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Cat to Self: The Conversation by Anita Schnee is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Enough with the hand-wringing! You know what day it is. March 4th!
Scene: Bugs reclines in East Bed, peacefully contemplating the Meaning of Bird Feeder On Snow in Morning Sunshine.
Note to Stage Manager: East Bed can only carry a twenty-pound load. Barney alone is close to that. Multiply by additional ground-forces when inevitable
play rumble begins. This is no time to stop with the hand-wringing. Hand-wringing re-commences.
I think about these a lot.
My dad – and Horace Walpole – used to say: “Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think.”
On one hand think-laugh, on the other feel-grieve.
Bugsy right and left.
If only life, loss, were that simple.
I was running errands the other day when I came on the scene of an accident. A young man on a motorcycle had rear-ended a car waiting to turn left, was thrown into the right-hand lane, was struck by another car, and died.
Police routed us drivers-by through a retirement complex. Filing past old age on the one hand, and sudden early death on the other.
I spotted the young man’s naked arm, outstretched from under his shroud. Pink and plump, palm up, fingers gently curved. Suppliant to the heavens, on the cold dark pavement.
Might this not be enough to cause us pause in the running of errands? To be silent for a moment of memento mori? To think, to feel, to do both?
The on-line news-media carried a video showing the young man’s helmet and one shoe lying in the wreckage.
In the comment section, a person – I’ll assume she’s a woman – wrote about how she had held the young man’s hand as he died. How she had clung to his helmet, as if that would help him hold onto life too.
Then she slid sideways into a rant about how the video had shown the helmet and one of the young man’s shoes lying in a different place from where she recalled them. She wrote: “Was it necessary to embellish an already heart aching incident? How can the media justify doing this? I realize it’s a small thing, but to me there was no need to photograph this, when it is completely unreal and untrue.”
Whereupon internet trolls commenced to argue amongst themselves. None of whom paused to consider that the first-responders, in trying to save a life, might have had to rearrange the scene a little.
A news-photographer commented that he “felt it his duty” to inform us that “ALL news photos are staged or posed.” Another writer recalled losing a loved one to a car accident, grieved that the media never contacted the family, and concluded that the media are simply callous. Another writer, oppositely, complained about the saturation coverage of another accident. Another writer took issue with peoples’ “reading comprehension” of the first writer’s post.
A few sensitive souls begged to differ. “Obviously the first commenter is experiencing trauma and people need to be gentle. We should be focused on the loss of life and those left behind to suffer. Not debating whose reading comprehension needs work.” “Arguing over shoe placement is stupid.” “Why do you cruel people like to argue! The young man is dead, OK! This is not an argument about who’s right and wrong!”
Finally, weeks later, a letter was published from another witness. This writer mourned the death of a stepdaughter who had been killed by a drunk driver. But when the writer observed the care the first-responders lavished on the young man here, that person felt a healing. “When I saw how he was protected not only physically but spiritually by our public servants, I am humbled. I visualized these same people standing guard over my dear Margaret, when she could not stand for herself.”
So. We are a complex species.
We feel when we can bear it and, when we can’t, we slide sideways into strife and irrelevancy. Or into a pain that’s relevant to other matters, but not to the one at hand.
* * *
Yesterday we got buried in another huge ice-storm. This morning, gazing out over a frigid spangled beauty, I grinned at Bongo, an ill-tempered little Schnauzer, as he scooted briskly along high on several inches of snow, never once breaking through the icy crust. With my hand on Bugsy’s sun-warmed back, I thought about all this.
I remembered standing guard over my last cat Fang, as life left him. I thought about how, for me, this enormous love I feel for my cats also marinates me in fear of loss, of grief.
How uncomfortable this acute vulnerability makes me. Please don’t tell me that the joy makes it all worthwhile. I am also terrified.
* * *
I would like to be, with all this, like my dear friend in Michigan. My friend has been a companion for many years to now-elder Ivy, a chocolate Lab. Ivy is grappling with several illnesses. My friend has exerted herself to the utmost in researching treatment options and possible prognoses. She and Ivy are facing a great deal of uncertainty.
Ivy and her bud Stewie. Art by heretherebespiders.
My friend says, purely and simply, that she wants to cherish every minute they have left together. She tells me of trips to the lake, so Ivy can dip in even though walking on the rocks is hard for her now. Special treats (need we say more, about Labs’s gastronomic gusto!).
I find my friend’s devotion to be simple and beautiful, a peaceful acceptance of what’s true.
I wish, for all of us, that we may enjoy that simplicity, that beauty. I think, I feel, that simplicity and beauty are essential antidotes to that which is also absolutely true: That none of us is here together forever.
