Sunday, May 31, 2009

Power of the Dog (This Time It's Really About Dogs)

Unlike the post of a few days ago, The Power of the Dog, which was about a book that wasn't about dogs, this post is actually an update on little Bertie-Pierre, who joined our family recently and who starred in these posts: 

The Arrival of Bertie-Pierre

I just wanted to share a couple of photos with you. The first is of our Bertie, back when he was temporarily named "Rio" by the dog catcher and was shivering in his cage at the kill shelter, frightened by the clamor of the big barking dogs and the sense of hopelessness that permeates the place. 

The second is of Bertie--now safe and much loved in his forever home--with his new best (and somewhat larger) friend, Leny. They are resting with Leny's beloved sock monkey (or what's left of it). In our house, the dogs nap on the sofas and the humans sit nearby on hard chairs, all the while admiring the wonderful pups.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

May Flowers We'll See in June, I Hope

Forgive me for reposting this slide show that I made last year, called My Clovis: Flowers in May. I mainly wanted to remind myself of the flowers we haven't seen yet--we lost a lot of plants, branches, and buds to a late blizzard this spring. The roses are just now starting to bloom, and I'm not sure when my irises will recover.

Some of these flowers were in our yard in the spring of 2008; some were in other parts of town. 

Friday, May 29, 2009

Log Cabin Knitting

I am trying my hand at Log Cabin knitting, which is based on the quilt pattern of the same name and is described in Mason-Dixon Knitting; The Curious Knitters' Guide. I'm very pleased with the results so far and would like to explore this pattern further. Imagine the color combinations and resulting patterns--all light on one side and dark on the other; or concentric squares (can there be such a thing?) of different colors, shading out from the center.
Basically, you start with a garter stitch square in what will be the middle of your blanket, bind off all but one stitch, give the work a quarter turn, then add another strip to the edge of the first by picking up stitches and continuing to knit, then add more strips in the same way. It's easy, it's fun, and it's really really addictive. For the complete directions from Kay Gardiner's half of the Mason-Dixon Knitting blog, go to the 2004 archives and scroll down a bit. Or buy the book! Or check it out from your library, of course.

These photos are of my second Log Cabin pattern baby blanket, which is still in progress. The first blanket was a dud--I hated the colors and dismantled it before getting very far.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Power of the Dog

Poor me. I thought this book, found on some forgotten list of best books and jotted down in my little notebook, was perhaps a nice dog story. And so, I was almost driven away by the first paragraph, which is a brutal and graphic description of what happens when a calf is castrated. 

I can just hear my sister saying Oops, not a happy novel for Princess Bluebird! Even when I was halfway through this book I considered setting it aside and giving up. However, I'm glad I stayed with it, because it is the kind of novel that will stay with me--tough, gritty, and with many, many layers to continue to think about long after the book is finished. A complex novel (oh, no, I'm talking book reviewer talk, and you know I don't like to do that) wherein one diabolical and secret plot is played off against another far more diabolical and secret plot. 

Fascinating characters--weak, strong, good, evil, sometimes sadistic and often more than a little strange--populate this chilling, taut, and very tense novel of the west. I can say no more. 

The Power of the Dog, by Thomas Savage. First published  in 1967; reprinted in 2003 with an afterword by Annie Proulx. 

This I Believe

This I Believe; The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women (Holt, 2006) is a collection of very short essays by the famous and the not-so-famous; some from the Edward R. Murrow radio series in the 1950s and some from the National Public Radio series that has just been completed. 

Each person has expressed a core belief that is central to his life and the result is inspiring and thought provoking. How would you express your own belief--your own personal values--while avoiding "religious dogma, preaching, or editorializing?"

