MorningMissive

TrueLove

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I pulled out the old guitar this morning and doodled around with my last song, written fourteen months ago now. I'm just leaving a period where I couldn't quite bear to even pick up the danged thing, so it took me a while to remember how to play this song. Looking around for the lyrics, my memory fails me so often now, I stumbled upon this Morning Missive, written just before I finished the song and sent to my dear friends in Arizona. This piece properly describes the act of creation when The Gods decide to exhibit their foolishness and put that process in my hands. It serves as a fine reminder that I never know how to write, how to create, but that the process seems fully capable of taking care of itself and producing anyway.
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Love/Love

love:love
Just another morning. Brighter than most. No hint of last night’s calamity in this morning’s serenity. The magpies arrived to see if they’d trained me yet, rejecting the pumpkin seeds I’d left on the deck railing. I quickly replaced them with stale bread broken into bird bite sized pieces. Yes, they have trained me, I agree, but I entrain to entertain Rose The Skittish Spinster Cat, who seems to enjoy the first thing in the morning bird visits. She barks at them but it’s feigned alarm. No harm done and I dispose of the stale crusts.

A shadow hangs over the place, though. The BBC chattered half the night. NPR took over just before dawn. The unimaginable settling into another disquieting new normal. I must listen to the news to somehow infuse the unwanted recent history into the body of my acknowledged story. It’s inescapable now. Denial slinks back into her shadow, not selected for this team either. Once ingested, though, the shocking taste seems to disappear. The bitter flavor lingers longer than the sweet, but both flee the palate more quickly than the long anticipation enticed it. I’m soon enough hungry again.
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ScoopingOut

ScoopingOut
The activity’s more ritual than work, more sacred than secular. Some neighbors don’t bother, just driving through the slushy to leave later frozen tire tracks likely to stay around until Spring. I’m up earlier these mornings, rising with a deep sense of purpose for a change. Even if we’re not driving anywhere, I want the sidewalks and the drive cleared by eight o’clock.

My old boots, misshapen by long summer ladder hours, sweated through and mink oil improved at least a hundred times, fit me poorly now and cripple me should I hike anywhere in them. I’ve warmed them by the fire to loosen them up enough to fit. They’re plenty fine enough to keep the snow separated from my socks. I clump out the door, carrying Rose The Skittish Spinster Cat under one arm. In her youth, she was a snow cat, a dedicated snowflake chaser returning with ice pills all along her underbelly. Now, she cowers in the corner as the garage door rises, then huddles along a front porch edge as I set to my chore.

I own no snow shovel and never have.
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FactOrFriction

The_Elephant_House
I quite often develop an asymptotic relationship with my future. Though I seem to move forward at a reasonably consistent pace, whatever I imagine I’m pursuing seems just about as far away no matter how much time elapses or effort expends. I might be stiff-arming, holding manifestation back with one hand while swimming—sometimes frantically—with the other. Perhaps I have become a master at sabotaging myself. I know that my pursuit of whatever I seem to be after only rarely rewards me.

This situation could be a feature of my time in life. As I age, distances might lengthen like shadows do as the sun slips past high noon. Earlier, the horizon seemed endless and my direction obvious. Now, the horizon seems more constricted and my orientation uncertain. Relative progress seems impossible to discern and absolute progress, a once believable fiction.
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TheQueenOfEverything

QueenOf
She was not born royalty.
Her father, former enemy combatant
turned immigrant,
her mother a wonk,
she, an only child.

Nor were her early years predictive.
Other than a keen eye
and a native enthusiasm,
little suggested her royal fate;
ascension neither birthright nor choice.
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WeBecomeOurStories

Stories
You inspire me but that’s only your birthright and my responsibility.

We become our stories. Once we disappear, after we’ve gone, when we’ve left behind all the sacred possibilities every breath brings, we become our stories. Speak mindfully of nothing else. The facts don’t matter; the most terrible turmoil merely grist for this mill. We will each become the stories we tell.

They become the stories they heard. Not all of anyone, no, but some of who each of us become, while more than the simple sum of any explanation, certainly involves these parts which started by accumulating stories until subsumed into them, blended into the ones others owned themselves.
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Tribe

tribe
“Have you found your tribe yet?”

