early fortunes, whose enthusiasm, nevertheless, has not cooled with
age, whose spirit of romance is not yet quenched, who are content
to ramble through the world in a pleasant dream, rather than ever
waken again to its harsh realities. We are alchemists who would
extract the essence of perpetual youth from dust and ashes, tempt
coy Truth in many light and airy forms from the bottom of her well,
and discover one crumb of comfort or one grain of good in the
commonest and least-regarded matter that passes through our
crucible"--Charles Dickens, from Master Humphrey's Clock
I feel sometimes as if I live dispassionately in a passionate era. I don't mean the sturm and drang of vivid living, when people fall in or out of situations or loves or political causes or friendships. I mean that so often the rush of day-to-day emotion passes me by.
This has its disadvantages, as on some level I feel more rosencrantz than hamlet, but it spares me the Scottish play agonies of fate and fortune.
Let's take the subject of pets. Over the past few years, I have become a believer that pets should be adopted from shelters to which unwanted pets have been unjustly consigned. Yet I decline to declare guerrilla warfare against pet shops and pet breeders. I tend to like my revolutions to be velvet rather than "Panic in Detroit".
Not so very long ago, I read in the newspaper about an act of dire and despicable theft from nearby Plano Pets, an emporium which sells not only food and supplies but also creatures themselves. A couple came in and purloined a poodle puppy. I learned that said puppy was on sale with a price tag of eight hundred dollars. One of the people allegedly distracted the shop keeper while another secreted the animal and made off with it.
I stopped by Plano Pets on Sunday just before I had lunch. My purpose was not to soak up the ambiance of true crime, but to buy a tropical fish magazine to read while I ate my roast beef sandwich. I found, to my surprise, that a TV camera was planted in the middle of the store, where the owner was being interviewed. He explained that the puppy had been recovered.
The thieves lacked the genius of Professor Moriarity, as Plano Pets turned out to have a videotape of the entire arrangement. Not long after the newspaper ran the story, the young puppy was found, and, I believe, arrests were made. The TV interview talked about the surge of community support the store had received after the incident. I saw how many puppies they had on hand, and wondered if the puppy sale business was improved, however improbably, by the theft and recovery of one puppy.
I felt as if I were in a tableau in which the artist Norman Rockwell had been hired to illustrate Mad Magazine. The scene had that kind of lovable surrealism about it--not the kind of dada thing that makes one want to discharge a gun in a crowd (which, by the way, always seemed to me a discreditable notion). It instead seemed like the kind of place that the Brady Bunch might visit.
In this time of people flinging missiles at kindergartens and children fleeing tanks, I personally think that the world longs for a few more recovered poodles and a lot fewer drowning polar bears. This is why, I think, I'd like a really varied and colorful kaleidoscope. I feel an affinity for things created to be portable, variable things of simple joy.
I went to the dentist today, and the kind hygienist spoke to me gently, as if I were a familiar but welcome Texas orchid on a rainy Spring day, rather than just another fellow five minutes late in need of modest dental maintenance. Such small things make life easier to swallow.
If I go to PetFinder, and enter my zip code, I can find dozens of small poodle-sized creatures who may be had without the need for theft, merely by plunking down a modest fee. This is a world full of strays and foundlings. It's tempting in such a time of huge problems to discount the small graces. But sometimes savoring the small graces is what we have before us--and what, as well, puts some needed lacquer on that thin veneer of civilization we all know so well.
The world is in constant recovery from its own brutality--and our feeble efforts don't change that. But perhaps they change us, a little, and that is reason enough to hope.