Mute gospel

Party aftermath. #tulips #maidenhairfern

We are going to see Gran this weekend, and Kelsey and Alex are coming to meet us here for the trek to Ohio. We will be in the car more than we will be out of it, but I am trying to see this as a positive thing. When else will we have so much uninterrupted time to talk with the Grays?

“What is a farm but a mute gospel?”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Nature”

Due to various reasons (Dylan Farrow, various other reports and anecdotes about rape, among them), I have been thinking about the rape culture that we live in. And how it is impressed on you, even as a little girl, that you are never truly safe. My default mode of thinking, even now, is to assume that all unknown men are evil (or mostly evil). And that’s how you keep yourself safe. You are always on guard, never trusting, always keeping them at arm’s length or further. Yes, it’s a sad way to live. Yes, I wish that wasn’t my mindset. But it is.

This is why, whenever I hear people say that we don’t need feminism, that the sexes are equal enough, I cannot hold my tongue (or my rage). Are we equal? Ask a man when he last felt afraid to walk to his car in a parking lot at night. Ask a man if he’s ever felt frightened to take a walk by himself. Ask a man when he was last nervous to walk on a heavily trafficked street or by a construction site or by an idling truck, waiting for a barrage of sexual obscenities to be screamed at him. Ask a man when he last had to fear sexual harassment from a boss, a coworker, an authority figure.

Yes, men experience rape, harassment, and violence, too, but I’d wager that it is not a reality that’s constantly lurking in the back of their minds — as it is for women. So tell me: If we were equal, would this be the case? Would rape kits go untested? Would victims of sexual violence be blamed for their actions? Would 1 in 5 women report having been raped in their lifetimes?

I don’t have a conclusion for this rant. I just had to put it somewhere, to file it in a long list of grievances at the state of the world.

It is not pleasant to live in fear. Ask Pyrrha; she knows.

Portrait of a lady. #germanshepherd #vscocam

My heart swells when I think about how far she has come. Come May, she’ll have been with us for two years. And what a different dog she is now! She is still afraid of many things, and she always will be, but this gentle, daily work of teaching her that she is safe and loved has been therapeutic — to both of us, I think. Even when the progress seems infinitesimal. Progress is still progress.

Things I want to do in theory

Source: Itty Bitty Kitty Committee

Here are some things I want to do in theory, meaning, as soon as I actually tried to do them, I would be a.) very mad at myself, b.) tearful, c.) ashamed, or d.) all of the above.

  1. Adopt a cat! (No, not really. Cats, like 50-gallon aquariums, are very nice to look at, but no one really wants to take care of them. Plus, most cats are mean and their poop is making us all schizophrenic.)
  2. Run 10 miles! (Running is for masochists. And it is bad for you.)
  3. Shave off all my hair! (Beth: Are you crying about father? Jo: My hair…)
  4. Grow out all my hair! (Very quickly, I start to look like this. This is also what you get when you type “homeschool hair” into Google image search.)
  5. Live on a farm in the middle of nowhere! (Can I live on a farm that’s near civilization? Do those exist? I’m scared of the darkness in the woods.)
  6. Raise sheep! (Sheep are actually quite gross. Ever tried to pet one? I dare you. If the woolly grease doesn’t get you, the ticks will.)
  7. Take a remedial math class! (I should do this one, but it would make me very much point b, above.)
  8. Train our future dog to compete in agility! (Agility is hard, y’all. Plus, I’m not competitive or aggressive enough to hang with the humans involved in it.)
  9. Re-upholster furniture! (Despite what the Life List says, this sounds like a terrible, terrible idea. I’d rather buy a new chair.)
  10. Do a split! (That is hilarious. Absolutely hilarious, self.)

Happy Friday! Guion comes home tomorrow night! Can’t wait.

Monday Snax

Another busy weekend in North Carolina: Guion backed Daniel Levi Goans at his CD release show in Greensboro, and I was in Charlotte/Davidson, hanging out with my fam and celebrating with Eva and Peter.

Grace was Eva and Peter’s wedding photographer and has just put up some of her amazing photos from their “first look” on the railroad tracks. Check it out.

Quick selection of photos below:

IMG_7021
We took Ally out for a (belated) birthday brunch at The Egg.
IMG_7036
The beautiful, happy bride gets dressed.
IMG_7057
Eva and Peter get hitched! At the Green Rice Gallery in Charlotte.
The cutest child EVER
Thumbnail from phone picture from a home video. Proof that Sam was the cutest child ever to live.

