Calico Sells, Part 4: In the Little Critter Dept.

Here’s a sampler of the items in Petco that use a tricolor critter to represent a product for rodents.

In my initial survey of the store, I’d guesstimated that about 85% of the rodent products feature a tricolor guinea pig.

My favorite item is the “Fur-Tas-Tic” fashion cape in the first image below. And also, have we taken note of the fact that Halloween colors of orange and black are two-thirds of the calico palette?

I share the photo of this little rodent coat in case you have a critter friend. Maybe you want to run out and buy the coat at Petco to dress up your ferret, guinea pig, or rabbit in calico style for trick-or-treating next week!


Those “red staggered tortoiseshells springing”

Here are excerpts from “who put on our shoes,” a lovely poem by Rozalie Hirs, translated from Dutch by Donald Gardner, and published in Joyland Poetry (

River birch bark

River birch bark (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


there look at those wild-strawberry leaves purring a little
cat between thorns where a tree shakes its swaying antlers
by skeletal islands dry-as-dust wind

 swift cuts a tail into two points punt drifts
 riverbanks to my right-as-rain roses on hairpin legs
 toes with thoughts and tongue in cheek clacking
 the buds burst out of their husks happy to be alive I am
 a daybreak lilac when its bursting spray allows
 and birch bark curls dance in wind
[  . . . . ]
with pomegranate leaves their scarlet hairs
I see loosestrife rooting through fields
weeds cuttings of horsetails a land full of may
moisten earth to sow spring ask mountains the time
not to be spun fine pale yellow plumed thistles not to come too close
pods float in ditches reflect white elderberry sprays
a smell wrapped in jasmine hats lost on air
speckled mossy green climb with daisy stalks
ladders along hair pupating into peacock butterflies
 [ . . . . ]
in knuckles little daggers of burning larch needles
always stab red staggered tortoiseshells springing where
hogweed grows beside pale birch bark bees zoom
the moon its antics see flagellates springing nightingale
then I eat belladonna slimy frogs legs hop
in curling beck between the script of tiny scots pines
bellowing sea joy billowing honey streams of cotton grass
bones of verge grass batter against a hill beacons
in the distance ships understand mirroring each other to shards

[Translated by Donald Gardner for StAnza, Scotland’s Poetry Festival, March 2012, with financial support from the Dutch Foundation for Literature, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. © 2012 Donald Gardner, Rozalie Hirs.]

I think this is beautiful ‘calico aesthetics’–not because it uses red, black, and white colors per se, but because it enacts a synaesthetic meld of sense perceptions and levels of dictions that doesn’t obscure each element. It doesn’t turn what’s calico–with its distinct but related aspects–into a tortie or tabby’s muddled gradations of color.

The poet celebrates the scene’s “wild-strawberry,” “swaying antlers,” and “cat between thorns” multidimensionality. There are “pomegranate leaves [with] their scarlet hairs” and “white elderberry sprays.” There’s the black-green of “tiny scots pines” and “belladonna,” so the calico color array is in fact invoked.

English: Wild Strawberry (Fragaria vesca) at Å...

English: Wild Strawberry (Fragaria vesca) at Ålö in Stockholm archipelago (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since we know that sometimes the Europeans call their calicos tortoiseshells, and since the poem opens with “there look . . . purring a little/cat between thorns” and moves finally to the “burning larch needles [which] always stab red staggered tortoiseshells springing,” I think this poem is about how integral “a little/cat” is to nature’s panoply. The poem portrays this panoply by layered, abutted descriptions, up to and including “peacock butterflies.”

Here is an image of what we’d probably call a calico in the U.S., but is called a tortie because she’s in England:

English: Billie, a female one-year-old tortie ...

English: Billie, a female one-year-old tortie and white cat (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The image of “peacock butterflies” is itself a chimera–a double-natured creature–and indicates the strangely genre-gender-bending and anthropomorphizing that Hirs establishes as the reality in the cosmos of this poem.

N.B., See Venus the Two-Faced Cat Still a Mystery ( for more on the chimera cat whose image I put in an earlier post.

The $10 Million Dollar Calico–Super Stationmaster Tama

When I posted all the cat products in Petco that featured a calico image, I didn’t realize I was looking at small-potatoes stuff!

Tama, the stationmaster of Kishi Station, Waka...

Tama, the stationmaster of Kishi Station (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I just learned about this calico, Tama, in the small Japanese town of Kinokawa. She was made the honorary stationmaster after the local train line, Wakayama Electric Railway, noticed that Tama attracted lots of passenger attention when she hung out at the station.

She’s become a big tourist draw for the town, and they’re crediting her (and all the attendant Tama merchandising) with bringing in about $10 million to the formerly isolated town. She now has the title of Super Stationmaster Tama.

Here’s a CNN report about Tama and her fans.

Calico Sells, Part 3: It’s Beagles All The Way Down!

I said I’d post more photos of all the products I found in Petco using images of a calico or a tricolor dog or other critter, so here they are.

I guessed that about about 50% of the products for dogs use a tricolor dog. And out of that 50%, about 80% are images of beagles (if that makes sense!).

Since I can’t upload photos of 50% of the products for dogs that Petco carries, I’ll just share these. I’m short- changing the beagles just so I can show some other cute tricolor dog photos.

I’m also doing that because I live with a beagle (very trying sometimes) who happens to be the handsomest beagle alive (I’ve got the pix to prove it), so why post photos of beagles who aren’t as cute as mine!

More Calico Aesthetic

I found this beautiful image from Marrakech, Morocco, on Pinterest (from hamacle via Flickr).

While it looks like the cat may be white with black rather than calico, look at the tile to which the white cat is foreground and counterpoint. Though the salmon pink color is dominant, the calico trio of orange, black, and white is integral to the design and brings in the calico palette.

I think the photographer was drawn, probably unconsciously, to photograph this cat against the tile because the cat + tile combination creates that calico palette to which we are drawn–as I wrote about yesterday in my post “The Calico Aesthetic.” The green here is a signature color of Islam, so its presence as an accent color in the tile also makes sense. I’m not sure if the salmon pink/rose color has a particular resonance in Morocco, but I take note of how our word for that shade refers it back to the kingdom of living things–the salmon and the rose.

Just as lots of recent research has discovered that our physical sensations can influence our judgment very literally (i.e., holding a warm drink makes us feel warmer toward the person we’re with), I think our sense of reality is far more influenced by our sense of the animal than we know. That is to say, our understanding of reality is very patchwork–very calico!–and is cobbled together from our intimacy with everything animal, vegetable, and mineral.