So my main furry girl and I completed our last Canine Good Citizen class before the big exam this upcoming Saturday. Like the proud momma I am, I feel good about our progress, with or without the chicken incentive. She’s proven herself on most of the tasks, so much so, that I am feeling remiss in not enrolling her in more of this type of class up until now, like a canine Bobby Fischer who has never seen a chess board. Okay, that might be pushing it; she’s no prodigy, but she’s good and just as important, she’s eager. Several dog moms and dads in the class have pointed out how much they love her personality. If you don’t know Wheatens, they are the more sedate of the terriers (which to point out the distinction is about as useful as splitting hairs over who is the least chipper member of the Brady Bunch), but Wheaties still maintain that feisty terrier spirit and determination that made them useful on farms when they were actually still used on farms. You don’t get a terrier if you want a chill dog. It’s this eagerness, however, that is tripping us up a bit in the “meet and greet” category, which is also the category we have to nail in order to be granted admission to nursing homes, schools, hospitals – anywhere a jumping tongue-wagging explosion of fur may not be welcome. It’s funny to admit, but I’ve been feeling a swell of pride for her during our sessions, and also a bit of empathy. Being a bit of an eager beaver type myself, I recognize her same need to figure it out and to do it right, but also her frustration with her own lack of restraint. Two or three times she jumped on someone’s pant leg and then immediately looked at me with a look that I swear was the equivalent of a person popping herself on the forehead with the heel of her hand in self reproach. So, right now, we’re working on bringing her down from an 11 (on a scale of 10) to an 8.5 when someone approaches her to say hello. Wish us luck.
And because I have been thinking of more and more of these, I give you the next couple of Island Curiosities. For those of you who missed the previous entry on the subject, these are things that I find intriguing about my new island home – things that stand out to me as different (good, bad, neutral), having grown up in Pennsylvania and now living in the lush Pacific Northwest.
Island Curiosity #19 - Wildlife Blasé.
Growing up, the wildlife I regularly encountered fell into two categories: birds and small rodent-like animals (chipmunks, squirrels, and…well, just chipmunks and squirrels). Once I saw three deer in my aunt’s backyard, but she lived 30 minutes away in the “country.” I’m sure there is more wildlife in Western Pennsylvania than my memory serves as record; but if so, I didn’t see it. And I know there were birds in Chicago (there were definitely pigeons), but I don’t remember hearing or seeing them. Again, I know they were there, but perhaps too many other things were catching my attention (like cute outfits in local boutique window displays).
So imagine growing up like this and spending the better part of my life with wildlife deficit and then moving to a place like my new island home and seeing the following with regularity: deer, raccoons, opossum, great blue heron, seals (seals!), bald eagles, hawks, cormorants, rabbits, coyotes, sea stars (formerly known to me as starfish), crabs, owls, something called a geoduck and more species of birds than you can shake a stick at. I find this delightful. I am that crazy giddy lady, index finger held up to her lips, ear cocked forward in an attempt to hear their calls (or at least look like I’m listening for a call). Many of my island cohabitants, however, do not seem to find this as special as I. This is often evident when I call out: Bald eagle! in a public place, and I get a look that communicates I have pointed out something obvious, like a Taco Bell at a strip mall, or a Kardashian on the cover of Us Weekly. Now not everyone is as jaded as I’m making them sound, it’s just that seeing wildlife is so regular to them, like pointing out street signs, or school buses or coffee shops.
My husband visited Bali the year before we met. He took a guided tour with a local who at one point during the tour got very quiet, hunched down and tiptoed, as if he were tracking something. My husband got very excited, thinking he was going to see something amazing, something exotic, something photo-worthy. He stealthily followed behind until the guide suddenly stood erect and pointed with excitement, shouting Squirrel! Squirrel! I guess it’s all about what you’re used to. Yes, I may sound foolish to locals whose wildlife ennui rivals my four-year old’s sighs and eye-rolling at whatever I get excited about, but like Mary Oliver, when it’s over, I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement. May seeing a bald eagle never become regular to me.
Okay, okay, this was the zoo. It’s just so hard to get the owls and eagles to sit still long enough to take a photo.
Jellies are a little easier to photograph. (Sorry about the poking. This guy’s fate was already determined when we found him).
More sea subjects. This was an event through Islandwood (a big favorite of mine) for which divers scooped up misc. sea life and brought it ashore for observation.
Island Curiosity #42 – Moss.
A strange thing to love, I know, but hear me out. Much like my attraction to John Malkovich, this one needs explaining. Before we moved here, I was a little bit concerned about the reports of grey dismal winters. I’ve never been diagnosed with SAD, but I am definitely affected by the weather. After our first Winter here (this is our second), I concluded that I was actually less bummed out in a Pacific Northwest Winter than I was back East. How could this be? One word: moss. It turns out that to me, a snow-covered landscape seems bleak and devoid of life. Something in the ancient reptilian part of my brain screams: Food shortage! Frozen limbs! Digging the car out of four feet of powder! (Well, maybe not that ancient). But here, things are green all winter long. Yes, it is misty most of the time and rainy a lot of the time, but it’s lush and alive. And in the way that I feel about John Malkovich or others feel about those Mexican hairless dogs, moss is oddly appealing to me. Ensconced in the green fuzz, the trees appear cartoonish, like a scene dreamed up by Dr. Seuss or Tim Burton. And should you be interested in moss fun-facts, apparently, it cannot survive in a polluted environment and sometimes reindeer eat it to warm up their blood. This is all comforting to me, in light of the fact that my neighbor’s gardener once told me our yard has “pervasive moss.” He said it in a disdainful way, but in these times when we are bombarded by images and accounts of how life is being destroyed all over our planet, I’m reassured by moss’ voracity, by its unflagging persistance in just existing. Yes, I’m sure once its pervasiveness takes over my roof like it has my neighbor’s (and countless others I see), I, too, might see it as the Pacific Northwest whack-a-mole, rearing its head here and there, just when I think I have it under control. But for now, it is a tangible reminder of how the life force in all things wants to express and propagate itself.
Just remind me of this when I resume weeding this Spring.
Some moss for your enjoyment: