The Stories We Tell Ourselves

DSCF4452As a reader, I go on historic-biographic benders, becoming fascinated by a specific person or period of time, and then reading everything I can find to round out the picture. The perspectives can be in utter opposition, depending on each different author’s point of view and proximity to the subject. I especially enjoy when a new discovery or the passage of time leads to a revised outlook and therefore, another series of books that will enlarge my own understanding of someone or some event.

DSCF4462Storytelling, of course, occurs every time we put pen to paper, sit at a computer, pick up our phone, open our mouth or engage in thought. We tell ourselves and others stories about ourselves, our families, our countries, our gods, and the infinite and infinitesimal events that have shaped us. They tell us theirs. Often, we are the heroines of our tales; we are the wronged, the misunderstood, the courageous, and occasionally the foolish leading characters, but I’ve encountered people who seemed largely absent from their stories as well, giving the stage over to their parents, or teachers, or voices unidentified yet dominant in their story.

DSCF4575We tell ourselves stories about other people, too, trying to understand their behavior and choices, or trying to justify our own.

Given his scientific bent and inbred humility, my husband’s stories are not nearly as fanciful as my own. In the absence of data, he seeks to discover it; I leap to fantastical explanations, to keep the story exciting and moving along. I give you this recent occurrence as an example.

DSCF4626Friday marked the first day of spring, and so a friend and I thought we should meet to celebrate this fact with wine and a meal and a good long visit.

I decided to wear pants long enough to make me feel taller than I am (or, as tall as I am in my stories) and needed to wear my favorite pair of Eastland leather clogs—the ones with the two-inch heels—to accomplish this. I reached for the pair and discovered only one.

I searched the closet floor, and then another closet’s floor. I looked under the bed and in the other rooms of the house, which, as a neat-freak-hyper-orderly type, began to make me feel frustrated. I always place my shoes on a given shelf, beside each other. The 4-leggeds have never shown the interest in footwear commonly ascribed to their breeds. There are only two humans living in our home…where, on earth, had my shoe gone? Back to the closets.

No partner to the lonely clog.

And then it dawned on me. I had read an article about Birkenstock shoes in The New Yorker this past week. Although ugly, they have remained popular because of the utter comfort they offer the feet lucky enough to wear them. The brand has even become fashionable, for some. I have always wanted a pair, but they are pricey, and I am “prudent.” (That’s my story. Others might say, “parsimonious.” Or “a tight-fisted, penny-pinching miser.”)

But Phillip, along with being logical and humble, is also loving and romantic, so I quickly concluded that he had also read the article and wanted to surprise me with a pair, but had required one of my shoes to check the size. This conclusion, of course, was based on no evidence, but it explained the mystery of the missing shoe and created a pleasing story.

However, even given my impressive ability to suspend disbelief, the story felt a tad implausible. I called Phillip at work to check it out, but sought to gently tease out the truth I’d already surmised. Picture him in a classroom surrounded by adolescents eager for the school day to end.

“Hello?” (High school noises in background.)

“Hi, honey…Have you by any chance seen one of my black clogs?”

“What?”

I pretended to be innocent of his plan to surprise me with Birkenstocks. “Would you happen to have taken one of them? For any reason?”

(No response. Long pause. Then laughter.) “Do I have one of your clogs?  Um, no.”

“I’ve looked all over the house and it’s nowhere to be found, so I was just wondering…” Here is where he should have broken down and admitted he had planned a lovely surprise for me. But no. Nada. Zip. I faltered. My story began to dissolve. There were no Birkenstocks winging their way to me from Germany, or wherever they’re made. I offered a false laugh of my own. “Well, I better get going. See you later.”

He continued laughing. “Yup. Have a good time with Heidi.”

I pulled on some boots with heels and walked down to the basement to check once more for my clog, switch the laundry to the dryer, and get on my way before I became late. Being on time is part of my story, too.

Nope. No clog with the various sneakers and boots in the basement.

I pulled the last bit of damp clothing out of the washer and there was my clog. It had, apparently, fallen from the shoe shelf into the laundry basket and been washed and spun to almost-dry. I brought it upstairs, stretching it back into a shape approximating that of my foot, impressed by the shoe’s ability to withstand a wash cycle. I set it next to its partner, imagining their joy at being reunited.

I met my friend at the pub and told her the story, and we had a great laugh and lovely evening.

When I came home, I told Phillip the rest of the story as well, even, sheepishly, the part about my expectation of Birkenstocks. He followed me into the bedroom and laughed while I changed into my comfy clothes. And pulled on the almost-dry clog to help it again reacquaint itself with my foot.