“Well, no, but I expect to shortly.” Or so I reported. I had belonged to a tribe of sorts in the last place, but I expected it would and really should take some time to attract a new one in the new place. I knew I was lying, and not simply because my lips were moving, but also because of the nature of my friend’s question. Her question presumed that one finds their tribe. I might have caught this subtlety, but it slipped past me.

Who knows where one’s tribe comes from? Reflecting on my experience, I might more easily conclude that my tribes have more found me than I ever found them. No tribe hangs around anticipating getting found and, again, in my experience, the whole concept of ‘lost tribe’ seems terribly Old Testament. Tribes don’t need finding, seem to resist being stalked, and never appear in a convenient pack.
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Beer-ocracy

Soybeanvarieties
Before The Muse left town, she asked me to see if I could finally get the Colorado license plates. We’d arrived in Colorado in late May, and it being early October already, we were tucking in rather closely to the deadline requiring new license plates within thirty days after establishing residency. Gratefully, the law defining residency seemed ambiguous enough to drive a large truck through.

On the one hand, it meant having a job here, which The Muse had from day one. On the other hand, it meant having a permanent residence, which The Deluxe Executive Towne Home, our temporary digs while searching for a permanent place, clearly failed to satisfy. On yet another hand, even once we found a permanent place, a vehicle license could only be issued if I had a Colorado driver’s license, which requires a whole other raft of evidence and proof, like utility bills addressed to me at the new permanent address, and utility bills usually arrive after living in a place for a while, like a month. By the time I received my Colorado license in the mail, we were already nearly six weeks in the new place.

The Muse had found the car title and proof of insurance, but the Colorado DMV site insisted that I’d also need a Vehicle Information Number Verification form, but it provided no information about where I might secure said form or who should do the verifying. The car also needed an emissions inspection, which the website suggested could be secured at either a state-run facility or from one of a select group of mechanics. I found what I thought was the location of the state facility for my new county and went in search of it. It was very well hidden.
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Lost Then Found

Jiminy
A very few excruciatingly long weeks ago, my friend Jamie changed his address. I’m uncertain about this part, but I suspect he changed it permanently. Some insisted that we’d thereby lost him, but I question that assertion. If he is, indeed, now lost to us, we might also now be lost to him, but I contend that Jamie is right this moment no more lost than we are. Of course, this statement doesn’t really say all that much, for I have been feeling quite exceptionally lost these last weeks. Maybe you have been feeling lost, too. This morning, I intend to get to the bottom of just where Jamie is now so I can ditch this disconcerting lost feeling I’ve been dragging around like outsized carry-on luggage.

When Jamie was still “with us,” he was perhaps most noticeable to me by his absence. We didn’t find or create many opportunities to meet face-to-face, yet we managed to feel as though we were in decent touch anyway. We Skyped sometimes, phoned others, exchanged emails, sometimes directly, perhaps more often as CC:s, as part of some shared group business. The last few months, I maintained a stream of correspondence I did not intend him to respond to, but even that seemed to sustain the clear felt sense of intimate proximity between us—none of that reinforced with actual proximity, mind you.

Then, when he “left,” I felt a sense of loss every bit as real as that former sense of intimacy had been.
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ItCouldHappen

countingStars
“Hide your heart from sight, lock your dreams at night
It could happen to you

So starts Johnny Burke’s haunting lyric to Jimmie Van Heusen’s remarkable melody. Of course they intended this song to be interpreted as a love song, and it works very well as a love song, but Burke cleverly employs the old ambiguity, playing off the peril love implies—the peril life itself entails.

“Don't count stars or you might stumble
Someone drops a sigh and down you tumble”

Burke offers no easy out, either. Wishing on stars won’t provide any protection. Love might turn on a simple sigh; life, no less so. The tone screams precarious. He is not in control. Neither are we.

