Banished Adverbs

Burbles

I book floor sunburst ant across keyboard Pleistocene basement pomegranate son Louis noose. feelings place door cave rat magazine. Smiles hair toothboat wind. Drama detergent.

 

(The above composition was written in response to a WordPress writing challenge (Writing 101) asking for a story with no adverbs.)

Huffin’ and Puffin (8 Things You Should Know About Auks)

I’ve been doing some important research this past week. Here are some things that everyone should know about puffins:

1. There are two types that live in the North Pacific Ocean: horned puffins and tufted puffins.
2. Puffins are auks. They are not penguins. Auks live north of the equator, and penguins live south of the equator. They are not related.
3. Puffins, like all auks, can both fly in the air and swim underwater (cool!)
4. Puffins are damned cute.
5. The ones at the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport, Oregon like to splash-land, showering the spectators in the aviary. They think it is great fun. They are right.
6. The puffins mentioned in #5 also enjoy swimming very close to people and doing crazy, frenetic dances in the water.
7. They like to be watched and photographed.
8. They love life.

9. (Bonus fact) I think I’d like to come back as an auk in my next life.

Now Leaving Comfort Zone: Doing What I’ve Always Wanted

Plants & Rocks at OP
The opportunities are always out there, but how many of us reach out to them? I’m talking about things you’ve always dreamed of doing. It’s different for everyone, but for me the list includes a few things that I’ve been wanting to do since childhood. Here are my top four:

1. Scuba diving (ever since I saw my first Jacques Cousteau program).
2. Fying an airplane. I did get an opportunity to do that as a late teen, in a Cessna with dual controls. My cousin was getting her A&P license at the time, and her instructor took me up. It was great. I’d still like to get a pilot’s license and fly wherever I want to.
3. Owning a yacht and sailing around the world. (I’d really better get started on this one)
4. Publishing a book (or several).

I think the main thing that has been holding me back is my inability to see these things as not only possible, but as real. There is a sense that these dreams are extravagant, self-indulgent, and superfluous. The idea that life should be about doing “serious” things and “making money.” Also, I (as I assume is true for many others) look around for approval/permission from others. That is a big mistake. I’m not sure why I haven’t done these things yet, but, as the second half of my life begins, I figure I’d better get off the observation deck and into the water. Literally.

Incidental Inspiration

Yesterday I saw a movie on Netflix called “Maidentrip” about a 14-year-old girl from the Netherlands named Laura Dekker who literally sailed around the world by herself, in a 40-foot ketch named Guppy. It was inspiring, to say the least. Once she decided to undertake the voyage, Dutch child welfare services tried to stop her, and she had to go through harrowing legal battles before getting clearance. She finally won and achieved her ambition, documenting the voyage on video.

First Steps

I’ve signed up for a scuba diving certification class! It starts in about three weeks. I’m excited about it, and also a little apprehensive. I’m not apprehensive about the diving part, or being underwater, or any of that. I’m concerned about passing the prerequisite, which includes swimming 3/4 of the length of the pool underwater on one breath. I can swim the whole length underwater with fins on. But I’m pretty sure it will be fins off for the test. The other two qualifying tests are to surface swim 5 lengths of the pool (piece of cake) and tread water for 10 minutes (could do it in my sleep). But why is it so hard to swim underwater? I have been practicing. So far, all I can do is a little over half a length. The harder I try, the harder it is. Today, I talked with some fellow swimmers, who gave me pointers. Look down, not up. Keep your body horizontal. Stay relaxed. Find the “zone” in which you continuously glide forward with minimal effort from your limbs. It’s tricky, because you have to stay rigid enough to keep the forward momentum, but relaxed enough to conserve energy and oxygen. One of my fellow swimmers even demonstrated for me. He made it look effortless.

Finally, they suggested I look on YouTube for instructional videos on free diving. I’m about to check into those. I know that most of getting past this is psychological, and that persistence will eventually pay off. I’ll keep you posted on my progress. Wish me luck!!

The Feral Cat Ladies

Cats in Pot 3

This is a sequel to “Open Your Eyes, Kitty!”, published on May 25, 2014 on Writewireless. It is basically a true story. Only the names and some of the details have been changed to protect the feral—and the domesticated as well.

When I heard the knock on my door, I thought it was someone else—wandering friends who show up occasionally. When I looked through the peep-hole, it could have been Jehovah’s Witnesses. Two ladies, casually dressed, on the other side of middle age. I opened the door. One had white, somewhat tousled hair, and was holding a long cage with a bowl of food at one end. Her face was soft and malleable and looked forgiving. Her companion was thin, with streaky gray hair pulled back into a severe ponytail.

Her voice was strident, and clung to the high registers like the nervous claws of an excited feline, ready to dart off at any minute.

