A Harbinger of Spring & a Video Fest

Today we saw the first sign that spring is upon us.

It wasn’t a robin. It wasn’t a bluebonnet.

chameleon on screen 2/29/2020
Chameleon on window screen

It was a chameleon, the first one I’ve seen in years. Once, a zillion lived in my yard in Fentress, crawled across window screens, sneaked into a bedroom and blended into the leaf-patterned draperies, causing minor panic when discovered.

Then Ms, my Siamese cat, went on a lizard binge, causing more havoc. If you think it’s unsettling to see, without prior notice, a lizard running across the bedroom floor, try opening the door and finding one lying belly up, dead, often minus the skin of his soft underbelly, right where you were planning to plant your foot. I appreciated Ms’s thought, but the gift, not so much.

Ernest focusing on chameleon

Anyway—maybe because the chameleon population had been decimated, maybe because survivors got wise and relocated—by the early ’80s, they were gone.

They didn’t frequent our former apartment, either. But now that one has appeared outside the window at our new place, more will surely follow. I hope.

Ernest hopes so, too. He saw the visitor before I did, jumped onto the window sill, stood, and batted. Stood down, stood up, and batted. Again and again.

Ernest not looking at chameleon 2/29/2020
Ernest not focusing on chameleon

Watching a beloved pet hunt and not gather is heartrending, up to a point. Mostly it’s a grab-the-camera-and-holler-at-David-to-come-see moment. We focused on the scene as closely as Ernest focused on his prey.

The hunt ended when the lizard scooted eighteen inches to the right. Ernest lost him.  He lay down and stared out the window. David tapped on the window and pointed but failed to catch his attention.

A few minutes later, we abandoned him and headed downtown to the Violet Crown Theater for CatVideoFest—”a compilation reel of the best cat videos culled from countless hours of unique submissions and sourced animations, music videos, and, of course, classic internet powerhouses.”

Most were short-shorts, amateur cats being cats, filmed by their owners. A few were scripted. I’ve included links to two of those—”An Engineer’s Guide to Cats 2.0—The Sequel” and “Henri 2—Paw de Deux.” Cat lovers—crazy or not—have likely seen them online. Crazies might think they’re worth watching again.

Here’s a link to a list of theaters (nationwide) where you can view the movie. Today’s showing was the last in Austin, but if you’re elsewhere and interested, you can look it up.

CatVideoFest raises funds for “cats in need.” Part of the proceeds from the three Austin showings will go to Austin Pets Alive, an animal rescue and advocacy organization that fosters homeless animals and finds them forever homes.

 

Bonus: Chris the Story Reading Ape’s Blog with “Caturday Funnies”

Years ago, I closed my first blog, Whiskertips, because it had, against my will, become catcentric. The title was the only one I could think of that wasn’t already in use, and I’d just acquired William and Ernest (from APA) and so had cats on the brain. I suppose the name constituted a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I’ve vowed this blog will not fall into feline paws, but lately I’ve been walking a very fine line.

Why I (Don’t/Didn’t) Write #ROW80

Ernest felt fine when he woke this morning, but then he was unceremoniously hauled down to the vet’s for labs, blood draw, glucose and fructosamine, all that, and now he feels exposed, defenseless, in need of laptime. So that’s what he’s getting.

I didn’t want to work anyway.

*

Ernest having abandoned the keyboard for more interesting pursuits, I type unhindered.

I planned a brief statement about a cat and a keyboard, nothing else, but as Wednesday appears to have rolled around while my back was turned, I’ll add the #ROW80 report.

The goal I stated Sunday was to add 4,000 words to my WIP by March 26. Roughly 1,000 words per week—written and submitted to my critique group—would answer.

At five o’clock Monday morning, however, my body told my brain that I wasn’t going to add 1,000  words to anything, and my brain said my body was oh, so right about that.

On Tuesday, my body said I could add some words if I wanted, but my brain said Monday’s meltdown had been so demoralizing that it had no intention of contributing one independent thought, thank you very much.

In other words, I’m where I was on Sunday.

