The Alchemy of Love

black cat sleeping on floor by paiting

Mimi with Peaches

This scene gave me pause the other day; in the moment I saw Mimi by Peaches’ portrait I knew there was a bond being lovingly observed.

I’m finishing the process of setting up my spare-bedroom studio as a clean, bright and organized work space, finally at the point of hanging art on the walls. “Peaches and Peonies” has been in my shop at Carnegie Antiques for the past year because I had no good place to hang her portrait here. I happily decided that Peaches should come home to be a part of this dedication to my career as an artist, so I can study the painting and continue to draw inspiration from it, and so that Peaches can watch over me as I work.

I leaned the painting in a safe spot against the wall, then left for a while.

When I came back, there was Mimi, relaxing in a beam of sunlight, in front of Peaches’ portrait. I wondered briefly if Mimi only found this quiet sunny spot to have a bath and a nap—in a room where she rarely goes unless she follows me, and through a habit she rarely observes in sleeping on the floor.

black cat with painting

Mimi stayed quite a while.

Even though I know the portrait is only an inanimate object, that it’s questionable if Mimi can clearly see or would recognize the scene in a painting, and all cats, including Mimi, are drawn to little beams of sunlight for relaxation, I knew there was no coincidence.

She stayed for quite some time, until the sunlight faded, and I would not interrupt the moment, enjoying also a moment of my own. Peaches, as well as every other cat who has come to me in any way since I’ve lived in this house, began their life with me in that room, some ended their lives in that room too, and even with the total transformation the room will always carry memories for me and I’m sure all the cats too.

I remember too

two cats on table

Share the Love

I have been remembering my sweet Peaches since last October, little reminders every day in this first year after her passing, remembering her daily habits so intertwined with mine, her quiet and pleasant personality, her petite beauty. Browsing my photos in their daily folders, there she is in almost every one, having a bath, enjoying the sunshine, coaxing me out of bed to feed her breakfast, interacting with the other cats—especially Giuseppe, who very lovingly cared for her, and the Fantastic Four in general.

I also remember the simple moments that aren’t in any photographs, the tactile memories that are such an integral part of our relationship with our animal companions. I remember the particular soft plush of her fur, short but thick, as she would lift her face and bump her nose against my hand as I would start on her forehead and run my hand down her back, and the way her tail would swing straight up as my hand reached her hips so I could bump against it, then start again at her forehead, feeling her purr growing more resonant with each stroke. I remember the small rounded weight of her body, like a little pear, as she reclined on my lap each evening for a vigorous and complete after-dinner bath, her legs and tail and head emerging in front of me, then her process of turning around and around and around in both directions in preparation for sleep as I tried to work around her.

And as the season and fruits of July are fresh, I thought of Peaches as I placed my fresh local peaches in a bowl, remembering the nicknames of “my little Peach pit”, “my little Georgia Peach,” “my sweet Peach”, and every other variation on peach I made up just for her.

calico cat on table

Peaches on the table.

The memories are as sweet as she was, even the memories of assisting her through the months of renal failure, the more frequent doses of sub-q fluids, the variable appetite, the nausea and her increasing discomfort. I remember that brief part of her life less as time goes on, finding instead that I remember the way she looked at me, with total devotion, and smiling in this moment at the memory of her guileless, honest expression.

I’ll admit, also, something I don’t miss at all, and laugh when I remember…for whatever reason, Peaches never cared for the litterbox, instead choosing an inconvenient spot somewhere, which she changed frequently. She came to me at 15, her owner had died, and I have no idea what her history was, but as soon as I eased her back into the habit of using the box, she would begin to experiment with other areas. In the months after she passed, I also laughed to myself as I replaced stained old throw rugs with the better ones I’d packed away, well, until Peaches was no longer around to use them.

calico cat on table

Peaches Reflecting

And I am looking at how much my household has changed and rearranged; I had the three senior tri-color girls at my desk all day, but now just Cookie and Kelly, and even they spend part of their days in other sleeping places. I have a completely different wake-up committee. And I lost the only light-colored kitty in my household—now with five black cats and two torties it’s sometimes a challenge to distinguish one cat from another in my photos.

It’s all a process of the acceptance of loss, which is a part of the acceptance of change, the constant change that is a part of life. I may feel a twinge of sadness, or feel tears well at a memory, but this is the process we all mention when someone loses someone they love, that time heals all wounds, that the pain you feel is replaced by the love you will always carry. Each of these encounters helps to heal over a little bit more as the philosopher’s stone of the alchemist it turns the base metal of pain to the gold of loving memory, which is truly the elixir of everlasting life.

