Saturday, February 28, 2009
The winter is about over. It's mud season now, and the scenery is somewhat less than pleasing, but that's okay. Even though the ground is still mostly brown and the dead grass is yellow, the trees gray and leafless, things are starting to get that windswept, waking-up look about them. There are pools of icy water just off the sides of the road and the trees that stand in it look somehow like they just sprouted there, moments ago.
Plaintive bird calls echo through backyards. Today I saw a blazing red cardinal and heard him trumpeting his spring call; "Toooo-weeet! chew,chew,chew!"
The little black-capped Chickadee was singing; "See-mee, See-mee!"
Two turkey vultures found a thermal above our street and circled each other in an aerial ballet, gradually drifting upward toward the sun.
Snow drop and crocus stems are starting to poke up everywhere, through the cold, crusty mud. The sky this past week was a nearly forgotten shade of blue. The only remaining mounds of gray snow are hiding in the shaded areas that the sun never reaches. The rest has melted and evaporated away. Today, although the wind was high and brisk, the ground radiated warmth. Winter is over for all intents and purposes, so why...why...WHY are they saying we are going to get a foot of snow over the next two days....WHY!? I know why. It's because this is New England; land of the meteorological practical joke. Wake me when it's over please...
Thursday, February 26, 2009
To say that I am not a morning person would be an understatement. The very thought of actually getting up and moving around before the sun has come up makes me slightly nauseous. My husband Mac's battered old clock-radio springs to life at five thirty in the AM (after experiencing an awful barrage of loud metal music as my first sensory perception at that already rude time of day, I convinced him to at least set the dial to a classical station). He springs to life right along with it. He is up early to prepare for his job which consists of carpentry and roofing. After shrugging purposefully into his layers of thermal, flannel and sweatshirts, bumping into the bed and jarring me awake again numerous times while doing so, he sallies forth into the day without so much as a yawn or a groan. There is much coffee drinking and truck loading to do before he can head out for the day.
I, on the other hand, pull the covers up over my head and try to shut out the sounds of the house and the light that filters in through the window blinds.
If possible, I try to stay in bed until everyone has gone and the house is empty, no one home except Rigby, the cats and me. This has become a lot easier since I was cut adrift from my job. After all these years of living with three other people and only one bathroom, I know better than to think it might be free if more than two of us are home and up. If it's a rainy or frigid day and Mac is still home when I rise, the kitchen dance begins. We dodge and weave around each other as we both try to get to the coffee pot and into the cabinets or the fridge, much to my aggravation.
I'm actually a really nice person, except in the early morning. I love my family to pieces, but I'm pretty cranky first thing in the morning. I need about a hour to get my wits about me. Thankfully, my husband is pretty easy going and doesn't get offended. Yesterday he was laughing at me. He said that when I get up in the morning I'm like a bear coming out of hibernation; grumpy and dangerous. To that I said: Grrrrrrrrrrrr!
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Energy never dies, but is only transformed. What becomes of our energy once our physical bodies can no longer function? Is it on to a final rest after one single lifetime in the body, or do we take on a new shell, like spirit hermit crabs and graduate to a new level of education at schoolhouse Earth? I have to concede to the possibility that perhaps not only does our soul, our life-force, leave our bodies upon death, but it may enter a new body to further progress in our life lessons. One life just doesn’t seem like much time to attain all the wisdom there is in the universe. What if we get more than one chance at trying life on Earth? This seems like a reasonable possibility to me.
Some years ago I was invited to an evening of “past life regression” at the home of a friend. I always take these kind of things with a grain of salt, but I have a very open mind, and I thought it would be interesting.
A young woman with bunches of dark wavy hair and a long, purple, velour dress was holding court when I arrived, doing readings for people in small groups. She touted herself as a past life reader and promised to reveal to each of us, a past life persona.
The person she saw me as in my most recent life was a male. He was a dark, brooding, sort of menacing guy. His name was Jason, and he was a shaman or sorcerer of some kind. It didn't really sound like he was a nice person. She told me that my current life was all about regaining the power I had in that life, but channeling it toward good this time around.
