It's definitely mushroom season. The ground is permanantly soggy, even if it doesn't rain for weeks. The sun bareley peeks over the steep hill that makes the southern horizen at my house. Tucked in the deep fold of the ridges, there won't be enough sun to dry this place out for months. Which is fine by me, because each season has it's beauty. Nevermind my chattering teeth and hunched shoulders. My numb fingers. My use of the oven as a second heater. Look at these flowering fungi that bloomed recently. Purty! Now, I've heard that there are some edible ones, expensive delicacies even, native to this area, but I'm allergic, so don't worry, I won't be sampling my finds. Not that I could tell which was which anyway. It was four thirty and starting to get dark, so you can't make out these ones too well, but it was a veritable bouqet of black mushrooms. Ok, it was a pile. A rotting pile of mushrooms. But it was a BIG pile, so it earned a photo. Maggie and Sebastian thought it called for some investigating as well. Maggie tested it's structural integrity while her sister gave it proboscal interogation. I may have made that word up. Or maybe not. One can't be expected to have a full mental catalog of every english word. Nor can one be expected not to improvise. Perhaps one should not refer to one's self as one. Nor use nor. Ok then, "Sebastian got her sniff on." By the look on her face my boouqet description was wrong on so many levels. Mmmmmm, rotting fungi. By this time Pheonix's paws were cold, and my sprawling on the ground for photo ops provided the footwarming invitation he needed. Not that I REMEMBER saying, "Here Pheonix, hop on, I'll give you a piggy back ride home". He was impressively stubborn about my attempts to dislodge him. You can just make out his sillouhette as I angled and contorted my camera arm to capture photographic representation of the hierarchy in my home. Yes, I may have even felt honored that he leaped up on my back. Or maybe it was just a warm glow of love, yeah, that's it. I just realized that while I'm photo hunting, my kitties are lap hunting. Well, I'd say we all got what we wanted on that hike. Except perhaps the whiff of 'shroom scent for Sebastian.
This is a pretty famous poem. It was read at my dad's wedding and it's about marrying for love, which I guess wasn't as common back in the 1800's when it was written. I can never remember if the lake is pea green, or the boat is, or there's fog that's thick as pea soup (though I happen to have the poem right here and it's the boat). And I happen to know what the Owl and Pussy-Cat's kids would have looked like. Seems like the Owl had mostly recessive genes, but I'd say she has her Daddy's eyes. Who knew, and here I was thinking all along that Sebastian was just the product of some alley cats. Does this mean I have to call her feather face instead of fur face?
Merry Christmmukkah and Happy New Solstice! There's some beautiful red berries I was trying to take a picture of 'cause they seemed to embody the winter season but I couldn't get close enough. I even tried busting out the ladder but then I chickened out instead. Maybe if it was a stand alone ladder and not the kind that has to lean against something... I just couldn't cling to a ladder, leeeean out towards the branch, AND obscure my sight with a camera. But there's some nice red berries on that branch, okay?
So Lilly was looking gorgeous as usual and I thought I'd make her my subject. No ladder required. See how cooperative she is? Aaaaw, Lilly, when I said pose I meant, "Pose for a picture that accurately portays your beauty to my peeps". Oh gawd now she's licking her lips!!!! Eeeeeek, think about the nice red berries, pretty nice red holiday dingleberries. AAAAAAACK!!!!! Thanks Lilly. You have now ruined this picture for me. Good thing I love you, little terd brain- and there I go with the references again. But doesn't it look kind of like deer, ahem, "leavings"? Besides the color, obviously. Unless Rudolph was here! Look, kids! There's hard proof of Santa! Wheeeew okay, who spiked my eggnog? Anyway, fluffy holiday bunny feelings to everybody!
Maggie and Sebastian have been spayed. I bit the bullet and spent $480 dollars to spare their ears. They also got their shots. The vet was moved by the fact that I rescued their feral behinds, though, and gave them pain meds for free. Pain meds are optional(!), and fifteen dollars a cat. I'm glad I spent the extra $430. I think any parent, low income or not, would decline a 90% discount on a medical procedure for their kid if it meant disfiguring them. Okay, I know, cats aren't humans, and I'm pushing it a little with the comparison.
