Another Poem: Song of the Cricket Wrangler

Poor little crickets,

in your box you sing;

You’re doomed to be eaten

Within a week, I think.

Poor little crickets,

I feel a little guilt

You only want to eat and mate

But you’re my dragon’s kill.

Hop, little crickets,

enjoy your life of ease.

You are Gladiators

But there’s nowhere you can flee.

Scramble, little crickets,

find a place to hide.

The dragon waits to find you

and crunch your tasty sides.

Life’s a circle, little crickets

And your place in it is clear.

You’ll nourish my little dragon,

who puffs up her beard.

You are bred for death, little crickets,

like rats and mice for snakes.

Sadly my pretty beardie

likes a raw insect steak.

I see you, saucy cricket,

crawling on her head.

Your insolence is noted,

in moments you’ll be dead.

But your song, little crickets,

it’s gentle and it’s sweet.

Sometimes it makes me sad

that you’re what my pet must eat.

My Beardie is making me eat healthier!

I realized this the other day: because Elizabeth Reptile eats fresh endive, fruits, and berries, in addition to crickets, I’ve been picking up small packets of mixed whole fruit pieces and berries every few days. She doesn’t eat them all, of course — I learned that the hard way, when I thought a tray of raspberries would last for her, and the majority ended up going bad. So we get to enjoy! And it’s much better to keep the fresh stuff on hand than cookies or doughnuts.

I went through an overdose of chocolate right before and the week after Valentine’s Day. Hubby’s been making me big baggies of vegetable sticks (carrots, peppers, celery, cucumbers) to take to work, when he has the time and we’ve been shopping to get them. I should start planning out my box gardens to produce my own, although I won’t be able to do anything for months yet. We might be fortunate enough to see melting in March, but even if the snow goes by April, nothing can go in the ground until May. And even then, there’s risk of frost until well into June.

So goes life in Northeastern Ontario.

It was a lovely day for skiing today, and this is why my thoughts are turning to spring. I may have gotten mild frostbite on my cheeks a few weeks ago, possibly when I was downhill skiing and my face was uncovered. (Skiing plus scarf over face near glasses = Tori can’t see worth a damn going down the hill.) There’s this feeling of dampness, icy and unpleasant, when my face gets cold outside, as if snow is melting there that I can’t wipe away. Or a feeling of mild tingling. I’m fortunate that it’s not worse than an annoyance: I haven’t experienced any peeling or visible irritation, but it’s a reminder to me to be careful and find a better way to protect my skin. I’m going to have to look into vented goggles for next year, too. But the good news is that we’re coming out of February and into March. It’s rather like moving “from the freezer and into the fridge” (Icequake). I’m optimistic that we might have seen the last of the -30 C temperatures for the year. Today it was a balmy -7 C on the hill, just gorgeous. Tomorrow should be more of the same.

I almost didn’t go skiing today, though. Woke up feeling grumpy and wiped out and I wanted to ignore the sunshine and blue sky. But having to pick up the fresh food for Elizabeth, and take Bridget to her ski lesson, got me moving. And at first, I figured I wasn’t up for skiing, myself — I’d just take a book to read, bring my knitting, do some marking. But by the time I got home with the goodies and was loading up the vehicle, I figured I should put my own equipment in the car in case I changed my mind. And by the time we arrived at the hill, after a nice warm drive in the sunlight — after I’d gotten more sun on my face and the fresh air — I was getting my own boots and skis on as soon as Bridget was off on her lesson.

Oh, but funny thing: while I was enjoying my afternoon (that hour of skiing went way too quickly this time, I could have happily stayed out all day), I wanted to take some pictures of the animal tracks I’d noticed in the otherwise unmarked snow next to the T-bar lift trail. So I pulled out my phone and pretty immediately dropped it. No stopping to pick it up — all I could do was watch helplessly, craning my neck behind me, as the T-bar pulled me further up the hill. The young snowboarders behind me saw the the phone (thank heavens I’d dropped it case-up, so its TARDIS design was highly visible) and tried to get it, but they missed. I decided to wait at the top of the lift to see if anyone else would see it and grab it, and fortunately, I didn’t have to wait long. But I decided not to try getting pics again. It’s too bad, because those tracks are really neat. I think I was seeing stories about mice foraging and chipmunks evading capture from foxes. I downloaded an app to help me identify the tracks. Maybe next time, I’ll hold my phone in my bare hand and do video instead — no messing with gloves, no clicking, just keep it smooth.

Elizabeth Reptile has graced us with her presence, at last!


The Bearded Dragon formerly known as Tyrone, interrupted while munching crickets doused in calcium. How dare you gaze upon her Majesty during her meal!

