The Big Branch

tortoiseshell cat on branch

Will you quit reminding me I'm 17 years old?

As the winter passes and spring slowly unfolds in the back yard I’m remembering the years Cookie and I spent out there. Browsing photos I often encounter photos of her, including these from March 8, 2010, as the snow slowly melted after a series of heavy storms in February. Even though I shoveled paths into the snow it was weeks before it melted down to the soil, and at 17 Cookie finally found that walking on snow for any length of time was just too uncomfortable on her tiny tortie paws and she would wait on the deck or the steps for me. For some reason I never wrote the post I had intended to with these photos, so there’s no time like the present.

tortoiseshell cat on path in snow

I guess it's mud or snow, but I have to get to my back yard.

One day enough snow had melted that she decided to follow me around as I filled bird feeders and Cookie explored her strange new world. The most exciting thing, for Cookie and me at least, was the large branch from a neighbor’s tree that had snapped under the weight of the first heavy snowfall (I was watching that night and saw it fall), landing just next to the picnic table and leaning up on the fence and another of the neighbor’s trees. I didn’t mind it, and they didn’t come out to clear it away, so it became, so far, a permanent part of our back yard.

tortoiseshell cat outdoors with snow

What happened to my garden?

One of the most amazing things I always found about Cookie was her fearless curiosity. There was something new, she explored it—a box in the house, my art materials, a visitor, Cookie immediately and wholeheartedly acquainted herself with it.

tortoiseshell cat sniffing stick

Must be spring!

Curiosity is legendarily a cat’s province, but a reason to consider this a little extra special in Cookie was that she always had difficulty walking just from weakness in her hind legs, likely from her early deprivation. Even when younger she couldn’t run or jump very high and while still young quit jumping altogether to climb step by step onto things. This never stopped her, and it didn’t even slow her down because she got herself everywhere she needed to go, and her ingenuity at finding a stepping stone path of different levels anywhere in the house to get anywhere she wanted to go is something I’ll always remember. She never complained, just happily made her way around things; as she grew older I surreptitiously added things she could step on in every room.

tortoiseshell cat on branch

Fearless Cookie climbs the branch less trodden.

So I look at her on this log at the age of 17 with fine balance but without a whole lot of strength in those legs. She walked down the muddy path in the snow, met the branch and happily stepped up on it and looked around, took a few more steps up and looked again, then walked out as far as she dared, then walked back. She was also wise in knowing exactly how far she could go, literally, and still be able to get herself safely back to where she needed to be.

tortoiseshell cat on branch

Wow, the view is really great from here!

The branch fell at just the right time because the previous year she had been able to pull herself up onto the picnic bench, but it was an increasing struggle. The first thing the next spring the branch had fallen and I guess she thought it had been provided for her. She used it from then until just a few days before she died to both sit on, scratch on and step up onto the bench.

tortie cat on branch

Cookie balances on her maiden voyage on the branch.

It’s just a tree branch, and I’m a cat. What’s the big deal? I’ll still be doing this years from now.

tortoiseshell cat on branch

Hi, mom!

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All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.


Al Fresco: From A Year Ago

tortoiseshell cat with weatherfish

Cookie communes once again with the weatherfish and pokes her nose on dry grass.

I’m not focusing on photos of Cookie from last year—she showed up about twice a week just because. This is pretty much what my yard looks like now, and Mimi and me have been exploring and remembering Cookie in all these places. Mimi still needs a leash, though; she stays right with me, then suddenly wants to take off to the front yard. We have to work on that.

Cookie communes with the weatherfish as we explore the backyard on an unusually warm, windy day.

tortoiseshell cat on deck

Cookie tells me to get a move on.

We’ve been going outside every day all winter long, but Cookie found the snow and ice just weren’t fun anymore on her 19-year-old paws, so we mostly stayed on the deck. But today we explored the yard in all its winter tatters.

Cookie knows I prefer her to wait for me to come with her into the yard, so she pauses at the top of the steps—but her expression is, “As soon as you turn around, I’m going to run down these steps.” She did. I followed. Sometimes my position of authority means nothing.

tortoiseshell cat on lap

Cookie on my lap on the steps.

