musings, thoughts, and writings of Barbara W. Klaser


July 8, 2008

Catching up

Our summer weather has set in, likely until mid to late October, so I have to wake up early to get all my outdoor work done. I’m amazed how fast things can grow in the warm weather and get away from me — mostly things I don’t want to grow, like weeds.

My usual care to wear gloves when working in the yard had lapsed recently, but working outside earlier than usual this morning meant that I happened across two black widow spiders. One, on the lower rock wall, was attempting to kill a big iridescent green June Beetle, or what we call a June Beetle here, aka Fig Eater Beetle. The beetle was 10 to 15 times the spider’s size. Their struggle mesmerized me for a moment as I wondered who would win, the beetle snapping spider silk as quickly as it wrapped around it. It was the noise he made that drew my attention in the first place. I would’ve intervened, if I’d had something handy to kill the spider with, but the next time I walked past, the spider — hiding from me, no doubt — was nowhere to be seen and the beetle was bumbling away. I’ll be more careful to wear gloves and not work in flip-flops anymore, unless I’m only watering. Black widows usually hide from people, but I don’t want to surprise one.

My little friend Tara is growing fast. A kitten in the house means lots of interruptions to play, or to stop misbehavior in its tracks, or just to cuddle. I’ll try to post an updated photo later, but it might be a blur unless I catch her when she slows down to nap, bask in a sunny window, or watch TV. She’s now more than three times the size she was when I took these pictures, and darker since her kitten fluff has been replaced by a true dark tabby coat. She’s a Siamese mix, but you wouldn’t know that to look at her.

Tara watched Mikhail Baryshnikov dance, in an older video on the arts channel last night, and I think she decided he’s the most cat-like human she’s seen. I hope she doesn’t expect us to move like that! But maybe it’s good that she knows some humans are capable of it, just to help us keep the upper hand. Sometimes we call her Rocket Cat, and one day recently, as the dog and I watched in glazed over amazement while she raced around and up and down a room, I commented to him, “You know, cats can almost fly.” Indi seemed to agree.

I’m not really sure what all else keeps me busy, but there’s a lot of it, whatever it is. I don’t work in the garden enough to excuse not blogging, but I do spend some time finding things to do with the excess produce.

We’ve had loads of squash from just four plants, so far, some of it now in the freezer and some given away. We may need a bigger freezer if I keep gardening. One way that we like zucchini is simply sautéed in a little olive oil with basil, oregano, salt, and pepper. We’ve had some cucumbers, which I personally think would make a good breakfast food, because just one bite seems to wake me up with its fresh, clean crispness. The tomatoes got a late start (from seed), so we haven’t had any to eat yet, but they’re blooming and setting fruit, growing like mad in the heat. There’s a San Marzano Roma about the size of the end of my thumb that I predict will be the first to the table, unless that little cluster of marble sized cherry tomatoes beats it to perfect redness. With the salmonella scare still pretty much a mystery I’m looking forward, even more than I expected when I planted them, to fresh homegrown tomatoes.

Yesterday we discovered how well extra garden produce can pay off, when we gave a large zucchini to a neighbor boy to take home, and later his mom sent over four of the most perfect little quesadillas I’ve ever tasted. Oh. My. God. These were not the quesadillas you find in Mexican restaurants, or the floppy things we usually concoct with flour tortillas and cheddar cheese, in a skillet. Every part of hers was homemade, including flaky six-inch corn flour shells folded in half and crisped. They were filled with chicken, some kind of white cheese, possibly one of the Mexican cheeses described here, and fresh cabbage, and they came with a magical homemade chili sauce to pour over them. I am positive we got the better end of that exchange. You can’t get food like that in any restaurant, and I’m in heaven just remembering them. It’s odd how a really good hot sauce can actually cool you. As my mouth heated up, my body seemed to cool right off. Must’ve been all my pores and sinuses opening. It was positively delicious. Mmmmh!

— Barbara @ rudimentary 12:49 pm PST, 07/08/08

May 17, 2008

We’re cat people — even the dog

I’ve always been a cat person, and my spouse converted soon after we got together. Our dog is a cat person too, since he grew up with cats. Ever since Emily died in August, Indi has been lonely and bored. He started acting like a very old dog. We’re apparently boring, depressing people for a dog to own unless he has a cat around to spice things up, and he’d known and loved Emily all his life. Well, things got spiced up again yesterday, but good.

