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20 adoptable senior dogs who are seasoned pros at friendship

Image: petfinder/bob al greene/mashable

Forget Shark Week, it’s Bark Week on Mashable. Join us as we celebrate all the good dogs, which we humans do not deserve.

“Ask not what you can do for a senior dog, but what a senior dog can do for you,” JFK (not really, but the sentiment is true).

Senior dogs are adopted at a rate lower rate than dogs of all other ages combined, according to a study from the ASPCA. But older dogs make for loyal and calm companions for anyone who wants to skip the energetic, messy puppy stage.   

Shirley Braha, the human who adopted Instagram-famous Marnie the Dog as a senior pup explains why you should consider older dogs when looking to adopt: “Senior dogs are usually pretty chill and just grateful to have a safe place to call home and a human to give them lots of love,” Braha says in an email. 

“When you save a senior dog from a shelter, you’re rescuing them from what is often a very traumatic experience, and sometimes, sadly, with an even darker fate. You get to swoop in and be a superhero while benefiting in completely selfish ways too because now you have an awesome animal friend.” 

So if you’re ready to add a graying fuzzy face to your home, we worked with Petfinder to find 20 senior dogs from all over the U.S. who need homes. (Even if you’re not looking to adopt, scroll through for an instant warming of your feels.) 

From the toothless to the devastatingly handsome, these furry charmers just want we all want — love, treats, and a good place to nap.

1. Kitty 

Image: petfinder

Location: Vintage Dog Rescue, Colorado

This little lady is a nearly toothless, 12-year-old shih tzu who would make the perfect companion for weekends on the couch watching Netflix.

Kitty might sound like the name of a wealthy divorcee who sips champagne with every meal, but this senior pup is quiet and down to Earth. She came to the Vintage Dog Rescue after her human died a few years ago. 

2. Erma

Image: petfinder

Location: Old Dogs New Digs, Portland, Maine

Gaze into the thoughtful eyes of Erma and just try not to be captivated. 

The cattle dog and chow chow mix was found as a stray in Georgia and has since relocated to the coast of Maine to a foster home where she enjoys walks and charming humans with her expressive face.

Just look at this smile:

Image: petfinder

3. Espresso 

Image: petfinder

Location: Muttville Senior Dog Rescue, San Francisco, California

A scruffy look with a sweet demeanor, Espresso is a shot of joy.

Espresso’s underbite means her teeth stick out from the patch of grey hair, giving her a grizzled look not unlike that of a life-long fisherman. But all Espresso wants is to curl up on your lap or soak up the sunshine in the park. 

4. Buddy

Image: petfinder

Location: Muddy Paws Second Chance Rescue, Council Bluffs, Iowa

Need a positive influence on your life? Consider Buddy, who loves Brussel sprouts and dancing. 2018 is the year of self-care after all. 

Buddy himself is a self-improvement inspiration after coming into a rescue overweight at 15 pounds. He’s working toward a healthy goal weight, but never brags about it because he’s not much of a barker. He likes chilling out in his pet stroller or in a doggy carseat, and taking long naps (relatable).  

5. Boone

Location: Gateway Pet Guardians, St. Louis, Missouri

Boone has swagger. And he knows it.

Boone is a suave terrier mix with a slight limp that doesn’t stop him from strutting around the neighborhood. 

6. Henry

Image: petfinder

Location: Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society, Santa Fe, California

Handsome Henry calls Santa Fe home, but he’d love to be a part of your home. 

Henry was surrendered after his human could no longer care for him. At 11-years-old and with a salt-and-pepper coat, he’s a senior gentleman who still knows how to have fun. 

7. Wheezer

Image: petfinder

Location: Senior Dog Rescue of Oregon, Philomath, Oregon

“Woo-ee-ooh, I look just like a pug mix” – Wheezer, probably.

This “pug-something” likes to start his day with a little massage to loosen up his arthritic hips, then he’s ready to tackle the day by doing something fun like wandering around the yard or snoozing in his doggy bed.

So adopt Wheezer and say, “Woo-hoo, but you know I’m yours, Woo-hoo, and I know you’re mine.”

8. Fletcher

Image: petfinder

Location: Powell Animal Welfare Society, Powell, Ohio

A smile that could charm even the coldest of souls (read: cats). And the fiercest ear floof on the block. That’s 10-year-old Fletcher. 

This chow chow mix gets along with kids, dogs, and yes, even cats and is both house and crate trained. 

9. Checca

Image: petfinder

Location: Liberty Humane Society, Jersey City, New Jersey

If you already have a dog who is in need of a BFF, Checca could be ya boy. 

Checca is 60-pounds of friendly doggo who has made many human and dog friends since coming into the Liberty Humane Society as a stray. Even though he’s considered a senior pup at age 10, he still loves playing with toys like an exuberant puppy. 

10. Tommy the Tank

Image: petfinder

Location: Professional Animal Worlds H.A.L.O. Rescue, Sebastian, Florida

Don’t let Tommy’s wheelchair worry you — he zips around just fine with his wheels. 

A tumble off a sofa nearly killed Tommy, but a veterinarian was able to save him and now he just wants to roll into your heart and your home. He loves cuddles and shows his affection with wet doggie kisses. 

11. Lala

Image: petfinder

Location: Atlanta Humane Society, Atlanta, Georgia

Lala came from a big family of dogs that got to be too much to handle for her humans. She’s looking to settle into a smaller family that can help her come out of her shell. She’d do well with other dog friends because who doesn’t need someone around who really understands you? 

12. Potter (and Olive!)

Image: petfinder

Location: Senior Dog Sanctuary of Maryland, Severn, Maryland

A mother-son duo who would love to top your cuddle pile. 

It’s actually quite incredible that this Yorkie pair can squeeze such big, loving hearts into such tiny little bodies.

13. HoneyBear

Image: petfinder

Location: Lily’s Legacy Senior Dog Sanctuary, Petaluma, California

HoneyBear would love to be your devoted honey.

She’s currently working to gain some weight after entering the Lily’s Legacy Senior Dog Sanctuary underweight after her human experienced health problems. She’d love nothing more than to become a devoted doggo companion in a forever home with or without other dogs. 

14. Cosmo

Image: petfinder

Location: Jefferson Parish Animal Shelter East Bank, Harahan, Louisiana 

Oh, Cosmo. Sweet, sweet Cosmo. 

Cosmo was surrendered by his owner but is now reaching his paw out to you (really, he’ll shake your hand), if you’re looking for a sweet boy. Cosmo has some vision and skin problems, but he’s 75 pounds of sweetness. 

15. Bear

Image: petfinder

Location: Williamson County Animal Center, Franklin, Tennessee

Bear is a photogenic stunner, but it’s not just skin deep beauty for this good boy. The 10-year-old shepherd mix is an inquisitive pup, who loves to explore and curl up for cuddles. 

He does well on leash walks (which, of course he wants to show off that face) but will also take a spin around the backyard on his own. 

16. Roxie

Image: petfinder

Location: Bedford Humane Society, Bedford, Virginia 

No, Roxie is not wearing eyeliner, she’s just naturally smoldering. 

Roxie spent most of her life working as a therapy dog at an assisted living center for the elderly, but now this elderly lady would like to find her own retirement home. She’d make a calm and loving companion for an older human, but also does well with other dogs and kids.

17. Pixie Willow 

Image: petfinder

Location: St. Louis Senior Dog Project, Saint Louis, Missouri

Pixie Willow knows she’s cute. And she is.

The Chinese hairless and long hair chihuahua mix weighs only 5-pounds but she has a big, feisty personality. She’ll be your little shadow and only asks for love and playtime in return. You might even get a big smile in return.

Image: petfinder

18. Semperr

Image: petfinder

Location: Cheshire Abbey, Jackson, Mississippi

Semperr is a three-legged Akita mix looking for the right human to give him the devoted attention he needs. Semperr loves to give hugs with his remaining front leg, but would need a home without children or other alpha dogs.

