Saturday, July 21, 2012

Be concerned but not alarmed

One of our cats has gone missing, the grey one, the boy.  The one who is most persistent in his hunger and calls for attention.  My husband tells me this morning, in that combined serious but also light hearted way of his that says ‘be concerned but not alarmed’, 'the cat has not been around for two days'. 

We both know that our cats have a tendency, each one of them to stray from time to time, for days on end.  And usually they reappear.  But I have no memory of the boy disappearing.  Besides, I’ve been away myself for the past four days at a conference and I wonder if the two are connected.

I am not the chief carer of the cats.  I share responsibility with my husband and with whichever of our daughters are around, but the cat might have resented the disruption to our house hold routine and taken himself off somewhere.

Forgive me for anthropomorphising.  At this conference among other things a few people talked about the notion of ‘post human lives’.  I won’t go all theoretical on you other than to say, the notion of post human lives has something to do with the idea that human beings and animals, and machines, as well as cyber creatures, all organisms, have more in common than we like to think.  We tend to create artificial divides here.  That’s a crude rendering of this idea of the post human which I continually have the impulse to call ‘subhuman’.

I relish these conferences, the ones on autobiography and biography, and on what is roughly called life writing studies, because there are all these people – in Canberra three hundred of them – who come together from all over the world to talk about the way people think, paint, photograph, sing and write about their own lives and the lives of others.  And increasingly, there are people like me who write and theorise more explicitly about their own lives. 

At the conference in a paper on digital lives, I talked about my blog.  The hazards, the pitfalls the exquisite joys of blogging, all dressed up in a skimpy frock of what gets called 'blogging theory'. 

And now after all the pleasures of meeting new people, and of crawling around in my head with new ideas and notions, I find myself fretting for the cat. 

You might recognise him if you saw him, a grey cat, a large cat, a boy cat, who has been neutered and who perhaps resents this because sometimes he looks as though he’s scowling.  But he is a loyal cat.  A gift to one of our daughters from one of her boyfriends several years ago. 

That daughter has since left home.  That relationship between boyfriend and girlfriend  is over but the cat remains in our care, as many animals do after children leave home.  They might even be considered to take the place of the children who leave home. 

And there are other dramas and sadness afoot - too complex, too personal, to on-the-boil to mention here now, but the cat's absence stands as a reminder of the temporality of life, and it frightens me.


Lo said...

So sorry....from someone whose cats are her children I hope gray cat comes home safely.
As for coming back as a cat in the next life....I have had many people tell me they dearly hope they could come back as one of my cats.

Rob-bear said...

Sorry to heard of your "boy" going AWOL at a particularly inconvenient time. When other things are occupying your mind.

Blessings and Bear hugs.

Laoch of Chicago said...

Good wishes to the gray feline!

Alittlesprite said...

I hope your kitty turns up.

River said...

Perhaps your boycat went looking for you and even now is on his way home again. I hope he turns up safe and well soon.

Yvonne Osborne said...

We took over the care of our daughter's little dog and had to eventually be the ones to put him to sleep. So I understand.

Jim Murdoch said...

As you know my mother was a cat person. Given half a chance she would have been one of those crazy cat ladies who would give a home to every stray but my father—not a cat person—permitted her only one at a time. As a child I thought him cruel but I suspect he was simply being practical knowing his wife better than I knew my mother. After his death she had two for a while, both strays of course, but there was only one left when she died, Biggie. My mother was from Lancashire stock and called a spade a spade so black cats were called Sooty or Blackie, the white one, Snowy and the ginger, Tigger. Biggie was a big cat so he got called Biggie at first just to differentiate between the two cats and the name stuck. My sister took him down south with her. I have no idea how he fared.

