Something about the icy rain that is falling, the snow I’ll soon shovel into drifts, the cold, January, that I think of the winter days I watched Mimi, such a tiny black cat, carefully, painfully, choosing her way down the sidewalk across the street. I sit in the same chair today looking at the same sidewalk out the same window at seemingly the same snow and ice and remember how I worried about her with cars and people I didn’t trust around the neighborhood, how I thought of just going and getting her and bringing her inside, how my heart ached with fear and sadness, and regret, when time when by that I didn’t see her. But there were other cats at the house where she lived and of necessity I had to take it slowly to keep the trust.
We both watch out the window now, she and I, and sometimes we have a look at each other, then soon she is tucked on my lap, purring, a neat package in black fur, and those days were seven years ago and more, but they are over. She did not expect to stay, and while she never turned away affection, nearly two years passed before she realized this was her home. Forever. Now she bosses me around. It’s very sweet and often funny, but we never take it for granted. She was in my heart years before she came into my home, and she has a place there forever. From the way she takes care of me, is always near me, looks at me, I see the feeling is mutual.
That experience with Mimi has inspired a lot of writing about the importance of spay and neuter, about kittens, about FIP because of her daughter Lucy, and to date two poems, one of which won a Certificate of Excellence and a Muse Medallion in the Cat Writers’ Association annual contest. No doubt there will be more.
It’s January, the temperatures are dropping and the wind is beginning to whip the trees around, and there’s a snowstorm rolling in, just the right time, so I share these now.
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A Rescue Remembered
I love winter and snow, bare trees and angled sunlight. Visiting my little back yard daily in all weather reminds me of the cycles, and when winter slush starts to seem old or the long nights start to seem longer instead of shorter I know that I only need to get up each day and remember this and it will change on its own.
But today it’s a little different—I’m watching my little world descend into colder cold than usual for my area, the gray light, the stillness as the earth protectively settles in for a short hibernation. I wish for all living things to be safe and warm in this time, and thank all of those who care for stray and feral cats living outdoors as well as those providing for wildlife.
Most of my cats, Mimi especially, join me at the big north window otherwise known as “Cat TV” to fill the bird feeders which provide our entertainment. The window is nearly a story above the ground, and a twiggy lilac stands just outside; below the window is a rough wooden shelf where years ago I had set window boxes for shade-loving summer flowers until there was too much shade even for impatiens. All the kitties lean out the window and breathe in the air, be it warm and mild or frigid and crystalline, and occasionally one or another will wander out onto shelf.
I wrote this poem two years ago when Mimi, suddenly bored with this indoor cat life, stepped out onto the windowsill headed for the shelf covered with ice, her tiny paws sinking into a light snow-cover, her fur ruffled by a stiff cold wind. She stopped, lifted one paw, turned around to look at me.
A Rescue Remembered
I open a window to fill a bird feeder,
little Mimi steps out onto the snow-covered windowsill,
squints at the cold,
lifts one tiny paw and curls it to her chest,
looks up at me;
yes, Mimi, I remember seeing you
outside on frigid, snowy mornings like this,
mincing gingerly down a frozen sidewalk,
all that is now but a story for your children.
poem “A Rescue Remembered” © 2011 B.E. Kazmarski
She wasn’t making a break for it, but remembering those days and enjoying the sweetness of her home.
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A late snow
And I with early kittens in my belly
Hungry, thirsty, cold,
Raced across this yard in the dusk,
Chased that startled rabbit
Nearly as big as myself,
Filled a need beyond my control;
Later, chipmunks scurrying
In leaves and mud
For my kittens under the porch,
Sometimes in the house
Again and again
Now, years later, I crouch here in the dusk,
I see the innocent rabbit silhouetted against the snow
And feel my body start,
Prepare, coil, I am ready,
But I remember there is no need,
Now I own this porch
And this yard
And the human standing behind me
Enjoying this deep dusk in late winter
My belly full,
But not with kittens,
I watch the rabbit nibble on a low branch
And let myself coil in response one more time,
I am a cat,
Then turn and look up at my person
And let the rabbit go,
My need has been filled.
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I don’t know if Mimi would write a poem about it but these are my collected thoughts from a shared moment. We did this the other night, stepped out on the deck in the blue dusk, our favorite time of day, so full of sensory experience for both of us. After the warmth of a few days a storm had come through and rain and ice and sleet and snow fell and the winds blew and once again all was frozen over, but in its way the smooth perfection of fresh snow and ice, twigs and braches trimmed with a fringe of white was a wonderland.
We stepped out the back door, me with my camera, Mimi with her nose, sniffing along all the things stored on the deck for winter, and we stopped at the top of the icy steps, looking at the expanse of blue-white, Mimi in a resting crouch. Looking at her silhouette it’s times like this that I realize once again how tiny she is.
Then the slight movement of the unsuspecting rabbit in the corner of the yard as it nibbled on the lower branches of the forsythia made succulent with swollen green buds by the warm spell we’d had—my, those branches must have tasted good after a long icy winter! If not for that, the rabbit would probably have been totally aware of us and kept still as a rock out in the dusk.
I saw Mimi crouch down for a leap, then stop and relax, watch the rabbit intently, crouch again, then relax, sit up, and turn around to look at me. It was one of those moments when I feel she fully realizes her rescue and her exalted position in this house, and how I feel about her.
Does Mimi remember those days? Does she think those sorts of things? Does she carry sensory memories of that time in her life? I’m not sure if she does, but I do remember seeing her hunting in my yard in all seasons. I especially remember one March evening in 2006 when I saw her stalking through my snow-covered garden and leap out to race across the yard. The only thing that would have been alive out there at that time of day at that time of year was one of the rabbits who inhabit my yard. I didn’t manage to see how that turned out, but I did find evidence later.
Her name was still Maia and she was probably just turning three years old. The litter she was carrying would have been Lucy, Angus, Donal and Charlotte, born just about April 1, 2006. They would come to me in May that year. She along with Giuseppe, Sunshine, Bean and Mewsette would come to me the following summer, in 2007.
Mimi did not accept her position as rescued happy house cat quickly, but grew into it over a period of years, with tutoring from Namir and Peaches and Kelly, and especially Cookie. It was apparently difficult to believe. Now she knows. But I don’t think she ever forgets.
Poem ©2014 Bernadette E. Kazmarski
Or should I actually give Mimi credit?
NOTE: I debated about illustrating this because the photos are not good, but though the photos may not appear clear, they carry a moment I will always remember. Eventually I’m sure I will create an illustration because one is just bursting to come out!
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This poem won both a Certificate of Excellence and a Muse Medallion in the Cat Writers’ Association annual Communications Contest.
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Read a few rescue stories too.
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