The Dog and the Porcupine

030A dog who was known for her eagerness, though some may have called it plain meddlesomeness, spent a great deal of time in search of fresh smells and adventure. Intrusive she may have been but she was also a friendly sort. While sniffing and traveling she came across many fellow wanderers and meeting others was one of her greatest pleasures. No matter how startling the appearance of a fellow wanderer she always approached like an old friend. In other words, the dog had little use for manners and never understood when others were not so keen to converse.

On one of such journeys, the dog found herself trotting down a narrow path. She closed her eyes, touched her nose to the ground, and picked up an unfamiliar smell. Delighted by the prospect of a new encounter, the dog kept her nose in the dirt and allowed the scent trail to guide her. It wasn’t long before she found herself eye to an eye and nose to nose with a strange looking creature indeed.

PorcupineThe dog had never seen such an odd little face in her life. It had two eyes and what looked like a nose but the stubby legs and the wide body were covered in a mysterious sort of fur. The astonishing mammal blinked once and the dog blinked back. Ever curious, the dog continued to sniff, putting her face right into the neck of the other animal.

“What are you doing?” squeaked the smaller being. “Don’t you know I could hurt you?”

This made the dog giggle. “How could you hurt me? I am a dog with big teeth and you are a rodent-smelling thing. Do you want to play?”

The odd creature, being a quill-covered porcupine, had no desire to interact further with such a silly beast. He had twigs to eat and clover to find and had no time for leisure. Besides, he was a slow-moving animal and knew the dog’s kind of games were not games he liked to play.

“Certainly not,” said the porcupine and with that last he circled around to furrow back in the bush. As he turned his tail swished and hit the dog in her interfering black nose.

“Ouch!” cried the dog and she sprung back. She would have jumped forward again to give chase to the spiny animal but she was stopped by the leash attached to her collar. The dog did not understand why the porcupine had been so rude as to cause her pain. Rubbing her nose with a paw, she wandered away.

It wasn’t too long before the dog met the porcupine again. This time there was no leash to restrain her. When she spotted a pointy tail wagging out of a thicket, she bounced over to say hello, wagging her tail in response.

“Hello, you odd creature!” The dog shoved her nose under the belly of the smaller animal. “Would you like to play today?” 220px-MainePorcupine

The porcupine was quite startled. He had been enjoying an early breakfast of bark and willow leaves and did not appreciate the nosey dog interrupting his meal.

“Eep!” the porcupine shouted. Abandoning his food, he shuffled as quick as he could over to a nearby tree. Much to his dismay, the dog followed right behind.

“But why?” asked the dog, leaning forward to sniff his neck. As she leaned with her tonque flicking out a quill caught her just below her eye. “Eieeeeeee!” The dog cried out, shaking her head in pain.

“I warned you!” squeaked the porcupine. He seized the moment of the dog’s surprise to shimmy up the tree. “Leave me alone!”

“But why?” The dog persisted. Even though her eye watered from the spiney jab, she placed her front paws on the trunk of the tree. Her tail wagged vigorously behind her. “I just want to taste you!”

“Don’t you learn?” asked the porcupine from his spot on a branch above the dog’s head. “I have already hurt you twice. I will hurt you again.”

The dog started up at the strange-looking animal, tilting her head. She couldn’t understand why she had been hurt but didn’t think it had anything to do with the creature in the tree. He was so small and so slow. She was so big and so fast. It must have been a mistake.

Eventually the dog was called away from the tree with the promise of dinner and the porcupine was left to his own devices. He hoped it was the last he would see of the ignorant beast. But it was not to be so.

019A few days later, just as the porcupine was meandering off to bed, the dog appeared at the rise of a hill in the meadow. The sun had yet to rise and the porcupine hoped he would not be seen. Alas, the dog took a big sniff of the air and then started to wag her tail in his direction. With nowhere to hide, the porcupine crouched his stubby legs and curled up into as much of a ball as he could.

“Hello again!” The dog bounded over. “Would you like to play?”

The porcupine did not answer. Instead, he curled up tighter. The dog jumped in a circle around him, barking and laughing. When he didn’t respond, she shoved her face underneath him to get a good whiff.

“Ow!” cried the dog. “Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow!”

The porcupine lifted his head, expecting to see the dog running away. He was surprised when she continued to stand in front of him, tail still high in the hair. The porcupine immediately lost his patience.

“I don’t understand you,” he declared. “Three times we have met and three times I have hurt you. How many times will it take you to learn? What kind of animal are you?”

The dog puzzled over this question, thinking the spikey fellow even stranger than ever. What kind of animal did she look like? After much deep thought the dog answered as honestly as she could.

“I am a Shiva.”

