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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A New Cat at Our House

We have a new kitty at our house.  This makes four; it's an agreeable number of cats.  He gets along well with the others and everyone is happy here.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The First Day of Spring 2013

The First Day of Spring 2013

Some days everything goes wrong. 

You get up and discover it snowed, again, and it’s supposed to be spring.  You check on your cats and find that one has been sick, though no one admits to this mess.  You try to feed the ducks with the cracked corn, but cannot.  The path is filled with knee-deep snow, so you throw their food from the kitchen window towards where they sit outside, and a gust of snow-filled wind blows the corn back into the room.

The guy who contracted to plow the driveway while your husband is away hasn’t shown and you’re supposed to take your Mum to her doctor’s appointment for 9 am, so you go outside to shovel.  There is a ridge as high as your wheel wells at the end of the driveway and the street plow keeps filling in what you’ve shovelled.  You shovel and shovel.  You re-enter the house to learn your mother’s appointment has been postponed until tomorrow, because of the weather.

One of the cats (which one remains a mystery) finds some of the cracked corn, eats it and throws it up on the mat…right where you step when you come in the door.  Another cat (who wishes to remain anonymous) knocks a glass off the counter.  It splinters over the floor.

You tidy up the bigger pieces and fetch the vacuum cleaner.  For some reason, it doesn’t work.  You fiddle with the duct tape covered wires until it starts.  You vacuum a little.  The floor needs a cleaning anyway.  The vacuum dies.  No amount of wiggling of wires will encourage it to operate.  You put the vacuum cleaner away and fetch the broom and dustpan to finish.

You phone the plow guy and discover he has forgotten the arrangement.  You are not surprised.  You remind him and he says he’ll be right over after lunch.  “No later than 1:30 pm,” he says.

At 4 pm, you begin to think unkind thoughts about the plow guy.  In the meantime, you’ve called the newspaper a couple times to ask about where your paper is today.  “It is late because of the storm, but it’ll be there by 3,” the recording tells you.  You notice it is after 4.

Then, there it is, wrapped in a blue plastic bag sitting on top of the snow bank at the end of the driveway.  You pull on your tall boots and wade out to retrieve it.  You are halfway there when the street plow thunders by, grabbing your paper and depositing it three houses away, buried under hard-packed snow boulders.

You turn around and slip in your own foot holes.  Trying to steady yourself, you flail like the ducks as they land and fall over into the snow.  You lie there; a turtle on its back.  You flop around and right yourself, return to the house.  The cats greet you with chirps and meows, interested in the snow piles you are now shedding. 

You are wet, chilled and thinking unkind thoughts about the paper delivery person and the street plow driver.  The cats lick snow from your pants and the floor.  They cough a bit, but refrain from throwing up.  Perhaps it’s the look you give them.

You decide it’s time for a hot chocolate with many tiny marshmallows.  Many.  You need them.  Your stepson calls and though he works long hours, he offers to come by on his way home today and snow blow your driveway.  You feel grateful.  Relieved.  Saved.  His kindness touches you.

You sit by the fireplace and drink your hot chocolate. The cats gather round, kneading spaces beside you on the couch, settling to sleep.  You scoop the marshmallows from the bottom of your cup with your finger and lick the sticky sweetness.

Then just before 5 pm, the plow guy comes and makes a quick single cut down the middle of your driveway.  You are surprised.  A bad day can become a good one, if you wait long enough.

You call your stepson and thank him, tell him the driveway is OK.  You try not to think about the vacuum cleaner; a problem for another day.  And you settle into the warm couch with the cats. 
The snow has stopped and the sun shines through the clouds.   You smile as you notice...the clouds look just like marshmallows melting.

Gets Worse Before It Gets Better

Wordless Wednesday


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Company of Cats

The Company of Cats

I love cats, not just a single cat, buts cats.   I can’t imagine my life without cats.  But, not everyone understands this.

When someone comes to our door, the cats all come running, tails straight up, offering greetings, rubs and chirps and meows.   The visitor looks and asks, “How many cats do you have?”  They think, “Are you nuts?”  I think, “Can’t you count?”

I defend my choice to have cats because I love having cats.  And it’s no one’s business but my own, the number of cats living here.  We look after them, feed them nutritious food and take them to the Vet for shots and check-ups.  We brush them daily and trim their claws as needed.  We keep their water and their litter clean.  Yes, the cats create work, as does any pet, but our cats are worth it.  Our kitties are well looked after and in turn look after us.

When I am ill (and I’ve had months of that), they comfort me—lie down beside me or on top of me to rest and purr me well.   It is impossible to nap too much for them.  They are solicitous when I am upset; enquiring in chirpy voices about what is bothering me.   When I am happy and full of energy, they are willing to play until I am tired again.  How can I not love my cats?

When I am writing, they congregate in the room with me, on the bed, on the window ledge, on a bookcase or at my feet.  When I am stuck with a piece, they respond with a chirp or a purr, a questioning look or an encouraging gaze.  They keep me company and don’t disturb my work...well not too much.  There are times when they want to sit on the writing desk and put their paws out to capture my hand for a pat or a rub.  There are times when they know I should take a break and they sit on my paper or jump off the desk with my pen.

I asked a cat-breeder and friend, “How do I know if I’ve turned into a crazy cat lady?”  She chuckled.  “When there are more cats than people in the household.”   It’s too late.  We crossed that line three years ago.

Edward Gorey, a renowned artist and writer, loved cats too.  He contended “between 4 or 5 didn’t seem to make any difference,” though 6 were too many, “disproportionately more, than five.”   We are not at 6, nor even at 5.  Like his cats, ours don’t go outdoors, ever.  But indoor cats don’t lose their wildness, “they retain all their jungly qualities no matter what.”

