Dozing polar bear, Indianapolis Zoo

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


I can't be the only one who hears The Good, The Bad and The Ugly when I look at this picture.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve, Cabinet Mountains

Hope you're all having a grand time. I know I am.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Solstice Moonrise

There was a huge, beautiful moon rising on my drive through Northern Idaho Friday, but alas, there was no way to stop until it had shrunk significantly. So it's become the image I missed, now stored only in my own memory. I have many like that, and I treasure them, too, even as I grieve that I'm the only one to ever see them.

But I like the one I actually captured, too.

Sunday before Christmas

Cloudy, 32 degrees. There are about six inches of snow on the ground. Thomas and I took our walk this morning, crunching companionably through the snow crust together.

Snow tells a tale of the mountain that's hidden the rest of the year. It reveals the intensely, almost manically nomadic nature of deer, and records the passage of other animals. This morning we saw rabbit tracks interspersed with bobcat tracks, a drama written in the snow, but with no discernible ending. Did the bobcat get dinner? Or did the rabbit live another day?

Snow tells part of the tale, but doesn't promise more than that.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


1. Mr. T and his dad got a bison cow. The Kid wept uncontrollably when he found out. That's what two former vegetarians get, I suppose. We never explained to The Kid why we didn't eat meat, though, so he's getting this on his own. I don't know, maybe it's genetic. Anyway, they proceeded through Wyoming this afternoon with a quarter-ton bison carcass in the back of my father-in-law's truck. Which is perfect, really -- they're in the one region of the country where no one would give that a second glance.

2. At lunch today, Tony helpfully pointed out to me that my internet profile is not as low as I thought. If you enclose my name, including my middle initial, in quotation marks, the first three results belong to me. One's an old profile from my Big Law Firm days, and the other two are from appeals I worked on.

3. Tomorrow I am going to load up the truck and move to Beverly drive myself, two dogs, and a five-year-old to Montana. Pray for me.

Venturing into the animal world

Cold mountain rivers seem to feel good on arthritic fifteen-year-old joints.

It's a good thing Jon Katz started a blog, because he says things so much better than I can. I guess a man with a jillion books under his belt ought to have a way with these things. Today he explains beautifully the distinction I wasn't really getting at successfully in this post. I couldn't articulate why not seeing animals as our children doesn't diminish the power of our relationships with them. Go read.

It's not that dogs or animals aren't "as much as" our children. Rather, they do things in our lives that children cannot, or should not. They're ambassadors from another world that we've left behind in our rush to mini-malls and suburbia.

I'm not objecting to those who feel a nurturing relationship with their pets akin to what we might feel with our children. But if that's as far as we go, we're bringing animals too far into our world, and not venturing enough into theirs. And that's a loss for both of us.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Mountain Time, now with less sarcasm, more earnestness

Someone googled their way here last night with the query "how to be comfortable with vulnerability." I'm pretty sure they didn't get what they were looking for -- Dog knows I have no idea how to handle vulnerability. I learned from the best, after all. My parents taught me the dangers of actually feeling early on, and until a perceptive therapist pointed this out to me a few years ago, I thought we were actually strong personalities.

Turns out we're just a bunch of emotional cowards. It's still my first instinct, to downplay or silence entirely the strength of my own feelings, fears and wounds. With the exception of a very few people in my life (and you know who you are), I'd almost always rather talk to someone about their problems than discuss my own. I'm pretty good at it, so that's led to an odd dynamic in my family. I'm the youngest of five, and probably considered the most all-around "successful" one -- married for thirteen years, no divorce, good career, decent financial position, nice kid, two dogs. I get to travel and I have vibrant hobbies.

Contrast that with some of the things my siblings have gone through and are still going through, and all of a sudden my relatively unremarkable life is transformed into some kind of winning lottery ticket, and I owe everyone else 1) penance for having it "easier" than they do, and 2) endless advice and support for their own pains and agonies with little or no reciprocation. This results in them being even less comfortable with my vulnerability than I am. Which kind of reinforces these things. It's sort of an unsavory blend of resentment and dependence.

Of course, the therapist observed wryly how well this fits in with my own emotional narrative, the one I'm comfortable with -- me as invulnerable, strong person. But it's fake, it gets old, and that narrative fails to recognize me as an actual, whole person. And it doesn't really help anyone else either.

So, Anonymous Googler, here's what my therapist advised me. Breathe. No, really, she said that. Breathe, and notice how you feel when you start to get that locked up feeling. It's not going to kill you. Really. Something else undoubtedly will, eventually. But feeling won't.

