The Gift of a Morning

tortoiseshell cat in greens

Cookie in my garden.

My sincerest wish as I remember Cookie is that all of you who read what I write, each of you who has a relationship with one or more animals, that your relationship is as deep, complex, satisfying and, if your species or breed allows it, as long-lasting as was Cookie’s and mine. I could never feel that I have any regrets, that Cookie and I “missed” anything but we lived as full a life as a human and cat could do. It depends on many things often beyond our control, but I wish those things for everyone who loves an animal, now and always.

Cookie gave me many gifts in all the years she was with me, including the visual discoveries from this particular morning in September 2011 which led to a poem and insights beyond what I wrote that morning, and remembering that morning and other mornings I have come to the end of a stage. The poem text and an audio version of the poem with a slideshow are at the end of this post.

tortie cat in front of painting

Cookie, my art assistant at age 19.

The last weeks have been working through a series of “never agains” as I remember and let go of the unique things Cookie did—stepping into a warmed pasta bowl while my back was turned; quietly climbing her way into any spot in the house despite her disabilities; loving every cat who was in the house when she came here and all the ones who came after; greeting everyone at the door with sincerity and making them feel welcome.

tortie cat with painting

Cookie my art assistant, at age one!

I have also been resuming everyday activities I had been intentionally avoiding somewhat or completely, those that Cookie and I enjoyed together and I now do alone or without her—sitting in the kitchen after dinner to crochet or read with all the cats around, where you see so many photos of her interacting with my crochet materials; visiting the deck and back yard each morning regardless of weather to feed the birds, drink coffee and take photos; and gardening, from starting the seeds in the basement to getting dirty out in the soil.

Much to the joy of the household, I’ve begun to take a break after dinner again so everyone can walk on me and test my crochet projects. Until yesterday I totally avoided my deck except for the first few days in February when Mimi joined me, only filling the feeder outside my office window, and yesterday I spent my first full afternoon in the yard without a cat in many years.

tortie cat on lap with crochet

A relaxed hour on the deck.

And this morning I sat outside on my swing with coffee and crochet, a Sunday morning ritual whenever the weather was nice enough (nice to me and Cookie was anything above 40 degrees and no heavy precipitation) as I remembered all the years she had gone off to explore the yard then come back to climb up on my lap and have a nap, just Cookie and me doing things we enjoyed and each other, best friends.

We knew

I’ve been sharing daily photos and stories from previous years because so many more readers have found The Creative Cat in the past few months. We see a lot of Cookie from last year, including a number of photo essays of her adventures outdoors. I photographed her excessively all through the years, but the extra postings were intentional. I knew what was coming. I knew because Cookie knew, and let me know.

tortie cat on coat

You're Not Going Anywhere For A While

From January 2011, around the time my mother died when Cookie grew weak and lethargic for no apparent reason, we presumed it was because she, as usual, was carrying part of my stress. She recovered, but I saw in her expression a realization. She kept slipping back every month or so, losing a little ground in between and even having a few close calls with her kidneys, and we decided we’d treat every symptom we could and enjoy the rest of our time together.

She stole her last month, January 2012, right out of the jaws of death as after Christmas 2011 she was again lethargic and anorexic, and worst of all suddenly lost use of her hind legs, her body temperature kept dropping and her heart rate increased; her blood tests were frightening. That truly was to be the time but she fought it off, a little adjustment in medications helped but mostly it was her working very hard for just a little more time. We saw her in January looking and acting like Cookie, but I saw she had little control of her hind legs, her body temperature remained depressed, she had increasing difficulty breathing as her heart grew more enlarged and her heart rate slowly increased.

cat looking into flower pot

Cookie checks the "cookie jar", an old canister I used for outdoor plants this year.

Cookie needed a little help getting started each day, but once she was going she was Cookie again, until that last day. The previous afternoon, warm for February 1, we went outside, a treat since that was usually reserved for mornings only during the week, perhaps we knew. She had no interest in exploring but got herself onto my lap as soon as I sat down, curled up and purred. We went in with the memory of that warm sunny afternoon. The next morning I had to carry her outside for the first time in her life, and as I sat with her on my lap she did not revive as usual, ready to explore even just a little, just remained curled on my lap purring.

sparrow in forsythia

The song sparrow in the forsythia (it's hard to find).

