I was having trouble condensing this into three panels. After several fraught frustrating fruitless hours spent writing, deleting, re-writing, editing, scrapping, and weeping softly in a corner I gave up and just made it four panels. The difficulty there is in how to do it without making it tiny. On this one I did better than some previous attempts, but it’s still not quite there. My apologies to your eyes, and give your optometrist a big hug from me.

When I originally thought of this exchange my intention was to go back to the scene of the ill-fated rescueof Wuffles’ original owner. In that scene I imagined an ambulance and two paramedics with a stretch already covered in a black body bag talking about the best way to scrape the old woman off the wall. While they’re talking she pulls one hand free from the bricks that were shattered by her impact. They stop talking. She pull the other hand free, pushes herself away from the wall, dusts herself off, tells the paramedics to close their mouths before flies get in there, then asks if anyone has seen her dog. The last panel would be some big dramatic special effects text saying something like “Thus Began the Amazing Adventures of The Iron Granny!” or something equally sophomoric.

It’s been so long now since those original strips that going back and resurrecting granny doesn’t feel like it works. So we’ll leave her fate without the closure it deserves as we move on with the adventures of Ted, Wuffles, Frances (Captain Dum Dum), Sam, Mark, Steve, Cowboy, Hipster, Normal Guy and the rest.

Cognitive Retreats

Every so often, if I can find a space of time that isn’t filled with work of one kind or another I like to close my eyes and try to clear my thoughts. At the very least I like to shut my eyes, empty my mind of whatever has been occupying it, and just let my mind wander over whatever just pops in there. The Stay Puff’d marshmallow man has yet to make an appearance, but I know it’s juts a matter of time. In a riff on the most recent Sherlock Holmes I think of this as going to my “mind sanctuary.” Everyone has one. I just gave mine a name. Because my inner thirteen year old is irresistible, apparently.

My mind sanctuary has evolved over time. When I started trying to build a mental quiet place I painstakingly imagined a mountain forest next to a stream with a gentle waterfall. No pounding torrents of water, just a gentle fall producing a soothing, consistent sound of water pouring over rocks into more water. The effort of trying to maintain the image in my head, complete with smells, the feel of the wind, the sound of the water, and the movement of the trees, was way too much effort and really defeated the original purpose. Kind of like trying to find a quiet room to take a nap, then drowning out office noise by moving in a bunch of speakers, picking a metal station on Pandora and blasting it at a volume usually reserved for concert venues.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve gone the opposite direction. I’ve created a mental fortress of solitude that is a plain white floor, walls, and ceiling. It has worked wonders. It is substantially easier for me to fall asleep in my mind sanctuary, and when I get a moment to, for lack of a better word, meditate I find myself walking away feeling revitalized. Everyone should have their own version of a mental fortress of solitude they can retreat into for a few minutes. Seriously, try it, it costs nothing, and I’d bet my dear Aunt Suzy’s pet badger that you feel better after.