Thursday, April 18, 2024
cat photographscat poetrycookieDaily Featuredaily photoessaymosespet losspoetryrecorded poemSundayyoutube video

Vintage Photo: Moses, and Things I Found in the Woods, 1988 and 2006

cat on afghan
Colorful Nap

I’VE ALWAYS FOUND the January thaw, whenever it comes, to be a magical time, a gift from our compassionate mother in nature, perhaps, the world so full of life and energy that tired souls weary of the struggle of daily existence in a harsh frozen world will be reminded of better days to come. It feels like a moment outside of normal chronological time where we can find peace in a chapter of hardship, difficulty or sadness. This year, though we hardly had a freeze, it brings many things together. January 11, 2006, is the day I went for a walk in the woods during the January thaw, thinking deeply about Moses health and impending loss, and wrote the poem Things I Found in the Woods.

I took the photo above some time during January 1988. My first feral kitten, she was still a little uneasy about appearing out “in public”, generally sleeping under tables and walking behind the furniture to pass from one room to another, occasionally sleeping in the sun on the floor. A sunbeam, however, managed to draw her out and here I found her in the morning after breakfast, in January as I know by the quince blooming outside the window and my afghan on the back of the couch, warm in the winter sun; it’s a photo I’ve always treasured. It was the very first time I ever saw her in what she’d consider a vulnerable position, out in the open, simply enjoying her space. And because of her difficulties with her hind legs, getting up on the back of the couch was no small feat.

I know she realized I was there, and for a long moment she simply kept enjoying the sun on her fur, her eyes closed, breathing calm and regular. When her eyes opened, even though she actually trusted me and even slept with me, I knew my looking at her was disturbing, so as much as I wanted to enjoy the moment as long as she enjoyed the sunshine, I remember looking down, and backing around the corner. I remember she stayed there for a while, and visited the spot now and then.

And here she is “late in the year”, as the photo is titled, at age 19, in November 2005, once again enjoying the sun, this time on the warm boards of the deck, and I love this photo just as much.

black and white photo of gray cat
Late in the Year

“Portrait of a senior kitty”…this is a favorite of my black and white photos. Aside from a strict adherence to twice-daily mealtimes, her one and only absolute necessity was a sunbath, preferrably al fresco, every day to help soothe the arthritis that had built in her somewhat hobbled hind legs.

I took this photo during the last warm day in November, just three months before she died. Some viewers have told me they have a difficult time piecing the image together because her features are distorted by age, her eyes set deep, her cheekbones sunken, nose slightly flattened by dehydration and ear tips curved as the skin on those extremities begins to wither, but I knew every hair, every feature.

Between those two photos, she filled my life with love and beauty, all through the year. And she inspired one of my best poems.

Things I Found in the Woods

 A delicate fern frond reaches for the sun from last year's dried stems.
A delicate fern frond reaches for the sun from last year’s dried stems.

Things I Found in the Woods

Dedicated to Moses, the most gentle, loving being I have ever encountered.

Tiny rivulets of water released from thawing soil
flowing beneath last year’s debris, trickling and gurgling all around
hurrying down hillsides before the freeze returns.

A cup-shaped fungus holding a tablespoon of snowmelt
for a song sparrow to sip, practicing its vernal melody
for the time when spring arrives in earnest.

Ferns, newly-green, draped on cliffs,
fluttering like garlands in the mild, caressing breeze
gathering a little nourishment to last the rest of the winter.

Fallen trees blanketed with bright green moss,
thick and lush already in the brief January thaw
filling a span of life in but a few days.

Four young white-tailed deer, capricious as the gusts,
feeling the flush of their first spring as adults
cavorting as if winter might not return tomorrow.

An understanding that life and love are cycles,
and that the moment must be taken for what it offers
even if what it offers is not what we expect.

The strength and courage to show as much dignity as you,
and to walk this last precious part of your path with you
and when I can walk no more beside you
to let you go.

“Things I Found in the Woods” © 2006 B.E. Kazmarski

Typically I post this poem during the “January thaw”, a few days of warm sunny weather before the end of winter when all the snow melts and I run around in bare feet. The cold returns, and even snow, but those few days have broken the spell of winter. If we are perceptive they also teach us a lesson.

Writing the poem

In January 2006 that I ran off into the woods in shirt sleeves and bare feet, but a heavy heart with the impending loss of my precious Moses. In exploring the blooming of new life in just this brief period of thaw I found the wisdom to help me understand Moses’s acceptance of her fate, and accept my own role in her transition. It’s been a lesson that’s carried me through many losses since then, of beloved felines, of my mother, and others gone from my life.

