The Story of My Two Grey Kitties

By , May 15, 2020

Lizzie (both photos)

***

Yesterday was the 2-year anniversary of the death of precious Lizzie.

It was not a work day for me so I took the opportunity to put all my other tasks on hold and set aside the whole day to immerse myself in the priceless photos and videos and memories of my precious guardian angel soul cat. Joy-bringer was a chief mission of hers during her lifetime, and it still is, through all her wonderful photos and videos.

Today is a good opportunity to post this story. Last year I entered a local story contest (“tell us your kitty story in 1200 words or less”), and while I didn’t win, the exercise of writing this story turned out to be a gift in itself. You will get to read about Lizzie, and also meet my kitten Dulcie.

I hope you enjoy it:

***

 

My grey kitty story begins with a joyous and magical moment 19 years ago, when as a young teenager I discovered a tiny grey kitten at our back doorstep one Friday morning in late August. Such excitement! Such surprise and delight! I stepped outside and scooped up that little kitten so fast, because finding a kitten was a fairytale dream, something unlikely ever to happen, but that morning I struck gold.

 

This was Liz. We didn’t know each other yet, but we would grow up together with a bond deeper than any other I have known, becoming practically one in the same over the almost 18 years she was with me.

 

The very next morning after Liz came to us, we had plans to leave for a mountain camping trip. Undeterred, though unsure whether one could camp with a kitten, we stopped to buy her a harness on the way out of town. Lizzie and I shared one tent while my mom and dad and our family dog squeezed into the other tent. It was a marvelous time. Liz stayed in her red harness, barely big enough for it, and I’d carry her in my arms for walks around the campsite or to watch my dad make Camper’s Stew on the propane stove. We all went for a long hike and I carried Liz in a cardboard cat carrier, where she fell fast asleep from the rhythmic swinging. We stopped in a moist, shaded area and I took her out of her carrier so she could experience the soft moss on her feet. Mom took her picture:

 

 

These were the blissful first days of a long, wonderful life together. Sometimes I think back and consider the near-miss of it all. What if she’d gone to our neighbor’s doorstep instead, where the house was vacant? And our other neighbor, an elderly couple, wouldn’t have wanted a kitten. What if I’d slept late that morning, missing her completely? Or if she had come just a day later, on Saturday instead of Friday, we would’ve been out of town for the weekend.

 

Unsettling possibilities since Liz turned out to be not only a beloved, steadfast friend but my vital lifeline as the years proceeded. She would fall into critical roles as she was needed, such as 24-hour Grief Support after my lifelong best friend and soul sister was killed suddenly at age 19. Then when my health unraveled and I got very sick, Liz went into Nurse mode, keeping very close tabs on me, hanging near me as if it were her job, and sleeping as close as she could possibly get, sometimes on my head, adjusting and readjusting herself to try to be even closer. There were long, scary pneumonia nights where I would open my eyes to find her sitting over me, fully awake and watching me.

When the illness turned into a chronic nightmare over subsequent years, she was not only Nurse, but my Anchor to the Earth when it seemed easier to let go and fade away.

 

Lizzie was the healthy, happy, precious center of the family and we have years and years of treasured moments and memories. When she got sick with a cancer under her tongue, I got to nurse her intensively and our spirits grew even closer during that cherished time together. She tried and tried and tried to live forever so we could be together, but nobody escapes the inevitable – even with the best medicine and the strongest love in the world. She lived as long as she possibly could, and died when she couldn’t help it anymore.

 

Because her health was otherwise good, her body supported her right to the end, so she maintained her weight (even after she got her feeding tube) and her spunky spirit, and she felt and acted like herself, doing the things she loved to do. She had a great quality of life until the last week.

 

She didn’t want to be put down, so we were together right to the very last moment, surrounded by all the comforting familiarity of Home. Even on her last day on Earth, we were outside enjoying the fragrant springtime air, sunshine, and lilac blossoms in the peaceful backyard. The last days were tough and rough to be sure, but even still, her tail continued to do its usual light tapping “all is well” sign. I found this interesting. I may have been more afraid than she was, since she also tried to reassure me as much as she could with her special noises, purring, nuzzling, and deep eye contact.

Liz was an extraordinary cat; a very special being – a guardian angel to me. She brought me such joy and she radiated love so constantly that I knew I could always count on it.