And then I saw the bouquet of a dozen pink tulips on my desk.

DSCF4640The first day of spring! My beloved always gives me a bouquet to celebrate the equinox! I hobbled across the room and hugged him to bits and pieces.

Sometimes the stories we tell ourselves aren’t nearly as wonderful as what’s actually happening now, right before our eyes. That’s my story, anyway, and I’m sticking to it.

DSCF4649P.S.: Today I noticed this mysterious hole in the riverbed. Phillip says it’s a tire or a tire rim, but I’m thinking it’s probably a portal to another universe…yeah, that’s it.

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© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without Catherine O’Meara’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors.

Joyfully Wrinkled

unnamed (1)Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.  ~ Mother Teresa

We receive a weekly magazine that rounds up the news of the world, condenses it, offers helpful graphics, and adds a collection of art, film, restaurant and book reviews in a reasonably tidy and fairly impartial fashion. On one page, in a sidebar, it offers a few tidbits from tabloids, I think in an effort to leaven all the “serious” updates reminding us that the world is dark and dangerous.

A couple of weeks ago, there was a paragraph about a British woman, now 50, who has avoided smiling “for the last 40 years…to ward off wrinkles.” She says she didn’t smile when her child was born, nor at family celebrations or gatherings with friends, insisting her lack of facial wrinkles has made these efforts worthwhile.

I guess this silliness, which I might otherwise have dismissed with a laugh (deepening my own considerable wrinkles), has lingered in my thoughts because it’s reminded me how many times smiles have made a difference in my life.

DSCF6412Like many women my age, I’ve spent a lot of time and energy offering care to dependent, or dying members of my various tribes, those chosen and inherited, and I’m so grateful for the times a smile has saved my spirit, utterly.

It’s hard to believe in a world where people insist everything costs something, but a smile has more potential power to change a life than few things, if any thing, money can buy. I know this was true for my mother, during all the long years she cared for my father following his stroke. She would tell me story after story of the kindnesses friends and strangers had offered that brightened her days, which could be very dark indeed. And when a nurse, or doctor, or insurance adjuster or gas station attendant–whoever intersected her hectic, often harrowing days—shared a smile, it seemed to ease her burdens so profoundly that she’d “save” these stories to tell me when I visited her.

013Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.  ~ Thích Nhất Hạnh

And there are so very many times each day that my family, friends, 4-leggeds, students, observations, memories, and views from the window or along the trail invite my smiles that I can’t imagine holding back the impulse in order to prevent wrinkles. Smiling makes me happy, as Thích Nhất Hạnh says, or perhaps makes me appreciate more deeply all the sources of joy that exist here and now in my life.

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DSCF3582Keeping vigils at a hospital bedsides, feeling overwrought with worries, enduring losses, suffering harsh treatment by someone for something…we all have moments when a passing smile would ease our hearts. We walk and drive by people every day in need of our smiles. And so often, it seems, our own concerns prevent us from making the effort to offer this gift, which can relieve our own miseries as well. If only for a moment, a smile offers breathing space to both giver and receiver.

2.26.11 002It reminds me of Jacob Marley’s despair, when he realizes, too late, the differences he could have made in the lives surrounding and connected to his own:

 “It is required of every man,” the Ghost returned, “that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellowmen, and travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death. It is doomed to wander through the world — oh, woe is me! — and witness what it cannot share, but might have shared on earth, and turned to happiness… Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

Late August to late September 09 026So the unsmiling, unwrinkled woman will, I guess, look very beautiful when she dies, appearing years younger than she actually is, but how sad that no one will recall how her smile brightened their day, changed their lives, or lifted their spirits.

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Let us go forth and smile, joyfully wrinkled and wrinkled by joy!

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© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without Catherine O’Meara’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors.

Heat Wave

hummingbird, cardinal, lightning bugs 028It ain’t the heat; it’s the humility.  ~ Yogi Berra

Almost two weeks of hellishly high temperatures, thunderstorms, and the resulting steamy atmosphere have made the world around Full Moon Cottage a sauna. A Finnish winter in reverse. We dash outside to sear our lungs and open every pore, then run back inside to chill ourselves silly.

