Monday, June 30, 2008

Kitty Buzz, Always and Forever

Life is perilous and short. Buzz, one of our household's three pets, passed away this morning from liver failure. He died without a sound in his mom Riggin's room.

Earlier, when he came in to the kitchen, he seemed a little wobbly as if his legs wouldn't cooperate with the direction he was heading. But otherwise, he didn't seem that sick. But Scout and Walt came over to him and just stood there looking down at him with concern . . . like they were visiting a friend in the hospital.

This dear, feisty, orange tabby was a cat to remember. The spirit of a lion? I might argue he was a lion. He was an attack cat of the first order and loved to wrap his paws around his mom's forearm and pretend to bite. Well, sometimes he did bite, but not very often.

He came to us in March a few years ago from a cat adoption person. I don't know what year -- 2004? It's hard to remember because once you get to know Buzz he's there forever right beside you. He liked to perch on the back of my chair so he looked like a big fuzzy hat with one leg hanging down around my ear.

Buzz was a jungle cat in a domestic kitty's body. Scout will miss him crouched on the brick wall at the end of the path. Buzz would wait for the right moment, then leap on Scout's back, totally freaking him out.

We wish Buzz all the jungle he ever wanted forever and ever. And lots of little dogs (or gazelles or zebras) to pounce on . . .

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Whale of a Tale

When you're visiting Baja California Sur, one of the most amazing things is the world around you.

My first time in Cabo, I flew in a 12-seat Cessna up the coastline about 300 miles to La Bahia de Magdalena. There in the shallow water (max depth 60 feet) of the surrounding lagoons, gray whales raise their young.

The locals make a living by giving touristas, in groups of four or six, rides out in their pangas to meet and greet these gentle huge creatures.

In the photo, I'm making my way over to pet the mother whale who came up to say hello as soon as we turned off the boat's rattling engine. They're like big dogs these whales. When you splash the water the come right up to you, fearless and happy. And they actually look at you. Their eyes remind me of an elephant's eyes, ringed and seeming a little tired.

Funny thing is that gray whales and elephants are almost the same color. I've never petted an elephant, so I'm not sure if their skin is as bumpy as a whale's.

Maybe I'll go to the zoo, hose down an elephant, find a ladder, and pet its head. It might be easier to make my way back to Magdalena Bay next February to pet a whale again.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Across the Street, Over the Rainbow

All the world is crisp and shiny outside the window at work this evening. A double rainbow arching over White Flint Mall . . .

I guess the message is: If you don't go to Nature, Nature comes to you. Right at your desk.

The stormtrack that ended with the rainbow flourish is still moving across the sky with thunderheads and rain off in the distance. Behind it is clear blue sky.

Driving down Sligo Creek Parkway this morning, I noticed the family of wild geese guarding their youngsters as they munched away at yummy things in the grass by the side of the road. The adolecents lost all their fuzz and now look like miniatures of their parents.

I hope it all goes well for them when they set out back to Canada (although I've heard that many don't even bother anymore because of global warming).

Friday, June 20, 2008

Summer Solstice

Today is the longest day of the year, the Summer Solstice. At 8 pm tonight, one minute after the big moment, the days will officially begin to get shorter and shorter until the Winter Solstice in December.

If a beach appeared on Rockville Pike and waves rolled in over the parking lot at White Flint mall, this would be a perfect first day of summer. Of course if you are planning to drive to the beach tomorrow, I'll be happy to buy your cow and your last sack of beans for the gas money you'll need to get there. Oh, and your lower 40. And your house.

In the photo above, my daughter is enjoying a Solstice moment -- actually, the Winter Solstice -- in Cancun last year. I also plan to post a photo of my son in a sombrero with his partner in crime, a burro with his own sombrero.

Flying is less expensive than driving these days. That's if you don't take anything besides a toothbrush and a change of bloomers. I heard gas will rocket to $6 a gallon next year. Remember when we used to make fun of Europeans for their expensive gas?

American ingenuity always rises to the occasion, though. I heard about a family that sold all their cars and now use horses to get around.

My wish for this astrological power day is that we all figure out how to get around by levitation or sturdy little wings that can be stored unnoticed under our shirts while we're at work.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Woodstock Revisited

In the Post today, I read about the new cultural center on old Yazgur's farm (or what was Yazgur's farm in 1969).

With the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock Festival on the horizon, I'm figuring that the townspeople of Bethel, NY, are making plans to "get it right" by this time next year when 60-year-olds like me show up for music, biblical rains, and c-rations dropped by helicopter onto our frayed blankets . . .

My thing, as it turns out, is Hendrix and that Monday morning anthem in the wee hours before we packed up, dug our VW squareback out of the mud, and got back on the road looking for a hot shower. It's always Hendrix. I want to set my computer on fire the way he incinerated his guitar. How fun would that be for a 60-year-old?

