The Survivalist Generation

The survivalists.

Every generation of cats is different.

Long ago, we adopted our first generation of free kittens.  It was like living in a picture book:  they daintily drank milk, adorably raced around the apartment chasing toys, and once ventured through a loose panel in the linen cupboard which led under the floor.  Naturally, they got lost.  We had to walk above them and call their names to guide them back through the panel.

Recently, we had a survivalist generation of cats.  The strong-willed tortoiseshell (pictured above) and the white cat with brown and gray markings hopped into the tub first thing in the morning to lap water out of the faucet.  They also drank out of their bowl, but the tub had a fascination for them.

They lived to be very, very old ladies.  They died in 2019.  We miss them so much.

Illustration by B. Kliban

A friend said recently, “What if there’s heaven for cats and not people?”

We all believe in heaven for cats!

And here’s a lovely poem:

“On the Death of a Cat,” by Christina Rossetti

Who shall tell the lady’s grief
When her Cat was past relief?
Who shall number the hot tears
Shed o’er her, beloved for years?
Who shall say the dark dismay
Which her dying caused that day?

Come, ye Muses, one and all,
Come obedient to my call.
Come and mourn, with tuneful breath,
Each one for a separate death;
And while you in numbers sigh,
I will sing her elegy.

Of a noble race she came,
And Grimalkin was her name.
Young and old full many a mouse
Felt the prowess of her house:
Weak and strong full many a rat
Cowered beneath her crushing pat:
And the birds around the place
Shrank from her too close embrace.
But one night, reft of her strength,
She laid down and died at length:
Lay a kitten by her side,
In whose life the mother died.
Spare her line and lineage,
Guard her kitten’s tender age,
And that kitten’s name as wide
Shall be known as her’s that died.

And whoever passes by
The poor grave where Puss doth lie,
Softly, softly let him tread,
Nor disturb her narrow bed.

A Readerly Cat, a “Jane Eyre” Notebook, & Are You Charlotte, Emily, or Anne?

I am an allurophile (a cat fancier).  I have lived with, oh, fifteen or twenty cats over the years.   I’m not sure of the exact number.

It started when a friend’s roommate’s boss in Bean Blossom was giving away free kittens.  I wanted a free kitten, but I also aspired to visit Bean Blossom. (Southern Indiana is gorgeous and Bean Blossom is the home of Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Festival.) The Siamese kitten turned out to be a genius who helped me get my master’s by providing much needed recreation.  She batted my pens and plopped down on Liddell and Scott (a Greek dictionary) when I did too much work. “No need to be a scholar,” she seemed to say.  Her favorite game was “Kakodaimon” (“evil genius”), in which she batted at a scary rag doll of the same name. She also raced up the curtains and hung by her claws from the fiberglass ceiling.  Her most mischieveous act:   knocking over a  professor’s Christmas tree when she boarded with him over winter break.

Uh oh, you may wonder:  Is this a satire in which an academic career in classics is ruined by a Siamese?  Nah, that’s probably one of Rita Mae Brown’s Sneaky Pie cat mysteries.

Anyway, we became allurophiles.  Every time I passed a sign for “Free Kittens,”  I came home with a new cat. Mind you, these are not collectible cats with pedigrees.  A box of tuxedo kittens at the Farmers’ Market?  I’ll take one, sure.  If we had more space I’d become a foster cat mom.

The adorable cat pictured at the top of this post used to be a very wild kitten: she mischievously hopped into the refrigerator if you weren’t looking.  You’d find her sitting on the lettuce…  that happened once!  Today she was in a readerly mood, though. She sat down with a copy of Wuthering Heights.  Or should I say beside Wuthering Heights?  Doesn’t she look serious?

I took snaps of my Bronte collection because Lolly, a longtime member of one of my book groups, gave me a really cute Charlotte Bronte notebook. I do love the purple flex-cover!  Yes, there’s a quote from Charlotte, but the opening pages of Jane Eyre are also printed in tiny print on the cover.   I am saving this journal for a special occasion.  Maybe for special Bronte notes.

The pages of the notebook are ruled not with lines but also with the text of Jane Eyre. I wonder if the entire text is in the notebook?


Anyway, I needed to look at my Bronte collection.  Here’s a snap.

And here’s my Heritage Press edition of Wuthering Heights.  It’s too tall to photograph with the others!

I can’t decide if my favorite Bronte is Villette or Wuthering Heights!  It was Wuthering Heights for many years, until I began to see my life less in terms of Gothic passion (Catherine and Heathcliff can be exhausting) than f work and everyday life spiced up by the occasional ghost and unsolicited Gothic laudanum trip (I am Lucy Snowe in Villette).

Life is extreme.  There’s no getting away from it.  And I’m Emily and Charlotte rather than Anne.

ARE YOU EMILY, CHARLOTTE, OR ANNE?  Male or female, you’re one of these if you love the Brontes!  Go ahead–choose one!

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