My Animal Instincts.

posted in: Day In The Life 13
The Lady Clare, by John William Waterhouse , 1900. [Based on the poem "The Lady Clare" by Alfred Lord Tennyson.] Image: Wikipedia.
The Lady Clare, by John William Waterhouse , 1900. [Based on the poem “The Lady Clare” by Alfred Lord Tennyson.] Image: Wikipedia.

Is that a white deer in the Waterhouse painting up there? Do white deer exist? When I first looked at it, I thought it was a lamb, but I’m okay with the animal being a deer because I made braised lamb shank over the weekend and served it to Mariano over polenta with pan sauce and I’d feel just terrible if I had to look at a lamb after just cooking one up in a pot with vegetables and serving them to a hungry mailroom guy, you know?

Why are you looking at me like that? You have the most amazing look on your face right now. What in the world…?? Did I say something? Did I do something? What’s so interesting about lamb shank? You’d better take a deep breath and just calm down. I’ll tell you more about the lamb shank later if you really want me to, good grief.

Now, then, let me share about one of the marvelous classes I’m taking! The class is called “The Literary Animal.” Fantastic. Here’s an excerpt from the class description:

“This course concentrates on animal as character — either as narrator or designated subject — in nonfiction, fiction, poetry and hybrid forms… We do animal observations, create generative exercises, and take a field trip. We investigate: How does one’s identification of and curiosity about animals inform a text? What are the issues surrounding sentimentality and animals on and off the page?” 

Wow! You should see the reading list.

If you are familiar with my fabric line you know I love fabric with animals on it — not animal print, mind you, which I do not like, but fabric with tiny animals printed on it. When I spy a little animal print in the patchwork of a quilt, the whole quilt feels warmer and more friendly to me, so I put lots of animals in Small Wonders fabric.

Ergo, there are plenty of animals in my quilts — but hardly any in my life. I live downtown. I have no pets. I have not managed to make friends with someone who owns a working ranch (or even a chicken farm.) In the city I see squirrels, pigeons, and the occasional rat, but this is my main connection to the animal kingdom and this is kind of sad. “The Literary Animal” is changing all of that.

My first assignment was to be a “citizen scientist” and observe an animal for 15 minutes, then write down my observations. Guess where I went? Guess what animal I observed? Well, I observed a turtle!! I rode my bike to the Shedd Aquarium and watched a turtle with a real bad attitude for 20 minutes and then I wrote down everything I saw and thought about in my special notebook. I could start a whole new blog about that turtle. I won’t. But I could. Also: Turtles make you think about things that have nothing to do with turtles.

“The Literary Animal” is a graduate-level class; there are only five of us in the room, plus professor Cross. Tomorrow morning, when we all share our experiences and the pieces we wrote, I get to go to the zoo. I mean that figuratively, but in two weeks, we’re actually going to meet at the zoo.

Now, about that lamb shank…



13 Responses

  1. Jay
    | Reply

    You should check out Mike Ctowley’s page here on Facebook. He has pictures of the white (albino) deer on his property in Wisconsin, and they’re wonderful.

    • Jay
      | Reply

      That’s Crowley!

  2. Marianne
    | Reply

    It’s a white hart, I believe.

  3. Susan Skuda
    | Reply

    Reminds me so much of grad school as an English major at an amazing private university. Alas and alack we moved after one semester. When I resumed my education I found myself in Instructional Technology where I remained Now really dear, what ABOUT that lamb shank?!?!?

  4. Heather
    | Reply

    Some of my questions are wildly inappropriate, but one is not–can I have that recipe??? It sounds AMAZE.

  5. Deb Hotmar
    | Reply

    Yes, Mary, white deer do exist! I have seen several white (albino) deer. Take your field trip to Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin and you will see them for yourself!

  6. Paula
    | Reply

    Sure, like we are concerned about the lamb shank!

  7. Pat
    | Reply

    Meal sounds yummy. Yes Mary, there are white deer, albino. I grew up in Montgomery County, PA and a large estate had kept albino deer in the early 20thc. On occasion you can see one.
    Have a great trip to Lincoln Park.

  8. Elaine Theriault
    | Reply

    OH my god Mary – just tell us about the darn lamb shank! By the way, my dog (a Husky has a blog and she’s pretty prolific as a blogger). You can check her blog out at . See, she even has me trained to promote her!

  9. Kathi Bryan
    | Reply

    Yes, Mary, there are albino deer. I’m nor sure I could live without my cats. A turtle just isn’t quite the same.

  10. Denise in PA
    | Reply

    The turtle story is very interesting, but I’d really, really love to hear more about that lamb shank! Popcorn ready…

  11. Lisa E
    | Reply

    Just wondering if there was any dessert after the lamb shank?!

    • Mary
      | Reply

      You are all so observant and curious — just like me! There may or may not have been dessert after the lamb shank. I’ve been working on my souffles and Mariano is more than happy to be a guinea pig. I’ll keep you informed on the results. 🙂

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