Saturday, November 17, 2007

My Killer Cat

I have a cat named Golum (Frodo's nemesis from The Lord of the Rings) that I took in as a favor for a professor at the college (allergies). I've written about this cat before, and somewhere on this blog I probably have a picture of him. He's a beautiful cat, agreeable and sweet, but he has his peculiarities. He doesn't want to eat out of the food bowls, for example; he wants to eat out of the container where I store the food, so, at least four times a day, I have to open the pantry and the container and let him eat until he's through. A pain, yes, but each of my cats has his/her own peculiar behaviors, so he fits right in.

He has one other annoying habit--he catches and kills birds. Well, he catches and kills rats, too, but I don't mind that. I always hope I have at least one good mouser/ratter. But killing birds is another thing.

This morning, I woke up around 8:30am and stumbled to the kitchen to start the ritual--make the coffee, fill the food bowls, open the pantry for Golum...but, no! Kill number four was flopping around on my kitchen rug, or, rather, Golum was tossing it around the same way the character Golum slapped the wriggling fish around in the movie. Little fluffy underfeathers flew around the kitchen (took quite a while to sweep them up). I grabbed Golum, who was growling like a dog with a bone, and put him out the back door. I watched the other cats circle him, and, I imagine, Golum continued growling, even as he wolfed down the bird, feet and all.

He hasn't whined for the food container tonight, so he must still be full.

I understand, to some extent, how nature works. Worms eat dirt, birds eat worms, cats eat birds, and, once in a while, a coyote comes on the property and eats a cat, or a stray dog runs a cat to death (not necessarily to eat it). So I'm not naive enough to think my cats won't do what they instinctively know they should.

My cat's behavior, though, makes me wonder how much of human behavior is programmed in--murder, war, love, sex, lying, whatever. Do I do what I do because it's coded into my DNA? I can't count the number of times I've done things without giving a thought to them. But, sometimes, I stop and ask myself, "Why did you just do that?" and I can't give myself an answer. I don't know for sure, but I hope I'm not living by instinct.

I came across a poem by Mary Oliver (one of my favorite modern poets), entitled "When Death Comes," and she reminded me of the importance of conscious living--always approaching the world with amazement and wonder. Here are the last lines of the poem (but find it and read the whole thing!):

When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it is over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

I was asleep last Sunday, the morning that DST took effect, when I felt a stinging along my right arm. I figured a mosquito somehow survived the cold snap and was siphoning some blood, so I stuck my arm under the covers. A few moments later, I felt the same stinging on my shoulder. I brought my left arm from under the covers to swat at the "mosquito" and, instead, touched a soft ball of fur.

As is my usual habit on the weekend, I usually don't go to bed until very early in the morning--say around 2 or 3am. So, having been up very early (or late, depending on how you see it) on Sunday morning, I anticipated sleeping late on Sunday, at least past 9am.

But, no. Thanks to DST, the sun was up, the time was 7am, and my cats were ready to roll. My puppy cat, Buddy, nips at me to wake me. That's the signal for food and an open door. So, I found a line of small bruises on my arm where he had nipped me--obviously, those bites didn't register enough to wake me up. I swear, if I die in my sleep, my cats will eat me.

Once I threw the cats out, I crawled back into bed and pulled the covers over my head to block out the sun. I need to get some darker curtains!

So, how long have we been falling back and springing forward? I feel as though I've been doing it all my life, so I'm wondering where this started. I found a website that pretty well explains it. I don't mind the fall back part, but I hate the spring forward part. And it really screws up my inner clock. I went to bed at 2am this morning and woke up at 7:30am. I think I need a nap.

I have been working on my family's genealogy for years and have made some significant advances this year. I finally found my great-great-grandfather and his father, and I found a great deal of information on my great-grandmother and her parents and brothers, stuff even my mother didn't know. And I made contact with someone who is my great-great aunt's granddaughter by marriage. This "relative" sent me pictures of relatives I've never met. That's so cool! I've also published a family website (private) that has everything I've found so far. It's huge, with over 350 people on it. And I have pictures, too.

If I'm not careful, I get so wrapped up in it that I lose time. It's as obsessive for me as knitting, so I'm torn. I can either knit or surf the web looking for anscestors. So I split my time when I'm not grading papers between those two hobbies. At least I'm not out running the street!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Time Change isn't Saving Me

Yep, here we go, setting our clocks back again. For me, it doesn't make any difference. I'm still going to stay up until three in the morning looking for my ancestors.

I've been doing genealogy for about 15 or 20 years, and I just now feel as though I'm making progress. I managed to get a family site published to the Internet this weekend (sorry, it's private), and I made contact with someone who lives in Maryland who's grandfather married one of my relative's widows. It's complicated, but utterly interesting to me.

But, with every step forward, I take two back. I've been trying to find my relatives further back in Ireland. The earliest one I can find was born in 1765, and I'm not sure he "belongs" to me. On the one hand, because my ancestors named all their children the same from one generation to another, I can find them easily; on the other hand, I have trouble figuring out who belongs to who. I think this is a good excuse for a trip to Ireland (as if I need one)!

And, yes, I know I haven't posted to my blog lately, but, between grading papers and searching for ancestors, I haven't had time for much else. I did go out this morning and try to set fire to the large limb in my yard, but it still doesn't really want to burn. I'm either going to have to bribe my brothers to bring their chainsaws (after deer season, of course), or I'm going to have to buy my own chainsaw and have at it. I'll get someone to take pictures if that ever happens!

But the morning was beautiful, and the small fire I did get started was pleasant, and I had a chance to relax. And, I managed to get most of the necessary work done today (I just have a few late papers to grade), so I had some time to myself this evening.

It all starts over tomorrow, though. Sigh! But the semester's almost over, and I think I might schedule a trip to Austin to tackle the John Twohig papers at UT--I'm trying to find out if we're related to him. He was a first son of Texas, a banker and philanthropist (except to his own family). When he died in 1891, his obit was carried in the NY Times. He left a fortune estimated at (in 1892) $1.2 million. The Catholic Church was supposed to get the bulk of it, but Twohig's family contested the will. The settlement also made the NY Times in 1892. The Church ended up with $200,000, and Twohig's various relatives received about $80,000 each. I'll bet they are burning in hell for that. Anyway, I have a bunch of names I'm trying to track, without luck.

I'm surprised my hair hasn't turned totally grey (oh, yeah, time for a dye job!).