Her long, drawn face looked dry, with faint, parallel wrinkles along her cheeks. Speaking rapidly in clipped tones, her vowels irritatingly sing-songy, the latter explained the urgency of their task in a rehearsed manner: “We are volunteers who save feral cats. We spay or neuter the adults and give them their shots. Then we release them back where we found them.” Her voice was strident and clung to the high registers like the nervous claws of an excited feline, ready to dart off at any minute. “We try to get the kittens before they get too wild, and we vaccinate and spay or neuter them. If they can be socialized with humans, we put them up for adoption. If not, we return them where we found them. We have to catch them at the right time, before their mother teaches them to hiss at humans. We always clip off the end of their ears after we fix them. We already caught the white mother cat and the little sickly white one. We know there are three more kittens in the litter. Your neighbor told us you have kittens in your backyard. May we put out a trap for them?” Her eyes darted around furtively as she spoke, as if sizing me up in some way.

Continue reading “The Feral Cat Ladies”

Babysitting the Garbage at 4 a.m.

Dark Night Crescent Moon

We bought a delicious whole salmon two nights ago. Wild caught. Super fresh. Almost unheard of, from Lucky, at $3 a pound! We feasted on it with friends and family. It’s summer now; all the kids are home from school and we are spending a lot more time at home. We produce a lot of garbage.

This morning was garbage pick-up. I had called yesterday to have them take an extra bag. They charge extra for each bag that doesn’t fit into their standard gray plastic “toter.” They always come early in the morning. Last night at around 6:00, following urgent proddings from my husband, I put the overflow from our curbside can into a big black plastic bag on the sidewalk. I went out to my exercise class, and when I came back, there was a gray cat poking his paw through the bottom of the bag, pulling out food and eating it. When I came over for a look, I could see he had found the salmon remnants. I could picture where this was going: a ripped open trash bag with the contents strewn out all over the street, and the scavenger company leaving it there for me to clean up. Oh, no you don’t, my little feline friend.

It was a contest between me and the gray cat.
Who was more tenacious? Whose persistence would prevail?

He was not about to leave. I made a big gesture and he darted under the parked car near the trash cans and then became invisible. I went in to tell my husband. After some back and forth, he found another large black trash bag and we put the ripped one into it. He then brought it inside the kitchen, where it would stay until “later.”

It was a contest between me and the gray cat. Who was more tenacious? Whose persistence would prevail?

At this point, I had to make a choice. Did I want to go through all of the messy, ant-ridden trash and separate out the non-food items so that the “outside” bag would be unattractive to cats? Definitely not. Did I want to get up at 5 a.m. to put out the fishy garbage bag right before pick-up? Not really. But unless I wanted to pay the extra six dollars for nothing and still have extra garbage waiting around all week until the next pickup, the latter seemed the only reasonable option. I figured I’d go right back to sleep after depositing the bag.

It was one of those “on-call” nights—you know, when you don’t really let yourself sleep soundly because you know you have to get up at an ungodly hour and you don’t want to miss it. The alarm was already set for 6:45 for my husband. The garbage truck would be long gone by then. But I didn’t want to change the alarm time and then forget to re-set it.

At 4 a.m. I opened my eyes and looked at the clock. Dare I let myself go back to sleep? I was not ready to get up. Still, I needed to make sure to get the bag out to the corner by 5:00, as instructed by the Scavenger company. I lay back down on my pillow, not daring to lapse back into dreamland, but resolving to maintain a “conscious” rest. I looked again. It was 4:40. OK, I said to myself, it’s probably safe to put out the bag now. The cat has wandered off to molest someone else’s garbage, or gone to sleep by now. As I left the bedroom, I pulled up on the door so it wouldn’t stick on the frame, and latched it slowly and noiselessly. It was very dark in the living room. I turned the switch in the kitchen to shed indirect light on the front door. I did not turn on the front porch light. Carefully grasping the bag of fish-laced refuse, I silently opened the front door. A neighbor’s porch light faintly illuminated the parked cars across the street. Just above the black rooftops, a large, waning crescent of a moon lounged, a lone morning star floating two inches diagonally above. The world was still asleep. I would stealthily pose the bag against the garbage can and all would be well.

Continue reading “Babysitting the Garbage at 4 a.m.”

Only in San Francisco

Monks & BBBabylon
At the De Young Museum. The mannequins in the background are wearing costumes from Beach Blanket Babylon, San Francisco’s longest-running satirical, musical review, which today celebrated its 40th anniversary.

Manatee Vanity

From Under the Pages

(A Limerick)

Pier with rain If you look closely, you can see the shy manatee lurking under the water, just above center.

A hysterically self-conscious manatee

had trouble maintaining her sanity;

She swam up to a pier,

where she looked in a mirror:

Self-repugnance gave way to great vanity.

—Dedicated to R.M., in recognition of his great admiration for large marine mammals

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