But after a little sojourn including the weatherfish, under the deck, the fallen branch, picnic table and park bench, our favorite thing is just to sit together.

I’m so glad Cookie and I can share this time. She doesn’t move as well as she used to, but then all she needs to do is walk around the yard at her own pace. She and I also remember other friends who used to share our time in the backyard.

Plus it’s only February and the tomorrow weather will change and I know it will be a while before we get a day this nice again.

While Cookie and I were sitting on the steps, we were being very still so we could count the birds in our yard for the Great Backyard Bird Count, today, February 18, through Monday, February 22. I’ve been participating in this bird count and others for years, and tomorrow I’ll be writing about how to participate in bird counts and why it’s fun and important. (I actually wrote about this on Friday in It’s the Great Backyard Bird Count. Mimi and I counted today.)

Until then, curl up with your kitties as the temperature drops, and study your bird identification books!

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All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.


Boys: From A Year Ago

two black cats by sunny window

Boys

Yesterday it was the girls putting their heads together, today it’s the boys, likely planning their day’s events. Perhaps they’re just soaking up some sunshine and not planning anything at all. Giuseppe in the background, I never know with those intense eyes. Jelly Bean, though, I’m pretty sure he just relies on being cute to get through the day.

I enjoy all the warm tones in this photo, the pale yellow sun in the window, the cream lace curtain, the mahogany tones in the boys’ fur and the deep rose through the thin skin of their ears, even the dark shadowed areas are filled with warm tones of bright late winter sun filtering only through bare branches.

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All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used in any way without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.

 


February 2, Not Just for Groundhogs, Well, Ever

groundhog

The Local Groundhog

Why all the fuss about whether or not this rodent sees his shadow?

February 2 isn’t just Groundhog Day and a holiday made by humans to break up the middle of cold winter season. It’s actually an occurrence in nature that humans have observed and found reason to celebrate long before people in Punxsutawney wanted to bring tourists to their little settlement in the woods of Western Pennsylvania.

sun and weeds

Imbolc-Brigantia-Candlemas

February 2 is exactly halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Vernal Equinox, marking the date that winter, literally, becomes spring. The seasons don’t change as if you’ve flipped a switch, but they move gradually from one to another in a cycle. The solstices and equinoxes mark the highest points of those seasons, and the cross-quarter markers in between mark the day one season has clearly blended with another. I notice this every year from my garden to the trail to just observing wildlife.

By February 2, in our modern time we notice the days have lengthened enough that there really is daylight when we leave work at the end of the day where just a week before it was still pretty dark. Ancient and not-so-ancient people saw it another way.

Nearly every culture and faith tradition has a name and celebration for this event. At the Winter Solstice, the sun stood still just long enough to make civilizations think it may have stopped moving, leaving us to suffer in the darkness and cold of winter. Then it began slowly moving again, the days lengthening so gradually that all we may notice is perhaps feeling better because there is more daylight, but ancient cultures centered feast days and celebrations around the return of life.

basket of squashes

Harvest

The full moon in February is often called the Hunger Moon because, though people have managed through the deepest extended cold of winter, their food stores put by at the previous autumn’s harvest may be near gone:

Half your wood and half your hay, you should have on Candlemas Day.

February lies ahead, often as frozen as January with not much nourishment in sight for hunter-gatherer or agrarian societies until the first edible greens begin to sprout, about a month away in early March, later in far north regions. Animals are often just as undernourished as humans, female animals are often bearing young, so hunting is usually out of the question. Yet the end was in sight and that alone was reason to celebrate in the harsh world before furnaces in the house and cars for travel and grocery stores offering food all year round.

garden in the snow

My Garden Waits

And beneath the snow plants are gathering energy, seeds are swelling, roots are spreading, and above the snow the days are growing longer. The ewes, cows, goats and the females of other livestock as well as of wild animals are beginning to produce milk in preparation for the birth of their young later in the spring.

So this day has many names to commemorate all these observations that would become celebrations to humans weary of the cold and dark: Immolc or Imbolc, translated from “in the belly” referring to mothers and their young, and the first production of milk in preparation for birth; Brigantia or St. Brigid’s Day, who welcomes the light with candles and represents the light half of the year; and Candlemas when candles for the year are blessed celebrating Jesus’ presentation at the temple and the purification of Mary are the ones best known in Western culture.

