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Wednesday, May 21, 2014



All I've wanted to do today was sleep. And that's what I did. Get up, fuss about, talk on the phone, go back to bed, sleep several hours, wake up, back to sleep. Finally, up around 7 in the evening and put on a Japanese samurai film, When The Last Sword Is Drawn (2003), one of the better samurai films I've seen, including 7 Samurai. It's up there in that league. It's like a really good film that happens to be a samurai story. Told in an old-fashioned kind of way by the son of a man significant in the story, who is also married to the daughter of the story's hero, though I hesitate to use the word in his context. He was just a man until he became the hero. Beautiful story and photography. It was told beautifully all way around. It had many levels and dimensions. The story of a man of honor in the Japanese way of his time. It felt culturally Japanese as seen from the inside instead of from outside. The characters and story were so Japanese they could have been wearing business suits and Jimmy Carter masks, using guns instead of swords and the story would still be Japanese and no other. It was filmed and visually conceived by the Japanese eye. It made me google the director, Yojiro Takita, and look for other films by him. Found I have 2 in my netflix Q. I wondered if I was in the mood for a samurai slasher film today. Wasn't sure. Turned out I was. Caterpillar used me for a pillow half the time, then wanted out to see the night critters. She's becoming peculiar. No matter what cat food I put down for her when she tells me she wants some catfood, she sniffs it and walks away. Leaves it all day. In the night she eats it after she's given up on waiting for me to give her something different all day. I've asked her to give me a clue to what she wants when she comes to me and says Mao. It means, I want. It could be food, wants out, wants litterbox changed, wants fresh water, or wants me to hold her. I asked her to lead the way to what she wants. Mostly she wants me to hold her. So I do. She doesn't ask a lot. She likes to be held, talked to, petted on top of her head. She likes me to cup the palm of my hand over her face for her to snuggle into for a snug-fitting face glove. She will hold her face in my hand like she's meditating, and when she's done, that's it. Takes her a moment to come back to the world.  
Caterpillar was born here Mother's Day, 1997. She has developed a habit from an affectation of wanting my attention every time she sees me give attention to the computer. It must get lonesome for her with my body present and my mind preoccupied. I don't think she understands a preoccupied mind. She's fully present. It must be odd for her to live with a human whose mind is off someplace else all the time. What she's doing when she says, Mao (I want), is asking me to let her in, like open the door. Hello in there. Is anybody home? A little touch on the head would go a long ways toward making me a happy cat. There are times, like now, after I've given her attention and given attention, she still wants more, I explain I'm in my head right now. Mao. So I just do the way cats do one another. I just stop paying attention and she walks away in a little bit. Walks to the food bowl, stops, turns, stares at me and continues to stare. Animals know that staring draws the attention of the one being stared at. Caterpillar is a good one at staring. I've been ignoring her stare. She said, Mao. I had to say, again, "Not now, Caterpillar." That's the same as saying, Now is a good time, Caterpillar. She's a Maine Coon, the first cat to cross the sea from the Old World to the New World. They were good cats to have on sailing ships to keep the rodent population minimal. Their fur is so thick it is water repellent. Cats sometimes went ashore wherever ships landed all up and down the East Coast. Caterpillar was born in the shed that is now the donkey shelter that was originally a chicken house. In between, it was a shed for keeping scrap wood out of the weather. A feral cat took up under the house in the winter with two inches of ice on the ground for two weeks. I took her some water and catfood daily. She would not let me see her for over a month. Eventually, she let me touch her and after quite awhile let me hold her. Celina was the name that came to me for her. I began to feel kittens inside her. Didn't want them under the house. Found a cardboard box, put hay in it, cut a hole in the side and put it in the shed. Let the opening flaps be the top of the box I could open to see inside without disturbing the newborns.
Celina went into a new freak-out in the shed. I left her alone for several days. She would hide in her hiding place. Kept food in the bowl. She settled down and became friendly, became friends with Aster the dog, rubbed Aster's legs, which drove dog out of her mind. Cat wouldn't run. Couldn't play chase. Peck, the cat living here at the time, hated Celina being here and beat her up every day she caught her outside the shed. I didn't know what to do. I don't understand cat mind. I let them do whatever cats do. Peck was being territorial, loyal and jealous. She hated me touching her with Celina's scent on my hands. Celina was using the box for her bed. One morning I went out to feed her, she stepped out of the box and was thin again. I thought I'd leave her the privacy of her babies and not open the top and fondle them. I wanted her to be able to do her mama cat business with the kittens feeling secure in her closed-in space. Second day I opened the top and looked at them, picked them up to see my new friends in their beginning. All three of them have lived here all their lives, Caterpillar the survivor. Two black ones and a Maine Coon. Eyes closed. I'd look at them and wonder why life forms are taken so lightly. I've known women who put little things like this in a bag with a rock and take them to the river. Babies have a way of making me feel life is precious. They make me unable to kill anything. You can't avoid killing something driving in these mountains, rabbits, squirrels, dogs, possums, cats. Sometimes they run under a wheel from the side and there's no avoiding them. I say a prayer for the soul of every animal dead in the road I pass. I feel the same about them as if they're children. It makes me sad to be in a society that doesn't respect the individual autonomy of the animal world. I visited the Mt Airy stockyard one day and had a hard time with what I saw. I wanted to take care of Celina's kittens, give them as good a life as I was able. There is so much killing going on, my part of living the way I want the world around me to be is to give kittens delivered to my doorstep on Mother's Day a good home.


