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My Muse Mews March 24, 2010

Posted by nrhatch in Animals, Blogging, Writing & Writers.
2 comments

In Maryland, my writing had a rhythm to it that has been largely absent  down here in the Sunshine State.  

I finally figured out why ~ the absence of my muse, Tigger. 

Oh, don’t worry, nothing happened to him ~ he’s still around ~ but he hasn’t been helping me to write. 

Probably because of all the brilliant sunshine down here.

In Maryland, soon after I reported to my office to write in the mornings,  Tigger would join me for a brief meditation session. 

He would wander down the hall, sit on the floor beside my chair, and cry to be picked up.  If he felt a bit more energetic, he would hop on the bed and climb onto my lap.

Once comfortably ensconced on my lap, he would nudge my chin with his head, and settle down for a purr-fest. 

I would close my eyes and listen. 

In that meditative stillness, thoughts would slowly surface and I would watch them until I saw something that I wanted to write about that day. 

Once Tigger had his morning fix, he would hop off my lap, curl up on the bed next to me, and close his eyes on the day outside. 

That was my cue to get to work writing down and sharing my thoughts.  

He, in contrast, viewed that moment as the end of his work day and would spend the next seven or eight hours cat-napping on the bed, listening to me tapping away on the keyboard, his slumber undisturbed.

That routine changed once we moved to Florida where the sun greets us with blinding intensity and brilliance more often than not. 

I still report to my office to write in the mornings, but Tigger seldom joins me for a silent morning meditation. 

Instead, when I sit down to write, he crawls under the bed in the guest room to sleep in the shadows, away from the sunlight pouring through the shades. 

For months, I’d been wanting to write, and drawing a complete blank as to subject.  And then my muse showed up. 

Tigger wandered down the hall one morning, sat on the floor next to my chair, and cried to be picked up.

Of course, I complied. 

He contentedly curled up on my lap, smiling in satisfaction at the clouds momentarily obscuring the sun.  After a brief nudge to my chin with the top of his head, he commenced purring.   

I closed my eyes to listen, and finally thought of something to share.

Why I Otter Kill You! March 24, 2010

Posted by nrhatch in Animals, Happiness, Humor, Nature.
10 comments

I write in a makeshift office, in the corner of the master bedroom.  

When I sit at my desk, face forward, my monitor is just to the left of my keyboard. 

Straight ahead is a window, through which I can observe a lagoon teeming with wildlife, constantly distracting me from my well-intended efforts to write The Great American Novel.

Last November, I commenced work on my NaNoWriMo effort . . . The Journey.  

For those of you not familiar with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), NaNoWriters embark on a thirty-day Odyssey to produce a 50,000 word novel.  By Day Twelve, writers should be approaching (or past) the 20,000 word mark.   

By Day Twelve of my effort, I had managed to reach word 17,237. 

Close enough, but no cigar.

On Day Twelve, as I sat at the keyboard, allegedly working toward the 50,000 word destination, I became hopelessly distracted by the view outside my window.  

As indicated in my last post, Florida Is For The Birds, many fine feathered Floridian friends attract (and hold) my attention on a daily basis.

On Day Twelve, pelicans, ibis, cormorants, anhingas, herons, egrets, and ducks paraded around outside my window ~ but none were to blame for distracting me. 

Instead, two otters captured and held my attention with their captivating playful antics for most of the morning. 

I first spotted the otter pair as they strolled amiably out of the mangroves, side by side, and slid down the grassy bank into the water at the far side of the lagoon, a short 30 yards from my desk. 

Running to get the binoculars, I watched them playing in the water for a few minutes, heads bobbing up, then disappearing after each dive, with long, lean tails whipping through the air behind them in one fluid movement. 

Then, almost as if they knew they had an audience on the other side of the looking-glass, they finished their morning swim, and decided to put on a delightful stage show, just for my amusement. 

Up out of the water they charged, racing each other to the tree line.  The victor quickly butting heads with the loser, then turning tail to bounce away.  The loser giving chase and playfully tackling his opponent. 

Down they went, rolling and tussling and tumbling together in an amusing display of agility punctuated by the flash of sharp pointed teeth. 

With lightning speed, the tagged leader would race away, playing Catch Me If You Can, before rolling quickly onto its back to expose its belly for the follower to pounce on, nibble at, then bounce off, before racing away as the new, undisputed, otter-weight champion of the world!  