Except I’m really a little further back than that, because I just realized the post I prepared to link to my #ROW80 announcement—which I’d put up on the group blog Ink-Stained Wretcheswas never posted here at all. I didn’t click Publish. It’s been sitting here in draft form for three days, just sitting, waiting for something to happen that never happened. 

A lot like that proposed 1,000 words.

Well. Four more days in this week. Twenty-nine more days in the month.

See § 2, ¶ 3  above.

Onward and upwards, I guess.

*

He’s back.

Rejection of Things Past

Last week I posted the following to my Facebook timeline:

I learned last month—and only now have recovered enough to speak of it—that my story was not selected for inclusion in a collection I’d submitted to. The odds were high enough against me that, although the news affected me, it did not crush my spirit. I may, however, pretend it did so I’ll have an excuse for seeking out and indulging in a couple of pounds of serotonin-producing dark chocolate, plus a large box of sugar cubes to keep the bitterness of the chocolate from curdling my teeth.

So many friends responded with comments and emojis of such warmth and kindness that, in addition to thanking them—Thank you, friends—I feel I should add an update.

Update:

I did not seek out chocolate. For four whole days, I did not seek it out.

In fact, I forgot about it.

Forgot to seek. Forgot why I’d thought about seeking.

Forgot until today when David said, “What do you want from the grocery store?”

Oh, yes. “Chocolate.”

 “A Snickers?”

“No. Maybe a peanut butter cup . . . ”

Then, remembering that Easter is icumen in: “Or maybe a Cadbury egg. But,” I said, “one Cadbury egg won’t do.”

A single egg would have sent me flying across the green space in search of a follow-up.

Dependable and then some, David returned with five Cadbury eggs.

I ate one. Then I ate another.

Two eggs for rejection of things past.

The rest I’ll polish off tomorrow, as a kind of insurance against rejection of things future.

Lines That Shut Your Eyes

 

Twelve-year-old Emma Graham and elderly Mr. Root sit outside the grocery store in a little town in the mountains of Maryland, discussing poetry. From Martha Grimes’ Fadeaway Girl:

“What’s the poem, Mr. Root?”

. . . It was a paperback, not very thick. I saw it was the poetry of Robert Frost. “But I thought you didn’t like Robert Frost. You were all against ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.’ Remember?”

“That one, yeah. But he’s wrote a couple of good ones. I kind of put ’em in between Emily’s, you know, . . .”  Mr. Root cleared his throat and intoned in a sing-song fashion:

This saying good-by on the edge of the dark—

It shut my eyes, that line did, as sure as someone passing a hand over them. “Oh,” I said.

“What?”

“Nothing.”

He read on, although I was still back there on the edge of the dark.

Then he came to:

I wish I could promise to lie in the night
And think of an orchard’s ar-bo-re-al plight
When slowly (and nobody comes with a light)
Its heart sinks lower under the sod.

My eyes snapped shut again. I had never heard anything so fearfully sad. I bit my lip to keep from crying. I could almost see it, the trees too young to be left alone, waiting for someone or something to come, and finally knowing no one ever would.

“Yep,” said Mr. Root. “Some of his, well, I’d say he knows what he’s talking about. Straight talk. That’s what Frost was really good at, none of those namby-pamby poems about Greek urns and stuff. Nope”—he held up the book—”just plainspoken, to-the-point words about nature and stuff.”

“Mr. Root,” I said, “I don’t think he’s plainspoken. He means a lot more than what he seems to be saying.” . . .

Mr. Root pushed his feed cap back on his head and scratched his forehead. . . .

“What do you mean by that?” His eyes narrowed as if I were insulting him.

I didn’t want to talk about it; I don’t know why I had to open my big mouth. “Well, I think he means something different from what he’s saying. Or seems to be saying.” . . .

I asked Mr. Root if I could borrow the book for a minute, and he handed it to me.

“And could I have a piece of paper and use your pencil?”

He tore off a little sheet and handed that to me, too, along with his pencil. “Whatcha doin’?”

“Just copying.”