The porcupine’s shoulders hunched and he let out a sigh. All of a sudden he understand. If a Shiva had infiltrated the forest, there was no hope for solitary creatures like him. It was time to find a new home.

Fool you once, shame on me. Fool you twice, shame on you. Fool you three times… You must be a Shiva.

Before anyone worries, no Shivas were seriously injured in the telling of this story. Shiva has encountered several porcupines and has once chased one into a tree, but any wounds were strictly to her pride.

Things Making Me Feel

Things Making Me Feel Needlessly Guilty

The three times I used Shiva’s surgery as an excuse for asking another dog owner to re-leash his or her dog.

The fact I wish I had thought of this sooner.

I spent the extra bit of money I had for this month on symphony tickets instead of savings.

The fact that I almost wish our Christmas this year would be as quiet as previous years. As lovely as it will be to spend the holidays with family, the coordination makes my head ache.

The Nanaimo bar I ate for lunch.

My cat. I haven’t seen him since I startled him off my chair. No wonder he hates me.

Things Making Me Feel Needlessly Happy

Our wee little tree and twinkle lights on the staircase. if I could, I would cover the house in them.

The fact that there are so many programs celebrating the beauty of dogs. Like this one:

Re-reading one of my favourite books from a wiser perspective.

Nutcracker tickets.

December is just one day away.

Shiva’s purple polka-dotted coat made by my kind and generous practically mother-in-law. We are so lucky.

The yummy roasted potatoes I just had for dinner.

Things Making Me Feel Needlessly Nostalgic

This photo of Shiva with our old lilac bush.

012Mint chocolate Girl Guide cookies.

The thought of giving up my Blackberry.

The wish I had blogged more last year so I would have a record of all we experienced. The knowledge that even if I attempt to tell the stories now, they won’t be the same as they would have been.

Things Making Me Feel Relieved

Tomorrow is the last day of Movember.

Things Making Me Feel Less Relieved Than I Expected

Tomorrow is the last day of NaBloPoMo. I kind of wish it wasn’t.

It Ain’t Easy Being a Canadian Blogger in November

Life in one of North America’s most northerly cities of substantial size has more pluses than minuses. I was surprised when I saw just how many varieties of tree live in Edmonton’s river valley. After living thirteen years on the Albertan prairie, a region sparsely forested and then only with cottonwoods, I expected more of the same when my plane landed in July. The dry climate and constant wind of the southern part of the province just doesn’t allow for much greenery. I was then trilled to learn how different the North really is from the South. In more ways than one.

For instance, being along the 53rd parallel means Edmonton receives many more hours of daylight during the summer months than my former city of Halifax. Thus, it follows, now that it is winter, my life looks pretty much like this:

007Oh, there are brief periods of sunshine, or so I am told. But I have this habit of blinking and missing them.

I shan’t complain. For one thing, it’s only going to get worse. It is just a bit annoying that every year when I have committed to posting every day for thirty days, the only pictures I have to share look like this:

011And no, I didn’t alter the photo to make it look black and white. This is just our world now. Not so much impressive or inspiring.

It just means I am going to have to actually come up with things to say and can’t get away with throwing up a few photos. For this last week, whatever creativity is lurking in the depths of my soul better crawl to the surface. Otherwise it’ll be “Black and White Sunday” every day until the Solstice.

On that happy note, I’d better make like a good Canadian girl and indulge in another of my country’s favourite pastimes – other than ranting about the weather, I mean. It’s Grey Cup day and that means it is time for my obligatory five minute interest in football. Since it is only once a year I suppose I can fake it for a little while. Go Riders?

008I know. Even the Shivster finds my enthusiasm overwhelming.

Announcing a Change of Scenery

Gosh, I have been so good with this whole NaBloPoMo thing until now. It’s the first time I really am sneaking in an attempt at writing only slightly before the stroke of midnight. Not bad considering there is only one week left. I’m doing much better than I expected.

I have a good excuse so even if I hadn’t managed to slide open my laptop before Friday ended, I would have given myself a pass. After all, I just spent the last two hours in conversation about art and writing with a literary genius. Well, a literary genius and the 1,699 other people in the audience. Oh, and Alanis Morissette was there too. Regardless, I figure if I just soaked in two hours worth of advice from a woman I have admired since I was a teenager, I can be forgiven for being too spellbound and overwhelmed to have a whole lot to say myself.

Besides, there is something more important going on here than my inner wranglings and my sudden onset of celebrity-star-struckedness. I don’t know if anyone has noticed but there have been a few changes around here. A house-cleaning, if you will – a simplification. The Art of AJ has done it again. Thanks to her magical work, I am so pleased to show off Rescued Insanity – The Next Generation!

Or something much less cheesy.

