I want to thank you, Gentle Reader, for your patience during my brief blogging break over the past couple of weeks. I’ll explain why I took it shortly, but first I want to draw your attention to a couple of items of interest. As it happens, all three give me the direct or indirect opportunity to write about the most spirit animal of all internet spirit animals, the cat.
This being Giving Tuesday, I want to once again draw your attention to the giving campaign by the Friends of Little Portion Hermitage. Due to the way that the GoFundMe page is set up, we can’t reflect the total of all the donations we’ve received since we started this final push to raise the funds necessary to establish a hermitage. This is because some donors prefer to send a check or use PayPal, rather than use GoFundMe.
What I’m very pleased to tell you here however, since we can’t reflect this on the GoFundMe site, is that we’re roughly halfway to our goal of $37,000 thanks to your outstanding generosity. I want to thank you on behalf of the Friends, as well as our Franciscan hermit friend Brother Rex – and not forgetting his feline friend Clare, named after St. Francis of Assisi’s dear (human) friend St. Clare – as we near the point of finally being able to find the hermit a home. Even if you’re not in a position to help financially, please consider sharing this link with others who may be able to help us get to the end of this campaign: just scroll down to the bottom of the page to see all of the ways that you can give. Whether through GoFundMe or one of the other donation methods, every cent counts, and donations are tax-deductible.
Thank you again for your support!
For those of you who missed it last week, my most recent piece for The Federalist is now available for your perusal. The Metropolitan Museum of Art recently opened a retrospective on the work of Félix Vallotton (1865-1925), an artist who isn’t exactly a household name in the U.S., but who was a highly creative, interesting figure at a time of immense change in the history of Western Art. Thanks to the Met show, as well as a concurrent show at The Phillips Collection here on DC on “Les Nabis”, the circle of young Parisian artists of which Vallotton was a member, his work is now in a position to become much better known to a wider American audience.
Among the many works in the Met show are a number of Vallotton’s woodcut prints, a medium which he almost single-handedly helped revive in Europe long after it had fallen into disuse. The images are usually those of social commentary or satire, and while some are quite serious in tone, many have an appealing touch of humor or whimsy. Among the latter are a series of six he printed between 1896-1897 on musicians and their instruments, and in “The Flute” we can see that the flautist is trying to practice while the cat is trying to get some attention. The same very well-observed cat appears in other Vallotton woodcuts as well, and it was amusing to see it popping up here and there in the exhibition. If you get the chance to see either show, you won’t be disappointed in the variety of works available for your consideration.
I took a break from blogging because, as those of you who follow me on social media know, two weeks ago today I made the very difficult decision to put down Lili (pronounced “Lee Lee”), the cat whom I was privileged to share my home with for the past nine years. She arrived as a tiny kitten that could sit quite comfortably on top of your head and snuggle herself in, a bit like in the classic Looney Tunes cartoon, “Feed the Kitty” (1952) by the great animator Chuck Jones (1912-2002). Even when she became an adult and could no longer fit on even my enormous head with its perpetually tangled mop, she would still perch on the back of the sofa and proceed to lick all the product out of my hair.
Lili was a small cat, with an oversized personality as big as her incredibly thick, luxurious black-and-white fur coat, and a parade tail the size of a feather duster, which she used to wave proudly as she sauntered about. She very vocally expressed her opinion about everything, did not suffer fools, and loved hunting. She also, which in a lifetime of pet cats I’d never seen before, had certain dog-like tendencies, including growling (not hissing) at the mailman, or wanting to play fetch with fallen leaves in the back garden during the autumn.
She could be quite the drama kitty, as well. I’m told by those who looked after her when I would leave for a weekend or for a long vacation, that she’d barely eat anything while I was gone. Yet almost inevitably, when I’d return she’d greet me by pooping on the floor to express her immense displeasure at my having left her in the first place.
Sometimes I’d come home from work, to find her plushness sprawled provocatively across something she knew very well that she wasn’t supposed to be sitting on, but she would just give me a look as if to say, “Don’t bother me when I’m looking magnificent.” I’d steer clear until, inevitably, she wanted to be held over my shoulder like a baby, and endlessly petted and talked to. She often slept with me on the opposite pillow, but even if she didn’t, she’d show up very early in the morning and bat my nose with her paw, just to wake me at the hour when she thought I ought to get up.
Not surprisingly, I eventually realized that I was living with the feline version of Joan Collins (minus the poop of course), and would refer to her as such when she was being particularly grand. She appeared to appreciate and respond to that, diva that she was. Thus, we eventually came to an understanding that I belonged to her, rather than the other way round.
Being someone who uses tools such as reason and precedent to make my way in the world, her loss affected me more than I had anticipated. She suddenly became very ill with what turned out to be total renal failure due to kidney cancer, and there was nothing that could be done to save her. The very kind veterinarian assured me that I had done nothing wrong, and the decision I had to make was merely the quicker and ultimately less painless of the two options. I know some people in this situation prefer to let their pets die naturally, but in this case there was no reason to prolong the inevitable.
The aftermath was more difficult to process, in part because I’m single and have no children. No doubt those of you who come home to a spouse and/or a child care for your pets very much as well, of course, but your pets aren’t the only thing you come home to. When you’re on your own and feeling sick, or things are going pear-shaped in some area of your life, or you’re just climbing into bed and turning out the light, a pet somehow provides a sense of well-being, in that you have someone else to care for who needs you. It takes you out of yourself to have to constantly bear in mind that you’re their whole world.
Now, I’m not a “pet parent”, nor do I believe in a “rainbow bridge” for dead pets. If I want to become a parent, I’ll go reproduce. And the only rainbow bridge I’m interested in is the one that rains Skittles.
That being said, I’m also not a harsh theological or philosophical realist. On the contrary: I’m smart enough not to presume to put restrictions on what the Man Upstairs can and can’t do for us in the next life, as regards our beloved pets. Nor do I wish to waste any time speculating or debating on the subject, when I have things to do and people who need my help. The takeaway here is that I’ll continue to feel Lili’s loss for a long time, but I’ll always be grateful to have had her in my life.
Thank you for the opportunity to share some thoughts with you, Gentle Reader, and we’ll return to our regular programming this Thursday.