Snax!

“Cruel,” by St. Vincent. New favorite song (I’m OBSESSED) and album. I can’t wait for her concert here in October! This music video is also totally crazy and creepy. (The Fox Is Black)

The Psychologist. Why novelist Vladimir Nabokov may have actually been the greatest psychologist of his time. (The American Scholar)

The Writer’s Voice. A reflection on the experience of hearing a great writer read his or her own work–with links! Listen to the dulcet tones of Flannery O’Connor, W.B. Yeats, Philip Larkin, James Joyce, Vladimir Nabokov, and J.M. Coetzee. (The Book Bench, The New Yorker)

Al Gore’s Excellent Timing. You know all this apocalyptic weather we’ve been having lately? Al Gore chimes in on a reason, and it’s not the Second Coming. These statistics are chilling… or should I say warming? (The Atlantic)

Bookish Illustrations. Lizzy Stewart’s solemn and wonderful sketched book covers for beloved classics. (Wolf Eyebrows)

Meg Gleason: Personalized Stationery. Love these cards, especially the last one in the set of photos. (Design Work Life)

Farm Life. What an idyllic childhood Courtney must have had… Jealous! (Radiate)

Your Wild Horses. Wild, white horses, galloping in the surf? Of course these photos are going to be amazing. (Eye Poetry)

Got a Girl Crush On: Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken. Did this really happen?? Has anyone seen this movie? (Got a Girl Crush)

Pen on Paper: A Defense of Writing. Yet another article about why handwriting matters, this time from The Curator. (The Curator)

Chat History. A true and heartbreaking romance, rendered in Gchat. (Good)

The Dark Side of the Placebo Effect: When Intense Belief Kills. Apparently, if you believe too hard, you can die. (The Atlantic)

Dr. Neubronner’s Miniature Pigeon Camera, 1903. Um, awesome. (How to Be a Retronaut)

Monday Snax

This past week…

Sean, Julie, and baby Phinehas! (Sorry for the blurriness. Dark in there.)

We got to meet the perfectly charming Phinehas Edwards McDermott! Welcome to Earth, new McDermott. We are so glad to have you here.

And I got new glasses, which make me both totally serious AND crazy. I also got shot for the Charlotte’s new style section, which was confirming to me at what a truly terrible model I am. But Sean and Stephanie were super-nice about the whole thing. Thanks, friends.

SNAX:

Liz + Matt. Just some shameless self-promotion: I just finished this calligraphy project for our dear friends, Liz and Matt, and I had a blast doing it. This was my first time doing an invitation suite, which was turned into a fabulous letterpress invitation by the matchless Patrick Costello. A lot of fun! (AFP Calligraphy)

A Reunion with Boredom. Charles Simic discusses life without electricity, reading, and how much he owes to boredom. A thoughtful and lovely piece that will make me strive to appreciate our frequent power outages. (New York Review of Books)

Just Like a Woman. In defense of Jane Austen as a legitimate and important writer, in response to V.S. Naipaul’s remark, which is a campaign that I am 100 percent behind. It’s a little late to be responding to him now, as his comment is kind of old news, but I do wish Austen would be rescued from the plight of being constantly written off as a “chick lit” writer. Thanks a lot, Keira Knightley. (Los Angeles Review of Books)

Findings. My favorites, among the lighter findings surveyed: “Florida could be up to 50 percent older than previously believed” and “Chemists discovered why van Gogh’s yellows were fading.” (Harper’s)

The Slow Art of Tea. A re-posted article from the Curator that talks about one of my favorite daily rituals. (The Curator)

There’s Nothing Like… Even though Tom Wolfe got on my nerves in From Bahaus to Our House, I’m going to side with him on this one: What an unfortunate place to live. (Unhappy Hipsters)

Before & After: Music Room Redo with Custom Shelving. Wow, so THIS is how you can make built-in bookshelves. Going to be trying this one day. (Design Sponge)

Table and Chair, Pen and Paper, Text and Time. If I was an artist, I think I’d like to do what Helga Schmid is doing. (Le Projet d’Amour)

Yaron Steinberg’s Installation, How He Imagines His Brain. Amazing. (The Fox Is Black)