Of course, even otters run out of steam eventually. 

When they did, one lay down on the bank, directly in front of my window, and the other, using the first otter’s sleek furry back as a pillow, lay down at a perpendicular angle.  

Satisfied that the show was over, I got back to the business at hand (writing, writing, madly writing) in a well-intentioned effort to reach the short-term goal of 20,000 words by the end of Day Twelve.  

Then, obviously sensing that they had lost their audience, both otter heads popped up simultaneously, and stared directly into my window, compelling me to pick up the binoculars anew.  

Recharged and rejuvenated by their brief nap, the otter antics began again as they kicked it back into high gear, taking turns playing Follow-the-Leader and Ring-Around-The-Rosie, with the temporary leader being tackled into submission by the follower, who taunted and teased the leader, rapidly chittering, Why I otter kill you! ~ all the while chasing and bouncing and pouncing and tussling until it was time to switch roles once again.

So, that’s why, self-imposed deadlines or not, I rarely write as much as I otter.

Florida Is For The Birds March 24, 2010

Posted by nrhatch in Animals, Art & Photography, Nature.
2 comments

My writing desk overlooks a small lagoon teeming with wildlife ~ gorgeous birds, fascinating fish, and tubby turtles.  

Watching the birds, fish, turtles, and lizards often distracts me from the task of writing ~ keeping me from completing The Great American Novel, but providing fodder for short nature essays like this one. 

Let me share a glimpse through my window:  

First, there are the wood storks, gracefully soaring over the water, with black tipped wings, necks reaching forward, and bony legs pointed straight back (to steer the ship during sudden lane changes). 

In the air, wood storks are gorgeous.  On the ground, they are comical. 

As they walk on the grass at the far side of the lagoon, heads down, one following another, they resemble a line of Groucho Marx look-a-likes parading across a narrow stage, hands clasped behind their backs, rapidly walking to and fro. 

All that’s missing is the cigar.

Second, there are the flying fish, leaping out of the water to get a good look around, before diving back into the depths where they belong. 

For more, see Flying Fish and Leaping Lizards.

Of course, not all fish can fly. 

We have noticed one much-less-agile  mammoth whale of a Carp, nibbling at the grass in the shallows, growing ever larger and ever-less-likely-to-be-eaten by the birds sharing the perimeter of the lagoon with it.  

Third, there are the brown pelicans, acting like kamikaze pilots as they crash-land into the water in search of their next meal, then lazily paddle about until, with effort, they take to the skies with a rapid crashing and splashing of wings ~ like an enormous blimp attempting to take off from the middle of the ocean amidst hurricane force winds.

And, of course, there are the straight-beaked anhingas, or snake birds, constantly jutting their heads out and back, by extending and contracting long snake-like necks, as if they are attempting to clear a fish (or fish bone) lodged in their airways. 

For more on the anhingas, see:  Mmm . . . Sushi.

And the curved-billed cormorants, which land on the water, feet splayed like water skiers, and skid upon the surface before coming to a complete stop amid a soaking spray of water droplets. 

After the water-skiing event ends for the day, the cormorants (and anhingas) spend hours sitting, wings outstretched, on the banks of the lagoon, allowing their feathers to air dry in the tropical breeze.

Then, there are the Great Blue Herons, the neighborhood bullies, who raucously protest when other birds dare to enter their L-A-R-G-E personal space.  Although the Great Blues do not travel in packs, gangs, or gaggles, they have a gangsta-like reputation with other birds . . . who do their best not to intrude upon the Heron’s perceived territory as they move about the lagoon in search of their next meal.

Great Blue Herons are loners, and content to be so, unlike most of the other birds which congregate in large companionable groups, resplendent in diversity of both species and origins. 

The Ibis, with their enormous Jimmy Durante proboscis-style bills. 

The gorgeous pink Spoonbills, with their elongated spoon-shaped beaks.

The juvenile snowy egrets, wearing witch-tinted stockings of green.

The elegant Great White Egrets, with their brilliant white plumage.

We often spy massive turtles, skulking about just under the surface, as they troll for food ~ small heads and beady eyes breaking the surface of the liquid reservoir when they come up for a breath of air. 

