One can be special, but two can be symmetry, company, conflict, contrast or double trouble…
Tag Archives: cats
When I was twelve, I embraced mess. To get from the door to my bed you had to clear a yellow brick road through the heaps of clothes, art supplies and toys. It was like a fantasy quest where you have to discover the path to the palace. My room wasn’t really a bedroom. It was actually the sun room and had five windows and three doors – with at least one door or window on every wall of the room! Not a lot of privacy when you think about it. Two of the doors were opaque glass doors that opened into the dining room. We kept these closed. The other door opened onto the family room, which had once been an outdoor verandah. Two windows looked out onto the seasons of the Hydrangeas in the side garden, bulging with green growth in spring as they impinged on the path, blooming prolifically with their large blue, purple or white multi-flower heads in summer. In winter they lost all their leaves and were pruned, leaving behind a view into the neighbour’s yard. The three windows on the other wall looked out on the back garden, an expanse of green lawn, a dominating magnolia that spread its limbs wide across the yard, and the hills hoist, clothesline icon of the Australian backyard.
I’ve always loved libraries. This love has led me to try to re-create a library in bedrooms or houses I’ve lived in. Towering over my against the walls of my bedroom were as many bookcases as I could fit in the room. All my treasured classics, early childhood picture books, horse stories, sci-fi and fantasy young adult novels, and every novel I could find about kids in clubs and ‘gangs’. Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, the Famous Five, the Secret Seven, the Five Find-Outers, the Lone Pine club and more. I loved our public library with its dark ‘stacks’ full of old hard cover books, where you had to turn a handle to separate the shelves and reveal access to these treasures. Apart from that inspiration, my parents also kept books. Mum had shelves full of Aristophanes and Thucydides, Goethe and Dante, books on Dali and Mondrian and cook books. They were in the hallway and the study in tall dark shelves. Dad’s books were on psychology, movies and radio in the study, and in their bedroom there was an old case with glass doors that opened when the key turned to reveal his childhood favourites: Biggles, H.G. Wells and school tales.
There were no books in the lounge room at the front of the house, it was dominated by a baby grand piano – rarely played – an ancestor’s beloved instrument. It was under this very piano where one day my cat rushed in, bird in mouth, and started to pluck the poor creature in front of the shocked eyes of my brother and my visiting grandparents. That’s the price you pay for having an over-engineered, wooden cat door that the two cats can’t actually push open – hence it has to stay permanently open.
Our house wasn’t usually witness to any kind of violence. The street was a pretty quiet one. There were elderly neighbours, a few bachelors and some families. From the front window of our lounge, you could look out across glossy green leaves and pink perfect camellia blossoms, and when they had been pruned you could look out over the street – as we lived on the high side – and see far away the tops of the fireworks on Sydney harbour on New Year’s Eve.
“Your cat is such a snob. She totes hates me.”
“She’s not a snob, she’s just picky, like all the best people.”
“Hel-loo, she’s not ‘people’ – she’s a fur ball who’s shedding on the best chair!”
“What can I say, Sis, Peony has good taste.”
“Who calls a cat such a sucky name? No wonders she’s stuck up.”
“Well I’d rather a discriminating beast than a floozy critter that throws itself all over anyone on two legs – or four for that matter.”
“Watch it, Bro, are you insulting my Snoopy?”
“Face facts, that dog has about as much discrimination as the carpet.”
“It’s okay Snoopy-woopy, don’t listen to what he’s saying.”
“Baby talk? Now you’ve really lost it.”
“Snoopy’s so social, if you don’t talk to him he gets depressed.”
“Mmm, not sure how you can tell that, seeing as how you talk to him ALL THE TIME! I think it’s your drivel depressing him. ”
“You wouldn’t understand, we’re positive types, you and that fleabag are the sad sacks.”
“Peony isn’t sad. We’re introverts, we crave alone time. Away from the babble of little sisters and their yappy pooches.”
“Oh my gosh, totes just get over it. You’re just jealous because everyone likes my dog better than your cat.”
“That is not true, and I wouldn’t respect the opinion of anyone who favoured Dopey McDog over quiet feline intelligence. Emphasis on QUIET.”
“You are soooo jealous! Probably because that lump of furry lard never does anything. What is the point of a pet that’s sooo boring?”
“A few moments in the exhalted company of a cat is worth a thousand years with a dribbley dog. No wonder the Egyptians worshipped cats.”
“Well dog’s are human’s best friends. So there.”
“Oh grow up.”
“You grow up! HEY Snoopy – what are you doing over there? You don’t want to curl up with that stuck up kitty!”
“Apparently he does, Sis.”
[Contented canine snores and feline purrs.]
I Walk the Line: five positive life principles I’ve adopted and embraced.
1. Seeing green is good
I read somewhere that psychologically just seeing greenery (grass, shrubs, trees etc.) lifts our moods and does us good emotionally as human beings. As someone who struggles with living in the ‘burbs and with the way we concrete over everything in cities, I try to keep reminding myself to get out into the green and just look at the plants, or sit on the grass.