Recording the poem

Every year the winter opens up to a few days of warm intoxicating sun and mud in January or February, and I’ve run outside to celebrate the day. In 2012 it was February 5, two days after Cookie died, and as I enjoyed the warm day without her and remembered this poem, I knew exactly what I wanted to create as a dedication to my faithful heart cat, my best friend. When I lost Cookie in 2012 I decided to follow through with the idea of recording my poems and even adding a slideshow of images, and began with this poem in dedication to Moses, to Cookie, and to all the wonderful cats who’ve added so much to my life.

I originally wrote this poem in 2006 for Moses as I knew her body was failing and she had little time left, and in 2012 was glad to dedicate my first recording of one of my poems to Cookie, leading me to a new means of expression and sharing my creative efforts. I have a link to the recorded poem with slideshow at the end of this article along with a few notes about creating it.

I first published the poem here in 2011just weeks after losing my mother, with an essay remembering Moses and that day in the woods, and remarking that, of the nine cats who’d been with me when I wrote the poem, only two were left, Cookie and Kelly, but a whole new family of cats had built itself on the roots of the last one. As the years passed, each year I found new wisdom in returning to these thoughts. Excerpts from those essays are below.

February 2011

I ran out for a happy two-hour sojourn as far as I could go on the trail and into the woods on foot to see the brilliant swatches of green catching the late winter sun, the stream rushing along, birds flying crazily overhead and singing in one big chorus.

The water still cold but running free.
The water still cold but running free.

I took off my shoes and ran through the mud in my bare feet, stepping into the freezing, rushing water of the stream, climbing hills and rock faces and photographing with my camera and my mind’s eye and all my senses the exhilaration of this day, coming back with muddy feet, wild hair filled with leaves and twigs, scratches on my arms and lots of images and inspiration.

It’s a traditional respite from a frozen winter, a “spring thaw”, too early to be permanent but enough to reawaken our senses and begin stirring the life forces in all of nature.

The Hunger Moon

The full moon in February is often called the “Hunger Moon”; though people have managed through the deepest extended cold of winter, their food stores put by at the previous autumn’s harvest may be near gone and a frozen landscape still surrounds with not much nourishment in sight until the first edible greens begin to sprout in March or later in far north regions. People and animals who’d made it this far would often perish if spring was too long in coming.

But beneath the snow plants have been gathering energy, seeds are swelling, roots are spreading, and above the snow the days are growing longer. Just two warm days in January or February are long enough to melt the snowcover and pour it into streams, soften the top layer of loam in the woods and everything that has life will spring to life, even if only temporarily, insects hatching, mosses blooming, ferns sending spores into the wind, living just long enough to reproduce, though the parents themselves may not survive.

These in turn provide a burst of food and fresh water for birds and animals to rejuvenate and energize and prepare for the effort of the months ahead, giving birth and raising their young.

Brilliant Memories

Their lives are not a part of my past, but of my present; just as the earth holds the memories of all that’s past and turns it into new life, so do I.

This day also reminded me of a similar spring thaw in 2006 when I knew that my Moses was letting go. I hadn’t lost a cat in a few years and was frightened at the prospect, though she was calm and accepting as was her nature. I just happened to be in the woods for a photo assignment the day I realized Moses’ condition, and as the air was full of life around me I decided to take some time in the woods after the assignment.

It was that loving respite from my fear and worry, feeling the life and energy around me, that filled my heart with the understanding and acceptance I needed to help Moses through her last time, and, as it turned out, four others within the next 18 months.

September morning in the garden.
September morning in the garden.

But now as the years have passed all my losses have become one and are no longer losses, not a big chasm of dark sadness but a bright collective of memories of all their lives mingled with mine in the same way I remember the turns of the seasons. Their losses are not separate from me and my life, but their lives are a permanent part of who I am and the cats I live with today as I remember being in the garden with Moses, the day I first saw Stanley with ice crystals collecting on his fur, the way the furniture was arranged when I moved in here and everyone collected on the table by the door when I left in the morning, watching Mimi outside and realizing she had to come to live with me.

Their lives are not a part of my past, but of my present; just as the earth holds the memories of all that’s past and turns it into new life, so do I.

We are resilient; even after the harshest treatment has forced us to retreat and protect ourselves, we are ready again for the fullness of life when encouraging conditions return.

The Poem

I wrote the first six verses of this poem sitting on a moss- and lichen-covered rock in the woods that day, inspired by all the wonders I had seen. I realized my life was about to change with Moses’ imminent transition and something beyond that which I could not yet discern. I left the last verse for her last few days, though I was never happy with it. In 2012 I found the words that were, right, for Moses and Cookie and all others and realized the poem was not about loss, but about letting go of anything you love while still loving it forever.