Nonetheless, despite sketchy weeding and deadheading missions conducted in haste while smothered in mosquito repellant, I seem to have kept the gardens happy. And at dusk, cloaked in conditioned air and holding glasses of chilled wine, we’ve enjoyed the seasonal spectacle of fireflies flitting about, seeking romance and union.

hummingbird, cardinal, lightning bugs 042Every morning, I refill the birdbaths with fresh cold water, check the many feeders, and make sure all of our summer guests are tended. A kind friend sent me a wren house her husband built and we now have house wrens serenading us with their aggressively happy chirping.

hummingbird, cardinal, lightning bugs 011Nights have been less pastorally soothing. Thunder and lightning have rumbled and crackled through most of the last week’s dreamtime. I can tell by the dark circles under our eyes that both of us need a long, quiet night. It looks like that may happen sometime between Sunday and Tuesday, when a dry, temperate spell is forecast.

hummingbird, cardinal, lightning bugs 006No complaints. The rain has been welcome and the high river allows for canoe rides to continue. Other parts of our state have been flooded, and for many farmers, hopes pinned to a planting season and eventual harvest have vanished. Last year these were lost to drought and this year to flooding, a vivid reminder that we are still tethered to our climate and its health for our sustenance.

hummingbird, cardinal, lightning bugs 001Well, almost no complaints.

The chiggers that plagued my gardening for several summers disappeared completely during last summer’s drought, I expect from lack of food and moisture. I am made, utterly, of smells and tastes most delicious to mites; they’d completely ignore Phillip if he were lying nude in the garden and I stood beside him covered in armor. They’d head straight for the chinks in my metal and pierce my flesh with their nasty stylostomes, injecting enzymes that melt my cell structure into chigger malts. I’d hoped that between the drought and our lovely cold winter they’d disappeared for good, but discovered this morning that they’ve not only survived but are thriving…the confident human gardener, smug in her knowledge of where to dig and what to plant and how to improve the landscape, bustles outside to rearrange and redesign the earth surrounding her home and returns covered in itchy red welts, brought low by a voracious and nearly invisible mite.

Yogi Berra was right: It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility!

hummingbird, cardinal, lightning bugs 013

 

© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without Catherine O’Meara’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors.

The Fine Art of Cat-Napping

Guest Author: Finnegan the Cat

Finny 010Hello again, dear reader. The human who calls herself my mother has dashed out once more to weed and mulch gardens between our current, intermittent thunderstorms. While I do not know precisely what these tasks entail or why they must be accomplished, I have seized upon her frenzied behavior as a welcome opportunity to once again share my wisdom with you.

This time, I do not address fellow felines, but seek to widen my ever-increasing circle of devotees by directly addressing humans and instructing you, from my superior vantage point as a rightly-adored member of the species felis silvestris catus, in the fine art of napping, something we cats know about and practice deeply and intensely.

My thinking has undergone brilliant revision: Earlier, I sought to aid my colleagues in the training of their humans (https://thedailyround.wordpress.com/2012/10/12/the-training-of-humans-by-finnegan-the-cat/), but hundreds of e-mails from eager students have informed me that their humans are so exhausted and ill-tempered that education and improvement pose challenges even the most diligent feline cannot surmount.

I deduce this to be due to humans’ lack of sleep, observing as I have that it is both a pleasure and spiritual practice you largely avoid. Thus, if I can successfully remedy your need and capacity for sleep, your training as better servants to cats everywhere can resume.

Using my siblings—and, of course, myself—as models, I will illustrate approaches to restorative slumber that you may not have previously considered or attempted. While some human scientists encourage napping as a method for recuperating one’s mind, body, and spirit, I instead encourage you to consider it as an art form, and the highest calling one might pursue, for true Art, in itself, is rejuvenating.

And, please, banish ideas of “power-napping” and other such obscenities from your vocabulary and mind. These are euphemisms used by “success-oriented and managerial” types to suggest a nap is something accomplished quickly and with the utmost strain, in order to achieve the most beneficial results regarding your increased productivity. (Their gain, your loss; such is capitalism, my friends, and believe me, you derive no nap-like benefits from buying into its tireless resolve to suck your body and soul dry…but I digress.)

I will return to my political ideologies in another post, but, for now, I must again emphasize that you eradicate such filthy terms and faux practices as “power-napping” from your mind and life. Instead, I would submit that the neophyte napper must accept that the fine art of napping requires sustained periods of self-accepting but resolute practice, resulting, one hopes, in up to 16, perhaps (I can dream) 20 hours of sleep every day.

Behold: a photograph of my mother “napping” in an automobile many years ago, captured by my father, who may have better used his time focusing on the road before him.

