Monday, April 23, 2007

One Wild Weekend

March 25th and 26th of this year were startlingly warm days. Garth and I had the place to ourselves, since the kids had gone to stay with their cousins. We decided to cut down a tree that leans over our house. (Don't you think that's a great way for a couple to spend a Saturday morning?) I kept getting distracted by bird calls and raptor shadows, as all sorts of birds arrived back from the south in one breathtaking rush. Garth kept getting more and more frustrated and worried by the project, and finally we gave it up until the ice ridge should melt off the unused side of the driveway loop so we could get a rented knuckleboom in there for a good high reach.

We went back inside and settled down to play a fierce contest on the "Age of Empires" computer game. Partway through, I glanced up at a movement out the window, then jumped up yelling.

What do you suppose I saw?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Words from Last Night

Sorry for all the sadness here, folks. I have some happier themes to get to: odd birds I've seen, reconciliation with my garden, the renovation of our home for passive solar heating. But first, a goodbye poem that I wrote last night.

Ah, Pumpkin.
It's been a long day.
Seems like a week ago,
but it was only this morning
and already halfway to noon
when we walked to the car, the vet and I,
I with your familiar carrier under my arm
and she with that unfamiliar little box.
"Oh, that wind's got up!" she said.
"It wasn't like this when I was out before."
So strange, that little box on the floor
as I drove and tried to keep my teary eyes on the road
with your so-familiar carrier on the seat
and the shape of you showing between its bars
until I glanced at you
and you weren't there.
Of course.

At home you were everywhere -
the food bags in the porch,
the dishes on the kitchen floor,
the leash on the fridge,
the litter box in the hall;
and after I tidied so many things away,
there was the scratch on the back of my hand,
the kitten photo on Ruth's bedroom wall -
my fingers interlacing
'round the then-tiny body that
yesterday could stretch tall enough
for a survey of the dining table -
and oh, several times, as never before,
that wild wind making the sound of your meow.

But I think I missed you most
when I had just got busy
making salad for the supper
not that I was up to any potluck supper
but it was on the calendar
and it occupied my mind:
a head of broccoli, a scoop of raisins, a tin of peaches;
nothing there to warn, to brace me,
and so I squeezed the can opener
and twisted the handle
and at the sound of the yielding lid
nobody came.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Nobody Gets Nine Lives Here

Pumpkin is sitting in the sun now, gazing quietly out the window. These last few days he's been gentle, friendly, almost like a normal cat.

Nothing like himself.

Nearly three hundred dollars in vet bills later, we still don't know what's wrong, beyond the side issue that he has a bladder infection and crystals in his urine. That is in spite of the fact that throughout his short life he has had food specially formulated to maintain a healthy urinary tract.

Now he has new "dissolution formula" food, and a course of antibiotics, which we might actually succeed in administering if he stays this quiet. Neither of these are likely to do anything about his vomiting. In fact, if he keeps vomiting, neither are likely to do anything at all.

It could be a foreign body - surely it could, seeing how he has always loved to chew on things (even though he has never bothered to chew his food at all) - but the vet was puzzled by the lack of any signs of internal bleeding other than the low platelet count. She said another possible explanation for that low count was a type of cancer.

Not again.

Marshmallow, the sweetest cat in the world, had cancer. Hers was obvious, as lumps on her belly, though we didn't notice them until she got sick with a sore throat and bladder infection. I didn't spend nearly as much on vet bills with her, even though she was much dearer to us. When the first round of antibiotics didn't clear up the infection, I decided I didn't want to struggle along, trying to keep her health up, knowing that the cancer was slowly killing her anyway.

She was a beautiful cat, short-haired, white with orange tips, just like a lightly toasted marshmallow; and her eyes were blue. Even more beautiful than all that, though, was her personality. She charmed everyone who encountered her. When Garth was away (which was a lot that winter, as he stayed several nights a week at his apartment near his work in Moosomin), she slept on our bed, curled softly against my ankles. She seemed to love everyone she met - even the vet.

I remember rushing out of there, the decision made; no, I didn't want to be with her at the end.

Pumpkin is so very different. He certainly cleared up any delusions I had about taking credit for Marshmallow's sweetness. He came to us younger, probably only a month old, instead of six weeks. Maybe the early separation from his mother and siblings made him incurably belligerent. At any rate, our influence didn't make him sweet.

He seems fond of people, in his own cold and prickly way. Once, during his first year with us, we had a large group of people over to try some music. I was astounded to see Pumpkin walk right into the middle of the circle and flop down on the floor, totally unconcerned with all these strangers. Some cats would have disappeared for hours after an invasion like that, but not him. If a person is in the house, he will come and lie down nearby. He won't rub up against them, and if they try to pet him, he will probably leave, or lay back his ears, or swat, or do all three in reverse order; but if they leave him alone, he will stay close.

What should I have done today? I agreed to his sedation and testing, partly just so they could give him the full checkup that he had never had. At his last two visits for vaccinations, they had to wrap him in towels because they couldn't stuff the blur of teeth and claws into a cat bag. This way he would get his checkup, and we would get some information to go on.

