Thursday, June 28

Rosie, my new walking dog

Rosie is the sweetest dog in the world. She is probably related to Stinkypotamous. Zack would love her. Everyone loves Rosie. People stop by her yard and visit with her. But I'm really lucky, because I finally met her owners, who told me that the children are welcome to come into the yard and play (The People are at work all day) AND that I could walk her any time I liked. The leash is in the outside shed.

So this morning, while it was still cool (with 95% humidity), I took Rosie for a walk. And guess what? She and I are perfect walk partners. She likes to walk along at a brisk pace, with stops for sniffing and marking. She will heel if I ask her to and knows how to stop at intersections, then start when I start up. She doesn't pull on the leash but does like to walk out in front, tracking the scents. She walks the same way Sophie did. She snuffs a bit, the way dogs do if slightly frustrated, when I don't let her go into someone's yard, but she obeys cheerfully. Just that little audible exhalation of breath. So, as long as it's summer and I'm home, I look forward to morning Walks With Rosie.

Wednesday, June 27

"Eat, eat, eat, Molt, expand, repeat!"

This title is the lobsters' chant, as reported on NPR's Morning Edition this Tuesday. It seems that no one knows how long a lobster can live and how big it can get. I certain;ly don't know, buI I do know, though, that once in a blue moon a bright blue lobster is caught and folks come to marvel. I know also that Warrens' Seafood, a small fish market in a small village near my home town of Riverside, RI, has caught two blue lobsters in recent years. I saw both of them, in two different summers, prowling around in the salt water holding tank next to the cases of littlenecks and steamers, mussels and squid, scrod, mackerel, and what ever else they'd caught.

The blue lobsters are a deep bright blue, deep cerulean, and tinged with the same hints of red and cream like the regular dull dark green ones.

Lobsters are great, boiled quickly (and perhaps cruelly?), and served very simply, either hot with drawn butter to dip in, or chilled, with same and mayo if you like. And good crusty French or Italian bread. You can break off each long thin claw and chew on it from tip to opening, squeezing out the sweet salty juices, A lobster can keep you busy for the better part of an hour, especially with a friend, cool drinks and a pleasant setting. You need no fries, no side orders, though last summer I had a modest looking but perfect dish of grilled zucchini pieces, done with garlic.

I was very lucky last summer, because I happened to be in Plymouth, Mass., a block from Plymouth Rock and the Mayflower replica, at a comfortable restaurant by the harbor, and it was Thursday, their "Twin lobsters for $19.95" night. One to eat and one to take home and chill for lobster salad, or a lobster roll, or plain, with melted butter.

They are usually very expensive, and lots of the people who catch them or live near those fishing villages can't usually afford to eat them.

One summer I had spent a few days in Waldoboro, Maine, and on my way home read that a truckload of Homarus americanus has overturned way up north on Route 1. The lobsters, which had been on their way to restaurants in big cities, were instead distributed throughout the town, to senior centers and all kinds of social agencies. For once, the people up there Down East could have a taste of their prime catch.

Tuesday, June 19

Who will protect the children?