Maggie and Sebastian had three sisters, adopted by Pam, a woman I work with, and she took her kittens to the feral treatment place for 25 bucks each. Now, I totally don't blame her or judge her- I think she's awesome for taking in three cats. The day after she brought them home from their shots and spaying, I asked her how they looked. If it wasn't too bad, I was going to take mine there as well. Maybe the adult aunt or uncle behind the office that looked so awful was just a one time botch job. But Pam nearly started crying, and she couldn't talk for a minute. "They look really bad," she said.
That cinched it. Who needs electricity anyway? Or running water? Or netflix (cry)? At least the girls are now free to enjoy the world without getting sick or preggers. Not that I would mind more kittens... No! Bad Hermitgirl!!!! My happy family is good with five furballs. And ten purty pointy ears.
I've been writing the Woodpile Kitty Chronicles because Thanksgiving was the last time I saw Clarence. He's always had wanderlust, and was often gone for a night or two. He has a huge territory, and I think it takes him that long to make his rounds, you know, freshen up his markings, make sure no one's putting claims down anywhere. I thought when he was nuetered he would become more of a homebody, and get hurt less in fights, but it only curbed the latter. Which is fine, some peeps are just meant to wander. Sometimes our loved ones move far away, like to Germany. Ahem. So if Clarence has itchy feet, as long as he checks in every day or two and stays healthy, I'm happy.
But 14 days passed.
Almost every night I dreamed of him coming home. And getting yelled at while being cuddled. Lately Pheonix has been being really mean to Clarence, who in turn has been growling at the kittens. I made all 5 kitties stay in on Thanksgiving, 'cause I got them each a can of special food, and Clarence enjoyed the food, but then immediately demanded to be let out, so I did. Im all about the "if you love it set it free"; I only make my kitties stay inside if they're sporting coneheads.
I know sometimes cats find new families. Maybe five is too many for one household, ya know? Mostly, though, I just couldn't ponder it. I was desperately groping for that pleasant state of apathy that had worked before. Instead, I found myself crying at really stupid meaningless little things, since I couldn't let it out for Clarence. That would mean actually dealing. Like, I saw this really dorky kid walking down the road, the kind that probably gets beat up every day, the kind I'd be hanging out with in highschool. He was practically skipping, with this big grin on his face, carrying a shiny gold box with huge gold ribbons tied in a bow and trailing from it. And for some reason, that made my eyes tear up.
Then yesterday, it started to really rain. The power went out twice. And in the brief interlude of light while scrambling for lanterns, my honey went out to the porch for more candles, and there was a soaking wet, mewling Clarence. CAN YOU FRICKEN BELIEVE IT?!?!? Two weeks of insomnia, leaky eye faucets, a panic attack or two... 14 fricken days and Clarence comes home, looking stronger and healthier than ever. LITTLE BOOGER HEAD! How insanely lucky am I? I started this story several chapters ago as a eulogy, and instead I got a happy movie ending. Lucky, blessed, thankful, and my scolding quota filled, I am one happy Mom. My life is right again, kitty paws hitting the keyboard and all.
When we moved to our cabin in the woods where we live now, our cats were excited to learn that they got to be outdoor kitties. It was so fun, exploring what was for them a whole entire new world. There was always another tree to climb, leaf to punce on, log to sharpen claws on. The first time I took them up the hill, they all followed me like I'd trained them. Except Lilly.
She got scared, and holed up under a bush and wouldn't come out. I had to grab her- she and her brother like laps and pettings but hate being picked up- and run down the whole hill with her. I went so fast that none of the kitties knew where I went, and after I deposited Lilly at the house, I had to run back up the hill to find them. At first I could only see Pheonix and Clarence. I thought, great, our first fieldtrip into unknown territory, and I LOSE A KITTEN. ( I'm good at that, have you noticed?)
