Monday, November 30, 2009

November Opera

Which is more tiresome -- talking about the benefits of moving one's desk every so often, or actually moving the desk? I know I've written about this here before. Every year or so I move my desk. Ever since I was a kid I had a habit for rearranging the furniture in my room a couple of times a year. (Once I moved my little room all around, and then walked in my sleep downstairs to tell my father that I couldn't get out of bed because the desk was in the way.) I doubt I knew it then, but rearranging the furniture helps me to clear my head and think better. It's like a good game of Tetris. Everything fits into its proper place, clutter is removed or at least hidden, and I gain a new view when I'm writing.

Now I just move my desk all over the place. Occasionally it finds a home in our bedroom against the window that overlooks the neighbor's pile of concrete blocks. Most of the time it fits in the space between the bookcase and the library card catalog downstairs in the back library room. Today I moved it out from its nook and against the window that overlooks the patio, and I think I like it there. Right now it's dusk, and the branches of the bare lilac are black against a cornflower sky - a backdrop for a November opera.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A new book ... just in time for the holidays!

Naissance Chapbooks is pleased to announce the release of


by Jennifer Hill

Jennifer Hill has performed a tour de force of incomparable compactness. 36 Holiday Fictions (one for each of the possible plots in all of literature) in 140 characters each, in which the letter L never appears. Twisted and wrong and completely delightful all rolled together in red velvet trimmed in white. The perfect book for anyone who loves or hates the holidays. An excerpt:

Sacrifice of Loved Ones

The daughter recovered from her Christmas fever. “Nutter has to go,” her mother said as she washed the barf from the stuffed chipmunk’s ear.

—Jennifer Hill

NO L can be ordered through the Naissance Chapbooks site for $10 (includes standard shipping within the continental USA).

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Eldest Cat

Our oldest cat, Edna, is somewhere near 16 years old. We adopted her from a cat rescue in the Reading area when Helen wasn’t quite two. She was the only female cat in the litter of kittens, and the only cream colored one among orange tabbies. We were just going to adopt one cat, but we left with two – Edna (named after Edna St. Vincent Millay) and Albrecht (named after Albrecht Durer). They were devoted to Helen and purred her to sleep, all snugged in among her stuffed animals. As she grew up and we moved, Edna became her helpmate and Albrecht moved on to other manlier pursuits like extended daytime sleeping and purring until he drooled.

Dan calls Edna “the sweet one,” and she is. She loves everyone who walks into the house, and will attempt to sit on their laps whether they are “cat people” or not. She’ll share her fur with anyone’s clothes. She’s not discriminating that way.

Last week she developed a neurological problem, and I caught her confused and weak at the top of the basement stairs. Helen and I wrapped her up in a towel and took her to the vet. She weighed in at less than five pounds. We sat with her on the floor because I couldn’t get her back into the towel and she was getting worse and couldn’t stand. She was suddenly a puppet with a very unskilled master.

The vet looked her over, drew a little blood, and attempted to get her to stand. Her head rolled in under her front feet and she tumbled. I cried. What makes me think I’m fit to have a pet? How did I get to be the adult who takes the pet “to the farm?” When the dog developed a brain tumor and could not longer eat or fend for himself, I drove him to the same vet to have him put to sleep. He was wrapped in a towel, shuddering, and I played Christmas music. It was September. I don’t know if this music was for him or for me. I doubt he could hear it.

When the vet said Edna wasn’t in pain, I opted to take her home, buy the meds, and see if she’d get better. So this week has been a regular schedule of applying the gel-based thyroid medicine in her right ear in the morning, making a small meal with crushed steroid in it, aiding in a trip to the litterbox, rest, another feeding, another aided trip to the litterbox, rest, another feeding, another application of thyroid medication (this time in the left ear), rest, litterbox.

Over the past couple of days, she’s regained strength, and is walking. It’s a wobbly start. It looks as if parts of her body are pulled by a large magnet while the rest of them are unaffected. But she’s managing, and trying, and eating well enough to “pile on the ounces,” as I said to Helen this morning.

This week she’ll travel with us to Nana’s for Thanksgiving. I’m thankful she’s still around, happy to have her weave her little furs into my black sweater.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Lingue Lounge

We haven't been everywhere so we can't say for sure, but hotel breakfast lounges must be universal in their sleepy feel. In our hotel, the beds are French (no snuggling allowed), the breakfast fare is decidedly German (fliesch und kase), and the radio station plays tinny 1980's pop in English. The walls in the hallways and the breakfast lounge are decorated with fuzzy murals that feature swans, domed buildings, and green scenes. Resin knick-knacks of squirrels and mice sit at each table. Our table this morning hosted a mouse sitting on top of a pinecone and the poor chap was missing an ear. People perform their sleepy ballets around the food stations and barely talk to one another. This seems true everywhere. It is strange for us to not strike up a conversation with the person next to us. We're used to that, but since our vocabulary is limited to the very basics, we're quiet. (This morning we think we said "you're welcome" when we should have said "sorry." Oops. We got our coffee anyway. Stupid, dream-hazed American.) English is a Germanic language. German should not be so difficult to figure out, but we find ourselves feeling like our tongue and brain are wrapped in rubberbands. In the morning it is an exciting challenge, and by evening even the simplest social transaction is frustrating.