Category Archives: Cats and Other Animals

Multicolored ~ nonfiction by Luanne Castle


A big thank you to The Disappointed Housewife for publishing my piece, “Multicolored.”

The Disappointed Housewife

GREEN surrounds me as I enter the butterfly pavilion. The leaves of the trees and flowers create an oasis in the Sonoran desert. All seems still inside, protected from the dry winds, until I notice the undulant motion of butterflies winging above me, swooping down to sip at the nectar of the blossoms. The guide warns visitors to watch where we step, what we touch. Fragile life whirls around us. After all these years, I think I understand how they feel. One has to go through so many changes to get to full flower. Now is not yet the time to die.

BROWN fur nestles under the leaf. I’m here anew, peeling the caterpillar off the green veins and stem which define the underside. I curl up my fingers, cupping the bug in my palm. It tickles me and then plays dead inside the tent of my hand, as I…

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Saguaro Fruit Season

This was the first year that I’ve lived in Phoenix that all  the saguaros blossomed with white crowns. So this is the first year I’ve seen so many white blossoms all turn into juicy red fruit. An animal must have eaten some of this one!

Check out the bird sitting on the top. Birds seem to love saguaros.

Here’s a good article about the harvesting of the saguaro fruit.

A couple of the cacti in our yard, thanks to the gardener.

One of the most inspiring people in my life has been a gorilla–namely, Koko, lover of cats and poet of sign language. Sadly, she died last week at age 46.

This image by a fan of Koko was shared on Koko’s Facebook page with a request to share it, so here it is. RIP dear Koko. I just don’t understand how little her death has been on the news. The people whose lives we celebrate on national television when they die have not done as much for our future and our planet as Koko has done.

#amwriting #writerlife #writerslife I had two beautiful acceptances this week. One publication coming out in a day or so . . . .

HAPPY NEW WEEK!

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Rocks and Light: Natural Art

After last week’s Phoenix excursion and the second hummingbird baby flying off into the big world, we took a drive up to the Lower Antelope Canyon to see the stone sculptures. They are on Navajo land outside Page, Arizona, right near Lake Powell.

This area is actually out in the middle of “nowhere,” from the point of view of someone with celiac, an auto-immune disease. In this case, you know I am talking about the gardener.

No offense to anything else about the town, but you don’t want to get stuck in Page if you have celiac. While we were there I found an old blog post someone had written about just that issue. There is supposed to be an Italian restaurant that serves actual gluten-free food, but it seems pretty apocryphal to me. It was closed for the season when that blogger visited (three years ago), and it was closed on the day we tried to go (Monday). Using my gluten-free app, we drove from place to place–and each restaurant was closed. And to tell you the truth: they didn’t look like the sort of places that would be genuinely gluten free. So we went to the only grocery store we could find. Since we had no microwave, I figured I would find some tuna salad for the gardener. Even the tuna salad had wheat flour in it!!! I bought some tough-as-leather chicken pieces and a tub of potato salad that I thought was just awful (tasting as it did of sweet pickle relish), but the gardener was satisfied. We tried two restaurants at the Lake Powell Resort and Marina while we were there. Both times he was glutened, probably by cross-contamination.

To see the stone sculptures you have to take a “hiking tour” through a Navajo company. I was worrying that my foot would develop a sudden, intense pain, as it occasionally does, and that I would hold up the group or at least the gardener. I needn’t have worried about too much walking. It’s not much walking. Instead, if I had known what it was I probably wouldn’t have gone. You go down into the canyon via stairs, ladders, and walking very narrow, very rocky trails. I am afraid of heights and am claustrophobic, but those problems were nothing compared with walking on narrow rocky surfaces.

My reconstructed foot is very fragile. I need a flat enough surface to put my foot down in order to put my weight on it. Otherwise, the rebuilt navicular bone could crack. My tone would be different in this post if that, in fact, had happened. But the only reason it didn’t is because the gardener, with his bad shoulder, had to hoist me through these narrow tunnels so that my weight would be on him instead of my foot. I was super careful how I placed my foot each time. Now that I have come through on the other side completely whole, I can say that I am so glad I did it. I wish everyone could see these beautiful natural artistic canvases of rock and light.

Because this is what you experience:

And this:

And this:

This one gives you the perspective of how far down we were.

That afternoon we were exhausted and went on a cruise of Lake Powell.

The way to do Lake Powell is to rent a big houseboat with a large family and/or friend group. Get one with a slide and grill! And explore all the northern canyons. When the kids were in high school, we rented a boat just like that in Lake Mead (closer to Las Vegas and near the Hoover Dam) and took their friends with us. It was such a fun family experience. Though these lakes are sort of “sister lakes,” they are quite different. Many people prefer Lake Powell, but it is more solitary and Lake Mead has more of a sporting lake feel to it.