19. Ducky

Image: petfinder

Location: Gray Mutts Rescue and Sanctuary, Clifton, Texas

Who’s a fuzzy-faced good boy? WHO? Ducky is, for sure.

In that bowtie, Ducky obviously wants to up your style game. And you should listen to this 5-pound,  wire-haired, apple-head chihuahua.

20. Deuce

Image: petfinder

Location: Forever Loved Pet Sanctuary, Scottsdale, Arizona

Deuce is 11-years-old, but runs around his temporary home with the excitement of a much younger dog. Despite the high energy he shows when taking a lap in the doggie run, he’s also a maintenance, smart fellow who was found as a stray. 

He came to the dog sanctuary as a stray and has since charmed all the volunteers who work with him. If you’re looking for a furry friend who loves back scratches and rolling around in the great outdoors, Deuce is for you. 

If you’re still looking for a senior dog to add to your family, there are plenty of graying and wise dogs who would love your love. 

WATCH: Marnie the Dog recreates memes

Read more: http://mashable.com/

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Michigan town elects cat Sweet Tart McKee as mayor

The results are in, and Omena, Michigan, has a purr-fectly new mayor.

Sweet Tart McKee the cat was elected mayor of the small village with a population of about 300 people. Diablo Shapiro, a dog, was selected as its first vice mayor.

The Omena Historical Society organized the election, which it uses as a fundraising opportunity with a $1 fee to vote, according to the Detroit Free Press. More than $7,000 was raised this year, and election officials believe outside votes were cast.

Punkin Anderson-Harden, a dog, was elected as second vice mayor, and goat Harley Jones serves as press secretary. Penny Labriola was appointed special assistant for fowl issues, a position she certainly is qualified for, as she is a chicken.

Sweet Tart, who was home schooled, previously served on the Omena Village Council and as vice mayor of the village.

While she can be a little shy, Sweet Tart, 9, wanted voters to know she isn’t stuck up, her campaign profile states. The dynamic between her and Punkin could be tense, however, as the young pup admitted her biggest pet peeve is cats who won’t play with her.

Sweet Tart is expected to appear at certain events and meet with neighboring mayors, the Detroit Free Press reported. She is the fourth mayor of the village and will serve a 3-year term.

FOX NEWS MIDTERM ELECTIONS HEADQUARTERS

“I represent the best of Leelanau County with the Sweet and Tart cherries,” she said in a statement, adding that she’s had experience governing and supervising her own household.

During the campaign, Penny’s controversial past was brought to light. The chicken, who was laid in the U.S., said she stole food from her sister’s mouth before.

It was also revealed Harley is not a lifelong Michigander; he was actually born in Missouri before he moved to the Wolverine State to pursue a career as a show goat. He also admitted to fathering multiple kids with two different women.

“I couldn’t help myself,” he said in his campaign profile.

Any living pet is able to enter the mayoral race as long as he or she lives in Omena, north of Traverse City, or the “Greater Omena” area. 

Kaitlyn Schallhorn is a Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter: @K_Schallhorn.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/

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The Michigan village where the mayor has 4 legs (and it’s been that way for over a decade)

(CNN)A Michigan village’s newest mayor just beat out 17 other candidates for the job — and she’s only 9, with six years of political experience already under her belt.

No, really — she’s a cat.
Sweet Tart was inaugurated Saturday as the fourth mayor of Omena, a small village about 25 miles from Traverse City. It has a population of about 300 — not including its four-legged residents.
    Furry friends have been the village’s ceremonial mayors for over a decade, CNN affiliate WPBN reported. As an unincorporated village, Omena does not have its own government, and the elections are run by the Omena Historical Society.
    The rules of the race are simple: Whichever candidate gets the most votes wins. Each vote costs $1 and goes toward the historical society’s endowment fund.
    This year’s election raised more than $7,000 — its largest total yet, said Keith Disselkoen, the society’s president. He said allowing people to pay through Paypal helped bring in a lot more votes, including from people outside the immediate area.
    It’s possible that Sweet Tart’s years of experience helped her get elected. She served on the Omena Village Council from 2012 to 2015, and she’s been vice mayor for the past three years.
    “I represent the best of Leelanau County with the Sweet and Tart cherries,” her campaign bio says.
    While her long list of opponents can’t call themselves mayor, they all still got places on the village council.
    Runner-up pup Diablo Shapiro is Omena’s first vice mayor (but when it comes to his own living room, he rules). The second runner-up, 4-month-old Punkin Anderson-Harder, was elected second vice mayor while being potty trained at the same time.
    It’s not just dogs and cats, either. Omena’s press secretary is goat Harley Jones, and chicken Penny Labriola is “special assistant for fowl issues.”
    But not to worry — they shouldn’t face too many issues in their three-year roles. As mayor, Sweet Tart won’t have to make a lot of tough decisions, and she probably won’t have to sign anything. But if she does, she won’t need a pen.
    “We accept paw prints. So legal documents can be executed with a paw print,” Disselkoen told WPBN.

    Read more: http://edition.cnn.com/

    adminadminThe Michigan village where the mayor has 4 legs (and it’s been that way for over a decade)
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    Behemoth, bully, thief: how the English language is taking over the planet

    The long read: No language in history has dominated the world quite like English does today. Is there any point in resisting?

    On 16 May, a lawyer named Aaron Schlossberg was in a New York cafe when he heard several members of staff speaking Spanish. He reacted with immediate fury, threatening to call US Immigration and Customs Enforcement and telling one employee: Your staff is speaking Spanish to customers when they should be speaking English This is America. A video of the incident quickly went viral, drawing widespread scorn. The Yelp page for his law firm was flooded with one-star reviews, and Schlossberg was soon confronted with a fiesta protest in front of his Manhattan apartment building, which included a crowd-funded taco truck and mariachi band to serenade him on the way to work.

    As the Trump administration intensifies its crackdown on migrants, speaking any language besides English has taken on a certain charge. In some cases, it can even be dangerous. But if something has changed around the politics of English since Donald Trump took office, the anger Schlossberg voiced taps into deeper nativist roots. Elevating English while denigrating all other languages has been a pillar of English and American nationalism for well over a hundred years. Its a strain of linguistic exclusionism heard in Theodore Roosevelts 1919 address to the American Defense Society, in which he proclaimed that we have room for but one language here, and that is the English language, for we intend to see that the crucible turns our people out as Americans, of American nationality, and not as dwellers in a polyglot boardinghouse.

    As it turned out, Roosevelt had things almost perfectly backwards. A century of immigration has done little to dislodge the status of English in North America. If anything, its position is stronger than it was a hundred years ago. Yet from a global perspective,it is not America that is threatened by foreign languages. It is the world that is threatened by English.

    Behemoth, bully, loudmouth, thief: English is everywhere, and everywhere, English dominates. From inauspicious beginnings on the edge of a minor European archipelago, it has grown to vast size and astonishing influence. Almost 400m people speak it as their first language; a billion more know it as a secondary tongue. It is an official language in at least 59 countries, the unofficial lingua franca of dozens more. No language in history has been used by so many people or spanned a greater portion of the globe. It is aspirational: the golden ticket to the worlds of education and international commerce, a parents dream and a students misery, winnower of the haves from the have-nots. It is inescapable: the language of global business, the internet, science, diplomacy, stellar navigation, avian pathology. And everywhere it goes, it leaves behind a trail of dead: dialects crushed, languages forgotten, literatures mangled.

    One straightforward way to trace the growing influence of English is in the way its vocabulary has infiltrated so many other languages. For a millennium or more, English was a great importer of words, absorbing vocabulary from Latin, Greek, French, Hindi, Nahuatl and many others. During the 20th century, though, as the US became the dominant superpower and the world grew more connected, English became a net exporter of words. In 2001, Manfred Grlach, a German scholar who studies the dizzying number of regional variants of English he is the author of the collections Englishes, More Englishes, Still More Englishes, and Even More Englishes published the Dictionary of European Anglicisms, which gathers together English terms found in 16 European languages. A few of the most prevalent include last-minute, fitness, group sex, and a number of terms related to seagoing and train travel.

