100 Words for 100 Days: The End?

I have completed my 100 words for 100 days summer ass-kicking project. Gosh, it was a much more arduous process than I expected. When I began, I figured it would be just like NaBloPoMo (crap, that’s soon, isn’t it?). I’d sit down at the same time every day, hack out something silly, and then reward myself with a glass of something.

Hubris. Of the most hubristic variety.

A glance at the blog will tell you that I gave up posting every day’s entry on the website every day. Over half of my sessions involved me curling up with a notebook I borrowed from my PH or crouching over my phone on the bus along the way home. And then there were the days I was camping or holidaying it up with friends. Somehow, I got in those 100 words before the clock struck twelve.

Though my official project is done, it may take another 100 days more for the bruises to heal. I hope it takes longer. In truth, I hope they never fade.

You see, I am kind of worried now that it’s over. Without the guilt invading my dreams, forcing me to get something, anything, down on paper before I am allowed to sleep, I am concerned I will slough it all off again.

Writing every day is tough, man. Really freaking Alberta-brutal. There were times I had to yank the words out of frozen fingers. Every rotation of the pen or push of a button on the keyboard caused me to wince. It was that painful. It was only my hatred of failure that kept me going, my knowledge that I would loathe myself even more if I didn’t haul myself to the end, filling out every numerical box on my project page.

It would be so easy to take a break right now. My lazy, unmotivated, miserable self taunts me with the notion. C’mon Kristine, relax. You’ve worked hard. You’ve earned it. Take the next night off, and then the next night, and then the next night…

That’s the thing, it is my unhappy self that keeps wanting to push me down. The side of me that is more comfortable doing nothing and feeling sorry about it. The Kristine who berates herself for not doing the laundry or waking up earlier. She likes me to keep feeling like crap. It keeps her alive.

Writing is hard. At times excruciatingly so.

Not writing is harder. Not writing stifles happy, confident Kristine, makes me forget she exists. I do believe she does. I just need to be brave enough and strong enough to battle the dragon keeping her in her tower.

This is why I signed up for a creative writing class. I don’t know if it’s going to end in anything helpful and have no expectations for myself other than to keep writing. Keep putting words down until maybe it isn’t as hard, and even if it’s always a struggle, keep doing it anyway. I know myself well enough to accept the fact I need external motivation. If I am going to continue, I can’t do it alone.

Dog Poetry Sunday – E.B. White

There cannot be a single person from my generation who did not read Charlotte’s Web and The Trumpet of the Swan over and over again. The writings of E.B. White were a large part of the landscape of my childhood and I know I was not alone. Somehow, despite this early foundation, I forgot all about the American literary icon when I grew into an adult. I still adore the children’s stories yet I had no idea Mr. White and I had more in common than an affection for intelligent spiders. I have learned that not only did he co-author one of the most important works for would-be writers, The Elements of Style, he also was a large admirer of canines. Luckily, granddaughter Martha White has rectified this for me.

As I’ve stated, poetry is not my thing. I am literal in my reading selections. Poetry requires deeper analysis, something I am not always up for. Mary Oliver’s Dog Songs changed my mind about verse. I highly recommend picking up a copy if you haven’t already. Her phrasings are deceptively complex but if you read her poems at face value, they are just as enjoyable. Not least because they are about dogs.

However, if I had happened upon E.B. White on Dogs first, I am sure my illumination would have been quite similar. Ms. White did a beautiful job of compiling her grandfather’s essays, poems, and letters about his multiple canine friends. There are several classics in this collection but they are worth a re-read. I love getting to learn more about the literary giant’s personal life. While some selections made me tear up – such as the lovely letter to his wife, in the voice of her Scottish Terrier, Daisy – many just made me smile. White is not necessarily known for his poetry but I think this compilation reveals the deep and multi-faceted man he was.

It also shares some really cute pictures.

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The below poem is one that, to me, showed how well White understood the canine mind. It certainly describes the leaping mind of the dog beside me, anyway. I hope you get something out of it too.

Dog Around the Block ~ E.B. White

Dog around the block, sniff,
Hydrant sniffing, corner, grating,
Sniffing, always, starting forward,
Backward, dragging, sniffing backward,
Leash at taut, leash at dangle,
Leash in people’s feet entangle—
Sniffing dog, apprised of smellings,
Love of life, and fronts of dwellings,
Meeting enemies,
Loving old acquaintance, sniff,
Sniffing hydrant for reminders,
Leg against the wall, raise,
Leaving grating, corner greeting,
Chance for meeting, sniff, meeting,
Meeting, telling, news of smelling,
Nose to tail, tail to nose,
Rigid, careful, pose,
Liking, partly liking, hating,
Then another hydrant, grating,
Leash at taut, leash at dangle,
Tangle, sniff, untangle,
Dog around the block, sniff.

Blog the Change for Animals: Mission Blue

BlogtheChangeToday is Blog the Change for Animals Day. If you have been on the Petosphere at all, I am sure you have noticed. I have been super excited about this date for a long time, ever since I watched Mission Blue on Netflix. I could not wait to share it with you within five minutes of pressing play but I knew it was so important that it needed its own special day.

