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  • Joan Carris

HISTORY

I’ll bet you remember the Carthaginian general Hannibal, mainly because he went to war with trained elephants. That custom ran in the family. His father, Hamilcar, always took elephants to war. We’re talking about 200+ B.C. here, when the Carthaginians fought the 3 Punic Wars against their bitter enemies, the Romans.


Though warlike and stubborn, Hamilcar’s family was patient, repeatedly depending on their elephants to triumph over the dratted Romans, even though history had shown that fellows who took elephants to war NEVER won the war. Never. Hamilcar chose to ignore history and so did his son, Hannibal, who also never won a war with his elephants, although he took 57 of them to the Second Punic War, over the Alps and into Italy.


I’d like to know what the elephants thought of crossing the Alps, but no one asked them. One glance at elephants’ bodies and feet, though, gives us a fair idea of how they viewed mountain climbing.


And so here we are—history and patience and elephants and war and stubbornness all mixed together. Now, in the autumn of 2020, we are at war with an enemy, the stubborn Covid-19 virus, and we pray for patience. Historic medical records dating back to the 1918 pandemic DO give us plenty of information, however. So if we are patient and do what history and modern science tell us, we’ll eventually win the war.


Seems to me there’s an old saying: Those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it. Not humorous, I know, but at this point I don’t care.

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Highly Recommended Reading: (non-fiction)

Elephant Company, by Vicki Constantine Croke

The Elephant Whisperer, by Lawrence Anthony

  • Joan Carris

(10/29/2020)

“Wee, sleekit, cow’rin’, timorous beastie/O what a panic’s in thy breastie.”

~~ To A Mouse by Robert Burns

Aye, Bobby Burns--a kind, thoughtful Scot. In this poem he promises not to chase a tiny mouse with a “murd’ring pattle!” Most of us, though, aren’t kind to mice. We talk about getting rid of them, or doing away with them. People never say they’re going to murder the mice. And long ago, we knew that we had a mouse in our kitchen. He had left wee, round, black turds on our counters.


Yet there is no such thing as one mouse. House mice (mus musculus) come in herds. One female usually has 8 to 10 litters every year, with 6 to 14 pink, hairless pups each time. If we suppose 10 litters a year, each female averages around 100 pups per year. What if our mouse was a pregnant female?


Our Head Assassin promptly put a baited mouse trap in the cupboard under the sink and left for his office. I sat very still and very sad, sipping my tea. I decided that when I heard the trap spring, I would take the poor animal outside and let it go.


But as our poet wisely observed, “The best laid schemes o’ mice and men/Gang aft agley.” The trap sprung, our mouse cried out, and I froze in my seat. The mouse began to moan. He moaned again, and I prayed that he would die quickly. But no. Moan, moan, rest. Moan, moan, rest.


I couldn’t stand it. I—a supposedly superior mammal—had conspired to kill what was probably an expectant mother. I yanked open the cupboard door where the mouse was moaning and reached for the trap. Terrified, it squeaked, jerked itself free, and darted behind the adjacent cupboard. Now it was between the wall and the cupboard. Safe.


I called my friend Barbara, who came with her teenage son, Larry, and Mousie Tung, their professional pussycat. We could all hear the rhythmic moaning of the mouse as soon as I removed the pots and pans from the cupboard where he'd gone.


The husky marmalade cat sniffed the entire cupboard, nosed the back wall for some time, then turned around and planted himself, as if prepared to wait. Larry said, “Unless we tear out the cupboard, we’ll never get that mouse. It’ll just have to die back there.”


And so it happened, as far as we know. Yes, it was just one mouse, but I’m supposed to be a caretaker of our planet where ALL lives matter.

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  • Joan Carris

Updated: Oct 18

I’ve not read a blog, so we’ll have to wing it here. Just relax and follow me into my closet. I can’t remember why I need to be here, but that sort of thing happens as I grow older. We’ll just sit down, lean against the wall, and wait for the answer.

Would you like a glass of wine? A cookie? An apple? Your choice. I have a nice selection in here, because we won’t leave until I remember why we are in my closet, and it’s silly to be hungry while waiting for the answer. That Pinot Noir is particularly nice, by the way.

Here’s how it works. The brains of antique people like me are stuffed with facts and vivid pictures, memories of their first cars, first loves, the taste of peanut butter, the smell of baking bread, the itch of poison ivy…well, you get the idea. It’s all there in the over-crowded attics that we call our brains. And that’s why it takes so long to find one weenie little piece of information such as, Whynhell did I come to this closet? Am I supposed to fetch something, or did I just want a cookie?

The answer will come; depend on it. Meanwhile, I can comfort myself with all of the things I DO remember, such as the opening to Virgil’s AENEID. “Arma virumque cano Troiae qui primus ab oris”…”I sing of arms and the man/ who first from the shores of Troy”--or something close to that.

How about Longfellow’s Village Blacksmith: “Under the spreading chestnut tree/ The village smithy stands;/ The smith a mighty man is he/With large and sinewy hands/And the muscles of his brawny arms/Are strong as iron bands.”

And more Longfellow: “By the shores of Gitchee Gumee/ By the shining Big-Sea Water—” Aha! Water! Rain. I need my raincoat to go out to the mailbox.


So that’s how it works. Relax and trust your brain. Often, wine helps.

Email | joancarris@gmail.com

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