Here are a few quotes from the book:

I believe that my own good fortune brings with it a responsibility to give back to the world.   ~Bill Gates

I believe in the connection between strangers when they reach out to each other.   ~Miles Goodwin

I now again believe there is more good than evil; more of those who create, or wish to create, than those who destroy; more of those who love than those who hate.   ~Maximilian Hodder (1950 series)

I believe in cultivating hidden talents, buried and unrelated to what we do for a living.   ~Mel Rusnov

I believe in getting up in the morning with a serene mind and a heart holding many hopes.   ~Carl Sandburg (1950s series)

To imagine that one's own church, civilization, nation, or family is the chosen people is, I believe, as wrong as it would be for me to imagine that I myself am God.    ~Arnold Toynbee (1950s series)

...I believe that if enough ordinary people back up our desire for a better world with action, we can, in fact, accomplish absolutely extraordinary things.   ~Jody Williams, founding coordinator of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, whose interest in advocacy began with a leaflet on global activism handed to her outside a subway station.

You can read the essays published in the book and many more, and browse the archives of the 1950s series at This I, "a public dialogue about belief, one essay at a time." You can also contribute an essay--guidelines are given--and find out how to use these essays in your home, your school, and in your community.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Little More About Gladys Taber

Photo from Google Images

Perhaps, after all, our best thoughts come when we are alone. It is good to listen, not to voices but to the wind blowing, to the brook running cool over polished stones, to bees drowsy with the weight of pollen. If we attend to the music of the earth, we reach serenity. And then, in some unexplained way, we share it with others. ~Gladys Taber

Last January, I wrote a post about the books of Gladys Taber. Just the other day, I received another comment on that post from Shelley, who suggested that I might want to visit her website, Welcome to Gladys Taber's Stillmeadow, a tribute to Gladys that was started by Susan E. Stanley and continued by Shelley when Susan died in 2007. [Note: I'm sorry to see that this link no longer works. CZ, 4/14/10].

I'm so glad that I visited--it's a lovely site with lot of photos and memories of Gladys, information about her books, and a wonderful video of the animals at Stillmeadow, the Connecticut farm where Gladys lived and wrote for so many years. You can even see Gladys' family tree.

Here are some other links to sites about the well-loved author.

Gladys Taber, A Stillmeadow Primer (how they found the house)

Gladys Taber's Still Cove (her home on Cape Cod)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Tea Time

Tea Time for the Traditionally Built, by Alexander McCall Smith. 

This is the latest book in The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series and it will have you longing for a nice cup of bush tea. As with the other books in the series, nothing much happens, but somehow many things are learned. 

This quote will give you some of the flavor of the book. Mma Ramotswe loves her little van but it is not doing well, mechanically speaking: 

She continued her progress down Zebra Drive, steering the van carefully through her gateway with all the care of a nurse wheeling a very sick patient down the corridor of a hospital... As she went inside, she debated with herself what to do. She was married to a mechanic, a situation in which any woman would revel, especially when her car broke down. Mechanics made good husbands, as did carpenters and plumbers--that was well known--and any woman proposed to by such a man would do well to accept. But for every advantage that attended any particular man, it always seemed as if there was a compensating disadvantage lurking somewhere. The mechanic as husband could be counted on to get a car going again, but he could just as surely be counted upon to be eager to change the car. Mechanics were very rarely satisfied with what they had, in mechanical terms, that is, and often wanted their customers--or indeed their wives--to change one car for another. If Mma Ramotswe told Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni that the tiny white van was making a strange noise, she knew exactly what he would say, as he had said it all before. 

"It's time to replace the van, Mma Ramotswe," he had said, only a few months earlier. And then he had added, "No vehicle lasts forever, you know."

"I know that, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni," she said. "But surely it's wrong to replace a vehicle that still has a lot of life left in it. That's not very responsible, I think."

"You van is over twenty," he said. "Twenty-two years old, I believe. That is about half the age of Botswana itself."

It had not been a wise comparison, and Mma Ramotswe had seized on it. "So you would replace Botswana?" she said. "When a country gets old, you say, That's enough, let's get a new country. I'm surprised at you, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni."

This unsatisfactory conversation had ended there...

