Sunday, April 23, 2017

Its Wings Are Clipped

Today, I went to Pet World to buy goldfish. I asked my 13-year-old son if he wanted to come with, but he didn't.

It wasn't that long ago that going to Pet World without him would have been unthinkable.

Used to be, the only reason to go to Pet World was my son. Pet World was a good field trip: Cockatiels, Cockatoos, Parakeets, and Finches; French and English Lops and Netherland Dwarf rabbits; hamsters, gerbils, mice, and rats; iguanas, geckos, and (our favorite) Bearded Dragon; Box Turtles and Red-Eared Sliders; Boa Constrictors and King Snakes; Firebellied Toads; yellow tangs, angelfish, lion fish, clownfish, etc., etc., etc.

Today, there was a young woman working there who had a boa constrictor wrapped loosely around her shoulders like a...boa. It was long and strong enough to strangle the clerk's neck with one mortal coil, but this was a sweet-tempered snake, and the thought never entered its mind. Suspended in the air like a question, its tapered head undulated with unperturbed interest.

When my son was younger, we would have lingered over the snake, and enthused more. (I was always saying, "Look at this!" and he would do the same from around the corner.)

When my son was younger, we spent quite a lot of time looking at the fishes at Pet World. Come to think, we spent quite a lot of time with the birds, rabbits, and rodents, too.

Without a child, people think you're weird if you ask too many questions. All that over-the-top enthusiasm just seems out of place.

The other sales clerk (in the fish department) had a bird on her shoulder. Its wings had been clipped.

The thought crossed my mind to clip my son's wings. He still lives under my roof, doesn't he? I could demand that he accompany me to Pet World, and the zoo, and the supermarket... I could threaten to take away X-Box, video games, food, shelter....

But it probably would not be the same. He would figure out some way to make it miserable for me.

Oh, my God! Going to Pet World without Josh was so depressing!

The clerk with the bird put my dozen or so goldfish into a small plastic bag. They seemed awfully bunched up together.

"You don't think they need a bigger bag?" I asked, when it was obvious that she didn't.  She forced oxygen into the bag through a tube.

"No, they'll be fine."

"How long before they run out of air?"

"How long a drive home do you have?"

Now here, I thought, if you have to ask me that, obviously, they need a bigger bag.

The clerk with the snake (sweet-tempered boa constrictor--really, an ingenue of a boa constrictor) pointed out where the larger bags were kept.

Bird clerk poured the fish into a larger bag and gave them more oxygen, while I watched to see if the snake had any interest in the bird.  (Hard to say. Enigmatic expression, noncommittal gestures.)

When I returned home, after a brief period of adjustment, I released the goldfish into the horses' trough, a perfect habitat for goldfish. They eat the algae that otherwise accumulates on the sides of the trough and turns the water green. I won't have to feed them (the fish) anything more.

I read about this on-line.

Expect half of your goldfish to die. That's what I read.

Buy twice as many goldfish as you need, expect half of them to die of disease or old age right away.

Because, who can tell by looking at a goldfish how old it is or how it's feeling?

One of them died instantly. My husband flushed it out with his hand.

An hour or so later, the rest of them were still swimming around the huge metal tub, having a ball.

Delightful thing, having goldfish in a trough.

I reported the fish/trough situation to my son, who made some utterance to indicate his almost complete lack of interest.

Later in the afternoon, an eight-year-old second-grader took an interest in my dogs at the park up the street. His parents were in two separate cars. His father, sitting in a pick-up truck, stared into his phone as his son asked if he could go with me for a walk.

His father responded with an affirmative shrug. Off we went.

"Hank, sit! Sit, Hank!"

Hank, my sub-standard Poodle, would not.

"Does he know how to sit?"

"Yes, he does."

"Then why isn't he doing it?"

"He's stubborn."


Betsy proved more responsive. She sat, and even lay down one time on demand, before quickly got bored with the endless commands and chose to ignore them, like Hank.

But we had a jolly walk.  I was grateful for the boy's company.

At the half-way point, the boy sat down on a bench for a short while. For him, it must have seemed like a hike.

I remembered how my son would stop to sit on every bench along the way, how I would have to motivate him along.

"We should come back to this bench with a picnic, tomorrow," my son would often suggest. Once, we packed some snacks up in a lunch box and brought it along on our bikes. We stopped at a bench on the bike path and ate them. I hoped it measured up to my son's idea of a picnic.