    In some countries, such as France and Israel, special linguistic commissions have been working for decades to stem the English tide by creating new coinages of their own to little avail, for the most part. (As the journalist Lauren Collins has wryly noted: Does anyone really think that French teenagers, per the academys diktat, are going to trade out sexting for texto pornographique?) Thanks to the internet, the spread of English has almost certainly sped up.

    The gravitational pull that English now exerts on other languages can also be seen in the world of fiction. The writer and translator Tim Parks has argued that European novels are increasingly being written in a kind of denatured, international vernacular, shorn of country-specific references and difficult-to-translate wordplay or grammar. Novels in this mode whether written in Dutch, Italian or Swiss German have not only assimilated the style of English, but perhaps more insidiously limit themselves to describing subjects in a way that would be easily digestible in an anglophone context.

    Yet the influence of English now goes beyond simple lexical borrowing or literary influence. Researchers at the IULM University in Milan have noticed that, in the past 50 years, Italian syntax has shifted towards patterns that mimic English models, for instance in the use of possessives instead of reflexives to indicate body parts and the frequency with which adjectives are placed before nouns. German is also increasingly adopting English grammatical forms, while in Swedish its influence has been changing the rules governing word formation and phonology.

    Within the anglophone world, that English should be the key to all the worlds knowledge and all the worlds places is rarely questioned. The hegemony of English is so natural as to be invisible. Protesting it feels like yelling at the moon. Outside the anglophone world, living with English is like drifting into the proximity of a supermassive black hole, whose gravity warps everything in its reach. Every day English spreads, the world becomes a little more homogenous and a little more bland.


    Until recently, the story of English was broadly similar to that of other global languages: it spread through a combination of conquest, trade and colonisation. (Some languages, such as Arabic and Sanskrit, also caught on through their status as sacred tongues.) But then, at some point between the end of the second world war and the start of the new millenium, English made a jump in primacy that no amount of talk about it as a lingua franca or global language truly captures. It transformed from a dominant language to what the Dutch sociologist Abram de Swaan calls a hypercentral one.

    De Swaan divides languages into four categories. Lowest on the pyramid are the peripheral languages, which make up 98% of all languages, but are spoken by less than 10% of mankind. These are largely oral, and rarely have any kind of official status. Next are the central languages, though a more apt term might be national languages. These are written, are taught in schools, and each has a territory to call its own: Lithuania for Lithuanian, North and South Korea for Korean, Paraguay for Guarani, and so on.

    Following these are the 12 supercentral languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Hindi, Japanese, Malay, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Swahili each of which (except for Swahili) boast 100 million speakers or more. These are languages you can travel with. They connect people across nations. They are commonly spoken as second languages, often (but not exclusively) as a result of their parent nations colonial past.

    Then, finally, we come to the top of the pyramid, to the languages that connect the supercentral ones. There is only one: English, which De Swaan calls the hypercentral language that holds the entire world language system together. The Japanese novelist Minae Mizumura similarly describes English as a universal language . For Mizumura, what makes it universal is not that it has many native speakers Mandarin and Spanish have more but that it is used by the greatest number of non-native speakers in the world. She compares it to a currency used by more and more people until its utility hits a critical mass and it becomes a world currency. The literary critic Jonathan Arac is even more blunt, noting, in a critique of what he calls Anglo-Globalism, that English in culture, like the dollar in economics, serves as the medium through which knowledge may be translated from the local to the global.

    In the last few decades, as globalisation has accelerated and the US has remained the worlds most powerful country, the advance of English has taken on a new momentum. In 2008, Rwanda switched its education system from French to English, having already made English an official language in 14 years earlier. Officially, this was part of the governments effort to make Rwanda the tech hub of Africa. Unofficially, its widely believed to be an expression of disgust at Frances role in propping-up the pre-1994 Hutu-dominant government, as well as a reflection that the countrys ruling elite mostly speaks English, having grown up as exiles in anglophone east Africa. When South Sudan became independent in 2011, it made English its official language despite having very few resources or qualified personnel with which to teach it in schools. The Minister of higher education at the time justified the move as being aimed at making the country different and modern, while the news director of South Sudan Radio added that with English, South Sudan could become one nation and communicate with the rest of the world understandable goals in a country home to more than 50 local languages.

    An
    An English class at a government school in Bentiu, South Sudan. Photograph: Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images

    The situation in east Asia is no less dramatic. China currently has more speakers of English as a second language than any other country. Some prominent English teachers have become celebrities, conducting mass lessons in stadiums seating thousands. In South Korea, meanwhile, according to the sociolinguist Joseph Sung-Yul Park, English is a national religion. Korean employers expect proficiency in English, even in positions where it offers no obvious advantage.

    The quest to master English in Korea is often called the yeongeo yeolpung or English frenzy. Although mostly confined to a mania for instruction and immersion, occasionally this frenzy spills over into medical intervention. As Sung-Yul Park relates: An increasing number of parents in South Korea have their children undergo a form of surgery that snips off a thin band of tissue under the tongue Most parents pay for this surgery because they believe it will make their children speak English better; the surgery supposedly enables the child to pronounce the English retroflex consonant with ease, a sound that is considered to be particularly difficult for Koreans.

    There is no evidence to suggest that this surgery in any way improves English pronunciation. The willingness to engage in this useless surgical procedure strikes me, though, as a potent metaphor for Englishs peculiar status in the modern world. It is no longer simply a tool suited to a particular task or set of tasks, as it was in the days of the Royal Navy or the International Commission for Air Navigation. It is now seen as the access code to the global elite. If you want your children to get ahead, then they better have English in their toolkit.


    Is the conquest of English really so bad? In the not-too-distant future, thanks to English, the curse of Babel will be undone and the children of men may come together once again, united with the aid of a common tongue. Certainly, thats what Englishs boosters would have you believe. After all, what a work is English, how copious in its vocabulary, how noble in expression, how sinuous in its constructions, and yet how plain in its basic principles. A language, in short, with a word for almost everything, capable of an infinite gradation of meanings, equally suited to describing the essential rights of mankind as to ornamenting a packet of crisps, whose only defect, as far as I know, is that it makes everyone who speaks it sound like a duck.

    Well, not really. (OK, maybe a little English, while not an ugly language, isnt exactly pretty either). Mostly, Im speaking out of bitterness one that is old, and until recently, lay dormant. My first language was Polish. I learned it from my parents at home. English followed shortly, at school in Pennsylvania. I learned to speak it fluently, but with an accent, which took years of teasing and some speech therapy, kindly provided by the state to wear away. That, combined with the experience of watching the widespread condescension towards those who take their time learning English, left me a lifelong English-sceptic. (I admit, also, that a strain of linguistic megalomania runs through many Polish speakers, one best summed up by the novelist Joseph Conrad, who, when asked why he didnt write in his native language, replied: I value too much our beautiful Polish literature to introduce into it my worthless twaddle. But for Englishmen my capacities are just sufficient.)

    Its not that English is bad. Its fine! A perfectly nice language, capable of expressing a great many things and with scores of fascinating regional variants, from Scots to Singapore English. But it is so prevalent. And so hard to escape. And so freighted with buffoonish puffery written on its behalf: our magnificent bastard tongue; the language that connects the world. Please. There is no reason for any particular language to be worshipped around the world like a golden idol. There is a pervasive mismatch between the grand claims made on Englishs behalf, and its limitations as means of communication (limitations, to be fair, that it shares with all other languages).

    Is English oppressive? When its pervasive influence silences other languages, or discourages parents from passing on their native languages to their children, I think it can be. When you do know another language, its merely constricting, like wearing trousers that are too tight. Thats because while English is good for a great many things, it is not good for everything. To me, family intimacies long to be expressed in Polish. So does anything concerning the seasons, forest products and catastrophic sorrows. Poetry naturally sounds better in Polish. Ive always spoken it to cats and dogs on the assumption that they understand, being simultaneously convinced that raccoons and lesser animals only respond to shouts.

