Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Cat in a Window

Katydid, a beloved feline companion of my Vermont years. Katy's mother was a Tortie-point Siamese called Sukey. I gave her to J.'s mother--who didn't beleive much in spaying. We moved as an extended family to Massachusetts for a few years and there Sukey, the promiscuous wench, met a fitting mate in the huge polydactylic tabby who lived up the street near the bakery. Katy inherited her dad-cats' many toes and his ringed tail. She combined great intelligence and charm with a formidable sense of mischief, which included bringing me live garter snakes. Back with us in Vermont she loved to walk for miles, either on her catly own, or with me. She didn't like heading for home. I usually hoisted her over my shoulder while she grumbled in my ear, protesting that there were still miles we could go in the opposite direction.
Katy was killed one morning in her 10th year by a neighbor's dog who should not have been in our dooryard. I opened the window for her to take her early outing and within moments heard a dreadful cry, abruptly strangled. She lay utterly and forever still, only yards from the windowsill, the dog pawing at her body, whether in mis-judged playfulness or intended malice, who could tell? Hot tears streaming, I folded her into a shoe box and dug a bury hole near the foundation of the house, the only bit of earth that would respond to a shovel on that dreary winter day. Katy had been my companion in many a gardening task, so in the spring I tucked roots of a sweet bergamot mint where they would cover that small patch of ground.
This morning I picked up a book I appropriated from my late parents' home. In the later years of my Mother's life, I often gave her a carefully chosen book for her birthday or at Christmas, or a gift certificate from The Vermont Bookshop in Middlebury, Vermont--a wonderful place to browse and part with one's money.
"Under My Elm" by David Grayson was originally published in 1942. My mother's copy is a paper back 1986 reprint and the inner cover bears her initials, written in her still elegant school teacher's script. [I had, maybe still have in the boxes in the storage shed, a hard cover copy purchased second hand.] I recall that Mother enjoyed the guilt-free pleasure of spending a gift certificate and I beleive this book would have taken her fancy with a first glance at the title. Elm trees have special meaning in our family.
I opened the book today to a section headed "A Chronicle of Small Joys." The paragraph below, titled "A Cat in A Window" gave me a "small joy" to cherish.
"I wondered today, walking slowly along the road, how it was that so many simple things give me such exquisite joy. I saw a gray cat curled on a window ledge in the morning sun, and stood looking at her with such a sense of fitness, such an understanding of comfort, I cannot describe. Why should a cat in a window please me? Why should I care to stand and watch her there luxuriating in the sun? Why should I recall the experience for several days afterward with a warm sense of remembered delight?"
I can't answer David Grayson's rhetorical queries, yet this is the very sort of small observance in which I have always delighted. It seems that the books I enjoy, the people whose words and company I cherish, are those who also have this gift of noticing and gathering--and sharing--small glimpses of nature or of some homely, comforting detail. This is a gift which I hope I nurtured in my children and grand children, even as my Grampa Mac and my father instilled it in me, perhaps without their deliberate intent, simply by spontaneous sharing. Seeds of joy, sown and tended, resulting in a harvest of small blessings.


  1. How I agree with you about the "taking pleasure in small things", the noticing of inconsequentialisms (is there such a word?!) Such things gild the lily of a contented life.

    What a beautiful cat Katy was. She sounded such a character, and tears pricked my eyes when I read of her demise.

    I agree with your mother - few things better than having a book token to spend, and the delight of browsing and choosing a book which you might otherwise have left on the shelf for reasons of economy . . .

  2. Hullo MM,


    Lovely post.


  3. Your story of the death gave me chills as it is very like what happened to my sons cat when he was a teenager and he frantically tried to dig a grave in heavey clay soil in torential rain.

  4. I love looking at cats sleeping in the sun. They look so completely comfortable, satisfied and happy inside. Bailey sleeps in his soft velvety bed behind me as I sit at the computer -- warm and comfy and tummy full. But he can see out of the sliding glass window by just opening a sleepy eye and make sure the birds are behaving themselves. With all the technological extras our young people now live, I wonder if they ever have time in their heads to appreciate the simpler moments of life.