As interesting as the tale of Jason was, I'd been a little disappointed not to hear about a life spent as an American Indian. For reasons I've never understood, I always been deeply interested in Native Americans. I've collected many books on subjects related to American Indians and their culture as well as some recordings of their music. As a child, I liked to play a game with friends that consisted of us living like natives in the woods and performing rituals with sticks, stones and water. Whenever games had a western theme, I would always be the Indian and never the cowgirl. The first pieces of jewelry I ever bought for myself were silver and turquoise made by a native artisan. I prefer them to diamonds.
I've also had a dream in which I am dressed in buckskin clothing and moccasins. In this dream, I'm running for my life across a desolate landscape. I trip and fall, and when I look up at my pursuer, he is raising a tomahawk over me. I've wondered whether this dream could be a traumatic memory of the end of a past life...or then again, maybe it's a just a dream?
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Monday, February 23, 2009
Various sources describe an "Empath" as someone who has the ability to discern and actually feel the emotions of others. I have long thought that this describes me.
I've heard it said that this over-developed sense of empathy is a double-edged sword and I can certainly attest to that. If someone I know is happy and joyful, I seem to absorb those feelings as well. If someone near me is experiencing grief or sadness, it manifests as a dark cloud of depression over me. While it can be very helpful in life to be able to intuit the truth of a situation and to accurately guess people's true motivations, it's also exhausting to experience other people's pain as well as your own.
In the past, as strange as it may seem, I have many times walked around for months suffering over situations that have little or nothing to do with me. It is particularly difficult detaching emotionally from my immediate family members, as I am in close proximity to them daily. That makes it a lot harder. Their sorrows, joys, grief and anger feel like they are mine too.
It's as if someone else's flame is consuming my candle.
For the longest time, I didn't realize that there was something of a choice involved, but I see now that I can take steps to protect myself. I am just now, at this advanced stage of life, learning to sort out which problems and emotions are truly mine, and which belong to others. I can still care about them, and I can still try to help them, but I don't have to suffer for them. Letting go of other people's pain and problems is something I have to practice daily to keep my sanity.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Up on the airplane, nearer my God to thee, I start making a deal inspired by gravity - Emily Saliers (Indigo Girls)
The other day when I was out walking with Rigby, something above caught my eye. Like a faint ghost, a big passenger jet was carving a trail through the bright, blue morning sky. I thought about the scores of people, all the souls inside that distant plane. Some, maybe sitting with their seats reclined and their Ipods on. Maybe someone's reading a book that I've read or chatting with the attendant. Somebody's eating peanuts and having a diet Coke or a chardonnay.
Many of the flights that originate out of Logan airport pass right over my little town. At night they can be seen approaching from the east with big, bright lights ablaze, like high beams. As they get nearer, the big lights suddenly go out and just the blinking red and green lights seem to stay on.
I don't like to fly. Even though I know that air travel is vastly safer than car travel, I'd prefer to take my chances on the ground, rather than at 30,000 feet.
The take off is always the worst for me. In my car, I feel that I have some degree of control over what happens. In the air, I am at the complete mercy of the pilot, who I've never met and know nothing about. For all I know, he could have just taken three Ambien and washed it down with a couple of whiskey sours after a fight with his ex-wife. I guess this probably means I'm a control freak, I don't know. Plus, there's that whole "gravity" thing. I have no understanding of physics, really.
As the plane starts to move, I clutch my rosary beads, scapula or a prayer card and shut my eyes. I'm chomping gum to try and pop my ears before the altitude does it for me in a more painful way. My stomach flip-flops. I pray silently as we taxi down the runway, and I hold my breath until we are up and we level out. The landing is no piece of cake either, but it's usually not as traumatic for me as take-off.
That morning as I looked up at that plane, I was reminded of the last flight I took.
I was traveling down to Florida with my sister and one of my brothers to attend the wedding of our nephew in a town near Tampa last November. The take-off had been as smooth as silk and we were waiting for the attendants to come back with our drinks. I watched as the Earth fell away from my window, then took a deep breath and glanced around the cabin. I caught my brother's eye and asked, "How're you doing?" He answered, "Wondering how the heck it's possible that we are rocketing through space in this metal cigar."
I laughed out loud because I have had that exact thought many times. It seems like such a crazy, improbable thing to be doing, and if you didn't know for a fact that such a thing is possible, you'd never believe it, would you? A big, steel tube weighing thousands of pounds, filled with more than a hundred people and their stuff, taking off from the ground and speeding through the air, then safely landing at your destination. It's nuts.