    This isnt quite as idiosyncratic as it sounds. Aneta Pavlenko, an applied linguist at Temple University in Pennsylvania, who has spent her career studying the psychology of bilingual and multilingual speakers, has found that speakers of multiple languages frequently believe that each language conveys a different self. Languages, according to her respondents, come in a kaleidoscopic range of emotional tones. I would inevitably talk to babies and animals in Welsh, reports a Welsh-speaker. An informant from Finland counters: Finnish emotions are rarely stated explicitly. Therefore it is easier to tell my children that I love them in English. Several Japanese speakers say that its easier to express anger in English, especially by swearing.

    Intuitive though it might be to some, the idea that different languages capture and construct different realities has been a subject of academic controversy for at least 200 years. The German explorer Alexander von Humboldt was among the first to articulate it in a complex form. After studying Amerindian languages in the New World, he came to the conclusion that every language draws a circle around its speakers, creating a distinct worldview through its grammar as well as in its vocabulary. In the 20th century, the American linguists Edward Sapir and Benjamin Lee Whorf elaborated this idea into a broader vision of how language structures thought. Both drew inspiration for their work from their study of North American languages such as Nootka, Shawnee and Hopi.

    This idea now usually known as the linguistic relativity hypothesis, or Sapir-Whorf hypothesis has had a checkered history in academia. At different times, it has been hailed by it proponents as foundational insight for modern anthropology and literary theory, and blamed by its detractors as the source of the worst excesses of postmodern philosophy. In recent decades, sociolinguists have arrived at a few startlingly suggestive findings concerning the influence of language on colour perception, orientation and verbs of motion but in general, the more expansive notion that different languages inculcate fundamentally different ways of thinking has not been proven.

    Nonetheless, some version of this idea continues to find supporters, not least among writers familiar with shifting between languages. Here is the memoirist Eva Hoffman on the experience of learning English in Vancouver while simultaneously feeling cut off from the Polish she had grown up speaking as a teenager in Krakw: This radical disjointing between word and thing is a desiccating alchemy, draining the world not only of significance but of its colours, striations, nuances its very existence. It is the loss of a living connection. The Chinese writer Xiaolu Guo described something similar in her recent memoir, writing about how uncomfortable she felt, at first, with the way the English language encouraged speakers to use the first-person singular, rather than plural. After all, how could someone who had grown up in a collective society get used to using the first-person singular all the time? But here, in this foreign country, I had to build a world as a first-person singular urgently.

    Li
    Li Yang teaches students his Crazy English accelerated learning method in Nanjing, China. Photograph: China Photos/Getty Images

    In the 1970s, Anna Wierzbicka, a linguist who found herself marooned in Australia after a long career in Polish academia, stood the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis on its head. Instead of trying to describe the worldviews of distant hunter-gatherers, she turned her sociolinguistic lens on the surrounding anglophones. For Wierzbicka, English shapes its speakers as powerfully as any other language. Its just that in an anglophone world, that invisible baggage is harder to discern. In a series of books culminating in 2013s evocatively named Imprisoned in English, she has attempted to analyse various assumptions social, spatial, emotional and otherwise latent in English spoken by the middle and upper classes in the US and UK.

    Reading Wierzbickas work is like peeking through a magic mirror that inverts the old how natives think school of anthropology and turns it back on ourselves. Her English-speakers are a pragmatic people, cautious in their pronouncements and prone to downplaying their emotions. They endlessly qualify their remarks according to their stance towards what is being said. Hence their endless use of expressions such as I think, I believe, I suppose, I understand, I suspect. They prefer fact over theories, savour control and space, and cherish autonomy over intimacy. Their moral lives are governed by a tightly interwoven knot of culture-specific concepts called right and wrong, which they mysteriously believe to be universal.

    Wierzbickas description of Englishs subconscious system of values hardly holds true for the billion or more speakers of this most global of tongues. But it is also a reminder that, despite its influence, English is not truly universal. Its horizons are just as limited as those of any other language, whether Chinese or Hopi or Dalabon.

    For if language connects people socially, it also connects them to a place. The linguist Nicholas Evans has described how Kayardild, a language spoken in northern Australia, requires a speaker to continually orient themselves according to the cardinal directions. Where an English speaker would orient things according to their own perception my left, my right, my front, my back a speaker of Kayardild thinks in terms of north, south, east and west. As a consequence, speakers of Kayardild (and those of several other languages that share this feature) possess absolute reckoning, or a kind of perfect pitch for direction. It also means removing ones self as the main reference point for thinking about space. As Evans writes of his own experiences learning the language, one aspect of speaking Kayardild, then, is learning that the landscape is more important and objective than you are. Kayardild grammar literally puts everyone in their place.

    Kayardild and its kin are truly local languages, with few speakers, and modes of expression that are hard to separate from the places in which they are spoken. But that should not lead us to think that they are lesser. The world is made up of places, not universals. To speak only English, in spite of its vast vocabulary and countless varieties, is still to dwell in a rather small pool. It draws the same circle Humboldt described around its speakers as each of the other 6,000 human languages. The difference is that we have mistaken that circle for the world.


    Because English is increasingly the currency of the universal, it is difficult to express any opposition to its hegemony that doesnt appear to be tainted by either nationalism or snobbery. When Minae Mizumura published the Fall of Language in the Age of English, in 2008, it was a surprise commercial success in Japan. But it provoked a storm of criticism, as Mizumura was accused of elitism, nationalism and being a hopeless reactionary. One representative online comment read: Who does she think she is, a privileged bilingual preaching to the rest of us Japanese! (Perhaps unsurprisingly, Mizumuras broader argument, about the gradual erosion of Japanese literature and especially, the legacy of the Japanese modernist novel got lost in the scuffle.)

    Those of us troubled by the hyperdominance of English should also remember the role it has played in some societies especially multi-ethnic ones as a bridge to the wider world and counterweight to other nationalisms. This was especially keenly felt in South Africa, where Afrikaans was widely associated with the policy of apartheid. When the government announced that Afrikaans would be used as a language of instruction in schools on par with English in 1974, the decision led in 1976 to a mass demonstration by black students known as the Soweto uprising. Its brutal suppression resulted in hundreds of deaths, and is considered a turning point in the anti-apartheid struggle. Similar protests have periodically racked southern India since the 1940s over attempts to enforce official use of Hindi in place of English.

    A
    A sign for English lessons in Nawalgarh, Rajasthan, India. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

    In other parts of the world though, English still carries the full weight of its colonialist past. Since the 1960s, the celebrated Kenyan novelist Ngg wa Thiongo has advocated on behalf of African languages and against the prevalence of English-language education in postcolonial countries. In his landmark 1986 book Decolonising the Mind: the Politics of Language in African Literature, he describes the corrosive effect of English language instruction, comparing it to a form of spiritual subjugation. Colonial education, in which pupils were physically punished for speaking their native languages while at school (something also done to the Welsh into the early 20th century) was necessarily, and deliberately, alienating, like separating the mind from the body.

    Since publishing Decolonising the Mind, Ngg has worked to put its dictates into practice. He renounced his baptismal name, James, and with it Christianity, and ceased to write fiction in English. Since the 1980s, he has written all his novels and plays in his native Gikuyu, only using English (and occasionally Kiswahili) for essays and polemics. This last decision is one that many people still question. As he said in a recent interview: If I meet an English person, and he says, I write in English, I dont ask him, Why are you writing in English? If I meet a French writer, I dont ask him, Why dont you write in Vietnamese? But I am asked over and over again, Why do you write in Gikuyu? For Africans, the view is there is something wrong about writing in an African language.

    Part of the paradox of Nggs situation is that while he may be the worlds foremost advocate for writing literature in African languages, his novels have won acclaim and gained international recognition through the medium of English. The hegemony of English is now such that, in order to be recognised, any opposition to English has to formulated in English in order to be heard.


    Today it is estimated that the world loses a language every two weeks. Linguists have predicted that between 50 and 90% of the worlds 6,000 or so languages will go extinct in the coming century. For even a fraction of these to survive, were going to have to start thinking of smaller languages not as endangered species worth saving, but as equals worth learning.

