I’m grateful for at least knowing better, when I engage in unhealthy behaviors like caving to cravings (too much sugar, for example), or divisive speech, or even staying up too late so I’m asleep on my feet. Knowing better I can, if I choose to, examine what gets in the way of making consistently healthier choices.
It’s been a year since this beautiful creature bit the dust. Look at him draping there languorously along the back of my office chair, which he and he alone clawed to tatters. He was a singular animal, as devoted, communicative and interactive as any dog, and as wily and unpredictable as any cat. He was a treasure and a joy to share the world with, and I miss him every day. There are moments when I remember so vividly finding his remains that I once again inhabit the numbness of the shock. As clear as it was in that moment, I am looking at a swath of his grey tummy fluff across the forest floor, holding his dear dead perfect head in my hands. I’m grateful to come across pictures of him like this one when I search my archives for some unrelated image, pictures of Ojo very much alive that convey his brazen personality, his solid vibrancy. It was a gift to have him live with us for six years, and it’s a gift to recall him now. It was a gift to find his remains rather than suffer uncertainty at his absence, and a gift to suffer the jolt of his impermanence.
A couple of the bonsais-in-training got potted down over the past few days, including this culinary sage. It grew in the garden for a few years until it got crowded out, and then it was in a regular pot a few more years, so it has a sturdy trunk base. I clipped off all the old growth to leave the miniature new leaves, trimmed the roots, and wired it into a new pot. I’m grateful for the gift of leisure to enjoy pursuing this longtime passion with new vigor.
The magic beanstalks have slowed production to just a handful of immature pods every couple of days, while many out-of-reach or simply missed in the foliage earlier outgrow this harvest season and wait to be picked dry for winter storage. The first heirloom Pizzutello tomatoes are ripening, as are tomatillos, and a few more cucumbers. I’m grateful for the gift of garden harvest, and the gift of another day in this glorious world.
I’m grateful for the Apricot Tree, and for neighbor Fred who has been pruning it every spring for as long as I can remember. I’m grateful for the tender attention he gives this tree, bringing his ladders, loppers, and pruners, and shaping the tree beautifully with his expertise. It took several years after I planted it for the tree to fruit, and for the next few years while I was in charge the most it ever grew was half a dozen apricots. Once Fred took over, fruits increased year after year, finally yielding more than forty pounds each of the past couple of years. After last fall’s sudden killing freeze, I’m grateful that the tree is even alive. We don’t know yet whether any fruit buds survived, and expect only a light crop if any. He checked out and lightly pruned the peach and crabapple trees, too, and they’re both okay. This will surely be a low fruit year in the valley, but the trees are resilient, and we can hope for more good years in the future, if the extremes of climate chaos don’t kill them first. We’ll know more later.
Ojo cracked me up the other morning. I could tell the day before that he wasn’t feeling well. When he’s constipated, (and also preceding the loss of his first four lives), he contracts in on himself, curls into a tight ball, his cheek fur flares out because he pulls his head in like a tortoise, and he moves sluggishly if at all. He sat on the patio chair for an hour, refusing to come in even when I shook the treat can. Although it’s possible he was just pouting, because he’s an emotional little fellow. Either way, dusk was coming so I picked him up, tight little black ball, and carried him in, whence he disappeared and I didn’t see him for hours.
I mixed powdered psyllium husks into his dinner with extra water, and in the morning gave both cats a squirt of catnip-flavored laxatone instead of their first breakfast before letting them out. An hour later, I fed him his usual quarter can. Shortly, I took the dogs out, and called the cats for a walk. Ojo and Topaz both wanted to come in for second breakfast, but I said, No, you have to walk first, I want to see you poop.
So they came running along behind me and the dogs, sprinting past me in their usual tag-relay game, one or the other shooting up into a juniper occasionally. Ojo plopped down in the dusty trail and rolled, meowing, not unusual for him, but I missed that in this case it was the first sign that he didn’t want to walk. I rubbed his tummy fuzz and walked on.
Around the next curve he attacked my ankle, ran up meowing and grabbed my pants leg and gave a quick bite. I laughed and walked on, as he continued to meow, stomping along angrily behind me. A couple more times he lunged but I kept going; then he grabbed my ankle again, and this time he was very persuasive. He did not want to walk! Still laughing, I turned around and up the hill. He shut right up and walked a yard in front of me the whole way home, where he got another quarter can and so did Topaz, and then they sprawled on the living room rug at total ease.
I draw some firm lines with them. I won’t feed them before first light, or let them out before sunrise; both must be in before sunset. Both those lines ensure my peace of mind in different ways. Experience with numerous cats has taught me that if you give a cat an inch in the morning, you’ll be getting up earlier and earlier to feed it until you’ve lost two hours of your usual sleep. On the sunset line, if these cats aren’t in by dark I won’t sleep until they are. They seem to take turns, one every few months, trying to get away with it.
But in a moment like that morning, when one of them had such strong feelings, I was happy to change my plan to accommodate his need. They ask for so little, and give so much. I still see in them the kittens they were, and also imagine the old cats I hope they will survive to become. But I know cats only have nine lives, and around here those can go pretty fast. So I treasure every day with them, and accept their their little quirks and demands, and do my best to keep them happy.
Ojo and his siblings are four and a half years old next month. They all remain happily alive in four neighborhood homes, although Ojo has been whisked from death’s door four times (that I know of). Topaz has not. She is self-sufficient, often aloof, and sweet as pie. He is a perpetual surprise, a spoiled mama’s boy who wants what he wants when he wants it, and won’t take no for an answer. They still make me laugh every day.