Missing My Muse

Thank you, everyone, for all the kind words and heartfelt sympathy on yesterday’s post. It helps a great deal to know so many of you out there care and share this particular kind of grief.

I took yesterday off to wallow and let myself just be sad. Today I’m trying to move onward.

And I really tried to write today’s post about something else, but clearly I’m not done thinking about Teddy and her enormous impact on our lives. This picture is the last we have of her – that David texted to me Thursday afternoon, so I could see she’d gotten out into the sun and was enjoying herself.

Naturally, I’ve been thinking a lot about Teddy and all the times we’ve shared over the years. David and I have been trading memories. And it’s funny, because it occurred to me that we got kitten-Teddy right when I first “became” a writer. It was on my mind, too, because someone asked me this weekend, at the really wonderful Silken Sands Conference, about my writing history.

Astonishing that over 16 years have gone by.

I remember that time well. I cut bait on my PhD, took a Masters degree and ran. I’d decided not to do research, but to become a writer. I got a job that paid pretty decently and gave me the freedom to write. To celebrate that job and my new direction, I bought a Maine coon kitten. Teddy.

She sat on my lap while I wrote. One of my early essays was about her, published in a literary magazine dedicated to odes of all kinds.

One thing I wanted to tell you. Early Sunday morning, when David and I were talking about the bad night he’d spent with her, he suddenly said “whoa.” It was just after six his time, and a cat had just looked in the front door. “A bobcat?” I asked. No, a domestic cat, he though. Orange and striped.

Now this is odd, because we don’t really have domestic cats wandering our rural neighborhood. The houses are quite a distance apart and nobody lets their cats roam far, because the danger from bobcats, coyotes and mountain lions is very real. Especially when the light is dim. He’d never seen this cat before. It looked in and ran off. We haven’t seen it again.

I like to think it was Teddy’s spirit guide.

Farewell to Teddy Cat

So, yesterday morning, our old kitty died.

She was with us for 16 1/2 years, half a year longer than the maximum most Maine Coon cats are expected to live, and nearly two years after being diagnosed with kidney disease.

She led a happy, healthy and long life, always a beautiful and gracious presence in our home. Even two days before she died, she was going outside on the patio to soak up the spring sun and sniff the breeze, always one of her very favorite things.

I wasn’t home. I was away at a conference. By the time it became clear to David that she was dying, it was too late for me to make it home. Saturday afternoon, she wasn’t doing well.  He was up most of the night Saturday night with her and I dreamed all night that she was lying on my hotel bed next to m. We talked early Sunday morning. She was suddenly in a lot of pain, he said, and he thought he should take her into the vet that day, for the final injection, so she wouldn’t suffer. I wanted to tell him to wait for me to get home that night, but I knew that wasn’t fair to her. So I agreed,  tucked the grief away and went to teach my workshop.

When I got back to my room, David had texted me that she’d died at home.

So, while I’m full of grief today, I’m grateful for so many things.

I’m grateful her decline was so swift, that she was able to enjoy her life until that very last night, instead of lingering in misery.

I’m grateful for this man of mine, who sat with her and comforted her until the light went out of her eyes. That she died at home, in her favorite sleeping spot.

I’m maybe grateful I didn’t have to watch it, myself.

Most of all, I’m grateful for all the years she spent with us. All that she brought to our life together.

This afternoon we’ll bury her. Maybe under the stone bench she loved to sit on to look out over the valley, while the sun warmed her fur.

Our lives will go on, but we’ll always carry a piece of her special graciousness with us.

I’m Starting a Blog That…

This is my partner cat, Teddy. Lately she’s taken to snoozing just next to me while I read at night. She also stares, but I think that’s love and not necessarily plotting my demise.

I hope.

Sometimes the world of social media gets pretty amusing. Amusing in that “I have to laugh or I’ll claw my eyes out” kind of way. A lot of people offer advice. Usually the same advice, over and over. xkcd, one of my very favorite comics these days, had a strip recently along these lines.

This is more true than I think many people want to believe. There’s a nagging sense that most of the people who offer advice on maximizing social media don’t do much else with their days.

And a lot of their advice just isn’t very good.

For example, there is someone out there somewhere telling people that they should DM (direct message) new followers on Twitter and say hello or what have you. No no no! This is akin to being introduced to someone at a cocktail party, shaking their hand and having them yank you into an embrace, kiss you on the cheek and whisper about their website in your ear.

Yes – really creepy.

Few things on Twitter are ickier than following someone new – okay, give them a whirl, see what they have to say – and boom! getting a private message from them. Whoever out there is saying this is a good idea? It’s just…not.

