I wish I could write as mysterious as a cat. ~Unknown
Some days are so hard that I’m tempted to give up and assume the fetal position. Over the last couple days a young relative was diagnosed with a health condition and then a neighborhood family suffered a heartbreaking tragedy. I’ve felt overwhelmed and weepy. But I’ve also experienced joy as I hugged my son, watched a magpie take flight, and listened to my snoring dogs as they snuggle together in their bed. I’ve made progress on my new writing project and shared laughter with my visiting brother-in-law. I didn’t give up and curl into a ball.
Life is a series of sunshine and shit-storms, and as long as I remember to think of it that way, the better I cope. The key (for me, anyway) is tapping into the light amidst the dark. Finding the balance. I was reminded of that as I struggled to balance the light and dark in this photo of Marcel.
The result is nowhere near perfect, but then again, neither is life.
As I work this afternoon to get ready for my NaNo adventure next month, I’m trying hard to be like Marcel. Not so much by waggling my big pink ears or biting my toenails (although I would welcome that kind of flexibility), but in maintaining my focus. When Marcel’s in grooming mode, that’s all that matters. Don’t even think about interrupting his session.
Um, guess I should get back to my prep work.
I don’t know what prompted me to do so (okay, I’m pretty sure I was procrastinating rather than writing), but the other day I went to Google Maps and looked up an old address. This photo shows a triplex off an alley in North Hollywood, California. I lived in the upper, right-hand studio apartment for a year in the mid-80s. It was my very first place all my own. Up to that point, I’d either been in a dorm or shared apartments (or, in the case of my Van Nuys digs, renting a screened gazebo-like structure in a single-parent’s backyard in which part of my rent included providing childcare).
It’s an understatement to say this was a transient period of my life. The move into my darling little apartment in this building was my 5th move in 9 months. It all began with my boyfriend and me moving into our own apartment in Culver City (leaving behind our former West LA roommate) and then me leaving the boyfriend several months later. It was one of the more difficult periods in my life. However, I have vivid memories of my time on Miranda Street.
I shared the tiny space with two cats. One (Diva) was with me at move-in time. The other (Isis) was adopted and given to me by my sister’s friend who showed up to hand me a cat. Um, okay, I guess?
Isis was an all-black kitten who would wake me at 2:00 a.m. as she galloped around the hardwood floors. She also crawled to the bottom of my sleeping bag (my one and only “bed linen”) and peed.
My major piece of furniture was a futon couch that could be opened to make a small bed.
For a time, pit bulls roamed the neighborhood and the mail carrier refused to deliver. We had to go to the post office to get our mail. One day my downstairs neighbor drove there with me and we were thrilled to discover I’d received a box from my mother that contained a round cookie tin. We hungrily opened the tin only to discover it was filled, not with cookies, but with cookie cutters.
I quit smoking while living in this apartment and an integral part of my kicking the nicotine addiction was to run every day (and then eat a bag of M&Ms at work in the afternoon). I usually ran in the nice park nearby that had a path around the perimeter. That park saved me.
Sometimes on the way back from a run I’d stop to sit on one of the Honda motorcycles lined up outside a bike shop near the park. I liked to pretend the wind was blowing back my hair as I rode fast and free.
This was where I lived when Zippy and I started dating. He lived in ugly old Bakersfield and we’d trade off weekends. He was allergic to cats so weekends at my place were often difficult for him. He’d suddenly say, “Let’s go out somewhere. My throat’s starting to close.” (Fortunately, he’s adapted to cats and no longer experiences suffocation issues).
Zippy was with me the day we loaded a UHaul for my move to Santa Rosa. We’d emptied the place and it was time to leave, but Diva was nowhere to be found. We searched and searched the surrounding area for my indoor-only cat. Then Zippy saw a black and white cat in the yard of a nearby house and grabbed it. A voice yelled, “Put down my cat!” Oops. Diva later revealed herself by meowing from the kitchen drawer she’d climbed into from the open cupboard below. It was a joyous reunion.
I’m not a huge fan of how our personal information and everyday lives are now mined for data, but will say that I’m happy Google Maps provided me with the image of my former home. I never took an exterior shot of the first-ever living space that was all mine. It’s good to remember.
Today my son Zebu and I washed all our windows, inside and out. As we traveled room to room, Marcel the cat followed us. At one point he got up on the sill next to a newly-gleaming window and proceeded to sneeze. On the glass.
I’ll admit, it wasn’t quite as bad as this Pexels photo. Marcel didn’t shower the entire window with his snot. Instead, it was contained to a rather orderly row along the lower portion of the window. Zebu and I were mildly annoyed, but laughed about our silly feline friend as we recleaned the window. Then Marcel followed us to the next room and sneeezed on another window. Zebu and I were less amused.
And when Marcel sneezed on the third window Zebu stated the obvious: “This is feeling deliberate.”
