Friday, December 01, 2006


This is the first morning all week I've had a little time to myself to more than glance through my emails. Today, I received my issue of The Write Way and noticed more than a few things the editor, Jennifer Stewart, and I have in common. I love when that happens because it reminds me that we are not so very different no matter where we live. Jennifer lives in Australia.

Last week's issue of the newsletter had a lovely little piece on cow economics that I just had to borrow:

Feudalism: You have two cows. Your lord takes some of the milk.

Pure Socialism: You have two cows. The government takes them and puts them in a barn with everyone else's cows. You have to take care of all the cows. The government gives you as much milk as you need.

Bureaucratic Socialism: You have two cows. The government takes them and puts them in a barn with everyone else's cows. They are cared for by ex-chicken farmers. You have to take care of the chickens the government took from the chicken farmers. The government gives you as much milk and as many eggs as the regulations say you should need.

Fascism: You have two cows. The government takes both, hires you to take care of them, and sells you the milk.

Pure Communism: You have two cows. Your neighbors help you take care of them, and you all share the milk.

Russian Communism: You have two cows. You have to take care of them, but the government takes all the milk.

Dictatorship: You have two cows. The government takes both and shoots you.

Singapore Democracy: You have two cows. The government fines you for keeping two unlicensed animals in an apartment.

Militarism: You have two cows. The government takes both and drafts you.

Pure Democracy: You have two cows. Your neighbors decide who gets the milk.

Representative Democracy: You have two cows. Your neighbors pick someone to tell you who gets the milk.

American Democracy: The government promises to give you two cows if you vote for it. After the election, the president is impeached for speculating in cow futures. The press dubs the affair "Cowgate."

British Democracy: You have two cows. You feed them sheep's brains and they go mad. The government doesn't do anything.

Bureaucracy: You have two cows. At first the government regulates what you can feed them and when you can milk them. Then it pays you not to milk them. After that it takes both, shoots one, milks the other and pours the milk down the drain. Then it requires you to fill out forms accounting for the missing cows.

Anarchy: You have two cows. Either you sell the milk at a fair price or your neighbors kill you and take the cows.

Capitalism: You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull.

Hong Kong Capitalism: You have two cows. You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute a debt/equity swap with associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax deduction for keeping five cows. The milk rights of six cows are transferred via a Panamanian intermediary to a Cayman Islands company secretly owned by the majority shareholder, who sells the rights to all seven cows' milk back to the listed company. The annual report says that the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more. Meanwhile, you kill the two cows because the Feng Shui is bad.

Environmentalism: You have two cows. The government bans you from milking or killing them.

Feminism: You have two cows. They get married and adopt a veal calf.

Totalitarianism: You have two cows. The government takes them and denies they ever existed. Milk is banned.

Political Correctness: You are associated with (the concept of "ownership" is a symbol of the phallo-centric, war-mongering, intolerant past) two differently-aged (but no less valuable to society) bovines of non-specified gender.

Counter Culture: Wow, dude, there's like ... these two cows, man. You got to have some of this milk. Far out! Awesome!

Surrealism: You have two giraffes. The government requires you to take harmonica lessons.

Japanese Democracy: You have two cows. You give the milk to gangsters so they don't ask any awkward questions about who you're giving the milk to.

European Federalism: You have two cows which cost too much money to care for because everybody is buying milk imported from some cheap east-European country and would never pay the fortune you'd have to ask for your cows' milk. So you apply for financial aid from the European Union to subsidize your cows and are granted enough subsidies. You then sell your milk at the former elevated price to some government-owned distributor which then dumps your milk onto the market at east-European prices to make Europe competitive. You spend the money you got as a subsidy on two new cows and then go on a demonstration to Brussels complaining that the European farm-policy is going drive you out of your job.

Jennifer seems to have a thing for animals because last week she wrote about crocodiles and this week about hearing a nature program about stone martens. She thought they were birds but they are actually weasel-like rodents that have adapted to living in cathedrals and the like. That reminded me of the pine marten I thought was an escaped ferret when I lived at the cabin. It took me a while to figure out what he really was because I was fascinated with how he could get off a deck 20 feet above ground without using the stairs, which is what he used to get onto the deck. Then I woke up one morning and saw him fly from the top of a lodgepole pine tree and hit the ground running. I thought one of his parents must have been a flying squirrel and I realized he couldn't be an escaped ferret. That's when a little Google and research came in handy and I found out he was a pine marten.

So, imagine Jennifer's surprise when she realized the stone marten wasn't a bird (martin) but a rodent (marten). She discovered a new animal--again.

Speaking of animals, Pastor, and several other dogs in the area, has been quite antsy and difficult this week. Well, he was difficult until Wednesday night. Many times over the early part of the week I heard the landlady yelling at Pastor and she was taking him on a lot of walks. Their usual routine is a 2.5-3-mile walk at 6:30 a.m. but she was taking him out whenever she didn't have a client and again in the evening...until Wednesday night when it snowed. She let Pastor out onto the deck and he took up his favorite snoozing position while the snow fell, as gentle and tractable as a baby lamb for the first time in days. When I took some butternut squash soup downstairs for the landlady she told me that Pastor had finally settled down and she told me he was on the deck. There he lay in the darkness, lit only by the kitchen light, covered with snow and sleeping peacefully. He was finally happy because the heavy pressure of the impending storm had broken. I suddenly knew what had me on edge in the days before the storm.

We were supposed to have a wind storm and the temps were going to plummet but I had a feeling it was going to snow and snow hard. It did.

When I lived at the cabin I became more attuned to the rhythms of nature and the weather. Since I've lived in the city for nearly two years I thought I had lost that ability but I obviously haven't. As I look back across the months I realize that my moods have been in tune with the changes in weather patterns and that I am cranky and unsettled whenever a storm is looming and the air is charged and waiting. It's the psychic equivalent of nails on a blackboard, just as it is for animals who act up before a big storm or earthquake. I guess I haven't lost it all after all and being in the city hasn't dulled all my senses.

I do sometimes wish I was back at the cabin and didn't have to bother with a scheduled job, that I can write whenever the mood strikes me and not have to put it off until I've typed enough pages. I miss the slower and more organic pace and I miss the solitude at times, although living here has its positive side, too. I have some level of solitude but there is always the sound of rushing traffic and the voices and daily sounds around me from the landlady and Nel and the neighbors. The neighborhood is peaceful at times but it gets loud when a Harley passes in the street with its deep-throated growling roar, shattering the calm and the low level white noise that seeps in through the cracks and windows. There are many more lights here and the dark is not the palpable entity that wrapped me close at the cabin. I cannot go out onto the deck (I don't have one here) and reach up and touch the stars or marvel at the full moon that floods the landscape with blue-white brilliance. Yet the sights and sounds, and especially the smells, of holiday baking and impromptu cookery have made my little corner of this neighborhood a home that I am reluctant to leave.

There are no pine martens launching from tree tops across the morning sky but there are ragged and gaunt foxes that trot past when dawn fingers the sky with rose and gold and copper in pursuit of sleep addled squirrels. It's a trade-off, but most of life is.

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