Anti-Anxiety Tool of the Week: Rub Your Knees
This is a new-ish tool for me--I found myself doing it one day and realized it was not the first time. I find it quite soothing. It's simple--I sit in a chair or cross-legged and gently rub the palms of my hands in small circles on and around my knees. I shift my hands slightly as I circle so as to get the whole front and sides of both knees. I find I almost always move my hands in opposite directions, with the right hand going clockwise and the left, counterclockwise. I do this fairly slowly, about 5 circles every 10 seconds, sometimes slower. Ahhhhh...
This tool appeared originally in my June 2, 2021 blog so there's no previous toolbox link. Here's a link to the Index of all toolkits. And The Mini-Toolkit: For Those with Little or No Time.
You probably know about Ursula Le Guin--at least I hope you do. She was the amazing author of many wonderful, resonant, deeply themed fantasy and science fiction books and short stories, including the Wizard of Earthsea series. She was the first woman to win both the Hugo and Nebula awards, science fiction/fantasy's highest honors. Her language can be hauntingly beautiful and her characters equally so. Though there is often some humor, she usually deals with deep and sometimes extremely difficult issues.
But there is a lighter side to Le Guin, which she shared in her lovely four-book Catwing series for children. With children's books, as with poetry, it is a challenge to create a great story and sympathetic characters with minimal words, but her storytelling and characters are, as always, wonderful.
She said, "I drew a picture of a cat with wings on my shopping list. The cat kept flying around my head until I sat down and wrote the story."
The entire series is delightfully illustrated by S.D. Schindler.
In the first book, Catwings, we are introduced to Harriet, James, Thelma and Roger, four kittens born to a warm and affectionate, and completely normal, alley cat, Mrs. Jane Tabby. In one of my favorite lines in the book, Mrs. Jane Tabby asks "'How is the milk this morning, children?' 'It's very good, Mother, thank you,' they answered happily."
No one knows why her children have wings, but since they do Mrs. Jane realizes that if they stay in the city they will be chased after as freaks or captured for side shows, so she sends them off, reluctantly, to find a safer place. After the first long leg of their flight to safety over the rooftops of the city, they sleep "in a weary, furry heap."
After some perilous adventures, including a crippling swipe from an owl for James, eventually they come across Susan and Hank, two gentle human children who offer them food and shelter.
"Oh, Hank,' Susan whispered, "their wings are furry."
"Oh, James," Harriet whispered, "their hands are kind."
In Catwings Return, James and Harriet decide to go back to the city to visit their mother but find that their old home under the dumpster no longer exists, their mother has disappeared, and one edge of their old neighborhood is being destroyed by a wrecking ball. They think they see movement in the attic of a building, which "smelled of dust and very ancient rat droppings--and a thin, milky, warm, little smell of kitten." But the kitten is alone and so traumatized all it can do is hiss, "HATE" and wail "Me! Meeeee!" James and Harriet, knowing they can't persuade the kitten to trust them with words, instead talk to each other.
"Remember how Mother always purred us to sleep?" says James.
"Yes. Like this." And Harriet began to sing a purring lullaby, and James joined her, loud and low, loud and low.
Finally they convince the kitten to let them come near--and discover that it too has wings. And of course, more adventures ensue as they look for their in-common mother and try to get back to their safe home in the country.
The last two books in the series, Wonderful Alexander and the Catwings and Jane on Her Own: A Catwings Tale , are, like the first two, vintage Le Guin, combining her gentle dry humor and astute understanding of character motivations, with themes of healing and freedom, all done in deceptively simple, poetic language.
There you have it, a wonderful foursome of books you and any young children you know would likely enjoy. They are all out of print but available through second hand booksellers. Note: My paperback copies from the late '80s and early '90s are a bit fragile, so you may need to handle with care. But it's well worth it!
Until next time,
Child with hands on knees, Annie Kubler, Child's Play Inc.
All Catwings illustrations by S.D. Schindler