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The Healing Garden

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The Garden Chair

From the time I began writing about my experiences in pet loss, relating what I was feeling and thinking about it as I moved through grief, readers have thanked me, often in private, for my honesty, grateful to know another shared their feelings as they moved through grief, or helped them make a decision. 

 

I’ve been cleaning up my upper garden area during these warmer days we’ve had in the past few weeks. Maybe the light is changing, maybe my mood is lifting, but I’ve been recalling some videos I took one August morning that, in the passing months, I find gave me doses of healing from my grief.

The upper garden is the area I had tilled and cleaned up early last spring when Mewsette was rolling on the concrete and doing her pole dance and Mimi was visiting all her wicker treasures in the back yard. Those are everlasting memories, and as with other times through last year I’m not just glad but relieved that I took the time to enjoy them. So often I tell myself I need to get to work, and often I really should, but last year I think I knew intuitively that taking the time was the right choice.

black cat in basket in garden
I thought the basket was for spinach, but apparently I was misinformed.

Mewsette was always so joyful and while I knew Mimi was keeping an eye on her while enjoying her own prowling and scratching and face-rubbing both of them just filled the soil, the air, the plants, the bricks, the picket fence, everything with their peaceful, contented essence. This past autumn too Giuseppe and Mr. Sunshine added to that.

Of course, soon after Mewsette died I had to take apart most of it and put a tent right smack in the middle of it to store the stuff from my basement. That was my only option because I’d found the tent is precarious out in the yard in summer storms, but that area is protected. It felt like a sacrilege, and I was sure this change and dissembling would wash away all memory of those mornings and afternoons.

Tent full of stuff, and more.

I pull chairs from the curb on trash night, mostly old dining chairs, mostly because I can’t see something that still has some life go into a landfill. Sometimes I use them in my home, years ago I refinished and embellished them to sell, many end up being a plant stand out in the yard until they decay back into the earth.

I would always associate that particular garden chair with Mewsette from the previous year when I’d moved it into the garden and she immediately took to it. I began calling it Mewsette’s garden chair and calling Mewsette the Garden Faerie Queen. Last spring I moved it from its place holding up the picket fence in the cold frame garden to its current spot in front of the forsythia, outside the edge of that upper garden, when I began cleaning up and working, and then planting, in that garden in late February.

Mewsette happily followed her garden chair, and aside from a few times Mimi joined her or Mewsette trotted out to the green wicker loveseat, the chair belonged to Mewsette and she often stationed herself on the chair to look over the garden.

black cat on chair in garden
Mewsette settles on her garden chair.

When I set up the tent and began filling it with basement things, Mewsette had only been gone three weeks and all I wanted was for that garden space to stay the same until I was done grieving the fact that she wasn’t twirling around and walking brick walls and woodpiles in it. I knew construction materials, ladders, tools and the like often ended up out in the yard during home renovations, especially in a house as small as mine, especially with roofs, and I knew Mewsette’s garden chair would never make it so I tucked it up against the tent. She also loved the green wicker loveseat and I knew that could handle two cats and me occasionally, but having more people sit on it, toss tools onto it, move it around, it would never survive that. I tilted that over the garden chair and put a tarp over both. They came through the experience completely preserved.

We lost Jelly Bean on July 26, just after the first round of renovations were finished. I had moved some things back into the basement earlier in July, but that was when I really felt the sadness of all that loss, and that wonderful happy place outside with the tent that was slowly collapsing, looking like a junk pile. I felt exhausted from grief, but that was enough to give me a big burst of energy to carry all that stuff back inside, put it away somewhere, take down the tent and reestablish that area.

The garden area without the tent, garden chair in place.

The spinach was gone but the salad greens, kale and mustard greens were still producing. I didn’t have the energy or the will to start planting again, especially when the deer and groundhogs had found their way back in, but it was enough to have that garden area open again, and that small productive space to visit and tend to. I let the rest grow what it would, I could catch up in the autumn or following spring.

As soon as I’d taken down the tent and removed everything from that area I had sensed activity there. Each morning when Mimi and I visited it I could even see her react quietly.

Mimi on the garden chair

So it was one mid-August late morning, breezy, clouds moving, light changing, not too hot, a little sprinkle of rain had come through when I went back outside alone with my colander to get some greens for my lunch, and as I worked had the feeling I wasn’t alone. Of course there were birds and a few rabbits around, likely the groundhog and deer weren’t too far, but I actually felt I was being watched, but not scary watched.

