Monthly Archives: January 2010

Wolves, Writing and Screaming

There was a full moon this weekend. Folklore calls this full moon in January the “Wolf Moon” and, according to Wikipedia:  “Its name comes from hungry wolf packs that would howl outside the villages of Native Americans.”

Well then, how appropriate that there was howling in my neighborhood this weekend. Wolves? No, something far worse. After all, wolves only howl at night. This howling is incessant and unrelenting, all day and well into the night, accompanied by screams in turn both terrified and excited.

It’s a horrible thing, huddled here inside, trapped by snowfall and hearing the cries. Waiting with tense dread-filled anticipation, listening to the ululating screams that rise and fall, sometimes startlingly near, then fading away like fleeing prey, often ending abruptly– leaving you to imagine a flight cut short, ending badly in an unconscious sprawl of mangled limbs and warm blood gushing, cooling and thickening as it stains the pristine snow. Leaving you to imagine the silent aftermath.

Take a look at this picture. What do you see?

Peaceful scene of snow covered yard? A few interesting shadows on fresh snow? HA! That’s because you haven’t seen the whole picture. Look again:

You see them there, among the trees? They come en masse, like ants swarming a sticky mess of spilled juice left on the kitchen counter overnight. The snow has barely stopped falling before they’re out there, a brightly jacketed screaming horde of thrill-seekers, flinging themselves and their children headlong down a steep slick expanse of snow and ice. Not completely devoid of the instinct for self-preservation, they post lookouts at the top of the hill, stopping intruders until the coast is clear below.

This happens every time it snows. They congregate as if this is the only hill in town, as if conquering it, mindlessly, over and over again, is their only goal. There is always some unfortunate event. Sleds overturn, bodies collide with other bodies or with the ground. A few unlucky souls have managed to swerve off the bridge and into creek at the bottom of the hill. One year, a victim was completely up-ended when he turned his back to the action and others couldn’t steer away in time. He escaped with a mild concussion, bones and flesh intact.

The chorus of screams is relentless. So is the irregular rhythmic schhuussch of sleds over packed snow. It’s enough to make a person long for the howl of wolves.

Oh hell, I think I might be one snowfall away from becoming “that woman.” You know, the one who always yelled at you to get off her lawn when you were a kid, or threatened to call your parents if you didn’t stop riding your bikes through her garden. Sheesh. Couldn’t she tell they were horses and that we were on an important mission?

You might be wondering what this has to do with writing. Well, nothing, really. Except it’s good advice in general, but maybe especially if you’re a writer, not to be that person standing there with your back to danger, lost in your musings and oblivious to all the people around you yelling, “LOOK OUT!” That sometimes you need to broaden your view to see the entire picture.

And to keep in mind that no matter how much fun you’re having — or conversely, how irritating it is to be subjected to the noisy intrusive exploits of others — eventually the snow is going to melt.

Also, you know, if you wake me up with your screaming at the crack of dawn after keeping me up listening to it half the night, I’m going to write a tale of wolves. And you’re going to be the prey.

Just how fast can you flee down that hill?

Scream for me, now. Like you mean it.

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Are we there yet?

Has it really been two weeks since I posted? Ooops. Well, it’s once again That Time of the Year — sort of like That Time of the Month, only on a grander scale and with the men indulging in PMS behaviour. Yes, I refer to fiscal year end, that annual occurrence when people with jobs in finance entertain thoughts of ditching it all and running off to a remote tropical island resort. Or, you know, resorting to homicide.

Maybe I’m mellowing with age, but my thoughts this year have been less violent and more along the lines of let’s all just get through this without bloodshed so I can take a couple days off to recover my sanity.

Still, it’s a bit difficult to sit patiently through lengthy thrice-a-week phone calls from the owner — explaining to me how important it is (to him) to get all the year end wrap-up done quickly — without pointing out how much work I could have gotten done during all that time he just wasted telling me what I already know. Or without mentioning that since they downsized our clerical staff, I’m doing double duty even before all the tax reporting and tying up of loose ends and tracking down missing information that the sales people neglected to provide.

I just gently hang up the phone and give thanks that he works in a different state and get back to doing the work that needs to be done. I hardly even swear.

Really, I’ve been quite calm. I’m sure you all would be proud. Shocked even. But all that patience (and hard work) takes a toll by the end of these longer workdays. So I’ve been a bit absent here. And elsewhere. No worries, it will all get done eventually and I’ll get back to normal. Probably.

