Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Bisou in Winter

It was 8F the other morning, so before taking my little red Cavalier Bisou out for a walk I dressed her for the weather. By the time I had zipped her into her coat and stuffed her limp feet into her booties and fastened the Velcro straps around her ankles and loosened them so she wouldn’t get gangrene and then tightened them again so they’d stay on, twenty minutes had elapsed.

Once we got outside, she felt so encumbered by all that gear that she just wanted to go back indoors.

This is why on days when it is too cold/snowy/icy/rainy I exercise Bisou indoors. It is one of the  joys of having a small dog: you can give her a real workout even in a space as small as our cottage. After fifteen minutes of running and jumping after her ball, Bisou considers herself well entertained.

I get a little workout too, doing forward bends to pick up the ball and perfecting my throws with both right and left arms, avoiding hitting the glass-fronted china cabinet and my spouse’s head. And the cat Telemann, who if Bisou and I went for a walk would be left staring forlornly out the window, also gets a workout during these sessions.

Sometimes he runs after the ball along with Bisou. Or he perches on the back of the sofa and bats at the ball as it flies past him. But what he likes best is to hide behind one of the side doors. Then, as Bisou runs past him, he leaps out like Nureyev and executes a grand jeté over her back.

When we’re done, Bisou flings herself panting on the sofa, where I join her with my book. Soon we hear a thunderous purr and Telemann is upon us, literally, kissing and nosing and kneading both of us until he finally dozes off.

These are dark days, in more ways than one, but the weight of two contented animals on my lap grounds me and keeps me from obsessing fruitlessly about the state of the planet. 2017 has not been an encouraging year, and its waning moments are as soul bruising as its beginning.

How to get through this bleak midwinter?  Let's try to be kind and generous, and then let us find comfort in the good things at hand: the chickadee at the suet, the geranium on the sill, and the certain knowledge that tomorrow the earth, bless her, will once again tilt her face toward the sun.

Happy solstice, everyone!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

How I Write

I write on a recliner, with a laptop on a lap desk on my lap. Because my little red dog, Bisou, thinks that whenever I'm out of sight I cease to exist, and her mission is to keep me alive by being with me at all times, when I bought the recliner I made sure that the seat was wide enough to accommodate both me and her. It was a tight fit, but it worked.

But that was before the arrival of Telemann, the cat. As a kitten, he would squeeze himself between Bisou and my hip and take a nap while I wrote. Now, at ten months,  he's a ten-pound mass of assertive affection, and he too thinks that I cease to exist if he can't see me, which means that he has to be with me at all times.

So whenever I settle down to write, with Bisou next to me and the computer on my lap, he jumps up and insinuates himself in the space between my, um, breasts and the keyboard. He wiggles around a bit, taps my cheek with his little white paw, rolls onto his back and falls asleep.

His head rests on my right elbow, and his hind legs are splayed on my left elbow. It's hard for me to reach the keyboard, but I really don't want to wake him up because that will mean another session of feline lovemaking, with much purring and cheek patting and nose licking. So I hold my elbows out, and try to see the screen over his four white paws, which are sticking up in the air and occasionally twitching. Needless to say, if it weren't for spell-checker, you wouldn't be able to understand a word of what I write.

You know how writers are: we look for any excuse to get away from the blank page or screen. A cup of coffee or an extra sweater suddenly become urgent necessities. In my case, however, that means getting out from under Telemann, and the thirstier, colder, antsier I get, the more deeply he sleeps. I shift my hips and move my right elbow tentatively, but he is a dead weight, draped across me like those lead aprons they put on you when you're getting an x-ray.

If I somehow manage to get both the computer and the cat off my lap, and get that cup of coffee, I'll have to face it all again, the purring, the greeting, the turning around and settling down and going back to sleep. Plus, with all this going on,I'll probably spill hot coffee on poor innocent Bisou, or the computer, or Telemann himself.

So in the end I decide to forego the coffee and the extra sweater, and just keep writing.

Thursday, December 7, 2017


There is rage in the air these days, the rage of women. Young women, old women, tall/short/fat/thin/gorgeous/ordinary-looking women are telling their stories and shaking their fists and demanding justice. And because in this culture sweetness and passivity have always been expected of women, their rage when it emerges is doubly scary--kind of like having your pet bunny turn and bare its teeth at you.

The Greeks knew about female fury. Their mythology is full of over-the-top angry women like Medea and Clytemnestra. They even had goddesses who specialized in rage and vengeance, the Furies. Three of them, because one wasn't enough.

Outside of Greek mythology there haven't been many models for female anger, so we're making it up as we go along, from pussy hats and marches to pointing fingers at sexual harassers. And the latter are toppling like nine-pins, "good" guys along with bad.

Et tu Garrison, Al, John C.? But this is not a time to play favorites.

Remember Trump’s reaction to the accusations against Roy Moore, "He says it didn't happen. You have to listen to him, also"? Until practically yesterday, that was the response that any woman complaining of harassment would have expected to hear. Now, for the first time in human history, the victims are being listened to. They’ve even been named “Persons of the Year” by Time.

It is a kind of miracle, but will it last?

After rampaging through Ancient Greece, the Furies faded into the mists of time. And if we aren’t careful, so will the labors of today’s Furies, those who marched and protested and risked everything to speak out. The only way to ensure that this achievement isn’t lost is to put masses of women in positions of power, in the boardroom and the village council, the courts and the Congress.

Fortunately (thank Gaia, Artemis, Isis, Astarte, Sophia, and the Blessed Virgin Mary), masses of women these days are running for office, or planning to. All we have to do is elect them.