Cats have always occupied my desk, since I’ve had a desk. Three cats on my desk (more or less) in the house I rented in the late 1980s was not unusual. I worked long days and really only had the weekends to settle down with them. I had a huge old tank of a desk, one of those 1950s steel forever desks with rounded edges and a pullout shelf for a typewriter. I could fit a lot of cats on that desk.
Fawn the torbie is atop my adding machine (anybody remember adding machines?) staring intently out into the back/front yard and the neighbor’s yard to the activity in the alley; some distance behind her, above the pink phone, you’ll see two seemingly disembodied orange and white stripes that are actually the tip of her tail, always pointing upward. She was still a kitten there, born in April that year upstairs in the spare bedroom, and while she’d been tiny she’d caught up with kitten growth and was long and gangly.
Stanley was technically on the windowsill, but my desk slid underneath it so he was still kind of on the desk. He’s just getting a nose full of September breeze. Wherever I settled in the house, Stanley was usually on the closest windowsill.
Allegro the creamsicle kitty is in prime supurrvision posture, except that he’s in my workspace. He’s very relaxed and comfortable, though, so he’s dozing and listening.
When I sat down, they settled where they wanted to be. Then as now, that ends up being whatever portion of the workspace I’m paying attention to, so they know they’ll get all the attention if they go where I’m looking. Allegro has no idea how big he is, or why I have to eventually move him because I know it’s the weekend and I have to do my bills and then get to my writing. But I took the time to get my old film camera and get a photo of them, just to remember, but also because I liked their arrangement and thought I might do something with it someday. So that I wouldn’t bankrupt myself with film and film processing costs I made myself provide a solid reason for taking a photo, which may seem draconian, but it actually made me stop and think about what I wanted in the photo I would take, and focus on composition. This one met the standards.
I also took a couple photos of just Allegro and Stanley there, before Fawn showed up. I did use that photo for a small piece of artwork, called “Boys at the Window“, done with black colored pencil on coquille board that I used as practice for that medium and later as an illustration for one of my stories.
As for that desk, I actually moved it here, and I had to take it apart to get it up the steps. The other house was easily twice this size and the desk’s size was no problem there, but at 36 x 48 it was just too big for my 8 x 10 studio, they weren’t that valuable to sell except for the scrap metal, so I took it apart again and recycled the drawers and legs and back panel but kept the top. I had covered it with that rainbow tattersall check contact paper and the memory of the cats all around me as I worked there made me find a use for the huge top: I made a base of 2 x 4 legs and placed the desktop on top to use as a planting table in the basement. There it stood until last autumn when I cleaned out my basement to waterproof and rearrange for my studio space, and the last piece of it went to the same metal recycling place. I have lots of photos of all the memories I gathered with it and all the cats upon it.
A September Morning in the Garden, 1998, and More Moses Enjoying the Sun
What’s not to love? A tangled happy garden, a sleepy happy cat, lots of color and detail and sunlight.
My garden kitty, Moses, enjoys her morning nap on the bricks in the shade of the beans, mid-morning in September. I’m fairly certain I took this in the late 90s, but it stands in for any sunny morning Moses and I enjoyed in the garden. Remembering Cookie and Namir this morning while Mimi and Mewsette and I were out I remembered this photo and the one below. I think of all the cats who shared my garden, and the fact that Mimi and Moses were probably acquainted from Mimi visiting the garden and patio when the basement door was open, though they never lived in the house together.
This photo is available as a print or a greeting card. See details at the end of this post.
“Respite” is from the same day, a little later because it’s afternoon sun, and Moses is doing her big tail flap. She must have been unhappy about something, but her signs were very subtle. As a formal feral kitty her only meows were silent meows, but her tail had a very large vocabulary.
That barrel is the same one that’s in the painting “Garden Sketch With Mimi”, in the same place, with beans growing in it. Some things never change.
The Garden Bean, 1998
Same kitty,same year, different day…
Moses absorbs the sun on her fur and from the bricks until it gets too hot, then she moves into the shade of the barrel of pole beans, her favorite shady spot.
The beans are growing, the geraniums are blooming, the sun is bright and hot, and I remember a certain sweet gray kitty who spent every available moment on the brick patio next to my garden, summer and winter, and each time Mimi and I head out there I remember how Moses enjoyed the little brick patio. Other kitties would come and go during the day as the heat and their interest waned, but Moses was serious about her outdoor time.