Another traditional rhyme shows us that the day had become one for prognosticating:

If Candlemas Day be fair and bright, winter will have another flight. But if it be dark with clouds and rain, winter is gone and will not come again.

male and female cardinal

Valentine's Day

And before English and German settlers began landing on these shores, they were keeping an eye on the hedgehogs to determine if the little buggers saw their shadow on Candlemas or Brigantia morn. Other animals leave their burrows around this time as well—it’s snakes in another tradition—and you’ll often see birds pairing off. It doesn’t always happen exactly on February 2, but because the day was a longstanding cross-quarter day in the ancient calendar it’s carried the reputation of being a day for prognostication and celebration.

As with most other traditions, taking stock of things on February 2 came over on the boat with those early English and German settlers, and Pennsylvania still has many towns and neighborhoods settled all those years ago dedicated to these nationalities.

groundhog in cage

My guy going off on vacation.

So why a groundhog? Why not a groundhog? They don’t get a whole lot of credit for anything else, especially not in my garden! This is one day when a fat, smelly, not-so-pretty North American native that reminds us of a large rat can get some respect and news coverage, and that’s never a bad thing for anyone. Really, they’re kind of cute and silly, especially when they’re little, they only become oily undulating eating machines in late summer when it breaks my heart to find all the beans I’d been looking forward to are reduced to bare stems.

Why Punxsutawney? Why do they wear top hats and dress coats? You can read about the Groundhog Day tradition and about Punxsutawney on the “official website of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club” http://www.groundhog.org/. You can read more about the traditions of this day and this time of year through links on Wikipedia.

And with that, I hope it’s another year before I have to type the name Punxsutawney again.

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All images and text used in this article are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.


On a Rainy Afternoon: From A Year Ago Today

two cats on a pillow

On a Rainy Afternoon

Cookie and Mimi spend some cozy hours on the pile of pillows on my bed while the day fills with rain and fog outside the window.

I often think rescued kitties take a little time on bad weather days remembering the days before their rescue. I know Mimi does because this normally reticent kitty is suddenly following me around, loving on me, looking into my eyes and telling me stories. Cookie is not so obvious, but she thanks me pretty much all the time.

The photo was nearly colorless with the stark rain light, and there’s something about a contrasty image with overexposed highlights that just asks to be black and white, and so it is.

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All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used in any way without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.


You Wanted to Wear This Today?

black cat on clothes on bed

You wanted to wear this today?

“You wanted to wear this today? Is that why you made the bed, then laid these clothes on it?

“I thought it suited me for taking a nap. It matches me better than it matches you anyway.

“The sweater is pretty old and the black is faded—just look how gray it looks against my fur. And the skirt is too big on you, it always was—why do you buy clothes so big?

“Guess you’ll have to find something else to wear.”

I should know better than to lay anything on the bed, anything at all. And then dare to ask a question because I know I’ll get an answer.

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All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.


What Is That Bright Stuff?

 

black cat looking at green leaves

What is that bright stuff on these leaves?

The sun keeps teasing us with colorful sunrises and shines into the east windows so brightly for just long enough for us to get accustomed to it, then the clouds roll over once again, blanketing us in uniform gray. Here, Giuseppe, sitting in the narrow casement at the top of the stairs, absorbs the full force of winter sun through old wavy glass, studying the geranium leaves as if he’s never seen so much detail. Giuseppe can be a little melodramatic now and then.

Aside from handsome Giuseppe being melodramatic, I really liked the simple, colorful composition of this photo.

I also featured this on my daily photo blog, Today, where they photo is nearly twice as big and you can see much more detail.

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To see more daily photos go to “Daily Images” in the menu and choose “All Photos” or any other category.

All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.


Snow Light: From A Year Ago

two black cats looking out window

Snow Light

This is one of my favorite photos ever because Mewsette and Mr. Sunshine are simply so gracefully composed, and that grace and pose are completely natural. It’s looked like a painting for a long time, perhaps after all these sketches it may be time to get to it.

