Monday, June 29, 2009


Teasel watches the birds

Mrs. Beasley watches warily from under the bed

Raisin surveys from the ledge

Teasel peeks

Pebbles watches activity in the yard

A little after midnight I picked my way through the nearly dark house toward the kitchen, wanting a tylenol and a glass of water. Was it a sound or only a slight movement sensed that made me pause and look up at the ledge which runs above the fridge and defines part of the work space? Three of the cats, Teasel and the half-grown kittens, Jemima and Chester, leaned over the edge with, I imagined, smug catty grins--"Got you! We saw you first!"

A lifetime of sharing our space indoors with cats and the occaisional dog, the out of doors with horses, has taught us that not much of our "doings" goes unobserved. In the winter months when horses are fed hay and grain twice a day, Pebbles stands at the fence opposite the bedroom window alert for the merest twitch of the curtains. It is part of the daily ritual to open the window and shout, "Good morning, horse!" The first vehicle entering the driveway at the end of the workday sends her pounding from the lower pasture up to the fence in anticipation of a treat. During his 10 years our dog never missed the possiblity of a ride in the back of the truck. When the diesel motor fired up, there he was, tail wagging, when moments before you might have wondered if there was a dog anywhere about.

The cats are omni-present. Spoiled cats they are, their company tolerated during meal preparation and meal consumption. They trail us into the bathroom, dash into the closet when we get out clothes, they chat, they "help." And always they watch us, watch any movement outside the windows; they watch each other.

There is a tension involved in watching--or in being watched. My husband tells of snowmobiling one afternoon deep in the mountain forest and suddenly having the prickling sensation that he was not alone in that particular wooded meadow. Coming to a halt, he sat still on his machine, gazed around until he located the taut, still form of a mountain lion stretched at the edge of a rocky overlook--watching him. When we know ourselves watched there is a primitive wariness that something, someone, is about to pounce, to catch us out, to trip us up in our unguarded moment.

We watch over children in our care. We watch fondly while a loved one sleeps, unaware of our scrutiny. Walking alone after dark we try to watch where we put our feet. Stranded in an airport, waiting for our food in a restaurant, we watch strangers, marveling at their oddity. Knowing ourselves under observation, we try for nonchalance--"stare at me, see if I care!" "Quit looking over my shoulder," we snarl at the one who hovers too closely, causing us to feel self-conscious, making us fumble a task we know perfectly well how to do.

Watching a sunrise or moonrise, watching the fleet of Mallards as they float on the pond, losing ourselves in the play of sunlight and shadow across the foothills, for a breath of time we let down our guard. Better to be the one up on the ledge, the one who observes and ponders all that is seen.


  1. It is odd isn't it that sometimes one has this knowledge of being watched even in an apparently empty landscape - a throwback to when that kind of awareness really mattered. I've always shared my life with animals and am very familiar with the sudden appearance of one who had every appearance of being in a deep sleep or totally absent seconds earlier:) Teasel is a beautiful cat - lovely picture of him/her peaking.

  2. Teasel is "Momma's Darling." She appeared outside the east window one chilly evening--a tiny lost kitten, so small that her fragile weight didn't trip the hav-a-hart-trap which we baited with a tin of tuna. I tell her that the angels scooped her up from some perilous place and dumped her down where she would be cherished.