Eye of the Cat

I do believe we’ve known each other in past lives, nine at least. Something about that gleam of recognition, the cry for home from rescues wandering in childhood’s corn fields, lonely strays found waiting at the door or languishing inside cardboard boxes offered by finders who don’t want to be keepers.

On a summer afternoon in this incarnation, he threw himself at my bare knees, and hung on for dear life. Covered in fleas, sick with virus, he had found me again.

I bring him back from the dead, only to save him over and over. There was the sinister piece of plastic stuck in his mouth, the suicidal leap onto a hot stove, the recovery of that giant hair ball after hundreds of dollars spent at the vet.

In exchange, he kills spiders in my dungeons, leaves me offerings by the backdoor, and brings the tiniest of lost treasures to lay at my feet. At night, he is the guardian of my dreams.

Off duty, he can be found basking in past glories on the living room ottoman, surveying our kingdom while he grooms his armaments for battle.

After ten years together, I know this to be true: Our union is inevitable as I gaze into the face of my familiar.

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Nip it in the bud

I’ve seen those eyes before: in high school parking lots and open-air concerts, at parties your “mama told you not to come” to. He sits by the door waiting for another hit of aromatherapy.

I was smart this year and planted it in the front porch pot with the basil as olfactory camouflage. And that is the only reason his supply has lasted this long.

Let’s face it — dude is an addict. He doesn’t even roll in it anymore, just swallows the entire leaf like it’s his last day on earth.

Which it might be if he doesn’t shut up.

Most years I’ve tried to grow the stuff, he sniffs it out and mows down the whole crop like a kitty combine. Later, I’ll come upon yet another sad scene of destruction, plants inhaled down to broken stems, nothing left for a single, solitary . . . locust.

Oh, and he’s too good for store-bought bags. He turns up his little pink nose at the stuffed mice, herbal sachets and smell-enhanced teasers on a stick.

Only the real thing will do. Which is what I discovered this summer growing as a healthy volunteer in my flower bed, hidden in the weeds. Just to be sure, I pulled off a leaf and passed a sample under my sleeping tiger’s snout, causing a miraculous resurrection.

Next thing I know, he’s racing around the house high on life, munching at the food bowl, crazy as a — cat.

So yeah. This explains the all-night howl jams at our house.

He knows he’s busted.

Photo Friday: The Last Peep Show

or The Sad Tale of Eggbert

Is it just me, or do marshmallow peeps taste different these days?

Back in the ’60s I went to a classmate’s Easter party and came home with some live peeps as fun favors. Yep, at the end of the festivities each child was given a little bag with two baby chicks inside, fuzzy and yellow as tennis balls.

I lived on a farm, so it wasn’t terribly inconvenient to bring home real poultry, but I often wonder what the suburban kids did when they showed up at their ranch houses with cheeping party prizes.

Anyway, there appeared to be a male and female, so we named them Eggbert and Henrietta, and kept them warm inside a cardboard box in the kitchen with a window screen on top to keep them safe.

One day we came in the kitchen to check on the chicks and found the screen pushed aside. Henrietta was missing.

I swear, our dog, who had been hanging around the kitchen quite a bit, had a smile on his face.

That left Eggbert, who grew into an increasingly leggy and awkward youth. He was obviously a rooster, and spent a good deal of adolescence practicing his frustrated mating call in our barn. All for naught, as we had no hen house, and (with the loss of Henrietta) no flock.

He was also terrorized by my brother and me into being our bird pet. We dressed him up, built elaborate homes (cages) for him, and wandered around the farm with the unfortunate fowl tucked under our arms.

Contrary to my mother’s dire predictions, he never pecked our eyes out (although we deserved it).

He hated my mother with such passion that he often chased her across the barnyard, and hopped on the car where she had taken refuge, pecking viciously at the windshield while she drove off, wipers flapping in defense.

Taking his cock of the walk status seriously, he used the bank barn’s entrance ramp like a runway, silently stampeding down from the gaping barn doorway like some feathered superhero, wings held out, twitching and stomping in an elaborate dance meant to scare his nemesis witless before launching himself onto the leg of an adversary.

His victims were many, including relatives, long-lost friends, handymen and the president of the bank where my parents were applying for a business loan.

Eggbert didn’t like surprise visitors.

This went on for months, until one day my brother and I couldn’t find Eggbert anywhere. The barn loft was silent, the doorway empty, and my mother no longer had to run for her car, after checking to see if the coast was clear.

