Why You Shouldn't Save a Skink By Its Tail or Untether a Spider From Your Rearview Window: Everyday Magic, Day 394

I was just trying to help, honest. So when the cat brought in the iridescent skink, ready to tear off its limbs while purring loudly, I managed to grab the skink by the tail to take it back outside and out of cat claw reach. The electric blue tail broke right off, and only that, but it coiled wildly in the floor for minutes, jumping and twirling. I screamed for Daniel who, as a biology major, knows what many of you know: skink’s tails just break off automatically in such situation so that big mammals can’t have their way with the little shiny lizards. Luckily, Daniel could save the skink in a greeting card and take it to safety outside.

An hour later, when I got in my car and saw the spider clutching the side-view mirror, I remembered running hours of chores with that spider hanging on for dear life to its web between the mirror and car door while I drove 55 mph. So I did what seemed kind: I tossed a little water on her so that she spun herself down, and then broke her new webbing so that she went to the ground. I saw her racing toward the woods, pissed off but less likely to get flung to a highway death. Later that night, after I told Ken how I saved the spider, he shook his head and told me she had been there for weeks and even rode to the airport and back with him. It seems she likes the wind in her hair, or whatever slightly fuzzy covering she has.

All I can say is that I tried, and trying isn’t always the right thing. On the other hand, the skink will regrow his gorgeous tail instead of drying out dead behind the armchair in the living room, and the spider is probably webbing the woods right now……or maybe she’s crept back behind that sideview mirror in her spider RV. At least this time if I see her, I’ll let her ride and maybe direct any errant flies out my window right into her web.

In Praise of Homecoming: Everyday Magic, Day 359

Take the mail, for instance, and the irrational thrill of a big pile of envelopes, ferreting out the half of them that instantly go into recycling to find a few lovely surprises (a note from a friend, a $5 gift card for a hardware store) among the bills.

Then all that was in the car that, when ferried into the house, expands exponentially to the point that it’s hard to imagine how it fit in the car, much like looking at any of my children few years after birth and wondering how s/he ever fit in me. I find it’s best to make a mad run for unloading and unpacking everything because if I don’t do it within a few hours of arrival, those lopsided suitcases will sit around various rooms for days.

Sometime in the first 30 minutes home, the animals emerge, first the dog, carrying a shoe to present us with in honor of our homecoming, and then the skin-gangster little kitty, usually meowing furiously before flinging herself in our arms, which makes it tricky to haul boxes and bags. Eventually, the anti-social cat comes out of the shadows and is uncharacteristically affectionate for five minutes before attacking us.

Within a few hours, there’s that glorious moment of sitting down in a good chair, computer on lap, new magazines to my right, animals to my left (the herd settling by my side after escorting me room to room), with a big glass of iced water. Dinner turns out to be rice krispies because anything else is too complex. The radio tells me I’m home through its familiar voice tones. The overgrown gardens wave at me through the windows.

There will be that stretchy kind of post-vacation fatigue to come, coffee to replenish, and a few trips to the grocery store in my future, but upon arrival, I lean back into one of the sweetest moments of the vacation: when it’s all over.

Cats Taught Us To Lie: Everyday Magic, Day 169

Liars! That’s our cats are, and most likely, so are yours. They lie so seamlessly, so naturally that it’s becoming clear to us that they must have taught humans how to lie.

I walked in the door after yoga today, and immediately Miyako, our sweet little cat, rushed to the laundry room threshold and told me that Ken wasn’t home yet, and no one had fed her dinner. “You don’t eat dinner until bedtime,” I reminded her, only to meet Judy, our big, mean PTSD cat, who backed up Miyako’s story, and said they eat when we eat. I thought of pouring them some food, but then I heard Ken rustling around in the other room, and when I went in to say hello, he said, “Just got here, and just fed the cats.”

This is what cats do: they lie their furry butts off. “I want to go out,” they tell us, but no, they really want to stand on the threshold and ponder their past life as horses. They haven’t been fed for days, weeks even when really, they just ate. They hate cheese, wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole, and they hate dogs too, but really, they love all things dairy and have been known to party with the canines on occasion.

I have no doubt that cats — “bandits in fur pants” as my friend Stephanie calls them — not only are liars but the ones who taught us to lie. And what I’m saying is the truth, honest and cross my heart.