    In most of the world, its already too late. In California, where I live, most of the languages that were spoken before the arrival of Europeans are already extinct. On Americas eastern seaboard, thanks to long proximity to Anglo settlers, the situation is even worse. Most of what we know about many of these vanished languages comes in the form of brief word lists compiled by European settlers and traders before the 19th century. Stadaconan (or Laurentian) survives only from a glossary of 220 words jotted down by Jacques Cartier when he sailed up the St Lawrence River in Canada in 1535. Eastern Atakapa, from Louisianas Gulf Coast, is known from a list of only 287, gathered in 1802. The last fragments of Nansemond, once spoken in eastern Virginia, were collected from the last living speaker just before his death in 1902, by which time he could only recall six words: one, two, three, four, five and dog.

    The great Malian historian and novelist Amadou Hampt B once said that in Africa, when an elder dies, a library burns. Today, across the world, the libraries are still burning. In his marvellous book, Searching for Aboriginal Languages: Memoirs of a Field Worker, the linguist Robert MW Dixon describes travelling across Northern Queensland in the 1960s and 70s to record indigenous languages, many of which had already dwindled to a handful of speakers. Its hard to remain an oral language in an increasingly text-dependent world. All the forces of modernity, globalisation, industrialisation, urbanisation and the rise of the nation-state are arrayed against the small and local as opposed to the big and shareable.

    In this past century, the Earth has been steadily losing diversity at every level of biology and culture. Few deny this is a bad thing. Too often though, we forget that these crises of diversity depend, to a great extent, on our own decisions. Much of what has been done can also be undone, provided there is the will for it. Hebrew is the most famous case of a language brought back from the dead, but linguistic revitalisation has been proven to be possible elsewhere as well. Czech became a viable national language thanks to the work of literary activists in the 19th century. On a much smaller scale, endangered languages such as Manx in the Isle of Man and Wampanoag in the US have been successfully pulled back from the brink.

    Coming face-to-face with the current onslaught of linguicide, I find myself wanting to venture a modest proposal. What if anglo-globalism wasnt a one-way street? What if the pre-contact languages of the Americas were taught in American high schools? What if British schoolchildren learned some of the languages spoken by the actual residents of the former empire? (This is a utopian project obviously. But how much would it actually cost to add a linguistic elective to larger high schools? One jet fighter? A few cruise missiles?)

    Current educational discourse is full of talk about the need to bolster childrens cognition. In the culture at large, experts have been trumpeting the cognitive benefits of everything from online brain games to magic mushrooms. Why not try Hopi instead? The point of this education wouldnt necessarily be to acquire fluency in an extinct or smaller language it would be to open a door.

    And think of the vistas it might open up. For generations, a huge percentage of philosophy and social science has been conducted in and about English speakers. Humankind, as imagined by the academy, is mostly anglophone. This has even been true in linguistics. Noam Chomskys idea of a universal grammar underpinning all languages was based on a rather narrow empirical base. More recent research into dozens of smaller languages, like Kayardild and Pirah, has been steadily whittling away at his list of supposed universals. We now know there are languages without adverbs, adjectives, prepositions and articles. There seems to be hardly anything that a language needs to be just thousands of natural experiments in how they might be assembled. And most of them are about to be lost.

    In some ways, the worst threat may come not from the global onrush of modernity, but from an idea: that a single language should suit every purpose, and that being monolingual is therefore somehow normal. This is something thats often assumed reflexively by those of us who live most of our lives in English, but historically speaking, monolingualism is something of an aberration.

    Before the era of the nation-state, polyglot empires were the rule, rather than the exception. Polyglot individuals abounded, too. For most of history, people lived in small communities. But that did not mean that they were isolated from one another. Multilingualism must have been common. Today, we see traces of this polyglot past in linguistic hotspots such as the Mandara mountains of Cameroon, where children as young as 10 routinely juggle four or five languages in daily life, and learn several others in school.

    Residents of Arnhem Land in northern Australia routinely speak half a dozen or more languages by the time they are adults. Multilingualism, writes Nicholas Evans, is helped by the fact that you have to marry outside your clan, which likely means your wife or husband speaks a different language from you. It also means that you parents each speak a different language, and your grandparents three or four languages between them.

    A resident of another linguistic hotspot, the Sepik region of Papua New Guinea, once told Evans: It wouldnt be any good if we talked the same; we like to know where people come from. Its a vision of Babel in reverse. Instead of representing a fall from human perfection, as in the biblical story, having many languages is a gift. Its something to remember before we let English swallow the globe.

    Follow the Long Read on Twitter at @gdnlongread, or sign up to the long read weekly email here.

    Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

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    25+ Idiot Dogs That Will Crack You Up

    Dogs are goofy. Everyone knows that, compared to cats, they are about as graceful as a hippo on ice. But while they may be clumsy idiots at times, they are are adorable!

    We here at Bored Panda have compiled a list of dogs doing really dumb things, and they are just hilarious. We know they don’t mean to be bad, there’s not a shred of malice in them, and that’s why we can’t possibly stay mad at them! Scroll down below to check them out for yourself, and don’t forget to vote for your faves!

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    This Aquarium Picks The Naughtiest Penguin Of The Month, And The Crimes Are Too Funny

    We thought that cats were absolutely shameless creatures but it turns out that penguins are no better either.
    Employees of National Aquarium of New Zealand probably got tired of penguins acting out, so they decided to publically shame them. The employees have been posting photos once a month for a whole year, announcing the offenses penguins have done and gathered a lot of attention. Although nobody could stay mad at these cuties for long, especially when many of them ‘know how to penguin’ in a right way.

    Scroll down below for hilarious penguin shaming photos and don’t forget to upvote your favorites!

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    A Comprehensive List of the Most Iconic Internet Cat Posts of All Time

    Cats are wonderful, sassy, independent little creatures. Even if you’re a dog person, you can’t deny the power of a wonderful cat post. They’re weird!

    While dogs are super loving pretty much 24/7, cats have their own agenda. And often, they’re up to no good. Naughty, mischievous little things.

    Here is a list of the most iconic cat posts of all time. Enjoy. These posts will brighten the darkest of days.

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    Driving Through Teletubbyland: The Wonder of a Springtime Armenia Road Trip

    Driving the vertiginous and bumpy Armenian roads south from Yerevan to Tatev Monastery at the end of May, I felt as if one of those old Microsoft Office screensavers had come to life.

    Roads looped through fields full of wildflowers, which in turn gave way to hills colored an almost-too-vibrant-to-be-natural green, set against perfect snowcapped mountains and empty sky.

    It says something about a road trip that when you return, your sole regret was not bringing a picnic blanket and provisions to take advantage of dramatic setting after dramatic setting. (About an hour into our drive, we realized that the reason so many cars pulled over to the side of the road in random spots was because the Russian and Armenian tourists had the right idea: They just parked, walked a few hundred yards into the fragrant fields, and plopped down for a meal.)

    The drive from the center of Yerevan to Tatev Monastery (in the direction of the border with Iran) is about four hours. While the country is roughly the size of Maryland, the roads wind through a dense thicket of mountains on the aforementioned bumpy roads, and one is often sharing the road with old Soviet cars, trucks, cows, horses, and sheep.

    Shortly after we got out out of Yerevan (no easy task), the journeys first highlight loomed into view.

    There are many mountains taller than Ararat, which clocks in at just shy of 12,000 feet. But if theres such a thing as being the looming-est, this mountain, long believed to have been the spot where Noahs Ark first touched land, merits such a designation. On a clear day its legendary peak towers over its eponymous plain to the point that even though it is in fact in Turkey, its presence is so, well, present, that Armenia keeping it as their national symbol is understandable.

    In the shadows of Ararat, just past a graveyard where Im introduced to the Armenian tradition of gravestones with full portraits carved into them, is our first stopKhor Virap. While it is today a monastery, the complex was originally used as a prison. Its most famous occupant was Gregory the Illuminator, who is considered to be the person who turned Armenia Christian in 301 CE, thus giving it the claim of being the oldest nation to adopt Christianity. It was here that he was imprisoned in a hole for 13 years before he was able to convert King Tiridates III of Armenia.