It’s cleaner, it’s brighter, and it’s a whole lot more comfortable. The new look feels a bit like a liberation. There is so much room to kick off my boots and flail around. The furniture has been pushed aside and it is time to dance! I’ve always flirted with the line between pet blog and personal blog and now I feel like the scenery matches the direction. It’s a new era, in a way, with one hundred percent more authenticity and without losing an ounce of Shiva.

Thank you for sticking with me after all this time. For listening to my stories and hanging in there when they dried up. The Petosphere is a beautiful place. I am so grateful you still consider me a member. And thank you to AJ Emm for putting it all together so quickly. Everyone of you means a lot to me. I definitely could not and would not have pulled through alone.

Happy Friday!

The Apparent Randomness of Fear

Fear works in weird ways. I am terrified of driving but riding in the passenger seat of a careening vehicle doesn’t bother me one bit. I shrug at air travel, roller coasters, and rickety bridges, but the climbing wall at the gym takes great courage. In university, whenever I saw mandatory presentations on the course syllabus, I felt so much anxiety that I sometimes ended up dropping the class. Yet, in junior high and high school I eagerly signed up for theatre classes and was an active member of the drama club.

What’s the difference, really? Why do I still feel so much fear upon entering a room full of strangers and yet feel nothing but excitement when starting a new job or moving to a new city?

It doesn’t add up. I try to tell myself that if at the age of fifteen I could deliver a ten minute soliloquy on tampons during a one-act festival in front of an auditorium full of Mormon teenagers, I can handle introducing myself to a person I don’t know. And yet I just can’t seem to get the words out. It is just so much easier to sit at the one empty table, pull out my phone, and pretend no one else is in the room.

Heck, now that I am remembering said one-act festival, I recall how miserable that whole weekend was for me during all the times I wasn’t on stage. While performing, I was fine. Nervous, sure, but not nearly as frightened as I was when it came time for lunch and I had no one with whom to sit. Practices were torture, waiting for my turn. And there was nothing more awkward than hanging out in the green room between scenes. Reading lines someone else has written under the bright lights was easy. Being myself in daylight when I could see the expressions on my peers’ faces, was much, much harder.

Blogging is the same. In real life I am private, reluctant to share even the most basic details of my life with others. It takes a long time before I am comfortable enough with someone to even talk about my family or my favourite colour. It takes even longer before I divulge more personal information. Yet, online, there isn’t much I hold back. Sure, there are some lines I won’t cross, some secrets that aren’t mine to tell, but my life is an open book, as they say.

Why is that? Why do I have such a hard time being myself with physical people I can see and such an easy time baring all to the world under the sheer cover of my computer? Why is it so difficult to just be me when someone is smiling back?

Why could I belly dance in a Middle Eastern restaurant but I can’t sing in front of my practically husband? Why am I fascinated by spiders but my skin crawls at the thought of a worm? Why can I handle a million swearing customers but have to psyche myself up to book a dental appointment?

I guess there is no use in asking such questions. There is no logic to fear. I’ll just have to continue plugging on and bumbling my way through the ickiness of inadequacy and self-doubt. After all, I am hardly alone.

They Never Told Me I Would Love the Snow

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They never told me I would love the snow.

It turns dark to light, illuminating once-frightening places.

“Your hair is like the stars,” she says when I step towards the approaching bus.

I startle and frown, not understanding.

She gestures to my hair, the over-long tresses adorned with fat flakes. A smile curves her lips.

“Oh!” I touch fingertips to my hatless head. I am flattered without knowing why. “I suppose.”

Halifax snow is a bucket, more Poseidon than Jack.

Edmonton snow is a feather. It lands soft on shoulders and brushes off with a flick.

I expected to fear the sky. It’s too large, to limitless, too wide.

The Maritimes were a reprieve with their hills and trees.

They were an escape, a place too hide.

The Prairie is open, flaws bared for all to see. I feel self-conscious, unprepared.

Like I am giving a speech and forgot my notes.

I dislike how it is too bright, too blue, too uncovered.

Clouds feel safe, warm, protective.

But now there is snow and the sky is my friend. It sparkles and floats and charms.

It shows me the way and covers my flaws.

The snow here is cold, colder than I expect.

It doesn’t melt when touched and squeaks rather than crunches.

It is likely I will lose a few toes before winter is done.

But I won’t mind, as long as it snows.

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Blogging for Blogging’s Sake is Still Blogging. Or Something.

060It all started with a book review.

Things hadn’t been easy for a while. Burn out, I think they call it. I had just lost all semblance of motivation for extracurricular activities, including things that made me happy. Every task took supreme effort. If it didn’t have to be done, I didn’t do it. Sleeping, eating, and working were the only things I could manage. Barely. Those items were suffering as well. Truly, all I wanted to do was sleep until the world wasn’t so hard.

