…kittens, by Abbott Handerson Thayer
… kittens, by British landscape artist William Collins
Collins was often praised for his ability to capture light, and this painting is full of subtle and nuanced light, but it’s that wee, timid kitten that makes it wonderful.
The Stray Kitten, 1835, William Collins. Image from Wikiart.
“Mummy, wake up. I think there’s someone at the door.”
I heard Jack stirring beside me, working hard to get his stiff arthritic body in motion. I turned over, put my hand on his back, and looked at the clock. It was only 7:15, much too early for visitors, but then I heard it, too— a small tap-tap-tap at the back patio door. Very curious, I thought, no-one uses our back door. It’s inside our fenced yard, but that was definitely where the sound was emanating.
“It can’t be a visitor, Bubba. Must be the wind,” I said as Jack stiffly rose from his bed and slowly limped out of the room. I sat up and reached for my fluffy blue robe, then slid my feet into the raggedy red slippers I kept meaning to replace.
The sound was getting louder and more insistent. I glanced in the mirror as I followed behind Jack and softly chuckled at my hair sticking out in all directions and in definite need of a cut and colour.
“Mummy, hurry, Gnorman is here,” Jack shouted.
Gnorman! What the heck is an elf doing here? My mind raced as I turned the corner. Jack was already at the door with his nose between the curtains and his tail wagging excitedly. I pulled back the drapes, and sure enough, there stood Gnorman in a tall green cap with a grey fur tassel, a long coat that reached to his feet and on those feet, a pair of shiny red boots with pointy toes that curled up. His round cheeks and stubby nose were red, but his eyes were smiling as he removed his cap and bowed to us in greeting. I quickly opened the door and waved him in, remarking,
“Gnorman! Welcome, please come in.”
“Thank you, Voyager. Hi Jack,” Gnorman said, going over to Jack and giving him a deep, long hug.
“It’s good to see you, Gnorman, but how did you get here,” I asked.
“I used the magic door, of course,” he said, adding, “and it wasn’t easy on this end because of all the snow piled up. I used a bit of magic to clear a path, but it should be kept shovelled!” He looked up at me pointedly, and although his merry eyes twinkled, I could see he was serious.
“Yes, of course, Gnorman. I’ll make sure to do that from now on.” I replied.
In all honesty, I’d completely forgotten about the door. It was given to Jack at the summer party the fairies threw to thank Bubba and me for finding Oma Trautchen and bringing her home. The door was custom-made and calibrated just for Jack and was presented to him by King Gunter. It came with a note saying,
Made with care by Sir Surly Badger, Wizard at Large
Maker of fine magical doors and latches, cooking pots, crystal balls, swords, pasta, weather vanes, and sporks.
The door allows Jack to travel from home to the fairy woods. He stands in front of the door recites the phrase,
Pizzlewizzle bag of balls,
I wish for you to make me small
So I may see my friends this day
and spend some time engaged in play.
Then blammo, whammo Jack shrinks down to the size of a mouse, the door swings open, and he walks into the tree and out of a distant tree at the fairy woods.
Jack started using the door in the autumn when his failing mobility began making it hard for him to get in and out of the car. He made almost daily trips through his magic door until the deep of winter set in, and his legs became unpredictably weak. It had been many weeks since Jack even talked about his fairy friends or tried to visit, and now here was Gnorman visiting us.
“We’ve been missing you, Jack,” he said. “I came to see if there is a problem with the door, but it worked perfectly for me, so I’m left to conclude that there is a problem with you.” He looked deeply into Jack’s eyes for a moment and then away.
“I see. We wondered about that, too.”
“About what, Gnorman?” I asked.
There was a long, loud silence before he spoke. “Voyager, I’m sorry, but Jack is entering his end time in this realm,” he said as a tear slipped down his cheek and disappeared into his whiskers.
I felt my legs go weak, and I sunk to the floor beside Jack. My eyes filled with tears, and I couldn’t speak.
“Mummy,” Jack finally said, “Gnorman is right. This old body is worn out, and I can’t stay in it much longer.” He reached over and kissed me gently, continuing, “The fairies have told me that I can come and live with them in a ‘spirit’ body, but it means I must leave here…. and you, forever.” He nuzzled his bowling ball of a head into my neck as I began to weep.
Gnorman reached over and put his small hand on top of mine and said,
“I know this is difficult, Voyager, but we will love and cherish Jack always, and he will be free of pain and struggle.”
“I understand. That’s what I want too,” I said. “When will you leave?”
Gnorman spoke up quickly, “the sooner, the better, Voyager. His pain is sharp, and his legs are weak.”
“Bubba, what do you want,” I asked.
“Mummy, I’m worried about you. I don’t want to go until I know that you’ll be alright,” he said, nuzzling close to me.
“Oh, sweet Jack. I’ll be sad no matter when you leave, but you taught me to be brave. It’s most important to me that you are not suffering.”
We all stood there for a moment, lost in our own thoughts, when Gnorman finally spoke up, “we can be ready by tomorrow for the ceremony. King Gunter and the fairies have been preparing for this time. Jack is one of our own. He came from the spirit realm, and we will carry him back to it.”
