musings, thoughts, and writings of Barbara W. Klaser


November 9, 2006

A revolution of Kindness

I used to include the following in my signature when posting on some forums on the Internet:

“I want to start a revolution of kindness.”

I still think kindness is important, though that particular revolution was started at other times by much more qualified people than I. The biggest reason I quit using it as my signature line was, I began to think people looked at those words and thought “bleeding heart liberal” or “easy mark” — or they saw it as just plain cheesy. I became self-conscious about it.

Why? Why do we think of kindness as uncool, naive, or unrealistic? (more…)

— Barbara @ rudimentary 2:11 pm PST, 11/09/06

October 26, 2006

Yellow skies

Fire season in Southern California. The sky is yellow, smoke lingering like fog in the sky, the sun orange, and our windows closed. A wildfire burning in Cabazon, near Palm Springs, has killed three firefighters. Santa Ana winds have blown much of the smoke in our direction. This creates a surreal world in which we’re not sure from one minute to the next whether the fire is still far up in the neighboring county, or a new one has flared up in our own neighborhood. I try to keep my mind off it, but the smell has seeped into the house, and it’s difficult to ignore — a constant reminder to pray for the firefighters.

— Barbara @ rudimentary 1:03 pm PST, 10/26/06

October 8, 2006

Outing my secret love

Or should I say, let me take you on an outing with my secret love.

“Who?” you ask.

“Poetry,” I whisper.

Those of you who’ve read Shadows Fall have probably guessed that I’m a huge fan of William Wordsworth and Emily Brontë. I’m a poetry fan, all the way around. I love dead poets, old poets, young poets, and poets yet to be born. While writing that novel, I feared that I’d bore all the non-poetry fans with my unrelenting references to poems. I held back as best I could. For instance, I wanted to quote the entire body of Wordsworth’s “Daffodils,” and the entire portion I was then familiar with of Emily Brontë’s “The Prisoner.” Which reminds me, until recently I was only aware of five stanzas of that Brontë poem, beginning with:

He comes with Western winds, with evening’s wandering airs,
With that clear dusk of heaven that brings the thickest stars
:”
(more…)

— Barbara @ rudimentary 6:04 pm PST, 10/08/06

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

July 4, 2006

What is privilege?

The subject of privilege came up on a forum where I sometimes participate, and it seems a relevant topic for Independence Day, since we tend to think of the US as a relatively privileged nation. The discussion grew out of one person claiming to be oppressed (my word choice, used to boil the idea down), and another saying he was equally oppressed, with a resulting one-upmanship of who was worse off or better off, at one point involving the term privileged. Out of that grew a separate discussion on what it means to be privileged in this world. Here’s what I shared on the subject, with some edits:

***

To me being privileged means having more than one’s basic needs met, and there are degrees of privilege, and it is relative, and basically meaningless. I’m more privileged than some people I know, and less privileged than some I know. But all I can really say about that is what I see on the surface.

It’s tragic that so few people in the world have adequate food, water, sanitation, shelter, clothing, necessary transportation, education, rest, safety, security, and health care, even some people in the US. Those should be basic, subsistence level expectations, especially considering how far we’ve come technologically in this world. Unfortunately those advances seem to be reserved for the wealthiest people in the wealthiest countries, for those living under certain forms of government and economics. Basic civil and human rights should also be considered subsistence level—everyone should have them. Not everyone does, even in the most economically “privileged” countries. We can’t even agree on what civil and human rights people should have.

But I also think many people in the world have a skewed notion of what it is to live under what they consider privilege (i.e. better apparent economic or social conditions than theirs). It looks easier. In many ways it is. It’s no guarantee one will be happy. (more…)

— Barbara @ rudimentary 9:40 am PST, 07/04/06

June 21, 2006

Have you ever noticed

How if someone insults or threatens you, your response may be passive, avoiding conflict. But if someone insults or threatens one you love, your response is more passionate and involved?

How you can go for years without eating something you did as a kid, but one smell or one taste will roll back the years?

How you forget others’ suffering if not exposed to it regularly, and can forget there are others less fortunate, even among friends and family?

How we remain acutely aware there are others more fortunate? How we all feel poor at some point, and blame others for it, but when we see another as poor we tend to think it’s their own doing? (more…)

— Barbara @ rudimentary 1:05 pm PST, 06/21/06

June 8, 2006

From a distance

I don’t like memes or favorites lists, because my favorites are constantly in flux and too numerous to list anyway. Some of my favorites I can’t think of on demand. Others have replaced them in the forefront of my thoughts. The present distracts me from the past, overriding memories.

If you ask what my five favorite birds are, I may list the last five species that visited my yard and forget I’ve ever seen an osprey, a roadrunner, a California quail. I might forget the red-tailed hawk that dropped the pigeon it had just caught when it saw my van driving toward it, or the two times I came across a great blue heron standing beside my path while I walked. (more…)

— Barbara @ rudimentary 2:13 pm PST, 06/08/06


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