Meet Tara, named for the Goddess Tara, revered in Tibetan Buddhism as well as in Celtic lore. Cats are supposed to be worshiped, right? Tara thinks so.

Tara

MakingFriends

In the second photo she’s making friends. Any time she ventures near her new doggy friend she receives a great big juicy kiss on the face, which of course any cat should be delighted to receive. Especially if she just finished washing the last kiss off her face. Indi also loves to get swatted in the face. I think Emily taught him to see that as fun, as a former owner had Emily de-clawed. Indi realized earlier today that Tara comes fully loaded, though she only swats when she’s playing.

We were a little concerned about the introduction, since lately Indi’s become enthusiastic about chasing strange cats out of his back yard. But when his new kitten was introduced as a member of the pack, he happily reverted to baby sitter. Tara took to him with no hissing, having been born into a home with dogs. She knows the drill. Avoid doggy kisses by cruising behind furniture and darting under beds. Especially after the doggy has just taken a long drink of water. (Very drippy business.) Indi is getting old, which you can tell by all that white fur on his face where it used to be mahogany. But having a kitten around has put a smile on all our faces and zest in our steps. (Handy when there’s a kitten darting about underfoot.)

— Barbara @ rudimentary 4:42 pm PST, 05/17/08

December 28, 2006

What draws us to the animals we love?

Violetismycolor commented on my post, Interconnections, parallels, and epiphany, and said:

“I had a horse, growing up . . . well my sisters and I did, anyway. I liked riding well enough, but a couple of my sisters were absolutely horse-crazy. And still are. I think that you are either born a horse-person or you are not. Clearly, you are one of them…the horse people. I always wonder what it is that causes this and have been unable to ascertain what it is. Do you wonder this, too?”

You know, I think if I’d grown up with horses I might very well be as much a horse person as anyone. I confess I’m intimidated by them, unfamiliar as I am, but I’m definitely in awe of their power, beauty, and grace, and I’ll never forget one really sweet horse named Joe, a dappled gray that belonged to a coworker-friend who let me ride him once.

I wonder the same thing though. What causes that attraction for a particular type of animal companion? What makes one person a horse person, the next a dog person, cat person, or bird person?

Although I love all kinds of animals and I’ve been blessed with some special friendships with dogs, cats, and a few parakeets, I have a slightly stronger affinity toward cats, and I don’t know why. Maybe because they’re quieter, more solitary creatures, as I tend to be.

Maybe it has more to do with positive experiences and special individual relationships though. I’ve often thought an unspoken language exists between other creatures and us. (Maybe on the whole I speak cat better than dog?)

The dog I live with now made a silent connection with me the day we met. I didn’t want a puppy, when I stopped with my husband to look at a litter for sale. We’d planned to get a dog again, after we moved into this house, but that day I was about to leave for three weeks out of town on business, starting a new job. I didn’t want the committment of a puppy yet. Still, as soon as this one puppy and I made eye contact, I felt a connection with him. He walked over to me. I picked him up, and then told my husband we were taking him home. I don’t remember our exact words, but Ken said something like, “Oh, you changed your mind. You do think we should get a puppy.” I said something like, “No, but we’re getting this puppy.”

The same thing happened years earlier with a cat, only that time it was both of us who felt the bond take hold immediately. We visited a little mountain town for the day with friends. We split up at some point, and Ken and I wandered into a gem shop. There was this skinny little orange cat that the owner had found starving, abandoned at the town’s dump, and she wanted a home for him. We didn’t think we needed a cat. We petted him anyway. When I picked him up, it was as if someone whispered in my ear, telling me I was going to take this cat home. I just knew, but I didn’t see how I could know, so I didn’t say anything. Ken was the first to say it out loud, and he looked as surprised as I felt. Our friends must’ve thought we were nuts when we left that gem shop with a cat. We named him after the little town, Julian.

Sadly Julian was only with us two years or so before he died of FIP (one reason our cats are now always indoor cats). But both those pets I mention above turned out to be amazing friends and cherished family members.

