The Cat Who Walks by Herself

I said to David last night that it’s very tempting for me just to tuck in here with him, in our house in the country where I know practically no one.

This was after he didn’t mind me jumping up to take a picture of the moon after he’d made love to me in a particularly sweet way, because I was feeling all distressed about a social conflict. (Sorry if that’s TMI — just keep going, I won’t do it again.)

Some philosophies promote the idea of becoming a hermit. The whole fantasy of living alone in a cave or on a mountain top. Or even in a cloister with a lovely vow of silence.

I come by this naturally, as an only child. I love to be by myself. It’s soothing. A friend once argued with me that I only like to be alone because I don’t have to be. Meaning that I have a partner where she didn’t. I could see her point, but I don’t think that’s the case.

In fact, David is a miracle of a person for me because being with him feels as good as being alone.

I think it’s a harmony thing. I have friends that draw energy from social interaction. They thrive on it and spiral up ever higher. For me, it’s a drain. I can do it for a while, but after a time I have to be alone to recharge.

But I think the hermit thing is a cop out.

The way I see it, we’re all here on this planet, crammed together, to learn something. And the something clearly involves interacting with each other. Otherwise it wouldn’t be so damn painful. And joyous, too.

It’s a funny world now. Though I live out in this quiet house and frequently see no one but David and the fur family all day — and yes, I love love love it — I talk online to many many people. Some friends, some acquaintances. It’s almost like being on campus again. Some people I just wave to. Some say something funny as we pass on the sidewalk. Others I sit down and have lunch with. It feels like a full social day.

And, as you probably suspect, I love that I can turn the connection off again, too.

Hey — at least I’m not doing the hermit thing!

Burning Words

This is banned books week, for any of you who’ve been under a rock.

Hey — even *I* know about it, so you have no excuse! In honor of the event, I picked a banned book from the recent list that happened to be one of my all-time favorite books, ever, to enjoy a little sunshine here. And yes, I read it in high school. (Of course, I also read The Joy of Sex in 6th grade, so I’m not a good case-study.)

Author Jeri Smith-Ready sent ’round this interesting link that shows a map of book challenges. She commented that she found it surprising. I’m betting that she’s surprised there are so many challenges in the liberal East and so few in the conservative West.
I think there are two things going on here:
1) Teachers and librarians in the conservative West are much less likely to rock the boat by choosing questionable books in the first place.
2) The general population are less likely to be busybodies and get in anyone else’s face about what they are reading.
I recall a conversation I had in the wake of Matthew Shepherd’s murder. My friend, a writer, had relocated to Laramie from Boston. She thought the town guilty of allowing the hate crime because Westerners don’t confront issues in the open.
“My landlord,” she told me, “sees me bring women over. I know he can see me bring women over and never once has he said anything to me about me being a lesbian.”
I told her I thought this was a common courtesy thing. You live your life and I’ll live mine.
This is how I feel about books. Leave people be. Even young people. I truly believe that no one was ever harmed by reading. Our minds are meant to take in and filter information and it’s up to each of us to do that for ourselves. Any time we take the step of filtering for someone else, we’re depriving them of some of their humanity.
Not to be confrontational about it.

Getting a Grip

So, on Friday, I bemoaned my creativity issues.

Okay, I whined.

But only a little. Several of my faithful support network (thanks RML, mom and KAK!) made helpful suggestions. Never mind that I felt rebellious about it.

I even decided later that maybe what I had written was probably okay and didn’t suck that much. So I sent it to my good writing friend, Allison, so she could reassure me.

She said it sucked.

Not in so many words, of course, because she’s a lovely person. She was honest. Not feeling it. Which was no shock cuz neither was I.

So, yesterday, I followed RoseMarie’s advice and pulled the shade. (This house has no non-spectacular view windows.) I put on my writing music (soundtrack to The Mission — no, I don’t know why it works. I absolutely can’t do music with words. Eerie instrumental soundtracks are best. I also like Master & Commander and Billy Joel’s Fantasies & Delusions). I followed Kristine’s advice and didn’t edit. I just started composing the scene.

And out it flowed.

Allison pronounced it “Way Way Better.” High praise indeed.

Life Lists

Isabel caught a lizard this morning.

Another species crossed off her life list. She’s hit most of the new species around here: the mouse, the rat, several birds, including a humming bird.

She really wants a gopher or a quail, but I can tell she’s a bit boggled on how to go about it.

It’s funny — I know immediately when she’s captured something and brought it into the house. She has a certain bright meow. A trill of triumph, alerting us to her prize. She’s always so proud, submitting her contribution to the household.

She has a gentle mouth, so usually what she brings in is alive and unharmed. This can be both a good and bad thing. I’m always relieved to see the birds fly away again. I’m not so pleased to see the mouse or rat take off across the floor.