When the Fog Lingers in the Forest. I just keep coming back to her blog, because I want her life. So dreamy, rustic, idyllic. (La Porte Rouge)

The College Ranking in Which a Black School Beat Out Princeton and Yale. And, might I add, UNC-Chapel Hill beat out Princeton, Yale, Duke, UVA… Interesting stuff. (Good)

Eggcellent Living Quarters. Um, can we get chickens, just so I can build them a coop like this one? OMG. The Ritz-Carlton of chicken coops. (Pawesome)

How to Buy Houseplants (Once and For All). I need to people to tell me about these hardy plants, because I am skilled at letting them die. This is a helpful introductory guide. (A Cup of Jo)

Monday Snax

Love
Alex and Kelsey came for a weekend visit!
Sister time
Nothing is better than time with one's sisters!

We had a delightful (if extremely hot) weekend with Kelsey and Alex. They are a lot of fun and I’m so glad they were able to drive up for a few days. We ate dinner, grabbed dessert and drinks at The Local, sweated around downtown, and introduced them to the joys of “Friday Night Lights”–and didn’t want them to leave! In other exciting news, though, Win is moving most of his stuff today into his swanky house in town. Our crafty plan is to get all of our family members to move to Charlottesville… so far, it’s working. A few more photos on Flickr.

Snax with lemonade so refreshing you wish you could just bathe in it:

When All Is Lovely. Oh, nothing. Just pictures of my dream life, that’s all. (La Porte Rouge)

Elmwood in July. Can I live here, too? All peonies and rowboats in the mist? (An Apple a Day)

A Dinner Party. Amazing things like this happen all the time in Charlottesville. Sarah of JohnSarahJohn writes a guest post for The Charlotte about a classy party she threw at the new store on Main Street. (The Charlotte)

A Cube with a Clever Layout. With the help of a Japanese designer, UVA graduate Alison Threatt builds this crazy house in the woods outside of Charlottesville. Featured on the New York Times this past week. (NYT Home and Garden)

Height and Cancer. So, I used to be proud of the fact that I was a tall woman. No more! Because now I’m going to DIE of CANCER. For sure. (The Hairpin)

Molly Stern: On Makeup and Motherhood. A down-to-earth makeup artist to all the biggest celebrities talks about how she juggles her looks-driven career and her children. (Girl’s Gone Child)

Mark Twain’s Illustrated “Advice to Little Girls.” Twain provides some tongue-in-cheek advice to his daughters, presumably. (Flavorwire)

It’s a Bunny’s World. Indeed. Totally getting a precious house rabbit like this lop one day. I wonder how a German shepherd would deal with that… (Pawsh Magazine)

Cats vs. Dogs: Infographic. I mean, clearly, dogs win here. (The Hydrant)

Seeking Redemption One Kernel at a Time. A food blogger says some nice things about much-maligned corn. I concur. There’s nothing so great in July as corn on the cob. (The Sweet Beet)

A Visit to the Chocolate. Where is this? Can I go right now? (Andrew + Carissa)

Riding Bikes While Wearing Skirts. I am also a huge proponent of this practice. Although, perhaps, I am too enthusiastic about it, as I once mistakenly tried to ride my bike around campus in a wrap dress. Yes. I sufficiently flashed the entire student body and not a few significant professors at UNC that day. (A Cup of Jo)

If Women Ruled the World. As a feminist, I’m not supposed to like this, but… it’s funny. (And probably true?) (French By Design)

Sandra Reichl: A Face a Day. Someone should write stories about these people. What a cool project. (Design Work Life)

A Few Things You Probably Didn’t Know about “Friday Night Lights.” For instance, that “Taylor Kitsch earned the part of Tim Riggins by chugging two tall boys in his audition video.” But should that surprise anyone? No. (Flavorwire)

Texas Forever. A meditation on Tim Riggins–in the Paris Review! Love it. And this, because truthfully, we have all prayed the same prayer:

When I lie in bed at night and imagine white-bearded God making his earthly presence known at the foot of my futon, he asks, “And what is your deepest desire, young man?” I say, “Lord of all things, king of the universe, purveyor of rain, and pain, and occasional love, would you be so kind as to turn me into Tim Riggins?”  (The Paris Review)

A Critic’s Notebook: On Meeting Ayn Rand’s Editor at Antioch College. A funny and illuminating conversation with Ayn Rand’s editor. This exchange I particularly loved:

Do you want to know why Ayn Rand’s books sell so well? he [Rand’s editor] countered.