That was a great trip, because not only did we get to see our other brother and our two nephews and experience the wedding, we also got to spend a few days together, just the three siblings without our spouses or kids. We really had a good time and a lot of laughs together. Even though I really couldn't afford the trip, I knew it would be a rare experience that I would not want to miss, and I was right. It was so worth it, and I'm glad I made the decision to go.
Everytime I look up and see those passenger jets overhead, I am reminded how so many things that we take for granted in our every day lives are actually so incredible. Really makes it seem like anything is possible.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Anyone who lives in the northern climes knows that there are more than four seasons. Some think of that beautiful reprise of warmth after the first frost, better known as "Indian Summer", as a season unto itself, but it lasts only a few, precious days at best. Many of us who live where the winters are snowy have a different idea about what constitutes the fifth season. Right now, in this part of the country a new season is just beginning...mud season. Starting near the end of meteorological winter and lasting into the first weeks of the calendar spring, mud season is all too familiar to those who dwell outside of the cities.
As the snow and ice retreats with the slowly warming temperatures, yards and unpaved driveways become oozing car traps that rival the La Brea tarpits. Boots and sneakers get caked with brown muck, no matter how carefully one tries to step. Mac starts parking his dump truck on the asphalt driveway and is reluctant to try and get down to the barn in it, as the ground turns into chocolate pudding.
It's impossible to keep floors clean in mud season. Many homes around here have that handy entryway off the kitchen, better known as "The Mudroom", where shoes are removed before entering the main house. This is usually mandatory for family members and guests alike, to try and stem the tide of grit and grime that fights to get inside. We have a screened-in porch that works well for this purpose. Most people I know are not shy about enforcing the shoe ban, at least not during mud season.
The roadsides are a mess now, littered with chunks of asphalt, rocks, trash and detritus of every description. Snow-plow blades have destroyed the edges of the sidewalks and potholes and frost heaves dot every street. Things that have been hidden for months under snow banks are revealed as the melt commences. Car parts, torn envelopes, broken beer bottles and random nuts and bolts mingle with lost gloves and losing scratch tickets. Everywhere, a coating of sand and salt lines the streets and waits to be swept or raked off the dead grass next to the curb...sand, salt and mud.
If you have a canine friend, mud season is all the more annoying. Every day when Rigby and I come in from her walk, we must go through the unpleasant and time consuming ritual of bathing her muzzle, her feet and the underside of her belly. I fill a big bowl with warm water and shampoo, spread a towel on the kitchen floor and start the ablutions with a wash cloth, while she struggles to pull away and looks reproachfully out of the corner of her eye at me.
Some days, I glance out the window, prior to the walk and fool myself into thinking that things appear dry enough so that if we stay mostly on the pavement, we will be able to avoid the need for the half-bath that day. It has never been the case yet. She is pretty low to the ground and has very furry paws. By the time we get home they are black and her underside is wet and grimy. On damp days, when we have to navigate puddles and dodge the spray from car tires, she requires a full bath. Into the tub she goes, much to her chagrin. To make it up to her, I give her three or four treats when we are done, but she's still not pleased with me.
Despite all this, mud season is a joyous time! It means that winter's back is broken. The sun climbs to a higher angle in the sky and our corner of the world is definitely warming by a few degrees each week. If it's mud season, can spring be far behind?
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Eons ago, a great glacier carved out a tiny island 12 miles off the coast of Rhode Island. Hills, valleys, rocky outcroppings and deep, dark hollows mark the terrain. On a clear day, the tip of Montauk, New York can be seen from the bluffs on her western shores. This place was called Manisses, the “Island of the little god”, so named by the Indians who lived there for centuries.
Captain Adrian Block, a Dutch explorer landed there in the early 1600s and changed the name to Block Island, paving the way for the white people to settle there. Throughout its history, the island has been the scene of massacre and shipwrecks. A grand hotel and a mansion were destroyed in blazing conflagrations. There is a historic, Indian burial ground surrounded by rolling hills and pastures. Many of the older hotels and homes are said to be haunted. Even the dark woods in the hollow at the center of the island is said to be a place of supernatural power.
