Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Cat Infestation in Birdland

In Birdland the days are getting shorter and the weather milder. We’re all enjoying the fresh coolness of the mornings and evenings, even if it means that by midday we’re shedding sweaters. I find myself more often in the yard, trying harder to bring order and peace now that I can’t use the humidity as an excuse. I’ve created a tidy circle of calmness around the house, and I try to expand it a little each day. It’s one thing to go natural, but dainty sprouts of poison ivy are coming up, dotting the yard with danger. It’s a pretty plant, really: three toothy leaflets of bright green. Luckily, mowing it short stops it, and now we have a safe zone around the house. Yesterday I finally cut the spent stems of Iris in the beds surrounding the house. I also cut out the Mulberry seedlings. Some of them were an inch thick and as tall as I am. My yard is such a juggling act. Spend time trimming one area, and another goes wild. Now that it’s cool enough to do yard work, school has started, so I have to steal little pockets of time, and plan quick assignments. I hope it is making me more organized, forcing me to consider my vision.

Now that school has started and the day has shortened, my morning starts in the dark. My alarm goes off even before Ursula gives her short, reminder bark that another day has come and it’s time to get up. In the summer, my puppy is my alarm clock. Morning chores begin with the animals—let the dogs out for a pre-breakfast run. I go to the kitchen to make a pot of coffee, and Kali, the feral basement kitty, greets me. I know she must be hungry since she’s making eye contact, and doesn’t move from the middle of the kitchen floor even as I walk back and forth getting coffee beans for the grinder, rinsing the percolator. Today I feed her even before I let the dogs back in for their breakfast. Kali still hasn’t let me touch her, though she is much less shy now that she’s seen Shiva, the tortoiseshell kitten sitting on my lap, purring or wrestling without fear. Kali is getting curious. Shiva is Kali’s opposite in every way. Her three color pattern is the photographic negative of Kali’s calico. Shiva is affectionate and playful, while Kali is still getting over her suspicion. She seems content, though, in her basement lair—under the workbench. Sometimes the dogs will open the door, and Kali will disappear for a few days, living off the mice in the machine shed. But she eventually comes back if I call her at night, after the dogs are in bed. I have to leave the door open and make myself scarce; then she will slip in quietly and come up from the basement one morning for her breakfast. She’s no longer a kitten, and the last time she came home after a week of carousing, she was suspiciously plump. I was hoping to tame her in time for a trip to the vet before a blessed event could happen, but apparently, I am too late. Now I am thinking of trapping her and setting up comfy den in my bathroom for the rest of her confinement. I did try to trap her once, but only succeeded in catching curious Shiva, who mewed loudly and pitifully for release, then followed me around for an hour, begging to be held and comforted. I think I need a bigger trap to catch Kali before she fills my basement with tiny, feral cats. If they are born in my bathroom, maybe I can have hopes of taming them if not her.

In Birdland we have a cat for every floor, and Dylan’s elderly cat, Knowles, lives in the attic. He is a grumpy, long-haired, yellow tabby, and I believe he was named after a fancy shoe, but his name was shortened long ago, first to Noli, then Knowles. I don’t know why I spell it with a “K,” but it seems to dignify him. He doesn’t like to be brushed, but I do it as often as possible, to defy his dreadlocks. Even so, he sheds little chunks of matted fur, which Shiva energetically bats around the floor whenever she finds them. I have to hold him tightly and pretend that low rumble is a purr, not a growl. We have very short grooming sessions.

By the time the animals are all fed and lunches are made and books are gathered, I am almost late and rush out of the house to meet Tina or Gayle for carpooling. On the ride to town I turn my attention to my day job—grading, lecturing, planning, learning. I ride to town hoping to get enough work done in my office today to justify another mowing session when I get home tonight. I’ll mow around the picnic table so we can enjoy our supper outside until the year turns to winter, and suppertime gets cold and dark.

Walk in Beauty; Work in Peace; Blessed Be.

Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. She is interested in seasons and cycles. Some people say she makes a decent-enough apple pie.

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