I Am a Rat

Aloha, my Friday 5 Fellow Writers! For January 6: Animate!

Thank you, Scrivener, for another compelling topic:

1. In what ways are you like an ox?

2. In what ways are you like a rabbit?

3. In what ways are you like a snake?

4. In what ways are you like a goat?

5. In what ways are you like a rooster?


As the Chinese New Year is just about three weeks away (January 28th), I thought it would be intriguing to analyze personal qualities in light of the traditional qualities ascribed to these five particular animals out of the entire dozen in the lunar calendar.

I am a rat. I was always slightly ashamed of being a rat. One delightful result of this exercise is that I learned that Rat is actually the top sign of the Chinese zodiac–rah, rah, Number One! Having lived with the embarrassing Virgo label all my life, I thought being a Virgo Rat was just too much to handle. Maybe I will become superstitious in my later years, as I discovered that everything I usually like (the west, the color yellow, the number 9) is supposedly extremely unlucky for rats. Could this explain the statistically impossible amount of bad luck I’ve had in my life? If I head for the southeast or northeast again (I actually grew up in all those states as an army brat), will my bad luck dissipate like a wisp of steam? Or maybe head even further northeast or southeast–which from Honolulu gives me practically the entire globe–and see if I start surrounding myself with lilies and African violets, maybe I’ll get lucky?

If I apply my rat qualities of spirit, wit, alertness, delicacy, flexibility, and vitality (which are all so accurate I’m a little frightened!) maybe I’ll meet up with a single dragon, ox, or rabbit and have the happy domestic life I always craved. Ha! Or, since my lucky numbers are 2 and 3, ha ha, ha ha ha!


Lisa as Ox

In the old days, the ox was a very valuable agricultural resource, with the strength to pull carts and furrow fields. The ox represents industry, diligence, persistence, with some caution thrown in.

I am known for my persistence–tenacity–and even stubbornness. Like the ox, I lumber on through difficult fields because I hate to give up and I hate to fail. I have been diligent and industrious since childhood, values implanted by my grandparents. And honesty is a characteristic I hold in highest regard, which has often hurt me, because I can never understand why people lie when they lie to me. I don’t really get the lying deal–especially lies that intentionally deceive, deny, deprive. I can’t abide hurting people. Often my girlfriends and I discuss whether we would be more successful if we were demanding, spiteful, selfish, b-words. But unfortunately I value honesty, compassion, empathy, and kindness–all fairly useless qualities in our striving, self-absorbed culture. Nice. People always say I’m “nice.” I’m not nice…I’m a rat!!

Eric Gale’s “De Rabbit”

My favorite Rabbit song, by Eric Gale, who died in 1994. I always used to play this album and sing, “De Rabbit” at the top of my voice!


Traditionally, rabbits are signs of hope and tenderness. They are said to be elegant, decent, noble, and lovely. I have good childhood associations with rabbits, because my parents called each other “Rabbit” when they were being affectionate.

My inside secret self is a rabbit, very timid, but since the age of four I have been pushing myself to be more outgoing. I learned at nursery school that the loud children in the middle of the room always got what they wanted, while the shy children lining the walls (like me) never had a hope of getting anything. So in reality, I am an introvert who regenerates with alone time, trying to get up enough energy to be fascinating, entertaining, funny, glamorous, and charismatic. I’m usually more comfortable in a dark room with a laptop. Most of the time. My secret rabbit hops away when I’m around really good loud music with irresistible percussion and I have to dance.

Parrot Snake now seen on Oahu!

Lisa as Snake

Snakes get a bad rap. Usually blamed for malevolence, they also represent mystery, acumen, a capacity for divination–and even sometimes, delight. I am most like a snake in that I like to wiggle in a sinuous way when I practice modern dance and belly dancing. I have an extremely strong and accurate intuitive sense. I used to give psychic readings until people freaked out because I was so accurate. Also, I tend to take on the temperature around me, emotionally and physically, just as cold-blooded reptiles do. So if I’m in a cold, uncomfortable meeting, I get cold and uncomfortable. If I’m surrounded with warmth and love and happiness, I radiate!

Lisa as Goat

Traditionally people loved the goat (sometimes also interchanged with sheep or ram). It represented a calm, gentle source of fleece to create writing and paint brushes as well as wool for spinning and weaving cloth to keep warm. The zodiac association is beauty. The love of my life was a ram/sheep/goat. I am most like a goat when I consume all raw materials around me in creative efforts–I don’t like to buy materials, I like to “graze” and find them. I always wanted a goat in my imaginary yard to eat all the weeds and keep me company. Llamas are also welcome.


Lisa as Rooster

In three weeks, we will begin the Year of the Rooster, which runs from January 28, 2017 to February 15, 2018. Since roosters are such excellent alarm clocks, it’s no wonder they represent punctuality and fidelity (and even the exorcising of evil spirits, perhaps night spectres as the sun rises).

I confess I have never been a morning person. When we were little, the few years we still had a TV, my sisters would get up early on Saturdays to watch cartoons. I just wanted to sleep in. I’ve had insomnia since I was tiny, and can’t remember a time when I could put my head on a pillow and just fall asleep, and stay asleep. I used to sleepwalk and talk in my sleep. I get strange states of sleep paralysis. The only time I can handle early morning is when I’ve been up all night doing something wild–or dancing.

One Christmas I flew from my home in St. Lucia to visit my family in the U.S. When I came back to my island home at the New Year, I realized I had misplaced my house key. So I stayed with a friend, whose neighbors kept chickens and roosters up in Gros Islet. I’ll never forget that first joyous instant of opening my eyes to the chinks of morning light coming through the boards of the tin-roofed cabin, with the rooster outside, celebrating by lifting his voice to the heavens. I had one of those rare exquisite moments of perfect well-being. I was back in the country of my heart. The land was alive. The neighbors were friendly. I was wanted.

This is the feeling I crave again, this year. With all my heart I hope the Year of the Rooster brings joy and fulfillment to us all.

Read All the Friday Fives Here!

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