Though it was still winter the birds were singing their spring songs, our friends the chickadees and cardinals and wrens who we’d fed and watched all winter. During a brief silence a song sparrow landed in the forsythia just a few feet away from us and sang its familiar three-note-then-warble melody several times, and I knew it was singing to us, and I knew what it meant. It was February 2, that magical cross-quarter day when winter finally begins to turn into spring, a time of transition where death falls away and new life begins. They were singing her home.

tortoiseshell cat in purple

Holding Cookie that last morning.

I am so grateful that I could just drop everything that day and spend her last hours with her, monitoring her condition and managing her discomfort with the advice and materials given to me by my veterinarian, sitting with her on my lap in the studio, our favorite room, ready to call my veterinarian or run her to the emergency clinic at a moment’s notice if the need arose. In the course of that last month there were many things I wanted to do for her but simply could not afford and tried not to be regretful in those last hours, thinking they would have made any difference or bought any more time; they were superfluous in her condition, and likely would only have made me feel better, not Cookie. What she wanted was me, and that I could give to her.

At 3:00 the next morning, February 3, lying next to me on the floor with all the other cats around, she opened her eyes and found my face, put her paw on my hand and held my gaze for several seconds, comforting me, thanking me and saying goodbye; she stopped breathing about an hour later.

Always with us

Loss is never made easier or less painful by any amount of experience or knowledge, but the long, slow goodbye of that last year was sweeter than words can describe. Relationships like Cookie’s and mine are rare but we who have experienced them know they never end, not even with death. Cookie has visited me in spirit, but she is always with me as well, just as she was for 19 happy years.

photo of cat and flowered dress

Cookie and I have lunch al fresco.

On the day, at the moment, when I regretfully and emotionally decided to close my shop at Carnegie Antiques where she was my “shop cat”, the back door of the room lightly blew open and I felt Cookie enter, could see her hobbled little gait as she walked a circle around my feet, one of her lifetime habits, and her tilted face looking up at me half orange and half black, her green eyes with gold flecks; she was with me as I walked all around the building remembering all the places I’d seen and photographed her in the times she’d been there with me. As always, she appeared at just the right moment with her comforting and practical manner. I should only hope to meet a human with half as much wisdom and willing compassion as that little tortie cat.

We haven’t seen the last of Cookie. She will still show up in new postings of prior daily photos, and I’ve had a few paintings of or including her that I’ve been planning for a while.

And the passing of an animal companion like Cookie has always meant for me the coming of a time of transition and personal growth. Cookie led me to the door and opened it, it’s up to me to walk through and do something when I get there.

Here is the poem, and you can also watch it with the embedded video, below, or view it on YouTube.

The Gift of a Morning

I thought Cookie
was being stubborn, contrary,
when she wandered away
into the overgrown garden
sauntering at her own pace beneath the stems
of fallen burdock and grasses
and through the forest
of tall goldenrod and burdock
where I couldn’t follow.

She sat calmly among grasses and blooming beggar’s ticks
and when I arrived at her side, irritated,
skirt prickly with stickseed and burdock pods.
I reached to pick her up, bad girl,
and turned to see what she studied,
and saw my garden awash with sun
majestic tufts of goldenrod backlit by beams of light
humming with hungry bees finding
the sweetest autumn nectar for their final meal,
white poofs of sow thistle holy in their radiance,
and the first calico asters, my favorite
dappled with passing drops of sun
against the backdrop of dark silhouetted trees;
so much to love in a sweet autumn morning
so much I would have missed.

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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.


Cookie Says, “Thank You!”

tortoiseshell cat at window

Someone has to keep an eye on things out there.

“All your good thoughts made their way to me and I feel much better. I’m back to keeping an eye on the neighborhood.”

It has to be that, I only changed a few things for her and today she is stronger and more interactive, still a little unsteady but definitely a different cat from yesterday. I might fool myself to think it might be a bit of a turnaround, but I just don’t get the feeling Cookie is ready to give in.

She got up on the shelf on her own but climbing up my camera bag and purse to my lap, to the keyboard tray to my desk to the shelf in front of the window. She’s gotten up and down the steps, and up on the kitchen table to get to the cabinet, which she couldn’t do for a few days.

And Kelly is feeling a little better, no longer spending the day in Narnia in the back of the closet, so today I had the pleasure of two tortie cats on my lap again as I worked at my computer.

two tortoiseshell cats on lap

Cookie and Kelly settle on my lap again.

