Sunday, May 31, 2009
TarBaby was given to me by his mother when he was two weeks old. She had taken up here in an ice storm when we had two inches of ice on the ground for two weeks. Evidently a feral cat lost in the world of ice where guiding scents are sealed under it. She was a mottled calico that some call tortoise shell. I think of it as calico that's been through a blender. She was afraid and cried under the house. I took food to her and water, because all the water was frozen. She continued to stay and I continued to feed her. It was a month before she let me touch her.
TarBaby and the other two kittens opened their eyes the day their mother ran under a car entrusting them to me. I put the babies in a paper bag and went to the vet for examination and some counsel on how to care for them. I bought some formula for kittens and was instructed on what to do. DeBord told me they wouldn't live. I knew they would, but thought I'd keep it to myself. Didn't have any proof. Just knew it. I knew they needed mother love as much as they needed food. I turned on mother love and they just had their thirteenth birthday last mother's day. I don't remember their birthday by the date it was that year, only that it was mother's day.
TarBaby is the gelding male. I don't know if there could be a better pet than a neutered Tom. The other two are girls. Caterpillar and Tapo. I knew them when they were like one soul with three bodies. Caterpillar was the nurturer. She is good example of a Maine Coon, not genetically, but she's full Maine Coon in the body. She was the one that kept the other two clean as the mother would. In fact, Caterpillar got to where she liked it so much she made herself a bit woozy for awhile from eating so much of it. And she'd lick the other two until it hurt. I wondered if I'd got the Marquis de Sade reborn as a cat.
They started growing up and individuating along the way, hissing when one came too close or looked a certain way, 'Don't you look at me like that. I know what you're thinking!' The dominance competitions came along about the time they would be the equivalent of teenager. Fighting, positioning. I can beat you up, so you better not look at me. It was a year or two of the occasional scuffle when especially TarBaby and Tapo, also black, rolled around on the floor looking like an erratic bowling ball with a life of its own rolling around sounding like a catfight.
TarBaby and Caterpillar turned out to be about a draw in the fighting contests. But Caterpillar had what I think of as more automatic behavior than TarBaby and Tapo. When TarBaby and Tapo fought, it was understood it was play and they're not looking to hurt each other. They also have a different definition for hurt than you and I do. Ten claws in our backs and needle teeth biting, we think it hurts. That's just play for a cat. When they get down to hurting each other, they know how to make it really hurt.
TarBaby and Tapo tended to go into a fight a little bit at a time and seldom get as far as all out. Caterpillar started at all out. When Caterpillar pounced on one of them, it was on and it was all out. Caterpillar has thicker hide, about like a groundhog's, and TarBaby and Tapo have pink skin under the hair. Her hair is densely matted so their claws don't penetrate so deep into her hide. Their hair is so short her claws can have full effect. When Caterpillar started fighting, the other two were all out engaged in trying to get away from her. All the time they fight her, they're twisting and squirming, giving it everything they've got trying to get loose from her and fight at the same time.
TarBaby can handle his own with Caterpillar, but it's a serious effort because Caterpillar is heavy, fast and goes into another zone when she's fighting, such that she isn't consciously aware of what she's doing, fighting on intuition all the way, a pure martial artist. TarBaby is her match, but she's got that crazy edge he doesn't like to provoke. When he gets into it with Tapo, the leastun, they just roll around on the floor a bit and howl like Jackie Chan and Jet Li in a Hong Kong kung fu thriller. But if you pass Caterpillar and you touch her, or move just a little too fast, next thing you're doing is trying with everything you've got to get out from under this crazy cat that has completely gone off the deep end and is all out working you over like egg beaters.
So Caterpillar rules. In their advanced years TarBaby is the more athletic of them. He's trim and can still jump like a squirrel. He's been able to kick Caterpillar butt for several years now, but still doesn't mess with her. It's just too much of a workout, because Caterpillar doesn't quit. She has the meanest look too when they stare each other down. She'll stare TarBaby or Tapo straight in the eye like a bull looking at a dog saying through the eyes, I'm gonna make hamburger out of your ass. She rules with her eyes now. When Caterpillar says, 'Don't you look at me,' she means it.
TarBaby is the adventurer. He explores. He will run up a tree and walk around in its upper branches just to look around from up there and see what it's like. Once I saw him jump from one tree to another. He walked out as far on the limb as would bear his weight and jumped 5 to 8 feet and landed on the branch of the next tree like landing on a tightrope. I've seen squirrels do that, but they have 4 hands to grab the branch with. TarBaby's feet can't grasp. He's a four-legged tightrope walker up there. I think he was a monkey in his last lifetime.
TarBaby likes to walk with me like a dog. All the time the cats were young the dog Aster lived here. She was never a playmate, but she was their friend and taught them to stay out of the road when they were first walking. She was able to teach them much their mother couldn't teach them.