Well, yes.

Because she writes the best children’s literature in America, O’Connor said. The Fountainhead is practically a rite of passage for alienated youth. She writes these epic, Wagnerian things. Where the sex takes place on the very highest plane and it speaks to the kids’ highest aspirations, their youthful idealism. It’s all YA stuff.

In that case, I argued, people should grow out of her, like a phase, they should get over her ideas when they become adults.

This is America, he said. There aren’t many ideas. Ayn Rand had a few simple ones which she believed in fiercely and promoted relentlessly. (The Millions)

Happy, hot Monday!

The Abby alphabet

Remember when you were 12 and you and your friends would exchange e-mail personality quizzes? Or you’d post them on your baby MySpace or Xanga pages? Well, this is kind of like that. Except for semi-grown-up bloggers. (Found at the lovely blog The Lighthouse Keeper.)

The farm! That is one stylized, serious-looking farm. Source: Pinmarklet

Ambition: To live on a small working farm with my husband and raise a few children and a pack of dogs. I would also like to continue my education as a writer and editor, whether that includes graduate school or moving up the publishing industry ladder.

Bad habit: Judging people or things extremely quickly. Flying into microscopic rages when tiny things don’t go my way.

City: Well, Charlottesville, because we love it here, but I think my spirit city is Denver. I adore Denver. I think my body gets a rush of endorphins whenever I remember my summer there.

Drink: Tea, of course!

Education: B.A., summa cum laude, English and Journalism, UNC-Chapel Hill. Currently engaging in wishful thinking about a master’s degree in English.

Food: Mainly fruit. Not enough vegetables, but I eat them daily (lately, we’re into asparagus, kale, potatoes, and bell peppers). I could also live on a steady diet of pasta and cheese.

Justin Timberlake. Source: Bing

Guilty pleasures: Trawling breed rescue agencies for dogs I can’t yet adopt. And Justin Timberlake.

Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina, although I tend to claim Davidson, because it’s more interesting and it’s where my parents currently live.

Ice cream: The Four C’s from Chaps Ice Cream on the downtown mall (chocolate, cherries, chocolate chips). Or anything that involves chocolate.

Jonesing for: A dog! Or an unlimited supply of perfect watermelon.

Pure kryptonite. Source: Pinmarklet

Kryptonite: Puppies.

Lookalike: Hm. I don’t know. My theory is that people can’t really differentiate the faces of women with curly hair, and so that’s why people tell me I look like Emmy Rossum or Keri Russell. It’s just because we all have curly hair. We don’t actually share a resemblance. I wish my lookalike was Gwyneth. Or SWINTON.

Still from "The Royal Tenenbaums." Source: Google images

Movie: The Royal Tenenbaums will always have my heart, 100 percent.

Nicknames: Abba, Shabbage, Shabbarge, Flabby, Shabs, Abigail, Abberini, Abs, Bob.

Obsession: Making lists. Dogs. Reading, reading, reading.

Perfume: I don’t wear it that often, but my sisters got me a bottle of perfume from the Tokyo Milk line called French Kiss. I like it. It makes me feel glamorous.

Quirk: Pulling my ears back like a dog when someone makes me angry.

Regrets: Not being more open-minded and generous in high school.

Starbucks: No, thanks.

Talent: Reading! I can read real good.

225/365
Upper quad, UNC campus. My heart sobs a little when I look at this photo. I want to go back! Source: Me

University: UNC-Chapel Hill.

Vacation: Anywhere in the mountains. We live in the Blue Ridge mountains now, but I still can’t get enough of them. My perfect place is a great field at the foot of a row of folded mountains.

Wine: Malbec or a dry white wine. I still can’t remember the names of the white wines I actually like…

X: X to living in fear.

Years: 23.

51/366
Chapel of the Cross, where we met and were married. Source: Me

Zen: I have a few notions of zen. 1) Outdoors with my husband and my (future) dog; 2) Reading or writing in a room of my own; 3) The Compline service at the Chapel of the Cross.

OK, now it’s your turn. Go! See, isn’t it fun to be in middle school again?

Monday Snax

Long weekends are such a gift! Yesterday, we had the pleasure of joining Andrew and Tara at her family’s farm in Rapidan, Virginia. We played with the beautiful Leah, swam in the pool, and planned our future farm commune. A lovely afternoon, and some more photos on Flickr.

