Oh, just some animals.

Today I went to the zoo with my friends Charles and Sujin. We saw a lot of different animals peeing. :) It also reminded me I never posted these characters I drew last month for a friend of mine. They were some of the first works to come of my then-new brush pens!

allfournew

So, one of those guys is an emu, and emus look a lot like ostriches, and there is this one ostrich at the zoo who just spends the whole time biting and snapping and pecking at the fence. He’s awesome. And freaky.

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A compromise compromised.

Earlier this month I took on a challenge which was a self-designed compromise from the more daunting, national challenge of National Novel Writing Month.  I knew I couldn’t complete a 50,000 word novel this November, but declared I would, instead, complete two chapters of my graphic novel (which I now speak of rather freely… hm, go figure.  So much for self-propelling mystery!) Well, to put it bluntly, I was crazy.  There is no way I’ll have two chapters done by the 30th.  This story has been unfolding just fine at its own lazy pace and I would only screw that up by forcing myself to write words and draw pictures that aren’t coming of their own volition, when they have been doing so quite nicely prior to this.  Yes, it’s an excuse, but those are allowed on occasion.  I will hereby compromise my challenge and say that I would like to complete ONE chapter this month.  Just one.  It’s a compromised compromise, but it’s still a challenge.

All right, now that business is out of the way, I have a few other things.  First of all, don’t take this as sounding ungrateful, but I am really creeped out by how low gas prices are getting.  I drove past a station that advertised $1.85 a gallon today, which means that other places in the country are probably getting down near a dollar.  Yes, it’s great, it’s cheap, we can all dust off our hummers again, but it’s still freaky.  I feel like I’m living back in the late 90s.  And who the heck likes the 90s?? (Okay, Alex, I know you do.)

Next, I had another dream about my late cat Pepper again last night.  This one was a different kind of sad, though, because of how realistic it was.  Usually when I dream about her (which is often) she has somehow been resurrected, enjoys full health, and seems perfectly unaware that she was ever dead, to both her and my delight.  But last night she was weak, small, and frail, just like she was in real life before she died.  In my dream she barely had the strength to jump up onto the bed, so I picked her up and she crawled under the blankets where we cuddled.  Just like real life.  I feel like I write about these Pepper dreams every time they happen (which is often) but I did a search to link to some past ones and couldn’t find any.  Maybe that is a good idea for a blog-reader-challenge.  Locate the Pepper Dream Posts!  Whoever finds any wins… a photograph of Pepper.

I had a few other things to say but I think I’ll save them up for days when I have nothing.  Which, you’ve come to know, is most of the time.

PJ.

My cat PJ was born dead, but he survived.  A few years later some vigilante redneck neighbor shot him in the head, for trespassing.  The pellet went in through his ear and split into two pieces, which remain there to this day.  PJ, once again, survived.  There may be some truth to this nine-lives mythology.  He is now 18 years old.  He is arthritic, and his kidneys are failing, and he has shrunk down to a fraction of his weight in healthier days, but he is surviving.  Every time I come home, PJ makes the effort to hobble downstairs for some petting.  Yesterday he followed me around for the better part of the day.  I bent down and gave him a good scratching behind the ear and said, “PJ, you have a strong will to live.”  It’s strange how animals have this while humans, sometimes, do not.  If survival is the name of the game, it wasn’t very Darwinian of us humans to evolve a self-destruct button.  PJ could teach us a thing or two.  Meanwhile, animal euthanasia, while humane, is still incredibly sad.   For PJ in particular it would seem like an insult, after he’s made it this long.  I need my pets to live forever.

Trading one life for another.

Sometimes I have the internet, sometimes I don’t.  I have to check it from time to time, it’s like some kind of variable-interval reward schedule, which is something I learned in my psychology class this summer.  And as long as we’re talking about my psychology class, I might as well tell you that I had my final tonight and I’m pretty sure that I came close to acing it and am pretty confident that I got an “A” in the class, so hooray, there is still a bit of the high school brat in this head of mine.