    The monasteries of Armenia, some of the most important religious sites in the world, are located in spectacular settings. Due to their locations, the three visited on this tripKhor Virap, Tatev, and Noravankcan compete for beauty with any cathedral in the west.

    But, just like those cathedrals, these are the main tourist attractions in this small country. And so one is well served by getting up early, as otherwise by midday, the monasteries are full of families and schoolchildren from this incredibly devout country. Just the day before, I had gone to a monastery just outside of Yerevan called Geghard, which was a monastery founded by Gregory that is carved into the cliffs of the Azat River gorge. Decorated in a Christian tradition that looked remarkably Eastern with large cats and birds of prey, the dark chambers of black stone were the closest Ive ever come to feeling like Indiana Jones. Especially since we got there around nine in the morning, and thus had its eery caves all to ourselves.

    Leaving the groups of Armenian schoolchildren behind, we continued our drive south from Khor Virap to Tatev. As soon as the developed multi-lane highway disappeared into a two-lane road, the landscape transformed.

    The only experience I can compare to driving in southern Armenia in late May is cruising Provence in June. At first, you come across a field of flowers, and you pull the car over because you simply must have a photo of that. Same for the field of a different kind of wildflowers a dozen miles down the road. And the next. Eventually, it sinks in that this is what the whole drive will be like.

    It was as if I had been transported into the vibrant landscape of Teletubbyland.

    Eventually those rolling hills ended, and suddenly on one side of the car, the landscape fell away entirely. We had entered one of the deep canyons of the Vorotan River, which meant we were close to Tatev Monastery.

    In the canyon we encountered yet another magnificent-and completely differentlandscape. In place of the romantic countryside, we were now in the middle of a hulking gorge of stone with lush vegetation draped throughout. Weirdly, even with the turn in weather to a light drizzle, the gorge was the spitting image of the Can del Sumidero in Chiapas, Mexico.

    The monastery complex is on a plateau jutting out into the gorge, giving yet another monastery in Armenia yet another jaw-dropping siting. Once the home of one of the regions most important universities, the 9th century monastery complex was (like all historic sites in Armenia) severely damaged by an earthquake (in Tatevs case, 1931). Its rebuilt main church, set against the gorge, is perhaps the most charming of the monastic complexes I visited in Armenia. Tufts of grass poke out of cracks between stones. Elaborate but subtle carvings can be found throughouta reward for the patient and roving eye. Perhaps it is also due to the monasterys compact size in the face of its overwhelming surroundings.

    Those surroundings also play a part in this destinations other attractionthe Wings of Tatev. Beginning in 2010, this section of the gorge became home to the worlds longest one-stop double-track cable car. Essentially, it means a exhilarating (terrifying?) ride in a cabin over a river gorge, during which at some points you are suspended more than 1,000 feet above the ground.

    After a night spent in the nearby town of Goris (where I learned that there are speed cameras in pretty much every town Id zoomed through that day) it was back to Yerevan, this time with the drive broken up by our final monastery of the roadtripNoravank.

    Situated in a hidden valley off the main highway, Noravank is popular not only for the devout, but also for hikers as it has a number of trails. (Our hike was cut short when we stumbled across a dog with a messed up paw that needed help).

    Built in the 13th century, Noravank is essentially a bell tower missing a navea tower church that juts out of a plateau on one side of the valley. Its entrance is famous for being on the second story, which requires climbing its ziggurat-like staircase running along one facade. In the case of Noravank, modernity seems to have won, as the solemnity one usually associates with such a site has been thrown out the window in the face of the fact that those stairs are the perfect spot for a class, family, or couples photo.

    Despite a well-intentioned but misguided stop at a roadside tasting room to sample local wines, in particular pomegranate (conclusion after three weeks in the region: if Georgia is the California of the region, Armenia is the Virginia), the drive back to Yerevan was even more blissful than the drive south. Now, instead of needing to stop and get the right picture, we could cruise along (at the speed limit) knowing this or that field would not be the only one wed get to take in.

    And so, a few hours after leaving Goris, despite being in dust-choked traffic in Yerevan, with Google Maps failing right and left, and trying to maneuver the car rental I was desperate not to scratch, I was not even remotely stressed. All I could think about was how lucky I was that in the small span of time that is 48 hours, Id made one of the most memorable and remarkable pilgrimages of my life.

    Read more: http://www.thedailybeast.com

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    Japanese Artist Makes Realistic 3D Cat Portraits Out Of Felted Wool, And The Result Is Too Purrfect

    Japanese artist Wakuneco takes something as simple as wool and makes incredible hyper-realistic cat portraits.

    The artist uses wool of various different colors and creates 3D portraits of cats using needle felting techniques. On her Instagram, the artist shared that it’s a very long and delicate work and it takes her about a month to complete one portrait, but the stunning result is worth the efforts.

    The artist uses pictures of real cats to create portraits as realistic as possible.

    Take a look at some of her works below.

    Japanese artist Wakuneco started needle felting only in 2015

    However, looking at her works it seems that she’s been doing it all her life

    She uses pictures of real cats as a reference to make her portraits as real as possible

    Take a look at some of the beautiful works below

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    Eating with Literary Giant Peter Matthiessen

    On the phone, one of my greatest literary heroes, Peter Matthiessen, had sounded weak, fatigued, rocked. He said he was still working every day, still writing, but that he got tired. The chemo treatments were harda new and intense regimen, twice a weekand hed also been getting a fair number of visitors, tiring in itself. I promised we wouldnt stay long, if he would indulge my request, which was that I and a menteea beginning writer, as I once waswould bring him a meal, serve it, visit, then leave.

    It was an indulgence, I told him, partly about wanting to honor him, but also partly about feeding my own need. He laughed, said something like I know that, and told us to come on. He said he wanted soupand maybe a salad, he added, warming to the idea, and then, before our conversation ended, asked for bread. Not a bad appetite for an eighty-six-year-old man whod been diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia back in the fall, and was undergoing rigorous chemotherapy.

    So I brought a food processor in my checked baggage to New York. I was traveling with Erin Halcomb, a student of mine, a wonderful nonfiction writer who will be one of the voices of the future. She is a sawyer and a weasel live-trapper for the U.S. Forest Service. I met her several years ago, at a workshop taught by Terry Tempest Williams in Montanas Centennial Mountains. I believe in her, as folks once dared to believe in me, and I want her to meet as many of my mentors as possible.

    We fix the meal the night beforea soup of fresh-dug parsnips (tarragon, butter, garlic, vermouth) with a rich morel cream, as well as a little avocado salad with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing. On the drive out from a friends house in Brooklyn I stand in a field somewhere on Long Island speaking to workers digging holes in the ground, and hold my bright white sheets of paper fluttering with the directions Peter gave me, and read the words to the workers as though the pages hold verse, or the text of some document of near-biblical importance, and the men send us on our way with some general arm-waving. At last we reach Sagaponack. Peter told me the house was at the end of the road and wed recognize it from the whale skull on the porch, and sure enough its there, looking like a damned dinosaur fossil: tilted upright, house-tall, gray and pitted rather than desert-white, ossified and somber.

    Carrying our wares now in one large cardboard box, we approach his house as if preparing to enter an enchanted cottage. The tiled porch is still in shadow on this first day of spring, the small hedge-bound yard sunlit, and the cold wind stirs the dry oak leaves of last year. Birdssparrows, mostlyblow past like the leaves themselves, veering as if tumbling, wingflashes and pale bellies glinting. Whats it like to have two younger people, acolytes, show up, not unlike the birds that flock, year after year, to the feeder?

    We knock lightly on the French double doors, and wait. Its been almost ten years since Ive seen Peter, back at the revel, or wake, for George Plimpton, with whom Peter co-founded the Paris Review, a magazine George published for fifty years, until his death. While its not true to say that Peter hasnt aged, hes aged less than I have. He moves down his hallway on the other side of the glass carefullymore considered than casualbut with focus, presence, intent. A good day, then, maybe a great day.