“Keep an eye on spring, run when church bells ring
It could happen to you”

Anyone who’s fallen in love recognizes the absolute absence of self determination in the experience. We don’t refer to it as ‘falling’ for nothing. We no more throw ourselves into love than we carefully pre-plan our existence. Later, after we’ve clearly succeeded, we can tout our marvelous master plan, scrupulously omitting the parts chance contributed. Until then, we’re flotsam and we should know it. Slip over here for more ...
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CookingWithAltitude

CowboyCookery
Seventy Five Hundred Feet above sea level hangs a world quite different from the one you probably inhabit. The air seems thinner, which means it comes in a form not at all unlike non-fat milk. It feels less viscous and contains considerably less ‘goody,’ as I believe the scientists refer to whatever it is that satisfies lungs. It’s skimpy, stingy, and anemic. A lungful of air here can leave a flatlander breathless. This takes more than a little bit of getting used to.

The thin air affects cooking as much as it affects the cook, and equally mysteriously. Water boils at a lower temperature which means that food takes longer to cook. How much longer depends upon some quadratic equation nobody can solve in their head. Like with all cooking, success remains a matter of feel. Those who lived their early years below a thousand feet developed a feel for cooking that seems wholly unsuited to altitude.

Moving here seems like being sent back to Go without my two hundred dollars whenever I enter the kitchen.
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CreationStory

Adam_and_Eve_by_Lucas_Cranach_(I)
As the next to last student left the lab, she disconnected her call. Whomever she was talking with, the conversation had seemed intense to the instructor, a first year tenure at this red state community college. The class is physics, a subject the instructor carries much passion for. He’d disclosed to the class that their final would consist of each submitting a creation story that explained how they happen to be here, utilizing all they learned during the course of the semester. This one remaining student had raised an eyebrow in response to his assignment. She approached with a worried look in her eye.

“Dr. David, will I flunk the class if I include Biblical references in my creation story? I love hearing about black holes and all this physics stuff, but I believe the Earth is six thousand years old and I can’t go against my beliefs when writing my paper.”

Dr. David had mentioned this possibility to me before he accepted the position. He was unsure how he would handle the question then and he was only slightly better prepared for it now. He quite firmly believes in the creation story science has constructed from rigorous observation and scrupulous projection. One of his students had even labeled him an evangelist for the passion with which he lectured, a characterization that made his skin crawl. He admits to the passion but he would never characterize himself as an evangelist, but upon reflection, he had to agree with his student’s assertion. Perhaps he is an evangelist, but he’s not promoting any faith-based acceptance. He expects proof rather than speculation, and proof requires no faith for acceptance.
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RoundingDown

sweetcorn
There was a time, now long past, when early September brought sweet corn to harvest. Boiling pots of water welcomed golden yellow ears. Fresh cubes of butter wore a trough mark where hot ears had been dredged through. Grins stretched from ear to ear and even an eight year old could gnaw three or four down to cob and still have room for a quarter of a watermelon, consumed primarily for the spitting seeds.

In recent years, available corn has hardly resembled the stuff we once so treasured, though it was commonplace. In Maryland, they called this white stuff sweet corn. Silver Queen, they called it. They could have called it tasteless and sweet, tough or mysterious, but I could not recognize it as corn. A successful hybridization but an utterly failed food, suitable only for compost or silage.

Earlier this year, I found a supplier here in Colorado who could provide halfway corn, a combination of yellow and white kernels which, if eaten blindfolded, approached the flavor and texture of the genuine article. I ate my share of that while pining after what my palate long ago came to know as real corn. This speckled stuff worked as a substitute but it was clearly standing in for the real thing.
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YellowJacketTrap

YJTrap
It’s nearly obligatory to reflect on each anniversary of 9-11, to look back with regret, sometimes to rekindle a sense of vengeance not yet satisfied; perhaps never to be satisfied. For others, it’s a sadness that re-emerges along with a sense of loss. Everything felt different after that and we understood without fully accepting that we would not ever be able to go back home again. This anniversary evokes nostalgia for what came before and would not be coming ever after again.

As The Muse and I limped back toward home in our rental car generously ceded to us without drop charges since airplanes were not flying in the days following, our route took us from the Southwest north and even further west through what would later be referred to as red states. We had little besides the radio to accompany us across those vast deserts, but the radio was suddenly toxic. Too toxic to listen to. A side of the American character hardly imagined before became the prominent theme. “Kill them worse than they killed us,” the radio insisted without knowing who had done the deed or what had actually been killed.