I wrote the last lines on the paper and folded it up and stuck it in my change purse.

***

Are there any lines of poetry or prose that shut your eyes?

For Valentine’s Day: John Anderson, My Jo

John Anderson, My Jo

Robert Burns

Song and glossary follow

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/fb/PG_1063Burns_Naysmithcrop.jpg
Portrait of Robert Burns, by Alexander Naysmith, 1787. Via Wikipedia. Public domain.

John Anderson, my jo, John
When we were first acquent;
Your locks were like the raven,
Your bonie brow was brent;
But now your brow is beld, John,
Your locks are like the snaw;
But blessings on your frosty pow,
John Anderson, my jo.

John Anderson, my jo, John,
We clamb the hill thegither;
And mony a cantie day, John,
We’ve had wi’ ane anither:
Now we maun totter down, John,
And hand in hand we’ll go,
And sleep thegither at the foot,
John Anderson, my jo.

 

 

Sung by Christy-Lyn

 

***

Meanings of most of the words from Scottish dialect are obvious, but here’s a glossary just in case.

jo-sweetheart
acquent-acquainted
bonny-beautiful
brent-polished new
beld-bald
snaw-snow
pow-head
thegither-together
cantie-great
one anither- together
maun totter down-must climb down

Fentress Society 1922: Maud and Carmen

 

From the Austin Statesman, Sunday, August 13, 1922. “Out of Town Society.”

 

David and I were looking at images of Fentress, Texas—thank you, Google—when he said, “Maud and Carmen Barber.”

“Where?” I said. I get very excited when names I know crop up on the Internet.

In 1922, Fentress was in its heyday, larger and busier than it was when I arrived thirty years later, and its social events were reported in the Austin newspaper.

Here’s a little something extra:

Carmen Barber, who attended the Confederate reunion at Driftwood and co-hosted the melon party, was my father’s first cousin on his mother’s side. Among the the older of his twenty-seven Woodward cousins, she spent her married life, as Mrs. Jack Harper, in nearby Martindale, where she was one of my maternal grandmother’s best friends. When my parents married, she went with them to the Baptist preacher’s house in San Marcos to be a witness.

Ophelia Waller was my father’s first cousin on the Waller side—a total of sixteen cousins there. Married to Tom Ashworth, she lived most of her life in La Feria, Texas. She died there in 2011 at the age of one hundred six. At the time of the party, she would have been seventeen years old.

Mamie Ward (Day) was the daughter of W. F. “Dick” Ward, owner of the town’s ice cream parlor. She taught school in Refugio, Texas. I remember Miss Mamie well from her visits to Fentress during the summers. I contend that her family was the closest thing to royalty Fentress ever had, because of the huge double-dip nickel ice cream cones Dick sold there for close to fifty years. If you dropped yours while getting on your bicycle, he rushed back inside his shop and scooped you up a replacement cone for free.

That’s what I know about three of the girls at the melon party.

What I don’t know—and sincerely wish I did—is the identity of the Beau Brummells who were barred from the delightful little social affair. If I think hard enough, maybe I’ll come up with some possibilities.

Already Read 2020: January

 

You’ve seen those “How Many of These Books Have You Read?” quizzes that populate the Internet? You click on the titles and the little people inside the website tally them and tell you what percentage you’ve read. I’m sure their purpose is to make me feel inferior.*

Some do more than count. One calculated my age. Imagine my surprise/embarrassment/shame when I learned that, based on the number clicked, I’m in my twenties.

Boy, did they get that wrong.

But the fault is mine—I haven’t been reading much as I should.

To remedy that, on January 1, 2020, I resolved to read more** books.

###

Book Report

In January, I read the following:

The Bloody Bead, co-written by Helen Currie Foster and Manning Wolfe, part of the Bullet Books Speed Reads*** collection. When sweet Miss Cherry goes missing, garbageman Juan Agosto reports his suspicions to his older sister, Teresa, a police officer. The investigation that follows provides a suspenseful read. And a fast one—like the other Bullet Books, it’s a novella, designed for busy people who want short reads. Or, for that matter, idle people who want short reads.