My friends and I drove all the way to Woodstock from Tucson, Arizona, where we spent a few weeks babysitting a monkey whose mom and dad were on vacation in the Canadian Rockies.

By the time they got back, the monkey was out of diapers and spent most of its time perched on the curtain rod whimpering like a baby left on a church doorstep. We tried to be loving and even fed "Maurice" miniature marshmallows one by one.

In all these years, I've never been back to Tucson. It's not the monkey, poor thing. You've heard people say, "Well, yes it's hot, but it's a dry heat." When it's 115 degrees, it's everything you imagined of hell, especially if you were raised Catholic.

One time it rained. Maybe the first week of August. A deluge that brought hundreds and hundreds of frogs out from the dusty riverbeds and up the driveway and around the perimeter of the house. If Hitchcock were around, he'd have another horror movie to make. Me, I'm scared enough as it is . . .

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Friends Forever

A friend sent me this photo the other day. Moments like these make a difference in a child's life . . . especially when it's a positive experience and the creature doesn't try to swim off with your dress. I think this is a beluga whale. I wish I had paid more attention in my freshman biology class at GW way back when. Then I could give you an accurate ID. Is the animal smiling? Maybe it's just my imagination.

I couldn't tell you the phylum or species for many creatures . . . except I do know that the raccoon who came in our dog door the other night to eat some kibble and wash her hands in the dog's water bowl is a marsupial. A creature of the night who carries her babies in a pouch (no, not a purse). That telltale little black mask over her eyes. Oh, and the tiny footprints all over the white linoleum.

I guess I should be grateful. Another story is circulating about a woman who in the half sleep of the early morning thought she was petting her cat. Well, it was a raccoon all cuddled up in her blanket! I'm assuming she had a dog door too.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Remembering a True Rhode Islander

Tuesday, June 10, is my dad's 88th birthday. Even though he's not physically around anymore, I sense his presence. Sounds corny, I know, but I hear his voice as clearly as I ever did, even though I can't see him shaking his head in exasperation.

The photo here is my dad with my daughter. We had just left Iggy's Clam Shack in Warwick Neck, a couple days before Easter '05. A typical chilly mid April afternoon.
When I think of my dad, I want to head out on a little boat and set some lobster pots with someone who actually knows how to do that.

I'm looking for a quahog rake like the one dad used to pull up those blue creatures in the muck of low tide along the edges of Narragansett Bay. And I want to grind them up for chowder the way he did, catching them sleeping with their shells open in a bucket of salt water and getting the shucking knife in there to cut that muscle and toss the flesh into the old grinder attached to the kitchen table.

My dad made the best clam chowder in all of Rhode Island. He was a dedicated URI basketball fan, a Red Sox fan, and a good friend to many, many folks around town. The night before he passed away, I sat with him in his study and watched the Red Sox trounce the Orioles. The entire game right to the end. He never did anything "half-assed."

On Tuesday evening, I'll light a candle and ask a friend to play "Moonlight in Vermont" on the accordion. One of my dad's favorite songs. After that, I'll try my hand at one of his famous pierogi recipes. Maybe this time it will work!

Friday, June 6, 2008

P'Town & the Fine Arts Work Center

Soon it will be summer and that means off once again to the Fine Arts Work Center in P'town. This year, I'm taking a weeklong workshop with poet Jean Valentine.

My first semester in the MFA program at American U, I studied with Jean. She was thoughtful and kind. An inspiration. When a student handed something out, she'd say in her soft voice, "Well, how do we do with this one?" People were careful with their criticism as if they knew the muse was easily scared off.

That class was my first attempt at writing poetry. Agonizing sometimes because I didn't know the easy, simple words in my head were worth putting down on paper. I looked for difficult words, inexplicable imagery, sticks and stones from the side of the road.

I forgave myself for that a long time ago. As a matter of fact, I'm grateful I had the courage to take that chance. I was a single mother with two small children, and I sold my house to be there in that program. Proof enough my heart was in the right place.

I wrote my very first poem, "Leaves," when I was 9. I wrote it out in longhand on tan tablet paper with lines I drew with my little pencil-case ruler. I made about $3 selling the poem to my relatives for 25 cents a copy.

Know what? That was a lot of money to make for one poem.

Thanks to my Uncle Rollo and his thoughtful way with children's treasures, I still have an original signed copy. I'll post it one day when blogs become little goldmines of memories. Or has that already happened?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Hendrix at Sunrise

The Providence Journal's Subterranean Homepage News Subterranean Homepage News posted this "Hendrix at Woodstock" story of mine on Sheila Lennon's blog.

Monday Morning, 5am, 1969, at Yazgur's Farm . . . Peace.
Posted by: Meredith Pond on August 15, 2005 1:55 PM