Have you seen Mission Blue yet? If you haven’t, I have come up with five very important reasons for you to check it out right now. I hope you have some free time this weekend otherwise I think your plans are about to be cancelled.

Reason 1

It is just an extremely well-crafted documentary. Directors Robert Nixon and the always likable Fisher Stevens paired revelatory interviews with the fascinating Dr. Sylvia Earle with stunning underwater footage. Dr. Earle’s brilliant mind does not make her at all unapproachable and the filmmakers did an excellent job of capturing her passion and sense of humour. Though she is a pioneer for marine biology and women in science, and should be a household name, she didn’t come across as the least bit intimidating. As she spoke on camera, I almost felt like she had invited me over for a cup of tea and was sharing her amazing experiences with me first hand. Not that Dr. Earle ever sits still long enough for personal conversations. At the age of 79 she remains a force of energy.

Reason 2

We are inherently responsible for the curation of the planet. I have always believed this but Mission Blue reminded me how important it is for us all to be aware of the current health status of our home. If we don’t know, we won’t change.

Dr. Earle says it even better:

“People ask: Why should I care about the ocean? Because the ocean is the cornerstone of earth’s life support system, it shapes climate and weather. It holds most of life on earth. 97% of earth’s water is there. It’s the blue heart of the planet — we should take care of our heart. It’s what makes life possible for us. We still have a really good chance to make things better than they are. They won’t get better unless we take the action and inspire others to do the same thing. No one is without power. Everybody has the capacity to do something.”

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Reason 3

The film provides a unique perspective of ocean and animal life. When viewed through the eyes of someone who has witnessed the environmental catastrophes of the last eight decades, everything becomes personal. After watching how emotionally affected Dr. Earle is by modern fishing practices, I will never be casual about my seafood purchases again.

Reason 4

The scenes are beautiful. The chances of me getting to these gorgeous spaces and swimming with silky schools of tropical fish are very low. The next best thing is the vicarious route. I can never get enough of underwater footage and Mission Blue has it in spades.

Reason 5

Hope. There is a chance to be part of the solution. Not only does Mission Blue teach viewers the current challenges to ocean life, it also proposes a way to protect the vanishing species and prevent further destruction. Just as we have done on land through national parks and wildlife reserves, Dr. Earle has been working to designate areas of critical importance to immediately focus global conservation efforts. These “Hope Spots”, as she calls them, could help the regrowth of crucial plant and animal life. They could help reverse some of the damage we have caused.

I love the optimism in this message. There are so many films that end on a hopeless note but Mission Blue, and Dr. Earle, believe things can get better. If only we listen and act. To learn how you can help the efforts, I urge you to check out the Mission Blue website. If nothing else, your support for the project will be a terrific encouragement.

So why are you still reading this? Go, log-in to Netflix, watch this movie. If you don’t have an account, convince a friend who does to watch it with you. And then when you love it, as I know you will, share it with everyone you know. Let’s create a Blue movement.

This Blog the Change for Animals event is powered by Linky Tools:

Click here to enter your link and read about all the other important causes shared by your fellow activists. It’s that easy and it could help change the world….

Is your dog an excessive marker?

I am always fascinated when Shiva’s behaviour changes without apparent cause. So much of her routine is consistent and her actions fall within an expected set of actions. Even when she does something crazy, I can usually predict it. I know when she is going to smack her head into the wall to snatch a ball; I don’t have to look to investigate the source of the sickening sound of skull against brick. Knowing is not preventing.

But, again, I digress. It seems I have a set of predictable behaviours too.

ANYway, Shiva”s actions are so steady that she throws me off anytime she adopts a new habit. This round, that habit is marking.

Shiva has never been all that interested in marking her place on the side of a tree. Every once in a while she would make a half-hearted attempt, going through the motions, as if to prove she is, indeed, a dog, but it has never been part of her standard repertoire. Other dogs might feel the need to cover her urine with their own, she couldn’t be bothered to return the favour.

Until this week.

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For the last few days, Shiva has felt the urge to sign her name on every other post and urban structure we pass. And not in her typical ladylike fashion, either, as if she is almost embarrassed to be caught in something so base. No, she has been in full leg-lifting mode, to the point she has performed full handstands to ensure her pee will spray on a precise location. It’s mystifying.

There has only been one other time in her life where she performed this behaviour. When we moved from Halifax to Edmonton, she drove me crazy for several weeks while she insisted upon leaving her mark every where and any where. Sometimes twice. But I rationalized that as a need to declare her presence in a new neighbourhood. The smells here in dry northern Alberta must be nothing like the ones in humid coastal Nova Scotia. She had to familiarize herself, announce herself to her fellow canines, let them know she was around now and meant no harm.

Or something.

But we have lived in the same house for over a year now. Why would this action resurface? Could she be feeling insecure about something? Maybe a new dog has moved in and she wants to let him or her know she walks this beat too?

It’s curious. I am not worried. She has no signs of physical illness and I don’t think it is related to a UTI. Of course, I’ll keep watch just in case. From what I can tell, however, it is simple marking behaviour. Me being me, I can’t help but wonder the cause.