What should I do now? Keep his box clean, so we can tell whether he is passing anything - but if not, then what? Would I pay for surgery? Could we keep him comfortable while letting nature take its course? He doesn't seem to be in much pain now, but what if that changes? The decision with Marshmallow was wrenching, but there was almost no struggle; just a word to the waiting vet, and a quick turn out the examining room door.

And a bill.

Over the last year or so, I've had a growing sense that a housecat is an absurd luxury, at least the way we've been keeping this one. Sure, we live on the edge of town, right up against the old "brick ponds" with their rank grass providing lots of cover for mice and rats, so a cat is a nice protection against rodent damage. I've never seen any sign of rodents in the house, or even in the sheds, but the cat could be a deterrent. Then again, there are so many wild cats around the neighbourhood, I doubt that any rodent would survive the trek across the lawn. Anyway, when I think about ways we could live with less, spend less money, work less for money, and have more time to grow or make the things we need, one of the first unnecessary expenditures that comes to mind is the keeping of this cat.

I was the one who insisted on the expensive cat food. I'd seen too many neutered male cats spend their last hours in agony from urinary blockages. And now I find out he has crystals anyway.

I was the one who insisted on keeping him inside. I had read the studies about housecat predation on songbirds, and I didn't want to contribute to that. Of course, there are plenty of wild cats out there catching the songbirds anyway. Meanwhile, our cat has been eating expensive food instead of free mice; and out of boredom, he may have eaten a twist tie or something. He loves to play with twist ties. We take them away from him, but he comes up with new ones so quickly that Ruth suspects him of conjuring them out of thin air.

Right now, though, I don't know if he would even look at a twist tie. He has spent the whole day either curled in his carrier (his favourite daytime sleeping spot) or lying by the window, gazing outside. He hasn't kept any food down, and except for a single meow at lunch time, he hasn't asked for any.

If he would just quietly get quieter, I think I could let him go that way. If he should start to purr in pain - I don't know.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

A Three-Year Bible Reading Plan

I found a good one!

A few years ago I went looking for a plan to read the bible all the way through. I know, there are many, and I had already followed one of them. It gave me a very different perspective on the body of religious and spiritual literature that undergirds so much of our Western culture. Some time had passed, though, and I wanted to go through it again and see what else I might learn. This time I was looking for a plan with a difference: I wanted the reading to be spread over three years instead of one, and to loosely follow the Revised Common Lectionary which prescribes the Sunday scripture passages used in many churches. Since the last time I read the bible through, my scripture reading had been mostly limited to the Sunday passages plus a bit of browsing and cross-referencing when pondering some idea or preparing the odd sermon. Again and again I noticed how the Sunday passages omit context. I wanted something to take me a bit deeper, to fill in those gaps, and why not combine that with my impulse to read the whole collection of books again?

Aside: If you're wondering why I keep talking about a "body of literature" and a "collection of books," it's just that the term "bible" comes from a word meaning "little books," and I like to keep that in mind. Whatever holy inspiration may have worked to bring those books together, the bible still originated as a compilation.

Anyway, when I first looked a couple of years ago, I did find a plan similar to what I had in mind, but as I recall, the connection with the Sunday passages was looser than what I had envisioned. I let the matter drop. It came back to mind recently when I realized that we are working through "Year C" of the lectionary right now, and a new cycle will begin next Advent. I thought I might have to get started making my own plan, but it looks like somebody named Gloria has already done it. Thank you Gloria!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Arcola Homes, New and Old

Remember that backwards house I talked about last fall? Here's an updated view of the dark-side bay windows.

Across the street from this sadly ill-placed recycled house, there is a brand new one with a fair-sized window facing south. It even has a good long overhang on that window, to keep it cooler when the summer sun is high.

Even so, it still has a lot of glass facing north. Sigh.

Now here's a new Arcola house with some serious southern exposure! I am truly impressed. Although I have to ask, why so little overhang on the upper level windows?

And why so much house? If I'm not mistaken, there will be a grand total of two people living in it.

I wonder how many people used to live in this one?

Log house at Arcola Museum

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Lake Arcola 2007

Lake Arcola near the peak of spring runoff, March 27, 2007

After all the excitement about the snow this year, the runoff was a bit of a disappointment. I was not too surprised. I had been murmuring all winter that it really wasn't that much snow; the ditches were full, but a good deal of that snow had blown off the fields way back in November, and the snowfall for the rest of the winter was nothing spectacular. On top of that (or rather, underneath), the soil was very dry, so most of the melt water just sank straight down.

Lake Arcola put in a modest appearance, less than 2005 but higher than last year. I wonder if it would have been higher, had they not plowed out the drainage ditches before the thaw. I don't recall them doing that other years.

The Snow Pile Dwindles

I don't like the looks of that brown strip to the left of the pile. I had a suspicion that the grass might not do so well under my snow-push path.