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Those Who Are Caregivers

Old age is the most unexpected of all the things that can happen to a man.  ~Leon Trotsky

I would like to share a few quotes from the Caregivers part of the HBO Documentary The Alzheimer's Project

From the webpage:

There are currently 10 million Americans providing 8.5 billion hours of unpaid care to people with Alzheimer's disease or other dementias, according to an estimate from the Alzheimer's Association. Seventy percent of people with Alzheimer's live at home, cared for by family and friends. As Bill CouturiĆ© explains: "Not only is it very expensive to pay for care in a nursing home, but the patient is someone you love a lot - a mother, father, spouse. Someone who has taken care of you, and so it's only natural to want to take care of them."

From the film itself:

(caregiver of her husband, Marvine, until Jackie's health forced her to put him into a nursing home for those with Alzheimer's Disease): 

I like to look my best when I go to the nursing home. One of the things that I have found out, my husband is really looking at me to see what I look like on the days when he remembers who I am

... Sometimes when you least expect it, you might feel a tug on your arm. He just may say my name, and he might just put his arm around me--and I know it's all worth it. 

Chuck (diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's): 

It gives me joy just to know that I am still alive. 

At this moment there is something beautiful going on around me and that I can enjoy, or there's something I can find that I'd be real angry about, so I choose to find the part that's really beautiful. 

Note: Chuck's ex-wife, Marianne, remarried him when she found out that he had Alzheimer's so that she could be his caretaker.

Jackie again: 

Family takes care of family. 

Where we started from, taking care of our kids, and now looking at our kids trying to take care of us... we've come full circle. 

... Very seldom do I say good-bye. I never say good-bye. We never say good-bye. 

You can watch the stories of Jackie and Marvine, Chuck and Marianne, and others online at Caregivers.

Friday, May 22, 2009

A Terrible Thief

Death is not the greatest loss. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.     ~Norman Cousins

I have been watching the Alzheimer's Project, an HBO documentary that has recently been broadcast on TV in five parts. I am pleased to find that all the parts of the documentary can be seen online. The filmmakers have found a nice balance between the personal stories of Alzheimer's patients and their caretakers, and a scientific approach to the disease, its causes, and the research for a cure. 

The HBO website for the project also includes Alzheimer's basics, a clear and well-illustrated section on advances in neuroscience, an analysis of the impact of the disease in America, and resources for getting help, as well as ways to get involved through research, action projects, tributes, and local screenings. 

According to the documentary, after cancer Alzheimer's is the second most feared disease in America. I can believe it, for I wept as I looked at lives impacted by this terrible thief of memories. 

After watching the documentary, I wanted to hear more from Alzheimer's patients and their caretakers. Here are some voices of those who have found themselves on this frightening journey: 

Living with Alzhiemers' [sic]: Joe's blog is honest and sometimes filled with anger

Robrt Pela: Caring for an Aging Parent: Robrt (yes, that's really the spelling) talks about his mother's Alzheimer's in a series of special reports on National Public Radio

The Trip Over: Don is a 73-year old retired physician who was diagnosed with early Alzheimer's in 2005. He writes this blog with his brother, Jan

People with Alzheimer's Stories: From the Alzheimer's Association, this list will link you to the personal stories of patients and their families

Do you know an Alzheimer's patient? Are you a caregiver? Can you share your story?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Spunky New Mexico Respectfully Demands...

Kickin Ass Ranch, along the Turquoise Trail between Santa Fe and Albuquerque
I am still investigating the history of how New Mexico became a state, and I came across this document in the Library of Congress An American Time Capsule; Three Centuries of Broadsides and Other Printed Ephemera. 

I have just quoted some pertinent excerpts. To see the entire document and a great many other fascinating historical papers, search the title on the American Time Capsule home page.

I love the language here. It is frustration, pure and simple, and thinly veiled. After all, the New Mexican people had, by this time, been respectfully requesting statehood for over fifty years--it was no doubt time to start demanding. By 1901 they had apparently gotten to the point where they plainly stated their arguments, with very little false humility.

New Mexico’s Memorial to Congress

A Plain Presentation of Well-Known Facts Showing Why the Territory Should be Admitted to the Union as a State. 1901.


[The people of New Mexico] respectfully demand... to be admitted into the union on an equal footing with the original states.

a Territorial government is intolerable to a free people...