You can read more about Peaches by simply searching this blog for “Peaches”—you’ll find quite a lot, especially photos! You can also reference the series of articles I wrote in 2010 as she was about to turn 20 and we celebrated her “100th birthday” which are linked in the article It’s Peaches’ 100th Birthday!

A note about “Peaches and Peonies”

photograph of award

Peaches and Peonies Award

I learned that “Peaches and Peonies” had won a Certificate of Excellence as a Single Illustration used as a greeting card in the Cat Writers’ Association annual communications contest two days after Peaches died in October 2010. The painting went on to win a Muse Medallion in that category, which I have hanging on the painting. Since I couldn’t make it to last year’s conference, thanks to Ingrid King who thoughtfully took this photo for me to keep!

I also sell prints of “Peaches and Peonies” with a donation to benefit senior pet adoption programs and tell Peaches’ story to encourage people to adopt senior pets. Read about the Senior Pet Adoption Donation Program.


Tortie, Not to Be Outdone

tortie cat in the tub

Cookie in the Tub

Not to be outdone by a bunch of juvenile delinquents, Cookie hops in the tub.

She doesn’t really think they’re juvenile delinquents, in fact, they all get along just fine—they’ve always respected Her Majesty, and she’s never had to enforce her position.

But she is awfully cute in the tub, and she knows it too. I don’t think she hopped in there just to outshine them, she actually hopped in to check out the water left behind by my shower, then just to hang out for a while. After all, Cookie’s been hanging out in the tub for quite a number of years.

I truly love how active Cookie remains, even at her age.


Everybody in the Pool!

five black cats in tub

Everybody in the Pool!

As everyone happily takes their turn in the cool of the tub on these hot days, I remembered this early photo of the Family of Five. Yes, there are actually five cats cavorting, in the tub. From the left you see Giuseppe, Mimi, Mr. Sunshine and Mewsette, but Jelly Bean is “understood” because that is what Giuseppe is looking at—actually, that’s who he’s wrestling with.

I took it early in 2009 near the end of my bathroom “remodel”, which occurred after a watery accident, but I hardly minded the chance to completely gut and rebuild the bath after 20 years!

two black cats in the tub

Giuseppe and Jelly Bean

To my surprise, the Fantastic Four, who had lived in the bathroom from the ages of three weeks to four months, moved right back in even after the bathroom had been completely renewed, playing in the tub, which is now in a different place, hopping into the sink, on the opposite wall, and enjoying the floor space and custom litterbox under the sink. As you know, they still consider the bathroom their playroom.

The Fantastic Four were about 18 months old here, and it was just about that time that I realized they would be staying. I had intended to keep them for their first year in order to observe them for any signs of FIP. They were actually up for adoption from that point, but it was the middle of summer and kitten season, and even four friendly and playful black cats could not compete with the tide of kittens. By the time the shelters were emptying of kittens, it was near Halloween and we are careful of black cats around that time of year.

Family Portrait Before the Tub

That was also about the time I began photographing them as a family, constantly amazed at the compositions their various familial combinations could create. The white and mint green bath renovation sealed it for me as the photos of them playing in the new space featured their feline shapes and the photos came to look like retouched black and whites.

I love Mimi’s face in the top photo—that’s her looking directly at you. She was just beginning to be more playful and social and while most of the photos are of her kittens she was involved in a lot of the shenanigans as she eased her way toward becoming a plain old housecat.

The rest is history! Here is a link to a gallery of photos of them in the bathroom in those first few months before I moved in the rest of the furniture, which I delayed so I could keep shooting neat photos.


BLOGSKI » Lost cat found on Harmar Street

long-haired black and white cat

Nice kitty found on Harmar Street.

A long-haired black and white mailed cat was found wandering on Harmar Street in Polish Hill on July 26, 2011. Residents reported that he was initially a little skittish but that he’s friendly, and someone began to feed him.

His fur is a little matted so he may have been outside for a while. His front paws were declawed, so he was definitely someone’s cat at one time.

A resident took him in and took him to the vet on July 29. He’s healthy, no fleas, and has had his matted fur shaved. They’re hoping the owner is somewhere in the neighborhood.

Anybody want to help give this guy a home? He’s extremely handsome!

If you know this cat, please email seklecki@gmail.com of call the PHCA at 412.681.1950 and we’ll get a message to the right person.

