Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter Sunday, 2010

Everybody knows that the perceived length of days is unpredictable, but yesterday, Easter, seemed like a very long day.

I’m grateful for that because it was a very fine day also. I felt fully involved in everything I did and blessed with the very best companionship, including:

1. Caroline and Jane.

2. Andy and Edie.

3. Two people I like at the gym who made the early morning wake up and filled me in on “the news”.

4. Tom Clark and readers/correspondents at Beyond The Pale. I read fine poetry, prose and commentary and learned things about grammar and rhetoric. Through analysis and intuition I divined the path to “paratasis” and found that I hadn’t gotten lost.

5. The members and attenders present at the Cornwall Monthly Meeting Easter Meeting for Worship. It had been too long since we had participated there and Cornwall’s “living silence” spoke volumes to us.

6. The people we chatted with at Easter lunch overlooking Tuxedo Lake, which was as beautiful as I’ve ever seen it. Seeing how thoughtfully Jane treated the younger children present made me very proud.

7. My companions in the wildly entertaining dreams I had while Caroline drove back to Berwyn.

8. Jane (singling her out again) for reading aloud from The Code of the Woosters and loving the book and for finishing her math problem packet. It will break my heart (which can be a hard one on subjects like this; I must improve; that’s part of what Easter is all about) to wake her in 32 minutes so that she can begin the school week on time by performing a task that has turned a little sour for her. I’m grateful I understand why this is so now and also for the fact that we’re finally on the same page about it. And Jane for doing her axels and spins with such aplomb.

9. The person who cooked my miso soup with “asari” (clams) and enoki mushrooms last night. It tasted like the best thing in the world.

10. Eduardo, Bentley, the McFadden’s black and white cat, Pitch (where are you?) in Tuxedo, and the full complement of our animal family in Berwyn, i.e., Rose, Eddie, Eddie, Jr., Bunny, Felix, Claude, Princess Daisy, TigerLily, Honey, Tige, KingKing, Skip, Flip, Rainbow, Ruby and always, Pansy, U and Santa. (I’ve already mentioned Andy and Edie.)


  1. Curtis,

    Making this distinguished list made my millennium.

    (Shows you what kind of a millennium I've had, I guess.)

    If those listed here ever have a reunion, may I be seated between those dream figures and Eduardo?

    (By the way, speaking of Eduardo, yesterday our Siamese, who is large and grey and has a bit of a pointy snout, was nosing at the side door -- nosing, that is, rather than scratching, his usual I am hyperactive and wish to be released m.o. So I went and looked -- and there he was again, on the other side of the door, or so it seemed. Hallucination? Reflection in glass? Double vision? Post stroke symptom? All these possibilities raced past. Then I realized: it was "our" opossum, coming to the door on an unsually bold main chance visit. And then he vanished. Felt bad all day about not having had the good sense to offer him something to eat. Compensated today, though I fear the fare offered was not up to the culinary standards admirably observed here at ACravan. Still, eight glazed doughnuts, barely a day old... is this to be considered a gift or a curse upon the poor creature?)

  2. Hi Tom. My previous reply, written at the skating rink while Jane was preparing for and then performing her "intermediate moves in the field" figure skating test, got swallowed. Watching your child being tested in anything, let alone something as nerve-wracking as figure skating, where the judging arena resembles a Kafka Ice Tribunal, wreaks havoc on my not too dexterous digits.

    First, you and your guests will always be welcome at our table.

    Second, I'm sure the glazed donuts were greatly appreciated. We've had a few "sweet-toothed" cats, and it's funny watching them go to work pastry, puddings, etc. The oddest time was when our original cats, U (a Russian Blue female) and Santa (a flame-point Siamese) attacked a Christmas present of funnel-cake mix (a sweet Pennsylvania-German pancake batter-type mix, which is used to make a deep-fried pastry that's sort of a cross between churros and zeppoles), while Caroline and I slept. The sickly smell of the dried batter and Santa’s sugar and flour-frosted whiskers persisted for quite a while.

    Third (and most important), the whole issue of cat dematerialization requires and deserves much, much more attention in the scientific community which, let’s face it, hasn’t even resolved the origins of purring. They simply disappear and reappear at will. As with a few other “unexplained phenomena”, I’ve observed this far too many times to doubt that this is what happens. Possums move quietly away. Cats disappear.

    What is your gray Siamese's name?

  3. Curtis,

    I hope, and indeed feel sure, that Jane has aced the test.

    Growing up in the ice and snow, I was familiar as a child with that hard white glazed stuff, but much of the urban street hockey was played skateless, and the skating ponds always seemed an opportunity for pre-adolescent courting failures. A brief few "formal" lessons yielded only major embarrassment. I am imagining J. as being at least 1000 times more nimble than I ever was, however.

    Your "Christmas cats with sweet tooth" anecdote probably becomes more amusing as the years pass, but at the time, ooh... Angelica just drifted by, took a peek, and emitted her richest laughter of the week, or shall I say season.

    The endless cold wet season continues here. Our three cats slept all day. A respite of mercy, prelude to a night of cat mania.

    There are two snow whites, brother and sister, who drifted in here eight years apart, after each having survived years of cruel street abandonment. Curious how well "wild" adapts to "tame", given a few creature comforts.