One of my students who will soon be in post-secondary education is aware that she’ll likely be living in a variety of apartments and that it will become difficult to care for her beloved Beardie, so we offered to take her in. At two years old and around 12 inches long, Elizabeth arrived last night, comfortably ensconced against the cold in a warmed-up cooler bag. She’s been with us for 24 hours or so, and hasn’t settled in just yet. (The above picture was taken before she came here.)

Why on earth would we take on another living creature? Why add to the chores, bring in more things to store, and shuffle the furniture in an already limited space? Another critter to require a sitter if we go out of town for more than a day; more poop to pick up, another mouth to feed, etc., etc.

Well, why not? I see Elizabeth as rather remarkable. I’ve done some reading on the value of Bearded Dragons as pets, and the conclusion again and again is that they’re really good companions, once they get to know you. Easy to care for, fascinating to watch, needing little supervision and easily contained. There is scope for creativity in designing and maintaining the vivarium, providing variety in the diet — I already grow herbs in my garden that she can eat, and we don’t use pesticides on our lawn, so she can feast on dandelion leaves all summer. My daughter is already enraptured, to the point that I’m now wondering whether to establish her as the Alpha instead of myself.

I like the idea, too, of a small being that I can pick up and hold — Elizabeth enjoys, I’m told, being wrapped up and held, laid on the chest for mutual lounging. She can be stroked, hand-fed, taken for walks with a harness, and although she has a history of disliking being bathed, I think with her it will be easier than washing our dog, Skittles. I have with our new Beardie, ladies and gentlemen, most of the advantages of owning a cat, without the added obstacles of dander and fur and saliva causing my skin to break into hives, my eyes tearing, and my sinuses rebelling in swollen indignation. Plus, no litter box.

Pretty cool.

The hard part at the moment is in convincing the 9 year old to allow Elizabeth to acclimate. No, you may not yet pick her up. (The exception being when I gently moved her from her stressed-out stance against the glass of the tank to lying down, covered in her towel. She likes her towel.) No, you may not yet hand-feed her. (She’s a picky eater. Crickets will be delivered tomorrow.) No, you may not yet pet her. Just watch her, for now. Let her get used to us.

I must confess, my writer’s mind is running a bit rampant with the romanticism / idealistic / childish fantasy of it all. Foolish, I know, to think that Skittles and Elizabeth might be able to communicate in some way. Silly of me to imagine their conversations, the way I used to (ahem) imagine my dolls talking to each other. But what would a middle-aged dog have to say to a young reptile who has joined the family?10885162_757978887617171_7318602392962542418_n

SKITTLES:  What the hell are YOU?

ELIZABETH: ME? My good canine, I am the new Queen. Bow before me and tell me where the hell I am!

SKITTLES: Squirrel! Are you a squirrel?

ELIZABETH: I am a Bearded Dragon. Keep your distance, furry beast!

SKITTLES: Yer a funny-looking squirrel . . .

ELIZABETH: I am not a squirrel! Where is my lady? I demand to see my lady!

SKITTLES: Can’t help you there. I’m guarding the couch.

ELIZABETH: Well, I’m just going to lie here under my towel until my lady comes back.

SKITTLES: Want to raid the garbage can with me?

* * *

Well, maybe their chats wouldn’t quite go like that. Maybe they’ll wax philosophical on the meaning of leashes, or trade jokes about drinking from bowls. Would a reptile and a dog even share the same language? If they’re telepathic, could they understand each other’s words / images / thoughts?

Apparently, when puppies and Beardies are raised together, they can become quite close. But our Skittles is decidedly NOT a pup. But the good news is that unlike our previous attempts to introduce a second dog as a companion, she’s not exhibiting any stress over Elizabeth. She briefly sniffed the tank before Elizabeth was brought in, and that was it. I’m relieved at that, though it suggests my fantastical theory of cross-species communication and bonding is not a sure-fire thing.

Maybe I can come up with some children’s stories out of this, though.

In the meantime, and in all seriousness, the next few days are somewhat critical for Elizabeth. We are watching her carefully to make sure she eats (she hasn’t yet) and poops (not yet). She’s sleeping peacefully now, wrapped in her towel. She’s been misted, warmed, cooled, and stroked once or twice. We worry about her stress levels as she adjusts, the temperatures and lighting of her vivarium, and the glass-surfing we’ve seen tonight. But I’m chatting frequently with her previous owner, we’re doing the research, and with time, hopefully Elizabeth will settle in nicely. My hubby has visions of building her a grand new vivarium in the summer, with perches and a pool; Bridget cannot wait to be able to hold her and feed her, and take her for walks, and Jack — well, I’m not sure yet. He’s excited, and interested, but in a much more laid-back way than his younger sister.

But we’re all in on this together. As a family. And that’s really one of the best parts.