Monday, October 08, 2007

Neighborhood wild things

My husband came in last night and said he heard the neighborhood owl hooting. The owl is big and beautiful, white or gray, and has been around for some months, probably because to him this neighborhood is like a smorgasbord--all his favorite dishes can be found.

The owl's spooky who-who-who certainly invokes shivers. And we talked about the times we camped in the wilderness and at night heard owls and coyotes. Such lovely times.

Hah, my husband said, we hear owls and coyotes here all the time.

Of course, that's true. Wilderness, it seems, has come to the city.

And it's justified, right? We encroached on their lands, so they return the favor. Only they have no chance here.

Not long ago we saw two coyotes just outside our back yard, warming themselves in a sunny spot in the greenbelt. I wanted to write a poem about them, about how wrong it was for wild animals to pad along concrete streets, they should be free, yadda, yadda, yadda. I planned to write it in the style of a sonnet.

Well, there are sonneteers.
And then there's me.

But I will prevail.

Here are the first few lines I wrote:

City Coyotes

Beyond the fence, beyond the grass-banked stream,
I saw coyotes bask in morning sun.
They slept until the warming light was done,
Then wakened from their atavistic dream.
Their slitted eyes stared at encircling homes,
At fences slicing land that once was free.
Yet I believe their hearts can only be
On ranges where their untamed cousin roams.

A picture of the backyard coyotes:

-- Cat

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

in Memoriam

Kevan F. Hartwell

Dec. 21, 1920 - Oct. 3, 2001

Remembering always,

"If the people we love are stolen from us, the way to have them live on is to never stop loving them. Buildings burn, people die, but real love is forever.”The Crow (1994)


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

That day AGAIN!

October 2 -- an auspicious day.

So I'm one year farther from my birth and closer to my mortality.

-- Cat

Thursday, September 06, 2007

End of an Era

Luciano Pavarotti (October 12, 1935 – September 6, 2007)

I was reading some of the tributes given to this man by the people, ordinary people from all over the world who loved him, loved his voice, and was moved enough to cry.

Though I've listened to classical music since young, I came late to the lavishly-set opera table. It used to be something I endured as I waited for the next Beethoven, Strauss, or Rachmaninoff on the classical radio channel.

I knew of, but paid scant attention to, the Three Tenors. Knew their names, knew Pavarotti was the big guy. I rather liked the more "pop" sounds of Josh Groban and Il Divo. I could listen to Sarah Brightman sing anything.

Then I heard the music to a song identified only as from the Puccini opera Turandot. It was the type of music that stays in your mind (playing over and over) and I needed to learn more about it. Thank goodness for Amazon and other internet music sellers that let you hear samples from each work. I identified the song as Nessun Dorma and then trotted my fingers over to YouTube. I listened to Andrea Bocelli's version. Lovely. I listened to Pavarotti and was ... electrified. I listened to his other arias. Really listened. What a splendid voice.

Inspired, I purchased a mix of various opera songs, and I've found many that I truly enjoy hearing. Some, I still only endure (too lazy to skip to the next), but I feel my life has been, maybe only in a small way, enriched by the super voices of opera singers.

Especially Pavarotti.

May he rest peacefully, and as someone said, the man with the voice of an angel now sings with them.

Here is my favorite aria Nessun Dora by my favorite tenor:


Saturday, July 07, 2007

Dream du Jour

Here's one for the dream projector --

I dreamed I was at a gathering of sorts -- all women and children.

I held one woman's little one, a chubby-cheeked cherub, smiling, jabbering away.

"That's his happy talk," the mother said.

And as if this were a Broadway musical and that was my cue, I began singing Happy Talk, from South Pacific. In the dream I had a pure and lovely voice; in real life let's just say I might know the lyrics, but can't carry a tune, not even faintly. (Ah, that's the nature of dreams.)

A chorus of beautiful voices joined in -- all the others at the gathering, I reckon.

What makes it more peculiar is that in the dream the chorus got one line wrong. I began the song again with the correct words.

Happy Talk is a charming song from my favorite musical. My father had a reel-to-reel tape player and when I was a kid, I played South Pacific over and over again. The words to the song are no doubt burned into my subconscious.

Here are the words. In my dream we sang the first four lines:

Happy Talk

from South Pacific.

Music by Richard Rodgers, Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II

Happy talk, keep talking happy talk
Talk about things you like to do
You got to have a dream, if you don't have a dream
How you gonna have a dream come true?
Talk about the moon floating in the sky
Looking like a lily on the lake
Talk about a bird learning how to fly
Making all the music he can make!
Happy talk, keep talking happy talk
Talk about things you like to do
You got to have a dream, if you don't have a dream
How you gonna have a dream come true?
Talk about the sparrow looking like a toy
Peeking through the branches of a tree
Talk about the girl, talk about the boy
Counting all the ripples on the sea
Happy talk, keep talking happy talk
Talk about things you like to do
You got to have a dream, if you don't have a dream
How you gonna have a dream come true?
Talk about the boy saying to the girl
Golly, baby, I'm a lucky cuss
Talk about the girl saying to the boy
You an' me is lucky to be us
Happy talk, keep talking happy talk
Talk about things you like to do
You got to have a dream, if you don't have a dream
How you gonna have a dream come true?
If you don't talk happy, and you never have dream
Then you'll never have a dream come true!

