ANOTHER REASON WHY I celebrate Peaches and her painting, “Peaches and Peonies” during the month of May. The original version of this article, written in 2011 as I was putting the finishing touches on my studio and ready to hang”Peaches and Peonies” where it is today, won a Certificate of Excellence in the 2012 Cat Writers Association annual Communications Contest.
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When I was growing up, we called Memorial Day “Decoration Day” and planted flowers on my grandparents’ graves. Being all immigrants there was no extended family to memorialize, and my parents’ generation, “The Greatest Generation”, were still around but had no interest in memorializing their service in that war, enjoying the holiday for remembering their own parents and then having picnics and enjoying all the elements of freedom they had fought to preserve. Now that my parents and nearly all their generation are gone I have many more people to remember as well as others and proudly hang my father’s veteran’s flag outside and enjoy a quiet day of reflection, that rare enough in itself.
In 2011 at this time I was working on a huge project—converting my spare bedroom/work room/junk room into the bright, organized and busy studio space you see today in photos. You’ve also read the other history and purpose of this room, as the “spare cat room”, and as I removed all the goods stored there, some of which had been there since the day I moved in and welcomed Sophie as my first spare cat, through all the years of rescues and art projects and starting my business and working at home, plus my mother had died that January and I’d started storing papers from her house in there years before and found early art projects of mine and cards I’d made for her, all those things wound together in that one little space, I held them all in my heart and renewed the space for a new set of memories.
And when all was in place and only the art remained to hang on the walls, the photo at the top gave me pause as I was in the final stages of reorganization; in the moment I saw Mimi by Peaches’ portrait I knew there was a bond being lovingly observed and realized I was not the only one in the midst of memorializing.
“Peaches and Peonies” was too big to hang in my house and had been off hanging in many other places, lastly in my shop at Carnegie Antiques. I happily decided that Peaches should come home to be a part of this dedication to my career as an artist, so I could study the painting and continue to draw inspiration from it, and so that Peaches could watch over me as I work.
I leaned the painting in a safe spot against the wall, then left for a while.
When I came back, there was Mimi, relaxing in a beam of sunlight, in front of Peaches’ portrait. I wondered briefly if Mimi only found this quiet sunny spot to have a bath and a nap—in a room where she rarely went at the time unless she followed me—and through a habit she rarely observed in sleeping on the floor. And she didn’t get up and greet me as is her habit, but only looked at me and stayed in her spot. It was just very much unlike Mimi.
Even though I know the portrait is only an inanimate object, that it’s questionable if Mimi can clearly see or would recognize the scene in a painting, and all cats, including Mimi, are drawn to little beams of sunlight for relaxation, I knew there was no coincidence. I had also not realized until then the depth of the bond between Mimi and Peaches.
She stayed for quite some time, until the sunlight faded, and I would not interrupt the moment, enjoying also a moment of my own. Peaches, as well as every other cat who has come to me in any way since I’ve lived in this house, began their life with me in that room, some ended their lives in that room too, and even with the total transformation the room will always carry memories for me. I would bet their memories, full of smells and tastes and other sensory experiences my senses aren’t deep enough to capture, are even richer than mine.
It’s all a process of the acceptance of loss, which is a part of the acceptance of change, the constant change that is a part of life. I may feel a twinge of sadness, or feel tears well at a memory, but this is the process we all mention when someone loses someone they love, that time heals all wounds, that the pain you feel is replaced by the love you will always carry.
Gold has always been the most prized metal to humans, and collecting it secured the wealth of individuals. Through the centuries practitioners of alchemy felt there was a way to magically turn inferior everyday things into highly valuable substances, such as turning tin into gold, finding the “philosopher’s stone” which would impart all the answers to human questions to mankind, and the development of an “elixir of life” which would make us immortal. No one has yet found the secret but no doubt someone, somewhere is working on it right now.
This encounter with Mimi, and others like it, is a bit of alchemy for me, and helps to heal over a little bit more as the philosopher’s stone of the alchemist turns the base metal of pain to the gold of loving memory, which is truly the elixir of everlasting life.
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Winner of a 2012 Certificate of Excellence by the Cat Writers’ Association.
Read more stories in the category of Essays.
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