No, zero writing went on this past week. Lots of Perry hugs, though, when we got home. In fact, all the cats were so happy to see us walk in the door!

 

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From Japan to Lebanon to the Hummingbird’s Nest All in One Day

Recently the gardener discovered the Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix: RO HO EN. We visited the other day for the first time. I was so taken with the size of the pond, and this spot of beauty nestled under the tall condo buildings near the Central Arts District (theatres, museums, opera, and arts schools). If you haven’t been to that area, it’s a must see–so active and vital.

 

The garden resembles a lovely park more than it does a Japanese garden of the sort I am used to (Portland, the Huntington, etc.). They offer tea ceremonies to the public on the third Saturday of every month. The fee is $30 ($25 seniors). Imagine living in one of those condos with a view of the garden all year round.

 

 

The pine cones were fun because they aren’t a common sight in Phoenix.

 

The park did not have flowers or too many bells and whistles, so the gardener was not impressed with that aspect. For me, the park-like environment was fabulous. But it did come with a $7 price tag ($6 for seniors, $5 for students, and free for little kids).

 

The pond is loaded with giant carp, and when you check in they ask if you want to buy a little bag of food for the fish. The way they all gather to eat a few crumbs was a little terrifying for me. I thought it might be stressful for the fish. The upside for them is that the pond is so big that their environment is better than that of many pond-living carp.

 

This big guy in the middle was truly enormous.

Ducks live at the pond, too, and the mothers all were watching over their ducklings. One duckling imprinted on us and tried to follow us until we discouraged her. This is a short video of a baby duck, just in case you want to see cute right now.

After the garden, we went to one of our favorites, Middle Eastern Bakery & Deli. The owner Isam is so nice, the gluten-free options are diverse (pita, tabouli, and more), and the Lebanese lemonade to die for.

 

This time a tray of turnovers sat on the counter. They looked intriguing. Isam told me that he makes them for Ramadan every year. He is Christian, and though he makes them on behalf of his Muslim customers, he admits to loving them ;). He explained that on Ramadan, because of the fasting, people need the quick energy this sweet treat provides. He said he starts with a pancake and fills it with a cheese or walnut filling, turns it over, and deep fries it. It’s then covered with a rosewater syrup. I cannot tell you how much I LOVE rose flavored food and drink. I keep two bottles of rosewater in my fridge! I brought home two kataif–a cheese and a walnut. The gardener told me I was consuming 1,000 calories each. Hahaha, I just grinned as he was saying it because these are obviously not a gluten-free treat!

 

Click on the link to find out more: Atayef (Kataif)

Now for an update on the hummingbird mom and her babies.

They are growing up so fast. The gardener watched one fly away already. I wonder if their mother is the child or grandchild of one of the hummers who hatched in our backyard a few years ago.

Since I restructured my memoir, making it more of a hybrid genre in structure and style, I have debated adding a few poems to the book. This week I revised a couple of poems I am contemplating for the book.

Happy week, everyone!

 

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A Desert Spring

Ever since I finished National Poetry Month, I’ve been slammed with too much to do. It’s not all been work. A lot of it has been cat related. And even a genealogy rabbit hole (not even my family haha!) that I fell down.

But I’m devouring Natasha Trethewey’s poetry collection Thrall, and I’m so engaged. You won’t be sorry if you pick up a copy and start reading.

Here’s a little photo show of the prettier parts of the week.

This bobcat was stalking prey in the wash next to my house. He goes along nicely with a poem I think (#NaPoWriMo is a blur) I started last month.

Here is the coolest part of seeing him. He stopped totally still with his left hind leg (you can see the leg here just before) raised in the air. He had visually locked onto his prey. And then what do you think happened?

I’ll be darned if a little songbird didn’t land on a branch of a tree to the left of the photo and sing out a warning. IT GIVES ME CHILLS RIGHT NOW JUST TELLING YOU ABOUT IT.

I can’t even imagine how to put that into a poem without it sounding sappy!

There were some more saguaros in blossom at Mayo. Yup, I had another issue.

See the little hole up near the top? It looks like a mouse hole. It’s actually the entrance to a bird’s home. What I would love to show you are the older saguaros in vacant lots around here. They have lots of branches unlike these ones that were planted by somebody–in this case, Mayo. They also blossom at the ends of every branch. And some of them are absolutely riddled with holes from birds–completely battle-scarred. But there isn’t any place to safely park to take a pic.