 

Words are flimsy and inadequate to describe how precious and dear she was – and how awful it was once she was gone. Brokenhearted and utterly hollow and bereft…I felt deadened and empty. Those first moments, days, and months, were excruciating. Part of my heart died with Liz. The very one I needed was now gone. I was lost and didn’t know how to express how much I missed her, so I just cried.

I cherished the pictures and videos I had of her – especially those videos – but Liz was a huge piece of my life and I was so, so sad.

 

Near the end of that year, someone at work put up a Cat Care Society Santa Paws Festival flyer. To see how my heart would react, I went to their website and looked at the adoptable kitties. I didn’t feel ready for another cat; I didn’t want another cat – I wanted Liz.

I thought maybe I’d get an older cat someday when I was ready. But one day I realized something. I’d probably never be ready for another cat. But also, I didn’t want to let my heart close forever. I thought maybe I could get a cat in honor of Lizzie, like a scholarship, since she had once been a homeless stray.

Then one night I went to Cat Care’s website and there was a 4-month-old kitten who looked exactly like a mirror image of Lizzie. I was so struck that I burnt what I was cooking on the stove. We were at Cat Care’s door the minute they opened the next morning. I was still very unsure, but something in my heart knew that kitten needed to come home with me.

I adopted this precious, fearful little Liz-kitten with a long-lingering respiratory infection, the last one of her litter left. She is a sensitive, dear, sweet, loving thing – exactly as Liz was. Very fearful at first, Dulcie has now blossomed into such a fun, confident kitten, and she reminds me so much of Liz in so many ways it’s the most incredible thing.

I miss Liz so much still, but Dulcie’s presence has made a big difference. She’s a living reminder of Liz, and delightful in her own ways, and it helps my heart feel better. Lizzie was a healing gift to me, and now Dulcie is carrying forward that baton – that healing gift.

 

Liz (top) and Dulcie (bottom)

***

Liz (top) and Dulcie (bottom)

*****

Morning Hoar Frost

By , February 29, 2020

It’s almost springtime already — how are you?!

Before winter is over, I must show you the frosty fairyland we woke up to one foggy morning in November, one of my favorite months. February is another one of my favorite months, and I’ll be sorry to see it go.

This morning I began thinking about my upcoming garden year, deciding about the steps I’ll take to wake up the garden this year, jotting down the order I’ll do them in so I don’t forget. I do things differently each year, hopefully evolving toward more efficiency and less input from me, meaning less of a drain on my energy, while maintaining a reasonable level of vegetable productivity.

Among my thoughts for this year… mowing the weeds in between the garden rows instead of pulling them; doubling the distance between tomato plants; interspersing my high-pest crops (cabbage, squash) throughout the garden instead of planting them in blocks as I have in the past; more flowers; planting a slew of dill everywhere since my observation has been that dill is a tip-top favorite of many(!!) types of beneficial insects; and no forking to loosen the soil in the rows as I have in the past — I’d like to eliminate this energy-intensive step, and instead just score a couple-inch-deep line in the soil for the rows of seeds.

It’s always an experiment!

Anyway, look at how beautiful this particular morning was! We don’t often get treated to this kind of thing; it was a special morning.

*****

Autumn Scenes

By , November 17, 2019

*****

Making a Lemonade Day from a Lemon

By , September 14, 2019

I had an irritating errand to do this week in order to get re-hired for my job (I job-share with someone else — they work part of the year, I work the other part, and because we’re temp employees we have to get re-hired each time and it’s always a hassle-y process). In the past I had to just go to the HR office nearby to get fingerprinted but this time I had to drive to the next town an hour away for this stupid, simple 10-minute task — a waste of my time, energy, and gas.

I decided that in order to have a good attitude about the errand, I needed to make it fun for myself. So after the appointment, I stopped in at an antique shop across the street and took my unhurried time looking at everything. I got three little things including a little kitty picture frame, and this great book The English Country Home and wooden jar. I walked to a nearby cafe and got a fun treat-drink, and then I drove to a little town I’ve always been curious about, and stopped at a public open space area, which I had all to myself, and absolutely basked in the feeling of being in the mountains. I had forgotten how good it felt and how much I had needed it. The smell!!!!!! Spicy, earthy, pine-needle-y, heavenly smell. I’d forgotten how good the mountains smell. I came upon a little creek and spent a lot of time poking around there and soaking in the sound and sight of the moving water.