To TarBaby, Aster and I were the big ones. Caterpillar, Tapo and TarBaby were the little ones. He wanted to be one of the big ones from the time he could first walk. Aster died around 6 years ago and TarBaby has been a big one ever since. He took Aster's role as the protector. He can't keep dogs away, but he sure can keep cats away, and snakes and mice and all the other varmints that go with living in the country. TarBaby and I have a close telepathic understanding. We're the big ones. We keep the territory safe for the girls.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Friday, May 29, 2009
air bellows art museum #1
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Perhaps the most beautifully written and most sorrowful reading of my life: WOLF TOTEM by Jiang Rong. His sentences are so visual you see what he writes. Not that they're descriptive. It's what you see. Everything that happens in the story you see. It's visual all the way through. It's almost like seeing a PBS documentary on the Mongolian wolf and nomad Mongols of the grasslands of eastern Inner Mongolia. But it goes way deeper than a camera can tell.
A Chinese graduate of Beijing University is sent to work with nomads in Inner Mongolia to help out herding sheep. The one writing the story is the one who lived it. He gives himself another name and writes in third person. After being there a month or so, able to ride a horse by this time, he rides to the nearest town to go to the hardware store. The older Mongol man with him had to stay overnight for a meeting next day. He sent the boy, early twenties, on back with the supplies he'd bought. He switched horses with him, giving the inexperienced Han a horse that knew its way around. He told the boy to take the road all the way back. It will pass through several villages and the threat of wolves would be minimal. He emphasized not to take a shortcut.
Naturally, he took a shortcut and in a short time came over a little rise and found himself about fifty feet from forty or more wolves. Big Mongolian wolves he described as twice the size of the ones he saw in the Beijing zoo. He said he was so afraid it felt like his soul left his body. Every eye was watching him. The horse was a nervous wreck, because it knew they were in trouble. But the horse walked slowly and he sat still. The wolves watched them walk by. The old man told him later they were having a conference, the alpha male laying out the strategy for possibly an attack on a herd of gazelles. He told the boy if they hadn't been busy, he'd have been wolf food that day.
The boy becomes fascinated by wolves, wants to learn all about them. As he learns, he shares with the reader what he learns, and I learned about as much about the Mongolian wolf as can be known by a human. They are extraordinary beings. The Mongol nomads kept a balance with the wolves. They considered the wolves, knew their ways, shared with the wolves. When someone died, the corpse would be taken to a mountain where they take their dead for the wolves to eat them. The wolf was the totem of the Mongol people. Being eaten by wolves after dying guaranteed entry to heaven.
Their religion was much like Tibetan Buddhism. Through the course of the tale, he tells about the people he learns to hunt with, the different individuals, the people he lives among, their culture, nomads with a tradition that goes back past the time of Genghis Khan, who lived in the latter part of the 12th century. Not much had changed there since then.
The boy learned a great deal that he passes to the reader in scenes that are breathtaking in their beauty and ferocity. Like the time a pack of 50 or more wolves attacked a herd of 600 or so horses in a white-out blizzard driving them to a nearby lake and into a place where the horses would get stuck in the mud. The wolves took the entire herd.
The boy wanted to catch a wolf pup and raise it. He believed he could learn more about wolves by raising one. Attempting to raise the pup against the old man's warnings, against tradition, the old man told him, "Wolves are not dogs. Dogs eat our shit. Wolves eat us." It wasn't long before he was in over his head. The puppy did have affection for him, because he was kidnapped before his eyes were open. But he knew the wolf could never have the wolf trained out of it. The dogs were wary of it and afraid of it, wanting to kill it. The herders wanted to kill it. But he continued. He learned that the characteristics of wolf are born into them and their wolfness comes from so deep a place within it could never be reached from outside.
Toward the end I read less and less at a time, wanting to make it last as long as possible. 525 pages was like nothing. Yesterday morning I sat with the last 40 pages. Tears ran down my face throughout the last 30 pages. It took my heart and ripped it into tiny pieces like tearing up a note you don't want anybody to be able to fit back together.
All the way along, the Chinese are moving in. They're taking the grasslands to turn the land into farms to make more room for their overflowing population. First step was to exterminate the wolves. He finally had to kill his wolf at less than a year old because it could not go on living on a chain and nearly killed itself trying to get loose. That was hard to bear for a lot of reasons. Several years later he and the friend who raised the wolf with him, the one a lawyer and the writer a social worker, took vacation and went back to the place to see it again. As the old man had predicted, get rid of the wolves and desert will follow.
