Everyone snacks


Just ahead of us, a sudden movement through the trees and bramble catches our attention.

We are not in the deep woods and the baby is strapped to my chest, so I am hopeful that we are not about to have an encounter with a bear.  Running with an almost twenty-pound baby would not be impossible, but it certainly would not be enjoyable for long.

I mentally sort through my self-defense options.  I quickly rule out the snout punch, karate chop, flying kick and sadly settle on leaving my husband behind as bait while we make our clumsy getaway.  Unfortunately, sacrifices must be made at times like these and he is about to be a snack.

Still peering through the shadows, my heart skips a beat.  It’s a big-eyed doe staring back at us with a newly born fawn, standing on spindly legs, nursing underneath of her.  I breathe a sigh of relief, we are all safe and the baby will continue to have a daddy.  

However, I am in disbelief that we have wandered onto such an intimate moment and feel very NatGeo.  More than that, I feel greedy and wish I had a camera to snap the image and save it forever, not that a picture could capture the heart connection that I feel with the doe or the beauty of the pair, and instead I settle on committing the experience to my unreliable memory.       

In another instant, the sweet mama is gone with her babe in tow.  I squeeze my little guy, wanting to share the moment with him, only to discover that he is fast asleep, dreaming his milk dreams.  

Art of Giving

red leaf

Tap, tap, tap.

It was still early in the morning when there was a soft knock on the glass patio door.

“Don’t answer, you know who it is,” Jan said without looking up from buttering her toast.

She stood at the kitchen counter in a long nightgown and slippers, while her husband sat at the table holding a steaming mug of coffee. He perused the headlines of the news, rattling the paper as he turned the pages.

Across the table, old newspapers were haphazardly spread and stacked with colorful advertisements and junk mail randomly shuffled into the mix. Salt and pepper shakers in the shape of birds were in the middle next to a plastic napkin holder with plain white paper napkins. Her husband, Dennis, reached over and gathered the papers into a messy pile to clear a space for his wife.

“Come sit down.”

He looked over the top of his glasses, unsurprised that the seat remained empty. Jan was still standing at the counter shaking cinnamon from a spice container with an aluminum head onto the buttered toast. She risked a peek out the door and then quickly looked away, reasoning that without eye contact there was nothing to stop their visitor from leaving.

Tap, tap, tap.

She felt a secret thrill, he wasn’t leaving. The hint of a smile played out on her face as she turned to her husband for another peek out the door over his shoulder.

She feigned surprise, “Oh Denny, it’s him again. What should we do?”

He laughed and the skin around his eyes crinkled like old leather, “We?” he asked.

“Don’t you mean what should you do?” he clarified with an emphasis on the word, you.

They had to play this game, their roles and the rules were both well-defined and rehearsed. He gave his wife a knowing look that was a mixture of amusement and annoyance and sipped his coffee.

“In that case, I better give him what he wants,” Jan said coyly.

She reached for the jar of peanut butter in the cabinet and pulled out another slice of bread from the breadbox. Humming to herself, she quickly slathered the bread with a thin layer and cut it into triangles, just the way she used to do.

Tap, tap, tap.

“Oh, hold on,” she said with in pretend irritation as she balanced the triangles flat on the palm of her smooth, white palm and made her way towards the door.

Sliding the door open with one hand, she knelt down with surprising flexibility for her age. She tucked her nightgown around her legs to hold it in place as she balanced on the balls of her slippered feet.

“Well, hello there,” she greeted a fat brown squirrel with shiny, black eyes.

The squirrel twitched its nose in recognition.  It chattered with excitement and held its claws out for breakfast. Jan extended her hand towards the creature. It sniffed her fingers and looked up at the woman; they locked eyes for a brief moment of connection before the squirrel grabbed a triangle and took off for the edge of the patio, still chattering as it disappeared up a tree.

Jan straightened out her legs and back as she stood, and noticed at her feet a unusual, bright red leaf carefully brought in from an ornamental tree of a far off yard.  It was left not as a payment, but as a present.  Jan left the rest of the triangles with a smile now fully fixed on her face and took the leaf, grateful for the gifts of the day.

Here today and gone tomorrow.