It all felt so incredibly good. It seemed like terrible timing to be away for a day since I have so much going on especially with all the garden produce flooding in. I miss a day and I get behind. A vacation day was extra-needed, and I didn’t realize it until it was happening. I’d done something Fun that day (!) and I came home feeling uplifted and renewed. I spent the next day flattened and fatigued unfortunately, but I made that stupid errand ‘work for me’ and it was worth it!

*****

Beauty All Around

By , September 7, 2019

Look at that sky!

When I was a kindergartner, I had a wonderful ‘daycare mom’ who was an artist named Karen. Her soulful, cocoon-like home was as warm and welcoming as she was, and she especially loved filling giant canvases with luminous oil paintings of soaring, heavenly clouds. Just beautiful, beautiful works of art. To this day I think of her every time I see a sky like that one.

***

Well we have had some glorious flowers in the garden this year. Look at them! So beautiful. ♥

*****

Late-August Vegetable Garden Tour

By , August 26, 2019

Hello!

It’s a busy time of year in my garden; in late August the produce is really starting to flood in, meaning a LOT of kitchen time between now and October!

All the time and effort spent thus far in my garden is really starting to pay off though. We have our own private organic farmer’s market just outside the back gate! Here, I’ll show you…

Let’s start in the fruit “orchard” where we have one apple tree, two peach trees, and three or four grape vines. Believe it or not, these are two of the peach trees I started from seed, documented in this post from 9 years ago! I make the grape jam that I love from the grapes, and have been starting to use our cut-up Winesap apples as the fruit in my morning green shake. Later on, I’ll make big batches of applesauce with them.

Standing at the North end of the garden:

Standing at the South end of the garden:

Celery:

Honeydew melons:

Watermelons:

*****

Photo Tour of The Good Life Center: Helen and Scott Nearing’s Forest Farm in Harborside, Maine

By , July 19, 2019

Care and artistry are worth the trouble. They can be a satisfaction to the practitioner and a joy to all beholders.

-Helen Nearing

***

In early August of last year I visited Forest Farm with my family on a special trip to Maine, and it was one of the top highlights of the entire trip. What a special place; I didn’t want to leave. Forest Farm was the entirely hand-built homestead of Helen and Scott Nearing, authors of many books including the classics Living the Good Life: How to Live Sanely and Simply in a Troubled World and its sequel Continuing the Good Life: Half a Century of Homesteading. (Still relevant! The value of old books… see previous post.) My copy of Living the Good Life came down to me via my dad, from his mother many years ago. Growing up, his family would take beloved summer vacations to isolated Harborside, Maine and they would hear about the “commie” Nearings who lived nearby. Helen and Scott’s door was always open to those interested in observing, helping, and learning, and Forest Farm still welcomes visitors as The Good Life Center, carrying on the Nearings’ tradition of sharing and showing.

I took many photos! Are you ready for a visit?

***

Driving to The Good Life Center through tiny Harborside:

Arriving at the Nearings’ driveway. It was a peaceful, hot, still, muggy afternoon here.

It was very quiet; bees buzzing, small waves lapping the shore in the cove across the street. A few other visitors sifted through while we were there. You just park and amble in. Very laid back, you’re welcome to wander and stay as long as you like, soaking it all in.

This is the caretakers’ cottage over the summer:

Helen and Scott’s beautiful hand-built stone house:

 

Here is a photo of Helen doing the stonework:

Let’s go in. Here’s their kitchen — an airy, light-filled, feel-good space:

Those were the beautiful bowls and spoons they used.

Here are their mugs:

Here’s their kitchen as it was:

Helen and Scott on the right:

Now we walk into the living room, with a cozy wood-burning stove, book shelves lining the walls, and a wonderful view of the surrounding forest and out to their cove:

Here’s more of the house; this area is used as the little bookshop now. Visitors aren’t allowed upstairs to the bedroom but you can peek up the stairwell:

Here’s their original sign:

Let’s go out to the garden and greenhouse now. There’s a little apple orchard in the protected area between the house and the walled garden:

Here’s that lovely walled vegetable garden:

Behind the greenhouse:

Overlooking the walled garden toward the house and greenhouse:

Compost piles on the left, outside the garden:

The rest of the land is forested. There are some walking trails you can take through tall trees, ferns, tall grasses, and dappled shade.

Here’s their cove across the street:

And here’s the mission statement of The Good Life Center:

That concludes our visit to Forest Farm. I hope you enjoyed it!

***

Just up the road is Four Season Farm, owned by Eliot Coleman and Barbara Damrosch — names you might recognize if you’re a gardener. The land was once part of the Nearings’.

