Posted tagged ‘Cats’

Garden Therapy

May 24, 2014


Do you remember reading as a child, or reading to a child, this little ditty from Winnie The Pooh “this warm and sunny spot belongs to Pooh, and here he sits and wonders what to do?” Well, this is my spot, and I’ve been sitting there a lot, wondering how to create the rest of my life.

DSC_8406Toby, not much of a therapy cat, nonetheless loves to hang out in the garden and seems pleased to have my company out there.


I also have dozens, if not scores, of winged companions. Would you say that this is a giant bee, or really tiny flowers? Would you say that trying to compose the next 20 years of my life is a giant challenge, or just a tiny mote in the eye of the universe?

DSC_8373Zazou, who is also interested in bees, shows up to put the flowers into perspective. Me too, I’m in need of perspective. Perhaps if I go back to France and get a little distance from all that’s happened, my troubles too will shrink down to a manageable size.

DSC_8376Sometimes it all seems so dark, with just the tiniest bits of bright spots to remind me to keep my eyes open.

DSC_8390Other times I feel so wide open and exposed that the slightest psychic breeze can carry me away, scattered silly.

DSC_8398But even the bees like a change, like to spread themselves all around the small world of my garden, and so too, perhaps, should I. I’m a bit terrified to go back to France without Shel, lest every single thing remind me of him. But then, how would that be different than here? Thus I also contemplate a trip to some place he and I never went together, to remind myself that I do have a separate existence, now that I’m an off-leash puppy.

DSC_8423Solitary travels, even though I once went to Finland and Russia by myself, aren’t my favorite thing. I need to be able to share the bees, and their stings, the flowers and their thorns, with someone who cares.


I guess it’s all a question of what’s in focus: the beauty or the emptiness, the light or the dark, the loss or the presence. I carry it all within me, as well as those grief bursts, now less frequent, but more powerful. The paradox of the day is that often, right after having had a fine, even fun time, where I think to myself that I’m really doing a whole lot better, it all falls apart once I’m alone, and I dissolve into pain. I need to find a way to let it out bit by bit, like drip irrigation. Who said that tears make things grow? That’s such a gentle image, whereas mine scour me out like steel wool, leaving raw, dull spots where all the shininess has been rubbed off.

DSC_8412But somewhere in there, in the deep, hidden center, there is healing going on. Grief picks at the scab until it bleeds anew, but I put my nose into the heart of this iris and inhale its delicate apricot scent, and I remember that life is beautiful, even though death is part of it. Or maybe life is beautiful because death is part of it.

DSC_8461-002The fact that I am craving beauty, and light, is undoubtedly a good sign. They’ve got those in abundance in the south of France, and I have so many dear friends there. Shel wanted me to go back, even to move there, because he said he’d never seen me happier than when we lived there. French Letters too probably would be happy to be repatriated. J’y pense. I’m thinking about it.


Ears To The Ground

March 16, 2014

DSC_7939Often we’re completely wrapped up in the sorrow of it all. Sometimes, though, we manage to lift our heads and inhabit the big, wide world. Sometimes, we even hang out on Facebook! And if I hadn’t paid attention to a little FB post from a local chef, kept my ears to the non-cancer ground for once, I wouldn’t have been able to put such a lovely dinner on the table. Yes, finally it’s about food again, because thanks to some good Hospice drugs, Shel has some of his appetite back!

DSC_8199Tonight, a day early, we had a beautiful corned beef and cabbage meal, thanks to our own Hitchcock Deli, which brilliantly provided house-corned beef and cabbage kits. Quelle idée, what a great idea! They assembled a beautifully corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, spices, a jar of house-made mustard, and a can of Guinness, plus a recipe. All I had to do was simmer it, and that was a good thing, since cooking has been getting really neglected around here. What I couldn’t manage to do was to find a white plate to photograph it on, so please forgive the oh-so-retro look here. It tasted way better than that.

It was actually just delicious, and I have to say that the corned beef was even better than the ones I’ve corned myself, which is saying a lot. Since most of you won’t have access to this cool little kit, let me say that adding a big can of Guiness to your corned beef simmering water really is a nice lick. And so Shel and I ate well, and praised the luck ‘o the Irish, who make such great literature and whiskey.

