Octopus' Garden

Sunday, December 31, 2006


All day yesterday cold rain, not enough light in the apartment, and by afternoon, I began to feel trapped. And so instead of escaping from the rain, I escaped into the rain.

December mist and sleet and wet. I was the only one who came to visit the river, and for a few moments, I might have pretended that the river belonged only to me . . . although in the end, even in my thoughts, I always give the river back to itself.

Sometimes in winter, the water's a smooth green sheet of serene jade, but yesterday, in the rain, it rippled, jostled, and splashed in a low-breathed chaotic rhetoric. The planks of the landing shimmered in the wet as if brushed in clear shellac, and the rubber soles of my hiking boots slid uneasily against the wet wood.

As I paused there, I noticed that from the West, the river had shaped itself into a large V, punctuated by a small pulsing line of something, like a blinking cursor, at the very tip or point. As it pressed forward, I saw that it was a muskrat, brisk metronome of a tail rhythmically swinging back and forth . . . tiny, determined thing that looked, for a moment, as if it were pulling the entire river behind it like an old-fashioned photographer's cape. Underneath the landing, the muskrat neatly somersaulted , as if it were a synchronized swimmer auditioning for an Esther Williams film, leaving only an ever-widening circle that was quickly erased by the current.

Locked inside houses, gray days seem colorless, but the rain steeps everything in its own essence so that it becomes even more itself . . . colors deepen, become richer and darker, and contrasts are enhanced like a Photoshop trick, or a tinted lens on a camera. The trees were beaded in bright drops of water, and the leftover dead leaves that still clung to branches looked like artistically-arranged shreds of handmade paper ⎯ all texture and transparency.

My hair darkened from dark brown to black and curled in sopping tendrils against the glistening red nylon of my wet vest. Was I being steeped in wet rain and chill mist as well? Was I becoming even more myself in that moment, I had to wonder?

In front of the suspension bridge, there was an abandoned jester's hat . . . its lavender lamé peaks, purple velvet trim, and red dangling poms a conspicuously incongruous spectacle in this unlikely setting. I was a little bit tempted to take it home with me, but left it instead for another Querant.

The bridge was treacherously slippery, the other side unpredictable with mud and fallen branches, but you know what?

I crossed it anyway.
posted by Artichoke Heart at 8:42 PM | link | 6 comments

Friday, December 29, 2006


1. Last Night's Strange Dream

I'm standing in front of a building, chatting with a girlfriend. We're both wearing our down vests. My Jeep is parked directly in front of me, and there's a yellow parking ticket on the windshield.

"Damn," I say, turning to my friend, "I didn't realize that I couldn't park there."

My friend is no longer my friend, however, but has transmogrified into an Unidentified Male Companion. (Seriously. That's how he's close-captioned in the dream. Unidentified Male Companion.)

I notice that we are standing directly in front of a Stop sign, and there's a rather adorable mouse, clinging precariously to the top of the sign. A fat gray mouse with big eyes and clever feet.

"Is that a titmouse?" I ask the Unidentified Male Companion. "No, wait. A titmouse is a bird. So, wait . . . what I really mean is, is that a dormouse? And what's it doing up there?"

The Unidentified Male Companion shrugs.

"I mean, don't you think that's odd?" I press on. "Very Dante Gabriel Rosetti, you know? Perhaps we should be drinking laudanum, or something, or at the very least, exhuming our exes." (I am, it seems, apparently capable of churning out excruciatingly dorky badinage even in my dreams.)

That's when the dormouse lets out an indignant shriek and leaps onto the face of the Unidentified Male Companion, and proceeds to viciously bite him in the face. I'm absolutely horrified, and have to cover my eyes. (Apparently, I'm more of a Delicate Flower in my dreams than I am in real life.)

Someone appears to intervene, and the dormouse is removed, and when the kafuffle subsides, I apologize to the Unidentified Male Companion. "Sorry I wasn't more help," I tell him. "Dormouse carnage makes me queasy. Did someone help you out?"

"No," the Unidentified Male Companion says rather crossly. "But he did manage to get it all on film."

That's when I notice that there's a circle of onlookers, all recording the dormouse attack on either their cell phones or with hand-held video cameras. One of the onlookers volunteers to play it back for me, and when I look at the playback on the tiny LCD screen, instead of seeing the dormouse attack, I see myself with my friend in the vest from earlier in the dream. We are diffidently sashaying in front of a red, velvet curtain, a la Twin Peaks.