My parents finally gently suggested that ol’ Eggbert wasn’t coming back. Probably caught by a fox.

Sadly we put away the adornments (rags) we had made for Eggbert, and took apart the homes we designed for his unwilling occupancy.

Years later, my folks admitted that after multiple attacks on friend and foe alike, not to mention the ungodly racket of his crowing attempts, they gave Eggbert to the neighbor for his stew pot.

The old farmer reported it was the toughest bird he’d ever eaten.

Kinda like peeps.

The State of My Union

Uh oh. Is that yellow snow I see?

This one’s personal, not political. I got to thinking earlier this week about the benefits of reviewing “the messes I get myself into,” otherwise known as my path. I believe it is prudent to be accountable every so often, to see whether life as I know it still works. For me and everyone else.

The Castle. Also called the Hair Palace. We’re down to a cat and a dog as our four-legged companions. (For the well-meaning — no, we do not want any more roommates right now, thank you.) With all my spare time and lovely empty space, you’d think the place would be spotless. Fail. I blame it on excessive shedding: mine, pets, and squirrels. Unfortunately, daily schedules don’t work for me. Only complete vacuum anarchy imposed by my spouse.

Mother Nature. Where others see only unemployment and stagnation, I’m digging the chance to stay home and watch the cold beauty of winter from my (relatively) warm kitchen. As long as I overlook all the yellow snow in the backyard. From the dog. (Why am I still hearing Zappa in my head?)

Art. Okay, those who know me, please don’t tell my mother. Yet. My mom and I have had a lifelong struggle over the making of art, to create or not to create. To keep or not to keep. She was an oil painter, I was a jack-of-all-trades, and guess what, my daughter lives and breathes art, starting from the moment she could hold a crayon. These days, I can only “do” art when it pleases me. And as long as I don’t become the pack mule of art supplies that I used to be, I’m happy to give it room on my plate. It may or may not appear on this blog in the future.

Hobbies. Dare I say it? A simpler life is opening the door to old pastimes. The new twist is that I can commit and be held accountable to online communities who encourage delicious projects in knitting, photography, writing and journaling. Maybe even cooking, but I could be pushing my luck there. Again, as long as I don’t rush out and buy the latest crafty gadget or gizmo, I can still be a minimalist and a hobbyist, mostly with what I already own. More on these in upcoming posts.

Facebook. It seems there’s been a lot of deleting and deactivating going on in the blogosphere. I’m keeping my account because a) it is private and b) less than 100 friends. And I know all of them, from one part of my life or another. I don’t chat. I don’t play games. (Sound like a lot of fun, don’t I?) I keep my wall posts down to one or less a day. And I’ve shut off most email notifications to control my clicking addiction.

Facebook (Again). For me, this social scene is worth every annoying privacy breach blocked, if only for the connections I’ve made with old friends who have been missing in action over the years. In some cases, we’ve reunited right before a major event in our lives, when we need each other the most. There will be follow-ups through phone calls, greeting cards and visits, but I can’t ignore the online synchronicities.

Astrology. I know, everybody’s been asking. If this is some astronomer’s idea of a joke, then I think they better revisit the whole Pluto debacle, too. My answer is that the shift in the constellations has been known since the first century and the old zodiac won’t work with 13 signs. I’m just amazed at how many folks who don’t believe in this stuff get all riled up when they aren’t Scorpios or other signs anymore. Maybe if Ophiuchus was the “football-bearer” instead of messing about with snakes, he would be better received.

That’s probably enough from my state of mind. If you’ve hung on this long, I thank you and promise fermented libations when you next see me. For those lost along the way, I can only hope they gleaned something useful and took it back to their own lives and communities.

Just remember: we’re all in this together.

Where You Can Go For The Winter

I’m thinking my cat has the right idea so far this season. At present, he is interred inside his “cat” cave under the bedroom dresser, with some special nip and a mini-fridge full of cow juice. Bring on the blizzards, Old Man Winter.

This cat’s wintertime residence of choice is an antique chest of drawers with attached mirror, made of either curly maple or pine (debated heatedly by my parents) which has a small space under the lowest drawer perfect for hibernation. Not too shabby.

The call came early this year for our feline. He settled in well before Thanksgiving, despite the unseasonably warm temps. Come to think of it, seems like all the animals (yes, that means YOU squirrels) were desperate to find warm accommodations even while Mother Nature was lulling people into complacency with a near perfect Indian summer.

