Thursday, March 17, 2011

Morning of the Lynx

In which we consider a secret which some would keep from us.

Thursday's Child

You know, Gentle Readers, that I am not "a morning person." I may have mentioned that a time or two before. And yet mornings are often so full of wonderful surprises. I really should do morning more often.

This morning, I had no choice but to do whatever had to be done to get the carcass upright and rebooted and at least partially functioning by the really scandalous hour of seven a.m. At the latest. For things to work out optimally, I really, REALLY needed to be out the front door by six. A.M. Ante-meridian. Before noon. Morning. Oh my god.

How do people DO this? I used to do it, back in the day.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

To Bear With Unbearable Sorrow

Don Quixote by Gustav Dore
"I come in a world of iron to make a world of gold." ~~Don Quixote de la Mancha

It's cold today; cold and gray. It feels more like November than March. I look out of my second story window, out across the street. Bare and bony tree limbs still reach towards a winter sky. Today that sky is devoid of color; thick clouds conceal a sickly sun. Where is the sun? Where is spring?

I know this feeling of chill today has more to do with my mood than with the season. It's forty-two degrees Fahrenheit today, not balmy by any means but certainly not bitter. Only a few weeks ago we were rejoicing when temperatures rose into the forties. Today that same degree marker seems cold, uninviting, unfriendly.

Spring is on the way. My perception of today as a cold winter's day is an illusion. My perspective from the second story window is flawed. Downstairs, outside, out in the garden and in the yard, signs of life, signs of spring are everywhere. The forsythia is covered with buds, about to explode into bloom. The lilac is likewise bursting with buds. Two timid purple crocus in a sunny spot have already lifted their brave faces to the southern sun. Daffodils and hyacinth have pushed green leaves up through the mulch. Even the mystery potted plant which lives in my upstairs south window has put out a little red, five petaled flower, the first after winter. Life is rich and wriggling down in the garden. It's only up here, facing north, facing the darkness, where things seem so dead and cold.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Saving Sasha

In which we read of fearful giants, the courage of a cat, and kindness richly rewarded.

Sasha in bed
He was starved. I have never seen a cat so thin, nor so afraid. Today as I write, he sleeps in a basket, on a cushion, long gray fur fluffed out, and a contented smile gracing his elegant face. His beautiful tail, a truly glorious tail, long and fluffy and fat, drapes across dark gray paw pads. He is a vision of catly contentment, and I smile, seeing him so. The sight is like healing oil on a parched and cracked heart.

Two years ago things were very different. It was late October, perhaps early November, when I first noticed him. It was feeding time for the feral colony, and there he was, in the biting autumn wind, hanging around at the edge of the group, crying. He was clearly terrified. Only his hunger drove him to us.

That tail, which now is so magnificent in its fat, furry glory, was like no tail I had ever seen. The fur was almost gone; it looked more like a possum's tail than the tail of a cat. Worst of all, it was ridged and lumpy. What I mean is there was so little flesh over the bones of the tail that you could see and count the vertebrae. He was starving. In his desperation, somehow he found us.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Cats are Minimalists

In which we consider the lilies of the field, the birds of the air, the contentment of cats, and the price of that which is truly important.

It feels, today, as if spring might actually be on the way. After months of ice and snow, weeks of temps in the zero to ten degree range, nights plagued by tornadoes and days of gray skies, today, today it's sunshine, blue skies, and fifty-three degrees Fahrenheit. The upstairs windows are thrown open. There are tiny buds on the forsythia bush; brave green shoots are giving it a go in the bulb garden. I cross my fingers; I allow myself to give way to hope.

Looking out the back window, I see the Colony Cats are soaking in the rays, as well. Handsome is stretched out in all his elderly golden glory along the deck railing, basking in the southern sunlight. The four house cats have claimed perches by the open windows. They loaf, pictures of contentment. Not a worry in the world wrinkles their furry brows. I envy them. I pause and ponder, wondering what I might learn from their ways.

As I write, it's the first of the month, and so a part of today was spent in the onerous task of paying bills -- mortgage, utilities, communication, transportation, credit cards -- while trying to be sure enough is set aside to cover food, cat kibbles, cat liter, vet bills, prescriptions. This necessary task always puts me in a bad mood. I have to make time, afterward, for gratitude. Time to think over the abundance in my life, to shift the focus away from what I don't have to the many joys I do. As my great-grandmother would have said, to "count my blessings."

I contemplate the cats in their contentment; I observe how they enter fully and wholeheartedly into the joy of this sunshiny day. They pay no bills; they owe nothing and own nothing. I stop and consider if this is part of their secret, for who would deny that cats are enlightened beings?

"Behold the birds of the air, for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns...Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin. And yet I say to you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these."

Would life be simpler if we had less stuff?

I hate to clean house; it seems always to me to be a terrible waste of time. I clean, I cook, I wash dishes, I do laundry, taking precious minutes and hours out of my schedule, time I so desperately want to spend on other activities. Within days it's all to do over again. And again. And again. It's a horrible frustration. And yet, I despise living in chaos, in clutter. When my surroundings are cluttered, which they most often are, it's hard to focus. It's like the physical clutter and chaos spills over into mental and emotional chaos and clutter. Sometimes, I leave the house to escape it. Out I go to the organized, clean space of coffee house or library to get some relief.

Sometimes, I think the answer would be to have a housekeeper.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Small Candles

In which we take up the topics of sisters, dogs, dirty politics, and hope.

She joined our family before I have conscious memory. She died when I was eighteen. In every way, other than biological, she was my sister.

We slept in the same bed. She was terrified of storms. When I was eight and she was five, a terrible tornado struck and devastated Lubbock, Texas. The Panhandle town was leveled. The apartment where our family lived was in the direct path of the monstrous storm; if I close my eyes, I can still today conjure up the sound of shrieking winds. It sounds nothing like a freight train; the low lone whistle of a freight train is a sad and strangely comforting sound. A tornado howls like a demon.

Over the years, I've learned to deal with my relationship with stormy weather. I happily head to the basement when necessary; when the "all clear" sounds, I'll spend the next hour foraging for carbohydrates, but I cope. She never did. The sound of hail striking windows and roof would send her into a panic attack, trembling and shivering. Even in her teens, she had a prescription for tranquilizers, used only during storms.

She wasn't fond of cats, though we once had a small Siamese named "Tejas" (pronounced as in the Spanish, "TAY - haas") with whom she became fast friends. There was also a dog named "Sugar-Plum," a big mutt of a thing, who lived for a time with us. She loved him, loved him dearly. I can still see them rambling the neighborhood together. When he died she grieved for months, inconsolable.