DSC_8203And for those of you who, like me, don’t drink beer, which is the logical drink with a meal simmered in Guinness, I’ll say that I surprised myself by walking into my little cellar and straight to this bottle, which turned out to be the perfect match.

So I heard via social media about the best and quickest route to a  lovely, lively Irish dinner kit, Shel’s been feeling well for a couple of days, and the kitties haven’t been fighting. Much. I’m keeping my ear to the ground for more good news and I hope you are too.

Drama Queen

February 14, 2014


You all must think I’m a total drama queen. Every couple of years I come here and tell you that Shel’s about to die, and French Letters goes all dark and dramatic.

DSC_8079Sometimes we’ve been in France, sometimes in America, but the despair has always been the same. I wish I could exclaim Alas! in English like I can say Hélas! in French, without sounding affected, because alas is the only thing we feel at the prospect of Shel’s impending end. We never get to the Resignation or Acceptance stages that are supposed to be part of the process of dying. We are never resigned, never can accept the idea, and generally gnash our teeth and thrash about at the prospect.


It’s all we’ve talked about for the past few weeks, except when we’ve been talking about the Olympics. Looking death right in the face and never learning equanimity. Expecting Shel to die any day now. Freaking the fuck out, actually.

But now he’s been taking the new drug for a little over a week, and he’s feeling a bit better. He’s gone from saying “honey, stockpile the morphine” to seldom taking any. He’s been saved so many improbable times, by heaven knows what – should we sell our stock in Kleenex and dare to hope again?

Tree Metaphors

December 17, 2013


Sometimes, even though it’s Christmas, you’re not going to get the thing you want most. In Toby’s case, it’s to be allowed to take all the ornaments off the tree. In my case, it’s for Shel to get well. Both of us are learning to cope with disappointment as life swats at us again and again.

DSC_7868This cancer thing makes it seem like life’s constantly sliding downhill, taking a wild ride on a slippery slope,


resolving to a downward spiral. But then, maybe people who don’t live with cancer feel that way too, sometimes, maybe even at Christmas. This year was the first time in many Christmases that I decorated the tree alone, Shel had no energy to help, and Eric, recovering from back surgery, is forbidden to crawl around under the tree, let alone get up and down off the ladder dozens of times because someone (wonder who that could have been) got a tree that is too tall to trim on one’s own two feet.


I always need to get a tree that’s taller than I am, but I guess I sometimes forget that I’m not as tall as I used to be. I don’t think I was ever nine feet tall, though, as is this year’s tree, lightly kissing the ceiling in its corner location, perfectly situated for viewing by passing boats.

DSC_7866It’s a nostalgia-fest, putting up the tree. Jordan made this ornament in kindergarten, and that was 35 years ago. In those days, Shel and I hadn’t met yet, although he’s forever wishing that we could have gotten together when he was young and healthy. Because we’ve never known a life together without cancer, and that can get pretty exhausting, even amidst the sparkle and ribbons.


We try to reflect the joy and beauty that the season calls for, but this year our happiness seems like a pale reflection of its former self.

DSC_7885My lovely pomegranate ornament reminds me far too vividly of the CT scan of Shel’s lungs, all full of spots, and I’m so sad not to be able to see it otherwise.

DSC_7870We try to store up strength for the winter, but I can’t help but feel that we’re just barely hanging on.

DSC_7869My fury at his illness is really boundless, and I would take swift and fierce action against it, if only I knew what to do.


All we can do is breathe in, breathe out, stare death in the eye, and possibly, bake some Christmas cookies. That’s the ticket, get up to my ears in baking and wrapping and giving, and quit all this pesky thinking. Cookies, coming up.

And Now There’s Toby

November 16, 2013

DSC_7679Ever since we lost our beloved Beppo at the beginning of September, we’ve been grief-stricken, and Zazou has been so lonely. Yesterday we brought Toby home, all huge ears, giant paws, super-long tail, all two pounds of him. He’ll never be a great beauty, and he wasn’t even the cutest kitten at the shelter, but he insisted on being ours.

DSC_7654-001Shel and I sat in the little room where you can take the kittens out of their cages, and let Toby convince us to take him home. Tiny as he is, he’d jump on my lap, look me in the eye, say one little meow to me, then hop down, run over to Shel, and repeat the performance. He did this dozens of times, until we absolutely couldn’t say no, even though I’d imagined a prettier cat, even a tabby like Beppo was. But no, Toby was obviously meant to be ours, and he spent the night sleeping on my arm or under my chin, depending on how I was lying; every time I turned over he jumped over to the other side of my pillow so that he could be right by my face. That’s the kind of cat we need to help heal our deep sorrow.