It is a place of unmatched beauty and heavenly tranquility as well. The island is ringed by roughly seventeen miles of mostly unspoiled shoreline, and coke-bottle green waves lap the white sands. Swallows and terns fill the air and flutter about the cliffs. Beach roses line the roads and scent the air on summer days, while boats with white sails drift in and out of her two harbors. It is a place of magic and mystery.
There are many stories to be told of Block Island, but the one that comes to mind tonight is the legend of the mermaid.
It seems that a young mother and her little boy were on the island, and enjoying a day at the beach some years ago. The woman was reading, while her son played in the sand near the water’s edge. At some point, the woman became aware that she had dozed off, and when she lifted her head to check her boy’s whereabouts, he was nowhere to be seen. In a panic, the mother ran up and down the deserted beach looking for her son. Suddenly, she saw him bobbing in the water. The story goes that something unseen seemed to be pushing him toward shore, keeping his face just above the waves. His mother charged into the surf and floundered toward him. Just as she reached him, she saw the tail of a large fish slap the surface of the water a few feet away. When she got her little boy back safely on dry land, she asked him what had happened. He reportedly told her that he had walked out too far into the water and had started to struggle, when a nice lady with very long hair who was swimming nearby, had helped him by lifting him up and pushing him back toward the beach. The woman looked out at the water and saw no one. In fact, the beach was empty as far as the eye could see, but the child insisted that “a lady” had rescued him. Then the boy’s mother remembered the large "fish" she had caught a glimpse of, just as she had reached her son.
I recall reading a written account similar to this story in a little island newspaper many years ago, but when I searched online recently, I could not find anything on it. Could this story be fiction created to entertain the tourists? Quite possibly. But I prefer to think of it as a mystery and a legend. Whenever I am "on the Block" as we say, I always scan the sea for signs of mermaids. It is only one of the many strange and marvelous tales of the magic island of Manisses.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
At night it becomes a different world outside. Now in the winter, especially, the tracks left in the snow tell a story about what happens after darkness falls, to those who care to try and read them. I study the impressions and try to imagine the creatures that left them. There are tunnels and little narrow trails weaving through the yard, which I guess are from shrews; tiny, fuzzy, brown animals that resemble mice with stubbed tails. Rabbit prints are everywhere and deer tracks are easy to spot. Not as easy to decipher are the ones that look like little hands pressed into the snow...raccoon or opossum?
One morning, not long ago we found a pile of gore and entrails left behind the garage. It was apparently all that was left of a rabbit.
There is a big hawk that hunts in our neighborhood, but it was hard to tell if this was his handiwork. My husband has been sitting silently out in the screened-in porch late at night indulging his cigarette habit and has seen a lone coyote stride up the driveway and head down behind the garage on two occasions, so it may have been his leftovers. We have also seen a fisher. His long, bushy, chestnut-colored tail disappeared behind a blue spruce tree, as he slunk along the edge of the woods.
There is one set of tracks that we just can't figure out. It travels across the yard from a big white pine and goes directly under the porch. In between the large footprints, there is an impression of a thin tail, and the snow is pushed aside, as though it's belly were dragging. Whatever it is, it may have set up house under there, or maybe it was just seeking refuge from the weather or some predator.
The yard becomes a secret world after the sun goes down. Nocturnal animals emerge and dramas play out in the darkness, just beyond our doorstep.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Confession time. When I was eleven years old, I helped tie Emily Calhoun to the a-frame of the Bellini's swing-set. In fact, it was entirely my idea. Emily was a misfit; a pale, chubby girl with freckles, an overbite, and a head full of the frizziest, flakiest, most unkempt hair I have ever seen on a human being. She and I lived a few houses apart. We were the same age and were always feuding over one stupid thing or another.
I had recognized her poorly disguised voice, just a day or so before on the opposite end of a prank phone call made to my home. In retaliation, my brother and I, and a scruffy band of younger, neighbor kids had found a large, black and yellow salamander that someone had stepped on, and we somehow thought it would be appropriate to restrain Emily and scare the sass out of her by sticking it in her face. Our gang accosted her gang in the woods and being the larger, stronger group, we took her captive. We marched her to the rusted old A-frame like a prisoner to the gallows, and proceeded to tie her to the crossbar. Her blood-curdling scream caused us to cut her free just a few seconds into the torture. We scattered to various hiding places, but the damage was done.