I’m not going to try catching you up to what may have happened while I was offline; that becomes a very tedious game once a person decides to play it, especially a person whose internet connection is as precarious and unpredictable as mine.  The drunken tightrope walker, which way will she fall, if she falls at all?  No, instead I will just jump right in with a little story that happened yesterday.  It is a nature story, because July is the perfect time for nature stories.

Sunday, yesterday, was a glorious day, and I’m not saying glorious to be flashy, it really was.  That’s the only adjective that could describe it.  Words like “Glorious” exist for a reason, that reason being yesterday.  Anyway, I spent a pie-slice of this glorious day sitting out on our deck doing my last bit of psychology homework, and in this context even that became less of a chore.  From time to time I would glance up from my text book and take in a bit of my surroundings.  I think I wrote here sometime last summer that our deck feels a bit like a tree house because it is on the second story, has a roof, and is surrounded by, well, trees.  So I’m not sure if it brings me back to my tree climbing childhood or what, but from this perch everything about summer seems heightened, or inflated, or magnified, or whatever the appropriate adjective would be.  Glorious.  During one of these breaks my eyes drifted to a spider web in the corner.  I could see a beetle was tangled in its strings, working frantically to free himself.  Within seconds it became clear why: a spider about half his size was lashing out at him, trying, I’m sure, to kill and eat him.  This was highly disturbing, if only on a micro-level.  I tried going back to my text book and leaving nature to its brutal self, but it was as if the screams of this tiny beetle were lashing at my ears.   Absolute terror.  I put myself in that beetle’s shoes, I put myself in that web, and imagined myself tangled up helplessly with a hostile arachnid thrashing at me.  Not so glorious.  So I got up out of my chair, I wish I could say calmly, but actually my heart was racing.  Racing over a beetle.  I picked up a twig that was laying near the scene of the crime and I scooped the beetle right out of the web.  This took a couple tries because he was pretty tangled up.  I felt like I was rescuing a child from the jaws of a bear.  With shaking hands I set him down at the edge of the deck and used the twig to scrape the remnants of web from his back, and seconds later the beetle had scampered off, alive but shaken.  He would be more careful in the future.

Satisfied, I sat back in my chair.   I was a hero, and the sun was shining.  Before returning my attention to my text book, I glanced back at the spider web which was now blowing around in the breeze, in shambles, collateral damage.  The tiny spider that had moments earlier seemed vicious and hateful was now scrambling around desperately, trying to repair his home, robbed of his hard-earned meal, robbed of his very identity as a spider.  I had taken it from him, I had left him humiliated and hungry.  I sunk down in my chair and felt badly for the spider, but it was too late.  I was just another human who had disrupted the natural order of things.  Glorious. (Said this time with irony.)

Beatrice Quimby takes the Bird Quiz.

I’ll be in St. Louis this weekend visiting a dear friend, so let’s pretend it’s for that reason, and not the lack of internet, that I won’t be blogging.   Well actually, my visit is the main reason.  I wouldn’t waste a second of our time together on the computer, and that’s not to belittle my affection for blogging, but to emphasize how much I’m looking forward to this time with my friend!  Plus, as bonuses, I get to see one of my buddies in Milwaukee and another in Chicago on my way down.  Since I’ll be away for awhile, though, I wanted to leave you with a little something to chew on.  The Bird Survey.  (Feel free to leave your own answers in a comment!)

1. Where in the world do you live? I live in Madison, Wisconsin.

2. What kind of habitat do I live in? Madison is a unique habitat in that a large portion of the city is located on an isthmus (a strip of land between two large bodies of water).  The weather in Madison is fairly typical for a Midwestern city, with hot and humid summers and cold, white winters.  Madison is home to a variety of wildlife including humans and red-wing blackbirds.  Politically, the climate is fairly liberal.

3. What does my house look like? My house is a 3-flat in a nice neighborhood.  It looks like a pale yellow barn.  I like it.

4. What do I look like? I have two eyes and a mouth that smiles to reveal 28 teeth (one of them crowned).

5. What color am I? My skin is a Caucasian flesh-tone with somewhat of an olive cast.  I also have brown hair and grayish green colored eyes.

6. How big am I? I am fairly average in height for a female.

7. How much do I weigh? (Maybe birds don’t consider these types of questions too personal.)  I am fairly average here too.