Kitty napping 001While I would hardly recommend a moving vehicle as the most welcoming spot to pursue one’s naps, we shall see that location is best designated through personal preference. At this time, mother’s method, as you can plainly see, lacked delicacy and the controlled “athlete in repose” image one aims to achieve. Still, for a beginner, there were aspects of her approach that might have encouraged a professional tutor of my distinction, but, sadly, her apparent need for a drool cup–an unfortunate lapse in mother’s style and form that continues to this day–made problematic the likelihood she would ever attain a true mastery level in her napping, a forecast many (many) years have proven true. Study and learn from this, dear reader.

Here, then, a Beginner’s Guide to Napping, today covering the basics of location, form, and duration.

Location: Sun-puddles are the finest places for napping, wherever they are found. Rugs, window seats, boxes, sinks, commercial cat-beds (if one must), and, of course, human beds are recommended, but please explore your unique napping preferences and be willing to experiment. One of my favorite places to nap is atop the clothing and blanket dryer when it is running full throttle, and Murphy (although I cannot recommend the general sloppiness of his postures, save for Pose #3; see following) often naps high above the living room, on top of the TV cabinet.

Cat Naps, Gardens, New Bridge, and River Flowing Upstream 036

Cat Naps, Gardens, New Bridge, and River Flowing Upstream 034I would caution you to refrain from napping anywhere in the kitchen, especially on a counter or tabletop, as our mother (if her acknowledged odd behavior can be extrapolated to other humans) pitches a royal hissy fit when we dare to attempt this. I have responded with my keenest “Calm yourself, woman” glare to no avail, so have abandoned this location as acceptable. For now. (As I have referenced, she is aged and I will likely outlast her.) You may have better luck with your family members, or may live alone, so I say have at it, if your kitchen counter is calling.

Posture: This is where the true artist emerges. The first position I would suggest is the casual magnificence demonstrated here, by moi, in the Crossed Paws Pose. Note the peaceful maintenance of the head’s position.

End of April to May 2 oriole, grosbeak, gardens mourning dove ne 014Alternately, but with greater practice, for it is much more advanced, one may hold the head just so, at a jaunty angle.

End of April to May 2 oriole, grosbeak, gardens mourning dove ne 021As you progress in your art, you may attempt the following: Moving from position one, above, a yawn (still napping, of course) is executed, and then one drops, almost imperceptibly, to the “Perfectly Prone” position. A trifecta of nappage postures, as it were. Do not try this too soon in your learning; you are bound to be discouraged when you fail.

End of April to May 2 oriole, grosbeak, gardens mourning dove ne 016

End of April to May 2 oriole, grosbeak, gardens mourning dove ne 012Sometimes examples that demonstrate the antithesis of a lesson best teach:

Cat Naps, Gardens, New Bridge, and River Flowing Upstream 050
No.
And no.
And no.

Sadly, and once more, no.

Sadly, and once more, no.

Another pose to master is to rest on one’s ventral side, casually, the One Paw Extended Pose. (Casual to the beholder, of course; one’s focus must be riveted.) You can see my attempts to teach Murphy (a.k.a., “The Ham”) are ruined by his relentless inability to focus on anything but the camera.

DSCF0015The third pose, however, resting one’s head like an infant upon one’s forward, sweetly-curled paws, The Neonate Pose, is one of Murphy’s specialties. It makes adult humans say, “Oh, how cute! How precious! How darling!” If one goes in for that sort of childish thing, this pose may be your favorite.

DSCF0013The fourth and most challenging “solo” position is to execute a perfect circle of contentment, as I am doing here, in the aptly named Circle of Contentment Pose.

Cat Naps 003This cannot be forced, but rather demands elegance, the perfect coiling of the tail completing the circle, the head resting on all 4 paws…Mulligan comes close; when he is not licking himself, he can be a most surprising student in mastering what would seem far beyond his troubling intellect.

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Sadly, the new sibling, Fergus, falls far short of the circle pose, but we are practicing diligently and daily.

Several weeks ago.
Several weeks ago.
Today. Sigh. I persevere.
Today. Sigh. I persevere.