Sweet baby Leah and her mama.
Andrew in the perfect pool.
One of the dozens of breathtaking farms in Keswick. We live in the prettiest countryside.

Oh, and happy Independence Day and a BIG welcome home to Grace, who has finally returned from her world travels! Hallelujah! We get to go see her this weekend and I CANNOT WAIT.

A lot of Snax with a lot of juicy watermelon wedges:

Miss USA: Should Evolution Be Taught in Schools? THIS is the greatest thing I have seen on the Interwebs in months. Tears fell from my eyes. You can’t write this stuff. After you watch that, please also enjoy Mackenzie Fegan & Co.’s hilarious response. (The Daily What and Got a Girl Crush)

When You’re the Breadwinner in the Family. The dynamics of the American family are shifting. Many newly married women I know are out-earning their husbands and yet it’s still a touchy subject. One of my all-time favorite bloggers has a beautiful and honest post about her own experience as her family’s primary source of income. (Sweet Fine Day)

The High Line. A mile-long urban park in New York. What a cool idea; looks like a great place to bike, run, or walk a few dogs. Jenna, from the Sweet Fine Day post above, has some pictures of her visit there with her family at the end of post. (Wolf Eyebrows)

From When Grandma and Grandpa Davis Came to Visit. If you’ve talked to me lately, you know that I’m not into childbearing ANY time soon. And yet I can’t help but melt when I see pictures of grandparents and their fresh grandbabies. Something about that interaction always gets me. (Rockstar Diaries)

America’s Progressive Catholics: Another Side of the Church. It’s not all anti-abortion rallies here. An interesting perspective on the small but growing group of Catholic Democrats. (The Atlantic: Politics)

Top Metros for Same-Sex Couples with Children. Do the results surprise you? They surprise me. Way to go, RTP! (The Atlantic: National)

Palin vs. Bachmann: A Poem-off. The stirring words of the Tea Party’s leading ladies, converted to poesy. (The Book Bench)

What America Looks Like: Variations on the Swimming Pool. A collection of photographs of the various forms of the pool around the country. Some are weird and jovial, others decrepit and haunting. (The Atlantic: National)

The Five Food Groups. Amen. (Little Brown Pen)

Lobsters Don’t Age. Um, hey, God? That’s weird. Why? (Broken Secrets)

Kari Herer. Dark, lush photos of beautiful bouquets. Can never get enough. (Design Sponge)

Better Book Title for Wuthering Heights. Truth! I’ve always thought that about this book, too. (Better Book Titles)

The 20 Most-Watched TED Talks. Will be adding these to my list of things to watch when I feel like killing time productively on the Interwebs. (TED blog)

Monday Snax

Nettles hard at work at the Tea Bazaar on Friday night.

It’s starting to feel like summer around here… We’re going to THE BEACH to celebrate our one-year anniversary (!) this weekend and I could not be more excited. We’ll be gone for a week and it is going to be glorious.

In the meantime, here are some Snax:

The Burning House. What would you grab if your house started burning down? Here, find the photographs of meticulously curated collections of objects that other people would save. Interesting and illuminating. (The Burning House)

John Lithgow Reads Newt Gingrich’s Press Release as it Was Meant to be Read. Politicians get more and more absurd every day. Thankfully, we have people like Stephen Colbert and John Lithgow to mock them. (Daily Intel)

Distinguish the Bears from the Penguins. We are forever indebted to you, Lil’ Wayne. (Snacks and Shit)

Musical Dogs. Black-and-white photographs of dogs and musicians! What’s not to love? (Wanderlusted)

Manul, the Oldest Living Species of Cat. I think that’s one of the craziest-looking animals I’ve ever seen. He looks so curmudgeonly, so irritated that he’s not extinct yet. (Pawesome)

Rejected Book Covers vs. the Finished Product. I love jacket design and art; I find this collection of original jacket proofs juxtaposed with the familiar covers we’ve seen on shelves so fascinating. Sometimes I liked the rejected ones better. (Flavorwire)

Cliff Diving. These photographs are so surreal; they almost look like paintings. (Max Wanger)

Dear It. What a nice thought about “it.” (THXTHXTHX)

Greece. I want to go to there. (Odette New York)

Anna Hanau: A Farmer. This young journalist is completing a cool project in which she interviews 100 interesting people. This week, she interviewed a happy, young chicken farmer in Brooklyn. (100 Interviews)

Feel Like a Kid: Reclaimed Wood Swings. Want. (Re-nest)

The Beauty of a Blooming Orchard. In the words of Fleet Foxes, “If I had an orchard, I’d work till I’m sore.” (La Porte Rouge)

Monday Snax

That is one fresh baby.
Welcome to the world, Leah Catherine! Dear friends Tara and Andrew welcomed this sweet baby on Saturday morning, just in time for Tara's first Mother's Day!