I panicked. I searched and called and got those two back down the hill and home, and by now I was shaking and out of breath from having climbed and descended the mountain twice, in such a hurry. The panicking didn't help either, but then Roger walked up to me, and I realized he was such a good boy that he had followed me when I ran down the first time, with Lilly.
After that we all stuck together, and we were one big happy family. Clarence and Roger loved being held, and Roger would literally climb onto my shoulder, purring and wiping on me, and then tuck his head to roll into my lap, looking up at me. Then he couldn't stand it and would have to get up and wipe his cheek on mine again, climb onto my shoulder, and summersault into my lap again. At night they would sleep on me, and often I woke to the incredibly ticklish licking of my toes. They had a toe fetish, them kittens.
This is not to say I loved them more than Pheonix and Lilly, they were just more physically affectionate and demanding. Still, I made sure to give every kitty equal amounts of love and attention. When I came back from work, every cat/ kitten would come greet me, and my heart was tight and bursting at the seams with more love than I ever knew it could hold.
And then one day when I got home the head count was one short. I asked Honey when he last saw Roger, because I never missed a day without seeing and petting each of my darlings. Honey said, "I saw him yesterday". They were all pretty good about coming when I called, so I walked around the yard calling for Roger, and the others followed in curiosity. The day passed. He didn't come home. The next day was a weekend, and first thing in the morning I was scouring the hills. I never saw Roger again.
I tortured myself with the possibilities. Did he get accidentally locked in some shed, starving to death? Did he get hit by a car? Eaten by a coyote? Was he lost, scared and alone? It hit me hard. That's when I quit reading the paper. I quit emailing "save the seals" or whatever the petition of the day was. I stopped being a vegetarian after six years of it, yeah, because I lost my cat. I lost hope in trying to make a difference in the things I believed in, because it didn't seem to matter. Life was going to dish out bad things no matter what I did, and I withdrew. I threw myself into the pursuit of ingnorance, because it was the simplest kind of bliss. It's easier to not get upset about the people dying in wars, the animals tortured in labs, if you just keep all that information away from you. It was a cop-out, but I didn't know how else to deal.
I guess loss can bring a heavy apathy. I didn't snap out of it, it was more of a slow drawing back to reality. It changed me forever though, losing that orange orphan. My little redheaded stepchild. I tell myself that he found a family somewhere, and is healthy and happy, all grown up and handsome like his brother. In fact, he BETTER be (shaking my fist at the universe). As I type this Lilly is curled against my belly, and I'm thankful for her comfort. Hard to believe the power of these small furry creatures.
This is the picture I took the night Clarence's new family came to take him away. I took it to remember him by, at which point I realized I loved him.
The four tiny feral kittens had slowly learned to tolerate my presence as they ate, as long as I didn't move, and Mamma loved her pettings- still growling the whole time. I knew I couldn't take in the whole family, and was mentally preparing to find homes or them. Haha.
One day only a week or two later I came home from work and called to let the woodpile family know it was dinner time. Two little orange balls tore up to me, looked up, and said, "holy crap I forgot you're a big scary human", promptly hit reverse, and fell off the porch. I laughed, got their food, and took it out. Again only the two orange kittens appeared. I never saw the rest of their family again.
I put my befriending skills into overdrive, and that night reached down to pet them while they were eating. They didn't see me move, and by the time my hand was carressing them, it was too late for fear. They loved it, purring louder than seemed possible as they ate. Then they finished, and ran under the porch.
I spent the next few days petting them and dragging string for them, and before I knew it one was named Roger. My Honey said they were redheaded step children, and that the only name to be had for the other was Clarence. It was November, and the nights were cold, and being only first genertion feral, I soon had them living inside. It seemed to change them, and next thing I knew they were sleepily purring in my lap.