When I remember this now, it does not seem possible that I could have actually been responsible for something like this, but I was. The thought of it horrifies me now.
According to the grapevine, at some point during her high school years, Emily became a resident groupie to the local motorcycle gang. She later dropped out of school all together and off my radar. Then, years later, I saw her one day at a pizza place a few towns over. Our chance meeting led to an impromptu lunch during which she revealed that she was completely estranged from her entire family, and her new, slim shape was the result of ongoing amphetamine abuse.
Although I suspect there were many factors from her early life contributing to her troubled state, I still can't help wondering what part(however small)I may have played in shaping it. I will never know for sure. I can hardly believe some of the things I said and did when I was a kid, but there it is. As alien as that person now feels, it was definitely me in some earlier, larval form. I am sincerely contrite and remorseful for the actions of the younger, meaner, stupider me.
Now, I am the champion of the underdog. I support several charities for the homeless, and as I write this, I am preparing to go to my weekly stint teaching religious education to an unruly mob of thirteen year olds whose parents belong to my church. Maybe on some level, I see this a sort of penance for the sins of my past life. Proof that anyone can change.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
I realized today that I have not yet mourned for the loss of my job. You know, the one that cut me adrift six weeks ago. I know I wrote a bit about it and vented a little here and there, but then I started to enjoy the freedom of not having to punch a clock day in and day out. There remains the practical consideration of money, however. I do need it if I want to continue to eat and watch T.V. and have a roof over my head.
Then, suddenly today, I started to feel real sorrow. I loved my job. When I first started there, I felt as though I had been yanked up out of Purgatory into Heaven. I was well paid and felt valued. I could wear jeans if I felt like it and bring Rigby to work if I wanted to. I had my own little office with a sunny window and a desk that I helped to design. I was allowed to choose the color and style of the cabinets and countertop. I picked out the shade of celery green paint on the walls. I lined the window shelf and countertop with plants. I brought in all my music and loaded it onto my computer so I could listen all day. I burned fragrant candles and worked happily away at my own pace for the most part. At certain times of the year it was insanely busy, but even that felt good...the satisfaction of having done a good day's work when I punched out in the evening.
I got along well with most of the people there, and I felt that my supervisor was truly a good friend. It was a great job, the best job I've ever had.
On the day I was laid off, my supervisor told me I could just leave anything I didn't feel like taking that day. No one else would be using my room, he said. Maybe he was in denial too. I took everything I wanted and threw the rest away, except for the two "excellence" awards that I left on the shelf as an ironic statement.
Today I was in the area, so I drove by my old workplace. I had heard that due to the downsizing, the building is now too large and pretty empty. To further cut costs, they decided to lease half the space to a different company. The few remaining employees were all moved into one half the original space.
As I drove by my old office, I saw a silk flower arrangement sitting on the window shelf of my little office room. My office! Someone else's flowers! A shock of realization hit me...it's really not my office anymore! Someone else has taken it over and now it's their office. I felt like I'd been punched in the stomach. Even though I knew there was a chance I would not be hired back, today for the first time it feels real. If another company is leasing part of the building, they can't just toss them out after a few months. There literally won't be any room for any of us to be hired back.
My son said, "Mom, cut your losses and move on. Looks like you really will have to find a new job now."
With seven percent unemployment and companies still letting people go, that will be much easier said than done. I really have to say goodbye to that part of my life-the past seven years. I know I'll never see most of those people again now. I don't even have their phone numbers. Many of them live hours away and we had little in common other than work, but still... Writing about it now, there is a lump in my throat and I want to cry. It's NOT FAIR!
Saturday, February 7, 2009
Here is a drawing I made of an owl.
We had a little owl in the woods at the back of our yard. At different times of the year, late at night or in the very early morning while it was still dark, we heard his quavering tremelo. Sometimes my sister and her husband heard him too. Their home, a quarter mile away was apparently in his territory too. Lately though, we had not heard from him.
Two mornings ago, Mac came in from walking Rigby around the barn and reported that there was a bird party in progress out in the woods in back of the barn.