Lastly, I would say a supreme pinnacle, a “mountaintop” you may want to hold in your napping dreams, is the Happy Family Nap Pose, which, as is plainly apparent in this photograph, my siblings cannot yet grasp. Here, I am almost at wit’s end trying to elicit cooperation in this most strenuous of poses. As you can see, Murphy has positioned himself far too closely to my posterior and then immediately fallen asleep. Synchronized sleeping is key in the HFP. Fiona and Mulligan are clearly seen to be out of alignment; in addition, Fiona is looking scornfully at the camera, while, again, Mulligan’s fascination with licking himself has robbed him of focus entirely.

catz on bed 5.16.12 010Finally, I must address the duration of napping that a true artist would demonstrate. To aspire towards anything less than 10 hours would reveal one’s permanently amateur status. Begin, I caution, with the stated 10, and build up your endurance to the Mastery Level of 16 hours, and then 20 hours (the latter conferring the status of Supreme Master). I humbly admit I have achieved this level, and seek to guide my siblings towards similar perfection. Mulligan, if I can deter the licking, may do well. Fiona seems to be developing her own system of napping. We shall see: these secondary schools of form and content are so often drenched in inferiority; for example, consider Pantanjali and then Iyengar, if you catch my drift. The mind quickly turns from such blatant perversion. Perhaps Young Fergus, if he can vastly improve his form, may be most likely to succeed as the next Master, but he has years of practice ahead of him.

As do you, dear reader, so get to it. 

April 22 2013 snow, sun, early spring gardens, high water 002

 

© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without Catherine O’Meara’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors.

 

There’s Irony for You

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Year ago, I was teaching my 6th graders various literary terms and concepts, and asked them to incorporate some of these into a short written piece. One of the boys created a story about prisoners in Alcatraz painstakingly plotting their escape. One, “Pierre,” had dreams of tap dancing. When they finally broke out and swam towards freedom, a shark sidled up and devoured Pierre’s legs. The story ended with the line, “There’s irony for you.”

February has been so watery and pale that on many days the horizon has eerily disappeared. The snow and ice-covered land has seemed to dissolve into a sky emptied of color, as though some cosmic vampire has sucked all the earth of its blood. Even the birds evidence their ennui. The shortest month has become the longest

Snow, Murphy, House, Birds 053 - CopyFebruary has become Life as a Swedish Movie. Everyone moves about in his own little sphere of tortured suffering: Hand to forehead; deep sighs; endless gazes into the distance; depressing non-sequiturs about spoiled grain, virgin springs, strawberries and dying butterflies exchanged without eye contact. Everything black, white, somber and funereal. If Max Von Sydow entered the room and ignored me, it would seem entirely predictable.

I headed out for an eye appointment yesterday afternoon and my little VW Bug slid and ricocheted off the icy rims of the endless-as-February driveway, heedless of my efforts to steer. I began to doubt reaching the road in one piece was a likely goal. I was navigating some nightmare carnival ride and damn near gave up to plod back to the safety of the house and resume gazing out the window and sighing.

But I forbore, steadfast in my determination to give myself a change of scene.

But the scene changed not. Except that the endless hills of white and gray gave way to the dirty puddled streets and buildings, and cars corroding from layers of salt.

I entered the optometrist’s office and my own forced smile was met by the receptionist’s frozen grimace; brittle attempts at dialogue were made, briefly, before we lapsed into silence. I may have choked on a sob or two.

Across the street, I saw a woman half-heartedly try to talk a man down from a window ledge. It was only a foot or two above the street, but I understood his despair.

I was summoned to the back room for my eye exam, conducted in mutual and muted grunts, varied only by long sighs. I looked at the gray carpet and thanked my doctor, who stared at the white wall and muttered that death is our ever-present companion.

But then, as I reached for my coat, and scarf, and sweater, and mittens, and hat, and boots, a strange light filled the sky. I looked out in wonder. Shadows, colors, and the illusion of warmth magically swept across the cityscape. Pedestrians ceased plodding and their steps became buoyant. I heard music. I turned and smiled towards the receptionist and she smiled towards me. Light bounced back and forth between the lenses in our glasses and we laughed and spoke of gardens.

Garden End of May Early June 2010 004Across the street, the desperate man leapt down from the ledge and executed a complicated but nonetheless merry Swedish folk dance. Melting snow fell from the roof of the building, covering all but his feather-tufted Tyrolean hat.

snow, February 040There’s irony for you.

snow, February 003Sunshine and Happy Valentine’s Day to you!

 

© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without Catherine O’Meara’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors.

Something Wicked

I love the celebration of Halloween: the decorations, the pumpkin-carving, the bonfires, the masks and costumes, the trick-or-treating and the ghost stories. If you visit Full Moon Cottage any time after Labor Day, you know it’s the home of someone almost crazed about Halloween. Luckily, my good-natured husband encourages, or at least welcomes this. Cats, pumpkins, witches and ghosts…they’re everywhere!