Her reign as a Garden Sprite lasted from very early in my years here, about 1992 until just before her death in February 2006. A physically limited formerly feral kitty, Moses never asked for much, but was passionate about what she felt she should have. Her hips and hind legs were wasted and her muscles weak the day I took her in in 1987, and while she gained more strength than I ever imagined she would in those legs she was never able to run or jump, instead climbing on the rare occasion she felt the need to be off the floor, and hopping like a bunny for a few steps when walking somewhat quickly wasn’t getting her there quickly enough. As she grew older those hind legs and hips began to develop arthritis, and while I tried many treatments for her from glucosamine and chondroiton capsules to herbals and homeopathics, she resisted having anything administered to her however gently, and the best I could do was add homeopathics to the household water bowls.
But she had the solution. One day as I worked in the garden, she came to the basement screen door. Once Moses came indoors there was no turning back, and she didn’t even look outside, acting as if “out there” wasn’t there at all. But she’d been lying in the sun coming in the basement door and followed it across the floor as it moved…out the door. Well, what was a kitty to do? She looked at me hopefully with that lovely gray tabby face, and gave me one of her sweet, silent meows. I could deny her nothing, my eternally gentle and humble little bodhisattva, and under the spell of her soft green eyes I opened the screen door and let her walk outside. She stepped out the door, let me close it, and laid down on the sun-warmed concrete slab, which was where her sun had gotten to. Through the day, as I weeded and trimmed and transplanted and harvested, she moved along with the sun, sipping now and then from the water bowl I’d brought out.
And so began nearly 15 years of daily thermonuclear treatments for Moses. Summer and winter she had to have time on her bricks, or at least on the wooden deck, even if only 15 minutes. I never let her go out without me so her days during the week were abridged, but when I began working at home she was in her glory; at her advanced age the increased time in the sun, the activity and the sweet pleasure for her probably gave her more years than she otherwise would have had, and made her last years more comfortable for her. I closely watched her, especially as she grew deaf in her later teens, but she never even walked into the garden, staying on the bricks covering about 20′ x 20′, rolling herself lazily over from one side to the other so that she was evenly toasted, and watched with sleepy amusement as birds landed around her and little voles and field mice ran across her paws.
I have a series of similar photos of her in my boxes of prints from years gone by, and I’ve been sorting through them to find these wonderful vintage photos I’d nearly forgotten. Once I find all the negatives and scan them, this will be one of the series of four I call “Moses’ Summer in the Garden” with photos from June, July, August and September. You’ll see these soon as notecards and other paper products and some housewares.
That particular set of photos is not in full color, but desaturated, in part so I could make the colors consistent across two decades, across film and digital, and even different film types and digital cameras, and the softly faded colors were just so…so Moses. Here is the desaturated version.
Moses’ Summer in the Garden, 1998 and Then Some
Moses spent so much time out on those bricks by the garden and I took so many photos of her that one day I decided to celebrate her summer with a set of four of my favorite images of her. “The Garden Bean” is above, always one of my favorites, but even with that it was difficult to distill into just four photos but these were the ones I chose, a mix of digitals, June and September. taken with my original 2MP point and shoot, and traditional film, July and August. The film and digital photos weren’t consistent in details and in capturing color so I modified the color across all four images to be a little more consistent. I also created a black and white version, below.
I matted the above four images with a white mat in a horizontal black frame and it’s hung over my sink in the kitchen since 2004. I look at Moses each day whan I’m at the sink and remember those wonderful days with her.
Moses was such a dear kitty, a former feral before I knew feral cats existed, and to look at her now after all I’ve learned about feral cats I am honored at her trust and loyalty to our yard and to me. All she wanted was to roast her little gray self in the sun on those bricks, or on the deck if they weren’t available, heat up her hind legs especially, and just enjoy the fresh air. Never once did she ever try to leave. She didn’t even look longingly outside the yard. That little patio was her favorite world.
From that time on I’ve had the idea to build that patio into a catio, but that’s more complicated than it would seem. In any case, the Autumn Joy sedum is turning pink, just as it is in the September photo, above.
Below is the black and white version. Since Moses in gray and the photos have that exciting contrast from the sunlight, I thought I’d like the black and white version better. I do, generally, but for something in which I remember a specific memory, I find I need some of the color of the bricks and the plants to really bring it back to me.
Also see more photos of Garden Kitties.
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These three really have to stop this sort of thing. I have work to do and I can’t be distracted by such serious cuteness. Mimi, Sunshine, Jelly Bean. Read more, and purchase.
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.
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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!