No spoilers here, but I will say there are some things Juan Agosto would prefer not to find in a garbage bin.

***

Broke,***** by Kaye George. In this third volume of the Immy Duckworthy series, wannabe private eye Immy moves out of the double-wide where she and her daughter, Nancy Drew, have been living with Immy’s mother, retired librarian Hortense.  The three-story house Immy rents—the one she can afford on what she earns as (real) PI Mike Mallet’s secretary—looks like it’s about to fall down, and some parts of it are. But it’s filled with antique furniture. Plus a room filled with dusty old books. Plus a ghost. Plus, on the third floor,  something that doesn’t belong there at all.

Immy’s policeman boyfriend, Ralph, is his same, dependable self, but the gorgeous Vance Valentin proves a formidable competitor, sort of. Also present are pet pig Marshmallow and Larry Bird, the vicious hen.

And then there’s the body.

***

The Whole Family: A Novel by Twelve Authors, edited by Elizabeth Jordan. This collaborative novel, conceived by author and editor William Dean Howells, concerns the effect an engagement has on an entire family. The book comprises twelve chapters, each by a different author. Each chapter is written from the point of view of a different character. Chapter I, written by Howells, introduces Mr. Talbert, the father of the prospective bride, and alludes, briefly, to the others in his household. One of these is Mr. Talbert’s sister, described as “a lady of that age when ladies begin to be spoken of as maiden.”

Here’s where the fun begins.

Chapter II, entitled “The Old Maid Aunt,” was written by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman. Mrs. Freeman was forty-nine when she married a man seven years younger than she. One critic reports that Mrs. Freeman didn’t appreciate the phrase maiden lady, so she scrapped the stereotype.

The aunt she created is young, attractive, and vibrant. And she has a past—she and the prospective groom have recently engaged in a flirtation—or something. We don’t know exactly how serious the relationship was, but it was serious enough to make the visiting groom turn white when he sees her— and to catch the first train out of town. To complicate things further, the Talbert’s new neighbor had once threatened to shoot himself if the aunt wouldn’t marry him. Neighbor’s wife is not amused.

In other words, Mrs. Freeman hijacked the plot.

The rest is a romp, with each character—the bride, her mother, her grandmother, her teenage sister and pre-teen brother, her older brothers and their wives, the groom, and others—weighing in with their own descriptions of events, opinions of other characters, and plans to help fix things. There’s a lot to fix and they are oh, so helpful.

The Whole Family was published in 1908, so, compared to contemporary novels, it begins slowly. When the maiden aunt appears in Chapter II, however, things pick up considerably.

An Amazon note: One Amazon reviewer, who gave the book four stars, writes, “I would say they [the authors] did very well , except for one, who’s chapter was so rambling and unintelligible I had to just scan the paragraphs to get any sense out of it. But, all in all, it was a good book.”*****

My note: The “unintelligible” chapter was written by Henry James. With all due respect to Mr. James, don’t feel bad if you have trouble getting sense out of it. It’s been said that Mr. James “chewed more than he bit off.” (Attributed to Oscar Wilde, Mrs. Henry Adams, and the author’s brother William) All in all, it’s a good book.

#

* Important to consider when deciding how inferior to feel: Lists vary according to the whims and biases of the makers. Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, and Winnie the Pooh show up on all the lists I’ve examined. The Twits appears on just one.

** Goals and objectives should be quantifiable, and this one isn’t, but I’ll deal with that later. The way I’ve been going, more might mean three.

*** As I’ve mentioned before, numerous times, I co-wrote a Bullet Book, too. See the sidebar.

**** Read my review of Choke, the first Immy Duckworthy mystery, here.

***** I would link directly to the review, but when I do, an enormous picture of the book cover appears on this page.

###

The authors: Helen Currie Foster, Manning Wolfe, Kaye George, William Dean Howells, and Mary E. Wilkins Freeman

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So that’s January. According to Kindle, I’m now 40% through Elizabeth George‘s A Banquet of Consequences.