Random Musings of a Woman with Too Many Cats

And a field of study that few people know much about...

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Kitchen Herbs

I decided to plant my own herbs this year, for the fun of it, and in order to have fresh herbs for cooking.  I have four types of basil: purple, Genovese, Greek, and Thai; German thyme; lavender, chocolate mint, oregano, rosemary, and sage.

I set them up on and under a plant stand next to an east facing window, which gets great sun in the morning.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Cats and Writing

I really enjoyed this blog post, and the tweet that inspired it.  Cats really do like getting between you and your work, when it involves computers, books, or pen on paper.  I've actually had to lock mine out of the office in order to get work done!  Of course, I don't necessarily have to worry about over-bold mice stealing my lunch, or eating my manuscripts, but I do have to contend with the guilt that comes from mournful meows outside the door.  Don't worry, Lion!  I'll give you yogurt when I'm done.

Interestingly, my cats are not a hassle when I am watching TV or a DVD.  Last night, while we were watching The Two Towers, the second installment from The Lord of The Rings, Spots curled up on my lap and stayed there purring quietly the entire time we watched.  Quite nice, that!


You may have to cut and paste the link into your browser in order to follow it.  For whatever reason, it doesn't seem to want to work as a link for me.  Perhaps because Wordpress and Blogger are in competition?

Thursday, December 27, 2012


Of Course, I Could Be Wrong...: MADPRIEST'S CHRISTMAS MEGAMIX: It's Boxing Day, the day after Christmas. There's a whole 364 days to go before it's Christmas again. And there's the washing up from yes...

Here's a rather wonderful mix of music from the Mad Priest at Of Course I Could Be Wrong...  Just in time for the Feast of the Holy Innocents.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Mom's Poetry

My mother, Susan H. Caldwell, has recently started to write poetry, and she sent me some of her work.

The first poem talks about a trip to Spain she made in the early 70s, doing research for her dissertation on Spanish romanesque churches.  At the time, Spain was still under the thumb of General Francisco Franco, a fascist and a promoter of "Traditional Family Values"...

1972 – Segovia, Spain                                           OUT OF PLACE
Noon, sun-filled plaza
                  bounded by hotels, restaurants, small cars
                                    atop Segovia’s hill.

Pink cathedral, Gothic, at the far end;
                  aqueduct (unseen) down the hill—
                                    Roman, of course. 

Children shriek at play;                   girls jump
                  low to the ground over elastic ropes
                                    in patterns unknown to me.

Alone. Sola. Sola: I await…
                  the opening of a museum? a library?
                                    exposed by the sun of Segovia.

                                                                        (Mostly I wait to go home….
                                                                                          to Vermont, to my children.
                                                                                                            Did I dream them?)

Looking up from my journal, I see
                  people looking at me, looking at me.
                                                      I am sola.

Men go alone; women go in pairs, in groups.
                  Every woman escorted—
                                    all but me.

Skirts hang below their knees;
                  My skirts end above.
                                    (My jeans are also wrong, it seems.)

Question:  what am I doing here, sola?
                  Researching un tesis doctoral?
                                                      (Even I don’t buy that story.)
                                                                                                            So, I must walk…

Along Segovia’s winding alleys
                  seven Romanesque churches await me.
                                    Stone walls, arches, weathered sculptures…

Sola, I find solace in old stones 
                  in whose crevices flowers flourish—
                                                                                          out of place…
                                                                                                                              like me.   

The second poem talks of my father's descent into Alzheimers.  Too young...  It was hard on all of us, but especially my mother, who took care of him for 17 years, ten of them with him at home.

I Remember His Forgetting

“Numbers don’t have the same meaning for me,”
                  he said.  “I mean, like they used to.”
He, who scored 99 percentile on the GRE—he said that.
                  I didn’t believe him;
                                                      but he couldn’t balance the checkbook.

Camping in Colorado among the trees and birds became
                  a nightmare—or at least a bad dream. 
                  He didn’t seem himself somehow.
                                                      Although the sun was shining…

At the first campsite, I followed his directions
                  as we erected the tent with its aluminum poles
                  and blue plastic covering, and pegs pounded
                                                      into the ground, to anchor it.

At the second campsite, he couldn’t put up the tent.
                  I had to figure it out on my own, visualizing
                  the various steps.  It sort of worked,
                                                                        but I was scared.

I supervised the packing up as we left; he followed
                  my directions…                  sort of…
                  He was puzzled; I was frightened.                   
                                                                                          I was cross.

Our dog Tom left us. 
                  He ran up the hill and
                  sat down on our campsite.
                                                      He didn’t want to go home.


Billie Hinton and Claire Caviness

This summer I discovered an author, and a character, I love.  The author is Billie Hinton, the character is Claire Caviness, who is one of the main character in her novels claire-obscure and Signs That Might be Omens.  In the first novel, Claire is a young woman, recently graduated from college and working in a bookstore.  She meets and moves in with Finn, a medical student who is--odd.  He does not sleep with her, for reasons that become clear later in the novel, but he clearly tries to possess her.  Soon she meets another man, Raoul, who has a thing for rescuing women who need it.  Raoul's best friend is Bingham.  The plot is psychologically interesting, and the writing is dream-inducing.  The entire novel is written in the present tense, so all the action (actually set in the 1980s as becomes clear due to details in the book-- no cell phones, music, even Claire's clothing) seems immediate, as if one is living through everything right along with Claire.