The Muse and I quickly resolved to leave the radio off.
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Skillfully

shellgame
If writing qualifies as a skill, for me it’s a danged unreliable one. I experience days when flawless prose and even better poetry just seem to flow out of my fingertips, but also many days when I can’t coherently string two words together. Shouldn’t a skill manifest itself more consistently, or do all skills come and go at their own bidding like this?

That slugger in baseball only rarely ever slams one over the fence. He’s considered a master if he manages a hit on something between a quarter and a third of his trips to the plate, much less frequently homering, slinking back to the dugout many more times than his teammates ever baptize him with GatorAde. Surgeons, though, rarely fail to deliver their goods and carry onerously expensive liability insurance to cover the odd shortfall.

I have no access to the slugger’s or the surgeon’s internal state. Do their many successes feel like success or like impending disasters, too? One writer insisted that writing, done well, should feel like one continuous mistake in creation, and that the key to writing well lies in mastering that nagging, insistent sensation of failing while continuing to write. That kind of mastery
—a meta-skill, really, a fake-it-‘till-ya-make-it capability—might be the underlying ability defining every skill. Certainly with my writing, I experience no mastery more prominent than my now well-practiced ability to suspend my persistent disbelief in order to produce.
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The Colorado School Of Mimes

mimes
Not everyone understands that Golden, Colorado, besides being the iconic, long-term home of the Coors Brewery, also hosts the Colorado School Of Mimes. Founded in 1874 to train mining engineers, Colorado’s economy has since shifted far away from resource extraction toward supplying the ever-burgeoning entertainment industry. Introverts originally considering engineering careers find little difficulty fitting into the School’s more modern focus, as they arrive on campus so concave, faculty complain about having to wear miner’s headlamps to even call role. Born to not be noticed, today’s students find Mimes’ atmosphere perfectly congruent with their natural preferences.

The curriculum can be challenging, even for those uncomfortable with public speaking. “Public miming can be even harder to master,” claims one sophomore whose parents had previously encouraged him to join Toastmasters International. Mimes offers a minor degree in what they call Milk-Toastmasters, a course of study similar to public speaking but without the speaking part. “Holding an audience’s attention when you’re basically invisible seems like a definite impossibility,” the sophomore continues, “but the supportive faculty, many with extensive busking experience, understand how to silently encourage even the more extroverted.”
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Tyranny

scaleof1to10
“Commerce between master and slave is despotism.” Thomas Jefferson

The Muse thought, since we were moving into a fringe area house with an installed TV Dish® already on the roof, that she would sign up for the satellite TV service. The technician arrived while I directed the movers, who were unloading that last forgotten crate, and he encouraged me to finish that chore while he poked around, climbing onto the roof to check the dish angle and fiddling with wiring along the side of the place. After the movers left, he asked questions and poked around some more, finally coming around to the fatal question. “Do you have the power cord for the TV? I need to check reception on the actual TV before I can call the installation complete.”

Of course I didn’t have the power cable for the TV, and I told him that I had no idea where the cable might be. I found myself in the middle of one of those mornings where I just cannot properly parse the world around me. My judgement had not returned from dreamland the night before and I was barely functioning, but I found my trusty box knife and commenced to opening some boxes in the master bedroom, none of which yielded the sought-after cable. The technician would point at a box, asking, “How about that one?” I mindlessly responded by cutting open that one, then the next, then the next one after that.

I quickly began feeling assaulted, but continued with the absurd dance anyway. I was opening boxes out of any rational sequence, unable to place the contents into any proper context. I was making a mess when I needed some calming tidiness. I finally called a halt.
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Miscellany

Miscellanybox
Two days after taking possession of the new place, we’ve yet to spend a night there. The moving company called yesterday evening to report that they had, indeed, failed to deliver one crate. This crate included bed parts. The place still seems mostly boxes with cardboard walkways taped to floors. We unpack rather haphazardly, adhering to a first things first policy. First we unpack. We will determine the exact more permanent location for stuff once we see what stuff we have. The three months since packing erased most of my memory of what we possess and I’m discovering some serious doubts that we need all or even most of this stuff.

