windows, asserting his domain in preparation of moving his Mrs. into the bluebird box. Two months after beginning the long preparations, Mr. and Mrs. Bluebird disappeared, thanks to a neighbor's cat.

I still haven't quite gotten over their absence. I had so wanted another crop of babies like the ones I had enjoyed the year before.

All is not lost, however.

A bluebird (whether the same or different I can't know) and his female companion have been feeding in the front yard for about a month now. They're feeling right at home, evidenced by the poop dribbled down my front passenger door.

Here he is, early morning, doing what he does best: hunting. The good news is that the neighbor's cat has been spoiled because of the cold winter. I think she's an indoor kitty now, so this kitty-loving woman can enjoy her outdoor birds.

Fingers crossed for bluebirds and blue skies ahead!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Water Music

Light and water and shadow: music for eyes and ears.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Random Acts of Art

After lying on the ground, shooting this moss over and over again,
I stood, rounded the bend, and laughed.

In forty-eight hours, the single sculpture of the stealthy freshman artist has become twelve.

Such exuberance! Such joy!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Monday, February 24, 2014

Freshman Stone Sculptor

"Hi!" I said. "A young Andy Goldsworthy!" And when he looked puzzled, I added, "He's an artist who stacks stones and rocks just like you!"

"Really?" And then, "Hi!"

"Have you never heard of him?" He shook his head no, but seemed interested. "Go to the library and I bet you'll find Rivers and Tides in the movie section."

"Oh, great," he said. 

"When did you start this?"

"A little while ago. I saw a photograph this morning and thought it would be cool to try myself. It's not as hard as it looks," he said.

As I took his picture, he told me he's a freshman, planning to major in anthropology. No art background, but plenty of curiosity and openness to the possibilities of stones and chance encounters.

"Your work is beautiful," I told him and turned back toward the path.

"Thanks!" he said, and then, "What's the guy's name again?"

"Andy Goldsworthy! Look him up!

"I will! Have a great day," the freshman stone sculptor called, and turned back to his work.

Beautiful things crop up in Abbo's Alley.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Of Sliders and ***t

Two days in the 60s, with full sun, and all kinds come out to play. 

Watching this slider at the lake this morning, I thought, I know just how he (or she) feels. How good it is to stretch the neck, nose up toward the blue sky, eyes at half mast, letting the good heat soothe winter meat.

The riders and their mounts had been out, too, though earlier than I. They left their calling cards: piles of excrement on the beach and the bank opposite, hoof marks gouged into red mud and damp sand. 

These sun-worshipers I do not understand. Oh, riding I get, and riding in beautiful weather I get. But why they think only of themselves by coming where they are not welcome (indeed where they are not permitted) and leaving their ***t for others to cope with and clean up is beyond me.

When it comes to sliders and riders who slide on their responsibilities, I'll take the first any day. He or she is my kind of animal.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Tricks of Light

And then there is this about light: 

stand in one place, look at one creek, and alchemy results: everything -- water, silt, stone, water strider -- all instantly become yellow gold;

stand in another place, look at one creek, and what might have been gold at another hour or minute or instant hardens into steel, only fall's leaves burning.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Lake Cheston ABCedarian Day 4: E


Not the vegetable; the color.

Elegiac elegance.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Old Soul

Chris was an old soul even when I first met and taught him in prep school. A college graduate now, he talks about his two years studying in China with joy, respect, and appreciation of the culture that's rare among young people with lucky lives.

Over a long lunch cooked and served expertly by a Singaporean Chinese (on introducing Chris to Irene at Crossroads Cafe, she said, "Robley! Don't order! Let me just give you food!"), we talked and I learned. By the time we had taken a short tour of the college and strolled around the lake, I knew we'd need one more sit-down before he drove home.

Dessert selected (chocolate for both of us), I admired his ring, a soft yellow-gold wonder that fits his finger well. "All jewelry in Hong Kong is a social status indicator," he told me. "This ring isn't popular now. Young people wouldn't wear it, but the older generation purchase these soft gold rings because they believe if you can wear one, you obviously aren't working. And if you aren't working, you've made it."

"What about the characters?"

"The symbol on front is fu, which means good luck and fortune. Fu dao le means fortune comes, which is why every time I see a Chinese person, they tell me to turn the ring around so the character is facing me."

Chris doesn't need Chinese superstition to find good luck and fortune. He has already has it -- in his character -- and with it, he will make his own fortune. 