I was defeated. That’s really the only excuse I can offer. It is hollow, I know, but it’s all I have.

I had this job. An important job. An awesome job. The best one I have ever had and one I miss every single day. It was challenging and effective and exhausting. I loved it. I wish I was still there. At the time, this job was hinged to my identity. I was so proud to be a member of this fantastic organization that was making a strong, positive difference in my community. When I went to work every day, I contributed to something larger than myself. People noticed if I wasn’t there. I mattered.

The pressure became too much, I guess. Every day I needed to impress; I strove to be better. I wanted to do it all on my own. It was draining. When one lives in a constant state of overwhelmed for so long, things will eventually topple. There are only so many piles one can balance. I was at the point where it was either sacrifice a few stacks or let the whole thing come tumbling down.

The book review was a catalyst. It was due at the end of the week and I had yet to finish reading. I couldn’t pull together the desire to pick up the thing, let alone digest the written words. Quite honestly, I wasn’t enjoying it. I’ve done many reviews of many books and this one I just couldn’t get behind. I was in the minority. I’d read other reviews by other bloggers of this same book and every one else appeared to love it. No matter how much I read, I didn’t like it. I didn’t like the author and I didn’t like the purpose behind the book. If I was going to write a semi-decent review, I was going to have to work some serious magic. It weighed on me and instead of plowing through like I had in the past, I retreated. I turned off.

At first, I gave myself a week. It was just going to be a small break. Seven days where I could relax, focus on my life, and wake up in the morning without panicking that I hadn’t written a blog post yet.

I gotta say, it was a pretty fabulous week.

So I gave myself another. And then another. Before I knew it, a whole month had gone by and my motivation to blog had not increased. If anything, I felt even less interested in writing than I ever had before. So I kept my laptop closed.

Then I started getting emails. Heartfelt emails. Gutting emails. Amazing emails. Emails that made me realize what I was missing. I was reminded of the community I had left behind when I chose not to blog. It was humbling and incredible and it made me cry. These people were my friends. Heck, they probably knew me better than my friends. By not writing, I was ignoring them. I felt like I had let them down. So I tried to start over. I wrote a few lackluster posts, told myself I would be better. I wanted to deserve the kindness I had been shown.

My attempts failed. The feeling wasn’t there. I kept thinking of that dang book review I had never written along with all of the other commitments I had made and then broken. I felt like a jerk. I was a jerk. It was easier to keep silent than to try to make amends.

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There have been many changes in my life since then. I have learned more about myself and what is important. Blogging, for me, was never about making money or turning it into a job. It was intrinsically personal. I wrote because I liked writing and because it was a way of connecting with like-minded people. What killed it for me, I think, was the silly idea that I needed to keep up with others. When companies contacted me with products and ads and fun things to review I felt I needed to accept. That’s what bloggers do. I was lucky they had deigned to send me an email. Who was I to turn them down? Other bloggers were doing it all and keeping their style and wit intact. Shouldn’t I do the same? Isn’t that the point of all this?

The obvious answer is no. I don’t need to do any of that to justify the practice and expense of blogging. It’s a hobby, and a cheap one at that. What’s a few hosting and design fees when compared to the cost of ski lift tickets or green fees? There is nothing wrong with writing for the sake of writing, even if nobody reads it.

It took me some time to learn this. In fact, I am not wholly sure I have learned it yet. But it is my new goal for this space, to find the joy I once had. That’s why I am making a commitment to myself only. Not to companies or people I think I should impress and not even to you, kind, lovely reader who is somehow still paying attention. I am grateful to you, everlastingly so, but I cannot owe you any more.

I recently read a quote by a celebrity and I wish I could remember the entire thing. I can’t even remember who said it. After spending the last thirty minutes trying to find it, I am giving up. It would have been an easy way to end this ramble and I feel less than perfect for not being able to share it with you but sometimes that happens. There are better things to do on a snowy Sunday than fight with Google.

Anyway, the quote was given in the context of providing career advice. It was given by a person, a woman, who had found her direction later in life. In essence, she came to realize that the thing she was best at was the thing she had loved doing when she was ten. That was the advice, to do the thing you loved doing when you were ten. It was a bit of an over-simplification as these things always are, but it knocked a bit of sense into my addled brain.

When I was ten, I loved to write. I didn’t produce anything of note and I almost never completed a story. The genre was never the same. I wrote mysteries, I wrote plays, I wrote research papers, and I wrote fictional journal entries for no one to read. I wrote because it was fun. The practice was its own reward.

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I still have a need to tell stories. The bonus of not having written for so long means I have a backlog. This is what I want to do with this space I have been given. I don’t want to write reviews or talk about the politics of dog training or try to convince anyone of anything. I want to share my story. In return, I hope I will get to hear yours.