Escape from the Midwest Winter


“Here Nature is unapproachable with her green, airy canopy, a sun-impregnated cloud- cloud above cloud- and though the highest may be unreached by the eye, the beams yet filter through, illuming the wide spaces beneath, chamber succeeded by chamber, each with its own special lights and shadows.”

W.H. Hudson, Green Mansions

Human in June

The warm, summer breeze awakens dormant senses,
Shriveled and dying, almost too weak for life.

Fresh air flows through the lungs and sun warms the skin,
The smell of flowers and grass, soil and rain mix together.
And the senses remember.

Vision sharpens to see the bright, red cardinal perched on limb,
a blackbird trills in the distance, honeysuckle and lilac perfume the air.
Rain falls, clean and cool.

Sweat mixes with the rain and streaks down a dirty face
Exhausted and filled with a peaceful clarity.

Brownie Gets a Suitor

Brownie cat now has a suitor. 

I peeked out the window this morning to say good-bye to Brownie before I left for work.  She already had her breakfast and few pets on the head.  Usually by this time, she’s sitting pretty as you please, with her tail wrapped around her paws and peering into the window.  On a warmer day, she waits for a snack or to press up against the window purring.  On colder days, she hunkers down in her box, with an eye towards the window, ready to slink out if she deems it worth the effort.

However, on this particularly crisp and freezing morning, I was met with a punch-in-the-gut type of surprise.

“Oh my God!” I screamed and panicked as I tried to open the sliding glass door.

A big, fat tom cat was outside, swishing his tail and harassing the little cat inside of the box.  There was Brownie, cowered down, in the temporary safety of her cardboard box; while the tom cat lapped up her water and took a mouthful of her leftover kibble from breakfast.  He was taunting her, walking back and forth, while she continued to hold her position inside of the box.

I could only see her face and green eyes, wide with fear and terror at this awful cat, strutting about and claiming the patio for his pleasure.  He was about to do the same with Brownie, if he could break into her box or catch her dilly-dallying about in the snow.

As for me, I was filled with rage that this intruder and bully would terrify my little cat, eat her food and drink her water. 

We don’t want no scrubs around here, in the borrowed words of TLC, and that goes for this big damned bully of a cat.  Finally, I got the door open and unleashed my fury on that he-ball of fur.  I won’t describe that scene, other than, it got ugly.  

As he ran off, I shook my fist and screamed after him, “Don’t come back, you scrub, or else!”  

The cat stopped at the road, turned his thick neck, and looked at me with an evil swish of his tail, as if to say, Or else what?     

By then, I was running late and upset about what would happen to my poor little Brownie cat as soon as I left.  She was alone and mostly defenseless with just a set of claws, and a cardboard box to her name.   I wondered at where I should draw the line and how to best protect her.  Then the lingering thought began to plague me that my husband had warned of: one stray leads to two strays and behold, a colony is born.

This has brought to light a deep fear, perhaps he is right and a cat colony is on the brink of formation on our back patio.  It could be an unstoppable situation as I still can’t catch Brownie to take her to the vet to get spayed.  I can’t stop feeding her because it’s the middle of winter and unless a little martyr-minded bird takes mercy on Brownie and sacrifices itself, she’ll starve.  Not even trash is edible after an hour at negative five degrees.  What if she tells her cat friends and more come, or worse, she had relations with that cat, and soon we will have kittens?       

Right now, I know just where to draw the line.  It is with Brownie, my outside cat, my pet and my furry little work in progress.   If only I could convince her to come inside, away from the cold and the suitors, before it’s too late and we have 7-12 little Brownies.  

The Brownie Report: On (not) taming a stray


Brownie appeared one week ago, mewing and begging outside of the sliding glass door. 

She was spotted a few times sleeping in the seat of an old chair on the patio during the summer and fall, when the weather was nice and delightful.  Back when it was a fine time to be an outside cat or even a homeless person.  The little cat might consider that period of time as the ‘good ol’ days’ or her personal Golden Era, as the earth met all of her needs;  little birds and trash for snacking, lawn/patio furniture for sleeping, trees for scratching posts, and the entire outdoors for scooting her behind.  