This could’ve been a truly awesome photo. Imagine a large white cat stretched out on the backside of the hanging shirts, staring through the multi-colored plastic hangers with yellow-green eyes. Imagine a self-satisfied expression on that white cat’s face as you struggled to understand how he got there. Imagine being frozen in place as he stared you down.
By the time I snapped out of my Marcel-induced reverie and returned with my camera, this was all I got. In fact, this subpar photo was staged. Marcel had already extricated himself from the hangers and jumped down before I could get a shot so Zippy picked him up and put him back on the dresser. (Confession: I was hoping he’d jam Marcel back through the hangers, but apparently my mate and I have different cat-wrangling sensibilities.)
A couple weeks ago a visiting friend (who’d recently suffered a head injury) asked if we had two black cats after seeing one in our backyard. After checking to make sure our indoor-only Loki was still inside, I assured the friend we had only one black cat. And, I thought to myself, “You’re seeing things, my friend.”
Last night I discovered he was right and I was wrong.
I’d just gone to bed when I realized I’d forgotten to close the black-out shade behind the curtain. I pushed back the curtain to do so and saw a dark shape against the window. I almost wet myself. Then the dark shape was gone and I thought maybe I was seeing things. But Zippy turned on the outside lights and there under the evergreen shrubs was a black cat with green eyes. The spitting image of Loki.
I owe Kaden an apology.
This afternoon I was hanging out in the basement with Zebu, Wildebeest, and Wildebeest’s friend, Kyle. We were sitting on the carpeted floor before Wildebeest and Kyle left to play soccer. When Wildebeest started doing stretches, I asked if he’d done his daily plank yet because I hadn’t done mine. He replied that he hadn’t and begrudgingly agreed to do one then. I hollered upstairs for Zippy to come join us and he (also begrudgingly) came downstairs.
Wildebeest set the timer on his phone and turned up some music as the three of us got in the planking position. Then Kyle joined us. Zebu, feeling the peer pressure, set down his container of mixed nuts and assumed the position. (Emma and Marcel were also in attendance although their planking form was suspect.)
Verdict? Group planks are more fun than solitary planks. Maybe next time we’ll up the ante and try building a human plank tower.
Lately when I leave something on the bed, Marcel curls up on whatever I’ve left behind. Two days ago he spent much of the day sleeping on top of my basket of assorted workout clothes and yesterday he got cozy with my running socks. I assumed the theme was my powerful stink. But today he’s thrown me a curveball.
How am I supposed to interpret this behavior?
As I hooped this morning, a bunny came into view. The furry beauty remained in that same spot, calmly chewing and staring into space, despite the fact that I spun and twirled nearby. And then Marcel, sensing something outside, jumped up in the window. The bunny casually glanced toward where the big white cat stared longingly, and immediately returned to her bunny business.
I’d like to emulate that self-confidence during this coming week. Me and the bunny, not overly concerned with matters outside our personal spheres.
As of this moment, we’re waiting for the hardwood floor refinishers to arrive. It’s been a scramble to empty closets and move furniture, and yesterday I experienced serious regret for setting the situation in motion. But we’re finally ready. Well, Zippy and I are ready. The dogs and cats are all a bit befuddled and/or anxious regarding this new arrangement.
For them and me.
Marcel is the four-legged member of the family voted Most Likely to Open a Closet, Drawer, or Food Canister. Which is why it was particularly dumb for me to leave only a sliding screen door between him and the great outdoors before I left today for a lunch date. To make matters worse, it wasn’t until a couple hours after my return that I noticed the screen door open about six inches.
Zippy and I began dashing about in a panic, calling Marcel’s name. Zippy checked under furniture and in closets as I ran around the front and back yards looking under bushes. I ran across the street (which hosts a fair amount of traffic) to ask the neighbors if they’d seen him. They hadn’t, but promised they’d let me know if they did. I started to wonder how I’d ever break it to Zebu that Marcel was gone.
I was making another round of the back yard when I heard something. I stopped and listened. I heard it again and followed the sound. There was Marcel, curled up in a corner of the neighbor’s yard, crying and frozen in fear. Zippy climbed over the fence and brought him home.
The good news is that Marcel’s already gotten over the trauma from his big adventure. Just a few moments ago, he was messing with the latch on the food canister.
Update: And right after I posted this, he opened the closet in my writing room and climbed into a box filled with bubble wrap.
This morning I pulled some manuscript/project boxes out of the closet to see if there’s anything in there worth salvaging for my next writing endeavor. (My little writer brain has to have something to noodle on, so while I await my critique group’s feedback on my work-in-progress, I’ve started thinking about what comes next). Well, those boxes proved irresistible to the cats.
Later this afternoon, Emma and I went out on the trails. Although it was warm enough for me to wear shorts and a short-sleeved shirt, there were still a few patches of snow along the way. We stopped running so that Emma could do her thing.
I laughed as she scooped snow with her snout and dug holes with her paws and slid down the slope on her tummy.
Emma + snow = happiness