“I’m ready for tomorrow,” said Jack.
I couldn’t speak. A knot had taken hold in my chest, and all I could do was reach up to stroke Jack’s ears. Tomorrow was so soon, and I realized at that moment how difficult Jack’s life had become for him to make this decision.
“Ahhh, Voyager,” Gnorman put his tiny hands around mine, “I know this is hard for you, but I promise you that Jack will be safe and loved.”
“That’s all I want.”
“Then, so it shall be. I’ll return tomorrow at this same time, and I will help Jack through the magic door for the last time. He won’t be able to return, but you may keep the door as a memory holder.”
The rest of the day passed in a fog. Jack and I reminisced about our many adventures and spent the day holding each other close. The hours flew by, and I wanted to scream at the universe that time was passing too fast. Jack., though, was calm and steady, and I could see in his eyes that he was already letting go of his life here. That night, I slept on the floor with him curling my body around his.
Gnorman and Gmary were back at my door at first light, both dressed in long silver robes with white fur and carrying lanterns lit with a bright white light.
“Are you ready for your return to the realm of the spirit, Jack?”
“Yes, I am. Mummy, I love you. My love will always be with you. I have had a wonderful life here with you, and the bond we share will live on.”
My tears were flowing freely, and I hugged Jack close. “Will I ever see you again,” I asked.
“No, but you will feel me. I will live in the wind that rustles the trees and makes the flowers dance. When you’re tired or lonely or sad, I will be beside you and whisper my love in your ear. I will speak our devotion to the birds, and they will carry it in their song, and your love will nourish me through all eternity.”
A million words ran through my mind, but all I could speak was, “I love you.”
Jack nuzzled close for the last time and said to me quietly, “I hear all the words you cannot speak, Mummy. Please don’t stay sad. You have much love inside of you, and it’s important to share. You will find new things to love and hold close, and our bond will survive always.”
And with that, Gnorman and Gmary raised their lanterns and led Jack toward the magic door. Jack took a long lingering look back and finally, with a heavy sigh, spoke the magic words and said, “I am ready.” The door opened, and in an instant, they were gone. The door heaved a heavy sigh and snapped shut with a finality that made my heart skip a few beats.
“Goodbye, my sweet Bubba. I promise I will listen for you in the wind.”
… the nude, by Balthus
Balthasar Klossowski de Rola (February 29, 1908 – February 18, 2001), known as Balthus, was a Polish-French modern artist. He is known for his erotically charged images of pubescent girls, but also for the refined, dreamlike quality of his imagery. (wikiart)
I was looking at cat art when I found this, and the posture of the woman is so feline-like it spoke to me. Also, the cat is smiling.
I love cats and these wonderful creations by Anne, Cranky Cat Lady are glorious.
Photos of my Mystical Cats from Lyn Belisle’s Mystical Cat Shamans class. The faces are her work (she does lovely ceramics) but the rest is mine. Leafy girl is Thera, Protector of Wild Things, the turquoise cat is Bast, my Mewse. Because you know how much cats love to help with your work. Lots of vintage bits and pieces, handmade paper, and beads. They’re pretty big, about 14″ tall, and I’m going to have to move stuff around so I can hang them.
Hello, friends. I have sad news to share. After several months of increasing difficulties and a few terrible days, On Tuesday the 16th, my sweet, gentle Jack left this world. In the end, he could no longer walk, so his wonderful veterinarian came to us, and our boy gently drifted off to sleep on his favourite spot in the kitchen. He died in my arms, surrounded by love.
Right now, I’m not able to talk about all of the things that made Jack special, but I’ve shared many of those things with all 0f you over the years, so I know you understand when I tell you that my heart is broken. I’ll be alright in time. I know this because I’ve walked this road before and understand that grief is the price of love. Today, though, that grief is raw, and I’m struggling for words, so there isn’t much more I can say. I’ll be around, but you may not hear from me for a week or so.
Yesterday, over at Stderr, Marcus posted a piece outlining a project he’s tackling to resin(ate) Jack’s foot. I thought today I’d fill in the story of collecting the paw print.
About a month ago, Jack and I received a package from Marcus containing a dog foot-sized plastic frame, 2 bags of brightly coloured clay, 2 bags of plaster, a small, flat plastic device and a sheet of well-organized instructions. I talked to Jack about the project, and we decided to give it a go the next day. I’ve never worked with clay, so I read the instructions carefully a few times, then after breakfast, I plunged in. Marcus said to add water to one of the clay packages, which I did mixing well. Still, it wouldn’t absorb the full 1/2 c of water, and it was behaving like a non-Newtonian fluid, which is always fun but probably not what I was looking for. I was pretty sure the clay was too wet, but I put it into the frame anyway and tamped it down flat with the little plastic tool and called Jack.
Now, picture, if you will, Jack sitting on the living room carpet (he needs to be on carpet for stability), being a good boy and trying to do what Mummy says.