What I Learned In 2010: Everyday Magic, Day 168

2010 is toast. Here’s what it taught me in a nutshell:

  • With a cheap, plastic sewing machine under hand, I can still sew…..and to my surprise, I can sew wabi sabi quilts.
  • I love to play a video game (who knew?) — Typer Shark — although Ken says my typing all those sharks to death could have environmental repercussions.
  • It wasn’t devastating to have my daughter leave home. And between texting, facebook-messaging, phone-calling and skype, it’s kind of like she didn’t leave.
  • It’s very cool to have sons taller than me, and in the case of Forest, much taller than me.
  • I’m blown away by the compassion and community I saw gather around one friend who lost her son, another who lost her wife, and a group of us who lost mutual friends. Death is hard (understatement), but being here for each other is what makes the unbearable bearable.
  • I can sleep easily with a purring cat on my chest for hours.
  • If need be, I can lift our 80-pound lab-mation and get her into the car and onto the table at the vet’s.
  • True but a little sad: I am MUCH healthier without wheat, dairy or sugar in my diet.
  • True and delightful: I’m most in love with the world and alive — even when not feeling my best — when doing yoga everyday.
  • “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World” is a great movie, and I’m glad to have seen it twice.
  • There only seems to be one television show at a time that I like/love, and this time, it’s “Bones.”
  • Sky Islands are singular mountains dotted throughout the Sonoran Desert (and beyond) where the altitude changes creates complete changes in climate.
  • All estimates for most climate changes I know of were vastly understated, and although my family rolls my eyes when I say this, I don’t think much of the coasts will survive beyond my lifetime (and maybe not more than a decade or two).
  • Bluebirds in winter, Indigo Bunting in summer, and all of life is good.
  • I actually like brussel sprouts when chopped finely into stir-fry.
  • I’m better than I thought at wasting time.
  • French farce in theater, when done well, is wickedly funny.
  • Mopping can be magical.
  • Warmed up enough, I can touch my toes without bending my knees, but I still can’t meditate worth a damn.
  • Whimsy rules.
  • Cats are the ones who taught humans all about lying (as in, “No one has fed me for days” ten minutes after they got fed).
  • Minneapolis and St. Paul blur so seamlessly into each other that it’s easy to lost in the Twin Cities vortex.
  • There’s nothing that can’t be made better by playing some Laura Nyro, Leonard Cohen, Bruce Springsteen, Kelley Hunt, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Joni Mitchell, Greg Greenway or Louis Armstrong.
  • I seriously don’t want to know what or how much my kids drink at college or all manner of other things that happen late at night.
  • Without pressure, and with family I love, I actually kind of don’t always dislike Christmas so much.
  • Macaroons: the wonder food. All manner of squash too.
  • It’s always this question: “How to live?” and it’s always this answer, “With kindness.”

Best wishes to all for 2011!

Dogs Are Better Than Us: Everyday Magic, Day 150

It’s true. They just are. It’s not the same with cats: some particular cats might be better than some particular humans, but for the most part, cats don’t care about being good. Dogs, on the other hand, are the Boddhisattvas of the animal world, come back to earth to help us even though as enlightened beings, they could go to, say, Jupiter or other dimensions. Okay, they do eat the most disgusting things in the universe, jump up on us at unsuspecting moments, bark to go out and then back in with no rhyme and reason and occasionally fight other dogs. But just because they have issues doesn’t mean they’re not way better than your typical human.

My dog is especially better, which is not to say she is the only best dog in the world, but she’s sure one of them. We found her — of course! — at the pound. She was the dog the staff kept at their desks because she was so sweet they couldn’t bear to be away from her. A lab-mation (mostly black lab with a shield-shaped spread of white and dalmation spots on her chest, she loves everyone, and after 12 years with us, particularly us.

We got Mariah Lily Karumba Lassman because my then 10-year-old son Daniel needed a friend and our house in the country needed a dog. Did I mention I was a cat person before her? Despite her eating all the Birkenstocks in the house and being sock-obsessed, she was a pool of love from the get-go. She spent a good part of her life sleeping with one child or another, kind of like an 80-pound body pillow.

When guests arrived, even ones who didn’t like dogs, Mariah walked over, put her head tenderly in their laps and looked up with great understanding. She won them over. When delivery people or other strangers came, she ran out to greet them and rolled on her back. When any of us were sick, she slept on the floor, lengthwise against our beds, ready to jump up and follow us from room to room. When critters circled the outside of the house, she circled the inside of the house, barking them away.

She is also a wizard with cats. I once found her lying down, face to face with Saulina, our cat of 20 years who was so smart that she did our taxes for us. They stared at each other for hours in that position, and I realized this was probably a daily pit stop in their lives when the humans were gone. I’m sure they were transmitting life-giving information about healing properties of the universe, each from their respective planets. Mariah was a love bunny with a series of kittens, and is now good friends with Miyako. She’s also been a staunch defender of each kitten in his/her time from Judy, the old cat, who doesn’t mean to be so bad but suffers from PTSD.

Now Mariah is old. Her eyes are glassy (but the vet said she’s not blind), she walks with a limp because of her arthritis, and she’s graying at the edges. Yesterday, she wouldn’t stop cry-barking, so I took her to the vet from hard-core steroids and painkillers. “12 is old for a lab,” people tell me, but I haven’t really faced this reality. Yet this reality is coming fast, and as I carry-pushed her into our bedroom, where she’s slept for years on the floor beside us, I nudged her onto a large pillow, covered her with a fleece blanket, and prayed for this good dog to live happy years, and least happy months more. Some beings seem too good to die.