DSC_7641This is about as close as Zazou will let him get, so far, and she’s said some pretty rude things to him, but she follows him around and watches him intently, and even slept on the bed with us for part of the night, so I think it’s going to be alright in a week or so.

les palmiers 707-1There’s no replacing Beppo, of course. We learned this week that he had been hit by a car, now he’s buried in our garden. The same garden where I once whispered in his ear “this is your garden, Beppo, you’re safe here and no coyotes can get you.” But of course, no one’s safe anywhere. There’s the scorpion under the chair, the careless car outside the gate, Monday we’ll get the results of Shel’s latest scans, all you can do is do your best to keep on breathing, keep on loving. And now there’s Toby.

When Love Strays

September 11, 2013

beppo 088

It’s 3:00 in the morning, and there’s something I haven’t told you. Beppo, our best beloved kitty, disappeared a week ago. After dinner he went out, and he never came back. This, a cat who never missed a meal. This, a cat who slept between our two pillows many nights. This, a cat who captured our heart to the extent that we brought him to France with us, and back again. This, a cat whom we loved to distraction. This, a cat who never came home.

Zazou is frantic, in her own way. She’s never known a life without Beppo, since we adopted her in France and brought her home to be Beppo’s friend.


I’m frantic, in my way. Beppo has always slept with me, comforted me, been the hit of every party I’ve given, followed me everywhere, loved me unconditionally, seen me through it all.

Sitting outside, drinking Spanish brandy, on a night still warm and filled with stars, Beppo is not in my lap. Beppo was almost never not in my lap.


The channel marker blinks on and off, on and off, saying here I am, here I am. Beppo does not tell us where he is, why he can’t come home.


Danger is everywhere in  our world, but for seven years Beppo faced it all with a beautiful calm.


Eagles, racoons, coyotes, cars, even cougar prints in the sand, according to a neighbor. He could be shut in somewhere. He could have been catnapped by someone who admired his sleek silkiness and affection for everyone he met. The world seems to have swallowed him up, leaving us no clues.

Shel and I try not to cry, too much. Every time we walk through the gate, Beppo is not waiting for us, gracing the garden with his stripes and spots. When we eat, Beppo is not sitting in a chair next to us, not under the napkin on my lap. Worst of all, when I can’t sleep, like tonight, he’s not there, making sure I’m alright.

Saint Antonin 520

An Octopus’s Garden

May 18, 2013


Zazou hasn’t yet decided whether the beach is actually part of her garden or not. We deduce this because not only have we never seen her down there, but she persists in bringing mice and voles into the house, instead of clams and oysters.


Beppo definitely prefers the terrestrial garden, although since he’s a big copycat, the day Zazou goes down to the sea will certainly change Beppo’s life too.


We happily take advantage of the best of both worlds, the early crop of flowers on our little water-facing patio, and the amazing crop of water birds and water vessels that we can watch from it. So far, in only three weeks here, we’ve seen gulls, ducks, geese, cormorants, pigeon guillemots, eagles, otters, seals, ferries galore, sail boats, motor boats, tug boats, barges, an aircraft carrier, and three


submarines. Really and truly, aircraft carriers and submarines go right past our back door, on Rich Passage, the stretch of water otherwise known as WA Highway 304, a nomenclature that we find hilarious.

The aircraft carrier, the USS John C. Stennis, passed us with 3000 sailors onboard, many of whom were on deck waving their white caps at us. The submarines, on the other hand, slip darkly past,


escorted by Navy and Coast Guard boats, on their silent and spooky way to the octopus’s garden under the sea. It’s impossible for me to imagine life in a submarine, and what sort of person would choose that life. Outside, eternal darkness, crushing pressure, and deadly chill, with no way out. Inside, tiny spaces, a nuclear reactor, artificial light, recycled air and water, and, I suppose, nonexistent privacy.


No sunsets for those submariners, no sunrises. No salt breezes, no flowers, no cats. I wonder what inspires a person to choose this life. You can read the fascinating details of life in the octopus’s garden here.