Joyce Hinnefeld


Friday, November 12, 2010

Fridays with Jane

Permit me, please, to write a blog post that’s as scattered as I am. Some days, that sense of scatteredness feels almost nice--like today, a (relatively) quiet day. My daughter has the day off from school, and right now she’s home with her dad. I’m in a noisy Panera down the road from our house (we were out of coffee at home, and I need a little computer time on my own). The people behind me are probably in their seventies, and they know more about internet connectivity than I do. It’s a sunny fall day, and I am free until my first commitment at 11:00 AM.

So what I’d like to write about, first, is our cat Jane. Normally I don’t care to write about our pets; we’ve had lots of them, and while we find them funny and interesting, I’m not sure most other people would. But Jane is 18 years old, and we’ve recently realized that she is blind. That sounds strange, but honestly, when a cat gets old and rarely leaves the rocker in your bedroom, you do sort of stop noticing her. We were feeding her, changing the litter, etc., and then one morning Jim just stayed in the room and watched her for a while, and now all three of us periodically stop whatever we’re doing just to stand still and watch Jane negotiate her life. She is a marvel.

She still leaves our room from time to time, and finds her way downstairs. That’s when it’s particularly interesting to watch her. She walks tentatively, bumps into walls and trips down steps, but she makes it. Sometimes in the morning, as soon as Jim or I start to stir a bit, she climbs all over us in bed, crying and banging her head against our arms and legs. It’s wrecking our sleep, but it’s so moving--the way she hungers for contact, and struggles to get it--that we’ve stopped knocking her off the bed to get her to leave us alone.

Lessons taught to us by our cat. I guess I should write that book (“Fridays with Jane”). Probably I won’t, but that doesn’t mean I don’t admire her.

And now for something completely different: This morning, thinking I wanted to write a blog post and having no idea what I wanted to write about, I grabbed an old notebook that I dug out recently, one filled with notes from the earliest days of my work on the manuscript that would become Stranger Here Below. Paging through it on this sunny morning in my neighborhood Panera, pretending I have a leisurely day ahead of me, I came upon a list of names that I copied from something called Biographical Register--Shaker Record, which I apparently found at the Mercer County Historical Society in Harrodsburg, KY. I’ll admit my memory is sketchy here (this was a long time ago). But what fantastic names! I wish I could have used them all. Somebody really does need to use these somewhere:

Elder Freegift Wells

Eldress Hopewell Curtis

Phineas Runyon

Tobias Wilhite

Drury Woodrum

Vestus Banta

Hopson Rose (Junior order)

Alley Hyson (“colored”)

Daphna (“colored”--this name I did use, as you’ll know if you’ve read the novel)

Patience Runyon

Thankful Thomas

Patsy Williamson

Charity Badgett and Salome Badgett

Electa Bayant

Darmus Roberts

Love Montfort

Aren’t these names glorious? Why don’t we give our kids fabulous names like these anymore? (I will say that I volunteered in my daughter’s school library yesterday, helping out with the kindergarten class’s library time, and there is a boy in kindergarten this year whose first name is Wisdom. Wisdom! My hat’s off to that boy’s parents.)

Since I started typing, the people behind me have talked about classical music, a nuclear centrifuge somewhere, raking leaves, the price of gas, and a conference in Princeton.

Maybe it’s the sunshine. Why do I just love the noise that’s all around me some days?

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