Wolves eat mice--mice eat grass. Wolves eat marmots--marmots eat grass. When the wolves were gone, the grass was consumed by the varmints and over a course of about 20 years the once lush grasslands were desert. We see before our eyes an ecological disaster in one part of the world created by one decision made in ignorance. The people had changed. Many had moved to the city. Many were drunks. No more horses. The buzz of motorcycles. A world they had known to be beautiful cast them into sorrow by what they saw. All of it was gone from the earth. Sand. Mongol nomad culture that went back over a thousand years ended. The wolves were extinct.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Monday, May 25, 2009
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Everywhere we go in our county beautiful sights make whatever drive we're taking easier. In fact, going out for a drive is a form of entertainment. Between my house and Sparta are three stopsigns. It's a fifteen minute drive. A drive to Independence is 30 minutes, to Jefferson is 30 minutes. It's about 3o minutes to all the towns around us. Four stopsigns between the house and Jefferson.
In a city, anyplace you want to go is at least 30 minutes of driving in what I think of as a bit of hell on earth. Start and stop. Start and stop. Like on a computer, click and wait, click and wait. We Americans like cars with 140 on the speedometer, something that will go like a race car. For what? In cities the foot is on the brake pedal as much as the gas pedal. Get caught for going over 80 or so you lose your license and insurance goes way up for life.
To make a Chevrolet Suburban any bigger will require making it an 18-wheeler.
A documentary is available at the local video store and netflix called Who Killed The Electric Car? GM made a good one in 1991, the people who drove it loved it. Then GM recalled all of them, a few hundred, and shipped them to a desert zone in Colorado where they were literally shredded like paper. GM has what it takes to make a good electric car that the people who drive it love. I doubt it would lay rubber for half a mile, but it drove very well. It was quiet and clean. No grease, oil and gom. Clean as a computer.
All the time we live with hope that the future will be better. This long transition we're going through is learning about electricity as we go, finding it more and more complex. It's taking us into a 50's jingle, 'better living electrically.' Look at all the changes since we used horses and wagons, carried water in buckets from the spring and were afraid of the dark. The dark doesn't challenge us any more. We have a telescope in orbit that takes flawless pictures of galaxies far far away.
The old way of riding a horse or a buggy, horse manure the constant smell of the air has changed. Now the air has an oil base. And that's the problem. We've come to the end of how much poison the inhabitants of the earth can tolerate before dying of system breakdowns. The rate of species extinctions is astounding and nobody cares. The ones that allow themselves to care live frustrated lives and get laughed at and humiliated like school nerds. Through the Detroit hearings I couldn't help but think, if you're not going to make electric cars, close down now. It's like Godzilla is coming. Let's get outta here.
Then I get out on the road to go someplace and everywhere I look is gorgeous. The trees have all filled out in green. They're beautiful when they're bare too, but lush green like they are now is the ultimate. From Twin Oaks to the river the locusts are in full flower. Black cattle on expansive green meadow and the last of the beautiful old barns out there in the field.
My mind tends not to be tormented by concern for situations I can't help when I'm driving in or walking in the landscape just about any place in our county. We have countryside that is soothing to the soul. That's why we live here and that's why we love it. That old mental stuff about oil and war fades to vapor and drifts away by the time I reach the first stop sign.
Driving down the Gap Civil turnpike this land pictured above has always been a joy to my eyes. Whatever is happening in that spread of land is beautiful in the bigger landscape. Since the hay got mowed green and wrapped in plastic for pickling, a dairy farmer making silage, I've been so struck with this bit of landscape I had to stop today to get a picture for you. When I see a scene like above, all is right with the world, even when they're talking about children and landmines on the news.
Friday, May 22, 2009
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Monday, May 18, 2009
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Saturday, May 16, 2009
Friday, May 15, 2009
Thursday, May 14, 2009
She's from Whitehead, born Jordan, and has been through a list of learning experiences that broadened her horizon and made her comfortable in her self. Tina is one of them mountain girls that doesn't care if you don't like what she looks like, says, thinks or whatever. She's who she is and all the rest of it can take a walk. Which is to say she's nobody's fool, unless she wants to be.
Monica was a brilliant and beautiful child from the day she was born. She already has her mother's independent spirit. And just entering her teens. At age of nine Monica discovered the guitar. From the start she had it. A year after she started learning with the JAM program at the school she was sitting in at the Crouse House on Monday nights playing bluegrass with the big dogs. At ten and a half she recorded a cd with a band of Galax musicians behind her playing lead guitar. Billy Hawks, fiddle, Kyle Dean Smith, banjo.
The older musicians recognize the talent in Monica and encourage her learning the music, which is a lifetime project. Tina told me she won a Wayne Henderson scholarship to a guitar workshop this summer for
people her age. She plays at fiddlers conventions and wins ribbons. In the music world it seems like doors open when they see Monica approaching.
When you call Home Town Fuel it's Tina answering the phone. When you go in the door, she's the one sitting at the desk with the computer. Tina is not one to just stare at you or act like she didn't notice you came through the door, too busy playing poker with somebody in Brazil. She's easy to get along with and full of light spirit. Monica too.