I had never before experienced the spring thaw in such wonderment at the transience of life—still winter but everything that lived was taking advantage of the moment.

So was Moses. So should I.

So I resolved just to let her follow her course and she would let me know what to do.

On a Rainy Afternoon
On a Rainy Afternoon

I have kept this lesson in my heart with each of the older kitties I’ve loved since. I don’t care what’s coming for us. I love them right now, this moment.

Ten years ago I lived with a largely different group of nine cats. 2012 began with only Cookie and Kelly still with me from those early days of feline rescue, beginning as an artist, setting up my business, working at home. By the end they had joined Moses and all the others, and while I feel bereft at both their loss and the loss of the connection with that past, they left me in good paws, Mimi having spent a good part of Cookie’s last year apparently learning from Cookie her role as main human caretaker, and she and her children helping Kelly, and me, through those last confusing months.

Ten years from now I’m sure the group will be similarly changed. But each of them from before this time and the years to come is forever a part of my life.

That’s why I continue to share them all here, in photos and art.

Listen to the Poem

I have always enjoyed reading my poetry to others, and have wanted to try a little multi-media project including a slideshow of photos with narration. I was glad to create this first one for Cookie, who spent many long days and nights over 20 years staying by my side as I found my creative life.

There are no photos of Cookie or any other cats in this; though I wrote it for Moses and dedicate this recording to Cookie, it is what I found I feel about love, loss, and letting go. I was led to this knowledge, of course, by my cats. Thank you kitties, as always, for showing me the way.

It’s also not timed quite right as some of the groups of images are shorter or longer than the stanza while I was using older software. Some of the photos I included at the end are from significant moments, for instance, the asters on Cookie’s picnic table bench from a morning Cookie and I were in the yard in October 2011, the “Wolf Moon” in the bare tree and the sunset with the evening stars references to my mother who also passed at this time in 2011. Coordinating, more or less, with the second verse, the forsythia with the tiny song sparrow in the middle of it is actually from the morning of February 2 as I held Cookie on my lap and knew her process of dying had begun; it was the day of transition from winter to spring and all the birds were singing their spring songs, and a song sparrow landed very near to us and sang for a while.

I have since invested in a better microphone and have more advanced software, and some day will recreate this including not only the photos but the video clips so you can hear the birds and rushing water that I had first imagined, but for now, this is the version I created with my whole heart in the moment. Watch the video below or click here to see the video on YouTube, “Things I Found in the Woods”.

And download and share the poem

Watching the weather last year I was also inspired to create this design incorporating the poem with one of the photos from a day in the woods during a spring thaw in 2011, which is when I captured many of the photos in this post and the video. Ironically, it’s also the day I photographed Cookie “Al Fresco”. Things always seem to come back around as well.

"Things I Found in the Woods" image and poem.
“Things I Found in the Woods” image and poem.

Read other posts about Pet Loss on The Creative Cat.

Read and listen to more poetry

My feline-themed poetry

Enjoy other poems about my cats.

Listen to other recorded poems about my cats.

Click here or choose Poetry from the categories list.

And visit my Poetry page for my poetry about all subjects

My poetry page on my writing website includes poems of all subjects, and many of these poems also appear in the pages I’ve built for my annual poetry readings. I encourage you to visit those pages so you can see even more artwork, even if it isn’t of my cats or my backyard.

Visit my YouTube site for all my recorded poems (so far).

Help me publish my poetry and anthologize my rescue stories

I also want to anthologize my feline poetry in print, electronic and audio versions.

Read more in this article on The Creative Cat and Visit my PATREON page.


All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission, although links to your site are more than welcome and are shared. Please ask if you are interested in using and image or story in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of an image or a product including it, check my animal and nature website Portraits of Animals to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.

Subscribe to my e-newsletter

Subscribe to The Creative Cat Preview E-newsletter.

© 2022 | | Published by Bernadette E. Kazmarski

Weekly schedule of features:

Sunday: Essays, Pet Loss, Poetry, The Artist’s Life

Monday: Adoptable Cats, TNR & Shelters

Tuesday: Rescue Stories

Wednesday: Commissioned Portrait or Featured Artwork

Thursday: New Merchandise

Friday: Book Review, Health and Welfare, Advocacy

Saturday: Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat, Living Green With Pets, Creating With Cats

And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!





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.

One thought on “Vintage Photo: Moses, and Things I Found in the Woods, 1988 and 2006

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this:
Verified by ExactMetrics