Thursday, March 18, 2021

Cast of Characters: II of V (house tigers)


You may recall that when we lived on Bent Barrow Farm, Fenway Bartholomule was astounded by the fact that we kept little tigers in our house. Those ferocious felines—majestic Desmond and comical Townes—have both sadly passed away, but about four years ago two new wonderful cats entered our lives. 

While we did not know them when they were small, we did recently receive this kitten photo from their first family:

I'll wait a moment while you recover from the cuteness.




Carrying on . . . Milo is a dog in a cat suit, a burly fluff ball, a Saint Bernard with a feline figure. If he were a human he'd probably look like James Corden and walk around in cute slouchy sweaters. He has 9 of 9 lives remaining, and plans to spend 8 of them lounging in bed and 1 of them chasing twist ties under the refrigerator. 

Tiger is a cattish cat, regal and poised in almost every way. He has used up at least 3 of his 9 lives and holds the record in our family for most hospitalizations, both by admission count and consecutive days of inpatient treatment. Thanks to the deft surgical skill and loving attention of his vet, Dr. Reiter, he is back with us to live out his remaining 6 lives in relative peace and quiet (paws crossed)! 

Cats are not the sort of creature I go out of my way to find, but I sure am glad these two found me. There's a certain dignified muleness about them that I can really respect. One might even call them purrfect. 

Monday, March 8, 2021

Cast of Characters: I of V (Doggos)

Humans, meet Bleu. Bleu, meet humans. 

Bleu is diplomacy in action—a real mule among dogs. He came here from Texas in October 2020, seamlessly integrating into the family. He has not yet put a paw wrong, but he HAS put a tooth wrong—he has chewed a TV remote, several leashes and harnesses, two tasty shoes, several couch cushions, and the interior of one Honda SUV. He is now closely supervised most of the time, which suits him just fine and seems to be the solution to his destructive chewing. 

Bleu is half Australian Cattle Dog, half Australian Shepherd—otherwise known as a Texas Heeler. 

Russell, pictured here with the late, great Brodie, is energy incarnate. 

Russell has become considerably more grown up during our lull in blogging. He is now a seven year-old perma-puppy. He has moved from 100% Chance of Stranger Danger Mode to 25% Chance of Stranger Danger Mode, which means he can make friends with—or at least entertain the concept of making friends with—three quarters of the men, women, children, dogs, and hoofpeople he encounters. He remains healthy, hearty, and adorable, and he still counts Prancing, Smiling, and Eating Sand Fleas among his Grade A skills. 

Russell is a miniature pinscher/flying squirrel cross.

Clover has been part of the Brays of Our Lives family since the early days, and she has become a decade older and about 45% chubbier since she joined us at the tender young age of 11 months. She is now about 11 years old.

Do you remember that Fenway Bartholomule mistook Clover for a weasel the first time he met her? And do you remember she used to leap from the ground to my stirrup, and then up into the saddle, when she was a young trail explorer? Now, she is on a strict diet to restore her ability to leap effortlessly from the floor to the couch. 

Clover is mostly chihuahua, possibly mixed with fruit bat and/or meatloaf.  

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

My Muse

When you establish your writing career by channelling a mule, you set yourself up for a dilemma: how to go on when the blogger outlives the mule?

If you're reading this blog, there's a solid chance you found me through Fenway Bartholomule. From 2008 to 2015 or so, he was my muse as we successfully co-authored the blog Brays of Our Lives (the archives live on at You may also know that he died unexpectedly at the age of 23, one day before my 39th birthday. 

I miss Fenway every day—the smell of his breath, the sound of his hoofsteps, the flick of his ears, the warmth of his hide. I also miss the easy flow of banter, the effortless way I guessed at what he might write if his hoofies could use a keyboard. I miss the unique perspective I was able to take when I had his voice in my ear. When I wrote Brays of Our Lives, I wasn't just pretending to be Fenway—I was picking something up and letting it flow through me. I could let it flow now if I tried, but what good is a blog from a dead mule? I'm not sure that's called for now. 

 So how does one continue when one has lost one's muse? I tried telling about life from the rabbit's point of view, but she lacked Fenway's innocence. I tried telling about life from the dog's point of view, but he lacked Fenway's dignity. I tried telling about life from my own point of view, but the human concerns were too present. This was never intended to be a blog about a writer's life, about paying the mortgage, about balancing work and family. It was intended to be a blog about scenic trails, succulent grasses, and the shiny wonderment of being present. That was part of Fenway's magic—he was absolutely unconcerned with anything past or future, and didn't forecast beyond the next flake of hay.  

I will have mules again, and until then I rest in the knowledge that Fenway's friend Arrietty is safe and adored in her long-term care lease home. I enjoy my house herbivores—two guinea pigs named Trent and Kirby—and I save for acreage of my own. My daughters, whom Fenway called the "larval humans", are grown or nearly so, and our life at Bent Barrow Farm is a memory, but the time I spent there as Fenway's "Farmwife" helped make me the person I am today. 

I still have—and love—the day job that brought me from Wickersham to Whidbey, but I sense something else welling up in me—the very strong urge to write about Fenway. I am so grateful for my years with Fenway Bartholomule, and that is a story worth telling. 

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

I dream of writing

Pictured: Bleu, our recently-adopted Texas Heeler (ACD/Aussie mix)

 I've always been a good dreamer, and lately I've been dreaming with an almost exhausting level of detail and complexity. For a couple of weeks now, I've been dreaming about writing books—sometimes my memoir-in-progress, sometimes whole novels, sometimes opening paragraphs, and once an entire sci-fi trilogy (dreamed over the course of three nights). I literally wake up in the morning feeling as though I've written a book, or feeling ready to write a book, sometimes with specific lines or paragraphs running through my head. I think my subconscious is nudging me to get on my writing projects. As a not-morning-person, I'm wondering something: does this mean I should get up earlier and write? 

Also, I woke up Friday morning with some weird affirmation running clearly through my mind: "I am committed to excellence." Not a phrase I ever remember reading, thinking, or saying in my waking life. I went on to have a below-average, not-so-productive Friday. However, I followed it up with an EXCELLENT weekend and now I have an EXCELLENT feeling about adding writing to my daily routine. (And exercise! Excellence calls for exercise.)

These books that want to be written are going to be good.

P.S. I really, REALLY, reeeeaaaaalllly miss my mule boy. I think I have a mule in my future (no particular mule yet) and so I've decided to take back the name "Brays of Our Lives". Notes from the Ark never took off, and I don't know that I'll live in this Ark much longer.