Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Pangur Ban

I often have little conversations in my head – remember, I’m a novelist. This morning as I was brushing my teeth it went like this:

“I had such a great cat.”

“What made it great?”

Pause.

“I loved it.”

Oh. She had her little quirks, and she wasn’t snuggly with anyone but me. And thinking about it, I guess she wasn’t all that more unique than any other cat. (Except, she never did get the being-born-in-the-wild out of her, and she did occasionally take week-long vacations from the house, and…well, I wouldn’t want to bore anyone.) But, when that phrase came, “I loved it,” I suddenly felt a tiny bit of the agape that the Lord God has for us, as ones He created.

Within the relationship of belonging (as the creation belongs to the creator) there is something that makes the belongee exceedingly precious and beloved. I wonder if this is part of how love develops in arranged marriages. It is definitely part of parental love toward helpless, red, and wrinkly little babies when they are born. They are yours, and that makes them more important than any other creature in the world.

I was thinking about Pangur (she was lost into the wilds of Chicago about 5 ½ years ago) because of the cat she was named after: Pangur Ban. Years ago I read this poem, written by an 8th century Irish monk and scribe. Being a writer myself, it fit perfectly:

I & Pangur Ban my cat
'Tis a like task we are at:
Hunting mice is his delight,
Hunting words I sit all night.

'Tis a merry thing to see
At our tasks how glad are we,
When at home we sit & find
Entertainment to our mind.

'Gainst the wall he sets his eye,
Full & fierce & sharp & sly;
'Gainst the wall of knowledge I
All my little wisdom try.

So in peace our task we ply
Pangur Ban my cat & I;
In our arts we find our bliss,
I have mine & he has his.


Last night I discovered that an animated movie has been made about this monk, which is supposedly very good and which is not playing in my vicinity (The Secret of Kells). Which is too bad, as tomorrow is my birthday and I should have very much liked to see it…a movie with Pangur Ban and his monk. (On the movie’s website you can hear a little song about Pangur Ban.)

I’ve always thought I might name her Pangur Ban when I am able to have a cat again. In the meantime, I will just consider this: that it was my love for the first Pangur that made her so special. And that whether or not I am ever satisfied with the words I scribe, it is the love of the Lord God for me that makes me a delight.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Surviving Firsts


I have survived several “firsts”.  Yesterday I was happily minding my own business, reading on the loveseat in the upstairs office and sipping coffee, when it started sprinkling.  Suddenly, the closest thing to a tornado I’ve ever seen came whooshing down, bending the trees sideways and making the air itself gray and difficult to see through because of the amount and speed of the water pounding through it.  The noise of tree branches flying through the air began whacking the west side of the house, and I jumped to my feet, realizing the glass might shatter.  A “micro-burst” imploded car windows at the Dunn Bros. Coffee shop, smashed Ian R.’s house with a tree, flung the 8-foot fence between our yard and the neighbors to the ground, and yes, knocked over the porta-potty at the Red Bridge Road construction site. 

Forward-thinker that I am, instead of heading for the basement, I quickly changed from my pj’s into presentable outside-clothes.  (Please don’t do the math, anyone who happens to live around here.  Sometimes I write late, and rise late :)  My reasoning was solid – sirens sound when a tornado is coming, and so until I heard them, I had time to dress.  And one wouldn’t want to be found by rescue workers in one’s basement just in one’s jammies!  Or have to run to help a neighbor in one’s robe!

Later, when Elizabeth called to make sure I was okay, and said that she and the kids had been huddled in the bathtub, and that their yard and greenhouse were decimated, and that YOU OFTEN CAN’T HEAR THE TORNADO SIRENS IN OUR NEIGHBORHOOD, I realized I had made, shall we say, a “poor choice”.  Why, when I moved here, did no one tell me the wind would be louder than the sirens?!? 

Anyway, “before they call, I will answer.”  God said that, and always means what He says, so I was fine.  Even when I happily tugged down the huge branch that was hanging from the electrical wires heading to the house.

I spent the whole day without power.  Our house has tons of candles – which come in very handy in such situations – and a fireplace that works even when the electricity doesn’t.  I couldn’t open the fridge though, or use the stove, or, with my car locked in the garage, do my needed grocery run, so I subsisted on chips until walking to Elizabeth’s for some take-out Chinese.  Their pine tree has a rip in the earth forming a semi-circle around its root base.  Another minute or so of that high wind, and it would have toppled. Our little few-block-area was the last to be re-lit. The power finally came on after I’d survived the evening, fortified myself against being alone all night in a dark house (with some me-and-a-guitar worship), and snuggled down into bed.  Something disturbed me, and I opened my eyes to find all the lights in the house has suddenly turned back on.  All.

I did get to spend the day writing a chapter of my next novel in longhand.  It reminded me of Perpetua days.  I wrote much of that book without a computer.  And then I got to spend the evening realizing why people went blind in the olden days.  Writing to the constant flicker of firelight is hard on the eyes.

The second “first”?  In need of a kosher sweet wine for a Passover recipe I’m making tomorrow, I headed to World Market, thinking they might have something from Israel.  Nope.  Nor anything kosher.  Sigh.  Did they know where I might find that?  Yes, indeed.  And the very friendly wine-section-employee seemed to take great delight in describing to me in detailed, hushed terms – as if it was a secret between us – where exactly to find:   

Lucas Liquor Superstore!  

Argh!  The closest I’ve ever come to setting foot in a liquor store was the Marine Corps Base Hawaii’s Marine Mart.  The Exchange and the Commissary didn’t carry alcohol, but at the Marine Mart it unapologetically comprised half the stock.  I once needed a burgundy cooking wine and had to wander its aisles in confusion for a very long time before finding some stuffed into a corner.  Cooking wines are not a Marine staple, I gathered. 

Anyway, sunglasses securely fastened, I texted a confession to my sisters (having to peek at the sign to remember how to spell ‘liquor’ – I kid you not) and marched myself into a liquor superstore.  I’m sure I was blushing.  In Chicago, those places are the seedy, gross doors you hurry past while trying not to see the people lingering inside.  The windows are filthy inside and out, their neon signs blinking steadily come snow, rain, or heat.  Drunks with paper sacks wander in their vicinity, and every customer disappearing through those doors brings a sigh of pity to your lips.

I sometimes get a little independent, and don’t ask for help.  But this experience was like being ushered through a war-zone in a bubble.  I wasn’t even through the sliding doors before I realized a man in a red shirt was walking toward me.  “How are you?” he said.  “Can you help me find something?” I answered, not missing a beat.  “A kosher, sweet, red wine.”  And we were off…  It’s a good thing I asked, too.  I have never seen a grocery-store sized warehouse stocked with only alcohol.  Wow.  At the far end of the last shelf he bent over and showed me a few bottles, muttering that he wasn’t very familiar with Passover wines.  I lost all shopping skill, grabbed the two he’d pointed to though I only needed one, and said I would take both.  Anything to get out as fast as I got in. 

I instinctively held them out to him, hoping, I think, that like a clerk at a nice department store he would take them from my hands and carry them to the register for me.  I didn’t want to walk back through those aisles holding bottles!  But he just smiled, oblivious to my discomfort and happy to have helped the customer. 

Seeing as I’d survived two firsts, I went for a third and finally returned the glass milk jars to Hyvee that have been clinking around in my trunk for months.  Turns out, all you do is give them to a cashier. 

On my way home, I discovered that apparently no one has had the guts to turn the Red Bridge porta-potty right-side-up again.