I'm a great believer in trying new things. For one thing, one of my great fears is the idea of losing my mental faculties. This is in part because lives depend on my brain being in good working order; my patients, if no one else, need me to be firing on all cylinders. But it's partly because so much of my enjoyment of life depends on my way of thinking about it. So I'm all for anything that keeps my brain flexible. To that end I take up new projects every so often. I took a painting class last summer (watercolor, and produced a reasonable likeness of my dog Finn) and took up Swedish and Norwegian - in part because they're free on LiveMocha. (Who knew that learning to roll my R's would turn out to be so useful?) I took them up together because they're similar languages, and I figured it would be just as easy to learn them together as separately, but I soon discovered a pitfall: Occasionally, when I mean to say the Swedish word, I unexpectedly veer off and go all Norwegian for a second - and perhaps vice versa, but since one of the docs in the clinic speaks Swedish and none of them speak Norwegian, I only get caught when I mess up the Svenska portion of the program.
Important Program Note: Before you all start sending me missives in Swedish (or Norwegian, for that matter), please bear in mind that when I got sick I lost all energy of every description and have done nothing - and here I mean literally NOTHING - with either language since. So naturally I've forgotten everything except "Jag ar kort" and stuff like that. Hardly the raw materials for a scintillating conversation, since stating that I'm short - well, 5'4" - is pointing out the painfully obvious and leaves little room for sensible replies.)
I've heard that one of the best ways of keeping the brain flexible and active is to take up a new language. I figured that it might not be such a bad idea to brush up the old ones, too, so in the interests of keeping the old noggin (and I do mean OLD noggin, since I'm so ancient I am practically fossilized) in good working order, I decided to brush up on my French and Spanish. In pursuit of this, I had an excellent idea (which I shamelessly stole from S at the farm, who I believe may have gotten it from the Penzeys catalogue): To wit, read Harry Potter (or some other familiar story, preferably one geared toward simpler vocabulary) in a foreign language. I soon discovered, however, that my high school French and Spanish classes were woefully lacking, since words like "owl" and "cauldron" and "wand" were for some inexplicable reason not included in the vocabulary. I know! Amazing!
However, evidently there still is not enough sleep in the world for me. The up-side of this is: Mmm, sleep! The down-side is: Falling asleep randomly in the middle of Things That Should Be Quite Interesting, But Somehow Are Not Enough To Keep Me Awake. Therefore, I must put my linguistic ambitions on hold until such time as there IS enough sleep in the world for me, which by my calculations will be sometime after 2017.
For that reason I've been trying OTHER new things, things which do not require much concentration. For instance, this weekend I took Finn to meet a bunch of bitches.
Now here I should point out that these are the "girl-dog" sort of bitch, and none of them is in fact very bitchy. They belong to my friend LK and are actually a rather charming gang. However, LK (who has both a generous heart and a sense of adventure) requested the pleasure of Finn's company for my vacation, and (in order to ensure a smooth transition) invited Finn and I over for a play date ahead of time. Finn was introduced one at a time to his new harem of girlfriends. One of them charmed him immediately by throwing herself in complete abandon onto her back, inviting him to inspect her tummy. Another charmed him by being willing to run and play wildly with him. His other girlfriends are a little more demure, but I think he'll succumb to their charms in the long run - or vice versa.
Meanwhile, Finn - who likes men - was delighted to be going to a guy hangout. Particularly one with many interesting animals and things to sniff and pee on. Mind you, he was perfectly happy to follow LK to the kitchen (there to help with meal preparation). LK asked me if there's anything Finn shouldn't have.
"Well, he's been known to eat plushy toys now and again," I said. We turn to look at Finn, who has, as usual, located every toy in the house by means of some mysterious Border collie radar and has been pestering us to throw them for him. At the moment we turn to look at him, he has a stuffed rabbit between his front feet. He is industriously chewing the stuffed carrot off of it and manages to gulp it down before I can collar him and steal his prize.
"Okay," LK says, with the air of someone crossing an item off a list. "No stuffed toys."
"That might be best," I agree, glaring at Finn (who gives me a happy grin. He loves carrots.)
Meanwhile, it has become time for lunch. LK has made us two different kinds of chili from Dall sheep. It's good. And here what I really mean is it's goooooood. It's tender and tasty and blends beautifully with the spices. This leaves me with (I think) only two species of game mammals native to Alaska that I've not tried: mountain goat and musk ox. So now it's my turn to tick something off my list. Dall sheep: Tried it, loved it, would try it again any time.
We sit in the Man Cave part of the house (which is populated with animal mounts of various descriptions, since LK and her husband are both hunters and, in fact, run a hunting camp in the summer for a varied clientele), and which has some beautiful woodwork in it. It's currently under construction, but there's a comfy couch and some coffee-table-height tables to eat off of, and the door is open to the sunny deck. The dogs race back and forth, in and out the door. We mostly keep the dogs from begging and trying to lick things off the table.
LK, bless her, sends me home with leftover chili (both kinds) and Finn with a leftover garlic biscuit (which he cleverly laid claim to by means of licking the side of it.) At that point I had to digress and tell a story about having once gone to a housewarming potluck at Meryl's place. Someone had brought a loaf of homemade bread which had thoughtfully been sliced. The end slice was leaning temptingly toward the edge of the plate. Too well-behaved to actually steal off the table, Meryl's dog Dancer none the less succumbed to temptation sufficiently to lick the end piece - just once, mind you, before she restrained her gluttonous instincts.
"Meryl," I said, "Dancer just licked the bread."
"That's okay," Meryl said. "We're all dog people here."
My gut reaction to which was: You know, I'd eat something MY dog licked, but I wouldn't eat something SOMEONE ELSE'S dog licked. After which mental commentary I started laughing at myself, because really: WTH? Am I insane, or just stupid?
Personally, since this whole thing is about me being afraid my brain will turn to paper mache` the instant I turn 50, I'm going with "insane".
So there I am, trundling home with two (TWO!) tubs of Dall chili, one slightly-used garlic biscuit, and a tired (but very happy) Border collie. I motor on back to the clinic to release my emergency surgery (who has cooperatively woken up and stopped bleeding from its bitten and formerly-lacerated-but-now-sutured ear). Then I just have time to make dinner at the farm, where we have lamb (yum) roasted in home-made Worcestershire sauce, salad, rice and Cape Cods made with home-made highbush cranberry juice and cranberry vodka.
Ahhh. I like trying new stuff! New stuff is very very tasty.
At this time, Raven is commandeered to come live at the farm and entertain S&R's Border collie, Tessla, while I am on vacation. I see that I have returned to the stage of life where my dogs are more popular than I am, and my job is to drive them places so that people can socialize with them. I really can't mind this, actually; I think anyone who esteems my dogs has excellent taste, so I'm content to play chauffeur and second fiddle.
So now I'm sitting here thinking about doing more new stuff and eating leftover Dall chili (which is, if anything, even tastier after a night in the frige). I am all happy because I made my brain try some new things and that clearly must mean I've staved off senility for at least another week. Maybe longer, given the antioxidant content of highbush cranberries (greater even than blueberries).
And have I mentioned...? Dall chili: Goooooood.