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Sunday, November 25, 2012

“Joie de vivre!” wrapped in fur and purr

At least a dozen times over the past six months, people told me I should at least be thankful for the time that I did have with him. I suppose I don’t really blame anyone for spouting such platitudes. It’s the kind of thing you say when you don’t know what else to say.

And most people really don’t know what else to say to someone who is mourning the loss of a cat. In their minds, because he wasn’t human, his loss was somehow supposed to hurt less. I actually feel sorry for people like that. People who have not loved an animal deeply are missing a part of their humanity.

Galen, on the deck - Seven Fields, PA
Galen sitting on the railing of the deck.
Seven Fields, Pennsylvania.

It’s taken me over four weeks to grapple with my grief long enough to put at least some of it into words. I suppose even that’s not entirely true. Last October, I learned Galen had cancer. In theory, I had almost a year to embrace his eventual death. I should have been ready, but nothing prepared me for the gaping hole he left behind in my life.

I haven’t fully decided when I feel his absence the most. Is it morning when I realize he’s not stretched out beside me, or on chillier mornings, sandwiched up against me? Is it heading to the shower alone without him eagerly trotting in front leading the way? Is it coming home and not seeing him bounding to the door to greet me? Or perhaps it’s heading to bed knowing he won’t be there to purr me off to sleep.

Galen, on the catio - Tucson, AZ
Galen enjoying a warm day on the catio, January 2012
He always loved to be outside.

In reality, it is all of these things and a hundred other ways too. He was my companion in just about everything from sorting mail to sorting laundry. Wherever I was, he was usually nearby.

If life comes with an expiration date after the prescribed allotment of exuberance is used up, then I understand why his life was cut short. He was the essence of “Joie de vivre!” wrapped in fur and purr.

I suppose it’s only fitting then that at this time of Thanksgiving, I do give thanks for having been able to share what short time he and I did have together. I still feel his loss, but his life was truly a gift.

Micro, Londo and Galen, Seven Fields, Pennsylvania
This picture so captures three distinct personalities.
The timidity of Micro (left), the ennui of Londo (center), and the enthusiasm of Galen (right).

Copyright © Deborah A. Ayers - All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A life lesson in rattlesnakes

Western Diamondback rattlesnake
One of the wonderful things about living in Tucson is that there's more to Thanksgiving than food and football. Not only was I outside enjoying the fabulous 78 degree sunny day, but many others were too.

As I strapped on my rollerblades in the parking lot at the Agua Caliente trail head, a man drove in with a pick-up truck loaded with five or six kids.

As the boisterous crew tumbled out, I overheard the man say, "OK, everyone listen up!"

The kids quieted.

"If you see a rattlesnake on the path, stop, and take a step back. Don't try to jump over it. We'll all go around it together."

There was a slight pause, and then he said, "That's a good life lesson too."

Indeed it is, sir.
Copyright © Deborah A. Ayers - All rights reserved.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A pathway in the mind

As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.

- Henry David Thoreau - (July 12, 1817 – May 6, 1862) American author, poet, philosopher

Life requires cats

Technically, my first cats weren’t actually my cats. Princess, a big, long-haired, pure-white female and PJ, an even bigger, long-haired, tortie male belonged to Mr. and Mrs. Pearce who moved in next door when I was nine.

My brother and I had always had pets, but a medical diagnosis of “allergies” had limited us to a hamster named Sleepy (he was mean), then a guinea pig we called Puff-Puff (she was sort of mean too) and finally two gerbils, Cathy and Pete.

Deb holding pet gerbil, Cathy
Me holding my pet gerbil Cathy.
(Looks like I'm wearing my older brother's hand-me-down pants.)

The hamster and the guinea pig found new homes, but the gerbils turned out to be great pets. We loved playing with them and building them obstacle courses out of shoe boxes and cardboard toilet paper tubes. But a gerbil is still only…well, a gerbil.

PJ and Princess were indoor/outdoor cats and within a week or so after their arrival I had befriended them. Early mornings and after school I would go in search of one or the other, and it didn’t take too long before they made regular trips to look for me.

I loved them both, but of the two, Princess was a bit more of the social butterfly. She and I spent hours together. My father, a self-professed hater of cats, helped me make a bed for her by removing the rockers from an old doll cradle which I then carefully lined with a blanket that I had crocheted so she could take a snooze in the garage while visiting on chilly winter afternoons.

As the months went by, Princess became a regular visitor. One summer evening as the self-professed hater of cats sat outside reading the newspaper, the story goes (as he tells it) Princess leaped into his lap. I can almost imagine him saying, “Well, hello there cat!” (That’s the name my dad calls all cats.) Like the Grinch at Christmas, my cat- curmudgeon father’s heart grew three sizes that day. A few months later he brought home from the Beaver County Humane Society a puppy for my brother and a kitten for me. Allergies be damned!

Tigger and Misty
Misty and Tigger

Tigger and Misty
Me, as an awkward tween, holding my beloved Tigger

Misty and Tiger, or Tigger as we later called her, quickly worked their way into the family. I still spent time with Princess and PJ, but Tigger was the one I would look for after school, and she got the new crocheted blanket. Years later, when I left home for college, Tigger was who I missed the most.

I got a gerbil to keep in my dorm room. But gerbils are…well, gerbils. I’ve learned that life requires cats.

Tigger and Misty
Tigger on the crocheted blanket I made for her.
Its colors, purple, yellow, and white matched my bedspread. :-)

Copyright © Deborah A. Ayers - All rights reserved.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Vermilion Flycatcher - third year in a row!

Today was one of those days when I just needed to get out of the office for a few minutes. I could have run some errands, but instead, I took a walk around the small neighborhood that borders my office complex. Whenever I do take this stroll, I keep a watch for the Vermilion Flycatcher that I've spotted there the past three years.

Every time I've seen him, he's always been in the same area. He's BRIGHT red--brighter than a cardinal so he's not hard to spot if you know to look for him.

And I do!

Sure enough, he was in the same yard. I snapped his picture as he perched on the chain link fence.
Vermilion Flycatcher
Vermilion Flycatcher in the neighborhood near my office.

Flycatchers dart after insects flying back and forth from a perch. (Aptly named, eh?) He was a special treat to see in an otherwise busy day!
Vermilion Flycatcher
Vermilion Flycatcher
Copyright © Deborah A. Ayers - All rights reserved.