January 18th, 2013

just Chris

Tragedies, tiny and large.

Yesterday, when I got home from an all-day English Department strategic-planning meeting, I saw a dead squirrel. Someone had driven over it. This was distressing, because I've gotten attached to several neighborhood squirrels. Also, if one of these poor bastards is going to die, it should be in the talons of a hawk or something, not a senseless death beneath the mindless wheels of a car.

When I parked my scooter, I picked up the little dead thing from the road and placed it in the grass beneath a tree in front of my house. It was still warm, flexible, but very dead. I spent a few seconds examining it to see if this was one of the regulars, my "outdoor pets," but it showed no markings I recognized.

I wonder if its siblings will perform another squirrel funeral like they did last time.
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And then, this morning, I witnessed another little urban-wildlife tragedy. A few days ago, I put a big, clear-topped, metal live-trap on my back porch. See, I've apparently been breeding mice by feeding the squirrels and birds. Baby mice are about some of the cutest things you'll ever see, darting out of cover just long enough to fetch a seed, than darting back under cover like a furry lightning-bolt. Heck, I've even made videos of the tiny things, and will share them soon. Just need to upload.

This morning, I saw that the live trap caught two little mouses since I checked yesterday. One had been dead for a while, the other had just died and was cuddling it, nose pressed on top of its dead sibling. The point of "live trap" is that you're supposed to be able to catch and release them (preferably in another neighborhood).
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Finally, about two weeks ago, my grandmother Violet McKitterick died. She had been sick for a long time, living in a nursing home, but getting frequent visits from her five children, their partners, and even grandchildren. She hasn't been fully cognizant for a few years, but she seemed to enjoy the company. I thought I'd share a few of memories of my Grandma Vi:

When I was a little boy, especially before I started school or in the summers, I would often stay with Grandma Vi during the day when my parents were at work. I always looked forward to spending time with her. She was so kind and patient, letting me play with Matchbox cars all over the floor, or take apart old clocks or other things so I could figure out how they worked – even if they never did again.

Grandma Vi taught me to paint when I was barely old enough to hold a brush. I remember once, while she was doing rosemaling on the kitchen cupboards, I sat at the table and painted scrap pieces of wood in a similar style. One of these is still around somewhere. It says, "Violet is very beautiful."

In the hot summer when I had trouble falling asleep, Grandma would sometimes gently brush her fingernails along my back, giving me goosebumps so I felt cooler. It was such a comfort.

When I discovered she had played the accordion, I was so proud! It seemed like such a magical and complex instrument that surely she had to be a musical genius to be able to make that thing work.

Most of my earliest memories of Grandma Vi and Grandpa Harvey together were of them laughing and chasing one another around the house. She would laugh and say, "Oh, Harvey!" then giggle and swat at him. This ritual often ended with them scurrying off to the bedroom. They seemed so happy together. I still think of that as a model of how two people in love behave toward one another.
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In other news, I'm still SWAMPED with new-course development. Sorry I've been away for so long! Now I've got to get back to work.

Best,
Chris