When dawn broke that day, the temperature was hovering around 5 degrees farhenheit. Since Mac is a carpenter and his current job is strictly outdoors, it would not be a working day due to the bitter cold. As he waited for Rigby to take care of her business in a snowbank, his attention was drawn by two, big Blue Jays, a pair of cardinals and a legion of slate-colored juncos all fluttering around one particular tree. We puzzled over what could be stirring them up. There didn't appear to be any food or seed around, and he had not seen any predators lurking.
We forgot about the birds as we became absorbed in the tasks of the day.
Later that evening Mac and Rigby were again near the spot and the dog started pulling on her leash, desperately trying to get over near that same tree. Although it was now gathering gloom in the woods, Mac thought he could see a small dark shape in the snow at the base of the tree that looked out of place. He would take a closer look in the morning when it was light.
The next morning as I was making my eggs and pouring coffee, Rigby burst into the kitchen with Mac close behind her.
"It's an owl...there's no sign of injury, but he is dead", Mac told me. "He's just lying there at the base of the tree. Almost looks like he's sleeping. That must be what all the birds were fussing over."
Later I walked out to have a look. We never saw him while he was alive, but there he was. A screech owl, I think. He was small and precious and he did look almost as if he was asleep. All his pretty grey feathers were intact, little ear tufts trembling in the cold breeze. I feel sad in my heart that he's no longer alive and I wonder why he died. Surely, being a northern bird the cold weather wouldn't have bothered him too much, at least I wouldn't think so. The other birds may have been harassing him, but there wasn't any blood - no sign that they had hurt him. Maybe he was old by owl standards and it was just his time. We will miss hearing his voice. All things must pass.
Friday, February 6, 2009
We set up the trap near the dumpster that night and waited for the first catch. One of the kittens seemed more curious(or hungry)than the rest. It didn't take long before we had Cat Boy in the box! Next, his sister Shy, the calico fluff-ball was lured in too. We agreed to start with these two and once we had them safely in a new home, we'd come back for the rest. It turned out to be more difficult than we imagined, though. The shelter was full at the time and in any case, the cats would have to be quarantined and observed for at least 6 weeks to be sure they didn't show any signs of rabies. We kept them in a big plastic kennel carrier equipped with food, water and a blanket on my sister's porch until we could figure out what to do.
After a few days, we decided to see what would happen if we let them out of the carrier into the enclosed porch area. What transpired next was like something you'd only imagine seeing on a cartoon! Cat Boy literally ran straight up the wall to the ceiling, screaming in terror! He bounced around from wall to window screen like a pinball for several minutes before I threw a soft towel over him, and wearing thick leather gloves, got him back into the carrier. Coming out was not a option at all for his sister...she was rolled tightly into a black, white and bright orange ball at the back of the box and wasn't budging.
In about a weeks' time we came to the conclusion that the best thing to do was adopt them ourselves. My sister and her husband chose to keep Shy and I chose Cat Boy. In due time, after many wormings, shots, and a few baths they were welcomed into our respective homes. I think they both spent about two or three weeks hiding under beds for ninety percent of each day before they were able to conquer their fear of us.
We don't know what became of the mother cat. Eventually, we also captured and tamed Jet, one of the tuxedo twins. He was quarantined in our barn and eventually was placed in a happy home through the shelter. Funny Face was found to have a festering wound on her face and the shelter's vet made the decision that she should be put down. We never did get the remaining tuxedo cat, but I have seen a cat that looks very much like him around the neighborhood for years. It is my hope that he was adopted too. Shy and Cat Boy continue to thrive.
There is one funny thing that always reminds me of those days. Whenever I do laundry, Cat Boy comes running from wherever he is and jumps up on the washer as soon as he hears me turn it on. He sits on top and peers down into the open machine as the water fills. After a moment, he starts to cry loudly. He has a cry that sounds almost like a baby. When he really gets going, it sounds like he's yodeling. It took a while before I realized that the sound he is hearing is very similar to the sound of the water running into that storm drain next to the dumpster where he was born. I think that some part of him may remember that time. It's very hard not to believe it is emotion I hear in his voice at these times. Maybe he misses his brothers and sisters, or he is crying for his mother. Maybe he is mourning a lost time when he was a wild cat boy.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Cat Boy was feral once. He lived underneath a big dumpster that stood behind a multi-family dwelling, not far from my home. That was the prime spot where a stray female gave birth to about a half dozen kittens. It provided a big, sheltered area and a constant source of food for her little family. Between the constantly replenished food source of human garbage, and the mice it attracted, they would not go hungry.