A dream about a song about a dream. Is this a message of some kind?


Thursday, July 05, 2007

Uses for dreams

We were talking about dreams, my husband and I, the kind you have when you sleep.

I said it would be neat if there was a way to project the dreams onto the ceiling.

So you could watch them, he said.

No, I said. So you could watch them. (I have some very interesting dreams.)

Taking it a step further, we could tape the good ones for later viewing.

One could have a whole library of dreams. Like books, like DVDs.

Laugh all you like.

Scientists may be working on this right now.

We'd all become micro-movie makers. Surreal movies, for most dreams are just that.

And the Academy Award for dreams goes to ....


Thursday, June 14, 2007

An anniversary of sorts

Sometimes I think about smoking a cigarette.

I even dream about it -- not the act itself -- but I'm rummaging through my purse and find a pack there, or I'm off to the store to buy them.

It's been 15 years since I went from a pack-a-day habit to none.

I remember the day I smoked my last cigarette, June 20, 1992, my son's birthday. It was my gift to him, something he really wanted, something he nagged me about for months (years?). So on June 21, 1992 I quit, cold turkey.

That wasn't the first time I'd tried to quit a habit I'd had since I was 17. But for the first time I was truly ready. It wasn't easy, but as time passed, as I grit my teeth and sat on my hands waiting for the craving to pass, the pangs became less and less urgent.

One of the hardest things I found in giving up this stinky habit was in the mind -- the association I had with smoking a cigarette at every major or happy event in my life. How many photos do I have of those pre '92 years where I'm holding a cigarette?

Those nostalgic associations between smoking and happiness eventually faded.

And now I would not fill my mouth, let alone my lungs, with cigarette smoke. Distasteful thought.

But you know what? My son started smoking.

Go figure.


Thursday, June 07, 2007

Today was...

Well, Only in America. Enough said.

A humorous childrens verse I wrote appears here in Bumbershoot, an online literary ezine.



Monday, May 21, 2007

Curious Bereavement

I have a theory about the people on this earth.

We all know the earth is round. Let's for the moment look beyond the geometry and think that the people who inhabit it form one large jigsaw puzzle. There are roughly 7 billion pieces. Every person alive is a piece of the puzzle. No matter how poor, how rich, how much land they own, they are one piece of the puzzle, equal to each of the others. As the population increases, the edges of the puzzle expand. As people die, their little space disappears and there's a shift, a cosmic shift if you like, as the puzzle is rearranged. At the current rates of growth and attrition, the puzzle is constantly adjusting itself.

One might say it lives. It breathes. It seethes.

Now, getting to the point of my subject title above:

When I first ventured onto the internet, I discovered forums, where like-minded people hung out and messaged each other. My first forum was moderated by a nice lady whose name I've forgotten, but I'll call L. I haven't forgotten L, though. As time progressed, I learned she had grown daughters, roughly where she lived, that she liked cats, baked a lot, simple small details of her life. I knew from the tenor of her messages that she had a wry sense of humor and took her (unpaid) job seriously. I may have exchanged two or three messages with her, and I believe she knew me only as a name, if that.

One day her daughter posted a message. L had died. A heart attack, I think it was. Though we were barely acquaintances, I felt a surprising sense of loss. This person, who had become a tiny part of my life, no longer existed, leaving an empty space in the puzzle.

Other forums, other years, other people I knew-but-didn't-know passed on. And I always felt first surprise, then that odd sense of loss. I don't grieve as I would a family member or close friend, but I miss that presence, the person who had become real because of thoughts shared, personalities made known, messages placed on a medium seen potentially by billions .

I occasionally surf blogs, and when I come across one that interests me I leave a comment. A person I'll call X, a writer, poet, replied to the comment I'd made. That was the sum of our involvement. Once in a while I'd visit X's blog for new posts. There were no updates for months. Perhaps X was ill. It 's more than a year now. The blog hasn't changed.

I do not know X's real name, where X lives, works, anything. I must presume X is dead. This sense of loss is somehow different. We were nothing but two ships passing ... no, not really. Two canoes who for the briefest moment swept the same wave with our paddles.

Was there a cosmic shift? Was the puzzle realigned due to X's disappearance? I'll never know.

I think that blogs exist forever, or as long as people view them. I'll check X's blog now and then. Leave a thought, if nothing else.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Fair tv Fare

Note: Some people use capital letters when abbreviating the word television, but my use of small letters explains my regard, or lack thereof, of the medium.

Some years ago I read that to be a true tv snob you must watch all of the programs, or none of them.

The former being impossible for me, I chose the latter.

