Last Sunday, my sister Joy surprised me with a text.  “Check your email for important bulletin!” I was so intrigued I immediately opened my email.

I saw this:


A walking ball of fur with eyes!  “Her name is Walnut.”  Our other guinea pig, Moonball, is an American shorthaired cavy, so the prospect of caring for a fancier breed was exciting.  Walnut is approximately 4 months old, what they call a Sheltie or Silkie.  A cavy with Justin Bieber hair.  My brother-in-law Tristan picked her out of a lineup at the Northeast Greenhills Sunday Market, and paid P500.  He says he was enamored by her black button eyes and teddy bear looks.

Joy and Tristan decided to get another cavy to keep Moonball company, because they’d read that cavies are social animals.  Moonball is now a year and a half old, so it was interesting to see how she’d bond with another cavy half her size.  Walnut was skittish, and tended to run away everytime Moonball would attempt to smell or lick her.  Good thing we had a couple of shelters – a huge PVC T-joint and an overturned plastic basket with cut-out sides – inside what we like to call the cavy-tat.

walnut-01Eventually, Walnut’s hunger forced her to leave the T-joint and join Moonball (and her bulk) at the food bowl.

walnut-05walnut-02walnut-03At first we were concerned that Moonball would hog the food bowl, but Walnut managed to get her share of pellets.

Tristan would occasionally capture Walnut so Joy could give her a dose of Vitamin C from a syringe, and so Walnut would get used to handling and grooming.  Right now she fits on Tristan’s palm:


Joy also rebuilt the cavy-tat from a 2×3 to a 2×4 Stack-and-Rack cage held together with cable ties with a coro-plast box inside.  The coro-plast (corrugated plastic) box is lined with an extra-large garbage bag and old newspapers, followed by a green plastic mesh floor where poop and urine could pass through.  This makes it easy for us to collect the poop and newspapers for my mom’s composting needs.

cavytatIn the evenings after dinner we like to sit on the sofa and watch Walnut and Moonball run around or eat.  Since they’re still getting acquainted, there’s a lot of chasing going on.  Walnut is a perky little thing; despite being wary of the bigger Moonball, she has learned to spend more time out in the open instead of hiding in the T-joint all the time.

Right now Moonball is about 800 grams and is about as big as a puppy.  She is well socialized with humans, so she actually enjoys being picked up and cuddled every so often.  She’s also potty-trained – she only pees and poops on the old newspaper folded in the corners of the cavy-tat.  We’re hoping Walnut catches on.

Cavies have a lifespan of about 4-6 years, given the best possible care.  We plan to enjoy these two pets for as long as we can.


I just found out via The New York Times today that Polish poet and 1996 Nobel prizewinner Wislawa Szymborska had passed away.

I had been lucky enough to buy a copy of her book, View With A Grain of Sand: Selected Poems, several years ago at a local bookstore.  Later, I found that my sister also owned a copy of her Poems: New and Collected, which contained basically the same poems as in my book, but including newer works.

A former member of the Polish Communist Party, Szymborska later turned away from her early “Stalinist” work.  She was also an essayist and translator.  Shortly after winning the Nobel Prize, she said in a New York Times interview that although “life crosses politics… my poems are strictly not political. They are more about people and life.”  Many of her poems that I have read deal with the aftermath of war, of people rising from its ashes.  Her words can be stark, but manage to convey hopefulness and sympathy.

I wanted to share here two of her poems, which I enjoyed reading:


Die — you can’t do that to a cat.
Since what can a cat do
In an empty apartment?
Climb up the walls?
Rub up against the furniture?
Nothing seems different here,
but nothing is the same.
Nothing has been moved,
but there’s more space.
At at nighttime no lamps are lit.

Footsteps on the staircase,
but they’re new ones.
The hand that puts fish in the saucer
has changed, too.

Something doesn’t start
at its usual time.
Something doesn’t happen
as it should.
Someone was always, always here
Then suddenly disappeared,
And stubbornly stays disappeared.

Every closet has been examined.
Every shelf has been explored.
Excavations under the carpet turned up nothing.
A commandment was even broken,
papers scattered everywhere.
What remains to be done.
Just sleep and wait.

Just wait till he turns up,
Just let him show his face.
Will he ever get a lesson
on what not to do with a cat.
Sidle towards him
as if unwilling
and ever so slow
on visibly offended paws,
and no leaps or squeals at least to start.


Nothing can ever happen twice.
In consequence, the sorry fact is
That we arrive here improvised
And leave without the chance to practice.

Even if there is no one dumber,
if you’re the planet’s biggest dunce,
you can’t repeat the class in summer:
this course is offered only once.

No day copies yesterday,
no two nights will teach what bliss is
in precisely the same way,
with exactly the same kisses.

One day, perhaps, some idle tongue
mentions your name by accident:
I feel as if a rose were flung
into the room, all hue and scent.

The next day, though, you’re here with me
I can’t help looking at the clock:
A rose?  A rose? What could that be?
Is it a flower or a rock?

Why do we treat the fleeting day
with so much needless fear and sorrow?
It’s in its nature not to stay
Today is always gone tomorrow.

With smiles and kisses, we prefer
to seek accord beneath our star,
although we’re different (we concur)
just as two drops of water are.

(translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh,
from “View with a Grain of Sand”, Harcourt Brace & Co., 1995)

There are more translations of Szymborska’s poems online on the Polish-American Network, Poets.org, and the State University of New York (Buffalo).