This morning, I went dashing in trepidation (this is difficult to do and takes much practice) in response to her trill of triumph. My heart sank to see Isabel digging around in the basket by the fireplace that has my movie-watching blanket in it. Yes, the cozy soft blanket I bought myself from Bath & Bodyworks one Christmas, which was a huge indulgence since that kind of behavior is strictly against Christmas-shopping rules. I just knew there was a rodent in my blanket.

I was already figuring what else I could wash with it on this non-laundry weekend.

David got his rodent-capturing gloves and, following my suggestion, simply carried the whole basket outside, so that we could maybe skip the whole process of sliding around whatever heavy piece of furniture the rodent had dived under. Isabel immediately dived into the corner of the fireplace, where the basket had been.

And there was our lizard. A New Mexico Whiptail. Widespread and abundant. Don’t tell Isabel.

David had predicted she’d catch one, once the weather cooled a bit. You can see this is probably the one she earlier pulled the tail off of — the blobby-looking tissue is his tail growing back.

David caught the lizard and we dutifully documented it. Isabel is happy now, preening on the patio like the queen she is. Terribly pleased with herself.

Coincidentally, I hit my own version of a 10K day: sometime last night I received my 10,000th page load on this blog. Hardly the big time, but I feel good about the accomplishment.

And I didn’t even have to rip anyone’s tail off. Mostly.


When we moved here, many of my friends predicted my writing would take off. That I would be so inspired here, I would become some kind of literary Georgia O’Keefe, exploding with masterworks.

Well, okay, it’s only been a month.

But the work hasn’t been just flowing out this week.

It could be because of my head cold. I’m muzzy-headed. But I don’t think that should matter, because I suspect writing comes from a different place than the mind. I asked paranormal romance author Melissa Mayhue the other day if she thinks she writes from her brain. She said it was more like the dreamy place she was in playing with dolls as a little girl.

I know what she means.

Lately it’s been hard for me to capture the dreaminess. It could be that I’m revising, which is very think-y. All the time I’m weaving, massaging and reworking, making sure all my threads are lining up. When I have to add text, it feels mechanical. I’m not feeling it.

And part of it is, I’m writing about sinister moments in dark forests, while outside my window the sky is brilliant with light and the desert sweeps in a golden surge up to the blue mountain vista.

This morning, I actually buried my head in my hands to shut it out, so I could dive into the darkness the scene needed.

I wonder how much of it you really need to feel, for the writing to be good.

I’m probably overthinking.

Dream a Little Dream of Me

I’ve never had a cat before who curls her toes.

Isabel curls even her back toes, when she’s especially deliciously at rest. If you pet her in this mode, she’ll purr and flex her toes, then curl them tighter.

She makes it look enviable.

I’ve always been a good sleeper. David says that if the house burned down, he’d have to carry me out over his shoulder. Indeed, when I was a girl, the house across the way, outside my bedroom windown, burned down, complete with excited neighbors and screaming fire engines.

I slept through it all.

But in the last few years, I’ve developed this weird sleep thing. I’m actually not sure when it started. At first it felt like a kind of anxiety. I would worry at night about where my rings were. Why my rings, I don’t know. I wouldn’t even wake up, really — just fret in this kind of limbo state about them. And no, they’re not incredibly valuable rings, nor have I ever lost them. I have lost other jewelry, and it bothered me greatly, so I suspect that’s where the fear comes from.

The point is, though, that it doesn’t matter what the object is, it’s the emotion that troubles my sleep.

I put it down to stress, though it doesn’t always seem to happen when I feel most stressed. It waxes and wanes, occurs in little clusters. Over time, the object of my concern has changed. (Possibly because I keep telling myself to quit thinking about the damn rings.) It some ways, it has expanded to involve some incredibly important object that I’ve left in a hotel room drawer (yeah — there’s my business traveler anxiety) and, since last fall, a cat that I’ve contrived to forget about and leave to die somewhere.

I can even see it: a grey, tiger-striped short haired cat. Unlike one I’ve ever owned.

Once I found myself up and out of bed in a hotel room in San Francisco, rummaging through the bedside table drawer, looking for the thing. Which sometimes feels like a puzzle box. Interestingly, when I have the thing about the cat, I connect it back to that hotel room in San Francisco, as if the cat is still there, dying and alone.

Yes, I’m probably crazy.

In fact, I spent time thinking about this. I’m a writer. I tend to be dreamy, to read in omens and signs. Who is this cat? What does the puzzle-box mean? Is it some deep meaning about my inner self? Some part of me neglected, locked away? Am I really a were-cat and I’m going to Fight Clubs at night while I think I’m sleeping?

Hey, crazy, but also imaginative!

