Simple Pleasures of Life with Cats

Cats. What can I say about these enigmatic creatures that is fresh and new?  My earliest memories are of soft tabby fur and a purr that reverberated through the walls. Cats do not occupy all my time. I don’t write about them. My sister and I  have said for years that I should write a book about cats; what can I say in a blog post?

They may not occupy that much space in my conscious mind but they are as pervasive as air in the history of my world. They have always been present and without air we gasp and die. I’ve spent my whole life living in close communion with cats.

The cat will treat you as you treat them. If you want an animal that will largely look after itself and share your home without demanding much of your life the cat will oblige you. If you worship the ground that they walk upon they will treat you like a god.

I have always treated my cats like close family members. Puff Mae treated me like her own kitten and I treated her as another mother. I learned the location of every little hiding-hole in our home before I could run. I perfected my “run all the way around the room without touching the floor” with such success that as a skinny two-year-old I broke the coffee table. My mother could not understand my explanation for why I had run across the top. “Why would you run across the table?” “I had to Puff Mae was leading me and teaching me.” “What?” “I can already crawl all around the room behind the furniture without your having seeing me. Now I need to learn how to go around the room without having to put my feet on the floor.”  “Are you playing cat games?”, she finally guessed. “They’re games. Didn’t you play them when you were little?” “No. Petesie and I  cuddled and had tea parties. He was a really good cat.”  “You missed a lot, Mommy” “Just stay off the tables.” “But I’ll never make it around the room.”” You are not a cat. You can’t jump as far and you won’t fit. Stay off the tables. Try tea parties.”

Puff Mae was superb at raising little girls. She cooperated with wearing endless clothes but my mother insisted that I not pull doll bonnets down tight on her head and I must never tie (read knot) the bonnet strings. It would be uncomfortable for her ears. She sat, rode, and sprawled in every piece of doll furniture without complaint and even drank water from doll bottles. If I squeezed too fast the water ran into her mouth faster than she could drink and some ran out the other side and down her chin. She would turn her head if I didn’t pour the water in slow enough to drink. They only time she was ever put-out by my high jinks was when I put a “magic ” bottle in her mouth. When she saw what looked like milk decreasing in the bottle, but couldn’t feel any liquid in her mouth she literally jumped out of the doll high-chair and would have nothing to do with that bottle again. Her patience set the course for my life.

Puff Mae

Puff Mae

As an adult I have treated my cats as if they were my  “natural “kittens and they have treated me like the mother. I always have a cat with me in the house. My own cat, Rose follows me around and comes running with my dog to greet me when I come home.  They want to be a part of all that I do. Writing bores my cats, so they regard it as more-or-less nap time. The writing is more if they are sleepy and less if they are not tired.

Each of my cats has had very unique personality. They have all been very intelligent and had definite individual interests. Rose loves to spend time in the kitchen with me when I cook. She knows that she must remain on the floor or the chair. For her it is a time when she has me mainly to herself. She follows me around the room and listens to me as I do my version of a cooking show host for her benefit. My “fur kids” don’t get to eat human food as it is not healthy for them. Rose doesn’t sample the food she “helps” me prepare. The only exception comes in a tiny taste of roast chicken when I am putting the leftovers away. She loves roast chicken so much that she sits and watches it while it roasts. I’m careful to leave the oven light on since she happily waits in front of the oven window. The way she sniffs the air as it cooks is adorable. The look in her eye as she quietly waits by the oven tells me clearly that having my attention and roast chicken is pure bliss to a cat.

Rose

Rose

This post is part of the series A Fresh Look @ Simple Things.

#write31days

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Dragon-scales

Chickenpox Day 7
The sight of me surprised my sister’s cat. One of her cats is the typical one-person only, skittish, hide-under-the-bed type cat. Snowy has always been that way and days can pass without my actually seeing her. When she hears anyone come she ducks for cover. I have had chickenpox for enough days that I imagined everyone who lives with me was well aware of how I currently look. Last night I saw Snowy and realized that she could not have seen my face lately. The look of shock and fear were too evident. Yes, she knows me. She trusts me, but the deformity of my face covered in scabbed blisters was too much and her ears pinned back and she dodged back into hiding. As I registered the effect my visage had on her I could see my sister’s other cat, Pussywillow across the room gazing at me with adoration.Pussywillow

Pussywillow had self-assigned the role of nurse through the very real misery that is chickenpox in adults. He had devotedly watched over my chills, severe muscle pain, nausea, moaning, and ever-increasing skin blistering. I had pushed him off me because his weight was too much for my agonizing skin to bear. So, he had gently lain himself down by my side and quietly purred. He would lie over my head on the back of my chaise and ever-so-gently reach one paw down and rest it on my shoulder so lightly that I couldn’t even feel it as he sang his most soothing song in my ear. It felt like a benediction. As fear was betrayed in his sister’s eyes his were full of deep, abiding love. I was beautiful to him. He wasn’t looking at my face with its disfigured skin. He was looking into my eyes and deep into my soul. He saw me, not what I looked like. My sister and I joked that it was such a pity neither of us has found a human man who will look at us like her cat.