The last place had room to spare. This place seems just the right size. The stuff remembers where it lived in the last place, looking around anxiously for the familiar cues it does not find here. The whole unpacking’s a jumble, unguided by anything more definite than a general notion which doesn’t always work out as very workable. We inventoried every box number and label and found quite a few in the wrong room and several clearly mislabeled. No mistaking a box for the chair listed under that number on the manifest. The Muse resolved all these brain farts. I find it easier unpacking if I just have to move a box to another room and defer emptying it for now. Progress measures itself.

What was open possibility on Monday has by Wednesday morning become a more limited affair.
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EconoMicks

EconoMicks
After the movers had unloaded the last truck, while The Muse tried to reconcile the manifest with what seemed to have manifested in the new place, I sat with the crew while they rested in the shade beneath the empty truck. The conversation quickly turned to the economy. I knew they were being paid ten bucks an hour for carting what I considered heavy loads down that steep side yard or up that steeper stairway in the late summer heat. I wondered why they did this.

They quickly agreed that this was a good job. One said that he’d made the mistake of not finishing school, though he’d since studied to become certified as a physician’s assistant. While that paid more per hour, it offered no possibility of overtime so it actually paid less. Another reported that he’d completed a stint in the army then went on to earn a bachelor’s degree, but that this was the best paying job he could find. He could work at Walmart, he noted, or as a prison guard, but the Walmart didn’t pay as well and the prison guard work was demeaning, dangerous, and ultimately dissatisfying.

I was surprised that everyone on the crew, save the elder Robert, had spent time working for the private prison industrial complex. One reported that the turnover there was extreme. They offered no training, low pay, and extremely high turnover. One reported that he has a friend who had managed to stay for nearly a year and a half, and so had more seniority than anyone including the warden. All agreed that they’d rather unload truck than go back to prison work, though one noted that he could have become a highly paid parole officer if he could have stomached that guard work for a couple of years.
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In-Between

inbetween
Few insights seem more worthless than the one where the writer decides that his words fail to describe what he’s trying to say. Of course they do, for words serve as no more than messenger. The content sits separate from them, depending upon some largely preconscious collaboration between the by-then absent writer and the all too present reader. The meaning sits somewhere in-between them, depending upon essentially undependable words and the meaning both will make of them.

The meaning starts, of course, with the writer. Though he does not determine exactly the meaning any reader might make of his words, he weaves his web intending. His clarity when intending influences the meaning his reader might finally conclude. He also has tricks as well as tradecraft, and he either knows how to construct a cogent sentence and a coherent paragraph, or not. If not, the clarity of his intention can’t matter, the words will no more than natter. But the specific words might matter less than the rhythm of them when strung altogether. Can they carry the intended tune?

Writing, if it is to describe anything, might need to be properly inductive first. It should impart a felt sense coherent with what’s being described, otherwise it produces paradox and confusion, like insisting that a word is a color. Nobody should believe me if I insist that the color of the word red is really RED. It’s not, no matter what I said, and the reader senses this contradiction without experiencing any sensation at all. The reader will not believe what I’m saying then, no matter how eloquent my explanation.
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FillAahSewPhee

FillAahSewPhee jpg
“No hard and fast rules can be laid down for survival anywhere, particularly in the farther places. Conditions vary. So do localities. Especially do individuals. Initiative on the other hand may be guided by a consideration of general principles such as those we can here absorb.” Bradford Angier- How To Stay Alive In The Woods

They always ask what skills they will learn. My brain cramps in response. I didn’t consider skill acquisition when I created the workshop. It seems many can’t quite think of workshop in any other terms.

What other terms might there be? Years ago, I read a book by the seasoned backcountry guide Brandford Angier: How To Stay Alive In The Woods. I bought the book because I mistook it for a kind of cookbook, a reference that would show me what to do. Instead, it first focused upon how to properly think about survival, with few specific ‘do this’ instructions. I later understood that this perspective was necessary because without properly preparing the perspective, how-to instructions fall like seeds on poorly prepared soil. Angier understood this, and I suppose he faced the same dilemma I face with my prospective clients who believe they lack skills when they really lack perspective, an appreciation of the key role philosophy plays when coping with difficulties.