...because for more than half a century we have been neglected by the nation...

...New Mexico demands statehood because she has shown her right to it...

...she [New Mexico] demands it because she is now better than ever well fitted to assume such higher form of government, as in the last few years she has advanced from fourth to first place as a wool producing and sheep raising section of the nation, and is well on toward first place as a cattle raiser, and her mineral, timber and agricultural interests are vast in extent and are being developed in a phenomenal manner. Railroads are being built, plants erected and industries of different kinds are being established all over the Territory, which has an area as great as that of all the New England States and the State of New York combined. 

...[New Mexico] supports more and better public institutions (all built at its own expense when the National Government ought to have built them, we still being a Territory)...

...because it has within its boundaries not less than fifteen cities and towns that are modern, up-to-date places in every respect, and that are far in advance of places in the eastern States that are of equal size...

...[we] have the finest kind of buildings in which to maintain as fine a system of public schools as exist anywhere west of the Central States, or, in fact, anywhere in the whole nation...

...because the people of the Territory are a conservative, law-abiding people, more than 90 per cent of them being born American citizens, attached to the principles of the constitution of the United States...

...because in more than twelve congresses of the United States the fitness of the people of New Mexico for a state government has been fully investigated, and bills passed in one house or both for the admission of the Territory, all of which failed to become a law through one mishap or another... 

Remember, in spite of the brisk tone of this document (or, because of it?), the New Mexicans were still not granted statehood for another eleven years. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

New Mexico: Statehood is an Ongoing Struggle

There's talk on the news shows about how the Republic of Texas, or its governor, keeps muttering about secession. That made me curious about New Mexico's statehood history. I am sure that if I had been educated here in New Mexico I would know all about how it became a state, but since I am a gypsy of sorts and a relative newcomer I had to do a little research. It turned up some interesting facts.

New Mexico first sought statehood starting in 1850 and continued to do so for more than half a century. In 1906 it even unsuccessfully sought joint statehood with Arizona. It has been suggested that New Mexico’s lack of statehood success was because it was considered too “foreign,” too "Hispanic," and too "Catholic." Alternate possible state names, such as Lincoln and Navajo, were even suggested to make the place sound less foreign.
The long struggle for statehood culminated when President Taft signed the documents making New Mexico the 47th state on January 12, 1912.

Even today, some continue to believe that New Mexico is not a part of the United States. New Mexico Magazine runs a humor column, one of its most popular, called One of Our Fifty is Missing. It details anecdotes in which traveling New Mexicans are congratulated for speaking excellent English, or find that they are unable to order merchandise from another state because the shipping department believes that they live in a foreign country.
The historical information in this post came from A Cuarto Centennial History of New Mexico, by Robert J. Torrez.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Whistling Season

Thank you, Linda, of the 7MSN Ranch, for suggesting The Whistling Season to me in a comment on a recent post about another book that I had read. I love to discover a new author, and can't wait to start reading more of Doig's books. 

The Whistling Season introduces us to Oliver Milliron, a recent widower with three sons. The Milliron family is living on a dryland farming homestead in Montana in 1909. In the first chapter, Oliver discovers an ad in the local newspaper that reads as follows: 

Can't Cook But Doesn't Bite: Housekeeping position sought by widow. Sound morals, exceptional disposition. No culinary skills, but A-1 in all other household tasks. Salary negotiable, but must include railroad fare to Montana locality; first year of peerless care for your home thereby guaranteed. Respond to Boxholder, Box 19, Lowry Hill Postal Station, Minneapolis, Minnesota. 

That's all I'm going to tell you about the book, but I should think that it is enough to have you hooked. It certainly grabbed me from the first page. 

Ivan Doig, author of The Whistling Season, has a website that includes the following sections: 

* Reader's guides to some of his books; 

* An audio book section that includes links to Doig's recorded books, read by himself and by others, as well as a link to Doig's recording of Norman Mailer's A River Runs Through It;

* Ivan's Notes, which contain information about the man and his writing.

