One of my wonderful colleagues at Vermont College of Fine Arts is a dog lover. I mean a REAL dog lover, and yes, Leda Schubert, we all know I’m talking about you. Some of my other wonderful colleagues are cat lovers….REAL cat lovers. And this week, an amazing thing happened with Leda’s approval and support: The dog lovers among us agreed that the cat lovers probably loved their cats as much as we love our dogs. We decided we had room in our hearts for both bow-wowers and meowers. It was an AHA moment.
Of course, something else happened this week that was amazing: We had a national election. After the dust settled, much earlier in the evening than anticipated, President Obama was named the winner. The pundits (ready for a long night of conversation about campaign strategies before the election was called) suddenly had quite a bit of dead air space to fill. I began to hear talk about “working together.” The words “cooperation” and “compromise” came up often.
What a nice thought. Let’s put the phrase “obstructionist Congress” behind us and let’s admit that though we might look on people of the opposite political party with a jaundiced eye, when it comes down to it we all do love our pets, whether cats, dogs, turtles or guppies (of course, there are a few loonies who own and love boa constrictors, metaphorically speaking…I’m not sure I have room in my heart for those.) Is it possible that some recognition of commonalities will keep us from falling off that fiscal cliff everyone is talking about? Will we finally be able to agree on a few things instead of fighting like…like…oh, just say it… cats and dogs?
Meanwhile, I have this poem by Eugene Field (1850-1895) on my mind. As with many lessons we learn on the path to responsible behavior as neighbors and citizens, it comes in the form of a poem for children. I might send it to my Congressman (no, I don’t need to, because my Congressman is Jim McDermott and he doesn’t need reminding about how to represent me, he’s been doing it perfectly for the last couple of decades, and I salute him.) So – here’s the poem. I share it with you now as a person who writes poetry for children, as a person with an interest in politics and American culture, and as a person who will keep her fingers crossed that the next four years will be better (in terms of lawmakers working for community and the common good) than the last four. The poem might indicate I’m pessimistic, but I’m not. Calico fur and gingham fur has been flying, but we’ll be okay. I’m feeling hopeful.
The gingham dog and the calico cat
Side by side on the table sat;
‘T was half-past twelve, and (what do you think!)
Nor one nor t’ other had slept a wink!
The old Dutch clock and the Chinese plate
Appeared to know as sure as fate
There was going to be a terrible spat.
(I wasn’t there; I simply state
What was told to me by the Chinese plate!)
The gingham dog went “Bow-wow-wow!”
And the calico cat replied “Mee-ow!”
The air was littered, an hour or so,
With bits of gingham and calico,
While the old Dutch clock in the chimney-place
Up with its hands before its face,
For it always dreaded a family row!
(Now mind: I ‘m only telling you
What the old Dutch clock declares is true!)
The Chinese plate looked very blue,
And wailed, “Oh, dear! what shall we do!”
But the gingham dog and the calico cat
Wallowed this way and tumbled that,
Employing every tooth and claw
In the awfullest way you ever saw—
And, oh! how the gingham and calico flew!
(Don’t fancy I exaggerate—
I got my news from the Chinese plate!)
Next morning, where the two had sat
They found no trace of dog or cat;
And some folks think unto this day
That burglars stole that pair away!
But the truth about the cat and pup
Is this: they ate each other up!
Now what do you really think of that!
(The old Dutch clock it told me so,
And that is how I came to know.)