For a long time I watched nothing, and whenever someone said, "Did you catch X on tv last night?" I could honestly reply, in true tv snob fashion, "Oh, I don't watch television."

There were occasional inroads. My daughter, working nights at the time, watched afternoon soap operas and I began watching The Young and the Restless with her. I still watch to this day, and make no excuses for doing so.

Then there were shows like ER and NYPD Blue. I loved the tension of those early ER shows. I will always remember one episode where at the climax I burst into tears. A movie, tv show, or book that makes me cry has rare power. That episode was, for me, an "eleven." (on a scale of one to ten....)

I stopped watching ER when it became too depressing for me. NYPD Blue, though I watched, and enjoyed, from beginning to end.

At one time my desk sat in a large room that also had a tv set. For a time I shunned that tv set, though I only had to look slightly to the side to see it. Then I discovered British mystery series on A & E.

What a wonderful variety! I watched them all: Prime Suspect, A Touch of Frost, Inspector Morse, Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, Sherlock Holmes, Lovejoy, Dalgliesh, Inspector Alleyn, Brother Cadfael, Ruth Rendel Mysteries, the gritty Cracker--my favorite. (perhaps others I've forgotten...)

Alas, we moved and things changed, my ability to view these shows while I worked at my computer came to a regrettable end.

But then came the autumn of 2000, the autumn of the Olympics in Sydney, the autumn of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, the autumn I spent several weeks in a hospital.

Almost overnight I went from tv snob to tv slob.

I watched EVERYTHING that was on. All the game shows, all the sitcoms, all the dramas: Cops shows, lawyer shows: Ally McBeal, The Practice, Family Law, scenic shows, e.g. Baywatch! on and on ad nauseam. The good, the bad, and the really ugly, it made no difference to me, I was passing time and for once in my life had not the will to read. (As if that were some sacred act not to be performed in the mundane setting of a hospital.)

My tv extravaganza came to an end when I came home. I tried to keep up with some of the better shows, but my interest soon waned. I had no patience left for silly sitcoms, though I always made time for Frasier.

Now I've come to that point where I recall important times of my life by the tv shows I watched. Who can forget the summer of 1980 when Who shot JR? was a question that held an entire continent in thrall? (This, before my tv snob days!) And how about the years I spent watching Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers with the young ones?

I remember books I've read, some the age I was when I read them The same with movies. But television goes farther than that. Because of the nature of the beast, the long running shows mark a passage of time, for some the change of an era. My son was a kid when he began watching The Simpsons in 1989. Almost 18 years later he still watches it when he can. Heavens, I aged 12 years during the course of NYPD Blue.

And now this entry, like a tv show that's been on too long, is losing it's original intent. I digress easily when it comes to this subject. I'm not qualified to criticize tv shows. I know what I like, what I find good. What others like, and watch, is their call.

I will admit there's lots that good. Even fascinating. But more that's bad. Even plain stupid. Would I miss it if it vanished?

I honestly think not.


Thursday, March 01, 2007

Me and Charlie Brown

The Peanuts comic strip debuted October 2, 1950.

I don't recall when I started reading it, but it was a fixture of my daily life for several decades, right until the final sweet goodbye on January 3, 2000.

Gotta love that Snoopy for his sense of whimsey, his keen imagination, his soaring daydreams. He could be -- and was, in his own mind -- anyone and everyone. Having for a long time lived in daydreams myself, I understand that fascinating Beagle. And we share a certain ambition: to write that great book of all books!

And who can forget Snoopy's devoted master -- the one and only Charlie Brown?

I feel that Charlie Brown and I have several things in common.

For one, we share the same October 2 birthday. (different years, though)

He's been called, among other things, wishy-washy.
Now, I don't consider myself wishy-washy. Perhaps I lack instant decisiveness. But you see, I believe in looking at all the sides, weighing all the angles (this odd cliché comes from mathematics!) Thoughtful delayed decisiveness is, to me, a signature Libra trait.

Like Charlie Brown I often felt as a kid that no one understood me, and I was something of a loner. I had a reason for that: you have to be alone to read, and I was a reader. I did have that Snoopy-like imagination to fall back on, as well as a large interesting family and, like Charlie Brown had, an array of diverse friends.

My husband and kids will say that at Christmas I usually selected what was known as a Charlie Brown Tree, some poor misshapen lopsided tree that no one but its mother could love. They wanted a perfect, lush, beautiful tree. I reasoned even the most grotesque set of twigs deserved a home at Christmas and would look beautiful when decorated. And I was right.

Snoopy called Charlie Brown "that round-headed kid." And I guess he was.

I was known as having a round-shaped face--as stated in the passport I had at age four:

Cat - age 4

The final Peanuts comic strips are here.

Charles Schulz died February 12, 2000, a little more than one month after he bid a beautiful sad goodbye.

I have missed that comic strip ever since. My gaze still automatically gravitates to the space it occupied in the daily newspaper.

I thank Charles Schulz for having created the best ensemble cast of lovable cartoon characters. Ever.