The apartment house that leased the dumpster sits on the corner of two quiet side streets. In those days my sister lived across the street from the place. Just a few feet away from where the cat family lived was a large sewer grate at a low spot in the road. Except when everything is frozen solid, or in the driest days of summer, there is a thin rivulet of water creeping lazily down hill toward the drain, and the pipes beneath it gurgle loudly with the sounds of moving water.
Besides Cat Boy there was a beautiful, long-haired calico female, a short-haired calico female, and a set of twin of "tuxedo" cats; black with white paws and bibs.
Once my sister and I became aware of them, we gave the the ones we saw most frequently names and started observing their comings and goings. There was Shy; the timid, pretty calico, Funny face; her drabber, short-haired sister, Tux and Jet were the black tuxedo brothers, who had a habit of sitting back to back on the top edge of the dumpster like book ends, and of course, Cat Boy; the regal black and white male with the giant, double paws.
My sister and I, along with her husband were doing a cleaning and feeding shift at a local animal shelter. Twice a week we'd go to the shelter in the evening and let the cats out of their cages. We would give them clean water and fresh food, administer any prescribed medicines, clean and disinfect the cage, brush the bedding, then brush and play with each resident for a few moments.
After observing the wild kitten's antics for few weeks, the three of us became concerned for their safety and well-being. We decided that when they became old enough, we would try to catch them so they could be spayed or neutered and given vaccinations. After that, maybe the shelter could find good homes for them. They were all very wild and would scatter instantly if approached. It was not going to be easy, but we constructed a plan that included a "hav-a-heart" trap and a can of salmon, and we went fishing for felines one cool autumn night...
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
There are two other furry little persons who live in our apartment with us. Cat Boy is a piebald(black and white spots), polydactyl(way too many digits), neutered, American short-haired male cat. Ceecee(short for Cirrus cloud)is a white, medium-haired, spayed female with a grey streak between her ears.
These little feline people roam about at will, night and day, and sleep (when they feel like it) under my bed.
Cat Boy's front paws are known as the "mittens of death" Because of the six, huge talons hidden in each of those innocent looking paws. They do look exactly like fluffy mittens, that is, until he rakes them down the door frames leaving marks that would impress a Bengal tiger. Lucky for us, he is as sweet and docile as a critter can be. He's a lover, not a fighter and likes nothing better than having his ears, and the underside of his chin scratched. When an unfamiliar voice is heard at the door, he disappears into some dark corner or closet for several hours, until he is absolutely sure the interloper has gone. Cat Boy even endures the indignity of being bossed around by Rigby the Schnauzer mutt, with uncommon grace.
Not so his female counterpart! Ceecee's main defense is her fierce and nasty attitude. She rarely has to unsheath her claws, but she can bite like a cobra, with a hiss that would unhinge the ghostbusters. Rigby is a constant source of annoyance to her, but she takes none of the dog's crap, and Rigby has learned to cut a wide swath around her at all times.
All of these little beings were rescued. Thirteen years ago, Cat Boy lived under a dumpster down the street from us when we found him, and Ceecee turned up the following year, living in a local zoo, having been born in one of the animal cages. She was sent to an area shelter that I was volunteering for at the time, and that's how I found her. Rigby was adopted from another shelter, out in western Massachusetts by my daughter, when she was in her last year of college. The folly of that decision soon resulted in her coming to live here with us.
After the initial period of chaos, the cats drew closer together. All three seem to have settled in to living together in an uneasy truce. Somehow, it works.
I can't decide whether Cat Boy and Ceecee see each other as mates of some sort, or more like brother and sister now. I ponder this as I watch the gallant Cat Boy licking the grumpy Ceecee's head and ears, moments before he clamps his teeth over the scruff of her neck and the rumpus begins.