*****

Old Books, New Perspectives

By , July 11, 2019

None of us can fully escape this blindness [of our own age], but we shall certainly increase it, and weaken our guard against it, if we read only modern books. . . The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books.

-C. S. Lewis

I ran across this quote in a quote book I have, and I agree with it. It puts a finger on the feeling I got after I read two old books recently — that feeling of getting the long-range view.

I think it feels good to get a dose of perspective.

The two books were:

A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary 1785-1812. By Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. I found this book to be so interesting I could read it again, even though I usually bypass books about history. It isn’t so much a detailed midwifery record as a day-to-day record of a moment in time on the Maine frontier (what’s now Portland) in the late 1700s, from a woman’s perspective. Since it’s Martha’s personal diary record and not just ‘the highlights’ of a life, there’s a real window into what the daily grind was like. The author does an absolutely excellent job with this book; it’s obvious how much time and care she put into it. After reading it I discovered it had won a Pulitzer Prize for History. I found this book by chance on the clearance rack at my favorite used bookstore, and not knowing what it was I took a 50-cent chance on it. I heartily recommend it.

Peig: The Autobiography of Peig Sayers of the Great Blasket Island. By Peig Sayers. I’m interested in the Blasket Islands and this book has been on my mental list for over a decade. I was so surprised to see it in a neighborhood “library-on-a-stick” on my bike ride to work last summer. It’s about Peig’s life growing up in rural Ireland in the late 1800s until her death in the 1950s. I wasn’t as riveted by this book because it didn’t go into enough detail about life on the Blaskets (Peig moved there only after marriage), but I’m glad I read it so I could hear her tell the realities and concerns of life at that time, in that place. It’s not a long book, and I found it worthwhile.

Reading is the only way you can get this stuff — perspective from centuries ago, straight from the horse’s mouth.

It seems to me that every era has its headaches, troubles, and complications. Do we ever really move ahead? Or do we just travel down the track, swapping one set of struggles for another?

*****

Dawn Chorus Herbal Tea Recipe for Spring

By , April 7, 2019

It is Spring. Brown and barren, with the greenery of hyacinth bulbs barely beginning to nose up through the dry soil. Now and then, a wet snowstorm, slush, and mud. This is Early Spring in Colorado, giving way to a period of ephemeral, rarefied beauty that makes it difficult to keep eyes on the road as one drives around a city. Millions of fragrant light pink, dark pink, and white crabapple blossoms filling tree after tree, petals fluttering in every direction on the breeze. Fuchsia redbud trees in protected corners with an iridescent glow on gray days. Cheerful tulips and hyacinth and green grass in front yards. Bushes bowing heavily with lilacs. Fresh spring rain showers. Robins, finches, sparrows, blue jays, flickers — nearly constant birdsong from dawn until dusk. What a feast for our senses.

It is around this time that this winter-lover’s eyes begin to really crave green. It is so nice to see the green!!

I have also rediscovered an old favorite herbal tea blend called Dawn Chorus — it’s a nice one for Spring. Mountain Rose Herbs gets the credit for this one, but it’s such a simple blend that I reverse-engineered a recipe for it quite a while ago. Mountain Rose is so often out of stock on stuff and their shipping is so expensive, that I stopped using them — but I still love this tea blend. My own recipe might have more rose petals in it, which is even nicer than the original.

Dawn Chorus tea blend:

1 part green rooibos (or red rooibos, for a taste that’s different but every bit as good in this blend)

1 part stinging nettles leaf, dried

1 part rose petals, dried

Mix together.

Put a heaping teaspoon into an infuser* in your mug. Add boiling water, steep for 5-10 minutes, squeeze out, add milk!

Then sit down and enjoy it. I am a big tea drinker. A chain tea drinker. I used to have a rule where I had to sit down while I drank my cup of tea. Over time, the rule faded and I’d be up chopping vegetables between sips of tea, starting a load of laundry with a cup of tea in my hand, going out to get the mail with my cup of tea, cleaning up and taking things from room to room with my cup of tea, writing emails with my cup of tea. I’ve recently decided to follow this rule again, most of the time. Taking that quiet moment feels good.

*Infusers! There are so many crappy ones. My favorite is the People’s Brew Basket in stainless steel (made by Republic of Tea — I get this locally at the health food store for about $3.50) and this one which is good for wide mugs. Fill-able tea bags are also sold, but you can make your own with coffee filters like this:

*****

 

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