We had a full, busy, and sunny weekend and it was just perfect. I spent most of my weekend around dogs, which naturally made it a wonderful one; I had my volunteer orientation at the Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA, which I loved. I can’t wait to go back there and walk some more attention-hungry puppies! After getting home, I took a two-hour walk with my beloved Bo. The next morning, I walked our rector’s dogs with Mary-Boyce and then we all went to go see the newest addition to our community, Leah Catherine! Such a sweet baby and SO much hair! Tara looked amazing and we are just so excited to get to hang out with her and watch her grow up.

Snax with a bowl of perfect strawberries:

The Princess Party. This is about a week late now, but I just wanted you to appreciate all of the gorgeous details from Cate’s royal wedding-watching party. Didn’t it look amazing? I feel very privileged to have received an invitation. We had such a good, thoroughly girly time! (The Charlotte)

Rainbow Gatherings. I have an abiding fascination with off-the-grid living communities and I love photo series of these groups of people. Photographer Benoit Paillé spent a series of years with people from the Rainbow Gatherings, which happen all around the world. The people are so haunting and unusual; so many of them look like they might have lived a thousand years ago. (Behance)

Super-Secret War Dogs Are Basically Bionic. This is crazy. Titanium teeth!? Headpieces with microphones so they can hear and respond to handlers’ remote commands?! (Daily Intel)

A Mother’s Day Report Card. A day late, but this is still hilarious. “Helping me with math homework: Average.” (Passive Aggressive Notes)

A Mother’s Prayer, by Tina Fey. A hilarious but heartfelt prayer from the funniest woman alive.  “When the crystal meth is offered, may she remember her parents who cut her grapes in half and stick with beer.” (Peonies and Polaroids)

Best Countries to Be a Mom. Is anyone surprised that Scandinavia rocks this list, too? #1, Norway. Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland are also in the top 10. The United States is not. (The Hairpin)

Around the Farm. I’m not going to lie: This is kind of our ideal life. Fairytale, dreadlocked children in a tractor? Homemade biscuits? Chicks in a bin? Bring it on. (Farmama)

House G. A sweet house in the Netherlands that was once an old barn. I’ll take it! (Wolf Eyebrows)

The Art of Disney Animation. A collection of sketches and proofs from old Disney films; makes you appreciate the artistry behind those chirpy little films you watched as a child. (Where the Lovely Things Are)

The Man Repeller on Makeup. Ever since Catherine told me about The Man Repeller, I’ve been hooked. Here the main Repeller herself shares her favorite makeup products. I love her. (Into the Gloss)

Gypsy Queen Marina. The strong brow and the devil-may-care attitude! I feel like she wears whatever the heck she wants and manages to look fabulous all day long. (Tales of Endearment)

This Is How We Do It. All I want is to be invited to one of Brian Ferry’s dinner parties. How magical. You can almost hear the sparkle of conversation in his photographs. (Brian Ferry)

A Beautiful Hair Story. A photographer documents the daily regrowth of her hair after cancer treatments. (Design for Mankind)

Meet Riggins. My friend Megan just got a tiny kitten and named it Tim Riggins, after the Friday Night Lights rebel heart-throb. Well done. (Thoughts from a Nest)

Animals Distract Me

Animals Distract Me, a new film by Isabella Rossellini. Source: Woman Around Town.

Animals distract me. This, the title of Isabella Rossellini’s new film for Planet Green, could very well be the story of my life. It premiered a few weeks ago and, of course, I really want to watch it. Rossellini is busy training her eighth guide dog and making this documentary, a tribute of her lifelong love of animals and a public exhortation for people to realize how their actions affect other living creatures.