To understand, you need to know about the Halloween of 1963…

In those days, trick-or-treating was an after-dark celebration, walking door-to-door in the neighborhood, accompanied by friends and siblings and, usually, a parent who stood (thankfully) in the shadows, enjoying the spectacle, keeping an eye on us, chatting with friends, and making sure we said, “Thank you.” (The other parent was stationed at home to hand out candy to other eager trick-or-treaters.)

For weeks, high energy fueled the anticipatory excitement of fantasizing about our costumes, planning the trick-or-treat route, speculating about others’ costumes, choosing and addressing cards, and looking forward to the classroom parties. It all culminated on the glorious day of Halloween (not the weekend before or after, but on the very day, October 31st), a day of celebration at school followed by a night of donning our amazing (usually homemade) costumes and going “trick-or-treating,” slowly navigating our way around a few blocks of homes whose windows and porches glowed with lit pumpkins and whose yards featured cornstalks, fabricated ghosts, and goblins. It seemed all the world (circumscribed by those few blocks) agreed that life was enchanted, if only for one day and night every year.

We carried decorated bags handed out at area groceries, bumped into other costumed kids, enjoyed the neighborhood decorations and laughed at the adults who also wore costumes and “scared” us when we came to their doors… Everything about the evening was magical.

When we arrived back home, we dumped our treats on the floor and swapped candy, more cagily than Wall Street traders.

“I’ll give you two Butterfingers for six caramels…”

“No. Two Butterfingers and one Chunky…”

“…For six caramels and a Bun Bar!”

“How about six caramels and a popcorn ball?”

“Is it one of Mrs. Heidke’s popcorn balls?”

“Yes.”

“Deal!”

We were only allowed to have one treat a night thereafter, and tried to be the one whose candy lasted the longest, at least through the second week of Advent.

After trick-or-treating, the neighborhood public school invited everyone into the gym to watch cartoons and a Walt Disney movie, a rare treat in those days. The Halloween celebration was probably all over by 8:30 or 9:00 P.M., but it seemed to last forever. We drifted off to sleep on stardust.

But in 1963, that fateful year when I was eight, a tonsillectomy left me bedridden and unable to participate in all the fun.

The surgery itself was very like a horror movie, so there were Halloween-like elements to the experience. The Dayton Children’s Hospital was at that time an old converted mansion, and I clearly remember my parents exchanging looks that questioned the sanity behind this decision as we crossed the threshold very early on the morning of Friday, October 25th. They quickly rearranged their faces and smiled at me, telling me “what an adventure” this would be, but I was not mollified by their reassurances after glimpsing their initial expressions. Parental energy was never hard to read, and they were anxious and worried.

Within an hour, I was given a mini-hospital gown, even uglier than those offered now, and a shot of something that made me dopey. (Dopier, my brothers would have said.) I remember the smell of ether and some of the hallucination that followed. (It started with the twirling pinwheel from the beginning of every Twilight Zone episode.)

When I came out of the anesthetic, I was assaulted by more pain than I’d ever felt. Apparently, the surgical tool of choice for tonsillectomies in those days was a hacksaw. I also remember the drive home later that day, my mother and I sitting in the back seat so she could hold both me and a coffee can, in case the ether made me ill. I’m pretty sure it did. (I’ve often wondered: did the hospital staff suggest a coffee can? Did they supply it, from a stockroom full of empty coffee cans, hacksaws and ether?)

For the next few days, all was darkness.

Oh, there were bright spots. My grandparents sent me a huge box of books, toys, and candy. My best friend brought me not just my homework, but a present every day for the two weeks I was healing, and an extra-magnificent bag of candy on Halloween. My classmates sent me treats and cards, and my family tended me well…I made a bigger caloric haul than if I’d actually gone out trick-or-treating, and opened more gifts than if it were my birthday, but it didn’t assuage my disappointment in missing out on the fun. And I couldn’t eat the candy, anyway, till my throat healed.

I’d lost Halloween and nothing could replace it.

All that love held me, shone around me, showered upon me, but the disappointment of a child can overshadow everything around her.

My throat eventually healed, and I still had a few great Halloweens to enjoy, but missing my eighth was always recalled as something wicked that came my way.

Many years later, after many lovely blessings and a few and more deeply wicked twists visited my life, I met Phillip. And the fairy-tale I always knew would happen, did.