Nothing special, just brother and sister quietly sitting together looking out into the backyard from the second floor window. It’s one of the best vantage points in the house; from the top of the little armoire at the top of the stairs they can see into the two bedrooms, down the stairs and out the back window and, to a limited extent, out the front windows in the bedrooms.

But I was appreciating how my glass pendant so beautifully complements their eyes and their lovely graceful poses.

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To see more daily photos go to “Daily Images” in the menu and choose “All Photos” or any other category.

All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.


Can’t You Fix This?: From A Year Ago Today

cat in snow on deck

Can't You Fix This?

A year ago yesterday, Cookie sets off through last year’s “light dusting”.

Cookie is losing her patience with this winter thing. It used to be okay, she used to enjoy plowing through snow and getting it all over her fur, but her 18-year-old paws are in no mood for ice and snow this year. She is disappointed daily by finding that the cold temperatures and snow remain, not only on the deck and in the back yard, but on the front porch and front yard as well. Can’t this useless human just make one of them a little warmer?

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To see more daily photos go to “Daily Images” in the menu and choose “All Photos” or any other category.

All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used in any way without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.


Just a Dusting

cat in back yard with dusting of snow

Just a dusting of snow for Cookie's visit to the back yard.

No big snows here, we just got a dusting in our back yard and Cookie is glad not to have to plow through snow to get to her favorite sunny spot, winter or summer.

Despite our visit to the back yard this morning, Cookie is not well today, but that’s one of the reasons it was so important.

Cookie turned 19 last summer and after her difficult kittenhood and some early health issues and physical limitations I’m a little surprised that she has gotten to be 19 without any problems. She’s never had a lot of strength or flexibility in her hips and hind legs, never been able to run and leap but she’s always happily improvised in every way she can find.

I’ve been watching her slow decline for most of this year, most intensively since mid-summer, struggling with renal failure along with general geriatric issues, sleeping more and more and eating a little less, but for the most part acting well. After all these years and all these cats, I know when it’s an act, and I also knew Cookie would happily act every day until one day she couldn’t pull it off any more, and her end would likely come quickly. Well, who wouldn’t want it that way? Remember determinate little Peaches last October?

On Christmas Eve morning I found her limp and lethargic in front of a heater vent; later that day I saw the abscess developing in her chin again. I increased her occasional fluids from supportive to therapeutic and began antibiotics. The abscess ruptured (yuck!) by Sunday night and though she never lost her appetite she had lost more strength and balance. But she did get back to many of her daily habits as you probably noticed in my daily photos and sketches. Well, I probably featured her a little more often, and have for the past month or so, just to bring loving attention to her, knowing what is coming.

I’ve brought her back to general wellness a few times before, but I  think I may not be able to turn her around this time. She had a long-distance reiki session earlier today with Ingrid King, whose abilities I thoroughly trust and whose comments have given me guidance through the past year, and where Cookie has just had a low spot prior to now this time it’s more serious.

So Cookie had her morning session outdoors, then a late-afternoon session as well, which we’ve been doing for the past month, an important part of her wellness plan. Right now she is curled on my lap, a little more limp than usual, sleeping and purring. But I know that tonight and tomorrow will be pivotal—if I can turn this around she will have a few more weeks or even months, but if not, she will continue to decline and we will have at best days. Much of it will depend on Cookie, who survived her early experiences because she has a strong will to live, and that has never faded. In either case, I feel I’ll know by tomorrow morning. I’ve already called to make my “arrangements” just in case.

And after all these losses, 13 so far, I’d be a fool to not begin preparing myself for this final walk together and life without Cookie. Little Kelly will be lost.

Just last week I walked into my house and was greeted by all five black cats and as much as I love their rambunctious greeting I also thought that someday, perhaps soon, this greeting will be the way it is, just five black cats, no tortie girls.

But not just for the sake of our 19 years together, Cookie has been my guardian kitty, my best friend, always sharing my ups and my downs, sometimes to her detriment, and my life will be less without her in it.

And we thank you in advance for the love and strength you wonderful people who love animals and their people will automatically send our way. Depending on what happens, I may be absent for a while, and please understand if I don’t respond to comments right away.

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To see more daily photos go to “Daily Images” in the menu and choose “All Photos” or any other category.

All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used in any way without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.