(That reminds me, right outside my kitchen window was the most glorious male cardinal ever–smaller than Michigan ones and the red more orangey and vibrant–but my camera/phone was too far away to get a pic in time).

Some of the landscaping at Mayo is now mature enough to produce some shade. Since it’s turned hot again, that’s a good thing.

It’s flower time, so the gardener has been obsessed with planting flowers in the yard. He buys flats and flats of them and plants them all over–in beds and pots. Actually drives me nuts because the flowers come ahead of everything else. (He thinks I act that way about the cats, but of course, that is DIFFERENT).

Do you know how many times I’ve been to the nursery lately?

Perry continues to be the cutest most adorable softest squishiest handsome boy ever who really sets the household on end. Hah. See here. Kana was sleeping peacefully on top of the tree. Tiger was lying in the sun on the bottom. Perry had to take the middle part as he tried to “engage Tiger in play.” I put that in quotes because that is not how Tiger sees it.

When nobody will play with Perry or he gets yelled at by me, he sometimes retreats for a little pout.

I did a couple of submissions this week, so at least something happened in the writing sphere.

My new job at the shelter is contacting people who have adopted cats during the month. I LOVE hearing from them. Some of them send me photos of the kitties all comfy and happy in their new homes. Makes it all worthwhile!

Make it the best week for you and those around you!

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Fearless Friday: All Creatures Great and Small

All about animals over at The Green Study today

The Green Study

PeteandOwney.jpgThere’s a lot of little routines in our household driven by a lumpy old tomcat named Pete and an irritable tortoiseshell named Owney. Each night when I lay down to sleep, I hear a series of thumps. Pete comes down from whatever perch he has been flopping on, pads across the wood floor, leaps onto the bed, and plants himself firmly on my stomach. If I don’t get to the petting, he taps his paw on my face.

canstockphoto9615339As spring arrives, fashionably late, the cardinals, norther harriers, black-capped chickadees, finches, and dark-eyed juncos busy themselves all around our house. At this very moment, a male mallard has plunked himself down in the middle of our yard, while rabbits nibble about its edges. This is all to say, we’ve learned to coexist in a way that means our furniture never remains pristine, my gardens have a gnawed-at appearance, and animal food…

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Medical Art + Writing + Cats

On Friday I had some medical tests. I’ve been having some shortness of breath problems. I went to the doctor months after I should have, but I doubt it matters. I now suspect it is more of that acid reflux problem! Probably getting into my lungs. But my doctor thought he heard a new heart murmur so I had to take some tests. I’m sure it’s because my mother had a TAVR last summer. She was so lucky to do so well because she had more wrong with her heart than people usually do who get TAVR procedures. This is less invasive than open-heart surgery as they “go up through the groin.” My mother is now the darling of Spectrum Hospital in Grand Rapids and is featured on billboards throughout the city. She’s so darn cute. Tell me if she’s not adorable.

I’m not worried about my tests because I have seen how bad this acid reflux situation is. I have a splint thingie that I am supposed to wear at night for my TMJ problem, but the acid has eaten through the acrylic!!!

I kid you not.

I go to Mayo Clinic in Arizona because, why not? One-stop shopping for medical. They take my insurance for which I worked my TUSH off by teaching for a pittance for all those years. (If you think I am exaggerating, you would be wrong. Lecturers or adjuncts or freeway flyers, which is what I was, do over half the teaching work in most universities and get paid a tiny share of what professors make. People who clean houses–and do not need high school diplomas–get paid more per hour than I did with my P. H. and D. No kidding again. But I will say I did it with love).

What I noticed at Mayo this time was a preponderance of beautiful art. I hope that somebody loans or donates it to them because I would hate to think that my insurance and my deductible and all is paying for that art. Beautiful Chinese jade pieces, well-made Native American pottery, you name it. They are in glass cases, so I couldn’t really photograph them because of the reflections.

But I will admit that I feel better getting poked and prodded in an artistic and serene environment. Art calms my soul. Kind of like cats do.

A quintessential Phoenix Soleri bell

Another quintessential Phoenician art form

Flowers floating on the wall

The best part of the day, though, were the therapy dogs. I saw three! And they were all beautiful dogs. One a big blondie, another a golden of sorts, and the third? Here he/she is!

What is that noise I’m hearing? Is Kana in a kitchen cupboard again? [Leaves to go check.] OK, I let her out.

Here is my writing update. If I don’t write one day, I try to make up for it the next. This weekend I worked on a piece for a book that someone else is writing. The book is about the beautiful old lakeside park and dance pavilion that my great-great-grandmother’s niece owned and that my father bought from her on a land contract . . . for a time.  Since those years of my childhood stimulated my imagination, it’s a story I’ve been writing and rewriting as poetry and prose for years.

