Gift giving isn’t much a part of our American culture. I’m not really sure why, but generally speaking we don’t give gifts unless it is reciprocal – For instance, at Christmastime, or for a specific reason, such as birthdays. But Anna surprised me the other night by gifting me little Ember, one of her precious cats! It has been probably close to 10 years since I had my own pet, and this cat just tickles me. Part of Anna’s rationale was that the two boy cats, the more gregarious of the fleet, get a lot of attention while little Ember, who is shy and rather flighty, doesn’t get nearly enough. She is afraid of the dogs, so she won’t volunteer to come into our house unless the coast is completely clear, and her mom has disowned her. Ember’s two best friends are her brother and Ginger, the yellow stray we’ve semi-adopted. Anna figured rightly that I would love on little Ember. The mark of a good friend (or sister) is knowing how to give good gifts, and this was possibly the sweetest gift she could have given me. I’ve always had a soft spot for this particular kitten – She was the smallest of the litter of two, and her big brother would often push her off the teat and leave her meowing pitifully. She was very funny looking as a baby, with strange coloring and huge bat-like ears and an oddly-proportioned face, but she has turned into quite the distinctive little tortoiseshell cat. Ironically, she is also the kitten I named!
Winter is a time of brief, fleeting moments of dazzling beauty, of sights and sounds and silences that come and go with as little permanence as a snowflake, but with the brilliance of a diamond. That overwhelming moment is gone in an instant, leaving only the impression on one’s mind. The enchantment of the first snowfall melts in a few hours. The power of a blizzard wears itself out in a day. The snow cover of two months melts in two days. The leaden, snow-laden skies give way to cloudless blue, and winter breezes turn warm and then cold again. How changeable the season is!
Mom and I were able to thoroughly enjoy the delights of the changeable season today – It was strange to be hiking in short sleeves, with 70-degree temperatures and warm, sweet breezes, while trudging through 10-inch drifts and getting snow in our boots! Trixie, ever the snow puppy, pranced and raced and disappeared, entirely in her element. I would call her, only to look around and find her sprawled in a patch of snow, eating it and rolling in it and burying her face in it. A dog’s simple pleasures.
Part of the delight of winter is the joy of seeing things in ways we aren’t accustomed to in the rest of the year, particularly in the summer and spring. Those months are full to bursting with new life, and my attention is so drawn from color to color, from the new blossom like stained glass in the sunlight to the bluebirds on the wire overhead to the new fawns with their unmistakable freckles to the brilliant blue of sky and green of grass. But in the winter, you have to look with different eyes. Then you can see the watercolor painting in the snowfall, the etched crystal work in the frosty window or frozen creek, the tapestry of spun gold in the grasses, the white jewels in the snowdrift.
We were nearing home, walking through an ancient creekbed, when we caught sight of an old bucket, rusted through and almost flattened, and nearby were a bunch of tin cans and some broken glass. I was thrilled. We had found a junk pile from the homesteading or mining days, of which our place saw a good deal! The whole property is pocketed with old mining pits, remnants of bygone days. We dug around a little in the grass, and found four intact glass jars and bottles, and a white enamel pot, which unfortunately is frozen stiff in the dirt. It looks to be in one piece. As soon as it warms up in the spring and the ground thaws out, I want to dig around and see what else was discarded! Who knows how many times we’ve walked past this junk pile in the summer and never saw it for the tall grass! Simple joys on a glorious winter day.
I came inside this afternoon and found Luna, the big grey boy cat, curled up in the sunlight, living the carefree, delightful life of a very happy cat. He is almost ready to be booted back outside after his ordeal as an invalid, which I think he has enjoyed quite a bit, actually. Someone (who will remain anonymous) slammed his tail in the door and degloved two inches of it or so. After receiving this recommendation from a few people, we did minor surgery at home to remove the exposed bone (some of which fell off on its own before we got to it), eventually got him a cone since he kept re-opening the wound, and kept it clean and covered. Thanks to him chewing it back open once or twice before we got him the cone, it took two whole months for the thing to heal, but it is now completely closed up and the hair is all growing back. He is now pretty much as good as new. Dumb cat.
What bliss. These cats are so manipulative.
“Whiskers on kittens” really are some of my favorite things. And finally Ember’s and Coal’s whiskers are growing back after their over-zealous mama chewed them off. It wasn’t as noticeable on Ember, but coal-black Coal had beautiful, long, white whiskers and when they were gone, chewed down to stubs, it was quite noticeable.
Watching baby creatures grow up is no end to delightful. The clever little wretches have figured out how to manipulate certain people (Anna and myself) into giving them the attention they want when they want it, by climbing trees very capably, then meowing like there’s no tomorrow as soon as they “want down.” Give me a break.Coal in particular has also learned the joys of baiting the dogs. The girls and I were singing on the Miner’s Cabin porch yesterday, and Kashka and Coal joined us. So did Jess’s dog, Baby. Coal came and sat on the wood box with me, but when Baby came up to say hello, he growled and puffed himself up and arched his back and gave an open-mouthed hiss. Quite the little tiger. No one needs to teach a cat how to (pretend to) hate dogs. They just do. And they know how to milk the drama for all its worth. If the dog isn’t close enough for them to reasonably react, they’ll get close enough to the dog to reasonably react, and then react for all they’re worth. No one teaches a cat to do that. They just know.
It makes me think of little human babies – Some people try to claim that all human beings are basically good. Anyone who says that must never have worked with children. I don’t know how anyone can look at a plump, rosy-cheeked, perfectly-taken-care-of baby screaming in outright anger and not be convinced that there’s a sinful little soul inside that innocent baby exterior! No one has to teach a baby to be a sinner. We just are.Anyways, I’m glad Coal’s whiskers grew back. He looked pretty silly without them.