Once we were settled at Full Moon Cottage, we began shaping our own traditions and I started collecting decorations for the holidays that mark the seasons of the turning year. Frequently, when decorating and celebrating, my inner eight-year old comes out to play, and never more ecstatically than during the Halloween season. Every year, she regains the magic of the Halloween she lost, while the inner wise woman I hope I’m becoming stands back and recalls, in gratitude, all the love that surrounded that eight-year-old and her healing back in 1963.

This year, maybe we should swap candy and watch a Walt Disney movie. In costumes, of course. Good thing I found Mrs. Heidke’s popcorn ball recipe!

 

© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without the author’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors. Thank you, and gentle peace.

The Training of Humans, by Finnegan, the Cat

The human who passes for “my mother” in this absurd and endlessly amusing world is temporarily away from the computer (to which she seems permanently attached these days). She is probably searching the freezer for chocolate remnants; such is her crazed obsession and weakness. Formerly, her power to withhold the delicacies for which I yearned was somewhat stronger, although years of training have resulted in my ability to “guide her” into what I have determined is behavior necessary for my survival and peak mental acuity.

And it is this training of humans I propose to address today. All training, of course, is created with the deliverance of treats and comfort as its endgame and ultimate goal.

I have found, over the course of many years filled with trial and error, that despite their reputations for clumsiness, ineffectual respect for boundaries, and inability to (initially) acknowledge feline superiority, humans can, eventually and with steely perseverance, be trained to follow simple commands and even gain some reliable abilities to serve the cat who can be patient and occasionally indulge his human’s need for affection without, of course, becoming overly familiar or permissive.

Here are just a few techniques I have mastered and I share, to ease your task if faced with breaking-in or training a human. Progress to advanced techniques with great caution; my human, at any rate, forgets our lessons quickly and new tricks must be reinforced repeatedly, for days on end, before the lessons are extended.

To begin: Studied indifference, a cat’s natural inclination, cannot be overstated for its power to guide a human towards subservience. When mine calls, I do not immediately run towards her, like my “siblings” (perish the thought), those two dogs, who–from my educated perspective–are slobbering, mentally bereft beings barely able to form thoughts, let alone string a few together and design a potentially rewarding action. (I weep with mirth at the thought of them actually trying to execute an action with finesse!) But I digress from the intention of this post; to wit: training and maintenance of the human, and the uses of indifference. She calls; I remain seated with my eyes closed. She calls again; perhaps I open one eye before settling more deeply into my comfortable seat, or blanket.

I have learned that if every fifth call is responded to by slowly approaching her, my majesty and superiority clearly apparent, I will gain greater pats, kisses, and treats than if I respond, like an imbalanced fool, to her every attempt to summon my presence. Try this over the course of a few weeks and soon you’ll find that your human’s rightful deference to your feline preeminence will infuse and dominate your exchanges; have no doubt.

Indifference can also be used when one is offered a gift; its purpose being to gain greater gifts and with more pleasing frequency. Thus, when a new and tempting foodstuff or toy is set before me, I sometimes sniff and then seemingly reject it, walking away, until I hear my human’s downcast sigh. I may stroll casually, in calculated and slow circles around a table or room, glancing back only occasionally, before again approaching the delicacy or delight, feigning a lack of desire. I cannot emphasize enough that if you do not practice this and instead pounce upon a proffered treat with naked, joyful hunger, you will lose the upper paw in your training regimen.

If you have younger felines in your household (I, alas, have three) they can be used for more than substitute mice, although certainly this is their chief source of amusement. I have trained the one who seems most appealing visually to beg for food with unremitting, if sickening, cuteness. I learned about this quite by accident, but in my admirable way, seized upon the opportunities it presented. Murphy (also known to our embarrassingly simple humans by the stomach-emptying nickname, “Bunny Bundles”) began to follow me into the bathroom sink during my morning frolic.

I pushed him out. He jumped in again and again, despite my efforts to curb his enthusiasm for bonding with what he called his “big brother,” having understood that our humans’ use of this term implied I was in agreement with its implications regarding our relationship. I was not. But as I pushed him out of the sink yet again, I noticed our actions in the mirror and, like lightning, formed a plan. His next imbecilic leap beside me resulted in an embrace and a lesson, using the mirror, regarding methods for appearing vulnerable and in need of caresses.

It has paid off in spades.