Sometimes I fight this harsh reality so mightily, I wear myself out. I know that fighting it is exhausting and futile and is not really the optimum way to approach this pain. I envy my friend’s passionate presence, in simplicity and beauty.
May such simplicity and beauty be visited on you, on me, on all of us.
I should be boning up on bankruptcy and adequate protection and equity cushions. Not something for sale on Etsy, in case you were wondering about the equity cushions.
I just can’t make myself do any more of it, when there’s so much going on outside.
It’s been snowing since early this morning. Mid-afternoon it’s finally stopped. Looks like we got around six inches. Schools are closed tomorrow for the nth time – and since I moved here in ‘95, that’s happened about once or twice per season. This season this might be the fourth or fifth snow day and February has barely begun. It’s going down to 15 F. tonight.
Crazy, unsettled, unsettling weather. I hate to keep harping on it, but we are in the South here.
Food in Flight
May I hear a hallelujah for the furnace. Barney is glad too.
Nonfeathered lunchtime over, he neatens up.
Back to bankruptcy.
After yesterday’s rant about blather, several readers counseled silence. At your service, I aim only to oblige. And anyway it was up to 66 F. today. So it seemed the ideal time to seek out the local lake and meditate there.
Pretty sure, Bugs. I know the ideal spot.
Oh Bugs – you’ll just go to sleep. You know you will.
Pretty good, boys.
Well, Barney – I’m pretty sure I’m going to go.
So off I went. And I got in a good hour-and-a-half of silence, on a little fishing dock I know about.
It was a crazy beautiful day. Sunny and warm. Bracketed by winter, as you can see by the ice here.
That’s right. A 47-degree swing, in the space of one day. I saw somebody remark on Facebook that the polar vortex should go home because it was drunk.
Unfortunately I’m not the only one who knows about this little fishing dock. After my precious hour-and-a-half of silence, a couple eating junk food came down to the dock and used their spare hands to start throwing rocks onto the ice, to see if they could break it. They could. They did.
And then a whole family came on with their two big puppies. The humans also started throwing rocks. One puppy then jumped in and had to get fished out, by the scruff I believe but I really tried not to look too closely.
I gave up and went back home.
Not the cats. The cats are in temper. Thank Bast for that.
No. I’m talking about words. Words! Those “little wretches.”
I don’t know about you. I have become absolute-zero intolerant of the shitstorm of words that surrounds us these days. Words that take the truth by the throat and strangle the life out of it. Words that cover up the truth with an oriental rug of byzantine blather, under which is swept a veritable suffocation of dust-ball gorillas.
Bugs Is Fed Up.
Are you a fan of the First Amendment? Freedom of speech? Open society? Just listen here.
Is Edward Snowden a traitor? hero? both? Should a single internet-child-porn consumer be charged millions of dollars, to pay for the suffering of the abused child whose misery was broadcast to who-knows-how-many other wretched consumers? whose individual responsibility might be apportioned in twenty-dollar increments? Should one other person with a very big chip on her shoulder – who, incidentally and incredibly, apparently views herself as a purveyor of truth and light – be allowed scot-free to create websites maligning a First-Amendment lawyer? and then offer to take down the sites in exchange for money (which fits pretty neatly into the definition of extortion as I understand it)? and then drag the lawyer’s three-year-old daughter into the fray? Should the use of the word “Nazi” be criminalized in Israel, to prevent the trivialization of that massive spasm of murderousness, except, that is, the word could be used in certain circumstances, except that makes the whole thing about impossible to enforce, and except that the proscribed word would have to be used in that enforcement-tussle? thereby defeating the whole enterprise?
“Words fail me!” So was named a BBC series in the late 1930′s – as, by the way, that epic spasm of Nazi murderousness was just getting underway. Virginia Woolf was recorded speaking in that series. There she called words “irreclaimable vagabonds.” She saw that any attempts to corral them by law would be “worse than useless.” She noticed that the “little wretches” have a tendency to be put “out of temper; disobliging; disobedient; dumb.”
So, Virginia. What shall we do, when overwhelmed by the dust-ball blather?
Why – grab ahold of a cat.
A sunny Caturday. Barney more back to normal.
At rest, he likes his paws to be pushing up against something. I like the fur growing back on his leg. And the sweep and drama of that ear-curl. Ear “furnishing,” I should say. Wonder where that spectacular piece of cat-fancy jargon came from? When I checked the net, the best I could come up with is “crazy ear hair.” I think I’ll stick with “crazy ear hair.”
What could be better.