It happened again a couple of weeks ago and, for the first time, David was there to witness the whole thing. I had been asleep for about half-an-hour and he was still lying awake. (Recall I’m the girl who’s out the moment her head hits the pillow.) I sat bolt upright, thinking the grey tiger cat was out being chased by coyotes. I’m always deeply confused in these moments, if you hadn’t gotten that already. Not sure where I am, even who I am.

I was struggling to remember how many cats we have and why I thought there was one missing, when David stroked my back and said everything is okay.

“I thought we had a kitty outside,” I tried to explain.

“Both kitties are happily walking around inside,” he told me. And he rubbed my back until I laid back down and, of course, went instantly back to sleep.

In the morning he told me that he’d been listening to my breathing and that I’d been really deeply asleep and then stopped breathing. He was on the verge of waking me up when I sat up.

So, now I’m thinking it’s some kind of sleep apnea. Which means the waking up is a healthy thing and the formless (and formed) anxiety might be related to that.

Now I’m just watching it for that. Fortunately, I’m not one of those several or hundreds of times a night people.

Eh, I’d probably just sleep through it.

A Dish Best Served Cold

Yesterday I saw on Twitter this video.

It’s about a young woman who received life in prison, without possibility of parole, for murdering her pimp. I believe all of that is strictly accurate. If you watch the video, you will know exactly as much as I do about the situation. There might be other things we don’t know here.

But I Re-Tweeted it and several people on Facebook commented on the link. The story takes you back. We talked a bit about the nature of justice and if all situations are the same. Sara was 16 when she committed this murder, which she admits she carefully planned out. We discussed some, in the short comments, whether it makes sense for her to spend the rest of her life in prison. I wonder what that’s accomplishing.

A friend from college chimed in and said “You’ve obviously never had a violent crime happen in your own family; if you did, you would understand why some people believe that spending your life in jail will never come close to paying for the crime of taking someone else’s life. Think about the victim’s families…”

Her father was murdered when she was very young. In an armed robbery as I recall. The details are murky, those that she told me when we first met over twenty years ago. I do remember that I told her my dad had died when I was a girl, too, and she said, “you do realize, don’t you, that there’s a world of difference between death and murder.”

And I thought, that I wasn’t sure what the difference was. Though I didn’t say so to her.

Both of our fathers were equally gone. Both here one moment and gone the next, so the shock was the same. In some ways, she has a focus, someone to blame, whereas we have only the happenstance of accident.

I asked my mother which of her husband’s deaths was more painful: the instantaneous loss of her first husband or the slow, lingering death of her second husband to chronic disease. Without hesitation, she said the second. Which is what I thought she’d pick. I knew how hard it was for her to watch over years as Leo declined in the prime of his life and withered away. With Ted’s death, it happened, it was over and she had to deal.

None of which addresses murder, I know.

“Think about the victim’s families,” my friend says.

I think it gets difficult when we try to parse out whose pain is greater than another’s. But if we administer justice on the basis of pain — which, I know, we absolutely do — then a prison term becomes more about punishment, about revenge than anything else, doesn’t it? If that’s what we want, so be it.

But if we’re operating on the level of emotion, basing our decisions on people’s pain, are we really thinking at all?

I don’t think Sara’s sentence makes any sense, from what I know. The judge told her that she had no moral scruples, which she says she had to look up. Clearly she needed to learn something. Perhaps still does.

My question is: what exactly is she learning?

I Love the Crescent Moon, Shining in the Sky

That’s a really pretty crescent moon hanging over sunset’s final exhalation last night.

Were I a better photographer, you could probably even see it…

I added a cropped version, for better viewing. But then you lose the scope of the sunset.

I looked into photography classes this weekend. I figured, hey, I’m in the (relatively) big city now, there must be lots of photography-type workshops for me to take. And there are. I even got excited about this one taught by an Outside Magazine photographer and spent time debating whether I could brazen my way through as an “advanced amateur.” Turns out they had definitions, and advanced amateur requires the ability to understand the manual settings on your digital SLR camera. Since I’d have to Google “SLR” to discover what it stands for, I figure that’s not me. And who knew there were manual settings? Isn’t that why we all ditched those huge film cameras for our sleek little point-and-shoots with the nifty wizards?
I know, I know — my ignorance in this area knows no bounds.
So I determine that I fall into the lowest bracket: Enthusiast. Which I think means I have more enthusiasm than sense. Which actually sounds about right. It’s a nice way of patting me on the head and saying, “but at least you try, dear.” Besides, nifty workshop with Outside Magazine photographer? $1800 for the WEEK.
Yeah, I know.
Cheapest class I’ve found so far is $450, and that’s the “commuter rate” for another week-long deal.
Suddenly I’m a townie.
Apparently being in the Land of Art means that everyone thinks you’re wanting to shell out to be the next Stieglitz. Where is my Saturday afternoon $75 class for enthusiasts who don’t know their digital cameras have manual settings?
I might have to resort to a book. Self-study.
Hmmm…maybe I’ll even read the camera manual!