Mewsette takes her responsibility seriously and tries to fit on my lap with the girls; she thinks she is tortie-sized, but she is easily twice tortie-sized. Initially, Mimi was balanced on my knee cap, and Mewsette was trying to settle, four cats on my lap. My lap is really not that big.

black cats and two tortoiseshell cats

Mewsette tries to figure out where she fits.

Persistent Mewsette finds a way to nuzzle and give a few licks to her little big sisters. Here is Cookie from the front and Kelly’s rear, and you can see the white inside of Mewsette’s ear just above Cookie’s ear.

black cat washing two tortie cats

Mewsette takes care of her little tortoiseshell big sisters.

I am just a big warm cat bed.

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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.


The Cats in the Hat: From a Year Ago

tortoiseshell cats test crocheted hat

Kelly subjects the crocheted hat to the sleepability test.

Both Kelly and Cookie put one of my hats to the test—before it’s even done!

Every crochet item I make must be tested by at least one kitty, especially Kelly, my Lead Crochet Tester. This means it must be subject to the following activities as appropriate with the shape and size of the item: walked on, kneaded, climbed into, climbed underneath, smelled, tasted, slept on, slept in, carried off or fought over.

Kelly generally tests items for sleepability, and this alone involves most of the items above. She did try to fit herself into it in various ways, but only succeeded in getting all four legs in it and crouching in it. The hat flunked Kelly’s sleeping test, though it was fun to sniff and walk on.

Cookie was actually the first one to step into the hat, but she was distracted by the crochet bag. Not to be outdone by Kelly, when Kelly was done with her testing Cookie got back into the hat. Cookie usually tests for bathability, how comfortable the item is for having a good bath. Again, the hat flunked Cookie’s bathing test.

Perhaps this means I get the hat all to myself? Only if I hide it or hang it where no one can get into it!

tortoiseshell cat tries to fit into crocheted hat

Cookie subjects the crocheted hat to her bathability test.

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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.


Cookie Has a Snow Cone

tortie cat eating snow

Cookie has a snow cone!

Cookie enjoys a bit of snow from the top of the round pot at the foot of our deck steps. A snow cone!

The temperature finally rose above freezing so Cookie and I went outside in the sun. In her condition, she can’t regulate her body temperature so well and I’m always a little concerned for her little paws, and the rest of her as well.

She’s still a little shaky but she can make it up and down steps, slowly. I’m impressed that her tongue is nice and pink! But we had a nice visit to the yard and it really energized her.

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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.


Tortie Girls Block Print Tee Shirts

The Goddess block-printed t-shirt

Cookie, "The Goddess" block print © B.E. Kazmarski

I’ve had several requests about my tortie girls t-shirts lately, so I thought I’d add the ones I have back to my Etsy site. While I am low on sizes I had put them all aside until I could print more and have all sizes available. But considering I print these in oil-based ink and clean up with turpentine I usually wait until I can have the windows open or I can print outdoors, which is March at the earliest. So for now, they are either very large or very small.

Read about the tees and about creating these prints on Portraits of Animals Marketplace.

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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.


I’m One Tough Cookie

tortoiseshell cat on log

Cookie the Lioness.

Someone’s feeling better!

Cookie the Lioness is on her log in the wilderness and all is right with the world.

It’s just a short step up but considering she could barely walk the other day, this is an accomplishment. Cookie is surprised anyone would expect less. I wish I could have caught the full indignation of her green eyes, but it was so dark outside all day I just couldn’t focus before she looked down.

tortoiseshell cat looking out door

Cookie dreams of her back yard.

But we want to thank everyone for the good wishes since she’s been ill. We visited another veterinarian (my regular vet is out of town for the holiday) and had an exam and blood tests and have some new directions to take with her treatment. She’s responding well already and we haven’t even begun some of them.

The staff remarked how good she looked for 19. “I don’t know what a 19-year-old cat is supposed to look like, but I am not just any 19-year-old cat,” Cookie says. But even I had noticed I don’t see the somewhat milky, bluish dilated pupils and extreme striations in her eyes or the gaunt face I’ve seen on other cats her age. “I am a goddess, you remember,” she responds. Immortal, you mean? Sometimes Cookie just gets full of herself.

And even when we are back inside, dry and warmed up, we sit at the door and dream about being in the back yard.