    He opens the door with an elegant, friendly manner. He seems surprised we showed up, and it occurs to me that perhaps in his long life, and his many adventures, he has nonetheless never had anyone materialize at his door wanting to cook him a meal.

    Come in, he says, giving me a handshake and then an embrace, and a courtly handshake to Erin. Im hungry, I was waiting on you, I was just about to eat something.

    He says this without judgment or criticism, only with a slight marveling, it seems, that we arrived in the nick of time, the just-right moment to stay his handthe fork already lifted, perhapsand, unless I am imagining this, pleased, and a little surprised, by his appetite after so arduous a treatment. He wastes no time in leading us toward the kitchen.

    Was it really thirty-eight years ago now that he was tromping in the Himalaya, hale and strong and healthy, if anguished, in The Snow Leopard? No small number of us read this book as very young men and womenoften living in the American white-bread suburbsand, shall we be direct, had our shit blown away by its blend of naturalism, science, adventure, passion, and spiritualism, set in those higher mountains in the world, a region that, in the 1970s, was arguably still the worlds greatest physical and metaphysical wilderness. Readers can enter his work from any direction and become lost, in the best way, changed forever.

    Where to begin with the work of a writer this capacious? So wide-ranging are his interests, beyond any possible horizon, that on paper it would be difficult for the structure to hold a straight chronological telling. He went to Paris as a young man, fell in love with the city as well as with a woman, a woman who also loved Paris, and he got a job with the CIA that allowed him to live and work there, which he did, in the 1950sechoing the powerful literary generation that had preceded him there.

    It took me about a year, he says of his work with the CIA, to realize what I was being asked to do, and that I didnt like itbeing untruthful to the people upon whom he was gathering information. It drove me to the left, he says. I realized I had to quit.

    From that act of integrityforsaking the pleasures of Paris for a matter of principleit seems that wherever he went, no matter the subject or issue, it was for him as if a shining path of rightness was visible to him, like a shining silver stream or river in the darkness, and at each opportunity, each choice, he took it. During the publication process of his first-ever accepted piece in The New Yorker, a story about the mayor of Orleans being murdered by his wife, Peter so disagreed with legendary editor William Shawn that he sent a strongly worded letter asking Shawn to kill the piece rather than publish it with the recommended edits. Such cheek! A compromise was achieved, the piece was published, the ship of his career was launched into the surf.

    Is he secretly attracted to tussles?

    No, he protests, spreading his hands as if in defense, Im actually quite cuddly. He laughs. I can be ferocious, he adds, as if the two words are the most natural pairing in the world.

    You can recognize both that ferocious integrity and his genius if you read only one of his books, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, his magnificent nonfiction account of the 1975 killing of two federal agents on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, in South Dakota. Peter says that Leonard Peltier, who was convicted of those killings, still stays in touch with him all these years later. While he has deep compassion for the federal agents slain at Pine Ridge, Peter is convinced that Peltier was framed. Although Peltier has been serving consecutive life terms since his conviction forty years ago, he continues to hope, based on Peters work, for amnesty.

    When Peltier heard of Peters illness, he understandably became concerned about the consequences to his own life should Peter not recover. Laughing a little, Peter tells us that Leonard cried out, most plaintively, Dont leave me, Peter! Here, too, is one of the great stories of American publishing, another typical path of Matthiessens literary and artistic integrity: first in investigating with such exhaustive detail (thanks in part, perhaps, to his training with the CIA), and then in defending not just the books veracity but himself against a $37 million lawsuit that resulted in the books publication being tied up in court for nine years.

    What humming energy circulates in his great skull, and why? More than with any of my other heroes, he has demonstrated, modeled, a life of artistic as well as political integrity, writing whatever his heart desires, in whatever manner he wishes. There are so many moving parts to the magic that has always been his life. He has followed that shining path sometimes through Amazonian swamps (The Cloud Forest), sometimes across Africa (Sand Rivers), and at other times into New Guinea (Under the Mountain Wall). Shadow Country, his great American novel in trilogy, was written from its Everglades setting. He talks about his days as a commercial fisherman. He was raising a family, had a wife and children, and had to get down to business, he says, writing about the only thing he knew well back then, fishing, which resulted in the masterly Far Tortuga. The quality of his work is matched only by the extraordinary length of his career, and because of the breadth of his mindhis curiosities and passions leading him to wildly different subjectshe is claimed by diverse tribes of readers. There is a feeling that he belongs to everyone.

    The light in the kitchen is lovely. Peter tells us that the house previously belonged to a photographer who studied with Richard Avedonthat he liked it for all its windows, and the light. The work finishing the meal is done. The color of the soup, a pale yet rich orange, matches the mid-afternoon winter light thats reaching through all those windows. Birds swirl past in the cold light and wind. Peters wife, Maria, has arrived, just in time, carrying bags, and we all sit down at our leisure.

    The dollop of morel cream dropped into the middle of the soup perches beautifully, does not dilute or wander. We can see the little golden-brown morel nuggets inside each dollop, and slowly we stir the cream deeper into the soup, then taste it. Its perfectone of the best winter soups Ive ever tasted, if I may say soand it occurs to me, here on the first day of spring, we are pretty much in the high-noon balance of thingsvery near the precise time scientists have pinpointed when the tilt and cant and turn of things is such that we can say exactly that winter is behind us and spring has arrived.

    Erin is telling Peter about the ruddy ducks we saw in the inlet beneath the bridge near Peters house. As soon as we began crossing the bridge and Erin spotted them bobbing along in the cold wind and bright sun, I knew shed left this world and was connected to the ducks; that they would be all she could see or hear and there would be no room in her mind for anything else.

    We stopped on the bridge and she looked down upon the ducks as if channeling from them the essence of life: the very life force that would allow her to go forward, into the world. I was envious and happy. It was a glimpse at one of the reasons Im betting on her and giving myself over to this mentoring. If she wanted to sit on this bridge for an hour or more in her duck-trance, who was I, as her mentor, to disrupt that? Peter himself would surely concur, I thought. Writing may or may not be able to be taught. But being a writerwhich is to say, growing the unguarded heart, and inhabiting the exhilarating layer of atmosphere just above us as well as the sometimes frightening subsurface barely a spades stroke beneath usthis can be taught, or at least encouraged.

    I was reminded of the story of the Buddhist master who left a novitiate alone in a monastery for several days. A blizzard pushed through, and there was nothing for warmth. In desperation, the student burned a sacred table or chair, I forget which, and upon discovering this, the master was very pleased; the lesson of impermanence had been learned, along with several others. Erin gazed down on the ducks for only a few minutes before emerging from her reverie, and then we continued on down the road, toward Peter, our holy man, who would be pleased, I thought, to know the ducks were there.

    Erin has a question for Peter. Isnt it true, she asks, that non-fiction requires merely or mainly the yeoman ability to work each day and be dogged, committed, like a farrier, whereas fiction is more about courage, and greatness of soul? Its a paraphrase, I notice, of something I once told her when she asked me a similar question, and internally I find myself freezing midstride, like a busted, bandy-striped cartoon burglar with a pillowcase of cash on his back, illuminated with a single beam of spotlight glare. What if the maestro says, Hell no, thats the most preposterous thing Ive ever heard?

    Peters head tips slightly downward, and he appears to be examining the idea with the practiced elegance of a raccoon turning a freshwater mussel over and over in his paws.

    Yes, he says, and he looks right at Erin with laser eyes of the palest blue, holds her gaze.

    Youve got to be ferocious. With novels youve got to be willing to be completely obsessed and committed, and for a long time.

    And though he does not say it, another part of it seems obvious to meyou have to not care what anybody thinks. Or perhaps, if you know what others will think, to move stubbornly in the opposite direction, unencumbered by crowds. From The Snow Leopard:

    I go slowly down the mountain, falling well behind the rest, in no hurry to get back to that dark camp. Despite the hard day that has ended in defeat, despite the loss of three thousand feet of altitude that will have to be so painfully regained, despite the gloomy canyon and uncertain weather and ill humor of my friend, and the very doubtful prospects for tomorrow, I feel at peace among these looming rocks, the cloud swirl and wind-whirled snow, as if the earth had opened up to take me in.

