Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Great Balls of Joy?

I rolled out of bed this morning at the behest of two cats, performed feeding acts and minimal ablutions, and transported oats and tea and notebook up to the writing nook.   The writing nook is a ritual, which gives me a nice, warm, flicker of joy around the edges.  Yay, Joy!  Happy to see you there, buddy.

Being a professional worrier, though, I worry that "joy" could become a victim of my personal ageing process.  Losing vision, loved ones, youthful vigor and strength, and things yet un-lost is a sure-fire Joy douser, but I keep stoking that fire.  Ageing is loss, joy is survival. 

I recently quit a full-time job, and I need to shift gears into other fulfilling work.  I need to justify, to myself, the validity of those alternate pursuits.  Sometimes I feel guilty about being an introverted researcher of mundane proportions by day, instead of building a paycheck and being respectably middle-class.  But I'm giving it over.  Living joyfully is an art.  It requires fuel to feed the fire.  I collect, by bits, fuel for the pursuit and maintenance of joy.

In front of me,Howard Thurman advises: "Don't ask what the world needs.  Ask what makes you
come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."  Howard, I'm lookin' at you, right here in front of my word-joy maker.

In my head, Kathy Mattea tells the story of a retired trucker and his philosophy:"With pieces of the old dream/ they're gonna light a new flame,/  doing what they please, leaving every other reason behind."  (2)  Kathy, I'm singing your song, and doing what I please.

My Tiny Garden fires me up .  Everybody I know is forced to view baby pictures of Kentucky Wonder pole beans, artisan gourds, and mygodyes! the grape vines that inspire pest research, home canning, pruning methods,and,especially, contemplative reclining-under.  Kitchen Garden fuels preventative medicine research. Research fuels me.

Visiting my son recently, I woke up to a softly turning doorknob and a smiling 4-year-old in my face.  She whispered, "Damma, get up. You have to look out the window. The sun is awake." Then she asked to listen to my heart.  Then I listened to hers.  Her Dad recently explained hearts send food all over our body. She will listen to anybody's heart at the drop of a hat.  Hearts pump joy, too, I will tell her.

With encouragement, cat or kid, I check the sun every morning.  I gather fuel and light the fires.  "Go joyful into that good night," eh Dylan Thomas.

1. Yep, I'm a licensed Linguist and writing teacher and I spell "grandaughter" with one "d" because I wage personal battle against all kinds of stuff including redundant and non-represational spelling and grammar.  Don't think that Spell-Check encourages that sort of thing, either, I have to fight back against it.  I also take license with prescribed research writing reference protocol, because I forget what element comes when, despite having taught it for years.  As I tell English Second Language students:  first, just be understood.  My passionate observations of Grammar--including the joy/job of visually landscaping writing--require a future post. 

2. Mattea, Kathy.  "Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses.

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Conundrum of Cats; Part One

(Due to downing a few cups of real coffee in the last 2 hours, and in keeping with the nature of the topic, this post will not hold to any point, but be stuffed with adjectives, side trips and hyper phrases.  Maybe Mystery.)

This past summer, my new neighbors 2 doors north of me moved in to their new and small abode.  I said hello in passing, and in that and every following brief encounter She has somehow managed to squeeze in the sentence "It's small, but we really loved the backyard!" (referring to their new house).  This suggests to me, as a repeated anomaly in the landscape of Her conversation, that she suffers from Buyers Remorse and wishes that They hadn't purchased such a small house. 

Since They did buy such a small house, however, Chaos took over and things happen relatively.  They got rid of possessions, for one thing.  One day as my new front porch was being created, I looked north up my street, and observed Him carrying out some quite nice looking furniture to sit at the curb.  I'm used to seeing things set out at the curb, but not usually of the caliber this looked to be from a distance of two houses.  So I walked not ran over to the nice young newlywed, and asked, "Are you getting rid of this?"  This being two nice contemporary like-new armchairs with matching ottoman.  Just what I was looking for, if the price was right.

But first I did re-introduce myself, ask how things were going.  THEN I asked if They were getting rid of the chairs.  He said, "Yes, we don't have room."  So I cautiously said Oh if you're getting rid of them, I might take them.  And he said with enthusiasm Oh sure!  That's fine!  Then we both walked off, he to get rid of more things and me to ponder if this was for real.  I didn't think about it too long, though, because there was a good chance that the alluring trio at the curb would attract the attention of others at any moment. 

In my house--attendant on: school being out for the summer, on being stuck with his dad who was among those working on my porch, and also on his unexpected skill and interest in calming and entertaining my 9 month old grandson--was  Eddie.  Eddie is larger than the average teenaged male, and capable of carrying large furniture.  So Eddie and I did a quick turnaround after the situation was explained and he said  Sure.  We trooped down to the new neighbors, trying not to attract attention, and divvied up the burdens.  Within a few minutes I had a lovely new living room re-d├ęcor for FREE.

I thought Wow, karma and the universe and good luck, bite me!  And things went on in the way of things. 

