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Yesterday and the day before: was there ever a worse weekend in America?

1.     Over 100 million people in 30 states are trapped under a heat dome that has been baking them at 115 degrees for the past 15-20 days. It got so bad here on Long Island at Top Cat Manor that for the first time in the eight years that I’ve been hanging out in this 100-year old house, we turned on the dining room air conditioner (the only unit in the place) and have spent the last two nights sleeping 10 feet from its heavenly refrigerated breeze. (It only goes on at 11pm, and goes off at 3am. I am not going to have the extinction of the polar bear on my conscience.)

2.     Our quality of life, having been on a slow skid for the past generation, is heading for its final demise while our elected representatives debate over the best way to totally destroy it: by defaulting on our debt? By bankrolling the oil industry? By making sure that every millionaire gets his pick of private plane? By shoveling money into a broken social welfare system? By turning us into an economy and a culture that is only good for fighting unwinnable wars under the guise of protecting an American way of life that is rigged from the get-go?

3.     The local water supply, according to a notice we got from the municipality, is not fit for consumption. We are advised us to boil our water unless, that is, we want to drink a good dose of human crap in our iced tea.

4.     A man from the most peacable nation on Earth decided he has the right, as  male-type humans tend to take for granted, to take out his piddling rage at the tide of history by killing 92 innocent countrymen.

5.     A gifted young artist with all the accolades and success that thousands of her peers will never come close to achieving decides to throw her life away at age 27 — a choice that 80 teenagers from Norway will never get the chance to not make.  Not to mention the thousands of young men and women in the US armed forces who are sweltering after the measly economic opportunities that active duty offers, some of whom (it’s certain) will never get the chance to lay eyes on 27.

I was sitting on my patio, having my morning tea in the numbingly still, threateningly warm air. It was 86 degrees at 7:30 am and I was already exhausted by the weather, the news, and the future.

If it weren’t for the fact that one of my outdoor cats had got into a feud with the rest of the pack, I would probably still be sitting there in my misery. But Dudley was menacing Bibs, who was lording over the breakfast buffet that morning, and I had to go chase Mr. Duds down and get him away from the battleground and serve him a bowl of kibble under the rhododendron tree.

That’s where I found my sanity.

Do you see it?

That’s because it’s a tiny bit camouflaged, lying in wait (being aerodynamically designed to land up-side down). Raisons d’etre tend to fall into your life that way.

Let me turn it over for you:

It’s a Blue Jay tail feather, the center tail feather — the one around which the bird’s symmetry is arrayed.

No scientist would have the nerve to invent such a thing, the way its form and pattern meshes so effortlessly.

No artist would dare invent such a color, a cool steel-blue that shimmers hot turquoise like a flash of lightning.

This is the kind of miracle that you only get in nature, as a gift, just for paying attention,on this planet that seems determined to kill itself with sorrow.

In the quantity of joy this Blue Jay feather brought me on the morning that I found it under the rhododendron tree, this little little occasion of beauty and surprise, the world was redeemed. At least for the day. Well, at least for the rest of the morning.

Dudley did OK, too; he got breakfast, and nosed around with me under the rhododendron tree, and pushed his head through a cobweb.

It stuck on his forehead, and last I checked, he was still ignoring it. (Cobweb? What cobweb?)

Update as of 11:35: I just checked up on Duds and his face is back to normal. I just checked up on myself, and I’m celebrating with all the New Yorkers who are celebrating Marriage Equality on its first day as law! Over 675 weddings all over the state – because when it comes to the human need to find one special person to share your life’s ups and down with, we are all birds of the same feather!

PS. Carol Gillott, who writes the lovely blog called Paris Breakfasts, is taking a watercolor class in Maine this month and posting her lessons at Check it out to watch real painters at work – or just to gaze longingly at people who are so chilly IN JULY that they have to wear SWEATERS.

11 comments to When the going gets tough.

  • Mary

    I’m looking at poor, ferel, hard-knocks Dudley. He looks like he needs a good meal ( HAH) That cat is doing very well, I can see.

    I re-read July and August in WWCTR yesterday. You hit it right on, with descriptions of hot weather.
    Even with the pain of the heat, you saw, and STILL find beauty.
    Your book is still meaningful, and WILL be, years from now. I’m suggesting we all re-read those chapters. We can’t go out in this; might as well read. Especially, the book that brought us all here to

  • august

    The way things are going, you’re gonna need a BB gun and a whole flock of bluejays to keep yourself sane.

    And your link’s wrong, it’s with the ‘blogspot.’

    My cat was gone for five days, and I thought I was finally rid of her, but she marched in last night, yowled complaints for 15 minutes, stuffed her face, and headed back outside. It’s like we’re married.

  • barbara

    Loved your post. and although scary weather, economy, illness is all around, you remind us to look for nature’s beauty, sometimes right under our noses. it does wonders.
    this may be the paris link..

  • Mary

    I was wrong. !!!sheesh —

  • Nadine

    Marriage equality in New York State was the only bright spot in a dismal weekend.

    And thank you, August, for sharing the correct URL. “Too cold and too windy” to do an outdoor crit? In July?

    Ironically, the New York Times has a front page story today about how common it is for rich folks use private planes to ferry their rich kids to rich-kids camps in Maine, and how happy all those rich people make Maine’s Tea Bagger gov.

    Maine, by the way, ranks in the top 10 states in its percent of households receiving food stamps and Medicaid spending per capita, and state and local taxes as a percent of personal income. Yep, Maine voters rejected marriage equality but approved a Tea Bag.

  • Rachel

    I am just thankful for that feather, the rest of it is so depressing that I refuse to watch and listen. Three cheers for NY, the newest wedding state. I wonder how the *powers that be* will try to punish NY for this action? There will be federal consequences is ways that the congress seems to specialize in. Enough, enough, going out looking for a feather.

  • Ah yes, some needed perspective here. I’m not too up to date on the US stuff and it’s nice and cool here in France but the Norway violence really saddened me. Thanks for the distraction…

  • Jeannie

    The Blue Jay feather is so beautiful. There are times I want to run away to a deserted island and be with nature – away from the insanity. There are a lot of people in Washington DC who need a slap upside the head, or a return to kindergarten to learn how to play nicely with others.

  • Susie

    Getting right to the most important burning information – How do you know it’s a center tail feather? That’s pretty spectacular to know that, I thought they were kind of more or less all the same…we have family of crows who stops by(they do live in families) and I find these whopping black feathers in the side yard, every day. (along with whopping poops) I wonder, do they have a center tail feather, too?
    Pretty cool!

  • Deborah

    Love the feather, but the cobweb catface did it for me! That “yeah, I meant to do this” attitude is one of the great things about cats.

    I had my own nature’s respite yesterday. There’s a house we drive by every day that has a corral containing a horse and two miniature donkeys. A couple of weeks ago, we noticed that one of the donkeys was in a separate pen. . . with a baby (we hadn’t noticed she was pregnant!) Yesterday as I drove by, I saw that mom and baby were in the big pen, and the baby was gamboling. The sight was so unexpected, the baby so exuberant and awkward, it made the world seem just so very right for that brief moment; and my eyes were a tad moist as I sent out a thank you to the universe for letting me be in that exact place at that exact moment.

  • Shelley

    Dudley is totally rocking that cobweb! It’s absolutely what all the well-accessorized cats should be wearing this summer, and he knows he’s cool!

    I discovered that also works (instead of “breakfasts”). Thanks for sharing that link – what wonderful watercolors!

    Thanks for that beautiful close-up of the bluejay feather. There’s nothing like the perfection of nature to restore a bit of peace and sanity is there?

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