Later I saw myself in the mirror and was aghast. I don’t take my appearance very seriously, which is I guess a good thing, considering… even I was taken aback. All I could think is, “That’s not me.” I long to pull the scabs off like scales off a dragon. “I look like a monster.” I thought. Suddenly “Beauty and the Beast” and all kinds of children’s fairy tales popped into my head. Who knows, they may have originated in reassuring some child that the blisters of chickenpox or some other such thing would not last.

Now I cannot help but ponder how often we all feel like we are hidden under shells. We all have protective shells acquired to keep our feelings safe. We hide behind fashions, status-cars, houses, spouses, kids, jobs, titles, anything to make us feel immune to criticism. We build walls to keep us safe, but they can in fact become like the dragon-shell and turn us into a mis-understood “monster.” We judge one-another by the shells. We base our actions not upon fact, but assumptions about how someone who lives in that neighborhood, or has that profession, or that tattoo must be. In reality we are all much more alike than different.

What would the world be like if more of us betrayed the real suffering that is part of the human experience? I did not throw Pussywillow out when I became sick. There was a moment when he was determined to “knead” my blistered stomach with his long claws where I really might have considered it if I had felt strong enough to wrestle him. Fortunately, for both of us he got the message and stopped. But, honestly, I trusted this cat. He could have really caused me more pain, but I trusted him to be a good friend and he was. It was due to his sharing the hard part of the journey with me that he looked through the blisters and saw me. How would our communities be different if rather than hide our pain we helped each other though? What if we all pulled off some of our “dragon-scales” and let others care for us? Will you run and hide based on externals or will you get to know people through the good and the bad and look with God’s love at their heart even when they are wearing tired scales?

Whitespace on a Winters’ Day

After some days jam-packed with busy I found some Whitespace this afternoon.

 

The inspiration on my study wall

The inspiration on my study wall

1 Thessalonians 5:14
“ And we urge you, beloved, to admonish the idlers, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them.”

The verse that really impressed itself upon my heart tonight. Help the weak. Encourage those who are disheartened. Teach those who seek to avoid self-sacrifice. Be patient with all of them.

My family is dealing with many health problems right now and being home just to tuck a quit around them when they are cold, or make them a good dinner is a gift that I am grateful to be able to give.

Pussywillow came to rest on my legs

Pussywillow came to rest on my legs

 

