Naming Cats and Dogs

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I have noticed over time that dogs and cats have their separate languages. They will use different tones to express their meaning, as well as different movements and body language. A cat who rubs against you is very different from the dog who rubs against you.

They also respond differently to spoken language (English, anyway; others I can not be certain of). Dogs seem by nature to respond to commands. They want to be told clearly and constantly in short bold and imperative sentences. Cats on the other hand refuse to move for such a modality. They refuse to obey direct commands and ignore declarative statements. To approach a cat one needs to be inquisitive, ask it a question, engage it in a discussion that always leaves alternatives. In simple terms, be firm and direct with a dog; leave a cat to make a conclusion for itself (with your direction.)

A firm illustration of these principles in operation can be seen in dogs and cats and their names. Dogs, as we have noted, need to be addressed with short, firm imperatives and display that in the names they respond to. They react best to names that have only one strong syllable, names such as King, Max, Duke, Bess, etc. Cats react best to names of two syllables, preferably names that end with a rising inflection (like a question) especially those ending with the “-ee” sound such as Sally, Marty, Fluffy, or even (god forbid) Kitty. Just as long as the two vowel sounds are different and the name ends with an upward inflection.

For example, I have a friend who named her cat Deedee. It sounded fine but the cat refused to acknowledge it. I suggested that she change the initial vowel sound, and call her cat Dodie. She did. The cat responds.

Name your cat or dog carefully. Your whole relationship may depend on that word.


The Price of Happiness

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I was listening to a radio discussion: some academic was talking about the ratio between income and perceived happiness. In other words, your chances of feeling generally happy about yourself depends to a certain (and she claimed important) amount on your income. Specifically, she found that middle income people ($45,000 – 90,000, her figures) were happier than those living on less as well as those bringing in more. It sort of boiled down to, as she saw it, those who have less wanting that which most people have; the great amount of people in the middle only bothered by little deviances to their perceived standards; those with nearly everything still not satisfied and looking to get what seemed to be missing.

I don’t know what “happiness” she was trying to quantify, it sounded shallow to me. Satisfaction that depends on what you have, on what you buy, on your financial worth, can’t be rooted very deep and may ultimately lead to deeper dissatisfaction. I took a look at myself to see what was creating my personal happiness.

I’m in her lowest income range, so I should be unhappy. I haven’t got  … you name it and either I don’t have, or have less, etcetera. But I’m satisfied with who I am, what I do. This weekend was a good example about the variations that make up my happiness.

Friday evening I went to a concert. Not because it was the place to be, to be seen but because the performer’s music had struck a chord with me so I made time to see and hear her live. Saturday morning I went for a hike; not a long or strenuous one, but with friends to enjoy nature (in the winter snow), get some exercise for my well-being, and the sense of community, being part of something greater than myself (something I need because I live by myself). Saturday afternoon I went to a poetry workshop; the time was spent discussing matters I like, things I find important, getting and giving reactions to artistic endeavors. Sunday afternoon I went for a stroll in a park, watching birds and squirrels, enjoying the laughter of children sliding down a snowy slope. I spent some time and effort playing repeated patterns on my mandolin (what some might call practicing) and enjoying that. Activities that were necessary like cooking a meal and snow removal from the walk were chores but not unpleasant. I was content. No, I was more than content, I was happy.

You’ll notice this happiness and what brought it about had nothing to do with money or income, no competition about mine versus yours, no snobbish “well, I’m …”  Happiness is not a state of being. It’s not something you automatically are under a certain set of circumstances (like level of income).

Happiness, for me, is the product of doing, the result of activity. Action is happiness, especially action with or for other people. I really can not consider circumstances where my happiness would depend on financial matters. Even while taking the most luxurious vacation imaginable, I would have to work hard at doing with and for people to find a measure of happiness. It depends on the effort and the motivation.

Happy New Year

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Wishing all health and contentment in 2011

Christmas Carol

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Yesterday someone asked me what my favourite Christmas Carol was. I was stumped for a moment. No one had been talking of Christmas carols or songs, so it came at me out of the blue. The first one to come to mind was “Silent Night” so that’s what I told the youngster. She said hers was “Blue Christmas” and that was that.

I didn’t want to get into a semantic discussion, but I have always divided Christmas music and songs into two categories. For me, Christmas carols are the religious songs, the hymns about the coming of the Christ. Christmas songs are different; they deal with the customs and peripheral matters of our celebration. “O Holy Night,” “Away in a Manger,” “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” these are carols; “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” “Deck the Halls,” “Oh Christmas Tree,” they are songs for the ways in which we celebrate the Christmas season. (A third category which people throw into the mix are winter songs such as “Frosty the Snowman,” “Jingle Bells,” “Winter Wonderland,” which have nothing to do with Christmas, only the winter season and could as joyfully be sung in February. And perhaps should be sung and played throughout the winter.)

After some time to think about it, I have decided that my favourite Christmas carol is the one known as the Huron Carol, written by Jean de Brebeuf in the 1620s here at the Jesuit Mission to the Huron/Wyandot people in their language. Translations have been made into French and English over the years (as well as into other North American native languages.) There are several things I like about it. It is a true carol, dealing with the birth of Christ. It uses the language and imagery of the people for whom it was written to convey its message, giving it a spontaneity that would otherwise be either missing or artificial. The melody Fr. Brebeuf adapted was simple and plain, needing no choirs or soaring symphonic accompaniment. It has found its way into my being and holds its place there.

Even so, that doesn’t mean that my favourite carol always remains the same. I can remember one year I had the privilege to sing “O Holy Night” as a solo with choir. That became my favourite for many years. The Caribbean “Mary’s Boy Child” also held that place for a time, as did the Dutch anthem “Eere Zij God.”