The second novel, Signs That Might be Omens, opens in 2004, twenty years after the events in claire-obscure.  From there, it fills in what has happened in the intervening years, passing back and forth from the novel's present to different points in the past and from both Claire's point of view and Bingham's, who is, it seems, Claire's soulmate.  It seems, at times, that the entire book is about near misses, but perhaps these two need their life lessons before they can truly come together.

Both books seem to resolve, and yet do not.  I think I read (but cannot find it now) that these are the first two books of a planned quartet.  If so, I certainly look forward to the upcoming novels!

Both books speak of dreams, as does a third book I read by Hinton, The Meaning of Isolated Objects.  I was not surprised to find that the author is also a Jungian psychotherapist.  These books are available on  Amazon for Kindle.

Sunday, September 9, 2012


The Buddha was asked, "What do you and your disciples practice?" and he replied, "We sit, we walk, and we eat." 

The questioner continued, "But sir, everyone sits, walks, and eats."

The Buddha told him, "When we sit, we know we are sitting. When we walk, we know we are walking. When we eat, we know we are eating."

Most of the time, we are lost in the past or carried away by the future. When we are mindful, deeply in touch with the present movement, our understanding of what is going on deepens, and we begin to be filled with acceptance, joy, peace, and love.
This was posted for an online retreat in which I am taking part, and it made me think of my studies of eating disorders and disordered eating.  So often what happens is a lack of mindfulness, of awareness, of what we eat, and how much we're really eating, especially in the cases of bulimia and binge-eating disorder.  In both of these illnesses, the sufferer loses awareness, at least in the short term, and also control.  Eating becomes automatic, it is detached from actual hunger, it is not serving the body or the psyche well, because too much food makes one sick, and although the eater may temporarily feel comforted about what is eating him or her, ultimately the binge will result in self-recrimination and more psychic distress.

In contemporary western cultures, it's really no wonder that such a disconnect would happen and cause illnesses like these.  Meals are no longer the communal events they once were:  we eat meals in the car, we eat meals in front of the TV set or a book, we eat far too many meals alone! We're doing other things when we eat, and not really thinking of what we're eating or how we're eating it.  What is more, we aren't doing as much of our own cooking, choosing fresh ingredients with care to make the best food we can make!  I know I eat far too much "food heated up", and I actually like to cook and am pretty good at it.

Preparation also leads to mindfulness.  A Lean Cuisine lasagna may taste fairly good, but you're certainly going to feel more connected to a lasagna you carefully made from scratch:  you'll think about the individual ingredients, the amounts of herbs and seasonings, the finishing touches before you put it in the oven.  Even worse is when you pick something up in a drive-through to eat as you rush off to work in the morning.  You could be shoveling cardboard into your mouth for all the enjoyment you get out of it.  Sometimes it's unavoidable, but try to taste each bite of your breakfast burrito as you eat it.  Pull over if you have to.  Be mindful.

I have something of a history of binge-eating, though not, I think, to the point of a clinical diagnosis.  Sometimes, if something is bothering me, or I'm feeling sorry for myself, I'll start eating a favorite (forbidden) food, like potato chips or chocolate, and I won't stop until it's all gone.  I might savor the first few bites, but soon I'll just be gobbling it up without thinking, or, worse, thinking I have to get rid of it before anyone finds out I have it.  (Forbidden food, remember?)  The last thing I'm doing is being mindful when I eat like this, and as a result, I don't know if I'm even tasting it properly.  I think the next time I find myself on the verge of this sort of a binge, I will try to stop, breathe, and be fully aware of each bite.

Are there any things you do that lack mindfulness?  Do you think that cultivating an awareness of your actions would improve your enjoyment of life?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Thoughts While Walking the Labyrinth

Yesterday morning, I went over to St Brigit's and walked the labyrinth.  I was all alone, the sun was shining, and I found myself thinking about what Joseph Campbell called the Hero's Journey.
We have a Chartres labyrinth, which is simply a winding path.  There are no branches, and as long as you stay on the path, you will find your way to the center, and then find your way out again.  The path folds, and turns, and when one is on the outer edge and feels farthest away from the center (God-- or the Heavenly Jerusalem), one is actually quite close to the end of the journey.  Conversely, when one is closest to the center, one still has a long way to go.

This made me think of Odysseus' travels.  When he has been trapped on Calypso's island for years and years, and has nearly given up on ever returning home, he is actually quite close to the end of his journey.  When he has come within sight of Ithaca, his men accidentally let the winds out of Aeolus' bag, and send him far, far away again.

The original Chartres Labyrinth is found at the beginning of one of the pilgrim's paths to Santiago de Compostela.  For some, it was probably all they could do of the pilgrim's journey because of infirmity, or obligations at home.  It signifies a sacred journey, and a journey of discovery, just as Odysseus' journey was for him.