I got up yesterday determined to go to the Luling coffee shop and get some serious writing done. Several things prevented me. First someone was late for an early morning appointment. Then the footprint of the house had to be marked on the ground, with both Greg and me present. Greg’s tractor was delivered and had to be unpacked and gone over. Daniel had to be transported home after doing yard work for his grandparents. Meals had to be prepared. Phone calls had to be made and received.
Today is shaping up about the same. I spent most of the morning in the kitchen, making breakfast and preparing for lunch, and cleaning ant carcasses from the counters. Our ant situation has improved greatly, but after years of being allowed to run amok, they are deeply entrenched. Perhaps they live in the walls; I don’t know. They come out from wherever they reside, die by scores, and litter the counters with their little anty-bodies; and the next day hundreds more come out and die also. Then I have to move all the canisters and things and wipe them all away.
I am not complaining, or registering a regret. If tractors will come, if regiments of ants will perish on the kitchen counters, then they must be dealt with rightly. I could not in good conscience have left undone what I did, and traipsed blithely off to the coffee shop to hearken to the muse. Well, maybe tomorrow.
Daniel transcends one male stereotype in that he reads instruction manuals for appliances and such. When the tractor arrived, Daniel calmly picked up the accompanying booklet and said, “Let’s see what Manual has to say about it.” Years ago, he learned to operate our digital camera in the same methodical, rational way. The Manual books, in case you didn’t know, are a series of novels about a guy named Manual who is really clever with machinery and technology. The prose can be a little dry, and sometimes awkward, especially when translated from Chinese, but the volumes are well worth reading.
Emilie spends hours of each day outside with the resident cats, studying them, coaxing them, feeding them, finding them, retrieving them, meowing at them. As a result, all three mother cats have moved their families to the carport area—even Inkling, the shyest. Emilie keeps track of all the little families. When something is not right, she fixes it. She is a student of cat psychology, the Jane Goodall of barn cats, and I think she does understand how our little feline community thinks and interacts. She made a little cattery for them out of cinder blocks and an old comforter, with wads of masking tape hanging from twine for them to bat at. I like seeing them hanging out there.
No one is paying Emilie to study these cats. She isn’t being graded on how much she learns about them. She studies them because she wants to, because she loves the subject matter. This is what you call devoted attention.
This morning, I looked up from my bread-making and saw the horse through the kitchen window, ambling through our dirt yard. He moseyed over to the kitties’ water pail and took a slurrupy drink. Then he lifted his head and came eye-to-eye with Lady Jane Grey, a tabby kitten, who was perched on a hose-holder mounted to a tree. He leaned in to give her a good sniffing, then jumped back when she hissed and scratched his nose.
He hung out a long time in the yard and carport, paying no further attention to cats, but exciting the ire of Ready, who barked vociferously, stuck his head under the fence, and generally contrived to communicate, “Let me at him!” Interestingly, Ready quit his barking when I brought him out on the leash and made him sit and stay in the horse’s presence; in fact, he kept his back turned to the horse, pointedly shunning him. As soon as I let the dog back in the yard, he went right back to barking, so I did not exactly do a sterling job of training him to be calm and submissive around horses. The horse went away but came back later and stood on the carport a couple of feet from the fence so Ready could get a good look at him, effectively saying “Nyah!” After I brought Ready inside, the horse looked inquiringly over the fence, as if to say, “What happened to the dog?”