the old cat lives here

i am hushed by the new quiet.  it is still strange to wake alone mid-week.  the girls with their father last night.  a new weekly ritual.  i wake early still.  to make juice and put out the garbage.  this morning the sky pulled me from sleep.  the red of her.  the beauty opened my ears.  i stood at the top of the stairs looking out the dormer window at a sky full of red, full of pink.  i heard my own breath.  and the creak of the wood under my feet.

the nuthatch was playing in my jeans.  the ones i hung on the line yesterday but didn’t get a chance to take down.  the ones with holes.  the nuthatch crawled up one leg and then the other.  i watched in delight.  he stopped in a hole.  then flew to the feeder.

it is the kind of morning when i have time to wonder what i might write.  what i want to say.  what i will avoid.  i don’t want to talk about all the violence this morning.  all the wars.  all our folly.  the ways we torment each other.  in big and small ways.  all the lies.  and the journey of uncovering truth.

i want to talk about my old old cat.

i once bought a book at a book festival in toronto.  it was called my cat saved my life.  i loved the book.  i had a button to go with it; and for years i wore it proudly.  it has been years since i lent that book.  years since i have seen it.  ( i am going to order myself a new one!!! ) it is a lovely true story of a man and his cat.

george is the cat who lives with me.  i cannot really say she is my cat.  for she truly belongs to herself.  at this time in our life together she is free to come and go.  she spends nights out.  days too.  returning a few times a day for food.  organic cream cheese is her favorite now.  and cantaloupe!  she waits patiently at the door until someone opens it.  either to come or to go.  and waits patiently at the fridge until one of us scoops out cheese or melon.  i also do not want to say she is mine because i feel uncomfortable with humans domesticating animals.  i am uncomfortable with cages and pens.  yet i took her to be “mine” when she was born.  i had always wanted a cat.  i suffered an uncomfortable and strained relationship with my landlord years ago because i wanted her so.  i fell in love with her as a wee kitten.  and i am in love with her still.  she has certainly saved my life a few times over.  she has been with me through miscarriage and birth.  through marriage and divorce.  she has watched me become a mother.  she has heard my rants.  my desperate cries.  my silent joy.  i am possibly the most naked in her presence.

i named her george because i wanted to be a novelist.  and i was inspired by the georges: george sand and george elliot.  women writing under a man’s name because that was what was “required“.  when she was a kitten i said her name in french.  i thought that would help me speak to myself in french again.  it didn’t.  i love that most people think she is male.  i am pretty sure she doesn’t care about sex and gender in the way we often do.  and i like to tell people that.

george was a fierce warrior.  cats seem to be like that.  killing things.  i suppose we are similar.  when she was wee it was dragonflies.  she would hold them softly in her mouth and let the wings flap.  then mice and voles.  she is unfriendly with other cats,  but leaves the birds alone.   i can hear her and the white tonkinese yowling at each other with the deepest ugliest sounds in the middle of the night.  this is mine.  no.  this is mine.  sometimes i hiss at the tonkinese when i find her in the backyard.  sometimes i clap my hands loudly.  sometimes i run out in the middle of the night looking to end their fight. and i say to george:  “leave the tonkinese alone.”  it is only recently that i have ever seen a war wound.  a big gash on her head.  i kept her inside for days applying cream until she healed.  she is getting older.

george spends almost all her time outside.  she rests in my garden beds beneath the seedy orach.  hides in the beans or curls near the cosmos.  in the spring she sat in the poppies.  i don’t mind.  and most of the time i don’t really know where she is or what she is doing.  i hope she feels free.  her hair is long and wild.  unkempt.  matted clumps of  hair and dirt and burs.  she doesn’t seem to mind.  most of them will fall out in their own time, but lately i have been cutting some out.

i do not know how long she will live.  she is over 15 years old.  maybe 16 now.  although she does not complain i can she how she moves.  the stairs seem challenging.  this is possibly her final season.  or she could live for many many more years.  i feel a deepening tenderness as i watch her age.  i am inspired by her patience and her calm.  by her fierceness and her strength.  her quiet confidence.  i don’t think she gives a shit what you think she looks like or how she smells.  she is content with earth beneath her.  she finds her own shelter even in storms.  i hope her sweet qualities continue to brush softly against me until they are “mine.”


10 thoughts on “the old cat lives here

  1. George sounds (and looks) like such a beautiful, special cat. I really enjoyed your story about her. Kind of perfect that she leaves the birds alone, too. I hope you have many more years with her.

    1. thank you!!! she is such a delight. and it is a mystery how much more time will we have together. and that is ok! about the birds though….today i went past the birdfeeder and noticed lots of little feathers. so i can’t honestly say if she is really leaving them alone anymore…..

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