Rose leaning against the back of my head

Rose leaning against the back of my head

Closed Doors

Today I am thinking about cats, dogs, doors and summer Sunday School.An odd combination, I know. Years ago we had a wonderful Persian cat named Lorelei. She taught us in no uncertain terms that cats don’t tolerate closed doors. Now, as a house-cat, she had no problems with the doors to the outside being kept closed, but she objected heavily to inside doors being closed tight. She was spoiled as only a really good cat can be. She would actually meow at my sisters’ closed closet door and my sister would stop what she was doing and go, open the door, and give Lorelei a boost so she could climb into the overfull closet to play.Lorelei
Living with cats all my life I am sensitive to their needs to have doors left open enough for a cat to open. When my Maltese, Daisy was a puppy she liked to climb into the windows and bark at anyone she could see. We live in town, so this could be a problem. During dinner we combatted incessant, uncorrected barking by shutting her into the dinning room with us. She cannot see out of the dinning room windows. We had peaceful dinners. We still have cats. You see the issue developing.image
We also live in an 1870 cottage with some of the original hardware. No one needs a catch that actually catches on the door to the dinning room. It pleases cats that they can push the door open even when it is closed. In the beginning Daisy was too tiny to push the solid 1870 door open even though the catch was broken. She lives with and learns from cats. She figured out how to push the door open. So we push a chair up against the dinning room door every evening for dinner. The door is closed. There is no barking. Daisy lies quietly on the floor next to my chair. It is still nap time for most of the cats. All is good.
Daisy is now three years old. There have been humorous incidents where she has accidentally been shut out of the dinning room for dinner and eventually cries at the door to be let in. What dog looks out the window when your people are in the dinning room without you?image
We have a cat named Pussywllow. He is beautiful! Yes, he is. And he is very macho since he looks so lovely and has such a name to overcome. He no longer sleeps through the dinner hour. He comes every evening just before I get up to serve desert and pushes the door open to come into the dinning room. It takes a couple of hearty shoves, but he can push the solid wood door, and chair aside and strut into the room. He swaggers into the room! At 15 pounds he’s no little cat. He is three times Daisy’s diminutive stature. We have opened the door for him only to receive a look of disgust. He wants to prove he can push that door open. Daisy leaves, checks the windows and returns. We still close the door and pull the chair in front to hold it in place.image
Pussywllow was in the dinning room when I served dinner last night. I am enough of a traditionalist that I went ahead and closed the door and pulled the desk chair in front. That is just how we do things now. This is the dinner tradition. We all wondered what would happen at the time Pussywillow usually comes in to proves his prowess. Dad thought I should get up and open it for him when he arose and walked over to the door. My sister and I agreed that he did not want our help. We all watched as he “pulled” the chair out-of-the-way and then “pulled” the door open with his paw. He left. Came back and strutted around the room and then went off to cat nap. Daisy checked the windows and returned.
I am left thinking about the doors that we close out of tradition. They don’t keep anything in or out, but we “do it that way.” I have a little cat of six pounds, who is almost sixteen years old. She sleeps though our dinner but I doubt she would be able to come into the dinning room with the door/chair closed. Are we inadvertently keeping some shut out because of our traditions?image
These are questions I am asking. I am a traditionalist. I love liturgical worship. Sunday School may be another matter. I love Sunday School!!! I’m just not sure we need to do things they way they always have been done.
In my Church we hold children’s Sunday School all year through. I believe that is a good thing. I also think it is a sin to bore a child in Sunday School. I’m asking my committee if they think that we might schedule a special Sunday for the kids and their families to meet at McDonald’s for breakfast and the lesson. Our Church is right down the street from the Golden Arches. When I told my idea to my senior citizen father, he balked that it wasn’t really Sunday School if we met somewhere other than Church. I value my families’ opinions. I’m still presenting the idea to my committee, now I realize how I will have to go about it in a better way. Sometimes we close doors out of tradition. I don’t want to leave the outside doors open to strays and dangers, but I’m willing to rethink some of the doors I close. What about you? Do you close doors out of tradition? How might you open appropriate doors at your Church?

Writing Nook

The dream of a perfect writing nook and my reality at first blush appear a long way apart. On closer inspection, however, there are some crucial similarities.

My dream would be of a tiny garden house, just beyond my home. My dream home that is. My real home is in town and has such a minuscule garden that an outbuilding couldn’t be more than 5 foot square and fit.

I would love french doors looking out onto a lovely garden with a large desk and comfortable chair positioned just to face the landscape. I would position a chaise to face away from the french doors and toward the bookcases beneath the clerestory windows. A small sink and electric kettle for making tea, a quilt for the chaise and a cushion for my dog and cats will make it perfect. I would cover the walls with bead-board painted off white and have roman blinds at the windows in another shade of off white to control the glare. Some good lamps will be required. I would hang some Bible verses in frames on the walls that can easily be changed out as inspiration requires.

That is my dream. The reality is that in the morning I sit in a pink chaise in the center of my main floor. I do have Bible verses near by. My view faces toward the kitchen. I do have a laptop table which offers writing space and a place for my iPad. I have bookcases handy and a small writing table, too small to really be of any use except to hold a few plants. There are plenty of windows, but the room is lodged so tightly between the buildings on either side that it is dark inside all the year through.

No matter where I sit to write my dog and cats come and sit with me. They pile themselves atop me and nap away. Sometimes they paw at my keyboard to try to get my attention. Some times they paw at my iPad. My late, much beloved “cat son” had figured out that if he tapped the screen of the iPad a couple of times in quick succession I would have to turn it off in favor of petting. It is now but a treasured memory. Mellowing Maltese eyes with a soft woof and cat purr are the lovely background music of writing.

In the evening, I retire to sit on my bed and write. Here at least it is a bit quieter. I can shut the doors and reduce the external noise. I have plenty of light here and I can sit down with my iPad, keyboard, fur kids and The Word.

My Bibles, usually my digital versions, handy on my devices, are essential. I need to read The Bible before I begin and pray while I write. I do not rely upon my own power to write anything useful. As St. Paul said, ” For I know that nothing good dwells in me,” Romans 7:18a. The peace of God, prayer and purr song is all that is really necessary.

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