May good things always come to him.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Long, Good Day

Another night of vomiting and diarrhea for little Cleo meant no sleep for all three of us. Another visit to the vet, this time with a fever, a bit of dehydration, and the mystery of Cleo's unbalanced gut.

When my vet came into the exam room, she said, "What happened? You got a dud?"

I laughed, just as she knew I would.

"Let her spend the day," the doctor said. "I'll have a chance to run some diagnostics and observe her."

So I did.

Then I drove up to Bell Buckle to see my friends F and TJ. 

Home now from hospital and rehab, TJ holds court in his "command center" (the kitchen): birds outside, Prince the semi-poodle at his feet, his wife F busy cooking or cleaning or arranging the next visit or opening mail and paying the bills, his phone in his hand. 

Desmond Tutu said, "You don't choose your family." Well, OK, your birth family, maybe, but I've spent a lifetime choosing my families and they me in the places I have lived.

These two come closest to blood relatives. Even when they're having a hard time, they make me laugh and they enjoy a dog with a ball, sun on skin, and the gift of friendship.

It seems that Cleo had a negative reaction to the antibiotic prescribed for last week's bout with iffy digestion. She will eat a special diet for a couple of days, laced with probiotic.

This evening, both she and her sister Doodlebug snuggled for a good long time, one on my lap, one slung over my shoulder, happy to have the Human home and each other.


For better or worse.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Fraidy Kittens: Day 9

Who's Afraid of the Human?
or, Thus Endeth the Lesson of Making the House a Home

Ping-pong weather this week. Fog, ice and snow, pouring rain, balmy temperatures (51 now and sunny). How quickly the climate changes, and with it flower some beautiful things.

Outside and inside, too.

A week ago, two fraidy kittens entered the house and proceeded to huddle and hide, appearing mostly only to eat and poo or pee.

Now look at 'em: clumped on the bed, napping, while the human walks Abbo's Alley with her camera.

Fraidy kittens no more: they've investigated every nook and cranny; they have decided it's all good. They even know their names -- Cleome and Doodlebug.

Thus endeth the lesson. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Fraidy Kittens: Day 8


Red-letter day!

Vacuuming of living room and dining room: check.

Litter pan in upstairs bathroom: check.

Kitty food and water in upstairs studio: check.

Clean sheets and blanket on my bed: check.

Chair moved to end of bed: check.

Kittens napping on the bed: check.

Kittens responding to their names: check.

All that's missing: one night spent together upstairs. Here's hoping it works!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Fraidy Kittens: Day 7

She Who Waits

That's me. 

I'm still waiting.

When I come home, Clio races to greet me, lets me pick her up, and give her some love, and she purrs. She rubs my face, closes her eyes, proves she's a kitty.

Doodlebug (Clue) talks, and talks, and talks, and passes back and forth below us. She'll finally jump up on the back of couch and let me pet her -- a bit. But if I pick her up (and I do try, of course), she squirms. Should I try to plant a kiss, she hisses.

But when I'm on the sofa and tempt them with a flingy toy, I can pet either one and receive appropriate responses.

This too shall pass.

After all Clio decided to lie on her cat mat in the study this morning while I worked.

I shall be rewarded, and in the meantime I am content to keep waiting.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Fraidy Kittens: Day 6

A Tale of Two Kittens,
or How Clio Earns the Cuddles Medal and the Dog House Both

Clio has accepted her oral antibiotic three times without resistance, all the while purring and cuddling. 

Clio has taught her sister Clue (Doodlebug?) to accept my stroking and once, to join us in a group cuddle.

Clio plays with her smaller sister, happily, and sleeps with her under the Fraidy Couch or on one of their kitty comfort quilts.

She has set a good example in all things but one.

Early mornings, the kittens emerge from their Fraidy Couch, stretch, and work on their manicures.

Clue (Doodlebug?) frisks to the resistant carpet of the scratching seat, while her sister Clio races to one of my favorite rugs. 

Bad kitty. 

Bad, indeed.

Let's see what Clio thinks of the Febreeze pet treatment and a spray bottle filled with water.

Tomorrow is another day.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Fraidy Kittens: Day 5

Bounce Back


The sound that every human who lives with cat dreads: the loud ME-OOOWWWW followed by the unmistakable retching that means . . . well, . . . you know what it means.

By 7:30, Clio had repeated this action 12 times, so down we went to the Midtown Veterinary Services and Hospital. This on a day when ice and snow were predicted. (More about that to come.)

