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Earl doesn’t usually hang out with me very much. When he was brand new (he’s about two years old now), he spent much of my workday napping in my office, often enough bundled up inside my sweater to keep warm in the winter chill. Now he won’t deign to sit on my lap or even on the same piece of furniture as me. So of course I crave his attention and follow him around the house to pick him up so that I can hug him and pet him and squeeze him and name him George. (Actually, full of self-conscious humor at the silliness of it all, I do smoosh him and nuzzle him and kiss him and call him love muffin and snugglepuss.) This morning, he hopped up onto my new desk for a quick rest and then moved in for a closer look as I typed. It was a rare treat.

Over the spring and summer, we tried to sell our house, but it didn’t work out. We’re still not sure why. We’ve fixed up a bunch of things since we bought the house, and the place really is quite pleasant (we’re trying to get a jump on moving school districts before high school). Anyway, it didn’t work out, and the new plan is to stay for a little longer. The remaining carpet was original to the house and pretty gross, so we’ve replaced that (we had previously installed nice wood and tile elsewhere in the house). We also decided to make the bonus room more useful. We had hidden most of our books in storage and gotten rid of the rickety old book shelves we’ve been carrying around for years, but now that we’re staying, we need space for our books, which I’ve really missed for the past few months. So we had a carpenter build in some cabinets and bookcases for us, with bonus window seats in the dormer windows for extra storage. Our daughter is especially delighted by the prospect of curling up with a book in one of the window seats. Here’s what the process looked like, and the final product. Now we need only to get the rest of our books out of storage and the room will be quite lovely.

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A couple of times now, coworkers have commissioned some of my art. Here is a piece I drew for a coworker frustrated by her dog’s habit of pooping any time she leaves him alone in the house. I proposed (to be clear: in absolute jest) the installation of a colostomy bag and two cones of shame — one at each end — as a resolution to the problem. She asked for an illustration and I came up with this, which I will confess I drew somewhat hastily.

We have here a dog in shoes and with a cone at each end of his body. He is pointing with one foot like a hunting dog, and because he’s such a cool character, he’s got sunglasses mounted on his head cone. The spiked collar adds to his cool factor as well, I think. But he’s more than cool. Observe the Mona Lisa hanging on the wall behind him; this fellow has culture as well! The cat clock adds a touch of whimsy and marks the passing of time, which really sums up the artistic thesis here. Although I drew a happily erect tail, I might have done better to draw marks demonstrating its wagging motion, which would have reinforced this pup’s zest for life in spite of — or perhaps precisely because of — the ever-present awareness of the passage of time (carpe diem, etc.).

A careful observer may pick up on subtle hints of a lament for the bow-tie in this piece. Others may try to impose on it a meaning pertaining to firearms; art belongs to the interpreter as much as to the maker, of course, but I cannot (nay: will not) claim to have tried to imbue this piece with any subtext pertaining to firearms.

The tape measure is an inside joke. Enjoy!

Over the last year or two, we had started to be visited pretty frequently by a beautiful stray cat with large paws, snaggle teeth, an ear nicked from, we presumed, fighting, and thick brown fur. He visited so regularly last fall and winter that he wore two paths in our yard between our fence and our back deck, where we would feed him when we found him peering through the windows of our back door.

When the temperature dropped down well below freezing last winter, we took him in one night for fear that he’d die of exposure, and he spent the night snuggled up among our feet in bed, purring. The next day, he took a foul and aggressive dump on our son’s bed, and we knew that the arrangement couldn’t continue (also, one of our other cats hates him, and there was a persistent fear that they would fight). Still, we made what shelter we could for him on the deck and continued to feed him and let him in for brief supervised visits to warm up during the cold months.

Then he disappeared for a good long while. We had been on a mission to fatten him up a bit but feared that we had failed. Of course, we also hoped that perhaps someone else might have taken him in.

A few months ago, he showed up suddenly well groomed (he had begun to accumulate big mats in parts of his fur) and wearing a collar naming him “Chance.” He had been adopted after all! His visits were less frequent, but we felt at least as if he was being properly taken care of.

A couple of weeks ago, he showed up again, still wearing the collar and still reasonably well groomed (if clearly still largely an outdoor cat) but shockingly thin. Perhaps, we thought, he had shat his new owner’s bed as well and had been turned out. We loaded up on fatty food to try to help fatten him up again, as he would visit two or three times a day. We called the number on his new tag and learned, thankfully, that he was still being cared for and was being fed three or four times a day by the folk who had taken him to the vet. They suspected a thyroid problem and were looking into medication for him.

We’ve since learned that the thyroid problem has been confirmed, and he’s on medication. He still stops by a couple of times a day on a lot of days, and he eats ravenously. Hopefully now he’ll begin to put on a little weight (he weighs about half what he should). It’s really pitiful how you can feel each rib, feel his shoulder blades, and tell that he’s mincing about rather than slinking as a cat should. We had discussed with his new owners (to the extent that one can really own a wandering cat) the mercy of putting him down if the thyroid medicine didn’t work out (things like cancer had proven negative), but now we can have at least a brief hope that he might get better.

I’ve never really been a cat person, though I’ve now owned cats for some 16 years of my life. Still, I’ve grown to enjoy Robin’s (for I can’t make myself actually call him Chance) visits. The kids sure love seeing him around. I hope we can fatten him up indeed, and if improving his health means we see less of him because his voracious appetite diminishes, I’ll be glad to see him any time he does drop by our back door with his snaggle teeth and nicked ear.

Utah

I spent last week in Park City, Utah at the Canyons resort with coworkers. I had my first fly fishing experience, took a couple of short hikes, helped a few of my company’s support staff refine some technical skills, and spent more time talking to real live people than I do in probably an average month (which was both rewarding and overwhelming). The mountains of Utah are really gorgeous, as pictured below.

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A couple of weeks ago, I found a freshly molted cicada on our front porch. A few days later, we encountered the one pictured above emerging from the shell. The bug was so still that we figured it might actually have baked in the sun and died. I meant to check back the next day to learn about its fate, but I forgot, and now I suppose it’ll remain a mystery for the ages.

Last Monday, I happened to be in downtown Knoxville and ran across this neat scene. It’s apparently an annual occurrence in which folk from the community bring their sunflowers and weave them into a big sunflowerish circle in one of the little parks. It was really lovely. We used to have a few sunflowers growing off the corner of our back deck, and they tended to draw goldfinches into our yard, and they were lovely.

 

Cicada

While walking the kids to the bus stop this morning, I found this cicada clinging to our house. I’ve never found one freshly molted before. It’s been a while since I remember finding a live one, in fact. This took me back to my childhood, when I would find them quite frequently in my neighborhood, often on our driveway, where they would get turned over onto their backs and buzz their wings rapidly to try to flip back over. It’s a very distinctive sound that I hadn’t thought of in many years but that I still have a vivid sensory memory of. This guy’s still pretty green. I suppose that’s because he’s freshly molted; I remember them as being much darker.