Sunday, May 31, 2009

A loss in the community

Living in Wichita, KS, the abortion debate can get intense. People talked about the Civil War dividing families, but families here have been estranged over the issue and never recovered from their differences. The abortion protests of the early 1990s left some scars too. Businesses and major roads were shut down. Local government structures were overwhelmed by protesters

I guess I got used to the tension. I am pro-choice and volunteered for clinic defense. The bombs and the shooting seemed frightening but a fact of life. Later on, I didn't even like to discuss this belief in public. It was too much of a liability and too divisive. Most people could guess my opinion on the matter and I theirs. We danced around it. 

Not everyone practiced avoidance. The worst of it happened today. A local physician, Dr. George Tiller, who performs late-term abortions, was shot in the lobby of his church this morning. Dr. Tiller knew so many people in this community, and he continued to do what he believed despite threats to his well-being. 

The sad news has spread quickly. I was knitting at Watermark with Jill, and the news deflated us. She called her mom. I went to see my parents. At my parents house, we huddled around a computer to look at the news reports. I started to realize that he was probably shot in front of his family and people who loved him. It seems terribly unfair. 

Perhaps this was predictable. I didn't see it coming. After surviving clinic bombings and being shot, Dr. Tiller seemed invincible to me. In the end, he was just a brave man who did what he believed. I respect that. Our town will not be the same without this doctor.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Garden Report

The strawberries are ripening now. As with most things, it hasn't been what I anticipated. My vision included me gathering strawberries and doing something with them once a week. Reality looks like this: six or seven strawberries ripen each day. They are not good the next day, and they are not good after being refrigerated. The solution is that I go out to the garden each day and pluck the berries and eat them right there. I put the leaves in the compost heap on my way back inside. 

The weeds are doing well too, but when I sit on the back porch, I close my eyes and I can smell the iris, the honeysuckle and the peonies. This is a fragrant season -- maybe a little sneezy--and definitely sweet-smelling. 

The knitting isn't completely forgotten. Each week, I knit a repeat or two of Knitty's Branching Out scarf. The yarn is a soft, heathered blue. Alpaca. I like to knit slowly and stretch out the finished knitting to marvel at how a person could imagine a pattern, write it down and have it emerge from another person's needles. Maybe I'm just sentimental and mellow from spending time in the garden and the sun. 

Monday, May 18, 2009

Atticus the Cat

When I was 23, I decided I needed cats. This was based on two things: 1) I'd pestered my parents for a cat since I was a teenager, and 2) my accommodations at the time had no fenced yard for my beloved dog. (The dog also didn't let my boyfriend--later my ex-husband--in bed with me.)

My ex went with me to a pet store. Where two rescued males kittens were in a wire cage. They were both black and disreputable looking creatures, but I didn't know much about cats. One was gregarious and friendly. The other sat at the back of the cage and looked as unfriendly as possible. The friendly one played with me, and then he went to the back of the cage and licked his brother's ears. 

My ex looked at me and said, "Do you know what you're doing?"

I said, "Of course." This was a lie. I only knew one other cat who would permit me to pet her. She was old and blind, and she still barely tolerated my presence after knowing me for over 15 years. 

What I did know was that my sister had recently moved to another state, and I was miserable being so far away from her. I couldn't bear to separate the friendly cat from his brother when they seemed so fond of each other. 

"I'll take them both," I said to the pet store employees. I was holding the purring kitten, and he was climbing over the top of my head. The ex was simply shaking his head. 

"What?" I asked. 

"Oh nothing," he said.

The pet store employees had a fight over who had to extract the remaining kitten from the back of the cage. That should have been a warning sign, but I persevered and took the grumpy black ball of fluff home with me and named him Atticus. His brother was Trouser. Trouser was delighted to have a home and was very sociable. 

Atticus got out of the cardboard box when he first arrived home and that was the last I saw of him for the next six months unless I extracted him from one of his many hiding places: under the stove, under the bed, on a high shelf in the closet. Then he would glare at me and struggle for his freedom. He especially despised things that I thought were necessary to the
 care and feeding of a cat. Kissing was most hideous of all. Often he would press all four paws to my lips in an attempt to escape.

After I'd gone to bed for the night, Trouser would make a trilling sound. Atticus would answer. I heard them romping through the house, sliding on the linoleum, and crashing into the stove with a bang. 

Gradually Atticus acclimated to sharing a house with humans. He made friends with the ex first. The ex was in graduate school, and he spent long hours studing. The ex would brew an extremely strong cup of coffee, sit on the couch and sip it while he studied and listened to music. I'd come home from work to find the ex, Trouser, and Atticus sprawled on our $25 garage-sale sofa with books of post-modern literary criticism and listening to Miles Davis. Perhaps that was when Atticus first developed his affinity for books. He adored sitting on a good book, and he detested having a good book removed for the trivial purposes of "reading."

Atticus began to make up for his first, silent year. He talked incessantly. He followed me from room to room and meowed in a cranky, rasp meow. He needed to be petted. He wanted to be followed around the room on hands and knees and be petted. (That hadn't been a possibility until my sister catered to him once when she visited.) He and his brother both had sleek, glossy coats by then and looked fierce. He had high expectations and high standards. I always felt that I was a better person when he decided to sit on my lap or when he butted his head against my hands. And underneath the cranky, he could be downright sweet. We worked out a deal where he would let me hug him if I scratched his chin in the proper fashion. After his brother died, he did let me hold him and cry. He didn't even bother trying to get away. 

When the ex left, Atticus was just unhappy. He was at loose ends. He hated Norah. He never stopped fussing. So he went to live with the ex, and he had always preferred the ex. They liked the serious same reading: Kirkegaard, Camus,  Derrida. Admittedly, the ex and his girlfriend have some pretty nice digs. They had a second story, so Atticus could spend his days dropping his toys down two flights of stairs instead of just one. He could sleep in front of the sliding glass door and watch bunnies in the backyard. When I went to visit, he seemed perfectly happy although he did make all of his usual indications that I should crawl around on my hands and knees and pet him. I did. 

Atticus hadn't been feeling well for sometime. He'd always been pretty cranky, and when I visited him most recently, he didn't have the energy to come to meet me. So I went to him. We sat in a sunbeam and I scratched him. He purred. He looked quite ruffled again and not quite as glossy. Last week, the ex called to tell me that Atticus had passed away. He was in kitty pi, which he seemed to prefer when he felt sick, and my ex had been scratching his chin just the right way. The world feels emptier without that cranky old feline. 

Monday, May 4, 2009

Dirt and Dogs

Spring lured me outside this evening after a particularly draining day at work. The pinnacle of the day was a three-hour meeting. The meeting was valuable, and the information was pertinent. No one wasted time (thank goodness). My butt and I still want a medal. Sitting that long is a challenge. By the time I arrived home, I was certain that I would wind up on the couch immediately. 

Murphy is still here, and he was ready for a walk. He looked so eager and excited that I decided to go for a little walk, which put some life back in my body. Then it was time to mow the lawn and plant a few marigolds. Murphy and I lounged on the deck and surveyed our scrap of dirt. The picture above is a hosta division from my sister called "Guacamole." I hope to make many more divisions of it future years. It would do well as an edging for the shady part of the garden.

Back to the dog, I'm getting attached to that sweet canine. Even Oscar played with him this evening. Murphy's people need to show up soon or it will be a sad farewell for me. Only two people have called about the ad, and he wasn't a match for the first person. The other person wanted to know if I'd lost my "found" Beagle. Apparently, she also found a neutered Beagle with a red collar in the Delano District. We should form a support group for people who couldn't say, "No" to sad, Snoopy eyes.