I suspect the relationship between any two creatures is much the same as that between two people. Maybe human-to-human relationships are bad comparisons, since I think animals are less judgmental and easier to get along with. They know how to love less conditionally than we do. Each creature has a personality, a spirit, and I think friendships between members of different species are just as individual as between people. I speak the same language as most people I know, but I get along with each one a little differently. I try to be adaptable, but sometimes I meet a person that I don’t click with very well. We don’t understand each other. Sometimes I meet someone and we understand each other on a level where words are barely needed. It’s the same with other animals. Although I love cats, there have been a few I’ve met that I didn’t hit it off with.

Maybe someone who becomes a horse person has met a particular horse, or more than one, that they get along with especially well, and are able to communicate with the way they would a best friend or a soul mate. Maybe each, as an individual, has something important to share or teach the other. Maybe if horse and rider are a good match, the horse teaches the rider something about all horses. Perhaps that’s what I’ve picked up on in books and movies about the horse-human relationship. But again I don’t know, and I still wonder.

— Barbara @ rudimentary 9:30 pm PST, 12/28/06

September 17, 2006

Purr Master

My cat Emily likes to use an old dart board as a scratching post, a habit that doesn’t concern us, since a previous owner had her declawed, so it doesn’t damage the dart board at all. If I were a stiff old dart board that had had its share of pointy things thrown at it through the years, I wouldn’t mind a little cat paw massage now and then either.

We don’t play darts much anymore. It’s just leaning there against something else because when we moved into this smaller house from a larger one we couldn’t think where else to keep it.

Today I watched Emily lean up against it and give it the once over with her toes, and I wondered why she likes it so much. Then I noticed the brand name at the top. “Pub Master” has a part of the “b” in “Pub” worn out so that it almost looks like a crippled “h” — or an “r”. Do you suppose she thinks it says Pur Master and translates that as Purr Master?

— Barbara @ rudimentary 4:06 pm PST, 09/17/06

August 7, 2006

Literary pets

Does your pet have a history that seems to match a work of fiction?

If I had to name a novel that is most like one of my pets, it would be to place my gray cat Emily in Jane Eyre—as Jane herself. We’re not sure of her history, but we know it was difficult, until she settled into an easy life here with her Mr. Rochester—our cat Merlin.

Merlin used to meet other cats, even those he turned out to like, with a lot of hissing and grumbling and suspicion. But he fell in love with Emily at first sight, eager to welcome her into the house. We weren’t so sure about this skinny cat with her gray hair all dirty, brittle, and falling out. (In her modest, dove gray governess dress?) She was timid (terrified) of Merlin and us, everyone in fact but the dog, who even as a puppy I hesitate to compare to Jane’s charge, with her hair in ringlets—even though Emily became his surrogate mother and he is somewhat spoiled in a charming, innocent sort of way.

With Merlin, though, it was as if he stood at the door, opened it wide, and beckoned her in, saying to us, “Isn’t she beautiful?” while we looked on in amazement. She always did have lovely eyes, I must admit, but—but—we feared she was out of his class. Merlin never fussed over her presence, and he shared everything he owned with her from the first day. Up until then, I was his favorite. I hope that doesn’t make me the mad woman hidden in the basement attic. Er—no, that’s too literal.

What novel has your pet lived?

— Barbara @ rudimentary 3:28 pm PST, 08/07/06

July 13, 2006

Bugs

This is inspired by Eric’s post, Jeepers Creepers. If bug stories bug you, proceed with caution.

Yesterday we had ants, the tiny black ones, in the kitchen. Not scary, just a nuisance that happens every summer. Usually they go for the honey jar on the counter, but not this time. I think they were looking for water, or they knew this heat wave was coming and were seeking a cooler place. We don’t like to use poisons, but when bugs start to take over the house, we’re forced to take action, to draw the line somewhere.

We do try to coexist. We find moths of all descriptions on the outside wall near our porch light. Some are quite beautiful. We leave the hordes of fuzzy caterpillars alone, picturing them as future butterflies, and gently scoop them up if they venture too near the front door. Daddy-long-legs don’t cause us much concern. We get lots of spiders here, outside and sometimes inside where we don’t want them, and now and then an exotic not-so-creepy-crawly wanders through, like the walking stick we found on the screen door—twice. That was kind of cool. Bats eat insects, and sometimes if we sit on the porch at night we’ll glimpse them, fast and silent, swooping in for small flying bugs attracted by the porch light.