This season the Huron Carol, “Jesus Ahatonhia,” has claimed that spot.

Winter Boots

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I got myself a decent pair of winter boots today; I have a feeling I may need them.

Last winter was a strange time. We didn’t have much snow and I did without boots (using regular walking shoes, not the dress shoes) until well into January. Then I bought an inexpensive pair to do me until spring. They barely lasted; they were a thick canvas material covered with a thin coat of some rubber or latex material. By spring they were cracked and letting in moisture. I used them a time or two during summer hikes for ankle support, but they no longer served their main purpose and were now consigned to the garbage.

Checking out new footwear can be quite a chore. They are never the size I think my feet are; therefore I have to try on each pair that strikes my eye and is in my size range. One store had a handsome pair in size 8 1/2 (my current shoe size) so I tried them on. They didn’t fit. The clerk could not find an identical pair in size 9, not even 9 1/2, so I left disappointed.

I was wandering around a retail area (a mall that isn’t a mall but a puzzle of stores and parking lots) and passed through a Zellers to check for inexpensive CDs when I saw signs proclaiming all winter footwear reduced by 40%. I checked it out – just in case, you know. I looked through the stuff they had set up in several different displays when I saw a pair of boots that struck my fancy. What was more surprising, they fit! Straight to the cashier, no browsing through music or other matter.

They feel good. Up to about mid-calf. Black, and smelling of leather (though that can be faked, I believe). Felt insoles. Faux fur lining. Size 9.  And the sale price brought it under $50.00.

But the feature that really sold it to me was its closure: a heavy-duty Velcro fastening on each side. No more struggling to get feet to slide into boots! No more struggling with little zippers by cold fingertips! Please, let them last! I have already learned to close them from the bottom (open from the top) or I leave a bubble-like opening at the ankle.

Now, let it snow if it must.

About Victims’ Rights

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Every time I hear about public demands  for special “rights” I cringe. Such rights are neither given to a person nor inherent. A mother has no more rights than a childless woman. Homosexuals have no more rights, no less rights, no different rights than any one else. Animal rights are ridiculous because animals have no sense of right; instead, we humans have responsibilities toward them that we  must carry out but often do not.

 Victims of crime cry out that they have special rights, moreover that they have the right to be compensated, that society owes them an amount of money just for being the victim of crime. As I pointed out above, a state of being should not carry automatic special “rights,” whether that state is being a mother, a homosexual, a victim, a potato-headed stringbean, or whatever label we use to set ourselves apart.

Nor does the justice system, as representing society, owe compensation to victims of crime. A long time ago societies did work out compensations for crimes but those were paid not by society as a whole but by the perpetrator found guilty, or the perpetrator and his family. The man who stole your calf had to pay you what that calf was deemed to be worth or an equivalent in “goods or services.” The system worked well. (Remnants can be found in insurance policies that put a cash value on loss of a limb, an eye, etc.)

What happened? About a thousand years or more ago, the established Christian church became the predominant social system of justice. With it came a radical change in the perception of  “justice.” No longer would justice be based on adequate compensation to the victim of wrong doing by the wrong-doer; justice became a matter of the repentance of the perpetrator before God, the church, and society. Repentance from sin was uppermost. Acts of penance, be they a sequence of prayers, an act of service to the church, a public display such as a pilgrimage, became the result of social wrongs. Victims were swept away, discounted.

Our system is still dependent on that idea of penance, that the perpetrator become publicly sorry for his action. That’s why they are called penitentiaries, those places where we hold wrong-doers until they have shown, to our satisfaction, that they repent, that they are penitent. Such is the system with which we have saddled ourselves.

Now victims’ rights organizations want to go back to our pagan laws: an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth; a thousand dollars if I cripple your leg, seventy-five thousand if I take your life (unless an actuary decides your life is worth more, or perhaps less, to society and/or relatives.) You have to take one system or the other. If you want cash value placed on crimes (i. e. compensation for them) then you have to divest yourself of punishment to induce penitence.

Perhaps we’re ready for a totally new system of justice, one combining penance and compensation. But. We would have to begin anew, as a lawless society making the rules for ourselves.

What Have They Done …

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Several days ago I bought some milk and not until I had paid for it did I inspect it (the packaging, anyway) carefully. My attention was alerted by the increased price.

It was not my usual milk. This stuff was proclaimed “lactose free” and it made me wonder how many people still know what milk really is. It seems to have little relationship to the source product.

I can remember my father milking cows by hand, urging and controlling the flow with the patient consent of the animal, the drone of milk flowing into milk with the steady rhythm of breathing. Sometimes he would direct a stream at my face; I still remember the warm, comforting taste of cow’s milk.

What have they done to my milk, ma? Ever since Louis Pasteur, people have been tinkering with it. First they sterilized (pasteurized) it, then legislated that you couldn’t buy or sell it unless it was processed. Then they homogenized it so you couldn’t collect the fat from it and make concentrates like cheese. Then they took most of the fat out beforehand and persuaded people that semi-fat or fat-free was better for them.

Now they have taken out the only other nutrient. Lactose is the sugar found in milk, like fructose in fruit and sucrose in plant material. Without any fat or any sugar, what is milk? All that is left are a few minerals, mostly chalk (calcium). And then they add vitamins so the chalk can be used by the body.

I pity those people who cannot tolerate lactose. That condition is the result of our own customs and habits. When we feed infants formulae rather than their own mothers’ milk we produce children who no longer have natural dietary tolerances, who develop allergies and other unnatural reactions to their foods and their environment.

I am thankful that I was fed at my mother’s breast, that I was weaned to pureed foods and then to solids. I still like the taste of “raw” milk, of the real stuff, but it’s almost impossible to find.

So, what have they done to my milk?

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