The new young vet (my vet was off today, though I saw her briefly there anyway) saw both kittens, just in case, and had good news: Clio purred happily even when he kneaded her belly. No blockage. But to be safe, she received an anti-nausea shot, an antibiotic shot, and a general checkup. He suggested a teaspoon of pumpkin for constipation (both cats loved it; who knew?) and twice daily antibiotics, orally. 


Vigorous play with a flingy toy proves that a little TLC goes a long way.

And, not long after, the snow arrived, just in time for another nap.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Fraidy Kittens: Day 4

Two Giant Steps Forward, One Small step Back

I. Morning.

We all rise together, stretch, visit our respective lavatories, and gather in the living room, on the floor, on the kitty throw. Clio surrenders herself to my hand, face, hair, reclines across one hand, pushing into the other, purring. Little Clue, stands at the corner of the throw, curious, cautious, but finally sneaks over, sniffs from my head to toes and back and lets herself enjoy a moment of stroking, before realizing she's still a fraidy cat.

II. Repetition

Of the above several times over the day, along with reading, grooming, enjoying the light.

III. Late Afternoon

Someone left a little package under the sheets and towel thrown carelessly in a corner of the bedroom, ready for the wash. Happily, my brother's gift of pet Febreze arrived earlier. I have tested it, and it is good. One kitty is bad, and I think I know who, right, Clue?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Fraidy Kittens: Day 3

A Tale of "She Said, She Said"


"Not me!" says Clue.


Odd scratching.

"She did it!" says Clue.

"Who, me?" says Cleo.

"I told you!" says Clue.

"So much for cleanliness," says the human.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Fraidy Kittens: Day 2

After a night spent on (me) and under (them) the couch, we emerged this morning, all of us, ready to greet the day.

The food bowl refilled, the litter box cleaned, I took off for the grocery. When I returned, Cleo (Clio?) met me, having spread herself out on the couch for a little grooming.
On three different occasions during the day, both scampered and clattered up and down the stairs, into my bedroom, and all around the living and dining rooms. One even came into the study twice while I was working, but never lingered long enough for a photo op.

My friend Betsy McCutchen had two cats, Ellie and Lovey, who -- when anyone came to visit -- used to hide in the "scary closet." Cleo (Clio?) and Clue have the "scary couch," where they sleep in a small slump.
Day 2: a success by any measure.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Fraidy Kittens

Cleo and Clue, Day 1

Friday, February 7, 2014

Winner! Winner!

chicken Singaporean Chinese dinner!

Although it arrived nearly two months after the fact, I welcomed the decorated winner's envelope hand-delivered to my door yesterday evening by RP, who works at the College. Inside, my prizes: a gift certificate to use at Crossroads Cafe (my choice of local restaurant) and a nifty handmade, reusable coffee cup sleeve.

From among 300 submissions, two of my photographs were selected as winners in the inaugural Sustain Sewanee photo contest. I am pleased, and as a friend told me, I was famous before I knew it!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Step 1

I hereby admit that I am powerless to control my affection for bugs.

This one has been living in my kitchen since the fall. 


It is the only one of its kind still left (at least still visible) in my house.

I know. I have looked.

I have saved it from drowning -- twice.

I have saved it from the dreaded stuck-on-the-back position -- three times.

I have helped it find warm spots, helped it out of the metal slickery sink, and photographed it in various winsome positions.

When multicolored Asian lady beetles arrived in hordes (truly a plague), I scooped and removed them, heartlessly. (I blogged about them, here and here and here.)

But I grew weary of the killing and finally sealed the front door surround with painter's tape. For weeks, I simply used the back door.

Today, at the shop where I work part-time, I collected 57 of this bug's relatives and escorted them outside. I confess they were not all dead, then. I am certain they are now. It is cold today. Very cold. I do not like this duty, but I do it, as they do not add charm to the goods for sale.

I would like to say I know why this one particular beetle is special, but I am not entirely sure. I do know this: it has a strong "will" to live (I do not think it can will in the sense humans believe they can) and I have no stomach for intentional homicide in light of its instincts.

Besides, I enjoy watching it. This morning, as I have done every morning since its arrival, I made my tea and then played search-for-the-lady-beetle. It took me three different trips into the kitchen over an hour and a half before I discovered her tucked right smartly into the top of a small vase.

I hope good things for her, and for me, too, in this joint venture of survival.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014