Night before last, after a hot day, we waited until after dark to put the trashes out and retrieve the mail. (more…)

— Barbara @ rudimentary 2:06 pm PST, 07/13/06

July 11, 2006

Order and chaos

The cat’s litter box is clean. That mundane detail isn’t your favorite sentence I’ve ever written, I’m sure. Mine either. But my day often seems to revolve around whether that task has been accomplished, and what comes after it. I go through a list of chores, on the days I think to make one, eventually reaching the line that has to do with writing, after checking off a lot of other stuff. Today writing comes after important things like the cat’s box, which is of utmost importance to her, though slightly less to us except through our affection for her, since we don’t use it and it’s out in the garage, easy for us to forget. Vacuuming comes next, mostly pet hair this time of year. That task must be accomplished while the day is still cool enough to have windows open, or not at all. A late-in-the-day shower will be in order, after all the creepy stuff on the list is done. (Bear with me, I do have a point here, this isn’t merely a run-through of my chores.) (more…)

— Barbara @ rudimentary 10:57 am PST, 07/11/06

May 10, 2006

Gone Fishing

I’m internalizing a lot right now, I guess. I haven’t been blogging, and it’s not a reflection on my ideas, or my fellow bloggers, or commenters, but just that I’m internalizing and letting my thoughts gestate right now. Working on the novel, tweaking, tying loose ends, all that fun stuff.

Funny how we go through times like this. Lots going on inside, not much coming out (in the blog).

I’m sure that as soon as I’m done with this little fallow blogging period you’ll be hearing a lot more from me. Meanwhile, when I am online (haven’t been much lately) I will try to get around and visit you all more and make sure I comment. Happy blogging!

Meanwhile the cat wants dinner, it feels like spring today instead of winter, and we have a new neighbor, called Phainopepla, who is really quite awe inspiring and graceful.

— Barbara @ rudimentary 4:11 pm PST, 05/10/06

March 19, 2006

Spring anyone?

Tomorrow is the vernal equinox, and that’s a little hard for me to believe right now. We’re used to getting May Gray and June Gloom here near the coast of Southern California, because of the coastal eddies. But this winter has hit us harder and later than usual. It doesn’t appear to want to leave yet. There was snow in the mountains just last week. Up the street, someone’s irises started to bloom a few days ago, but they shriveled over one cold night. Now they prepare to bloom again. Will they?

The cat still scrunches up against the wall heater each morning and evening, and she chases patches of sunlight coming in the windows during the day. A couple of days ago I watched her pat a bright spot on the carpet with a paw, then lie down on it, fur fluffed out. She’s an older cat, so perhaps she dramatizes the situation. Maybe I do, too. But this doesn’t feel like the day before spring to me. Not at all. We had a cold rain late in the day, with the clouds parting toward sunset. Maybe tomorrow will convince me. How’s the weather in your part of the world?

— Barbara @ rudimentary 11:06 am PST, 03/19/06

February 11, 2006

Fond memories, anxiety, and back to the book

Yesterday brought news of a death in the family, of a beloved aunt—actually my mom’s cousin. She lived in Oregon, and I hadn’t seen her much since I was a kid. But all my memories of her are fond ones, and I miss her, and I know her two daughters and son and grandchildren miss her an awful lot. I hope she, her husband, my mom, and all the other relatives who’ve gone on before are having a happy reunion on the other side. I can almost hear them, and I like that thought. It brings back memories of family get togethers when I was a kid and would sometimes sit and listen to all the grownups talk and tell stories.

***

After a quiet day yesterday, I woke early this morning (early for me, anyway), to sirens, thinking I’ve never lived in a place with so many sirens, even when we rented within a couple miles of Montgomery Field and one of the busiest intersections in San Diego. But here we’re right off the main road that runs through town. This morning the sirens were especially disconcerting, and I decided maybe I’d had too much coffee.
(more…)

— Barbara @ rudimentary 2:02 pm PST, 02/11/06


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