I didn't want to become a cat hoarder, so when a coworker said she'd take one, I tried hard to convince myself it was the right, albeit hard, thing to do. She came over with her 7 year old daughter to pick one, and Roger and Clarence, whom I thought I had transformed from feral to family cats, went wild with terror. My coworker said she would find a carrier and come back with it, and when she and her daughter left, the little orange orphans came back out to play and cuddle and play some more.
I looked at them, and knew I had to call my coworker and call it off. I felt so guilty, so selfish, and so evil, crushing a little girls hopes for a kitten. But it was all I could do not to cry at the thought of parting with the little heart stealers. I made the call, and it was hard. I was embarassed and ashamed as I told her I couldn't do it, and I apologized over and over. In fact, she still holds it over my head because she had to go to the pound the very next day to fullfill the kitten promise for her daughter.
You might think I would have learned my lesson, but Maggie and Sebastian will clear that right up. At least this time I didn't let any hopeful parents-to-be down. And I am so, so glad I kept Roger and Clarence- they were definitly a gift from the universe. Wish granted.
Okay, I kept thinking, "A Tale of Two Kitties" for the title, but it was just too darn cheesy. We always called them the woodpile kitties, anyway, because that's where they were born. My honey and I lived in a cozy cottage in the suburbs- as suburban as you can get in rural towns. There were a few streetlights, but no sidewalks. My sister, visiting from the city, once remarked in suprise as we took an evening stroll, "It's so dark here!". Lawns were few, and while the place we rented had one, it also had a forgotten woodpile, half overgrown with blackberry canes. One day as I puttered in the back yard I saw a skinny cat I'd never seen before. Light gray,with cream splotches. Pheonix and Lilly were indoor cats at the time, as the street we lived on was usually driven on at least 10 miles over the limit. This new cat had a collar, but was scrawny, scared, and a little depserate. She eyed me, but wouldn't come too close when I made my "I love cats lets be friends" sounds. I went for a popular tactic and went inside for some food. I put it out for her, and then went back in, closing the screen door and watching from there as she snorked down the whole plate in 2.3 seconds. Can you believe what happened next? She stuck around. I know, who'da thunk it? Only, the next time I sat outside, and when she was done eating, she approached me, growling. Growling! I was honestly scared, thinking she would attack me, but she jumped into my lap and rubbed her head against me, so I tenatively pet her. She loooved it, and I petted her more and more, and yet she kept growling. It was a bit unnerving, to say the least. That's when I noticed her collar was pretty much choking her- she must have run away or been abondoned as a teen, and grown too big for it. I carefully stood, being as polite as I could about booting her from my lap, and got some skissors. She let me cut off the collar, growled her thanks, and ran off to the berry bushes. The next day, when I saw she was still around, I put out some food. I went back about my buisiness, and when I glanced out at the food dish, I saw four tiny kittens. Can you say, heart skipping a beat and caught in your throat? So many times over the years I've met people who just found a kiten, and secretly, it was always my wish it would happen to me. I mean, that's like winning the lottery! Not to mention, and as much as I fully wholeheartedly vouch for and believe in inner beauty, I had always, always wanted an orang cat. There were two orange kittens, a black one, and a gray one. I absolutely would have taken them all anyway, heck, I'd take the ugliest kitten you ever saw and love it like my own child. Digression alert. I helped feed almost twenty foster kittens once, and there was one with matted, mangy hair, one eye, and leaking fluids. It could barely wobble around it's littermates and friends, and it was the second to smallest one. All the others scampered around, using it as their toy, its own healthy sibs twice it's size. There was every color, there were feisty kittens, cudly kittens, all playful and all friendly kittens. But when I was asked which I would pick, I of course picked the mangy, oozy, one eyed kitten. It was indeed ugly, but it needed love and as far as cats go, I have an unending supply of that. I couldn't actually take it, not having my own place, but I wanted to, so badly. Okay, I wasn't trying to sound all martyr-ee and tootin my own horn. Just hoping to illustrate my borderline psychotic love of all things feline. And boy oh boy let me tell you, the love was in overdrive when I saw those tiny kittens on my back porch.