8. What do I eat? I am an omnivore, which means that I eat both meat and plants (but probably a lot more plants).  My favorite types of food are spicy ones, particularly Mexican dishes and curry chicken.  I also love potatoes, avocados, and mangoes,

9. How do I protect myself from my enemies? I try to avoid any people or animals who would be hostile to me.  I try to diffuse potential aggression with kindness.  If I have to curl up in a ball and play dead I will do that also.

10. What is so interesting about me? Well, hopefully some of these interesting things have already been hinted at in other areas of this blog.  As far as birds go, I cannot fly, I don’t have a beak or even feathers.  I have never had a pet bird and I don’t usually feed the birds.  Sometimes I eat them (see question number 8).  I was once pecked violently in the head by an angry red-wing blackbird, and yes, I’ve been pooped on mid-flight.  But I like birds.  They are all right with me.

Birds.  Okay.

Maybe after this you’ll be happy I’ll be taking a few days off from writing.

An animal story.

Today the weather was gorgeous; when I got home I laid out on our deck and started to read a book but quickly dozed off with my left ring finger positioned in such a way that it hurt like the Charles Dickens when I woke up an hour later. Is that a run-on sentence? I watched a squirrel scitter across the fence which circles our back yard. When I was in middle school we had a pet squirrel. His name was Buster. One spring morning my dad was working in the back yard and these two baby squirrels ran up to his leg and wanted to play. He put them back in the woods and returned to work, but minutes later they were back. Their mother had been killed by a car (we think) and they were orphans, happy, scampery orphans without any fear of man. All of this happened while I was away at softball practice (or some similar middle school happening) and when my dad picked me up he had an ice cream pail with these two baby squirrels in it. We named them Chip and Dale, but eventually one of them died so we had to rename the surviving squirrel Buster. He became our pet. And when I say pet, I mean it. He loved us and we loved him, and we cuddled him and played with him and taught him little squirrel tricks. He was not dirty, he was not vicious, he was a friend. One day we had to let him go back into the wild. It was sad, but the right thing to do. The first night after we let him go he stayed right there in his squirrel bed. Maybe the second night too. But eventually he remembered that he was a wild creature, and he climbed up into a tree, and then he was gone. We would see him from time to time, but he wasn’t a pet anymore, and we weren’t friends of his. It was man and nature, back in the original order of things. But we would always remember him and years later some of us would write about him in our blogs.

So there, even though I am tired and would rather take a very early bed time, I went ahead and told you a cozy little story about friendly forest animals. Now off to bed, all of you.

Digitize, my love.

There was a strange and wonderful tide of digital events today.  This morning I arose relatively early (by Christmas vacation standards) to get to work finishing my comic strip by its deadline, and I thought, “The past few times I’ve colored this using watercolors I was definitely underwhelmed,” and so the natural next turn was toward Photoshop.  After a half hour of fumbling around with my laptop’s touchpad my dear brother saw me and said, “Do you want to use my Wacom tablet?”  And I said, “Yes!”  And I forgot how much fun–and efficient!–it can be to Wacom.  And furthermore I’ve come to believe that staying in the lines while coloring is strictly for kindergarteners:

(Click image for a full view) I suppose you could call this a preview (pick up your copies of the Riverwest Currents this January!).  What, I didn’t tell you that my comic strip is about a blogger?  Hm.

Anyway, this evening I went to hang out with my friend Holly who gifted me with a “Finger Beats” drum machine, and later in the evening an old Yamaha keyboard, both of which couldn’t sound less like real instruments, but in the most exciting way.  Born in me were ideas for solo electronic projects or at least experiments.  I guess I’d put my money on “experiments.”

Somewhere in the middle of these two digital happenings my family and I took a trip to the zoo and I fed a cracker to a giraffe and watched an otter dive into a pool of near-frozen water and it was all very organic and I refreshing, with the snow and the cold air and the smells and noises of animals.    I think I’ll always prefer the organic world, but these occasional rendez-vous with the digital are kind of exhilarating.  Anyway, it was a nice day, and thanks for reading about it.

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    Breena Wiederhoeft
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