Rainy Days and Mondays

Why yes, that IS a picture of my new rainfall showerhead.

Sometimes the little things make all the difference.

I remember when I was younger and heavy into my sci fi/fantasy phase — well, the heaviest — I read every book the library had on people being transported to other worlds, or times, or dimensions or what have you. I had my whole list of how I would handle it, should it happen to me. What songs I would sing, what I would reveal or not about my own world, and what I’d miss most.

Which was a hot shower.

This was back in the day when I had to be at school at 7:05 am for 7th grade. Brutally early for non-early bird me. I woke to the alarm in the dark of morning and stumbled into the hot shower. In many ways, that was when I woke up, under the hot water. My stepfather tried to get me to use less water, less hot, but in this I defied him. It helped that he couldn’t really make me, only complain.

It’s funny to me, that, now that I’ve written my own transported-to-another-world novel, that the hot shower doesn’t play in for my character. The difference between 42 and 12, I suppose. It’s noteworthy, however, that a major turning point in the book occurs in the chapter called “In Which It Rains.” Maybe my shower-thing has morphed into a rain-thing.

The rainfall showerhead? Oh yes yes yes.

When we were prepping our old house to sell, we replace some of the inadequate plumbing with shiny new stuff, including buyer-seducing updated rainfall showerheads.

And my life was transformed. I lurved mine with a love that was pure and true.

When I rhapsodized on the subject, several of my colleagues said they hated theirs, because the showerhead couldn’t be used to scrub down the shower.

This is so not my priority. Call me a hedonist. I’m at peace with that.

When we moved, though the new house is wonderful and gorgeous, I sorely missed my rainfall showerhead. The showerhead here spit and drizzled in a most unsatisfying way. But, over the weekend, I bought and installed a new rainfall showerhead. Yes, my own self.

And today I have gorgeous day outside and hot rainfall in.

You know how I feel.

From the Nerd Journal

Some of my writing friends refer to them as the “fur family.”

I love how the two cats and the dog seem to enjoy each other’s company, as unnatural as the relationship may be. It’s warming to see them be affectionate with each other.

One of the small things that make daily life a joy.

Sometimes, I wonder if it’s true that life is all about high school. My mom once told me that a counselor-type said that we spend our whole lives living down or living up to what we were in high school.

This has been on my mind lately, because I’ve been back in touch with people from high school. On Facebook mainly. It’s interesting to see how the social positions have blurred and changed — or remained exactly the same — over the years.

One of my old friends started an online literary magazine. She doesn’t exactly count as a high school friend, because our friendship blew up just before 7th grade. And it was about popularity. She wanted it and was determined to have it. I wanted it, but was sure it couldn’t be mine. In her indominitable way, she seized our new school by the throat and became the cool girl. I kept my nose in a book.

We’ve since repaired those fences. I wrote about our adolescent angst in Wyo Trucks without her permission. She since read it and gave me her blessing, which meant a great deal. And she asked me to submit to her magazine. Which I did. And she’s holding onto a couple of pieces for future issues. She asked another friend of ours from school to contribute her photos.

When the first issue came out, there was much excitement in our little group. Photographer gal wrote a nice thing about it on her blog.

I felt left out of the party.

To make it worse, another boy from high school had several pieces in there. And yes, he was way more cool than me (part of the “Best Couple”) and, in all truth, still is. He’s got a new book out and is in a cool band. My book is five years old and no one has read my novel yet, which is (gasp!) genre anyway.

And it’s stupid, but I’m feeling all those things I felt in the hallowed halls of our school. All the ways in which I was not A-list. I was not the “Most” or “Best” anything.

In some ways, everything does continue to be about popularity. Marketing your work as an artist is about drawing attention and having people like you. Some try to pretend that it doesn’t matter, that your work stands for itself, but does it really? If you want to make any money on it, people have to pay money to have it — and that’s all about them wanting it, which in a very direct way is about wanting you.

What’s funny is, the other half of the “Best Couple” wrote in my yearbook that she admired the way I’d stayed true to myself all through school, that I hadn’t changed to be popular. And here, I just thought I was stubborn. Perhaps something of a coward.

So, am I living up to what I was, or living it down? Would I go back and change my choices?

And all I come up with is, I wouldn’t change who or where I am today. I might feel my nose is pressed to the glass while the party goes on inside, but I think we all do, depending on what party we feel left out of.

Really, I never liked parties that much. I’d rather be reading a book.