Besides, I’m not even sure where I’d find a remote tropical island. Or how I’d get there. Nonono, don’t tell me. I’ve got a job to do.

In the meantime, I think I want some of whatever they gave these two:

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Filed under health and well-being, miscellaneous bits

Cats and other visitations

As some of you might know, my daughter “rescued” a cat this summer. [See? I warned you I was going to blog about the cat.] Her name is Cauliflower — the cat, not my daughter. I know, silly name, even for a white cat with green eyes, but someone had already named (and abandoned) her by the time my daughter came along. She seemed to know her name, so it stuck.

Anyway, Cauliflower came home from college with my daughter over winter break. I was a little nervous about this visit, partly because my daughter planned to leave the cat here with me while she went off to New Orleans for a week. But mostly because my experience with cats is that they’re rather psychotic and anti-social.

Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m not a cat person. I don’t dislike cats, exactly — I somehow ended up with one of my own and I love her dearly — they just aren’t my first choice in pets. I’m more of a black lab dog-type person. In spite of The Wonder Dog (who was, incidentally, visiting His Favourite Person during the time in question).

Well, it turns out Cauliflower is sweet and friendly and affectionate and calm. That is, when she’s not being wild ass crazy. This cat has more energy than a nuclear power plant.

There wasn’t an inch of the house she didn’t explore. She scaled bookcases, then got behind the books and pushed them onto the floor. She traversed the kitchen table and conquered the countertops. Weaved her way between perfume bottles and picture frames on the dresser and splashed in the toilets and attacked the pull cords for the window blinds. She checked out the wiring behind the TV and left delicate damp footprints in the shower.

Feeling somewhat frantic for a diversion that would occupy her attention while I was at work, I dusted off and filled the bird feeder and pulled a chair up to the window. She loved it. Especially when the spillage attracted other forms of wildlife. Here she is being all friendly with a squirrel:

It’s a good thing that’s a double-paned window or I swear she would have gone straight through it. She tried.

One of her favourite tricks was to wake me in the morning by jumping up onto my pillow and then walking on my hair. This is more painful than you might imagine. One morning I pried open my eyes to see her stalking me from the far side of the bed, charging at the last second and head-butting me in the middle of the forehead. The next morning she put a paw in my eye. But as soon as she determined I really was awake, she’d start purring and rubbing and snuggling and pretty much turned into Princess Charming. She was sweet and adorable.

I mentioned this highly unusual friendly cat behaviour during a phone call with one of my sisters (who also has cats) and she burst out laughing. “You know, ninety-nine percent of cats are friendly like that. Your cat is just weird.”

Yes, well. [ahem] It’s true. And my weird cat absolutely HATED this new Intruder Cat. She spent the entire winter break either hiding or, when subjected to close proximity, growling and spitting. She did not want to play and she was not interested in making friends. I didn’t realize she was still capable of being quite that fierce. Poor thing flat wore herself out with pure stubborn orneriness.

In her defense, she is quite elderly. But honestly, she has never been friendly. Her usual idea of snuggling is to sit at the far end of the couch and glare. Kind of like this:

Unless she’s cold. Then she decides I’m useful as a heat source and pretends she’s helping me write:

One night my son and his girlfriend and I were downstairs watching a movie when I heard odd noises from the upstairs bonus room.

“I think Cauliflower is playing pool,” I said.

My son shook his head. “No way. I put the cover on the pool table.”

“Well, she’s doing something up there.”

She had found some small object and was batting it up and down and off the walls of the back stairs, having a grand old time. At one point she came barreling through the family room and I noticed she wasn’t quite as white as she had been earlier. In fact, parts of her were rather . . . blue.

Once I stopped laughing, I sent a text message to my daughter, in New Orleans:

Me: Your cat is blue.

DD: Poor baby.  :-(

Me: No, not sad. Blue.

DD: What?!!

Me: She’s playing with the pool chalk. And she’s blue.

DD: hahaha! Take a pic and send it to me!

Me: We can’t catch her. She’s wild.

So, of course, my son accepted the challenge and “caught” her — not much of a challenge, as this cat loves to be picked up. Here are her blue toes (picture cropped to edit out the taunting face my son made at his sister) [sigh] (he’s not hurting the cat; she was purring the entire time):

All in all, this cat-sitting nonsense was an interesting experience. I learned that not all cats are paranoid suspicious curmudgeons. And that my daughter would stay in New Orleans indefinitely, if she could. And that having an energetic curious cat in the house is just as exhausting as it was to have toddlers.

I am so not ready for grandkids. Neither is my cat.

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