It's been said that one daily edition of the New York Times contains more information than a citizen of the world x hundred years ago would ever learn. (Sorry, I can't remember the number, but you get the idea.) Most of us barely have time to skim the surface of the day's news, whether online, on the radio, on TV, or in a newspaper. But since it's school summer vacation I have way too much time to read the paper.
It's sometimes depressing and sometimes very, very worrying. I understand why we need the sports news and the funnies (one reason for getting your local paper) to enable us to lighten up enough to get through the day. Between reading about the threat of extremist terrorism and pedophile rings, I need Sherman's Lagoon. And of course arts and science news.
But here's something practical for all of us that have anything to do with children. We can vote for legislators and presidential candidates who will supply funds for universal health insurance for U.S. children, and we can watch out what we put into their hands to play with.
See those little guys up there on the piano? Most of them were made in China. It says so right on their little backsides. Today's NYT has a huge story about a recall of Thomas the Tank Engine toys, sold by a company called RC2, which started in trading cards but turned to toys for greater profits. The company's way smaller than Mattel and Hasbro, but it sells toys tied in with very popular brand names -- Thomas, Dora the Explorer, John Deere, and Disney, among others. My little granddaughter loves Dora ("Doh-wa"), and I've sprung for aDora toy once or twice. If those brand names sound safe, all-American, and harmless (outside of the branding implications and, of course, choking hazards), think again. The Thomas toys were found to be coated with lead-based paint. A NYT reporter who went to the factory in China to investigate was detained for several hours by a factory manager who didn't want him asking questions.
The Times mentions the Imperfect Parent online magazine and blog for those who want to keep informed on children's safety, nutrition, and other good stuff, and suggests as well that you sign up for immediate notification of recalls at the website of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the staff of which was cut by more than 10% over the past two years. And I will also recommend that in this time of low governmental priorities for children, we should pay attention to the Children's Defense Fund, which is actively campaigning for health insurance for all of our children.

Monday, June 18

You know there ain't no devil, only God when He's drunk...

I took the grandsons to the beach. On the way back they took pictures from the car window. US 21 going back north out of Beaufort, SC, offers images just as interesting as the postcard scenes of the shore. The almost-11 year old made sociological observations about the demographically excellent location of an unpretentious Chinese restaurant where you can get enormous servings of Chinese dishes as good as most anywhere else, amounts that could easily feed a family of four on just one dish. We had very good dumplings (eight to a serving), General Tso's chicken, and Moo Shu Shrimp. Did we finish it all? No way.

The beach? The lighthouse? Later

Sunday, June 10

What's it all about?

I'd like to know
What this whole show
Is all about
Before it's out.

Piet Hein, Grooks

The New York Times this week ran a lifestyles feature about a housing development in Arizona where people who love star-watching can buy a first or second home in an area with very little light pollution so that they can stargaze.
NPR this same week aired a report about family homes in Nepal where people develop severe lung disease because they cook indoors on wood fires with inadequate ventilation. They love the wood fires and love to gather around them.
I love to look at the stars and at wood fires. And it's not news that the world is full of inequality, but I still gape at the contrasts and wonder what I'm doing with MY life.

Thursday, June 7

Feral kitties? Or, should we have a leash law for cats?

These are my sweet cats. They purr, they knead my knees, they sleep with me whichever one gets there first. They are jealous of one another and sometimes show this, but I try to keep them all happy and make them feel as though they are, each one, my favorite. (YOU'RE my favorite boy kitty! YOU'RE my favorite black and white kitty, and so on. A trick one of the childrearing experts back in the 70s suggested as a way of dealing with children's inevitable "Which one of us is your favorite?") (Look at Tater's ears, up there on the right: he's listening to every word.)

But they are also true to their wild heritage and, despite the fake mice, rubber bands, balls, and so forth that I provide for them, they HUNT. I let them go outdoors. I grew up with indoor-outdoor cats and have always done this. Sometimes they catch a bird, and I feel sad, yesterday I heard Butter's Kitty (on the left) at the front door, making that unmistakable sound that means she has something in her mouth and wants to bring it in. It was a chipmunk. I managed to let it go and brought her in. But I made the mistake of not putting bell collars on them this season, and a neighborhood incident ensued.

My next door neighbor approached me on the weekend to ask if I'd bell my cats, because the small black one had caught and killed a baby bluejay from a nest on their front porch. And the next day, apparently, all the babies were gone and the mother jay was frantic. My neighbors were very upset. What do you say? What do you do? I felt awful, and I told them I would certainly put bells on all the cats. I went right out and bought collars, belled all three, and then picked flowers and wrote a contrite note to my neighbors saying how terrible I felt about it too. They were very nice about it, though in a very mournful way, and mentioned that the people on the other side of them had "feral cats" too. I didn't know what to say, and, characteristically, didn't dispute their designation. tTey have a new kitten, but it never goes out.

