It seems every once in a while WordPress hiccups and publishes a post ahead of the post date. I try to be careful typing the date into the tiny box and even after double checking it still lhappens. So Caturday Thoughts became Wednesday thoughts. Oh dear! It’s not a pr0per Saturday if it’s not Caturday. So I just have to do another post, something enjoyable and uplifting, I think to myself. Everyone likes treats and there is too much negativity in an election year.
I am working with a life coach and it’s very beneficial. In one of out conversations I told her that I thought everyone you meet is a life lesson and gave her some examples of people who have been lessons for me. But cats are also wonderful at giving inspiration and teaching life lessons and I would like to share some of my favorites.
Cats promote creativity. From a medeival Irish monk, to a 19th century horror writer to a Modernist poet and a 20th century playwright come works inspired by cats. One of the less well know facts about Edgar Allen Poe is that he had a cat named Catarina who was the inspiraion for his story “The Black Cat.” While T. S Elliot wrote some very well known, seious poetry he also owned a a cat named Jellyorum. Jellyorum’s name comes up in “The Naming of Cats” a poem from “Old Possum’s Book of Practivcal Cat’s” a collection of cat poems originally intendeded for his grandchildren, but for decades beloved of adults as well. We can add playwrites to the list of those inspired cats, since Andrew Lloyd Webber was inspired by Elliot’s work to create the popular musical “Cats”.
One of my personal favorites is the poem “Pangur Bán”, written by an anonymous Irish monk which you may read here. The monk sees the dedication of the mouser as a reflection of his own in copying and translating scripture. Also among my favorite reading since middle school are the stories and novels of the science fiction writer Cordwainer Smith. In his universe genetically modified animals have become morphed into “humans” called underpeople, that look more like hominids but retain characteristics of their originial species. A main character in this universe is C’mell, a feline derived underperson who was inspired by his own cat Melanie. In these stories C’mell is instrumental in teaching the human species how to recover their better human qualities in a far future where they have been lost. There are also ordinary felines doing extraordinary work as partners of humans in space travel. If you are unfamiliar with him and his writing you can find a nice essay here. Even if you are not a fan of science fiction, his work is so unlike anything else the stories are worth a read and probably worth my doing another post, now I think about it.
Cats give solace and support. Poor Christopher Smart was packed off to St Luke’s, an asylum for the insane, by his father-in-law in 1757 with only his cat Jeoffry to keep him from going truly out of his mind. Seventy four lines of Smart’s poem Jubilate Agno are devoted to Jeoffry. You can read it here and it really is a beautiful celebration of the qualities of a cat. More recently, and more famously,there is Oscar, subject of the book “Making the Rounds with Oscar”. Oscar resides in the third-floor end-stage dementia unit at Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence Rhode Island and is famous for making rounds of the unit just like the doctors and curling up in the beds of those about to die. There has been a lot of discussion about his ability to know who is about to die, but what I find special is that he stays with these people until they pass. Animals in normal circumstances avoid death, as do many people, but not Oscar. If families request his removal, he paces just outside the door and meows, upset at not fulfilling his purpose. He is a lesson in compassion and courage.
In “Homer’s Odyssey” Gwen Cooper recounts the lessons learned from the blind kitten she adopted. Gwen was not at home when 9/11 happened and Homer survived being alone in the evacuted apartment building near the World Trade Center for days in spite of his handicap. The populariry of the book makes Homer one of the more well known cats who adapted to disability but there are many more.
Cats teach us how to be survivors. Faith, the resident cat of St Augustine’s and St Faith’s Church on Watling Street in the City of London, close to St Paul’s Cathedral, is an example. On 6 September 1940, Faith indicated to the rector, Henry Ross, she wanted to go into the church basement. He let her go, leaving the door open so she could come back up. Later she was seeing carrying her kitten, Panda, by the scruff down to the basement as well. In spite of the basement being dark, dirty and cold, she only came up for meals and three times Rector Ross brought Panda upstairs so she would follow him back. Each time she returned him to the basement. On the next night, there was a heavy air raid on the city, part of the bombing of England during WWII known as The Blitz. Two days later Rector Ross had to go to Westminster, traveling by bicycle. That evening there was another air raid which forced him into a bomb shelter for the night. When he arrived at the chuch the following day it was to find it had been hit by bombs and was destroyed except for the tower. Evading firemen working the area who had warned him off because the roof was about to collapse, he dug through the ruble calling for Faith, who answered. When he finally got a clear path to her, in her basement corner, he found her calmly nursing Panda but very happy to be taken out and carried to safety. I find this story amazing. How in the world did she know what nights the raids would be? How did she know to find her own version of a bomb shelter? If you are interested there is a fuller version of Faith’s story here, which I happily recommend.
I hoped you enjoyed these verbal treats and they help you enjoy your Caturday.