Now, when I desire a caloric boost, I simply poke Murphy and he dutifully jumps up to the human’s desk, or lap, gently pawing or nuzzling, sharing the well-rehearsed innocent, large-eyed expressions our bathroom sessions have helped fashion, and quickly gaining us added visits to the troughs of heaven (as my poetic nature leads me to call them). It seems to be a form of human enchantment; it works so quickly and unerringly. If you lack younger siblings and can endure behaving in a manner so demeaning, I recommend using a mirror and practicing first. The one time I tried it I scared my human, who thought I had taken ill. This was most awkward and unplanned, and the resulting probing and application of thermometers most unpleasant. Thus, and ironically, I am thankful, at least in part, for Murphy’s presence.

My sister, Fiona, has so far not responded to my enticements in regards to training our humans; I believe, as the sole and spoiled female feline, she believes it is an unnecessary bother. One day, I fear she will discover the error of her ways. She cannot hide behind her angelic persona forever.

The last technique I will share today is one I call “blocking.” I am facile with this practice, but have taught the technique to the younger Mulligan, due to his accepted proclivity for obtuseness and my clever use of this in human training strategy.

At my prodding, he will stand in front of the television screen or computer screen, staring vacantly, in that way he has, without menace or purpose. The humans will gently ask him to move. I have trained him to always look to me first. (This required endless hours and I find I am still recovering from the weakened state of total exhaustion that communicating with Mulligan requires, but it has achieved dependable results.) At any rate, I am stationed behind my humans when he does this and signal, with my commanding glare, that he remain in place, blocking their view of whatever idiocy has entranced them. Eventually, one of the humans will remove to the kitchen and fetch treats to lure Mulligan away. And, in their blessedly misguided generosity, if one receives treats, we all do.

As with all my training techniques, it works like a charm.

I have so much more to share and will gladly do so at some future time. I can hear my human approaching and must locate Murphy, to prod him into character, mastering yet again his appealing mendicant posture.

Having a well-trained human in the home makes life purrfect.

 

© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without the author’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors. Thank you, and gentle peace.

A Tall Tale Made Short

I belong to a family of rodents called Sciuridae. We have been dancing through trees, scurrying along the earth, and burying our treasures for millions of years, although my own story might have been all too brief had my wits not saved me. Here is how it happened:

One fine morning I woke, stretched, listened to birdsong, and pondered my possibilities, open to surprises, should they come my way. The days had been long and lovely, and I had no reason to expect this day would be any different.

How many adventures have begun with just such happy disregard for unforeseen consequences?

I looked about for friends to share my exploits. It is better to travel in the good company of one’s companions, but I was a fellow known for my daring, so not finding my friends at the ready, I set out to seek food and whatever excitement presented itself.

The morning passed merrily enough; there is a place near my summer home where a large creature sets out kernels, water, and seeds we squirrels enjoy, and there is usually enough food to fill our bellies and allow us time to chase across trees and play by the river. The nighttime monsters are fast asleep and we are free to enjoy ourselves.

This day, I was playing rather further into dusk than I should have been, I realized later. (This is what the Wise Ones Who Hoot call retrospection.) I heard my family chattering for me to return home to the summer nesting grounds, but I was observing moths and bats, the endless circle of predator and prey, and trying to recall where I’d hidden seeds and nuts for a special treat. When I recalled the place, just near the forests’ edge, I hurried and began to dig, unearthing a very large acorn as my reward.

And so, when the monster seized me by the tail, I did not have time to react. I was at once so overtaken by panic and pain that my mind could not conceive of escape. I twisted and turned and pulled, by instinct.

And then I thought to toss away my treasure, pulling away with the last bit of strength I could muster as I threw the acorn far to the left. I heard, but could no longer feel, my tail ripping away as the monster tugged. Then he stupidly—as I had suspected—fled towards the acorn. I bounded away to my home and friends, not daring to look back.

The pain—and wisdom—came later, as I healed. My elders have told me this is often the way of it.

I have lost the balance, agility, and ability to communicate that my tail afforded me, but I have become a much more eloquent and careful communicator in my chatter. And my adventures now take place in the good company of my companions, for I have learned that one who is heedless of community exposes himself to monsters who hide in the dark.

But if you still have an independent spirit of adventure, as I must admit all great Sciuridae do, take care that you are armed with treasures and prepared to throw them away.

And, for goodness sake, learn how to craft a tale, for doing so has won me many a tasty tidbit!

Such is the wisdom of hindsight.

Thus ends my “cautionary tail.”

 

© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without the author’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors. Thank you, and gentle peace.

Sideshow Bob Rosebush

Every good day deserves a giggle, and every day is good…Couldn’t help noticing this resemblance, now that the wild rosebush has lost its blossoms. Joy to your day!

© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without the author’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors. Thank you, and gentle peace.