Isn’t that what makes cats so fascinating?  The unpredictable balance between affection and wildness.  I think it is.  And cats so obviously see the world in a healthy way.  They know how to measure the times for rest and play and serious work.  Cats bring a fresh perspective to everything.

How many cats do we have?  Well, we love the company of cats.  I believe there is always room for one more. 

As long as we stop before six, of course.

NOTE:            To learn more about Edward Gorey, please click here.  The photos are copyright @Carol Steel and are of Oliver and Nicholas, two of our very fine cats.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Spring Dance

In March,
winter and spring
change places.

Spring, the master
composer, squeezes runs
from the dying snow.

The whole street stretches,
shares a faint
but urgent beat.

Feeling the rhythm,
the squills create blues
for the golden horns of daffodils.

And Spring trains the robins
to warble the words,
as she calls out the dance.

This poem is for The Sunday Whirl in which poets are challenged to write a poem using these words: march, change, master, die, street, train, faint, places, stretch, calls, create, words, share.  If you'd like to see what other folks wrote, click here at The Sunday Whirl.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Sharp-Shinned Hawk

Where have our birds gone?

We've suspected a predator must be near.   The American Black Ducks and the Mallards, the Common Redpolls and the Black Cap Chickadees haven't been making their morning appearances to feed.  Even the squirrels and the pheasants have been hiding or skittering quickly over the snow.

Last weekend, a Sharp-Shinned Hawk sat on a maple in our yard for hours.

And something happened...some of the ducks must have flown in close to see if there was cracked corn on the snow for them.  Something happened because Gary says there's a female duck lying dead in the neighbour's yard, a mess of blood and feathers.

And every day since the weekend, we've had a lone Mallard sitting in our yard.  He comes early and stays all day.  Unusual behaviour.  He eats a bit, but mostly he sits and sits, and searches the sky.

Is he waiting for her to return?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Each day is the same.
The black trees awake wearing sweaters of snow.
And all day the snow comes,
steady and slow.
Spring stirs.

Beneath her blankets, she stretches;
her yawns full of warmth.
She is waking.  Her belly gurgles and groans
with the longing

after long sleep.

Each afternoon, the roads emerge
slick and stark beside the snow;

their banks pitted with dirt.
And the black branches shine,
strung with jewels of melt.
Twilight invites the shadows in
and the lights disappear into a sky of snow.
The world is muffled,
silent and still except for the snow sifting,
steady and slow.
And each morning,
the trees dress again
in their sleeves of angora.
Spring grows restless,
as melt-water throbs
through her veins.  Her hunger rises
and she aches to swallow
the snow.
winter whispers,
“Not yet, not yet….”
This is a draft of a poem on which I’m working.  It seems that March days are all the same yet there are subtle changes, bringing the hope of spring.  Words and photos are copyright ©Carol Steel.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

My Cats are Smarter

My Cats are Smarter

My cats are smarter than I am.  They pay attention to what they need.  They don’t do things because they “should.”  They don’t do things because they feel guilty.  They don’t do things because they imagine others expect them to do so.

Cats pay attention to their bodies.  They sleep when they need to sleep.  They hang around with others when they want to be near.  They take time to be alone.  They ask for affection.  They take time to look out the window, to watch the birds, to just be and they are Okay with all of that.  They eat and play and run when the mood strikes.  They make time to groom and to care for themselves.

How is it that a cat is so much wiser than I am?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Monday's Snowfall


Monday's snowfall edged the winter branches in white.  I captured photos so early that despite photo adjustments, most of the pictures remained bluish.  I liked the contrast of snow on dark wood so decided to share them even with the early morning's blue-grey. 

The sun eventually turned the world a truer colour but it also melted away the snow.  For a brief time, all was fresh and soft and lovely.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

On the Right Track

On the Right Track
Writing is hard, harder than usual.
Most of the time, my mind composes lines of poetry and creates fragments of stories no matter what else is happening around me.  I carry a small notepad and a pencil everywhere I go, to capture thoughts, observations, conversations and phrases.  At home, notebooks and pens lie scattered, ready for words.  Most of the time, my mind flows with writing.
But writing is harder than usual because I’ve been ill, had surgery, radiation and an accompanying depression.  These new and nasty experiences are behind me now.  Yet they remain close enough to influence how well my mind works.
This “how well” part isn’t working so well.  I loathe feeling so slow and so stupid, like swimming blind through a river of slush.  My clarity is improving but at the pace of an icicle melting in winter.  I attempt to write each day; the output comes in drips.
To journey through recovery is to wander in a fog of weariness where thoughts and images flicker at a distance, indistinct and muffled.  I reach for them and they retreat.  I can’t bring them to the page.  Some days the fog smothers my way and I am lost.  I can’t write a thing.
I’m told this is normal.  Gosh!  It's not comforting.  I’m finished my treatments, done with the meds and I want to be well.   What my mind wants doesn’t matter; what my body wants does.
I am weary.  I rest.  I sleep.  I am awake and energetic in short bursts, then I am weary again.  Am I improving?  Yes.  Are there longer periods of energy?  Yes.  Will I return to myself?  Yes…eventually.  I am on the right track.
I am grateful for early diagnosis, for medical care, for survival.  I am thankful for moments when mind-fuddle clears, when I can write, when I glimpse feeling at home within myself.
But, I’ll be delighted as a four-year old in new rubber boots on the first puddle-filled day of spring when my mind sheds this fog and this weariness.
Until I can embrace my writing with all of myself, with every bit of myself...until then, I am on the right track...frustration on one side and patience on the other.
Words and photo are copyright © Carol Steel.


icicles grow,
dripping from the eaves
and from the bird feeders.

fragrance fills our home.
So it does,  Irish Stew
and Irish Soda Bread.
Slow dripping
and slow cooking...