Monthly Archives: November 2015

Today I Can’t Shut Out the World

My Facebook news feed always shows me stories about hard-luck dogs: the ones abandoned, the ones surrendered to shelters by owners unwilling (or, so sadly, willing but unable) to care for them, the ones born wild and now starving / scavenging / suffering.

I’ve put most of those pages on a separate “interest group” so I’m not confronted with them every day, so I don’t start every day in tears as I eat my porridge before going to work.
But most of my Facebook friends care as much about dogs as I do, and the things they share still appear in my main feed.

I always care about these lonely and confused dogs, but at enough of a remove that the sadness doesn’t trip me up. Today, though, I feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of suffering in the world. I am feeling tender and moved toward all the abandoned and unwanted creatures, Continue reading

Finished this book: Irma Voth by Miriam Toews

Cover of Irma Voth by Miriam Toews.

Cover of Irma Voth by Miriam Toews.

Irma is a young Mennonite woman whose family has moved from Canada to Mexico to live in a repressive community. Her authoritarian father no longer interacts with her since she married a Mexican without his permission, but she still lives on her father’s land and works for him. This book is about what happens to Irma when her husband disappears and she starts spending time with some filmmakers who set up nearby.

Toews has a wonderfully understated writing style. This book flows along calmly, despite the big events and strong emotions it contains. Toews seems to care very much about all of her characters, and is generous even to the “bad” people.

I don’t want to spoil the plot for you by mentioning anything else, because this is definitely worth reading. The characters have a wonderful internal consistency even when the most unexpected things happen to them.

Irma Voth by Miriam Toews. 2011. ISBN 9780307400697.

A Doodle A Day (acrylic version)

6"x6" acrylic on canvas (Nov 2015)

6″x6″ acrylic on canvas (Nov 2015)

In one of my previous posts, I mentioned that my friend R. and I repeatedly take the acrylic painting class at Forum Art Centre with David Cooper. Here’s the only thing I have actually completed so far this session. There’s one more class next week but it’s the critique class (with wine and snacks). At that class, we won’t be painting, but we’re supposed to share everything we’ve worked on during the course, whether finished or unfinished. I’ve got eight other pieces on the go, and am hoping to find time this week to work on some of them before the last class. But I’m not going to stress about it; this is funtime!



Finished this book: Altruistic Armadillos, Zenlike Zebras by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson

Cover of Altruistic Armadillos, Zenlike Zebras by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson.

Cover of Altruistic Armadillos, Zenlike Zebras by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson.

Masson has written many books about animals, a few of which I have read. His love for animals shines through everything he writes, as well as his advocacy for their welfare and that of their habitats.

The short sections of this book each discuss a different animal. Any aspect of animals might be discussed in any given segment, from feeding habits to mythology to lovemaking preferences to communication to childrearing to emotional responses. Masson very strongly encourages the reader to think of animals in a relational rather than a functional manner.

I liked how the book was broken up into sections of 3 to 5 pages. It’s a good bathroom book or before-bed book because there is no actual plot, but you can sit and learn something about an animal while you poop or while the sleeping pill kicks in (pro tip: try not to do these at the same time).

Masson laments the destruction of habitats and also the human mindsets that allow us to kill for our own convenience. Once in a while he comes across a little bit preachy, but it is forgivable because his deep interest in and voracious curiosity about all the animals he discusses is so obvious and so beautiful.

Altruistic Armadillos, Zenlike Zebras: A Menagerie of 100 Favorite Animals by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson. 2006. ISBN 9780345478818.



Adverse Road Conditions & Confused Drivers

I stepped out with the dogs this morning into this season’s first blanket of snow. The dogs were wild with joy, and instantly made it their Prime Objective to find all of their digging holes and excavate them from under the layer of snow. Within minutes, the pristine white quilt was defaced with the spray patterns of mud and dead leaves kicked out from a handful of Very Important Holes.

Since I have tenants, I have to make sure I keep the sidewalks clean. So I cleared all the sidewalks and both decks, then went in to shower and get ready for work. The snow was still falling, Continue reading

Finished this book: Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver

Cover of Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver

Cover of Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver

I am a big fan of Barbara Kingsolver, and this is one of the books I have read multiple times. It continues the story of Taylor and Turtle from The Bean Trees, but they’re both standalone books and you won’t miss out on anything if you haven’t read the other book first.

This books gets into more detail about Turtle’s family of origin and her tribe. I like how carefully the characters walk the balance between the good of the individual and the good of the group. People really wrestle with their consciences and ethics to figure out the right course of action, but the way they do so is deftly embedded in the story. In clumsier hands, this would be moralising, but Kingsolver shows how people can struggle to do the right thing and come to understand that there is no one right way to act.

Kingsolver’s writing is so generous, so kind and gentle, and at the same time cuts straight to the heart of people’s interactions and retrospections. I enjoy the flow of her writing, and I relax into her books with the trust that she will not let me down with weak writing or implausible plot developments. It’s a rare and beautiful thing to trust a writer in that way.

Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver. 1993. ISBN 9780571171781.

The Brindle Dog Goes for a Checkup

The Brindle Dog at the Vet

The Brindle Dog at the Vet: Holy “Tongue Out Tuesday,” Batman!

The Brindle Dog went to the vet for her annual checkup this evening. She was pretty sick in the spring, and I always worry about her. She’ll be twelve years old in a couple of weeks, and I am trying to enjoy every day with her while also preparing myself for the end. But she’s not dead yet, and part of continued life means regular vet visits. So this evening I lifted her into the car and we headed over to visit Dr. Beggs at St. Vital Veterinary Hospital for her annual checkup.

The news is good. I mean, she’s old and getting older, and every bit of her is aging. Her eyes are worsening and she’s got a cataract. Her hearing is going. Her sense of smell isn’t what it used to be. She’s starting to lose muscle tone. She’s full of lumps and bumps and warts and cysts and lipomas. Her teeth are wearing down to stumps (although all the chewing keeps them remarkably clean). Her stamina isn’t what it used to be. Continue reading