Dog Poetry Sunday – Dog Music

I sing to Shiva constantly; she is my best audience. I started the habit by warbling old Disney tunes to her on walks. It was a recommendation from our trainer, back in the days when every outdoor stroll was a battle, when enemies lurked over each hill and beneath each bush. If I sang, I was told, I would feel more relaxed and thus, my grip on the leash would be less tense, enabling us to face our adversaries with more confidence. And fewer teeth being gnashed.

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The custom never went away. I still find myself humming or singing a few favoured lines as we creep through the forest in the morning. Not loud enough to be overheard, of course, just for the two of us. I like to think she enjoys it as much as I do.

Unlike the dogs in the poem below, Shiva never joins my caroling. Though my childhood dog loved to sing, especially when alone in the backyard, Shiva makes music in other ways. Through stomps and short huffs, whines and long sighs, she gets her message across. These sounds have a beauty all their own. Even her barks, while alarming for the unprepared, are akin to the crash of symbols. If Shiva was in a band, she would play percussion.

Do your dogs make music? Do you wish they didn’t?

Dog Music ~ Paul Zimmer

Amongst dogs are listeners and singers.
My big dog sang with me so purely,
puckering her ruffled lips into an O,
beginning with small, swallowing sounds
like Coltrane musing, then rising to power
and resonance, gulping air to continue—
her passion and sense of flawless form—
singing not with me, but for the art of dogs.
We joined in many fine songs—”Stardust,”
“Naima,” “The Trout,” “My Rosary,” “Perdido.”
She was a great master and died young,
leaving me with unrelieved grief,
her talents known to only a few.

Now I have a small dog who does not sing,
but listens with discernment, requiring
skill and spirit in my falsetto voice.
I sing her name and words of love
andante, con brio, vivace, adagio.
Sometimes she is so moved she turns
to place a paw across her snout,
closes her eyes, sighing like a girl
I held and danced with years ago.

But I am a pretender to dog music.
The true strains rise only from
the rich, red chambers of a canine heart,
these melodies best when the moon is up,
listeners and singers together or
apart, beyond friendship and anger,
far from any human imposter—
ballads of long nights lifting
to starlight, songs of bones, turds,
conquests, hunts, smells, rankings,
things settled long before our birth.

Poem found via Poetry Foundation, original source: Poetry (August 1999).

Spam ate my blog

I’ve had a bit of a spam problem. You may have noticed. It’s been going on behind closed doors for about a year. Only now it is seeping under the floorboards, visible to all who wander by. It’s kind of embarrassing.

I have no idea what started it. I might have left out a dirty plate overnight. Maybe I forgot to put away the sugar bowl. I blame my PH. He’s the one who leaves sticky mugs in the sink rather than tucking them into the dishwasher. Either way, I have been invaded. Ignoring the problem has not made it better.

Spam is mote insidious than ants and bites harder than wasps. It is the reason I have turned off comments. It prevents me from removing dead plugins and gets in the way of all thoughts of redesign. My blog is being chewed from the inside. I have no idea what to do about it. I worry it is too late to do anything.

Spam sucks. Spam is more than evil. It is demoralising. Spam takes away one’s desire to create. It ruins the simplest of hobbies. Spam makes me sad.

I should have taken action sooner. Maybe my hosting company would have been more receptive a year ago. Now they see me for the lazy, spam-infested-hoarder I have become and want nothing to do with me. When the pest control companies want nothing to do with you, that’s when you are in real trouble.

It might be time to bail. The demons have already made a home of my cozy furniture. If I wait any longer, there won’t be anything left to save, not even my photo albums.

But how to make the move? How to say goodbye? How to turn away? This is my home. It has been my solace and my community for so long. It might be one of the hardest things I have ever done.

Not ready to say goodbye

We had our last camping trip of 2014 last weekend. It was supposed to be a send off of summer, a sort of wake, Irish style. Whisky and all. The idea was, by the time we returned home, I would be able to move on.

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Reality never matches fantasy, does it? Rather than a final farewell to summer, it became a tearful denial. The entire time I kept insisting we could do this again, that it wasn’t over. The sun was warm on our folding chairs, the leaves still smelled spring fresh. It felt too early to let it all go.

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And then day became night. Smores demolished, campfire extinguished we scuttled into our sleeping bags and promptly froze to death. The only thing that prevented me from suggesting we drive home in the middle of the night  was Shiva’s warmth curled at my side. But even she was shivering. When morning came, I knew we probably couldn’t do it again.

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When you have to wear mittens to bed, it might be too cold to sleep outside.

Might be. Now that several days have gone by, my memory is a little fuzzy. Once more I am thinking one more weekend is possible. We’ll have a real send off this time. Sunday is the Solstice; what could be more perfect?

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My PH and my citified canine are less convinced. They think I should get over the loss and learn to love brief autumnal trips to the park. I think they are wuss bags. What’s a little below zero chill when you can wake up to this?

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Sigh. If I do have to put away the tent and the camp stove, at least I do so knowing we made a lot of memories this year. Summer was never enjoyed so much.

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I can’t wait to do it all again.