I still forget -- probably because it's so easy to slip back into old patterns unless you constantly remind yourself -- but the panic attacks usually remind me that it's time to go back to Square Uno. And find someone who is comfortable with you being vulnerable to talk to. These things don't happen in a vacuum. I bet if you think about it, there's someone out there who benefits -- or thinks they do -- from you playing the Rock.

Please do comment. I'll feel all weird and vulnerable if you all stay quiet. Then, back to our regularly scheduled sarcastic defense mechanisms.

Monday, December 17, 2007


Kristy has a post up about googling oneself, and how that doesn't necessarily reflect vanity so much as common sense in an era when even employers are looking you up online. Of course, I hopped over to Google and plugged in Mr. T's name. Let him be the guinea pig. The second result is an article he and I wrote together six years ago for the magazine of a local environmental nonprofit. Almost everything else is about an expert on China who shares his name. This is kind of funny, considering that Mr. T has been to China fifteen times, and so considers himself sort of an unofficial expert.

Then I popped in my own name. Back when I worked at Big Law Firm, my bio on that website was always the first result. Now that honor is held by a watercolor painter. There is also a psychiatrist from Eugene, an actress who did an appearance on Scrubs, and creepily enough, a alum from one of my schools who is dead. I got bored before I dug deeply enough to find an item that actually mentioned me.

For all the reasons Kristy mentions in her post, I've kept a low internet profile on purpose for the last few years. Maybe I'll do something outrageous soon and change all that.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Bison, head colds and anti-drug hysteria

Mr. T is leaving tomorrow to go slay some free-range, grass-fed meat for the freezer. Well, actually he's going to watch his Dad slay some free-range, grass-fed meat for our freezer. See, his Dad has long dreamed of a buffalo hunt, so Mr. T started trying to find a hunt they could do together that offered significantly more challenge than a standard Dick-Cheney-shooting-
fish-in-a-barrel-and-then-your-hunting-partner-in-the-face kind of deals. And he found one on 90,000 acres in Nebraska. If my father-in-law gets a buffalo, our half will tally up to about 350 pounds. The deep freeze will be full for awhile. (And lots of friends will be eating bison as well.)

But I'm getting away from my main point, which is -- as always, really -- me.
So Mr. T is leaving tomorrow, which will require me to wrangle The Kid alone till we head up to Montana next week.

Cue head cold.

I was sitting here working this afternoon and I could feel it hitting me. First the stuffy nose, then the burning eyes, then the ache in the throat. And I looked down at the dog and said, "Hey, sport, would you be so kind as to hop into your time machine and fetch me some good cold remedies from 1998?"

Remember when cold meds used to work? I used to be a big fan of DayQuil, and then Tylenol Cold and Flu for nighttime. DayQuil could power me through an entire day at Big Law Firm with even the most wretched virus. Yeah, I'd be seeing vapor trails*, but it gave me blessed, blessed relief. Then one day, they stopped working. I took a DayQuil, and continued to feel like pickled ass. Last year's bout with strep was particularly vexing. I assumed I'd developed some sort of tolerance for it until one day it dawned on me.

Meth. They took the stuff that actually works -- called pseudoephedrine -- out of the meds, because in very large quantities, pseudoephedrine can be used to make meth. Now pharmacists are required to lock up meds that contain it and weary cold sufferers must produce a photo ID and sign the products out to get them. Most cold-med makers, afraid that they would lose bidness if their stuff was locked up behind the counter, caved and stuck some weak-ass substitute in their products to keep them on the shelves.

I'm going to go ahead and call this law and order hysteria. Listen, I'm down with preventing the production of meth. It's an environmental and social menace. But this goes too far. Back in the midwest, they would simply not let you buy more than one box of cold medicine at a time, on the theory that no one has that bad a cold. That was fine. But then the meth people would simply shoplift it, leading the lawmakers to insist that pseudoephedrine must be locked up! Oh Noes!

But you know what? I don't care. If someone is determined to make meth, a signature and photo ID requirement isn't going to stop them. It's not. Because no one has ever made a fake ID! Like so much of our security-obsessed society, this is so much window dressing.

Fortunately, some manufacturers have resisted the blacklisting of pseudoephedrine, and their stuff remains behind the glass. I will be going to the pharmacy tomorrow and getting some.

Perhaps I'll be a little bit more reasonable tomorrow, and will see the sterling wisdom of this law once my sinus passages are no longer the size of bratwursts.