There always seemed to be so much time. But today, finding myself alone at Pet World, I realized that it was gone.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

April, My April, the Giraffe

According to the BBC, "After a long, long time--what seemed like aeons," April the Giraffe has finally delivered her fourth calf. 

Millions of "amateur zoologists" (not to be confused with giraffe enthusiasts) have been following April's every move on their computers and smart phones 24/7 via giraffe-cam. 

They've been watching her burgeoning pregnancy: Not her first calf, not her second, not even her third...This is her fourth calf. 

Despite everything that's happening in the world, millions of people continue to feel singular concern for the well being of April the giraffe and her progeny, despite the fact that she is inherently good at this. She knows what she's doing. She's calved three times before. 

What is the deal with this giraffe? I don't know. But I'll tell you, it makes me glad. Seriously, selfishly, glad. 

Why? Because I have the nagging sense that we have suddenly moved past the quaintly self-absorbed historical period of self regard.  

I'm saying that self-improvement, meditation, and all things "working on yourself" are quickly becoming irrelevant. 

This conclusion leaves me with very little to say on any subject dear to my heart. 

For example, my problems with injured pets? Not on the radar, not at all. 

My anxiety about getting published? Oh, please! Even I have stopped caring!  

So, I've been pretty quiet. I got nuthin' to say that isn't painfully insular. And there's not a lot I can do about that, except to try to keep up with the break-neck pace of developments in the news. 

I haven't got anything fresh to say about it, and even if I did, I wouldn't be able to hear myself above the din of the choir. 

I will say one little tiny thing. 

I'm a little up to here with men's suits. Why does Stephen Colbert have to wear such nice conservative suits while railing against the establishment?  Trevor Noah wears suits. John Oliver wears suits. All of them wear suits--except for the Young Turks, who don't wear suits but they're always yelling at me as if I were the establishment. I'm sick of being lectured and yelled at by angry men with whom I probably agree on most of the issues. Why do I want to absorb their venting? It sounds like so much mansplaining. I've still got a feminist bone to pick with this whole election fiasco. Mansplaining and men's suits offend me.

Is it just me? I know you're going to say it's just me.  

Men's suits: They've always been the uniform of power.  What are women supposed to wear? Not pantsuits, obviously. Then what? Skirts? (Skirts = sexual access, in case this hadn't occurred to you, which it probably has on one or two occasions. That's the nice thing about skirts.) But sexual access is hardly a symbol of power. 

A power suit is a man's suit. And a man's suit is a kind of softly layered armor, with shoulder pads and probably some kind of undergirding.

Women can't wear men's suits--I mean, we can, but it will still be a man's suit, if you know what I mean. Put a man's suit on a dolphin, and it's still a man's suit. People will point and say, "Look, it's a dolphin in a suit." A man's suit doesn't convey power to the dolphin. And it doesn't convey power to women, because it's a man's suit.

I'm just saying, I would have more respect for any man speaking out against the business-suit establishment if he were not also wearing a business suit. It looks like he's a member of the same club.

What were we talking about?  Oh, yeah. The giraffe. April. Why are millions of people watching a giraffe and worrying about a giraffe when North Korea has intercontinental missiles and we're dropping MOAB on Afghanistan and busses full of civilian children in Syria are exploding and we're not even sure what else is going on, because there's so much fake news in the mix?  

But I understand the appeal of worrying about a giraffe in her fourth pregnancy. As you probably know, I have an injured horse. It's a terrible thing. But on the other hand, it focuses my mind and gives me a tidy local cause to rally around (not like the Wisconsin vote recount, where I showed up and was humored for two weeks with mind-numbing chores that didn't need to be done).  

If you choose to worry about a giraffe having her fourth calf, you probably will not be devastated by the result.  She is most likely going to have that calf. It may be late. But it will happen.

The only thing holding up the sky these days are the many thousands of people who are willing and able to rush around to all the places in the world where the sky needs propping up. 

Even the crises of individuals--opioid addiction, for example--require an orchestrated response.  

I am humbled, because I do think the era of the individual and her little red horse is behind us. I find myself writing less frequently these days. I take my horse for walks twice a day. I contemplate my irrelevance. It gives me an odd sense of peace. 

I know it's decadent, but as long as I can choose otherwise, I won't shoot my horse for taking up more time and money than she's worth. She is  my giraffe. Dear, sweet, irrelevant April: jealously regarded with anxious concern by millions of distant observers, all desperately needing to see her fare well.