Dandelions in a meadow outside Thunder Bay, ON

Dandelions in a meadow outside Thunder Bay, ON

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Scaredy Cats and the People Who Love Them

One feature of Halloween will always be lost on me: I am incapable of being frightened by animals. Naturally existing animals or their fictional derivatives, it doesn't matter. Spiders, bats, toads and snakes are all invaluable sources of that burst of adrenalin that sends normal people running and shrieking, but I'm afraid all they do for me is send me into a frenzy of dotage: "Oh, look at that cute little spider/snakey/[insert name of hideous and repulsive animal of your choice]." If the animal is not downright venomous or obviously rabid, I will try to pick up and cuddle it. As for mythical creatures like werewolves, well, those are really just people pretending to be animals. What self-respecting wolf goes around grunting and slobbering like that? We know that animals are simply more competent and effective than we are - we know, because we used to be them, - and on Halloween we express our admiration and nostalgia in clumsy and roundabout ways.

Last week I was awakened in the middle of the night by a shaking and quaking of my pillow. My first thought was that I must have imagined it. (We have no pets because we both travel too often.) When the quaking repeated itself, my next thought was that it must be an animal, because my husband was right there and sleeping. It had to be. A normal person would have been scared out of their wits. I know this because everyone I'd told the story assumed that I was scared (which also means I've been mistaken for a normal person). All I thought was, "Cool: an animal. Touching me. Way cool! Let's see who it is." Never mind that it was impossible for an animal to be there. Suspension of disbelief works much better when you're only half awake. I turned around and saw a cat on the windowsill. A fully-grown cat had materialized inside a closed room. I stretched out my hand to let him sniff, and we made contact. I patted the mosquito net to evaluate the size of the hole he'd torn to get inside. But of course there was no hole, and he'd never got in through the window. He wanted out, not in. By now I was awake enough to realize he'd got in through the open balcony door during the daytime, had hidden under the bed as we walked into the apartment, and had lain in wait until the middle of the night. Maybe he was scared, or maybe he'd fallen asleep. Until he decided it was time to pee or eat or return home. I let him out on the balcony and he went back down the way he'd come. One cool cat.

So the stories I find scary never contain animals. And here is the next installment of this week's Halloween Reads from Angela Kulig: www.angelakulig.com/2015/10/halloween-reads-2015-day-two.html

My "Day of the Dead" is among them. Enjoy!


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Be Very Afraid - or as Much as You'd Like to Be

I don't know what it is about the appeal of Halloween, and that's a good thing: If I knew, it might not work. Which would be a bad thing because I love Halloween, I love to be scared. It seems that we have an organic need for fear as much as for air and water and you-know-what. (Of course I'm talking about coffee, you dirty people!) Our modern lives are built on a foundation of safety. Safety is an expectation, an entitlement, and a cult. But as creatures who evolved by surviving and overcoming danger, it's in our blood to take perverse pleasure in fear. Fear is our friend and our saviour. And in a culture sanitized by safety, we turn to movies and books for our daily allowance of fear.

Especially books, and especially this week. My "Day of the Dead" (appearing tomorrow) is among a number of books featured by the lovely Angela Kulig on her blog. Do check them out. And next time you clean, don't be too pleased about killing the 99.9% of germs. It's the surviving 0.01% you might want to be worried about. Very, very worried... www.angelakulig.com/2015/10/halloween-reads-2015-day-one.html

Friday, October 2, 2015

If I May Ride into the Sunset

Before a difficult surgery yesterday I was fortunate to spend some quiet moments alone with a cat. He snuggled up to me for security and warmth, I snuggled up to him for primal peace that only an animal can give. His purring radiated through me in soft waves and melted away my worries and my very thoughts. There was only the cat and myself in the universe, the two of us oscillating with dumb gratitude for our lives. But since I can't banish thoughts for very long, they came back soon enough. I though about the less healthy animals I had held like this, some on their way to recovery and others at the end of their life's journey. I thought about who would be with me when my turn came to say goodbye to life, and for the first time I gave it serious thought. I knew it would not be my dear husband - I hope not, as he is incapable of being alone. I hope he precedes me, but not because I want to live longer. While I would be devastated to lose him, I have a feral and solitary self I can revert to. He does not. We have no children, and I do not wish to be comforted by strangers. Right then I knew that I wanted to hug an animal close to me as I made my exit. If I am fortunate enough to plan this moment and lucid enough to make this request, if I have enough feeling in my shrivelled skin to delight in the softness of fur, the warmth of a sniffing nose and a tongue grooming my face, I will go out with this kind of flourish. I would like to hope I have earned this privilege.

The surgery went well, and for that I am thankful to the cat. He made my hands steady and cautious, and my purpose bold and brazen. He reminded me that the rest of the world is none of my concern at such moments.