Rest in Peace ~ 29 June 2014
You can see how she got her name -- look at those big fluffy mitts!
In the same vein, Ben & Sam used to refer to our cat
Josef's front paws as his "muffins"
and his strong back paws as "jack rabbits"!
My cousin Dodie writes: "Mittens was a great cat and has been a member of the Foothills Barton Family for about 7 years. She was an awesome hunter (run gophers, run!) and a fun, playful kitty. We loved her very, very much and miss her dearly. She had a different sort of pattern and her coloring was a great camouflage for our area!"
For the past few years whenever friends or relatives of mine have lost a dear pet, I have shared with them my favorite lines from a wonderful book-- My Cat Spit McGee by Willie Morris -- that I happened to read not long after my 19 - year - old cat Josef died, back in 2007. You may remember the Kevin Bacon movie a few years back: My Dog Skip, based on the book with the same title? Well, Spit McGee is the sequel.
Before beginning the story of Spit McGee, Morris refers briefly to the loss of Skip and a later dog Pete. He says: "I wish Skip and Pete had known each other. Someday if I make it to heaven I plan to go looking first for my mother and father, and my grandmother and grandfather, and Skip and Pete. I speculate now: How would my cat, Spit McGee, have gotten along with Skip and Pete? And in the very elemental asking I believe I know: they would have been an honorable triumvirate" (10).
Morris also includes this passage, which he quotes from "The Once Again Prince," a story in Separate Lifetimes by Irving Townsend: "We who choose to surround ourselves with lives even more temporary than our own live within a fragile circle, easily and often breached. Unable to accept its awful gaps, we still would live no other way. We cherish memory as the only certain immortality, never fully understanding the necessary plan" (see Spit McGee, 140 - 41).
I have typed, photo - copied, mailed, emailed, and posted these passages any number of times before today. But this morning, when I read about darling Mittens, it occurred to me that I should organize them into a blog post in her memory, and in honor of my cousin Dodie and her daughters Miranda and Clarissa who are grieving the loss of their special little friend.
I'm also reminded of the following poem, which came into my life around the time that we had to say farewell to Josef's brother Marcus. I am intrigued by Borges' idea of affection (and surely grief as well) being the size of the thing it's felt for. I know there can be tragedies more vast and many times worse, yet so often our grief is precisely the size of a dearly loved, recently departed, and much missed pet -- the size of Mittens, Marcus or Josef. I think the sentiments of this poem are appropriate to any number of situations, and I have a feeling that you will like it as much as I do and find a place for it, just the right size, in your heart:
The Disappointments of Childhood
"Perhaps a bird was singing and for it I felt
a tiny affection, the same size as a bird" ~Borges
Imagine now, an affection the same size
as the thing it's felt for: for the seed,
seed-like emoluments of liking and,
for the rain, droplets of tenderness
clustered in puddles at your feet.
And now remember how, as a child,
someone is telling you they love you.
"How much does daddy love you?" they
ask and you, childlike, spread
your arms as wide as a child can.
Little do you know it then, but the rest
of your life will be spent measuring
the distance between "that much"
and what love, in fact, is capable of --
The narrow width of a man or a woman,
their terrible thinness,
their small bones
growing constantly inward
from your spreading arms.
by Michael Blumenthal
on the size of grief
by Stephen Colbert:
“The interesting thing about grief, I think, is that it is its own size. It is not the size of you. It is its own size. And grief comes to you. You know what I mean? I've always liked that phrase ‘He was visited by grief,’ because that’s really what it is. Grief is its own thing. It’s not like it’s in me and I’m going to deal with it. It’s a thing, and you have to be OK with its presence. If you try to ignore it, it will be like a wolf at your door.”
recommended by my sister Peg:
Dear Old Josef, in his Retirement Years
“What sort of philosophers are we,
who know absolutely nothing
of the origin and destiny of cats?”
~ Henry David Thoreau ~
PS ~ October 2014
Precious Little Beaumont
an artistic tribute from my friend Jan Donley