Almost nobody intends to get lost in any woods, and we invariably forget to bring along the instruction manual for surviving these surprise ordeals. A pocketful of principles better serves us there.
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Rocky Mountain Oysters

baseonballs
The Colorado Rockies baseball team has a lot of balls. Their pitching leads the National League in walks, clear evidence that the team has more balls than strikes. One of the food stands at the ballpark even serves rocky mountain oysters, also known as bull testicles, a narrowly-appreciated delicacy common to cow country—well, to steer country, anyway—and a revered sacrament of cowboy culture; a smirk food. Last night’s pitcher favored the cutter, perhaps in attempt to castrate the visiting team? This metaphor failed, though, as he more effectively delivered dirt balls. The home plate umpire and the Rockies’ batboy spent the game trading bruised balls for handfuls of new ones.

I revere the humbled double-entendre euphemism above all other forms of language. It stands before us with it’s ‘flag at half-staff’ threatening without attacking propriety. It lives well South of obscenity and slightly North of innocence, implying more than it declares, leaving the listener culpable for any bad taste lingering after. It can relegate a promising politician to an alternate career ‘hiking down the old Appalachian Trail’ or sideline another into an eternal ‘wide stance’ without leaving any fingerprints at the scene. Properly employed, the messenger strolls away whistling from the crime scene without even a shred of toilet paper stuck to his shoe. Everyone knows full well he did it, but nobody ever lays a finger on him.
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SpiderSense

spiderweb
Once the spiders show up, the show’s about over, though it seems as though a full third of the season remains. Spiders apparently know better. Shrubs and corners web up. Spiders dangle down into my hair and possessively dude walk across the bathroom floor. Predawn insists upon me remembering the down vest. Intimations swell from subtle hints to whispered stage direction to openly discussed secret. Summer’s ending.

School starts mid-August now instead of its proper post-Labor Day time. What so very recently seemed infinite, now feels dear and wasting. The remaining plans won’t be completed. The nursery sign says Plants Are Done. Thank You. The pantry swells with beans and potatoes even though the finest corn’s just now coming in and the tomatoes have yet to peak. I wore socks twice last week. Soon, I will never take them off.

Each season seems born immortal, only to grow into its mortality. This might be no more than the cycle of life. I recall my own immortality now, those over-long, boring, sun scorched weeks between the end of the school year and the county fair where I struggled to fill lazy hours and blanched at the threat of productively employing them. I seasoned those days with schemes, none ever maturing into concrete plans, dabbling rather than dedicating myself to satisfying even those. I lived with little more than time on my hands and that time weighed more than I could comfortably carry.

Not even summer turns out to be indispensable.
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Cat&Mouse

Mouse
Rose The Skittish Spinster Cat insists upon going outside very early in the day. There seems to be little she won’t resort to in getting her way on this, but she rarely has to work harder than a small attempt to smother me in my sleep. So far, she has not succeeded, and I suspect she would only disappoint herself if she did, for she intends to get me up, not put me under. Once out, she disappears for a half hour or longer. I follow her outside to lounge in my camp chair in the dark and talk myself into writing something in the predawn, weather permitting.

This morning started no different, but after that mysterious half hour, I spotted Rose batting at something beneath the office chair inside. This chair has five legs radiating from a central pillar, each with a roller wheel, creating a five-pointed star shape. Beneath that star this morning, a small mouse quietly evades Rose’s probing paws. It’s a perfect dilemma. The mouse need only step a few inches to avoid Rose’s pounces, but Rose must move a foot or more and hop a star leg to compensate. The mouse holds high ground. Rose cannot successfully counter. Finally, after several minutes of lop-sided combat, the mouse scurries off unseen by Rose, escaping through the sliding door and beneath my chair back into covering darkness. Rose, baffled at her quarry's disappearance, remained hovering beneath the office chair for the longest time.

She will spend much of the balance of the morning seeking out her lost prey.
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