I had a nonfiction story taken by a magazine I was hoping would take it (woot!).

The ole memoir is completely restructured now. (Aren’t you sick of hearing about that dang thing?) And I organized my send-out pieces. Three months ago I thought I had nothing left, but I’ve rewritten poems and prose pieces and feel I have some offerings to the world.

I hope you enjoyed Carol Bachofner’s pieces. Years ago, Carol was my student, not for creative writing, but for literature. She was a fabulous student, the kind of student all teachers wish for: passionate and smart and logical and creative. And hard-working.

Are you wondering how Perry is doing? hahaha He’s driving everyone crazy, but he’s so darn sweet. Kana and Felix figured out if they lie on the cat trees by the glass doors, I can put the drapes around them, and Perry can’t get to them. He knows they are there, but it makes it too difficult for him to climb on them.

That is Felix on our left, looking out. You can see his little face in the door. Kana is the black shape on the right side. From the inside of the house, Perry and I can only see the drapes.

If we don’t do this with the drapes, this is what happens. Perry climbs right up with Felix and within a few seconds he starts to annoy!

Perry got to stay up after 10PM for several nights last week because he is so good! The only trouble is that he has to have his bedroom door shut at night because no matter how I wrap the sheet over the gate, he can figure out how to get out. The little smartypants.

What’s up with you this week?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Better Get THE BONE CURSE by Carrie Rubin on Your To-Read List!

While my mother was visiting, I read Carrie Rubin’s new thriller The Bone Curse. I’d won the book in a contest that Carrie held through her blog. Nothing better than winning a book (unless it’s the lottery, duh).

Since I wanted to read in fits and starts around my time spent with mom, I needed a book that would really pull me along—one where I wouldn’t get bored at any point. And this one did the trick as I Could Not Put It Down!

The protagonist and involuntary detective is Ben Oris, a medical student in Philadelphia. On a vacation to Paris with his best friend, Laurette, a Caribbean grad student, Ben is injured by a centuries-old femur found in the catacombs. The wound and possibly related events send him on a dangerous adventure, leaving him torn between the enigmas of island vodou and the mysteries of science.

Because much of this nail-biting thriller plays out against a backdrop of the hospital, Ben’s teachers and fellow students, and his medical curiosity and knowledge, I found the story fascinating even beyond the suspenseful mystery that unfolds. I always love a thriller or mystery where I can exist in a world new to me, and The Bone Curse lets me experience life as a medical student. Blood makes its appearances, but it is all a legitimate part of the story, and without the gory and gratuitous nature of a horror book.

The book is also very realistic, but not hardboiled and neither is Ben. He’s a young and sympathetic character. His love for his dad and his friends makes the reader feel protective of Ben. He was raised by two dads, but Max has passed away before the events of the book. That he is still a part of the landscape of Ben’s life speaks well of the protagonist.

The characterizations and settings are very well done, but of course, the plot is the real star of this intense and thrilling experience.

Now for the best part. This is Book I in the Benjamin Oris series! I am eagerly anticipating the second book.

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Mom left last Monday, and what have I been doing since then? Mainly being sick. I have my theory about what’s wrong, but I need to get it verified before I mention it (I don’t think I have the flu, and yes, this sounds like a medical mystery a la Ben Oris). No big deal, but just annoying being under the weather when there is so much I wanted to accomplish this past week. When I whined to my daughter over the phone about how I didn’t have certain soft foods I would like and she realized her dad wasn’t going to go to the store (our microwave went kaput, and he was dealing with that), she sent me groceries through Postmates! Rice pudding, chicken noodle soup, and Popsicles! My favorites are the orange ones, but I like cherry and grape, too. None of those fancy mango ones for me when I’m sick. I want my childhood comfort foods. She sent me lozenges, too.

Of course, Perry, Pear, Kana, and Felix gave me lots of cuddles (especially Perry who wraps his “arms” around my neck and licks my cheek). Sloopy Anne let me pet her more than usual. Tiger lay on my chest, purring, and only bit me once, so that’s pretty good for her. Now it’s another week, another list of stuff to do, and I hope I am almost better. I did manage to do bits of revision this week, but not every day.

 

 

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Dashing In

Dashing in here to tell you that Mom is on the way back home to Michigan. We had a good visit, and I am exhausted.

Near the beginning of our visit, the gardener and I took Mom on a cruise on the Desert Belle on Saguaro Lake.

We saw some landscape typical of the area. You can only get a view like this from the lake or by hiking fairly far.

