the wildwood flowers
After catching on that Caterpillar was miserable from relentless cold, I took her into the bed with me last night under the covers, a bit hesitant about fleas, but told self Caterpillar is worth more to me than a few flea bites. I found a way to be sure she did not fall off the bed while I was sleeping. We both slept soundly. No flea bites. She was refreshed in the morning when I put her on the floor. She went about her day in comfort. She has several sunning beds. I felt satisfied I'd found the problem and took care of it seeing her walk on her toes again. I meant it when I said I fell in love with Caterpillar all over again. I feel so much love for her today and yesterday my heart glows. I've loved her since birth, known her every day of her life. I am her mother. Her biological mother was a darling tortoise shell small cat who was feral and took up under my house the winter of 96-97 after a storm of two inches of ice on the ground for two weeks, creeks iced over, broken trees everywhere. She was desperate. I heard her crying under the house. Took her a bowl of water and some catfood every day. She would not let me see her for a month. She came into view eventually after some confidence I wasn't here to hurt her, but to help her.
black eyed susans
Gradually, I touched her, went slowly with her, she was so frightened and so humble. Also, the cat living here at the time, Peck, did not like having another cat in her territory. Aster the black dog was with me when I took food to the cat. She became acquainted with dog along with me. There came a time she let me hold her. She came to like our visits. One day, picking her up I felt little lumps in her belly. Kittens. I thought, Oh no, more cats. I had a shed that once held chickens my first ten years living here, a flock of half a dozen banty hens and a rooster. I was using it for a shed to keep found wood and leftover wood from projects dry out of the weather. Found a cardboard box from a store in town, cut a hole in it, put hay in it and sat it in the shed with the top where I could open and close it to see and reach inside. She brought into my world three kittens, two black, one gray with black stripes. I went to see them every day, took mama cat fresh water and catfood. Every day I held the kittens wanting them accustomed to the human touch from birth, wanting mama to learn to trust me with the babies. The day their eyes opened, two weeks old, mama cat, Celina, ran under a passing car in a domino-effect chain of events so complex it eliminated blame.
queen anne's lace
I went to the shed with Aster that morning like every morning. Celina was rubbing on Aster's legs by then. Mother's day morning I opened the door and Celina was gone. I thought I had the shed tight enough nothing could get in or out. I went looking for her. Next farm neighbor's car went down the road. Aster, knowing the car, thinking it might stop, she took off running toward the place where I park the car to meet him. I saw Celina sitting beside the road next to my car. She saw Aster running at her full speed, Aster not even aware of her. Fear startled her, she darted across the road under the car between front and back tires. She would have made it, but the differential smacked her head. My only comfort, it was fast. I had an adorable cat to bury and three kittens I didn't know what to do with. Mama cat in her final resting place, I put the kittens in a paper grocery bag and carried them to the vet. I knew I needed kitten formula only available there, and asked for tips on how to take care of them. They gave me good instruction. Vet told me my babies would not live. I felt that Southern thing, not wanting to sound like I knew more than he did about his field, chose not to say what I knew, they will live. I intended it. The vet didn't know I knew they needed mother love as much as food to make it. I could do that.
queen anne's lace
I fixed a corner for them in the house and gave them loving attention all day, holding them, feeding them, talking to them, singing to them, watching them play. They slept most of the time, piled on top of each other. I opened my heart and fell in love with them for their survival, and wanted to, because I love my pets. Also knew I could never let any of them go to an uncertain future. As long as they lived with me, they were safe. I told the kittens I loved them every day, every time I held and spoke to them. This applied all their lives. They were so charming I couldn't help but fall in love. Even in the first weeks, each one's complete personality was there. They were uniquely individual and not the least bit alike. The first day Caterpillar walked, she hobbled over the floor like a gray and black striped furry caterpillar. She was comical. Next was Tadpole for her black wiggly nature. There came a time she let me know she wanted another name, she didn't like Tadpole. It wasn't her. I asked her about Tapo, pronounced like taco, and she liked it. Then there was TarBaby. We were already stuck together for life. And I love Sade's song, Tar Baby. Peck hated the kittens, hissed at them every time she saw them. She left home when they were a year old. I did not withdraw attention or love from her. She just went away. TarBaby and Tapo both left the body age 12, not far apart. My feeling was Tapo loved TarBaby so much she wanted to be with him. It tore me up losing them. Lost Aster age 12. I'm left with Caterpillar, a beautiful Maine Coon with wide awake eyes, age 18. I cling to her, the last of my babies, and love her with all my heart, keep her spirit in the body with mother love.
photos by tj worthington