The other bit of advice floating around is that a blog should be specific, focused and informative. Okay, this is not such a bad thing in and of itself. But we’re living in the Billion-Blog Ear. Yes, I made that up – snazzy, yes? No? Ah, well. It’s nearly impossible to start a blog with a new concept. Really the only thing a new blogger has to offer that isn’t already out there is themselves. But no, the Advice-Givers say that you must trumpet your new blog as filling some unmet need.

Thus, those of us on email loops, etc., are forever receiving posts that say “I’m starting a new blog that brings you the latest news in amphibian cancers!” Or “I’m starting a blog that chronicles my journey through retail hell.”

Actually, those two sound kind of interesting. Most of the notices I see involve writing and there’s just only so much you can say there.

So, in a fit of aggravation, rather than claw my eyes out, I threw this out on Twitter. I asked people how they would finish the sentence. Some of the best responses:

I’m starting a blog that…

…chronicles the minute-by-minute reactions of my cat to the royal wedding…and bacon. @theAntiM
…talks about the political ramifications of bacon. @Allison_Pang
…is nothing but randomness. @MichelleMiles
…celebrates bearded men everywhere. @pennyromance
…should have more zombies! @SullivanMcPig

Poor Sullivan has only cloven hooves and so his owner must blog for him. She tends to edit the zombie bits. So, for a bit of Friday Fun – any to add? What is the blog that Must Be Done?

(If my blog comment function hates you, email me at Jeffe at JeffeKennedy dot com and I’ll paste it in for you.)

Blue Coyote

I had this dream, you see.

I was inside the house and David stepped out onto our patio, with his hands outspread. He was warding off the coyotes, I realized. There they were, streaking through the draw just below us. Only they were blue. Blue like jays.

The coyotes have become an odd subconscious symbol for me. I love to see them, in all their wild and beautiful glory. I’m also afraid of them. Not for myself, but for the cats. One day – the day of this photo, actually – one had a fresh-caught bunny dangling from its mouth. The coyote happily tossed the dead rabbit about. And I pictured Isabel in its place.

I can’t deny Isabel and Teddy the joy that going out into the sun gives them. And yet I fret about them being unsafe. It’s the eternal push/pull of suffocating what we love by keeping it safe.

And yes, I know I’ve written about this before. I said it’s become a major symbol for me.

The blue coyotes, though – they were different. Both more fantastic and more dangerous. How David could hold them off, I don’t know. I’m just grateful he could.

Perhaps that’s my valentine today, to David, the man who keeps us safe from the Blue Coyotes.

(Thanks to the amazing and fabulous Tawna Fenske for saving my whiny behind and helping with with this pic. All hail Queen Tawna!)

Rainy Days and Sick Days

I’m the kind of person who sees this as an omen.

Even as I know how irrational that is.

These are the shattered remnants of the big ceramic rain catchment that was one of the first things I bought when we moved here. With birthday money.

We had this rain last night, courtesy of Hurricane Alex, who’s been demoted to a tropical depression. Torrential rain. I was in the kitchen, making a secret, special, surprise treat for our elegant tailgate dinner at the Santa Fe Opera tonight, when I heard this clatter.

We couldn’t figure out what it was, until David checked outside. I think the soil became so saturated that, with overflow pouring over the side, the big vase listed to one side and, like the Titanic, sank onto the patio and shattered.

You can see how one piece of it still rests on the branch I had in there so that critters who climb in for water can climb back out again.

(This does not work for beetles, however, who gleefully drown themselves. I don’t know why.)

So, I try not to read in too much. But Teddy is sick today. She was sick yesterday and I thought maybe it was just a bug. But she’s still not well today, so I have a call in to the vet. Right now she’s sleeping in the sun, which makes her warm and happy.

I have a feeling it might be diabetes.

Teddy will be 15 in October, so I think I should get some more years with her.

Hopefully we can work that out.

Simple Pleasures

Some complain that Teddy doesn’t get much press.

And it’s true, she gets much less attention, writing-wise, than Isabel. Lately. Teddy did get her own entire essay once, that was published in The Raven Chronicles, lo these many moons ago. I also notice that I don’t have a previous post label for Ted, so she is currently neglected.

It’s the price the low-maintenance cat pays.

Teddy just turned 16 and her favorite activity is sleeping. Sleeping in the sun. Sleeping on the dog bed. Sleeping between David and me at night.

But best of all is sleeping on the big blue exercise mat.

I don’t know what it is exactly she loves about it, but when David gets the mat out, Teddy beelines from wherever she is — and this is not a cat who beelines anywhere — to get on the big blue exercise mat. And love on it.

She rolls on it. She rubs her whiskers. She drools. She likes to gently bite the edge, but David stops her and makes her get off if she won’t quit. You can see here that she especially loves to rest her cheek on the velcro edge.

Teddy is a cat of simple pleasures. Isabel believes Teddy hung the moon, and it’s likely she did. Just to see how beautiful it looks, hanging in the sky.