prowling heaven’s alleyways
with unexpected grace
you take your ease on Saturn’s stoop
then roam again the darkness,
an elegant, celestial stray hungry for attention.
Prone beneath your pathway,
curbstone-pillowed, concrete bound,
I squint and ponder
tracing your silent route through time
until I feel a tug
and hear the tiny, worried voice.
An earthbound stray has found her friend,
her source of food
no longer rising tall against the sky but flattened to the ground,
eyes turned upward,
head bent back as though the victim of a fall.
Green eyes wide,
she nudges hard against my pillowed head,
pushes back dismissive hands.
she bites and tugs my hair as though to pull me upright,
rescuing her realm
from a universe gone mad.
I leave the comet to its flight
and offer consolation to this nearer, living world.
“Look up,” I murmur,
running hands through fur that sparks
and shines like starlight in her eyes.
“A thousand years are passing.
A thousand years have passed.”
Laugh at the antlers if you will, but laugh at your peril. That business-like look in the eyes of my beautiful calico is very real. Dixie Rose (short for Dixie-Rose-Center-of-the-Universe-and-Queen-of-all-She-Surveys) loves Christmas, and she intends to be ready when it arrives. Do not stand in her way.
Dixie arrived at my door as an unloved, four-month-old stray who became my first real pet. As a child I did receive a small painted turtle, but the poor thing met a most unfortunate end. My birthday puppy lasted only hours. A tiny but exceedingly enthusiastic black Cocker Spaniel, the pup terrified me and was sent packing by disconsolate adults.
Later, I raised a fox squirrel and laughed my way through four years with a prairie dog, but my relationship with Dixie Rose is of a different order entirely. I believe her to be the most beautiful and most clever creature on four paws. I don’t think she’s the most spoiled creature in the world, but we’re working on it – diligently. (more…)
Grown to middle age, my calico is placid and content. She spends her days searching for perfect napping spots, occasionally indulging herself in bird-watching at the window. Long past the enthusiasms of kittenhood, her favorite excitement is shredding cheap tissue paper. She prefers white, although she’ll work with colored if forced, and each Sunday morning she gets a dozen sheets. For the next week she rolls in it, hides under it, buries toys in it and claws at it, until nothing is left but ribbony shreds and bits of paper.
Despite her increasing years and even temper, she dislikes every sort of storm. Lightning brings her to electrified attention. Thunder triples the size of her tail in a flash. The approach of a winter cold front sets her pacing for days. Once a low crosses the Red River, she begins to move restlessly from room to room. By the time it gets to Dallas, she’s tearing full-tilt through the house, circling around and around until she collapses in a panting heap.
She’s survived several tropical storms and two hurricane evacuations, and what she lacks in scientific knowledge she makes up for in pure instinct and experience – she knows storms are bad. When her people begin to fuss and mutter about systems still hundreds of miles away, she’ll head to her carrier, snuggle down into her sheepskin and wait it out: wide-eyed and anxious, uttering the low, undeciperable sounds she reserves for rising storms. (more…)
Everyone knows there are “cat people” and “dog people”. I qualify as a cat person. Mine is a beautiful calico named Dixie Rose (short for Dixie-Rose-Center-of-the-Universe-and-Queen-of-all-She-Surveys). I already was “old” when I brought her into my life as an unloved, four month old stray. Apart from a painted turtle and a small black birthday puppy who lasted only hours (tiny and overly enthusiastic, the pup terrified me and was sent packing), she’s my first pet. Like a favored first child or grandchild, I believe her to be the most beautiful and most clever creature on four paws. I don’t think she’s the most spoiled creature in the world, but we’re working on it - diligently.
The first Christmas season I shared with Dixie, it became apparent some things would have to change. The entire process of tree-trimming, gift wrapping, and holiday decorating simply was more than she could bear. A swath of shredded ribbon, broken ornaments and pulled-down swags marked her passage through the pre-holiday festivities. When the tree went over for a second time and then a third, I surrendered. My first Christmas with Dixie, we celebrated with a bare tree that had been weighted down around the base with a length of 3/8″ galvanized chain. No candles burned that year. Presents were hidden in the closet until time for humans to unwrap them, and all sparkly things were banned because of my furry darling’s quite literal appetite for all things that glittered, whether gold or not.
Christmas came, and Christmas went, and sometimes Dixie and I disagreed strongly on the nature of true celebration. Things weren’t always good that year, and the phrase “This hurts me more than it does you” came to mind more than once.
As a matter of fact, things were so bad for a week or so I began to amuse myself by creating the first of what would become a series of little ditties I called Cat Carols. You know the tune, and can add the “Fa-la-las” as needed.
Wreck the Halls
Wreck the halls all decked with holly,
Fa-la-la-la-la, la la-la-la.
Sheer destruction is so jolly,
Tip the tree with all its treasures,
Shred the presents for good measure!
Fast away the fur-ball passes,
To wreak havoc on the masses,
Swinging through the punch and cookies,
You can tell she is no rookie,
It was the start of something wonderfully fun. When I included the lyrics in Dixie’s Christmas card to her vet, he suggested she keep writing. So, she did. Again, you know the tune:
Stalking in a Winter Wonderland
Collars ring, are you listening?
In the lane, eyes are glistening…
The moon is so bright, we’re happy tonight,
Stalking in a winter wonderland.
Gone away are the bluebirds,
Here to stay are the new birds.
They sing their same songs as we skulk along,
Stalking in a winter wonderland.
In the meadow we can build a snow mouse,
And pretend that he is fat and brown.
He’ll say “Are you hungry?” We’ll say, “No, mouse”,
But we’ll have you for dinner on the town.
