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The Lion in the Living Room

March 29, 2017

 

 

Having painted a lovely creamy taupe all of the hidden areas of my house (closets, laundry room, etc.) heretofore virgin “builder’s white”, I turned at last to ploughing through the stack of bedside books that regularly come in the mail from family and friends whose idea of winter-time living in Northern Michigan is fairly accurate: long, snowy afternoons spent in the ideal company of fictional characters whose personal attributes are summed up in one pithy phrase: If I get annoyed with them, I shut the book, thus trapping their irksome qualities between impenetrable covers. If they are especially unpleasant, I put the book at the BOTTOM of the bedside stack, “Ha”, I say, “you can’t get me now!” However, once in a while, a book finds me that I would hope to have found for myself. Such are the lovely tomes, The Lion in the Living Room: How House Cats Tamed Us and Took Over the World beautifully written by Abigail Tucker, published in 2016 by Simon & Schuster, and W. Bruce Cameron’s A Dog’s Purpose (and its companion novel, A Dog’s Journey). I suppose, given my widely advertised interest in companion animals (and although at present I number only three cats in my household tribe, I include such varied critters as iguanas, mini-pigs, the odd chicken or two, baby goats (for Cathy) and, naturally, dogs) it is not surprising that many of the books sent to me concern animals or animal issues. Generally speaking, I try to weed out the ones that I KNOW end in the death of some creature that has captured my heart. I have “given at the office”, as it were.

 

 

I did my bit when reading to my youngest son, weeping over Where the Red Fern Grows, Old Yeller, The Red Pony and, of course, Charlotte’s Web. I KNEW when I read Marley and Me that I was in for a good bout of sniffling, but I read it anyway! Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Story of an Owl and His Girl, by Stacey O’Brien nearly did me in—and quite unexpectedly too! Non-the-less, I heartily recommend these wonderful books to anyone who has the interest and stamina to give your heart to an animal only to have it broken in the last chapter. A disclaimer here: even though our local movie palace was showing the film version of A Dog’s Purpose, I purposefully did not go and see it. I had read some rather pointed criticism of the filming methods used with the canine stars of the film along with a passionate rebuttal by the author. Personally I don’t know if the allegations are true, but I wanted my experience with the story to be completely book based and not influenced by my emotional response to what may or may not have been questionable film making techniques. Another book I recently finished sat on my bedside table since last (!) Christmas. I’m not sure why I was reluctant to begin reading, since I have a long-standing fondness for raptors in general and goshawks in particular. Perhaps it is because H is for Hawk, is something of a departure in my reading list. Written in the ever-powerful first person by Helen Macdonald, this award winning New York Times bestseller is a captivating personal recounting of the young woman’s attempt to cope with the sudden death of her father by raising and training a juvenile goshawk named Mabel. Suffice to say, I could not put it down! This is not a spoiler alert, but the book, beautifully constructed, is actually two stories in one. First, and perhaps most poignantly, the woman’s growing love and respect for Mabel, but also, cleverly interwoven, a recounting of the struggles of the author T. H. White, whose own goshawk, Gos, is immortalized when he appears as Colonel Cully in White’s epic novel The Once and Future King. Reading the struggles of these two vastly different authors and their hawks gave me a glimpse into a world I will probably never have the chance to know first hand. I guess that is why reading has always been my refuge and my consolation—I can live in the book and simultaneously enjoy my own private world and the creatures who share it with me. I know spring is teasing us, cleverly melting the snow in my flower beds to reveal the already two inch tall daffodils and crocus, but do take time for a quick read of one or more of these wonderful books. While it is fresh in my mind, may I also recommend three books that are referenced in H is for Hawk: Ring of Bright Water by Gavin Maxwell (about a Scottish river otter), The Goshawk, written by T. H. White (the training of his own goshawk, Gos) and finally, Maxwell Knight’s A Cuckoo in the House (not surprisingly, the story of young cuckoo hand reared by the author from nestling to migration). Happy Reading!!

 

Addendum!! 

Wow! Who doesn’t love a good mink coat? Sleek, elegant, satiny brownish black, perfectly fitted to reveal the slender and lithesome body it so perfectly conceals. Warm and water repellant—makes the wearer look great in any weather! Any girl (or boy for that matter) would revel in the pleasure of wearing such luxurious fur. Yes, dear friends, today I had the first of season mink spotting! Our gloriously attired neighbors reside under the boat dock and I watch eagerly for their reappearance when the weather begins to warm. Today was the day! Now I will watch to see if there will be, as there were last year, a kit or two to frolic among the shallows and scatter the grass with crayfish heads. I can feel the earth warming from here! Happy Spring to you and your furry, finny, feathery friends. Come and visit at the Center—Spring is a great time there too!

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