To see the original entry, visit the Polish Hill Civic Association blog: BLOGSKI » Blog Archive » Lost cat found on Harmar Street.


The Big Day

Black cat with birthday tiara

Mimi on her birthday.

Mimi wears her birthday tiara and poses with her gift. Other cats may have tried to take my hand off for wrapping a glittery thing around their head, but Mimi, as you can see, is clearly being patient with me.

She doesn’t know that a silly thing on my head and posing for pictures is nothing compared to what I’ve been through, Mimi thought.

black cat with purple necklace

Mimi experiments with her tiara.

Today is the day we all came together, Mimi and the Fantastic Four tiny puffballs in a plain cardboard box. This day is our communal anniversary, and Mimi has chosen for it to be her birthday. Little did she know what that would mean come the big day.

But Mimi is a Creative Cat as well, and had a few of her own ideas for her birthday…costume.

How does it look as a necklace? she asked as Mr. Sunshine took the opportunity to dig through her birthday bag.

What was in Mimi’s gift bag? A couple cans of food I knew she’d like, plus enough to share with the kids and the tortie girls. The gifts Mimi would want aren’t the sort you’d put in a bag, and if you ask Mimi, she has those things already.

black cat on chair with purple necklace

How is this pose?

Let’s try this pose. One of Mimi’s favorite places is on the edge of the kitchen chair backs, just wide enough for her tiny paws, but she is just that much taller. She proudly turned and waited for me to take her photo.

“How old are you Mimi?” I asked her. I am six litters old, she replied. Hmmm, she was probably at least three when the Fantastic Four were born, that was four years ago, so Mimi would be about seven.

two black cats

This is my tiara!

This is my tiara, Mimi said to Giuseppe when he approached to inspect the thing around her neck, be respectful.

two black cats

Giuseppe bathes Mimi.

Happy birthday, mom! Thanks for getting us in here,” Giuseppe replied as he gave her a few licks instead of the other way around, as usual.

The Fantastic Four started out the day with a Fantastic Breakfast—here it’s just their favorite dry food in bowls because I knew I could get them to pose for a photo like this. This was just for starters, followed by fresh salmon, wherein they were not nearly as organized, nor could I take photos!

four cats eating

Fantastic Four eating breakfast on the big day.

Happy birthday, and happy anniversary!


The Conscious Cat “Great Rescues” Review and Giveaway

Ingrid King of The Conscious Cat reviewed Great Rescues Calendar and Gift Book and is offering a giveaway for those who comment on the post!

I especially appreciate her comments: This is one of the most beautiful cat calendars I’ve seen. The paintings are stunningly beautiful, and the stories are heart touching.  And it’s so much more than just a calendar.

She is giving away one personalized, autographed copy to one lucky winner, ending Friday, August 12. Visit her site to read the rest of her review and enter for a chance to win a book!

Great Rescues: a 16-month cat calendar and gift book | The Conscious Cat.

And don’t forget to vote for her site in the Petties awards—details are at the bottom of the article!


Kelly the Art Cat

tortie cat with paintbrushes

Kelly the Art Cat

Kelly soaks up the sun on the windowsill, sharing space with my paintbrush vase, her eyes the color of summer leaves.

We don’t see Kelly as often as some other cats. That’s because some other cats tend to be in some human’s face all the time, now that they’ve apparently learned the joy of blogging.

But Kelly doesn’t care for the limelight, only the sunlight. Truly that’s a shame because she is the subject of some of the most beautiful photos on this blog. But I like this simple composition, so colorful and happy, and what could please me more—art materials, a handpainted vase, sunlight, summer green outdoors, and one of my precious kitties?

Tell me this—does Kelly look 17 years old to you? She is amazingly beautiful for her age (don’t let Cookie know I said that!).

tortie cat birdwatching

Kelly Birdwatching

Here is a photo of Kelly from a year or more after she first came to me; it was months before she would come out from under the credenza in the room upstairs, and months after that when she and Namir finally ventured down the stairs, and months after that when Kelly was finally comfortable enough to sit on a windowsill to watch birds and let her photo be taken.

Just like Cookie and her kitchen escapades, Kelly settles herself into some of my favorite places: my studio, my books, my crochet, even my computer when I’m designing, and of course, in the sunshine.