"I can't believe that I don't feel more upset about this," I tell the onlooker, as I watch myself. "Normally I can't stand to have my picture taken."

(Dear Internets: Feel free to leave interpretations in comment box, if it amuses you to do so.)

* * *

2. Strange New Morning Ritual Involving The Bean

AH: [Sleepily and confusedly.] Wha . . .? WTF? What are you doing?

The Bean: [Rigorously grooming AH's belly button.] I'm giving your belly button a bath.

AH: Well, don't. That's just weird.

* * *

3. Strange Days

Um . . . yeah. I think that's about all that I have to say about that.

* * *

4. Stranger Things Have Happened

Tomorrow there will be dancing. And decadence. Hooray for dancing and decadence!
posted by Artichoke Heart at 12:39 AM | link | 3 comments

Monday, December 25, 2006


From the entire staff of Artichoke Heart's House of Wayward Cats & Co. to all of you out there floating about in bits and bytes of electric flotsam and jetsam on the tides of the blogosphere!

It's a gorgeous, sunny day here in SoDak. The coffee is strong and fragrant, and the cats are either snoozing in the sun with their freshly slain crackly catnip toys, or obsessively fidoodling with their brand new rubber super balls. (They like to carry the super balls around in their mouths and then drop them on the hardwood floors and watch them bounce, heads nodding up and down in time to the balls, which makes them look like bobble-head cats, which I think is hilarious.) Dave Brubeck is washing through the bright light of the apartment. I'm getting ready to bake chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, and later on this afternoon I'll go have X-mas dinner with my friend E. and her family. Yesterday, there was a fabulous X-mas Eve party at my friend EB's house. In fact, the entire week will be filled with fun, and frolic, and friends. I love the wonderful incongruity of how, during the darkest week of the year, the lights and the feasting and the shimmer and the friends and the excess of festivus seems all the more delicious and bright.

In the meantime, Nobu, the kitten, would like to personally wish you a Happy Holiday Season by doing an exceedingly silly dance for you dressed up as an elf! (Shamelessly cadged from Corn Shake).
posted by Artichoke Heart at 1:20 PM | link | 3 comments

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


I posted final grades this evening. Amazingly(!) and miraculously(!) the semester has finally come to a close! This semester seemed to go so much more quickly than usual . . . I mean, they frequently zip by at the speed of light these days, but this one went by exceptionally quickly. I think all the autumnal travel, in which I went places and pretended to be my Author Function, may have had something to do with this.

At any rate, the semester sort of felt like a surreal horse race, in which I fell out of the saddle sometime around T-giving or so, at which point I was just being drug along with one foot stuck in the stirrup. At that juncture, excessive flailing around seemed unwise, as if it would just cause extraneous injury, so it just seemed best to say whatever, and steel myself for the inevitable roadburn.

But yay! I'm now officially on X-mas break!

My well-loved and well-used iBook began to crap out on me in various unnerving ways recently (including the advent of a backlight problem which had me pitifully attempting to work on the computer while it was precariously propped up and cracked open in increasingly smaller increments as I tilted and hunched and peered in at the screen). So in a fit of Appliance Betrayal Pique, I ordered up a refurbished MacBook from the Apple store, which arrived this morning. The new MacBook is delicious. There's a built-in webcam, nifty new applications and features, and it's exceedingly zippy and full of the za-za-zoo!

Mostly, I'm planning on a quiet break where I don't have to rush around here and there. I want to get a lot of writing done, read, and take long, long walks down by the river.

But there should be plenty of room for decadence as well, I think. I'm all in favor of a bit of decadence! Aren't you?
posted by Artichoke Heart at 2:09 AM | link | 7 comments

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


of sufficient end-of-the-semester juice to assemble a proper blog post, would you like to see video clips of my cats taken on my cell phone, or would that just be plain embarrassing?

You would, you say? (And yes, I probably should be embarrassed, but that's okay, because mockery can then ensue, and who doesn't like to partake in a good mocking now and then?)

Well, allrighty then.

(QuickTime required)


Nobu and The Bean

Yuki Watching Beverly Hills 90210
posted by Artichoke Heart at 11:07 PM | link | 2 comments