On sunny days, the turtles heave themselves out of the water and onto the banks of the lagoon to soak up some rays, like chubby tourists littering the beach during Spring Break, arms and legs splayed across the sand.

Ducks float lazily around on the surface of the lagoon, happily quacking in laughter (quack~quack~quack) as they paddle, or angrily chastising each other for stepping out of line with rapid-fire staccato tones:

QUACK ~ QUACK ~ QUACK ~ QUACK ~ QUACK ~ QUACK ~ QUACK

On occasion, a large white pelican appears outside my window.  With smaller, more compact pouches than brown pelicans, the white pelicans tend to spend more time floating around on the surface of water, emulating graceful swans, and less time crash-landing into the water like pilots who accidentally hit the eject button.

See?  Florida really is for the birds. 

Next Post:  Why I Otter Kill You!

Purr-sonal Preferences March 24, 2010

Posted by nrhatch in Animals, Humor, Nature, People.
5 comments

Donald-Duck-DrivingMost people (persons, if you prefer) have personal preferences ~ in cars, food, clothes, and abodes.

Some drive Porsches and live in McMansions.

Others (e.g., motivational speakers and freelance writers) tend to live in vans down by the river, and take public transportation to and from their day jobs.

Cats, in contrast, have purr-sonal preferences, which, despite a rather limited vocabulary, they convey purr-fectly to their resident purr-sons through means of distinctly different feline utterances which their purr-sons eventually decipher through trial and error.

Our cat, Tigger, has purr-sonal preferences that are absolutely legendary among his furry feline friends.

How do I know?  I’ve heard the little guy bragging.

Here’s an example of one of his purr-fectly ludicrous predilections:

We have two sets of French doors leading to the deck behind our villa.

The doors are side by side, separated by about twelve inches of wall.  Other than their respective locations, the doors are identical in both form and function.

Due to the furniture placement, we (the purr-sons) tend to use the left door for ingress and egress to and from the deck.

Not our finicky feline, Tigger.  Nope.

We head outside and, rather than following us out the left-hand door, he walks out of his way to head over to the right hand door, where he sits down like a donkey on break and waits, rather impatiently, for us to close the left door and open the right door for him to walk through.

Which, like all well-trained purr-sons, we do ~ convincing him once again that we are his purr-sonal minions . . . placed on Earth to do his bidding and satisfy his every whim.

Why does he prefer the right door to the left?

No reason ~ well, no rational reason discernible to the naked eye.  It’s just his purr-sonal preference.

Have we spoiled him over the years?

Absolutely!  But that is not the sole and only cause of his finicky feline behavior.

Cat-and-DucksOur mistake?  Educating the little tyke about the cats in Cleopatra’s day who were worshiped as Gods.  Once Tigger heard tales of his Egyptian ancestors, he began purr-fecting his plans to rule over his purr-sons with precision.

First, he refused to drink water out of the water dish which we cleaned and refilled with fresh water every day:

* Purr-haps the color of the bowl (white) didn’t suit his sensibilities.
* Purr-haps its curvature fell short of his expectations.
* Purr-haps the make, model or year didn’t precisely suit his desires.

No matter.

When Tigger is thirsty, he sits in the middle of the kitchen floor and cries until  one of his purr-sons shows up to fill a teeny-tiny plastic bowl with water and hold it while he drinks slowly (think M-O-L-A-S-S-E-S) until his thirst is sated, or our arms grow numb with fatigue, whichever comes first.

Likewise, with his food.

He refuses to eat the canned cat food we purr-chase for him.  Instead, he licks off the gravy and then cries for more . . . gravy, that is, not food.  Purr-haps he is a budding vegetarian, who will eat gravy, but not actual morsels of meat.

Who knows?

Tigger loves to chase the ubiquitous lizards that proliferate in FL, and is quite keen on catching them.  Once caught, he loses interest . . . probably because they are not served with gravy.

His purr-sonal preference is dry food . . . eaten out of our hands, not from his already filled bowl on the kitchen floor.

Occasionally, IF (a big IF) he is in a benevolent mood, he will eat directly from his bowl  ~ as long as we sprinkle fresh dry food on top of the fresh food already in the bowl.

We’ve had cats before and never have they stepped into the God-like role that Tigger has assumed and purr-fected.

It almost makes me wish we had a dog . . . but not quite.

Quote:  To err is human . . . to purr is  feline. ~ Stuart McMillan