That darn old jigsaw puzzle is still monopolizing our dining table, but we crossed a couple more things off our list of forty.
#34. Read a classic together aloud. It took six weeks and two renewals at the library, but we finally finished Black Beauty. Not what we expected. Jon thought he’d read it as a kid, but soon realized he was thinking of The Black Stallion by Walter Farley. Black Beauty is a horse’s “autobiography” and at first, it was hard for me to look past the writing style of 1877: sentences that drag on for paragraphs and paragraphs that drag on for pages.
Once we realized the book made such a strong statement on animal cruelty, I said, “I wonder if Anna Sewell was trying to do for horses what Harriot Beecher Stowe did for slaves when she wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin?” After we finished and I did a little research, it became clear that I was not alone in those thoughts. With fifty million copies sold, Black Beauty is considered one of the best-selling books and the most influential anticruelty novel of all time. Standard practices for cab horses, in particular, changed for the better following its publication. For me, it was especially interesting to know it was Sewell’s only novel and that she died just five months after it was published.
Never underestimate the power of a fictional story.
And while we’re on the theme of animals…
Although our kids had gone to Narcisse on school field trips, and even our grandsons had visited, Jon and I had never made the two-hour trip. So we teamed up with our son Nate and his three boys (their mother decided she’d prefer a quiet afternoon home alone to mingling with snakes. Go figure.) The weather was perfect and we enjoyed a sunny picnic before heading out on the three-kilometer hike where you can view four different snake pits from the relative security of wooden platforms.
Some say the feelings many women have toward snakes goes back to Eve and the serpent in the Garden of Eden when God tells the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman…” We equate snakes with the devil himself. When I posted this photo of myself holding a snake the next day, the reactions from several female friends were predictable: “I wouldn’t be caught dead,” or “you’re braver than me!” Even my animal-loving mother said she wouldn’t hold a snake for five thousand dollars. I said, “Seriously? For five thousand dollars, I think I’d eat one!”
Properly cooked, of course.
My theory is, it’s not that the snakes are so frightening. We simply hate the “startle” and the speed at which they move when you’re in your back yard and suddenly there’s one at your feet. Or, like the time when I was a kid on my bike and a snake somehow got caught in the spokes of my front tire and flipped up into my face. Not cool. But when you’re expecting to see one—or thousands—the startle factor is gone, and they are simply interesting, harmless little creatures. At any rate, it was a great memory to make with five of my favorite guys in all the world.
Plus, the snake pits gave Jon and me another place to kiss. The kissing list is now up to 22. Eighteen more to go!