Swimmers are not allowed at this lake, but it would be fun to boat, jetski, etc. The problem is, if you go in the summer, they only allow a certain number of “vehicles” on the water, so if you’re not there by 5 or 6AM you might have to wait for hours for your turn!

We also took Mom to California to see son and ND (new daughter). We thought we’d take them out to dinner because their wild little dog Theo and the two cats are pretty chaotic in their condo. But when we got there, my son said, “Oh, by the way, there’s another dog here.”

“What?!” That was me being astonished.

“Um, yeah, we’re fostering him.” Son was walking ahead of me into the building so I couldn’t see his face.

“Fostering???!!!!” I’m sure I looked disbelieving and he could hear it in my voice because he caved right away.

“OK, Mom, we had to keep him. He’s the one I told you about.”

And then it came back to me that my son had called a couple of months ago and asked if I could take a 16-year-old dog who had nowhere to go. The owner was Taking Him to the Pound! Any 16-year-old dog shows up at the pound, and he won’t last an hour before the shelter does away with him.

Now, I am a pushover with animals, but I do know how to draw the line (kinda) because the parade of animals in need of homes is endless. So I asked the gardener, he said no, and then I “had” to say no. I figured my son would watch over the situation and somebody would work it out if I didn’t hear any begging.

I didn’t hear any begging because son took him home to ND who was not pleased until first son and then ND fell in love with the little guy. His name is Gary, and he’s a Jack Russell terrier. They didn’t tell us for two months because last fall I’d said (with my lack of tact), “Good thing you guys are looking for a house because you can’t have any more animals in here” (they live on the 3rd floor so are looking for a house).

Of course, the gardener and I fell in love with Gary right away. And, yes, my son and I are a LOT alike.

My mother got a kick out of seeing son’s lego collection. It’s pretty amazing. I know what he’s getting for his birthday this summer!

He loves toys and puzzles like his mama ;). We’re going to hunt through the storage space this summer for his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle collection. Love those guys!

Back in Arizona Mom and I spent a lot of time scrapbooking together. Luckily, I had enough photos that were of interest to her for scrapbooking–and I have a lot of supplies.

These are pages I was working on for my daughter. I’m really behind, but I’ve made a scrapbook for each year of her four years at the University of Oklahoma (Boomer Sooner).

As you might expect, Perry was a little overactive for my Mom being here, but in general, he was a good boy, even when he had to be put in my office. He held still for a few pix.

I know I promised to write every day in 2018, but it was impossible with Mom here. I start back up TODAY. #amwriting

 

 

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My Only Resolution

Ten months ago, we trapped Perry in our backyard. Since that time, I have written about him in 25 blog posts! It’s almost embarrassing that I’ve written about him so much.

But, in for a penny in for a pound, I guess. Here’s another post about Perry :).

He is still kittenish, although large–larger than the other five cats–and loves to play wrestle and energetically engage with these senior kitties that just want to lie around and sleep. He also still needs his daily cuddles with mom. I am constantly getting him away from the other cats. He wants to lie in Kana’s bed with her, but then he gets restless and starts to annoy.

His main targets to annoy are Kana and Felix, the other “big cats.” The three little ones–Pear, Tiger, and Sloopy Anne–are bitchy enough to him that he doesn’t mess with them much.

 

Tiger and Sloopy Anne waiting to hiss at Perry when he passes by

Perry and Kana are true frenemies.

Although the vet had told me she thought it possible that he was part Siamese, I (who have never had a fancy breed cat) didn’t pay much attention to that. But suddenly one day, as if the president of the Cat Fanciers’ Association had snuck up and slapped me upside the head, I realized that Perry has got to be part Maine Coon. After I looked it up and confirmed my brainstorm, I read an article that said that there are lots of Maine Coon mixes in the general cat population. If you wonder what I’m talking about google “blue and white Maine coon cat” and go to images. There you will see a stunning array of Perry’s possible daddies ;).

This explains why Perry looks different from the other cats. His outline is different, and his face is different. My son calls him “cartoon cat,” and my daughter agrees with him. The gardener calls him Curly (from The Three Stooges). I call him rat face and funny face. For all that, he’s gorgeous. The son of the man who installed our new water RO tank said he was a king of cats. His dad called Perry King Tut.

Perry has taken up all my writing time in 2017. I need to get back on track. Maybe he can go with me into my office and we can shut the door so he can’t bother the other cats. Maybe he will settle down into the cat tree and take a snooze while I work on . . . something. This month I need to get cracking because mom will be with us next month. I’ve been trying to imagine her staying with us with our six cats and all the unrest with Perry.

My only New Year’s resolution: write, no matter what and no matter what it is.

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