Being slightly indisposed, Cookie apparently told Mewsette, her understudy, it was time to get to work and start monitoring me, and since yesterday morning Mewsette has been with me non-stop, very comforting and affectionate and purring, and all the black cats have been attentive as well.

But someone slipped up in my supervision and I had another little gall bladder attack yesterday…I was more concerned I might not be able to take care of Cookie! But I also didn’t get the chance to update on Cookie’s progress yesterday and we hope no one was worried.

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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.


The Artists’s Life: A Day in the Studio, With Cats

five cats in studio

The Curious Quartet joins Cookie in getting ready for a day of work.

My Sunday in the studio ran overtime yesterday just because I was in the mood and didn’t want to stop—and had such feline assistance and inspiration I may have gone all night but for the need for feline dinners. Cats in my studio are both an asset and a liability, but especially now that I’ve finally committed my 8′ x 10′ spare bedroom for art activities we can all find a comfortable place in the drama.

tortie cat on table

Cookie chooses the spot where she is sure to get the most attention.

My cats like to join in anything I do even if it’s laundry or cleaning the bathroom—they just enjoy activity, especially when I’m putting on the show. But more than that, being the sensitive creatures they are and reacting to my joys and sorrows, they are just as aware of my state of being and love being near me when I’m at my creative work.

Just looking at my cats has long been an inspiration even before I began drawing them, or anything at all for that matter. Fluid motion, graceful shapes, that particular self-possession which enables me to observe without interacting all feed my aesthetic senses, and add to this the interactions of a household of cats with each other, with the space and with me, and it’s a feast for my senses. For years I’ve begun each day with a photo session and a sketch or two as a warm-up to a day of graphic design, awakening my senses to shapes and colors and composition, this inspired by watching my cats and eventually including activities in the garden. Through the day they continue to be their graceful little selves and so I continue photographing them and enjoying the visual and physical breaks they give me during the day.

Read the rest of this entry »


Kelly Has Plans

tortoiseshell cat sleeping on train case

Kelly falls asleep on her plans.

I know Kelly’s never been thrilled with having to accept four young and active black cats all at the same time, but this really surprised me. I guess she really wore herself out trying to move my mother’s old train case. I asked her what she had in mind but she just purred and rubbed her little face all over my hand. She didn’t seem to have any recollection of how she ended up on the train case on the steps. Hmmm, perhaps I’m reading too much into this and she just found a nice new place to nap.

Kelly has always been one who sleeps in a tight ball, but as she’s grown older she’s added a deeper level of sleep to her regimen and I often see her sleeping draped off of something, and she’ll even slide off if I don’t catch her in time. Here are a few other images of Kelly precariously balanced or her long legs and tail dangling off something:

Kelly in the  Cat Library

Kitten on the Keyboard

Curl Up With a Good Book

 

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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.


Stacked and Mixed, A Lap Full!

three cats on lap

Kelly shows a little tortitude.

So first Kelly was happily cuddled on my lap after a good thorough bath. Then Mimi finished observing the neighborhood from the shelf at the front window and stepped down from the desk onto my knee, settling down, overlapping Kelly. Kelly was okay with this.

Then Cookie hopped up on my lap and discovered she had no place to go! She ended up walking on both Kelly and Mimi…well, she is the queen of the household but there was a little grumbling. Then she just grew tired of trying to figure it out and decided to simply settle down on both of them. At that point Kelly showed about as much tortitude as she ever does, sitting up indignantly and growling for about four seconds, glaring at Cookie’s tail. I am just a prop in the great drama of laptime.

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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.


Stacked Tortie Girls

two tortoiseshell cats on lap

Cookie and Kelly stacked again

It seems Cookie is the perpetrator of the stackable torties in this house; the last photo of the two of them on my lap had Cookie on top, and the two of them in approximately the same position. All I do is change my clothes—from summery sun dress to cool-weather long-sleeve top and denim skirt. In this case, however, Cookie has incapacitated my right hand. Good thing I use the mouse with my left hand.

two tortoiseshell cats on lap

Comfy girls.

Though it looks like Kelly is losing out here by sliding farther down my lap. She realized this and readjusted, which in Kelly’s rule book necessitates a full bath. She was sleepy, however, and tortie fur is tortie fur—she and Cookie ended up vigorously bathing each other for about a minute, then drifting back to sleep.

two tortoiseshell cats bathing

Bathing each other.

The only thing I got done was to take a lot of shaky photos. My arms aren’t long enough for these.

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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.