Monday, February 2, 2009
I sat in my window on a sultry summer night, staring at something I could not comprehend, trying to wrap my mind around it. Curiosity quickly turned to abject terror as I watched this strange white fireball do something I would have thought completely out of character for a natural phenomenon. Rolling along in a straight line was one thing, suddenly taking a sharp, ninety degree turn as it did almost seemed to indicate intent...or...intelligence? I was struck by the sudden thought that somehow it was aware of me! Crazy! But I wasn't taking any chances and I did just what any coward would do under the circumstances... I slammed the window shut and locked it. Then I slammed the other window in the room shut and locked that one as well. I pulled both window shades down tightly and sat there hyperventilating for a while. It quickly became sweltering in my little room, but there was no way on God's green Earth that I was opening those windows that night. I remember imagining it outside underneath the window. I pictured myself lifting the shade and seeing it there. I didn't sleep very much that night, or for several nights immediately afterward. I tried to tell my parents about it the next day, but they didn't seem too concerned. I suspect they thought I was "imagining things" and I didn't waste much time trying to convince anyone. I knew what I had seen...I just did not know what it was!
Since then in the many years that have passed, I think about what it might possibly have been. The "willow-the-wisp" answer seemed plausible until I thought about that sudden sharp turn it took into my driveway. Ball lightning was a major contender, but the fact that there was no sound at all, no thunder heard or lightning seen that night at all, seemed to rule that out.
It occurred to me that perhaps it was not a natural thing at all, and I could not rule out extra-terrestrial(or extra-dimensional?)possibilities. In general, I have a very open mind. I definitely believe that there are unseen forces, energies and perhaps, entities that have not been officially documented. It seems to me the greatest arrogance, to dismiss something simply because we have not personally experienced it, and science has not, or cannot prove its existence.
The relatively recent emergence of the incredible world of quantum physics has validated much that we would have previously thought impossible. There is much we still don't know and cannot explain about this universe. I still don't know what it was, but I would love to find out!
Sunday, February 1, 2009
As I have mentioned before, I've experienced several very strange things that I have no good explanation for in my life thus far. One of these incidents happened when I was roughly fourteen or fifteen years old. I lived in a town not far from here with my parents and siblings, on a side street just east of a main road. The house we lived in at that time was on a little hill and my bedroom was located on the west side over the garage. There was a west-facing window in my room from which I looked out over the driveway below. Beyond the driveway was a fence surrounding a neighbor's yard and their home beyond. Further west, beyond the neighbor's property was the aforementioned main road. My bed was positioned lengthwise along the west wall of the room, and I was in the habit of sitting on the end of the bed, elbows propped on the window ledge. Many an evening would find me in that spot, admiring the sunset or watching the cars go by out on the main street, on the way into or out of town.
One very hot and muggy summer night, I was gazing out my window watching for fireflies and listening to the katydids murmur. The rest of my family had retired for the evening. It was a week night, well after ten pm and all was quiet, but we did not have air conditioning in those days and I was too hot to sleep. The neighbor's home on the other side of the fence was completely dark. They were an older couple whose children were grown and gone, and I guess they too had gone to bed for the night.
Suddenly, without warning, a dazzling, bright light about the size of a soft-ball rose up from behind the fence right in front of me! It looked as if it was burning somehow, with white fire, like a sparkler that children wave as they run across lawns on the Fourth of July, but there was no hiss or crackling sound and not a soul was in sight. It was totally silent. It rose up a few inches above the top of the fence, only about 5 or 6 yards away from where I was sitting behind the window screen. It hovered for a second and then disappeared behind the fence. My initial reaction was one of intense curiosity. What the heck was that?, I asked myself. I had heard of "willow the wisps" and "St. Elmo's fire", rare phenomena related to swamp gas or electromagnetic anomalies. Maybe this was something like that. I'd read about something called ball lightning, but I recalled that it was usually accompanied by thunder storms, and tends to explode loudly shortly after forming. There was no sound to this at all. I didn't know anyone who'd ever reported seeing anything like this. I was sitting, calmly pondering this with no sense of fear or anxiety at all, when out of the corner of my eye, I saw it again. Moving up the street now, flashing brilliant white sparks, it rolled slowly along in the gutter. It did not appear to bounce at all, or veer off course as you would expect a natural thing might do. I sat puzzling over this, watching as it steadily approached the end of our driveway.
Then, it did something totally unexpected and utterly terrifying. When it reached the end of our driveway, it suddenly took a razor sharp right turn and started rolling up the driveway directly toward me. More later...