Years and years ago a friend and I left art school after our watercolor class and fled to a bar (bars open up at 6:30 in the morning in San Francisco but I think it was more like 1 or 2 pm when we decided to get that drink). We went to an English bar that was near the school and at the bar were two people. An older British woman who was open to conversation. And an older Russian man who was almost passed out drunk at the end of the bar.
The older British woman said that she knew the Russian guy when he was younger. He had lied about his age so he could become a soldier in the Russian army during World War II. She explained that he was way too young to cope with the war (I think she said he was 14 when he enlisted). She said that everything that happens to you under the age of 20 makes a permanent impression on you. I always remembered that. I think she meant that coping with catastrophic events is nearly impossible at a young age but I also took it to mean that every experience under the age of 20 adds up to what will be the permanent you.
In a similar thought, an almost mother-in-law once told me that you have to watch what you do when you're young because when you're old, you're going to be doing it a lot (although at the time, I think she was preplanning her possible senility and wanted to demonstrate a certain scooping motion just to let me know that in the extreme future she might be scooping an imaginary catbox).
One thing I noticed about the four books I wrote about in the last week is how important nature is in the stories and how equal animals and people are, that the communication between the two is effortless (well, except for maybe the "Parsley" story). Also that all four books were written and illustrated by Europeans. My impression of Europeans is that they're more comfortable with animals than most Americans. There are dogs that get to go in bars in the Netherlands. I ate in a restaurant in Germany once with an enormous 25 pound kitchen cat on my lap. I'm thinking the kids who grow up to be adults who are not crazy about animals probably didn't get to read a lot of good books when they were young. :-)
I wrote a post a couple months ago and then took it right off because what I wrote just didn't come out right. But it sort of fits in with the theme here so here it is again...
I had a boyfriend (his mother was the catbox scooper!) who had a dream when he was a kid about a place called Middleworld. There were three places to live. One was made up of people who were only interested in people and did not want to deal with animals in any way. Another one was made up of animals who could only deal with other animals and did not have any interest in people whatsoever. And then there was Middleworld where people and animals lived in the same world because they just wanted to.
This drawing I did 7-8 years ago reminds me of the Middleworld dream (and also the world of storybooks and fairy tales where animals and people share their lives together).
But right now I'm thinking it should be updated with the cat walking back and forth over a laptop keyboard because that's what's going on this minute. And repeatedly. Just because I might consider a life lived without sharing it with an animal as a sad, sad thing, that doesn't mean they can't sometimes be annoying when they're with you. :-)