Second Anniversary

Happy Gotcha Day, Barney.

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It’s been two years . . .

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Every day of which I have loved you.

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You’re even OK with Bugs.

play1 (11)Mostly.

play1 (3)catrun

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No Problem Here

It’s a fresh Sunday morning, cool and green. My tears – and a summer rain much like the one that swept through the day Fangie died – seem to have washed away the heaviness of grief. What remains is a tender soreness, the ache of a muscle well used.

I have also been so comforted by those of you who have remembered Fang. We may never have met one another except through this blog, but, still, we can share memories like that. That is just so heartening to me. Thank you so much for that.

So now seems the right time for a photo-essay in a lighter vein. The other day we broke out Kim’s Chateau Dryden Special Reserve Nipatini.

High?  Me?

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Naw.  I drive better when I’ve had a few.

nipatini 003-cropNo really!  Not high!

nipatini 008-cropWell maybe just a little.

nipatini 010-cropI’m fine now.

nipatini 017-cropTime for a rumble.  (Note Barney’s swishing tail.)

nipatini 018Well, maybe not.  We’re both kind of . . . tired.

A problem?  No.  We can take it or leave it.

catrun

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Fangie Remembrance Day

I just realized – this may be World Cat Day to the world, but it’s also the day Fang died. Two years ago.

Fang

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For those who didn’t have the pleasure of knowing him, here’s my tribute to him.  I still cry, reading it.

Here’s what Fang looks like now.

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  To Fangie.  An excellent boy.

ma-fang
catrun

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World Cat Day

Any day to celebrate cats is good, but especially today.   The International Fund For Animal Welfare says so.  Others disagree.  They think World Cat Day is February 7th.

When you have humans, you have controversy.

Whatever.

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Bugs approves every and any day.

catrun

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Until I Say So . . .

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. . . no more work will be done.

–Signed, Barney

P.S.  You think she put the computer aside on her own?  Come now.  It is me, Barney, who put the computer aside.  Human, I require scritches this instant.  What e-mail?  What — deadline, you say?  Scritches, I say.  Now.  No excuses.  Without delay.  Now.

catrun

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Black and White and Gray in Color

moonflower 003The other day a friend and I found out about a few serendipitous connections we share.  Here we are in Northwest Arkansas.  Yet my friend and my mother attended the same east-coast design school.  My friend’s daughter now attends the same east-coast college that I did, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Now my friend’s daughter is going to Kyoto, and I myself was there the summer I spent in Japan studying Aikido.

So in honor of serendipity, here’s an experience I had in Kyoto, at the Ryoan-ji Temple, which I still remember thirty-five years later.

I had survived four weeks of martial-arts training with the Tokyo riot-control police, training that was so brutal I was frequently left bleeding at the end of the day.   Who – especially a woman in that kind of man’s world – would even think of doing such a thing?  Perhaps only the kind of person I was back then: Driven, desperate to achieve escape-velocity from crippling fear and rage and despair, willing to do just about anything.  Fueled by a tendency toward Type A behavior either inherited or culturally induced – whichever, it didn’t really matter.

So the end of my summer in Japan found me utterly wrung out physically, mentally, and emotionally.  Perhaps it was this condition that set the stage for the experience.  Or maybe it was a childhood fascination I still recall at a picture, in one of my mother’s architecture books, of the Zen garden at the Ryoan-ji Temple.  The famous one, this one – this picture was taken about where I sat.

ryoanjiI can’t say what the powerful draw could have been.  I only knew, even as a child, that the garden had to mean something profound.  So on my visit many years later, I came armed with an implacable determination to stare that garden down until I had it figured out.

I commenced to contemplate.

But conditions were not favorable.  I was visiting on a national holiday.  The Ryoan-ji garden has been part of the national heritage for over five hundred years.  As I sat staring, unmoving, wave after tsunami of giggling, chattering schoolchildren foamed and broke around me, group-leaders in beanies coordinating the onslaught with whistles.

I sat still.  What could be the meaning of this dry, austere landscape?

I saw the rocks as mountains, the white stones as clouds.  I saw the rocks as islands, the white stones as water.

So?

Still I sat.

I did not know, then, that the number fifteen, of the fifteen rocks that comprise the garden, stands for completeness, and that only fourteen of the fifteen rocks can be seen at one time from any one vantage-point.  I could have busied myself with that at least.  But this was pre-Google, so I didn’t know.

On and on I sat.  On and on with the schoolchildren.  Nothing.  And I don’t mean the “good” kind of Zen nothing.  The bad kind.  The frustrating kind.

So I gave up.  I unwound and slowly stood up.  I turned away.

I then chanced to spot a lectern just to one side, on which was placed a vase containing two stems of Japanese lanterns.  Like this:

japanese-lanternThe red of those two flowers was so blisteringly intense, after all that white and black, that I had to close my eyes.  I stumbled back around the corner and I recuperated there for a time, gazing at a soothing carpet of fresh green moss.

ryoanji-mossThe moss at Ryoanj-ji, thanks to the Temporarily Lost blog.

I thought, make of this what you may.  Perhaps we can’t fully appreciate the vividness of life without a strong dash of renunciation.  Perhaps to see color in its full burning intensity, we need to bracket it between the starkness of black and white.

I doubt, though, that those insights help me much these days.

What I can say is: Today, unlike back then, I celebrate the warm-heartedness of unconditional connection.  Today, unlike then, I revel in the fierce red love I have found in two monochromatic cats.

pair 003Back then, in the bad old days of pain and renunciation, I had no such luxury, no such warmth.  Back then, I eked out life in a dry black and white land.  Now I see in color.

pair 001-cropAnd now I know, where I could not have known then, that

Love is a blessing in this life, where blessings are sometimes so hard to remember.

catrun

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