I once lived for two years in Carrboro, NC, where one of the biggest issues raging in the city council was whether or not to enact a "leash law" for cats. In the end, they didn't, but a lot of people were angry.

I feed the birds and give them fresh water, and I have indoor-outdoor cats. This is not a good combination, I know, but I'm not going to change my ways unless the law comes down on me. I also like to feel as though I'm on good terms with my neighbors and wonder if they'll still be friendly.

The nest, by the way, before it was defiled,was really a surprise. None of us had ever known blue jays to nest so near to people. I didn't know the nest was there until 6 year-old Luther noticed it just a couple of days before The Event.

Last night, I woke up in the middle of the night, with one cat asleep by me, one on a high shelf in the living room, and one outside, and heard a terrible noise of a screaming animal or bird.

By the way, it might not have been my cat, because there's an identical small black cat who comes over sometimes from across the street. I did mention this in my note to the neighbors.... But it could have been mine. I hope the bells work.

Wednesday, June 6


I'm not much of a flag waver (though I know the words to lots of patriotic songs from the US and other nations), and in this time of a disastrous and immoral war it's all too easy to slip into a cynical attitude towards all things military. But much as I'd like to say that all wars are wrong, I have to accept that sometimes they are necessary. Hitler had to be stopped, for example. Today is the anniversary of D-Day and the landing of Allied troops on the beaches at Normandy, a brave and brilliant day that changed the course of World War II in Europe and the course of history. Now that the generation that accomplished the Allied victory is dying by the hundreds every day, it's important that young people and all of us appreciate what they did.
This spring a World War II veteran of Normandy addressed the school in chapel. As he told us how the operation proceeded, from the careful and stealthy preparations to its outcome, we were vicariously, though safely, there. No one who listened will forget his account. His presence among us was a living treasure, a voice from a generation that's almost gone. Once all the veterans of that war are gone, will the war become a dusty subject in a textbook? Even the Vietnam war, so vivid to many of my generation, is almost a ho-hum subject for today's teenagers, just a part of "History."
My father, whose dogtags are shown here, was a Conscientious Objector in the war, because he was a Quaker. He served in the Army Air Force as a radio operator flying supplies over "the Hump" in Burma to allies in China. My mother says that it bothered him that because of his CO status he couldn't become an officer, but neither could he ignore his upbringing. He left for India before I was born and came back in June, 1945. I have his tags, and I have several notebooks of his letters to my mother, written in fountain pen on onion skin paper. I've tried reading them but always get stalled, both because they are so emotional and because they are also somewhat repetitive because he wasn't allowed to give any details of what was going on. Most of the letters I've read so far talk of his memories of good times he and she had during their courtship, questions about his baby daughter, and fantasies about where he would like to be with his bride and the wonderful times they will have when he returns.
This summer I will approach the letters again and also will try to learn more about his Burma experiences. Unfortunately, I grew up in a family that seldom talked about anything -- Lake Wobegon is a lot like Yankee Rhode Island -- and so I now feel the need to learn what I can.
People need to tell their stories and pass along to the younger generations what came before. One thing that gives me hope that the stories won't be lost is the work of novelists, like Britain's Mal Peet, whose novel Tamar tells a particular story of World War II and relates it to a present-day teenage girl whose father was in the war. We need to listen to the remaining veterans of that war, as long as some of them are alive, and those who have heard their stories have to pass them on however they can.

Friday, June 1

Missing the laptop

June 1:I'm stuck, stymied, stonewalled, frustrated, and it's all because I don't have a laptop for a week or so. I HATE sitting at my desk. I hate trying to work on this computer. So, no messages until things get better.

June 6: Well, when I wrote that the computer was offline, because it's doing strange things. I still don't like using it, but here are some early summer flowers and a local memorial. Nasturtium and penstemon