2. Clean creatively
I hate routines, although I know they often do me good. I classify myself as a ‘project-oriented person’, rather than a ‘maintenance-oriented person’. I like novelty, and new projects and crises and stagnate with routines and the maintaining of daily repetitive tasks. In struggling to maintain household and personal routines, one way for me is to try to keep things creative. I bought some (purple, because it’s my favourite colour) dice and allocated each number a cleaning task. My aim was to throw the dice each day and go with the cleaning task the dice landed on. This worked for me for a little while anyway, as a person who loves variety I’ll just have to keep coming up with creative ways to maintain my house.
3. Let in the sun
This one is a physical and metaphorical challenge. I find if I’m in a bit of downcast mood, I tend to keep more curtains closed in my house and so this mantra is a reminder to let physical light into my house. On another level, ‘let in the sun’ reminds me to remember the things that give me emotional energy and life, and to make time for those things, even in the midst of busyness. For me some of those things are pursuing creative endeavours (art, craft, music), catching up with long-term friends who are easy to be with, listening to live music and walking in natural surroundings (in the bush, on the beach).
4. Learn from the cat
In my busy times, I try to learn from my cat. He can sit for hours on end, seemingly staring at nothing (or everything). He’s pretty content as long as he has food and ready access to someone to sit on, or a bed to cover with his shedding fur. He is a pretty minimal meow-er, only reserving it to ask for essential needs. He is content with little, and easily shows his contentment with a happy rumbling purr.
5. Embrace the absence
A few years ago I got into blogs and books on minimalism and de-cluttering. Having grown up in a hoarding-tendancy household, it’s taken a while for me to appreciate that freedom and a sense of home can be found in not being surrounded by hundreds of possessions. I used to find comfort in sleeping surrounded by bookshelves, wardrobes and craft materials. I have hobbies that tend to involve a lot of ‘stuff’. But I’ve been learning to appreciate physical (and resulting mental) space in the rooms in my house, since doing some de-cluttering. I also appreciate being able to let go of items I don’t use, and find them a new home and use with friends, people in need or in op shops.
I could stare all day at the silhouette of my cat in the window, his body dark and hard to see against the light, but the sun showing up a bright halo of cream detail around each tuft of fur on his head, back and tail. He unmoving and meditative as cats appear, basking in the early morning light coming through into the lounge room. All in all, he’s not really a cat who like sun, not like others I’ve known who were veritable sun worshippers. Usually he likes dark nooks and diving under my doona the minute the daily temperature drops below 15 degrees Celsius. He’s 17 now and getting skinny and the vet says he probably has kidney disease. It’s hard to think of life without his constant (often demanding) presence, but for the moment he’s here sunning himself, and posing against the light, enjoying the sun, and the worship of his human, as every good cat should.
A few years ago I went on a small-group tour from Adelaide to Perth, across the Nullarbor plain. Some days in the bus it was a sweltering 46 degrees Celsius. In Western Australia we visited the stunning Cape Le Grand National Park, east of the town of Esperance, and camped there for a few days in our canvas swags. The clear azure waters of Lucky Bay were tantalising, with their firm white high-silica based glassy sand and the green and granite headlands to look out at. Kangaroos even frequent Lucky Bay, the only time I’ve ever seen them on a beach. The sky was blue and the sun was shining and swimming was the thing to do. That night trying to sleep in my swag I realised I’d had too much of a good thing, my body was so uncomfortable there was no good way to lie, and I started shivering. I had to get up in the middle of the night to have a shower to somehow try to address my foolishly acquired sunstroke. The time in the water had been so refreshing, swimming and splashing with others from the group, but I’d forgotten how much the sun could reflect off the crystal clear water and burn like nobody’s business. I’m glad that time has taken away the discomfort of that terrible night of painful attempts to sleep, and left me with the impression of a sun-drenched paradise.
A few years before that I had the opportunity to visit Vietnam on a very small-group tour (turned out to be only three of us and our guide). It’s sounds like a joke when I say it was an Englishman, an Irishman, an Australian, and our Chinese guide. One day while staying in the Ha Long Bay area, we opted for what I think was described as a ‘bush walk’. Well it was up hill and down dale through a forest, over giant tree routes and we in our sensible hiking gear were led by a local in his thongs (flip flops). He was indefatigable and kept hurrying us along. We didn’t quite see the urgency as we wanted to enjoy the walk and take advantage of the photographic opportunities. Anyway, at long last we arrived at a rural village and were treated to lunch outside a local house. After lunch we walked through the village at a cracking place, and I assumed we were making for the road and a vehicle of some sort. However, we ended up on another long (but much flatter) walk, passing roaming goats as we went. Just as I thought we must reach a road, we reached a dead-end jetty instead. Now the sun was setting and the light was getting low and finally I saw the urgency of it all. This next stage of our journey involved a trip on a very small, low boat that didn’t have any lights. We crossed the water and arrived at the shore of the island thankful, just as we lost all light (by the way this was not the end of the journey, they then announced to us that we would be taken by motorbike taxi back to our accommodation – and I had elected not to pay more for motorbike insurance on my travel policy, as I was adamant that I wouldn’t be going anywhere near a motorbike (let alone riding on the back of one behind a local, in the dark, up and down steep island streets). My expectations and the need for light reminded me to be thankful of what I have at home – ready access to electricity. My trip to Vietnam also left me contemplating the harm that is done to countries that now manufacture a lot of our western goods as the skies in that country were gray and hazy the entire time I was there – you could never see blue, or clearly see the sun.