Thursday, February 10, 2011

Life sort of resumes

The aunts are both safe and well.  Yasi did lots of damage, but only one death (and that one a candidate for the Darwin Awards), which is pretty impressive.  We had a brief and violent storm come through which was pushed way down south by Yasi - two of the big gum trees in the reserve bent over and snapped under the winds.  The magpies will need to build new nests.  Bad bushfires in Western Australia, but (without wanting to make light of them) bushfires are a normal part of summer in Australia, and it was started by accident. Oh dear - trust me, that phrasing was inadvertent, but it's one of those days when the right words are hovering just on the periphery.

And I find words endlessly fascinating.  I have a range of dictionaries (mostly from the UK) back to the 1740s.  They only take up a couple of shelves, so I wouldn't say I'm obsessive about them. I haven't read the full version of the OED, but I have read that particular book (Reading the OED, Ammon Shea.  Absolute hoot). But it is wonderful tracing a word through them, seeing how it changes.  Or just flicking through and then a word catches the eye.  Or I finally decide to look up a word whose meaning I've been guessing from context.

Slightly bizarrely, the last word looked up was pastern.  I needed to describe Winston's white markings - and he has white below each knobbly sort of knuckle thing just about the wrist/ankle.  So when you watch from behind, there's a definite flick to each movement of his paws. Fatal if they have poor movement.  I can see it, I know exactly which bit I'm referring to, but surety about the precise word has me delving into Harold Spira's Canine Terminology.  Maybe not quite a standard dictionary, but a technical dictionary is a dictionary none the less.

(crummy photo but hey, must be quick before Winston decides I have to pay him attention)
You can just make out some of the white foot business.  Actually you can see it better on Fearghus' paws. Paws are amazing.  Seriously.  If you have a dog (or a cat, guinea pig, ferret...maybe not a chicken.  Chicken feet are something else) check the paws out.  Quite apart from the fact that they now get used to having their feet handled which is excellent when clipping nails or checking for grass seeds, there is the incredible softness between the toes, the wonderful arch of the toes themselves.  And a beguiling tendency to pat you with a paw.  The tenderness I have to use for Bonnie with her arthritic joints.  The alternate flopping of feet that you can do when the dogs are relaxed.  At least, you can do it until they look at you as if you are dotty.

Life needs more of that kind of dottiness in it.

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