‘Life is short… shorter for some than others…’ Gus McCall from Lonesome Dove.
I was going to write about the honor I received (along with others of honor) from the Ohioana Library. That will have to wait another day or so.
People who know me know that I am not necessarily a ‘cat person.’ That said, we have four cats plus one and in my own acerbic way, I love them all. Some years ago a feral black cat, very small, realized that the buffet was at our place and made Hillside Farm her home. You couldn’t come near this cat, she was so wild. A couple of years ago when my son Zach was visiting for his Winter Break, he gentled her and she became a member of our feline family. The ‘plus one’ I mentioned above is a large grey male cat that lives under our deck and shares the buffet with the official members of the family. He shared more than that this year and the gentled wild cat that Izze named ‘House’ became pregnant. This unauthorized pregnancy resulted in a small litter of two. House was a less than stellar Mom and she did her best to kill her kittens. We found them buried in the basement and wound up taking out part of a cinderblock wall to save them. They were covered in dirt… in their eyes, nose… everywhere. I took them to my sister-in-law Ginger’s place… she had a cat that just had kittens and we hoped she would adopt them. I was driving to Ginger’s and talking to my son Zach on the phone when I heard one of the kittens crying loudly. ‘Son,’ I said. ‘She wants to live,’ and indeed she did. Ginger’s cat treated her as her own and when she was obviously flourishing, we brought her home.
Izze had named her ‘Flower’ when she was born. When Flower came home, Izze morphed her name into ‘Flauber.’ A play on words? A French poet? Who knows? Anyway, Flauber came home with Snowball, one of her adopted sisters and joined Zami and Mimi The Cat (My Mother’s old cat) here on the farm.
I am not into indoor cats so Flauber and Snowball were truly cats of freedom, ranging at will through the woods that surround our house. When Vanessa and Izze and I went to Columbus Friday the fifteenth for the Ohioana Awards we left plenty of food and water for the cats as well as Nana the Dog. We knew we would be back Saturday afternoon so they would not go hungry or thirsty. When we got home, all the animals greeted us except for Flauber. We thought she might be in the woods or perhaps visiting a neighboring farm which she occasionally did. She did not come home yesterday and today when Vanessa was taking Izze to school, she found her dead on the road.
Now dead animals on the road here in the country is nothing new… unfortunately I myself have hit deer, turkeys, and yes, once a cat. It just happens. I was working in the barn when Vanessa sadly came back to tell he she had found Flauber. I went down with my little tractor and a wagon and gently picked her up and brought her home. I then took a post hole digger into the woods and dug her grave.
She had been with us for less than a year and yet her passing was like losing a longtime friend. Our pets are so beloved… so much a part of us. They surround our lives with love and help us measure the time that oft passes more quickly for them than it does for us. They do not seem to care about this disparity. They truly live in the moment.
I enclose one of my favorite poems by the poet Derek Walcott. It is about a dog and yet in my mind’s eye I substitute Flauber The Cat.
ODDJOB, A BULL TERRIER
You prepare for one sorrow,
but another comes.
It is not like the weather,
you cannot brace yourself,
the unreadiness is all.
Your companion, the woman,
the friend next to you,
the child at your side,
and the dog,
we tremble for them,
we look seaward and muse
it will rain.
We shall get ready for rain;
you do not connect
the sunlight altering
the darkening oleanders
in the sea-garden,
the gold going out of the palms.
You do not connect this,
the fleck of the drizzle
on your flesh,
with the dog’s whimper,
the thunder doesn’t frighten,
the readiness is all;
what follows at your feet
is trying to tell you
the silence is all:
it is deeper than the readiness,
it is sea-deep,
is stronger than thunder,
we are stricken dumb and deep
as the animals who never utter love
as we do, except
it becomes unutterable
and must be said,
in a whimper,
in the drizzle that comes to our eyes
not uttering the loved thing’s name,
the silence of the dead,
the silence of the deepest buried love is
the one silence,
and whether we bear it for beast,
for child, for woman, or friend,
it is the one love, it is the same,
and it is blest
deepest by loss
it is blest, it is blest.
Flauber The Cat brought much joy into our lives here at Hillside Farm. Why she should have been spared ignominious death at the hands of her mother in our basement to die on our little road once again illustrates there is no logic to life and death. She loved to swim, go figure. She would occasionally jump in the pool and paddle around before getting out. I buried her in one of the beach towels we would dry her with.
She rests behind our garden. The tree that shades her in the woods is flame today. Soon the leaves will be gone, but today they sing brightly just for her. Mimi The Cat seems to know she is gone and walks gently by her place in the woods here at Hillside. She raises her head as if listening for something… silent as night, she walks on.
Her days in the woods and on our porch were filled joy and freedom. What more can any of us want. With all this in mind, I shall try to make the most of today and perhaps tomorrow as well.