Which will only happen after I get some decent cold medicine.

*not really

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Kid wants to know

Actual conversation tonight:

Mr. T: Sit down while you have a sucker in your mouth, please.

Kid [continues jumping around]: Why?

Mr. T: Because I choked on a sucker that way when I was little.

Kid: Did you die?

Monday, December 10, 2007


Eh, if Kristy can delete one of her posts for utter lunacy, then I can delete one because it makes me look like an ass.

I'll offer a picture instead.

SantaCon, last Saturday.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Dogs don't have existential crises. Lucky bastards.

Thomas the Dog stares at his mobile food dispenser,
who has inexplicably produced a camera instead of a treat.

On these issues, I'm with author Jon Katz*. I'm not one of those people who thinks of her dogs as her kids. That would be an insult to my kid. And, come to think of it, to my dogs. My dogs are one of the purest, simplest joys in my life. I don't have to worry whether my dogs are going to grow into empathetic, decent folks. I don't worry about whether they are going to inherit my neuroses, or whether they will still call and visit in twenty years. Yes, I want to make sure I train them well, and teach them to live and get along in a human world that often doesn't understand their animal nature. But they do not carry my heart around in the way that my son does, and I have never awakened in the middle of the night wondering whether I'm doing right by them.

Perhaps I adore them so much precisely because they are not a part of me in the way my son is. They are a thing apart. Parenting the Kid is something that runs as deeply as anything can go. It's complex, rich and often frightening in its intensity.

I would do no service to my animals by trying to place such a framework on my interactions with them. To do so would be to project my own thoughts and feelings onto them. But they are different creatures, and absolutely not human. And thank goodness for that.

I try not to anthropomorphize my animals, at least in a way that can hurt them. People can and do hurt their pets by assuming they think and feel like humans. (No, your dog did not destroy your living room while you were out because it was angry with you for leaving.) Now, its probably impossible not to do that a little bit, because the line is so unclear -- animals clearly have their own characters or, to use the anthropocentric term, their own personalities. And they clearly do have emotions, though perhaps not of the same complexity as people, and their emotions do not interact, like ours do, with an established sense of cause and effect.

Make no mistake. My dog arrived at his "love" for me through the fact that I take care of him. He views me first and foremost as a mobile food dispenser.

But so what? Too many people would decry that statement as minimizing the depth of the human-animal bond. I don't think it does. After all, that's how my son thought of me for the first year of his life. And I don't think that's the sum of the human-animal interaction, of course. I've seen too much to the contrary to believe that.

But my dogs are not people. That's what makes them so wonderful.

*If you like dogs, farm animals, rural anything, art or life, start reading this guy. I'm thrilled because he just stated on his blog that his next book will be about his border collie, Rose, who is the dog of his that fascinates me the most. You may not end up liking him, or the decisions he makes (though I don't feel that way), but you will love his stories. I talked about Katz's work briefly here, and go here to see what his book A Good Dog did to me.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Endangered Species Thursday: NSFW edition

I'm sorry for this, really I am. But Mr. T found this story through a local Indy newspaper last week and it's just too interesting to pass up:
A Dutch museum said Friday it is having trouble getting its hands on a parasite that just about everybody else is anxious to avoid: crabs.

The Rotterdam Natural History Museum has appealed for somebody—anybody—to give it a single crab louse for its collection, amid fears they may be dying out.

The culprit? Let's just say a form of clearcutting has led to habitat loss.

This does bring up an interesting conundrum. Why would we want to save crab lice from extinction, right? Well, the curator of the museum makes a valid point:

"We have over 300,000 species represented in our collection," he said. "Even though most of them are not on display, that doesn't mean small, unpopular insects are less important scientifically."

Anyone want to volunteer to set up a captive breeding program?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Frost on the woodpile

It'll be more than frost next time, no doubt.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


I think I may need to spend more time in Texas. As soon as I stepped off the jetway in Houston this morning, my Quirk-o-Meter started blinking. I don't know whether it was the guy riding around on an airport cart playing the accordion and singing, the fact that at 7:00 a.m. the longest food line was at the barbecue joint, or the woman sitting next to me who kindly assured me before she relocated that it was the sun, not me and my family, that prompted her move. I've spent some time in the Hill Country doing photography, and I read enough Austin-based bloggers to know that's a pretty interesting place. But I'm starting to think it may be fun to nose around the entire state.

I'd love to find a place as quirky as Montana.