The last 2 weeks have been occupied with family. My second daughter and her husband are finally off to China. They stayed here with Jerry and me for six weeks waiting for official papers from China certifying them as “foreign experts” and granting work permits. I think about them in that far off place, wondering how they are getting on. Clare has health issues and does not deal with stress easily. She went to work teaching English to Chinese business people the day after she arrived, Monday, and getting off on Saturday was tense. Visas from the Chinese government arrived only 1 day before their departure.
The week before daughter number 1 and Jerry and I visited the great grandson, Julian, in Seattle. He is a beautiful baby, and his grandmother adores him. Here is a picture of the 2 of them.
Next is a picture of the family out for a walk with Scruffles, the Westie. Julian is bundled in a sling carried by his mother, Maria. James is the Daddy, my grandson.
We brought with us an indoor picnic of French bread, wine, Parma ham, cheese, smoked salmon and fruit – melon, berries and pineapple. I took the sweater I had knitted for the baby.
We left our poodles at home with Clare, because the last time Fluffy and Scruffles were together Scruffles almost tore Fluffy’s ear off; a trip to the doggy emergency room was necessary to sew it back. Fluffy still has a slightly cock-eyed look as a result.
Now life is gradually returning to its sedate routine. We had our first light frost yesterday. Most of the flowers survived, but the New Guinea impatiens flopped. I brought the tomato vines inside and tied them to the loft railing so they hang down next to the dining room table. I hope they will ripen inside.
The little green garden frog is gone, but I saw some frog’s eggs under a couple of flower pots near where she/he sun-bathed on a flower. I use no pesticides and hope for more frogs next year. Huge garden spiders and their webs are everywhere.
As I was watering hanging baskets in the courtyard yesterday a jay perched on a branch of the cedar tree and yelled at me. That reminded me to fill the feeders, and when I looked I found they were completely out of birdseed. I think that jay was letting me know what he thought about such neglect!
I have been thinking, as I often do, about animal behavior. I am reading a book by a high school classmate, Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, called The Hidden Life of Deer. Libby Marshall (as I knew her) devoted her life to writing about the behavior animals, including people. Her parents were anthropologists and she spent time (with them, I think) studying some African people. One of her early books, called The Harmless People, was about the bushmen of the Kalahari Desert. Reindeer Moon is a novel she wrote about stone-age man. But her best known book (a best seller), The Hidden Life of Dogs, told of her observations on dog behavior in Cambridge Massachusetts.
The behavior of domesticated dogs is supremely complex, especially when there is more than one dog in a family. Of course, behavior varies with breed and training as well. Our 2 poodles, one male one female (both with all their bits) have an intimate relationship with each other as well as with each of us and with visitors and helpers.
In the morning after I make our bed they do a little dance together on it, tails wagging, nuzzling and sniffing both ends, with jumping and bouncing. They follow me all day, from room to room, inside and outside. They watch what Jerry and I do and recognize signals of coming events – walks, eating, naptime. They are always ready for the next activity. They love visitors, and when they see us making preparations for a dinner party they bark excitedly at every noise that could possibly mean the approach of guests. They fear the filling of suitcases.
The cat, too, has her routines. About the time I put the dogs to bed in their crate she comes to the gate if she is outside the fence, or to the door if she is inside. I let her in when she can enjoy the dog free house. She has her supper; later she climbs on the bed on my side (never Jerry’s). In the morning she samples the weather. If she likes the look of it she goes hunting.
Libby Marshall has made a science out of this sort of observation, and has made a wonderful life’s work from writing about it. I envy her. If I had thought things through better I would have done something similar.
When we were in school I didn’t know her very well. She was a boarder and I was a day student, and even though the school was small (the whole school was only 250 girls) we were not in the same groups. One thing we had in common was a great teacher who encouraged us to write.
Alice Sweeney was that teacher. Miss Sweeney was a tall, slim rather angular woman. She wore sweaters and tweed skirts. Everything about her was low key. She spoke quietly but clearly as she taught us, sometimes making a little joke with just a hint of a smile. When we laughed – some of us, since not everyone understood that she was making a joke – she would show just a hint of a blush.
Miss Sweeney helped me understand novels and poetry. She taught me to love good writing. She urged me to write, and I wish I had taken her advice more to heart. When I went home to Andover to visit my aunt and uncle, Miss Sweeney would come to tea. Once she brought with her a copy of Libby Marshall’s book, The Harmless People. I told her I shouldn’t borrow it because I might forget to send it back. She said she didn’t mind, she liked her books to travel. I still have it, although, of course, I meant to return it.
My aunt moved to Peterborough New Hampshire, which is where Libby Marshall lives. When my aunt was alive I always meant to get in touch with Libby, but I never got around to that either, another regret.
Maybe some day I’ll email her. It takes a little courage now that she’s a famous writer.