I watched the series of bizarre trailers (in which she impersonates a chicken on hormones and an eyelid parasite) and just kept thinking, “I want to BE this woman. Maybe I AM this woman.” I wish. If only we could all be rich, quirky, gorgeous Italian model-actresses…

I think it’s the title, though, that especially resonated with me. What a perfect description of my (now well-documented) condition! Guion certainly knows this is true. We can’t go on a walk without me pointing out every animal in sight: Pigeons, feral cats, skinks, songbirds, squirrels, and dogs, of course always and forever, dogs. We’ll be driving through the Virginian countryside and I’ll point out cows on the hillside. As if they were something novel! As if we hadn’t passed 700 of them minutes before! It’s a problem. But, like my kindred Isabella, I’ve always been this way.

My parents were fairly tolerant of my animal obsessions as a child. They let me get six mice to “train” for a “science” experiment when I was in early middle school. Really, I just wanted some mice because I thought they were cute. I named them all after Shakespeare characters and kept the males in females in separate glass tanks. Then I found out that Romeo was a Juliet and we had a potential population problem on our hands. The parental edict descended and I had to get rid of them. But they were fun for a while. If extremely smelly.

I went through a brief budgie obsession, which culminated in me getting a pair, Monet and Renoir, for my 13th birthday. They were cute and affable and liked to use my fingers as landing perches. However, I was not prepared for the nocturnal activities of such birds. My annoyance with the noise grew and I began to pray that they would die. This is a dark confession for an animal lover. But there you have it. God rather unceremoniously answered my prayers and about a month later, I found Renoir dead on the floor of the cage. I grieved, but not as much as his pretty gay lover, Monet. Monet died of a broken bird heart a few weeks later. We buried them both in the backyard and ornamented their graves with twig crosses.

Spencer was our family rabbit, a large and happy Dutch lop. He was our first true playmate and easily the most tolerant rabbit ever to live. We acquired him from our irresponsible neighbor, who was running a de facto rabbit colony in her back yard, which met up with ours. She probably had anywhere from 20 to 30 rabbits back there and never fed or cared for them. I like to think we rescued him from that situation, even though he could still play with all of his poor half-siblings, cousins, and assorted relatives along the fence line. Dad built him a two-story rabbit mansion in the back yard. We believed that he played hide-and-seek with us. He never bit us, not even once, which is remarkable, considering that we tried to dress him up and smuggle him inside for tea parties.

Then, of course, you know about Emma, my beautiful, intelligent Australian Shepherd that I failed with my teenager-ness. I think she’s the primary reason I want another Aussie; I have this feeling that I have to make it up to her somehow.

My need to lavish affection on an animal has even extended to Reuben. A fish is barely a pet–they’re about as much fun as a plant–but I love this fish. I talk to him in the mornings when I feed him. I think he’s very handsome and I worry about his manorexia.

The other day, during my lunch break, I made a list of all of the animals I wanted to own on our fictional 300-acre farm in the Shenandoah Valley. Here is my ideal menagerie:

  • Pack of dogs, at most four (Shepherds from most regions: Australian, German, and Anatolian. And probably a Great Pyrenees.)
  • One to two cats. (I do not know anything about cats and I’ve only met a few that I’m fond of; I loved Kitteh, my housemate in Denver, for example. Yet I probably shouldn’t be allowed to get a cat because I think of them as purely decorative beings. Cats are so elegant and pretty and they go with everything! If I got cats, they’d probably be functional barn cats.)
  • Two to three bunnies. I love bunnies!
  • A flock of finches or two budgerigars for the parlor. It’s only proper.
  • Goats for lawn control and cheese.
  • Sheep for the dogs to guard and herd. And for wool. And lamb kebobs.
  • A llama. For inter-species friendships with the sheep. And because they’re super-soft.
  • One handsome Jersey cow for milking.
  • If we suddenly inherit millions, two horses. For riding around the property and for brushing. Haven’t gotten over My Little Pony yet.
  • Chickens. Guion will probably make me get chickens. I have no interest in them, but I think I could learn to love them.

This list has the potential to grow. Consider yourself warned, husband.

I am finally going to my volunteer orientation at the Charlottesville SPCA this weekend and I could not be more excited. It’s absurd. I was talking to Emily yesterday about her life and she’s talking about huge things like her career and moving to the West Bank for six months and she’s all, “What’s the big thing in your life right now?” And I’m just, “OMG, I’m going to the animal shelter!!” No comparison in the magnitude of these life plans.

But there you have it. Animals distract me. That’s all I really need to say.