Click on any of the images to read about them.

tortie cat sleeping on books

Sleepy Kelly in the Library

cat on crochet project

Kelly has claimed my crochet project.

cat on keyboard shelf

Kitten on the Keyboard

tortoiseshell cat

Mysterious Kelly

animal sympathy card

Kelly Twice


Fellow Artist Chris Davis Review “Great Rescues”

“When my Great Rescues Calendar arrived I tore open the package like a kid on Christmas morning!”

Chris Davis, a mentor and inspiration, writes a review of Great Rescues Calendar and Gift Book on her blog: Chris Davis Blog: Great Rescues Calendar gets a 4 paws-up rating!.


My Feline Receptionist

black cat taking instructions

Giuseppe, my receptionist.

Giuseppe attentively listens to my customer explaining the updates he wants in a design job for me.

I’m so glad to have an assistant. Now if I can only teach him, or one of the others, to do the easy stuff, I can get the big things done much faster.

But then they’ll want their own computer. And then they’ll figure out e-mail, and Facebook and YouTube and Skype and…I’d better think about this.

In the meantime, Giuseppe adores his Uncle Howard, who has known Giuseppe since he was a wee fuzzball. Uncle Howard even adopted to give to his son one of Giuseppe’s half-sisters, Charlotte, from Lucy’s litter, the year before Giuseppe and the Fantastic Four were born.

I have photos or memories of most of my other cats greeting their “Uncle Howard”—each of the Fantastic Four and their mom and Lucy the year before, Stanley, Sophie, Cookie, Kelly, and especially Namir, who Howard threatened to tuck inside of his coat and leave with. His habit when he stopped by to drop off work has always been to greet all the cats when he came in the door, then talk to me when he was done with them. Howard and I have been working together since 2002, but I didn’t know right away that he was a cat person. I didn’t realize until a little later that most of the people who became my customers as I began my business a decade ago were cat people. It wasn’t a requirement, it just worked out that way. Funny how life brings you what you need even if you’re not looking for it.


The Big Four at Four

four black cats

The Big Four at Four

So what’s a birthday? Our mom told us we needed to clean up our act this morning and she went around washing our faces. She does that all the time. So what’s the big difference today? We were born today, but four years ago? What is “born”? She seems to be trying to tell us that we did not exist before this day four years ago. But the world did not exist before us either, so what did that matter?

black cat with pink impatiens

Mimi with impatiens.

Mimi

I’m glad they are clueless. I’m glad they don’t know anything about having kittens, or what the world was like before they were born, or living outside, or being sent off to different homes where people maybe weren’t so nice.

As I was musing last week, something about the light this time of year, the temperature, the breeze, the very scent of the day took me back to another time, just before these four were born, before I came here, before my life changed forever. I remember the world before they were born, and they never need to know anything about that.

And we would be celebrating their birthday today, as we are having a few nice meals and such, except for one thing.

My human mom and I have discussed many important issues, and I have learned anniversary days are very important. One day in spring this year I realized I was staying here and let her know that. I don’t know why it took me so long…I guess it never occurred to me before that cats actually do move into houses and stay with people and love them and don’t want to leave, and the people love them just as much and don’t want the kitties to leave. I needed to have some serious conversations with Cookie and Peaches before I understood how it happened for them, and then I realized that it had already happened for me and I had no idea what that feeling was.

So I gave my mom a direct look and she noticed as I knew she would, and we exchanged a special look and a few blinks, and that was it. And that feeling was very complete and fulfilling and I will never turn back. And I wanted to remember that day.

But now that we have had this revelation, this year when I remembered the time just before I came here, I suddenly knew what was right. I let my mom know two things: that our anniversary day is the day I came in here, July 29, and since we have no idea when I was born, I want that to be my birthday.

four black cats

My Morning Cats.

Me

And so that is how it is. Today is the big birthday, but we celebrate on Friday everything together: Mimi’s birthday, the communal birthday of the Fantastic Four and our anniversary of coming together.

black cat with pisces medallion

Giuseppe is not a Pisces.

No, Giuseppe, you are not a Pisces, that is me—all of you are Leos. And actually Cookie is too, since she was born some time in late July, 1992. Kelly we don’t know about, and it’s hard to tell with her. My household communal birthday was at one point on May 1, as we celebrated Peaches’ 100th birthday last year, because long, long ago another cat really did have a birthday on May 1 and the tradition carried down about 30 years. I’m not sure if I’m ready to change that, but it certainly seems the convergence of feline July birthdays is pressing for it!

four black cats

Trying to figure out what to do all day.