I pick up his good front foot first, but he can’t bear weight well enough on his other leg, and he wobbles a bit, so I let go of his leg before he falls over.
“Sorry, Mummy,” he says, “Maybe we should try the other foot.”
I tell him it’s not his fault and gently lift his sore front leg with one hand and moving the frame under it with my other hand, but this doesn’t work well either.
“Ouch, Mummy!” he says, pulling back again and again.
Finally, he looks me square in the eye and tells me, “I’m laying down now, Mummy. Go away!”
So I do, covering the clay in plastic wrap and putting it on my workbench.
The next day, I’d hatched a new plan to make a good impression. I’d wait until Jack was resting on my bed with one foot hanging over, and I’d press his foot into the clay with no need for him to stand up. Jack agreed that this seemed workable, and so after lunch, I helped Jack to bed, and we got the framed clay and pressed his foot into it. We made a good, deep press, and results looked great, except that our perfect paw pad impression disappeared less than a minute later. Vanished. Completely gone. Damn it, the clay was too wet.
“Nevermind, Mummy. Footprints are meant to be fleeting. This is a silly idea.”
I return the clay to my worktable, covering it only with paper to allow it to dry out a bit, but when I check it at bedtime, it’s dried hard, and I am unable to restore it with water. Now I understand why Marcus sent 2 packages of clay.
The next few days are spent negotiating with Jack, who finally agrees to try again if I provide him with a chicken foot. This is a treat introduced to Jack by Marcus, and so in the middle of a pandemic, I venture out to 3 various pet stores looking for chicken feet. I am pleasantly surprised to find them at a reasonable price, so I begin planning our third attempt at making a good impression. I’ve noticed that Jack can still pee like a boy on telephone poles, so he is able to raise a back foot without toppling over or pain. I discuss this with Jack, who sighs heavily and says, “sure, Mummy. Do you have my chicken foot?”
So, I begin again with fresh clay. This batch is a vibrant pink, and it looks pretty good to me just out of the package, so I decide not to add water this time and just press it into the frame as is. Jack and I position ourselves on the living room carpet with a chicken foot resting on the coffee table, looking poised for attack, and we begin. I raise Jack’s foot as if I were getting ready to towel dry it for him, then quickly place the frame underneath and set Jack’s foot down into it. He puts his weight on it for a few seconds, then I pick his foot straight up and pull the frame away. Jack sits down, looks at me pointedly, and asks if he can have his treat now.
“Good boy, Bubba. Go ahead,” I tell him, and he picks up the gnarled claw and walks away with it, crunching bones as he goes. The sound sets my teeth on edge, but I’m quickly smiling as I look at the clay. The impression is deep, detailed and not going away. It is, however, full of hair. Jack has bear paws for feet in the winter, and a bunch of hair has decided to stick to the clay. Oh, Oh. I tentatively try to remove some of it, but I’m making minor marks on the clay, so I stop and do the sensible thing and email Marcus asking if this can be fixed.
I am relieved to hear back that the hair won’t affect the outcome and that I should mix and pour the plaster and, once it’s dry, ship it to him as is, which is precisely what I did.
Bubba’s foot is now in Marcus’ hand, and he has wizardly plans for it, which he wrote about yesterday. (footy) I look forward to seeing what he makes of it. Jack is happy that the fuss is finished, but he still thinks that footprints are meant to be fleeting.
I’ve been struggling to write this column, which is why it’s been so long since you’ve heard from Jack and me. We’re both fine, but our lives have changed, and we’re not having many adventures anymore. My sweet, beautiful Bubba will be 13 on Feb. 29th (March 1 in this non-leap-year), and he’s succumbing to the ravages of old age. He’s a big, heavy boy and his weight-bearing joints are full of arthritis, making it difficult for him to get around. He still wants to go out a few times a day to wander around the yard, but taking a real walk is no longer possible. We’re lucky to have an excellent vet who keeps Jack comfortable, and he remains a happy boy who spends his days gazing out the window or dozing by my side.
My vision for Jack’s Walk has always been for it to be a happy place where we take a moment to appreciate the wonders of the world around us and maybe take a deep breath and have a smile. It’s been hard to find that voice over the past few months, but it’s still there, and today, I have a HappyJack story to share.
For the past year or so, Jack has been bothered by warts on his face that itch. He rubs his face on everything – table legs, people legs, carpets, snow, grass, dirt, telephone poles, his bed, my bed, my hand if it’s dangling in reach, and sometimes even poop if it smells just right. One wart grew very quickly and then started to break down and bleed, and it’s been so bad recently that the vet and I finally decided to go ahead and have it removed. That would mean an anesthetic, which is risky for an old boy like Jack, who was listening in to our conversation and making plans of his own.
A few days later, I noticed that Jack wasn’t rubbing his face, and then it struck me that the big ugly wart was gone. I took a closer look, and all I could see was a small, clotted stump resembling an umbilicus that was ready to drop off. Apparently, Jack scratched it off himself. No need for surgery, no need for wound care, and no need to spend the estimated 1,200 dollars. What a good boy, eh?