A few  days later, the new neighbors were putting out a LOT of things on their driveway.  Since I felt like family, having inherited some furniture from them, I strolled down to check out the new development.  A sense of unease grew as I saw prices stuck to the possessions.  My synapses were connecting "getting rid of things" + "garage sale"+ "curious disposal of high quality furniture for free by clueless husband" + "young wife's mom now involved."  Since I have a Masters in Linguistics, I added all those up very quickly in my short journey.

Although I add quickly, I stumble with feeling entitled.  So instead of playing the dumb card, I said Hi, I'm your neighbor down the street right there with the new porch.  I took the chairs your husband set out the other day.

Mom lit up (too brightly, I later thought) and said to her daughter the New Neighbor, Oh!  This is your neighbor who took the chairs!  How Nice!  And the feeling grew within me that Mom would have sliced off the New Neighbor's Husbands head if the past could have been rehashed before he gave away some very nice brand name furniture prior to a fund-raising garage sale.  But I smiled and nodded.  The New Neighbor wasn't very good at picking up quickly and without rancor, so she looked off into the middle of the street and said Oh, right!  then after a moment of silence, "and here's the custom-made slipcovers, in this box!  They're in the yard sale!"  So Mom and NN look happily at the box full of beige-y cloth with ties and elastic.  I put on a look of great excitement and discovery and say Wow!  how much are you asking?  And NN says, now gazing at the box, ")h, $10.  Each."  and they both smiled and looked pleased.  So they weren't all that fast on their feet, either, or else they counted on guilt to make itself manifest to me.

Guilt did.  I said "Oh I'll just run to the bank and get some cash and be right back!" because I hardly ever carry cash, lest I get suckered into garage sale materialism when I'm wandering around in the summer.  They nodded and smiled brightly and I ran to get my car keys and go to the bank, where I withdrew $60.  I went immediately back to the New Neighbors and made happy with the custom made slipcovers, and said So $20 each, that's $60?  And NN smiled and nodded, still not meeting my eyes or acknowledging my slipped-in price-increase to compensate for my getting something free that maybe she hadn't wanted to be quite so free.  So the transaction was made and we parted to meet some other day, I carrying a mound of beige cloth, she tucking some absolution for her very cute but blonde husbands mis-cue into the garage sale money box.

After several tutorial-practices, over a period of weeks, I was able to get the pricey slipcovers on all the nice free furniture in a pretty presentable fashion.  Slipcovers are not easy.  The chairs and slipcovers have been comfortable and praised into the middle of winter, now.  Friends sit in them, they look well with Dad's old magazine table, the Ikea contemporary-print fabric worked up swimmingly into drapes next to them, and the tiny-house living room looks positively upgraded because of them.  Ricky and Kiki the cats love their plush back-cushions to drowse on.  Ricky likes to sneak up under the slipcovers behind, and sharpen his claws.  He has been discouraged from doing that, but Ricky is only loveable and not very attentive to instructions.  Kiki likes to stay away from Ricky when possible.

The slipcovers of course come off for holidays, and for company except grandchildren.  Over Christmas and New Years, in fact, they were left off for a couple weeks.  I was working up to putting the slipcovers on, just yesterday in fact putting the basket full of beige and formed cloth on the ottoman, to wrestle onto the chairs bright and early this morning.  And as this morning broke cold and clear, after tenderly feeding Ricky and Kiki their alternative-breakfast treat, I went to open THEIR living room windows to facilitate their observation of the bird feeder and birds on the new front porch.

My psychic Master's Degree synapses popped a little when I saw a large dark spot in the middle of one of the chairs, as I crossed the darkened room to open up the blinds.  Since my cataract surgery, I don't distinguish light/dark too well, so I had to look closely to confirm that a cat had definitely deposited something on the nice and un-slipclothed chair nearest the window.  Smack in the middle of the seat.  It was not the usual occasional barf deposit, either, to my surprise, but a still-warm poo. 

I cleaned up the crap, muttering under my breath but quietly so as not to alert the culprit, whichever one it was.  I calmly picked up Kiki and put her on the cleaned spot, to watch her reaction.  She growled, which is usual, and after a quick glance in the general direction of The Spot, jumped down and ran out of the room.  Aha, I thought, Guilty.  But to be fair I picked up Ricky and placed him by the spot.  He looked interested and took a few deep sniffs, and eventually had to be forcibly removed because he was too interested and it was still damp from cleaning.

Did Kiki take off because of guilt or because of disgust for Ricky's poo?  Was Ricky interested because it was Kiki's poo or because he's not attentive and forgot it was his own?  Occam's razor?  Damocles' sword?  Who givesashit?

So I am stuck with the perennial problem of those who live with cats:  how to figure them.  Despite books which probably exist and explain how to figure cats out....is that like work?.  I prefer them
enigmatic and unfathomable.  Which leaves unanswered the question "Who pooed on the nice free armchair without the slipcover on?"  And leads to the thought that some things in life need to have mystery.  Mystery is as good as a euphemism as any for a great many unexplained things that just wear you out tracking them down, anyway.  I'm betting the New Neighbors chalked up their old/my new living room set to Mystery.  I hope so.