Whatcha Reading Wednesdays: Ackerley’s Sweet and Tempermental Tulip

My Dog Tulip is J. R. Ackerley’s honest and often witty memoir of his years spent with his possessive, fiercely loyal, highly intelligent, sometimes insecure German Shepherd, Tulip (Queenie). Tulip, who began her life in a neglectful home, is a handful. A canine hero only to her master, and sometimes not even to him, Tulip presents a face to the outside world that is often short of charming. She barks and growls, she comes in between Ackerley and just about everyone else, she panics and pouts when she can’t be with him, and she doesn’t always listen to him. She also loves Ackerley, who freed her from her abusive home, with a devotion that inspires and intimidates.

Instead of resorting to anthropomorphic devices to bring Tulip into our human understanding, Ackerley allows Tulip to be the dog she is and, instead, brings us into her world. The magic of this book is that it provides a journey into the animal world in a manner that respects and tries to understand the animal on the animal’s terms, much like Monty Roberts did for horses in The Man Who Listens to Horses.

Consider Ackerley’s lament after Tulip had a late-night accident while they were guests in a friend’s home. Tulip had fussed and pawed at the door to get Ackerley to take her outside to relieve herself, but he, believing that she that just wanted to chase the friend’s cat, ignored her and went back to sleep. The dog, showing more sense than her owner, “laid her mess on the linoleum.”

I was more than touched. I was dreadfully upset. My pretty animal, my friend, who reposed in me a loving confidence that was absolute, had spoken to me as plainly as she could. She had used every device that lay in her poor brute’s power to tell me something, and I had not understood her. True, I had considered her meaning, but she was not to know that for I had rejected it; nor could I ever explain to her that I had not totally misunderstood but only doubted: to her it must have seemed that she had been unable to reach me after all. How wonderful to have had an animal come to one to communicate where no communication is, over the incommunicability of no common speech, to ask a personal favor! How wretched to have failed! Alas for the gulf that separates man from beast: I had had my chance, now it was too late to bridge it. O yes, I could throw my arms about her as I did, fondle and praise her in my efforts to reassure her that it was all my fault and she was the cleverest person in the world. But what could she make of that? I had failed to take her meaning, and nothing I could ever do could put that right.

Next up on the 1000 Books to Read Before You Die (James Mustich) list, three unique books by three unique Adamses: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, The Education of Henry Adams by Henry Adams, and Watership Down by Richard Adams.

Happy reading, everyone! Feel free to share what you are reading or any favorite books about animals that you have read.

©️2020 Tanya Cliff

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A Blushing Haiku

late spring freeze shocks bloom

snow falls on tender petals

patient blush persists


©2020 Tanya Cliff 

Whatcha Reading Wednesdays

A few months ago, I picked up a copy of James Munstich’s wonderful book, 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die, A Life-Changing List, thinking “someday” and “wouldn’t that be fun.” Then the coronavirus hit, and my thoughts changed to “now” and “because I can.”

A week into my reading adventure, I am midway through my third book in the A’s, Desert Solitaire, by Edward Abby, a compilation of nature-inspired essays based on the author’s three seasons as a park ranger in Arches National Monument in southeastern Utah in the days before that park was infiltrated by paved roads and thousands of tourists. The book strikes me as a cross between Aldo Leopold’s eloquent A Sand Country Almanac and Henry Miller’s brutal The Air-Conditioned Nightmare. Abbey’s insightful descriptions of the rugged beauty of unbridled nature and his unapologetic cries against the growing exploitation of those lands brought about by mining and tourism make for a lyric, poignant read. I am thoroughly engrossed.

“There’s another disadvantage to the use of the flashlight: like many other mechanical gadgets it tends to separate a man from the world around him. If I switch it on my eyes adapt to it and I can see only the small pool of light which it makes in front of me; I am isolated. Leaving the flashlight in my pocket where it belongs, I remain a part of the environment I walk through and my vision though limited has no sharp or definite boundary.”

(Edward Abbey, from the essay, Solitaire)

If you are curious, I plan on continuing to log my progress through a weekly update here on WP, sharing snippets and thoughts from favorite books as I go. Please join me and share the books you are reading or want to read. Happy reading!