Little did we humans know.

It finally broke thirty the other day as I was writing this, and residents practically danced in the streets (if not for the ice slicks that will be with us until the spring thaw). Since the first of December, a great deal of the country has been plunged into the deep freezer, and according to jittery forecasters there is more cold misery and mess on the way.

Wha? And it was so hot this summer, too. Can’t figure this crazy weather out. But evidently my cat can.

He’s found himself a cheap, efficient micro-studio featuring wall-to-wall lined with fur (since I never vacuum under there) and a good view of the pool/water dish. It even offers a spacious cathedral ceiling every time I pull out the drawer for clean socks (which he doesn’t really appreciate).

My cat has to put up with the neighbors, though. They are noisy, smelly and like to eat in their bed. They have an annoying habit of poking things into his apartment to see if he’s home. And they never seem to leave —  you’d think they were John and Yoko, for crying out loud, except it’s a bed-in for warmth. The peace part is questionable.

The unfortunate fact about our lovely tri-level house is that in the winter, there’s a good 10-degree difference between the upstairs and the downstairs, our lower levels closely resembling arctic tundra.

My husband and I make mad dashes down to the kitchen for sustenance, and we try not to linger. In the higher realm we have everything else necessary for life: shower, toilet and wifi.

Which makes us wonder why we own and care for the rest of our real estate, when a good six months of the year we play John and Yoko (uh-oh, I just blew our covers). Every winter, we become more convinced that we need very little in order to not only survive, but be content, if not downright happy.

Frankly, hibernation looks appealing right now. If I could do a Yogi Bear with a box of jelly donuts and a down comforter for the coming months, would I really miss that much? What do I have to look forward to besides frostbite, a slippery commute and possibly the flu.

Like I said, the cat’s onto something.

A Minimalist Moment: Traveling Light

One of the big advantages to a minimal life is easy prep for travel. It seems like I used to take years to get ready to go on vacation. Of course, family pet attrition has been a big factor. I used to dread dragging out the feeders and water dispensers, fortifying the litter boxes, writing instructions to the cat sitter, wrapping the house in plastic, and taking out all the batteries in the smoke alarms–oh, yes. One trip we pulled in the driveway only to hear a piercing wail from a defective alarm entertaining all the cats inside. No telling how long it had been going off. I don’t think they were ever the same after that.

Life is simple now: one dog off to the kennel, one cat who is mostly trustworthy and can only fight with himself, and one piece of luggage.

ONE PIECE OF LUGGAGE, you say?

Yep, size depending on length of excursion. Okay, I cheat a little sometimes by fitting bulky shoes in a grocery bag along with the hats and rain gear. But the limited space is a worthy challenge for me. I long ago realized that I have a tendency to over-pack and never wear half of my items. The unnecessary stuff would come home clean but wrinkled.

Over the years I have gradually weaned myself from the fully equipped set of luggage that I presumed every gal-about-town and savvy seasoned traveler needed to conquer the world. I went from an overnight bag, carry-on and large check-in suitcase to just the overnight and carry-on, to just the carry-on and a backpack for my 10 days in Europe, to just the carry-on for most trips or a messenger bag for weekends.

Then there is the easing of my obsessive compulsive crucial 15 minutes of take-off on a trip. I learned a little too well from my OCD mother who would sit in the car in rigid concentration, silently running through her mental checklist of unattended disasters waiting to happen. This is after she ran in to check the stove 43 times and re-locked in proper sequence the series of deadbolts on the backdoor to a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere.

If you would challenge her on this behavior, she always cited the time when my brother DID actually leave the water running in the cow trough when we were already 500 miles away and the neighbor had to go shut it off—catastrophic tsunami narrowly averted.

This is part of the reason why my parents do not travel—not to mention the hassle of dragging out all those feeders and waterers for the livestock.

I, on the other hand, have forced myself to only check the stove about 27 times, and assure myself roughly 6 times that the toilet isn’t running before I go. After my fifteen minutes and my husband flooring the accelerator for a fast exit, I figure there’s nothing I can do about it, and go through my zen travel stage of acceptance. What happens, happens.

Welcome, my friends, to the joys of traveling light. It’s getting better all the time, as the Beatles would say.

Wait.

Is the cat still in the closet?

Want More? Check out my other Minimalist Moments:

Organization — Do You Need It?

Hobbling the Hobbies

Out of the Closet