Here is a quote from the reader's guide to This House of Sky: 

Ivan Doig grew up along the rugged rims of the Rocky Mountains in Montana with his father, Charlie, and his grandmother, Bessie Ringer. His life was formed among the sheepherders and characters of small-town saloons and valley ranches as he wandered beside his restless father. ... What Doig deciphers from his past is not only a sense of the land and how it shapes us, but also of our inextricable connection to those who shape our values in the search for intimacy, independence, love and family.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Little Boy and His Dog

This video struck home with me, because when I was little my dog, Pete, was in every photo ever taken of me. Thanks, Northanna, for sending me this link. 

Sunday, May 17, 2009

But No One Camps Out for the Pit Bulls

Young pit bull mix, waiting for his fate at the Clovis Animal Shelter

Bucksnort and I went down to the animal "shelter" last week to return Gracie's cat carrier so that someone else could use it. We said we wouldn't go back to look at the animals, but Buck wandered off and came back with big eyes, saying you've got to see this. She insisted, we went, I saw.

We knew we had to rescue that tiny Chihuahua mix pup, huddled in the back of his cage and trembling, trembling. There was so much noise from the big dogs, the desperate and doomed pit bulls, that the tiny pup just couldn't stop shaking.

The shelter's policy is to hold strays for five days to give their owners a chance to claim them. The pup's five days would be up the following Monday and he would be available for adoption at 10 AM when the shelter opened its doors. The policy also states that no dogs can be "reserved" ahead of time--it's first come, first serve.

The shelter people said that several people were interested in the tiny pup. Figuring that he would end up with a home, I would have given up at that point, but not our Buck. At 10 PM on Sunday night, she parked her car up against the locked gates and camped out there all night. I came down at 8 AM bringing coffee and was the 3rd car in line. Just before 10, when the place was due to open, a big pickup bypassed the line of cars (now numbering five), parked up ahead, and its occupants hopped out and stood at the gate ahead of Bucksnort's car.

It looked bad there for a moment, especially since the woman and her daughter said that they had been promised the tiny pup by shelter staff on Friday (not true). But the good guys won (that would be us, of course). The shelter staff knew that Buck's car had been there first and knew that the lady was lying about having been there at 7:30 all alone. Lies, lies, lies. She was setting such an awful example for her little girl.

So, thanks to my wonderful sister, little Bertie-Pierre arrived and is scampering around playing with the big dogs and Gracie. The other cats scare him. He has a great home and a wonderful Auntie Bucksnort.


But, sadly, no one camps out for the pit bulls. Most of the cages of the shelter are filled with them because apparently the people around here who own them don't get them spayed or neutered and let them run free. I'm sure it's a nice life for a dog until it gets lost or hit by a car or scooped up and taken to the "shelter," where it is surely doomed to die.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Sweet Little Bertie

When my son, Ben, was in third grade, he heard that parakeets would learn to talk if you repeated the phrase you wanted them to learn. We could hear him, up in his room, repeating "sweet little birdie" over and over again by the hour to his two parakeets. He was very patient, up to a point, and then with an inventiveness that was to show up again and again over the years, he made a kind of looping recording of his voice saying the same phrase with a [very funny] variety of inflections.

We think those little birds eventually went crazy, but they never said a word about it.

I was thinking about those times when I was playing this morning with our own new pup, "sweet little Bertie."

Friday, May 15, 2009

One Design; Four Blankets

I've been trying to use up all my little bits of yarn before buying any more, and that means granny squares--lots and lots and lots of granny squares. Here are four blankets that are ready to go to the people who give them to new moms with low incomes. 

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Arrival of Bertie Pierre

Bertie Pierre plays with a patient, and much larger, Leny

In the book, Love Over Scotland, by Alexander McCall Smith, six-year old Bertie has traveled from Scotland to Paris, and has just made some new friends:

"But we should introduce ourselves," she went on. "I'm Marie-Louise, and this," she said, turning to the other young woman, "is Sylvie. He's called Jean-Philippe. We shorten him to Jarpipe. And what, may I ask, is your name?"