©️2020 Tanya Cliff

On Reading, Writing, Gardens, and Chickens

In these crazybusy times, I have been keeping myself sane with the crazy business of reading, writing, gardening, and raising a new flock of chickens. Those of you who have been with me for a long time know that I also homeschool my children, a thing that used to set us apart from most of our friends and family. Now, everyone is doing it. How surreal!

(Side note: If you or any of yours have found yourselves suddenly faced with homeschooling and want to chat, complain, or brainstorm solutions, feel free to email me. We have been homeschooling for 18 years. Been there, done that, still learning.)

On Reading: Please join me here on Wednesday for more about that.

On Writing: I have been busy with several writing classes to help prepare for entry to an MFA in Creative Writing. As a part of that effort, I have been working on the craft of short story writing. If you are curious, hop on over to the Writer’s Workshop at the godoggocafe.com to read more (https://godoggocafe.com/2020/05/02/writers-workshop-iii-may-2020-story-structure-difficult-choices-and-birds/). For May’s workshop, I have shared one of my shorts and the assignment prompt that it was written in response to. For now, we have changed the format of the Workshop to a single prose prompt a month without the editing challenges. Everyone is busy, and life in the midst of Covid-19 is crazy. That said, I would love to have you join me in the Workshop for some fun writing challenges!

On Gardens:

On Chickens:

I have been a bit behind in my Monday posts. As these weeks go on, I will post some of my new poetry, a few of my short stories, and more posts like this, sharing a bit of what we are doing to make our lives at home as rich as possible in a day when we aren’t able to do much else.

Stay safe, healthy, and creative everyone!

©️2020 Tanya Cliff

This Tree – Revisited

This week, my family will be welcoming the first of a new flock of chickens. Those of you who have been with me a long time might know that we used to live out on acreage, complete with chickens, ducks, turkeys, and a large garden. We had relocated to the Madison area a few years ago and bought a house in town. While it had its conveniences, we all missed the land and the birds.

Last fall, we moved back into the country on ten acres in the beautiful Driftless Region of Wisconsin, land untouched by the last glaciation. In a few days, we will welcome the first of our new flock, three Cuckoo Maran hens. For me, it feels a bit like welcoming old friends home.

When the threat of coronavirus passes, we will all come out of our homes and reconnect with family and friends, strengthening our deepest bonds, breathing the fresh air, and revisiting familiar places. We will pick up where we left off, albeit with the changes that life demands. Still, we will pick up and carry on.

Stay safe and healthy, everyone.

This Tree

I’ve hiked this trail before
winding through a wooded wonderland
in awe
air sweet with the detritus
by spring’s morning mists,
I breathe
lost in a tree-born revere
my soul plays in the canopy
my toe, earth bound,
snags the arching twist
of an exposed root
hiding under last fall’s rotting leaves
I stumble, startled
catch myself against a tree
its rough bark—a finger hold—
steadies me
I rest my back against this strong friend
yes, this one
whose rude root
tripped me
I trace the root back to this tree
Old Confidant!
this friend
responds with shaking laughter
as the wind rattles
bare limbs
just stretching from
winter’s rest
this tree chuckles
breathes me


Words and Photography ©2019 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me

Posted in poetry & free verse.

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These crazy, trying days will pass. They always do. Looking back through some of my old pieces, I found this “Whisper” for you. I hope it encourages you through whatever challenges you face today. I will be spending most of my day planting seeds and preparing for a new flock of chickens…savoring every moment of that fresh spring air. Peace, love, and stay healthy!

whispers in the willow
through tender branches
inside ice-sheet wrappings
a promise…
these frigid hours will pass
soon Nature will sigh
her warm spring breaths
that tender branches grasp


Words and Photography ©2018 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me

Posted in poetry , healing,free verse.

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Hands long for the warmth of flesh
to touch
to hold
to love

The torn social fabric

Covers our mouths

Shielding us




This day, too, shall pass—
it always does—
not fast enough for most,
far too quickly for some…

We Mourn

Like doves, tossed in the storm,
Like sheep, led to the slaughter,
Like lone wolves…


We howl at the insensitive moon.

It waxes.

It wanes.

It cycles.

We will sort through the carnage—
we always do—
and comfort each other
And mend the social fabric
Breathe the fresh air
And Celebrate…


…pandemic, DISTANT

©️2020 Tanya Cliff

A Fluid Haiku #2

no snapshot in time

the human tide ebbs and flows

sands shift, alter coasts


©️2020 Tanya Cliff