I looked around and could feel a strong presence, especially around the garden chair. I had my DSLR outside with me and took a few photos of the chair as the light changed, then watched it for a minute or two. I flipped over a construction bucket and set my camera on it and took a few videos while I continued gathering my greens, then sat and watched the light change from bright to stormy dark and back again as breezes pushed around the jewelweed around the chair and the vines and forsythia and sumacs, listened to the birds chatter, the train and the church bells off in the valley, and take in all I could from that moment.

We were in the middle of the second round of renovations so I wasn’t working at my computer to stay out of their way, then it was over and I had to put things back together and get ready for Rock the Quarry, then it was September, suddenly Mr. Sunshine and Giuseppe were coming outside and making new memories, but I never forgot that quiet sunny morning with the spirits of Mewsette and Jelly Bean, just me and them. I realized as I thought about it now and then, that experience actually gave me a good bit of healing, and more each time I remembered it. It was as if they had beckoned me outdoors, prepared me with my camera, and sprinkled magic dust on me, eased my grief in a feeling that has never left me.

I’m glad I waited to work with this video and this experience. I had no such insights about it in the moment, especially the sense that Jelly Bean was there, even though he had never gone outdoors as the others had. Initially I dismissed it as wishful thinking, but even now, looking at the video, I still feel his presence. I think even a few other garden cats were around as well.

Mimi still visits the chair now and then, and I can tell it’s a special experience for her, not like scratching on her wicker chairs. She’ll sometimes rub her face all over it, but she usually settles down in a meditative way, and then has a rest, and then leaves.

Mimi on the garden chair December 16, three days after we lost Giuseppe.

I don’t expect anyone else to see or feel anything in this video, but it’s still a nice feeling of a quiet, nurturing summer morning. The wind created quite a bit of static and dampens the other ambient sounds even though I worked on equalizing it, but if you listen closely you’ll catch it, especially about halfway through.

Studio Spaces

So I disappeared late last week and over the weekend to work on my spaces here one more time. Working on my studio in the spare bedroom is bittersweet with all its memories and it’s difficult to want to go in there and change it even more. But I have to, I haven’t done any new artwork since last year, and I find myself longing to. Mr. Max and Morty make that tricky since Morty especially doesn’t have any studio etiquette and I have to be careful where I place things so it’s not an easy leap right in the middle of a painting. I don’t like working with my back to the room or to the window, a lot of things have to stay where they are, and the room is only 8 x 10, so it’s been particularly tricky to arrange things. Once I start I have to finish because things are everywhere and there’s often nowhere to walk up there.

The Grand Finale and an interesting family portrait.
The Grand Finale and an interesting family portrait.

I had moved the big worktable to the basement last August, the one where I’d set out a bunch of boxes for the Five and even some others to nap in once they were done sniffing all my things and needed to sleep.

This time I needed to move my second printer and my cutting machines up there along with the new scanner for my artwork. I had moved too many things to the basement, and all the materials that go along with the printer and cutters is stacked all over the room here. I got everything set up, now I will let it sit while I make some adjustments, and little by little move the media up there.

And while I get to some painting. It’s time. In order to create one of my paintings I have to open myself up and move into that intuitive space, and that’s when I also feel the depth of my grief. I’ve done a few smaller things, book covers, and it’s been okay. I have a painting to finish, so I’ll start with that.

 

Thank you for following our grief journey after losing three members of our feline family.

I hope sharing our experiences have helped you in some way, as sharing my experiences with you helps me.

You can read all the articles related to their loss by tapping one of these images in the side bar and in articles.

memorial graphic for a black cat looking in a mirror named Jelly Bean

 

 

 

 

 


Read more articles about Pet Loss in the First Person, my personal losses, about Pet Loss and other Essays on The Creative Cat.


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Garden Sketch With Mimi Garden Flag
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It’s Mimi napping in the shadow on the cool bricks among the geraniums, near the vintage aluminum tub where I grow pole beans. Read more and order.



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Bernadette

From health and welfare to rescue and adoption stories, advocacy and art, factual articles and fictional stories, "The Creative Cat" offers both visual and verbal education and entertainment about cats for people who love cats, pets and animals of all species.

4 thoughts on “The Healing Garden

  • So sorry about Mewsette and Jelly Bean.
    You do have a lovely spot for them and they will be close to you.
    The hradest part of having cats is saying goodbye to them.
    Sending BIG hugs to you!!!!!!!
    Nancy and purrs from Winnie

    Reply
    • And Giuseppe joined them in December. I’m so glad they seem to be in my garden. I have always loved my garden space and it grows nutritious food each year as important as the way they inspired me. Thank you, and purrs for you and Winnie!

      Reply
  • Brian's Home ~ Forever

    Such nice photos and a nice area to cultivate some precious memories.

    Reply

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