Likely, she congratulated herself everyday on escaping from someone’s apartment thinking something like, Oh you clever cat.  Good for you.  No one to tell you where you can’t sleep or scoot your butt. 

She was absolutely certain the universe would continue to provide, never anticipating the cruel and cold Indiana winter that was to come.  Then the seasons changed, as they always do, cooling the days and chilling the nights.  Frost on single blades of grass led to snow over everything, and there was Brownie, the silly and impulsive cat, homeless and without a friend.

After the first night that she appeared hungry and pathetic, I’ve set out a dish of food and warm water each day, much to my husband’s dismay.  He groaned when he found me out and said, “Great, another cat.”  It was as though I had already collected hundreds of cats, and they were sleeping on the shelves, hiding under beds, stretched out in the hallways, and sleeping on his pillow.  (Don’t worry, we only have one little housecat who has lived with us since before we were married.)

With my best efforts, Miss New Kitty still remains shy and skittish, almost feral, but not quite.  She mews and rubs her head against the glass door, and then runs to hide in the corner when I slide the door open for her.

We’ve had a few breakthroughs in our relationship.  Several days ago; she let me pet her furry head without running away.  Granted, it was when she was gobbling down her kitty-kibble and she barely noticed me petting her or my great pleasure from her allowing it.  Yesterday, she let my husband pet her while she was shoveling big mouthfuls of kibble, but when she looked up and realized it was a new hand, she batted his arm away.  Whap, whap, whap!

She hit him, one strike after the other and ran off into the shadows, scared of the big man down on his knees laughing.

“She doesn’t have any claws,” he declared in disbelief.

It’s hard to believe that a cat could survive more than a month as a stray without any claws.  I had to double my efforts to tame the feline and save her from a gruesome death, if she was to be saved.

We nearly had another breakthrough today.  I lured her inside to eat her dinner in the warmth of the apartment.  I felt giddy with joy at our progress and shut the door to keep out the cold air, which sent the creature into a mad frenzy to escape.  She raced around the living room, hitting the wall, tearing up the carpet and making demon noises that my sweet little housecat has never emitted.  In my effort to re-open the door, I discovered that she really does have claws.  She was just giving love swats to the Mister the night before and kept her daggers sheathed. On this particular occasion, the daggers came out.  Oh yes, they all came out.  

So now, she’s back outside.  I can see her anxiously peering in and perhaps re-thinking her decision to be an outside cat.  As I write this, I am nursing a wounded hand, a case of cat-scratch fever and remorse that she wasn’t declawed in her past life.  

Signing off for the Brownie Report and hoping for a less violent tomorrow. 

When one isn’t enough: cats

“This should be enough room for the cats,” I declared to my husband this morning. 

He was working in the spare bedroom/office/music jam room, which is also called the warehouse as it houses his collection of doo-dads and thingamabobs.  Sometimes the trundle beds are pulled out for friends and family and it becomes our luxurious guest suite.  In any case, today it was the office and he was doing business things from which he casually looked up and asked, “What cats?”

He was very nonchalant about it, but secretly I’m sure he felt a surge of nervous anxiety at the thought of the plural form of cat.  One cat was already pushing the limit of his cat tolerance.  There is something about finding cat hair everywhere, stepping on cold, wet hairballs, and early morning get-up-for-my-breakfast purring that gets on his nerves.

We were once a multiple cat household until my mom catnapped big George, old Wilma went to the great litter box in the sky and we were left with just one sickly white cat.  Miss Meow came to us through a series of unfortunate events, with ears blackened from mites and a skinny belly overflowing with worms.

Now she is fat and happy enough, but so alone.  My caternal instinct is kicking in and I can’t have my poor little kitty-cat lonely.  I’m confessing now, in my secret public blog, that I’m conspiring to adopt a box of kittens.  At least one or two, anyways, and then Miss Meow will be surrounded by friends once again.

They will be a gang of pals, just like on Stand By Me, the movie.  I imagine they’ll go traipsing through the hallway of our apartment looking for adventure, build a secret cat hideout behind the couch, and set up a field to play hairball underneath of our bed.

There’s just one obstacle that must be overcome before the pride can move in: my husband’s deep dislike/hatred for cats. 

What to do when one isn’t enough?