Their eyes were closed the first two weeks. The morning their eyes opened, I went out to the shed. No Celina. She was not in the box with the kittens, not in the shed. I didn't know she could find a way out. I start to walk back to the house. I see Celina sitting by the edge of the road where I park. Next door neighbor's car came down the road. Aster took off running to meet the car if it were to stop. Celina saw Aster running toward her full tilt. Aster had never chased Celina. Cat darted across the road between the front and back tire, was knocked senseless by the differential housing under the car. Very sad moment burying her. It was the end result of a such a chain reaction, I could find no blame. It just happened. It was set up like the Divine hand was in it. I accepted my new role as mother to little ones given to me. Set up a place to keep them in the corner of the room, put them in a paper bag and took them to the vet to ask how to take care of them and buy some kitten formula. Vet told me they would die. I knew better, but didn't want to sound like I knew his business better than he did, so I didn't say what I knew: they would make it. These babies were going to live. Caterpillar was named first. She hobbled across the floor like a caterpillar, fur sticking out all over her, black and gray stripes. Next, I named Tadpole, who was wiggly and black. I saw from the beginning she did not like her name. One day after a few months, she got with me and told me she didn't like her name. I didn't want to change it too much, so I changed it to Tapo, close but a very different sound. She was good with Tapo. Then Tar Baby. Tar Baby never pushed himself ahead of the others. He stayed back, didn't need much attention. I already had an affection for all of them, but Tar Baby felt special to me. I called him Tar Baby because a tar baby sticks to you. Tar Baby was already stuck to me. Sade sang a beautiful song called Tar Baby. He's been gone five years now, and Tapo a few months later. Caterpillar is the one that outlived the others. She grieved their loss too. Cats don't show it quite as much as we do, but I saw and felt it in her. I feel like I have some understanding, now, of why women appear to value life more than men do. This was my only mother experience. I learned from it mothering is a powerful energy.
tarbaby and portrait of


  1. Tj, this one brings tears to my eyes. Mothering is indeed a powerful force. Women innately have a sense of creation and nurturing those creations to fruition. Men have a feminine side that if accessed, understands. Thank you for understanding. I love Caterpillars markings - similar tabby markings as Baby. I just discovered there are several Tabby types of markings - and Baby is a Mackerel. They don't like us to pull our expanded energy away from them when we focus on things like the phone or the computer (babies hate it, too!). You can practice leaving your aura expanded to include Caterpillar.

  2. I am more of a dog person than a cat person but love this blog about the cats and how you came to be their foster parent...They are beautiful. Almost makes me want one...but with Marshal don't think it would work...Loved this family tree /history blog...