Bertie thought for a moment. It seemed to him that the French put in their second names, and he did not want to appear unsophisticated. His second name, he recollected, was Peter, and he did know the French for that. "I'm Bertie-Pierre," he said quickly. It sounded rather good, he thought, and none of his new friends seemed to think it at all odd.

Naturally, when we added the latest rescue dog to our little crew, his name became Bertie Pierre. It does sound rather good.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Escape, by Carolyn Jessop

Judy mentioned reading this book and said that she couldn't put it down. (Thanks to Beth for reminding me where I read Judy's comment).  My experience was the same. 

Carolyn Jessop was raised in a fundamentalist cult community, the FLDS (Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints), which is a radical polygamist offshoot of the Mormon Church that is housed in small communities in Arizona and Utah. Her book takes us deep into the daily life experienced by the members--the power of some, and the helplessness of others. Reading this book made me realize that we have our own form of the Taliban right here in America. 

Carolyn was forced into an arranged marriage to a total stranger at the age of 18, then gave birth to 8 children in 15 years. She and her children were abused physically and emotionally. She was rightfully afraid that when her children were out of her sight they were in danger of being beaten by her sister wives. 

From the book flap: Escape exposes a world tantamount to a prison camp, created by religious fanatics who, in the name of God, deprive their followers of the right to make choices, force women to be totally subservient to men, and brainwash children in church-run schools. Against this background, Carolyn Jessop's flight takes on an extraordinary, inspiring power. Not only did she manage a daring escape from a brutal environment, she became the first woman ever granted full custody of her children in a contested suit involving the FLDS. And in 2006, her reports to the Utah attorney general on church abuses formed a crucial part of the case that led to the arrest of its notorious leader, Warren Jeffs. 

If you have ever watched HBO's Big Love, this book will make you understand the accuracy of the show's portrayal of a modern cult in America. 

For more information:

Monday, May 11, 2009

Long-Nebbit Women and Babies That Girn

Angus wanted to paint something which spoke to that distinct human quality of kindness that, when experienced, was so moving, so reassuring, like balm on a wound, like a gentle hand, helping, tender. That was what he wanted to paint, because he knew that that was what we all wanted to see. ~Alexander McCall Smith, in The World According to Bertie.

Once again, I've come to the end of another in the 44 Scotland Street novels by Alexander McCall Smith.
I don't believe that I have mentioned before that these novels started as a single serial novel in the Edinburgh newspaper, The Scotsman. Oh, what I wouldn't give for such entertainment over my coffee every morning. For now, I have to make do with reading the lost and found ads in our tiny local newspaper. I find much amusement there:

1. Found, pet bull wearing leash and bow (it turned out to be a disgruntled pit bull, recently escaped from the groomer's)
2. Found, party poodle, black and white (apparently, it was a parti-colored poodle, although I pictured him wearing one of those little party hats one gets at the dollar store here)
3. Lost: Dockshand/Duckshund/Weenie Dog (you often see all three variations in the same day's column)

I keep a little notebook by me when reading McCall Smith's books. When I come to an unfamiliar word or phrase, I'm afraid that I still "hop over it," in the exact manner of my youth. That is to say, I do my best to discern its meaning by its context, and then move on. However, I believe that I show my great years of maturity now by at least writing it down to look up later.

I won't subject you to whole list from The World According to Bertie--you've read enough of such lists here lately. I will, however, put a few of the more sparkling examples of McCall Smith's art down at the bottom of this page.

In the meantime, I would like to recommend that you hop over to this wonderful author's website to read an interview with him, listen to some delightful music, see photos from his trip to Botswana during the filming of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, and to look around at any number of other fascinating features.

A Tiny Part of My List; Heretofore Unfamiliar Words
and Phrases from The World According to Bertie

... a wee parliament... full of high heid-yins and tsars

there is a thrill which marks them out from the quotidian

striking adjectival saliences

none of your chippan fires over there

an echt philanderer

a very couthie place

... it's a funny wee place, very narrow, with a bunch of crabbit regulars...

a long-nebbit woman

a jumble of cromachs

[the baby] tended to girn

soor plooms (this may have been in a discussion of fruits)

laws of paternity and aliment of puppies