I’ve said before, and loudly, that my Tennessee ancestors must have rolled into Central Texas in April, when the wildflowers were in bloom. Otherwise, like General Philip Sheridan, they would have chosen to rent out Texas and live in Hell.
My friend from Cleveland disagrees. He says the Wallers and the Grahams settled here because, as far as they looked in any direction, they didn’t see snow. He might be right. Perspectives on weather are heavily influenced by experience. I’ve never had to shovel snow, so I feel free to whinge about the heat.
April is a special time here. It’s the month when the landscape explodes with color, and a mild madness descends. People go wildflower hunting. Purists cruise around just looking. Artists set up easels and canvases and palettes and paint en plein air. We all risk snakebite to capture shots of family and friends amongst the bluebonnets.
And I post A. E. Housman’s “Loveliest of Trees” as a reminder that April isn’t forever.
This year I’m starting early. My friend Mary googled “Texas Hill Country Wildflowers” and sent me one of the links: image after image of spring landscapes. I’m sharing it here. The site loads in stages, so patience is called for.
Austin’s Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, formerly the National Wildflower Research Center, seeks to “increase the sustainable use and conservation of native wildflowers, plants and landscapes.” According to her biographer, Mrs. Johnson’s legacy as First Lady “was to legitimize environmental issues as a national priority. The attitudes and policies she advanced have shaped the conservation and preservation policies of the environmental movement since then.” The Center’s comprehensive website addresses science, history, legislation, tourism, conservation, education–all areas Mrs. Johnson’s interest in the natural environment touched on.
Julia Cameron, in her book The Artist’s Way, stresses the importance of both writing and playing. At the WLT Summer Writing Retreat, Karleen Koen reminded students of Cameron’s Artist’s Date—a weekly solo “adventure” to feed the soul and allow for continued creativity.
Since leaving the retreat, I’ve been thinking about possibilities for my Artist’s Dates. A visit to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is a candidate, though it’ll probably wait until spring. Central Texas affords plenty of potential for adventure.
But having just returned from a week-long Artist’s Date, I decided to concentrate first on writing.
I designated yesterday, my first day out of post-retreat depression, a day for writing.
Here’s how it went:
I rose at a reasonable hour and prepared to leave for my coffee-shop office.
Downstairs, doling out catfood, I realized that in the half-hour I’d been up, I’d seen no cats. This had never happened. William often sleeps late, but Ernest is up with the chickens and frequently makes sure I am, too.
I called, ran upstairs, searched, called. William, draped across his pagoda, opened his eyes and blinked but offered no opinion as to Ernest’s whereabouts.
I ran downstairs, called, searched, dropped to my knees and peered under furniture. I ran back upstairs, etc.
Finally dropping at the right place, I found Ernest under the bed. He was sitting in that compact way cats have, with all his feet neatly tucked in. His look wasn’t warm and welcoming. When I tried to drag him out, he wriggled loose and ran into the hall and thence into the guest room and under that bed.
At that point, I remembered a get-well card I sent my great-aunt Bettie: On the front was a drawing of an orange-striped cat, looking bored, and saying, “Feeling poorly? Do as I do.” Inside, it said, “Crawl under the porch.”
We had no porch, so Ernest crawled under the next best thing.
I put batteries in the flashlight and girded my loins. Negotiating the guest room is not a task for the faint of heart. There’s stuff in there.
Back on my hands and knees, aka standing on my head, I again located Ernest. He was lying, neatly tucked, in the corner near the wall. Stretching out on the carpet, I reached under and scratched his ears. He didn’t protest. His big green eyes, however, told me I’d better not make any sudden moves.
Then I did.
Ernest is heavy and muscular. His twenty toes are tipped with talons. He has teeth.
Like Barry Goldwater, he believes extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.
I believe in keeping as much of my blood as possible on the inside of my skin.
I also believe extremism in the pursuit of getting my children to the veterinarian is a necessary evil. This evil was necessary.
Ernest suffers from what might be termed a sluggish constitution, which is aggravated by his habit of putting foreign objects into his mouth. And swallowing them. Mainly bits of string and thread. They don’t have to be on the floor. He pokes around on tables and steals anything that strikes his fancy.
The first time he withdrew from society, two years ago, I had to authorize X-rays, ultrasound, and a simple procedure he really really didn’t like. It seemed best, this time, to seek medical attention before a minor problem became major.
Well, to summarize: Ernest hid under the bed from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. I spent a goodly portion of that time supine on the floor trying to regain his trust. I spent the rest of the time downstairs, sneezing my head off because of all the dust bunnies under there with him.
In desperation, I took his jingly collar, the one he refuses to wear, and lay down by the bed and jingled at him. He purred and gnawed on the collar. Then he flopped over onto his back and I administered belly rubs. He had a lovely time. I went back downstairs and sneezed until my throat was raw. Then I coughed. I couldn’t stop coughing.
Having neither cough drops nor unexpired cough medicine, I poured a tiny bit of some extremely aged Jim Beam (my mother bought it to put on her Christmas applesauce cakes over twenty years ago) into a glass and added the dregs of David’s hummingbird sugar and drank it from a spoon. The first sip tasted pretty bad, and it didn’t do much for the cough, but by the time I was finished sipping, my concern for Ernest had eased considerably.
Anyway, as I sat in the living room taking my medicine, Ernest appeared downstairs. He sashayed into the kitchen. I heard him crunch two or three bites of food. Then he doubled back. Sneak that I am, I lured into my lap. Then I grabbed him and stuffed him into the waiting crate and headed for the vet’s.
Ernest protested, of course, at first. But as soon as the two big dogs in the vet’s waiting room charged up to his crate to pant hello, he decided confinement had its advantages and shut up.
Getting his weight was the first order of business. I was not surprised to learn he weighs 17 pounds. My spine had already intimated I would be making a trip to the chiropractor in short order.
After some poking and prodding and determining this was indeed the result of ingesting thread, and addressing that problem, the doctor said cats like linear objects. I said I’d noticed.
He gave me three choices: take him home and give him meds and watch him for 24 hours; leave him there for meds and the procedure he really really doesn’t like and pick him up at 5:00 p.m.; or be referred to another vet for X-rays because he’s moving his office up the street and his machine was all to pieces.
He said choice #1 would have been fine for his cat, but I told him I liked choice #2. Leaving Ernest would ensure he was unclogged. If I took him home and he crawled under the bed again, I might never get him out.
I hated sentencing him to a procedure. But if he hadn’t eaten something unacceptable, he wouldn’t have been in this fix.
As agreed, David and I picked Ernest up at 5:00 p.m., bought a tube of Laxatone, and hauled him home. He’s fine now, thank you, and appears to have forgiven me. I assume the scratch I got trying to remove him from my person in the middle of last night was unintentional.
That is the story of my day set aside for writing.
I’m trying to decide whether it qualifies as an Artist’s Date.