Later on, we’ll retire
For a snooze by the fire,
And dream of the prey we’ll catch the next day,
Stalking in a winter wonderland.
Of course, not everyone loves the kitty-cats, and there is a song for them, too. While I don’t advocate the shooting of cats (or dogs, or people for that matter) I certainly can understand the emotions which might lead to a Christmas song like this.
Jingle Bells, Shotgun Shells
Jingle bells, shotgun shells, there’s that danged old cat!
Get my gun, let’s have some fun, I know just where he’s at!
Jingle bells, oh, Hell’s bells, now he’s on the run!
If I find my glasses that cat’s hunting days are done.
A day or two ago, I thought I’d feed the birds,
I grabbed a bag of seed, a second and a third.
But halfway ‘cross the yard, I saw the bushes shake,
It was my neighbor’s scroungy cat, a big orange tom named Jake.
Oh, jingle bells, shotgun shells, (repeat chorus)…..
I love to feed the birds, it makes me feel so glad.
But Jake, that danged old cat, he makes me so darned mad!
He’s not content to eat a lizard or a mouse,
He wants to eat my pretty birds: that cat’s a stinking louse!
Oh, jingle bells, shotgun shells (repeat chorus)
Finally, there is this cautionary tale. A great-aunt much given to malapropism used to caution me, “Tempus fidgets“. Just like a child, cats (and probably dogs) need to be reminded that tempus does, indeed, fidget, and the magical night is not far off.
Santa Cat is Coming to Town
Oh, you’d better not hiss, you’d better not bite,
You’d better not tempt the dog to a fight;
Santa Cat is coming to town!
He’s making a list, checking it twice,
Gonna find out who chased all those mice,
Santa Cat is coming to town!
He knows when you’ve been scratching,
He knows who you’ve outfoxed,
He knows if you’ve been in a snit
And refused your litter box!
With potted cat grass and catnip-filled balls,
Snuggly warm beds and mice from the malls,
Santa Cat is coming to town.
We haven’t started this year’s song, but things are stirring, and “O, Christmas Bush” seems a likely candidate. It’s pure silliness of course, just another bit of holiday excess. On the other hand, excess isn’t always bad, and sometimes silly excess is a path to truth. Looking at Dixie, singing her little carols to her, I suddenly remember another carol. “Joy to World”, we sing, “The Lord is Come. Let Earth receive her king“.
We don’t sing, “Joy to human beings, joy to those who walk upright and drive cars and open too many credit card accounts and are nasty to their neighbors.” The joy we sing is meant for the whole world, for stars and dirt, mountains and seas, trees, rocks, valleys and hills and every creature who inhabits them all. While we prepare our hearts, heaven and nature sing out the truth. Gifts of the season are meant for all, and we need to love our world enough to include it in our celebration.
In the meantime, whether you celebrate Christmas or not, whether you take the promises of the season seriously or whether you don’t, accept these bits of silliness as a gift from Dixie Rose. Feel free to laugh at them, sing them to yourself, or pass them on to friends. Believe me when I say an entire room filled with pet-lovers singing these songs can be hilarious, and they’ve been known to bring a smile to the face of even the Scroogiest animal “hater”.
As for Dixie, she continues on her best behavior. She’s learned she can avoid kitty-jail by avoiding kitty-misbehavior, and so we trim our tree in peace. I hang ornaments that stay in place and display cookies and gifts without fear. While I prepare our celebration, she spends a good bit of time sleeping in the low afternoon sunlight, visions of catnip-plums dancing in her head as she waits in perfect peace and joy for whatever might come next.
In this season of Advent, this season of waiting and anticipation, may we all be blessed with such peace and joy!
Previously published in 2008, this post has been revised and re-published due to overwhelming demand (one request) and constant nagging by Dixie Rose and her agent. I didn’t know about the agent until recently, but I should have. Comments are welcome. To leave a comment or respond, please click below.
Grown to middle age, my calico is placid and content. She spends her days searching for perfect napping spots, occasionally indulging herself in bird-watching at the window. Long past the enthusiasms of kittenhood, her favorite excitement is shredding cheap tissue paper. She prefers white, although she’ll work with colored if she has to, and each Sunday she gets a dozen sheets. For the next week she rolls in it, hides under it, buries toys in it and claws at it, until nothing is left but ribbony shreds and bits of paper.
Despite her increasing years and even temper, she dislikes every sort of storm. Lightning brings her to electrified attention; thunder triples the size of her tail in a flash. The approach of a winter cold front sets her pacing for days. Once a low has crossed the Red River, she begins to move restlessly from room to room. By the time it gets to Dallas, she’s tearing full-tilt through the house, circling around and around until she collapses in a panting heap. She’s survived several tropical storms and two hurricane evacuations, and what she lacks in scientific knowledge she makes up for in pure instinct – she knows they’re bad. When her people begin to fuss and mutter about systems still hundreds of miles away, she’ll head to her carrier, snuggle down into her sheepskin and wait it out: wide-eyed, anxious, uttering low, undeciperable sounds she reserves for rising storms.
She has a lot in common with her people. When a storm is brewing, the air is charged as much with nervousness as electricity. Anxiety and fear mix with a strange excitement. Conversations grow a little louder, chatter becomes a bit more insistent. As weather bulletins increase in frequency, questions become more pointed and attention more focused. We may say we want the storm to turn, to dissipate, to wander and die, but we’re equally eager to see what Nature might have up her sleeve this time. We’re like children convinced goblins are living in the closet – overcome as much by curiosity as by our wonderful terror. (more…)