Sunday, May 29, 2022

pets, motherhood, art

Finished Helen Humphreys's lovely memoir And a Dog Called Fig, about writing and dogs, not in that order. Made me wonder how I've managed to write without owning a dog; all the walking, she feels, helps her writing greatly. She suggests we should all live the way a dog does, in the moment, filled with curiosity, enthusiasm, and a complete lack of negativity.

I will try. 

Now am reading two library books: Rebecca Solnit's Orwell's Roses, which so far I love, and The Baby on the Fire Escape: creativity, motherhood, and the mind-baby problem, by Julie Phillips. The cover art is by Alice Neel, and the first chapter is about Alice as artist and mother. Phillips also talks about Doris Lessing, Audre Lord, Alice Walker, Ursula LeGuin, and other artist-mothers. 

Somehow, women do it; they just do it, their art, their parenting. It's not easy, though it's easier now, I'm pretty sure, than it was decades or a century ago. I was talking today to Judy in Vancouver about Helen Humphreys, who's eleven years younger than we are and has published NINE novels, six nonfiction books, a ton of poetry collections, and won a bunch of awards. How is it possible? Well, Helen does not have children; she has dogs. It's harder, Judy and I laughed, to put your children in a crate so you can get some work done.  

That's my excuse for not having accomplished more, and I'm sticking to it.

I wrote to Helen that though I do not currently have a pet, my garden provides comfort and companionship, at least for half the year. Not much use on walks, though. 

I had an altercation a few days ago with the neighbourhood cat, a hilarious fat tabby who patrols the block, strolling up and down checking out the activity and making friends. Somehow he ended up in my yard. Because the way out involves steep stairs, I picked up the huge beast to help him down, and he let me know, with his claws in my flesh, what he thought of that. I have 7 or 8 punctures in my arm, one of them badly infected, puffy and red. I assume my body will take care of it and we will not have to amputate. The adventures of life. Who'd think a pet cat could dig so deep?

Sixty Minutes had a segment tonight on the horrific damage AK-47 assault rifles do to the body; one doctor recommends that all Americans carry around emergency packs with tourniquets to stop bleeding, in case of a mass shooting. Insane! How can a country be so wilfully blind? A terrific opinion piece by Omar al Akkad in the Globe said the gun lobby cares not at all about ideology, about freedom and the 2nd amendment, but simply profit. The more guns sold, the more profit, that's all, so it's worth their while to pump vast sums into the Republican party which does its best to terrify the population and stop any efforts at gun control. And they do. 

The definition of evil.

On the other hand, my New York cousin Ted's husband, Henry, went recently with his rabbi and others from his synagogue to Poland, bringing emergency supplies for the Ukrainian refugees there. Henry was interviewed in the local paper on his return, and spoke movingly about the extraordinary welcome the Poles are making for over a million Ukrainians, whom they call, not refugees, but their guests, and treat with dignity and care. It was heartening, much needed, to read good news about human beings, for once. 

Anna and the boys are in Nova Scotia, I gather having a superb time; she posted a picture of herself on a beach with a fresh oyster and a Keith's beer, Anna's definition of heaven. Sam came over yesterday with his Bandit shadow. At one point he went out for a bit and left Bandit with me. The pup pressed himself by the closed door, lifted his head, and howled some puppy howls, showing his wolfy roots: OOOOOOO. Eventually he settled down, lay his head on his water dish, and waited for his human to return. 

Yes, he lives in the moment with curiosity, enthusiasm, and a lack of negativity, but also with loyalty and devotion. We should all be like dogs. 

Not like cats.


  1. I wish we could be like dogs. Affectionate, sleep-loving, capable of great loyalty, self-preservation, with no interest in weapons, war...

    1. Yes, me too. Though - dogs do fight, as other animals do, red in tooth and claw etc. But our pup is teeming with enthusiasm for everything. Especially crashing through my flowerbeds and peeing on my floor. Love him to bits.

  2. Yes! Aggression -- mostly showing teeth, raising hair on back, peeing on bushes. Tussling, tooth and claw. But no missiles, tanks, hideous assault riffles. My heart feels sick these days.

    1. Mine too, Theresa. We are watching the blind lunacy of politicians responsible for the slaughter of countless innocents. See if you can find Barry Blitt's drawing of Republican politicos with hands dripping with blood.