    The intense amazing large brilliant hyperactive Siamese, who is about six cats' worth of trouble, yet of course wonderful, is named (by us, anyway, who knows what he may think his name is) Smokey Smokingham. He is, as he would tell you were he able to speak, the lord of the manor, the life of the party, and the permanent high end of the maintenance scale.

  4. Tom,

    The snow white siblings and Smokey Smokingham all sound terrific and very beautiful. Please give them our very fond regards.

    It’s amazing, but it also seems quite natural, that these creatures are all so different as personalities and “stories”.

    Our cats came to us in a variety of ways. After losing U and Santa, who lived great long (never long enough, but who are we to calculate their actual lifespan?) lives, we decided to rescue cats, rather than purchase from breeders.

    So Rose and Pansy, two American Shorthair calicos, came from the North Shore Animal League, a fine “no kill” shelter on Long Island. Both were beautiful kittens who were discarded and consigned to execution in Tennessee (before transfer to North Shore) because their markings didn’t conform to CFA breeding standards. They’re exactly Jane’s age (rather, Rose is; we lost Pansy last year) – 12 ½ -- and it was a great relief and a blessing when we came home from China after adopting Jane (at 12 months) to find that she thought cats were really great. We arrived home in Manhattan, exhausted, and she beamed at them and issued an unambiguously happy sound, thank heaven.

    Next came Felix (short “e” vowel sound because he was named by Brazilians), an enormous male barn cat who’s clearly mostly Maine Coon, who darted into the porch of one of my former colleagues in Queens after being dumped at Christmastime, and then Claude, a white Persian, who was actually really expensive, but Caroline kept seeing him in the window of American Kennels, a fancy pet store at Lexington and 60th, and decided this was an adoption because he was clearly a goner.

    The rest, Tiger Lily, Tige and her kittens Princess Daisy and KingKing, Bunny, Eddie, Eddie Jr. (Junior), Honey, Pinch, Pitch, were all orphans from the storm, and we’re very grateful for them. Some of them, like Tige, Honey and Tiger Lily, remain friendly but shy “downstairs” cats who live (sociably together) in the shadows (at least in the daytime). Others, like Eddie, Bunny and now Princess Daisy, live confidently upstairs all the time. When Jane began making noises for puppies, we acquired (by purchase from a good friend) Andy and Edie, the two miniature longhair dachshunds (smallest of the hounds) because we thought the cats could easily handle them and that proved to be true. All of them and the birds and the fish are what make our lives our lives.

    Jane DID pass her test, which was a big deal. Thanks for your confidence in her. I basically get numb and senseless at these events. The US Figure Skating Association skills tests are set up in a way that no one ever aces them (it’s a highly solemn three judge panel; two of the judges need to pass you in order to score a pass and the place really is set up to look like a thumbs-up/thumbs down chamber of finality) and it’s pretty mature stuff for a 12 year old to handle. But as you clearly understand, it’s a tough sport. Pretty dresses and all that, but it’s blades, falling on ice and a lot of grit mixed with the grace and delicacy. For guys, there are the additional challenges that are probably similar to those that male ballet dancers face. As exercise, it’s clearly phenomenal and on a par with ice hockey (which I was amazed to learn – but probably shouldn’t have been – from Chronicles that Bob Dylan played in Minnesota all the time as a kid).

    My own childhood ice skating adventures were fairly humiliating (because of the ridiculous hat I was made to wear, the phrase “she’ll never learn to skate”, uttered by an instructor to my mother, still echoes in my head during certain bad dreams), so I’m grateful to learn that someone else had a few difficulties.

    I’m truly sorry for your awful weather. I hope things clear up soon. Finally, it's spring here. My Charlotte Mew and John Clare books arrived today, by the way. Thank you so much. I never knew.


  5. Curtis,

    With a heavy downpour cascading through the battered eaves at this moment, one is almost tempted to say it's raining cats and dogs. But no, cats and dogs would be better.

    In respect to which, I can only say that if everyone on earth had the sense of family as open invitation that so beautifully prevails in your household, there would be far fewer lonely creatures on this planet.

    Your sense of welcoming and hospitality comes close to what one would recognize as an ultimate high human ideal.

    Reminds me of my own good fortune tonight when, caught at the Fertile Grounds Cafe in the very heavy rain, with some distance to hobble homewards, I was offered a ride by a very pleasant and generous young mechanical engineering student named Tadek, whose name in Arabic means alternately "North Star" and "One Who Knocks on Doors".

    This generosity and kindness toward strangers I found to be deeply ingrained in Islamic custom long ago, when as a young footloose fool I was wandering in North Africa and found many humble doors opened to me.

    But I don't think any particular faith or belief system has a patent on generosity and welcoming. Just ask that tremendous pack of living creatures who have found friends among Friends, with you and Caroline.

    Your cat list almost prompts me to offer our own, but that could go on forever, and such recollection inevitably shadows the memory with endings and losses, never the best part of lives to be remembered. Some time ago we decided to never again allow an animal who has lived with us to wind up as land fill, and began to insist on bringing home the "remains" after each last melancholy vet trip. So out there in the mud of the scruffy little yard, under the dwindled old plum tree, lie an entire company of departed friends. I often ponder a future in which they are dug up and disposed of by future dwellers. One of an increasing list of inevitable eventualities which come under the heading of that which cannot be controlled.

    My best as ever to you and Caroline and Jane and all those furred and feathered ones, anyhow, meow,