    Suddenly my heart swells, feels like its doubling in size, my arms and legs incandesce with a fizzing in my blood, a feeling like light entering my veins, there is connection through me between future and past, as if by electric circuitry, and I know that my vision for this project is not harebrained or indulgent. My passion is somehow almost perfectly transferable. A thing that I love from the way-back has passed through me and been handed to a traveler in the way-future. Despite such a significant bridge of timemore than half a centurys distance between themtwo people whom I believe in know each other now. Its working. We have crossed over the low pass, the saddle, and are looking down into untrammeled territory where weve never been.

    But just as quickly, time surges. It runs away from us. As we talk and ask questions and tell stories, the small clock within me whirs, as if tiny flecks of metal are being shaved from the cogs and gears of that internal mechanism. How ironic that when I conceived of this project, these meals, I mistakenly and romantically envisioned standing long leisurely hours in the kitchens of my heroes, maybe sipping highballs while the afternoon sun lengthened gold toward the sweet and perfect summer dinner hour.

    Around the corner from where we are eating in the kitchen is an entire wall framed with photographs, not of Peter being given awards, but pictures from Papua New Guinea, where he participated in a tribal civil war. The quality of the photographs is astonishinghigh art of indigenous people in loincloths and bead necklaces running at each other with lances and bows and arrows, their bodies and faces war-painted.

    Go look at them, Peter urges us. Thinking back on his life, I think. All the many wars.

    As if inhabiting a ghost mansion, we do. These were fantastically stylized, full-blown choreographed wars in which everyone fights, but in which once a warrior has been killed, all hostilities cease. The ultimate ceremony. An evolutionary adaptation for extremely small clans and communities.

    At last, as were cleaning up the dishes, Peter craters. He had indicated earlier that two hours would likely be his energy level. We went two hours and eleven minutes, then two hours and seventeen minutes. Hes absolutely got to go lie down. Just five minutes, he explains. His manners and bearing are neither apologetic nor hurried, but they possess an element of regret, and some mild frustration, though not despair. In the old-fashioned sense of the phrase, he takes his leave, and Erin and Maria and I work quickly, efficiently, putting away leftovers, the three of us rotating without getting in each others way, in the pleasure of a kitchen area that is just the right size, while Peter is already around the corner now, headed for a brief lying-down period with the focus of an athlete making a kick for the finish line: working only to reach the end, give it your all, run hard through the tape.

    A short while later, as Erin and I wait in the study, we can hear Maria in the next room running through the answering machines many messages, a litany of conferences, festivals, and various environmental benefits requesting that Peter fly to wherever they are and give keynote talks to support their causes. How to say No thank you or I cant or I have to rest? Another question for my mentor, but time is running out, has run out.

    Peter reappears, resurrected, ready, rested. Where did he go, in those ten or fifteen minutes, while the clock melted? To the other side of the world and back? He still looks elegant. Wherever he went, it helped. Weve asked for a picture, and gentleman that he is, he settles into his chair, books on the shelf behind him, and dons his maskthe restrained smile, the steady look of portraitureand for a moment I feel an awful sense of leave-taking. Look, the moment of the meal is slipping away, look, we are no longer dwelling intimately and at depthsnap, snaplook, I am ruining the thing I love.

    Im chastened, but Peter is forgiving. The clock on the wall is moving at its regular pace again. Its time to go, past time to gothere are now just a few traces of shadows out in the yard.

    Timing is one of the key elements of graciousness, and where my clumsy impulse, having overstayed, is to dashto minimize the errorPeters more elegant way is to effect a leisurely farewell.

    For some reason he turns the conversation not to goodbyes but instead to wolverines and fishers, asking if we have ever seen any, out west. Funny he should ask: Erin tells him about her seasonal work doing research on mustelids, and, revived by his little rest, Peter leans forward, the two of them trading stories of fisher cats. As earlier, during the meal, my heart-swelling sense of what is passing between these generations returns. It makes me think, strangely, of the Bering Strait, and the way in which, during brief windows of time, there has been a passageway from Asia to the Americas, or vice versa: as if, for but a single day, geologically speaking, a gate would swing open, and great and powerful things, new beings and new ways, could flow from one place to another while the earth kept ceaselessly spinning.

    The talk of fishers leads to a discussion of the few animals in the world that Peter hasnt seen. Ive never seen a right whale, he says, but a biologist friend of his has offered to take him up in a plane next spring, says he knows where they can be found at that time of year, and Peters looking forward to it, like a young boy just starting out in the world. He talks about things he wants to show us when we come back, things we can do when we have more time. Fishing, maybe. A beach walk.

    We emerge onto the porch and stand next to the whale skull. I cant help wondering how many more stories would spill from Peter if we could stay longer. As if on cue, he embarks on the saga of the skull, not as if the events of it had happened but a blink ago, still within the shell of this one mans life, but as if they had occurred centuries, even millennia, agoas if he were not the whale skulls discoverer, but merely its interpreter.

    One night, long ago, the skull presented itself to him while he was walking along the shore. He saw it from a long distance away, and from that vantage it must have looked not like a whale at all, but instead a large dinghy, the wreckage of some immense rowboat from decades ago. The skull was upside down, a leaden garden of wet, dense sand packed into the cavities where once a magnificent brain had carried for thousands of miles untold manner of thoughts, observations, and, surely, the most powerful emotions, traveling almost always beneath the surface, where skippers and sanderlings wheeled and whirled.

    Peter says he knew the same tide that had brought the great skull to shoretumbling and sloshing slowly beneath the rough waves like a single die being rolled across the ocean floorwould, in the next tide, or the next, take it back, or, worse, bury it beneath tonnages of the next tides sand. And so he hurried home and got a cable, pounded a stake into the dunes, and fastened one end of the cable to the stake and the other to the skull, to mark its location and hold it in place until he could return with the equipment required for its excavation and retrieval.

    Again the image that comes to me is of a young boy excited by and for and in the world.

    Thats pretty much how it turned out, he says. Sure enough, the tide buried it, but he was able to follow his cable down into the depths of the sandas if he had hooked the skull while fishing or trawlingand then fasten the cable to a truck, which dragged it farther up onto shore, to safety. Then, with the assistance of others, he loaded its heft into the back of the truck and drove it home.

    Some writers hang deer or elk skulls on the walls of their porches, or place the bleached skulls of caribou or buffalo in their gardens; Peter has a giant whale skull the size of a dinosaur, lurking, looming in the shadows, and seeming, somehow, if you look at it just right, to still be thinking its enormous thoughts.

    What, I wonder, did the various parts of the whale weigh? How much the caudal fins, how much the great broad flukes of the tail, how much the tongue, how much the heart? What are all the parts that make up the ponderous sum, and what immensity of years and near-infinitude of miles once passed through this great mammals lungs, back in the years of its living, before it became lithified and but a talisman, a monument to the deep?

    Peter is rejuvenated from that briefest of rests. He seems to be in his forties again, not eighty-six and buffeted by cancer. He accompanies us farther out onto that sunny, breezy porch and, before we part, leads us past his and Marias little garden, out to his Zendo.

    He pushes open the old wooden door and in the little foyer we slip off our shoes and then peer inside at the mats, the long bare stark meditating spacethe splendid nothingness of it. As might be imagined, it is a space filled with ghosts, fine ghosts, an air dense with sweetness and stillness. Peter smiles his little smile, watches us stand there drinking it in, not saying anything, just breathing the different air. Our three hearts slow to beat as one. The deep galvanic pulse comes from one place, owning us and sharing us.

    I dont know how long we stand there like that, but then it is time to go.

    Excerpted from THE TRAVELING FEAST Copyright 2018 by Rick Bass. Used with permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York. All rights reserved.

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