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Stalked by the animals in my head

The other night I tried to sleep. Instead, I played possum between catnaps.

During an evening conversation with our son, we began horsing around. He started it. I told him I scheduled two meals out with friends on the same day.

Eric asked, “Are you going to pig out?”

His father countered, “It depends on how much she wolfs down.”

Eric laughed, wondering how many animal references we could joke with. We milked the idea a while but then beefed up our conversation with other topics.

Eric’s question badgered me as I lay awake. Most of his adult life, he’s been a mountain goat scrambling up steep cliffs to find work. Many employers are blind as a bat, unable to see how a blind person can be a valuable employee. A buyout, lost contract, or lack of funding swooped in and snatched any quarry he tracked.

Now, the stampeding herd of a government shutdown had flattened the last two weeks of training for his most promising opportunity ever. His ability to laugh called like a bugling elk as I scampered after anything to lift his spirits.

Animal references? My mind leapfrogged through them. It really got my goat. I’d think of one example, then another buzzed in. The first one disappeared down a rabbit hole. Sometimes a vague thought clawed its way into consciousness then ducked out of sight as I pounced. My mind was like a rat in a maze. Around each corner, I found neither sustenance nor exit, just another corner. No, not a rat in a maze, I’m a fly trapped in a spider web.

I finally decided to stop squirreling around, adopt an attitude of dogged determination, think it through, then maybe I could curl up like a kitten and go to sleep. I can be as stubborn as a mule if I put my mind to it, so why, now, was I timid as a mouse?

I butted ideas around, but felt like a fish out of water. Where do I start? Do I let animal references snake through my thoughts? How do I capture ideas slippery as an eel? If I keep ideas warm like a mother hen, will they hatch? How do I put all my ducks in a row? Finally, I told myself, “Don’t be such a turkey. Grab the bull by the horns and get on with it. This is hogging sleep time.”

Well, I sheepishly admit I had no idea how to round-up and corral phrases. Make a list? Oh, whee! It’s such fun to parrot a pack-train of phrases. Ham up a bird-brained story as silly as a goose? Sigh, I better pigeon-hole it before I’m crazy as a loon.

If I let sleeping dogs lie, inspiration can strike and call me back like moths to a flame. Maybe then I’ll stop monkeying around and produce something to crow about. Finally, the wise old owl in me let sleep take wing.

Marilyn Patterson lives in Medford.

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