Tuesday, December 30, 2014


Yesterday, a slow drizzle of rain fell as I sat at my desk looking out at the pine straw heaped around the base of an old oak in the backyard. A neighbor's black cat crossed the yard and began rummaging in the straw as if he was searching for food. And, then, with that sixth sense cats seem to have, he sensed me watching him and stared back at me. Now, not only am I allergic to animal dander (cats being the worst offenders), I also have just enough Scot blood in me (or it could be the Cajun stream) to entertain a few superstitions, and I get anxious when I remember the one about black cats crossing in your line of vision and causing bad luck. I was hoping to escape the misfortunes that blighted this past year.

The cat and I regarded each other for a few moments, then he went back to his foraging, but I continued to stare at him, trying to will him away from my yard. It was a stand-off, and he won. He looked at me once, began sniffing the corners of the yard, and returned to the pine straw to settle in, even though rain drizzled constantly.

So I did the thing I do when all else fails, I began writing a "snippet" (aka a bit of calculated whimsy) about his invasion. I'll include it at the end of this blog. Meanwhile, I tried to divert my thoughts by thinking positively about this species of animal that has often caused me to develop paroxysms of sneezing, to suffer from swollen, watering eyes, and to lose my breath. Immediately, the face that appeared in my thoughts was that of Beatrix Potter, the Victorian woman who studied the behavior of animals and created enchanting paintings of them in a series of books about rabbits, mice, cats, hedgehogs, and other creatures she often saw in the Lake District of England.  As an adult, I still enjoy the story about an old cat named Mrs. Tabitha Twitchit, an anxious parent who frequently lost her kittens, and when she found them they were committing some mischief. However, in this Tale of Samuel Whiskers, "Moppet and Mittens grew up to be very good rat catchers."

My daughter Stephanie has seven cats indoors and feeds as many that hang around outside. At first, the neighbors complained about the band of bedraggled felines roaming their yards, but when they discovered that the mice and rats nesting in their attics and snakes crawling in their yards had begun to disappear, no more was said about the invading cats. Many friends tease me about my daughter making a home for the cat population when I have allergies to them. They say that she probably opened her residence to them to keep out an interfering mother, but in my defense, I relate that cats have been her soul mates since she was three years old, long before I developed most of the allergies from which I now suffer.

Here's the snippet I wrote following the staring stand-off with the black villain that settled in the pine straw in my backyard:


Don't come peering in my window,
black cat, back arched, nose twitching
like the dark augurer you are.
If there are mice around
they're out there scavenging.
Plenty abounds in green cans,
unconsumed holiday harvest.

Go away, harbinger of bad luck,
last year's misfortune quota
soared enough for me.
Send another envoy in your stead,
perhaps an orange, striped ball of dander
with bug eyes like Garfield the comic cat,
at least he has a sense of humor,
a quality most of your kin don't possess.

Don't come peering in my window
or scratch on the clouded glass.
I know winter is out there,
but witches live somewhere else
closer to Halloween.
And why are you prowling
in the rain anyway?
Aren't you reputed to be
a lover of comfort?

I know cats don't have insomnia,
seldom exercise,
are model do-nothings;
as Anonymous said:
"Life is hard, then you nap."
So go curl up
on someone else's window ledge...
and take your time doing nothing.
P.S. Scat!

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