Mum once took in a black and white cat who bore a striking resemblance to Tom from Tom and Jerry and so, with a little encouragement from me, he became Tom for the rest of his life. He was an old cat when we inherited him with a bad back, a few missing teeth (so his tongue tended to protrude slightly) and a bent ear which gave him a hangdog expression. Despite that he wasn’t beyond chasing a piece of string for a bit. He was also not done with chasing she cats and would vanish for days on end. Frequently when he did turn up he was the worst for wear; Christ alone knows what those women did to him when they’d had their way with him.

It’s impossible not to anthroporphise these little balls of fluff and feathers and I have no problem doing it. They provide an outlet for the need to care and I’m sure there’s many an old person would never get out of bed again if they didn’t have their pet to feed and/or walk. I know I feel guilty if I sleep past 9:30 in the morning because that’s when Birdy’s cover goes up. He, like me, likes a structured life and most nights at 9:00 he’ll clamber down into his cage because that’s when I dismantle-ate his ‘castle’ (he struggles a little with the English language).

I have been a little sad this week. I learned that a girl I went to school with died a year ago. I had just found a site where some kind person had posted a whole pile of class photos from 1974 when I was in Fourth Year; that brought back a flood of emotions I can tell you. I showed my wife the one with Alison in and said, “She was the first girl I ever fell in love with,” to which Carrie remarked on how pretty she was so I decided to look her up whereupon I stumbled on her obituary. We’d been in Primary One together so the only person I’ve known longer is my brother. And now she’s dead at fifty-two. I choked up when I told Carrie and I’ve struggled with this sense of loss for days now. I was ten when I developed my crush on her and it was three years before anyone else caught my eye but you never forget your first love. I’ve not seen her in twenty years and the last time she was more handsome than beautiful if I’m being objective but I’ve never not had a soft spot for her. Of course I let go of her years ago, moved on, married, remarried. So what exactly have I lost? She never married. She found religion. I forget which one.

She is not the first of my classmates to die. The first was many years ago, an attempted suicide that went wrong. That made me sad too but for different reasons. This time the death was from natural causes and suddenly I feel very mortal. Cats can be replaced. People not so much. I’ve cried when Mum’s cats died but I always knew that within a few weeks she’d coax another one in and the cycle would begin again. I hope your grey cat turns up. I only came across one of the cats dead lying in the gutter by the side of the road but I had my little sister with me and so continued to walk home without letting on for her sake; then I broke down. That was Minstrel, another black and white one.

As for your other dramas and sadnesses there’s a time to live them and a time to write about them. Now is obviously not that time. But we’ll be here if you ever are. Not everything has to be shared. Or can be.

Joanne Noragon said...

Let us know. We had a cat who merely changed residence when we irritated him, and came home when he figured we'd thought about it long enough.

Kass said...

Oh yes. I still dream about a cat that is gone. These connections. The commonness of beating hearts. Hard to get a handle on.

The Weaver of Grass said...

I do know how you are feeling. We like things to stay the same and change unsettles us. If that change means an animal going AWOL then you become preoccupied with it all. Do hope he turns up soon - looking as cats do in those circumstances - as though it didn't matter one little bit.

Kirk said...

I know how you feel. I used to fret if my cat was gone two hours, much less two days.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

A sadness looming? So sorry:(

Anonymous said...

There is a clear demarcation line in our household - husband, dog person - youngest son, cat person and some bizarre "upmanship" that goes along with it.

I understand the need to keep cats and wildlife safe, but I have never understood the concept of an 'inside cat' and of the many I know, few appear relaxed.

My favorite expression for trying to pull a difficult situation together?
"it's like herding cats." Such a descriptive phrase.

May your troubles and heartaches soon resolve, Elisabeth.
Karen C

This is Belgium said...

hope lost one turns up soon

Elisabeth said...

The cat's still missing, Lo, and I have succumbed to a cold. All up, not a happy coincidence. I keep on hoping our cat will return, and that neither of us reached the stage of needing to return in another form.

Thanks, Lo.

Elisabeth said...

I don;t suppose there's ever an ideal time for a cat to go missing, Rob-bear but somehow it seems to me that too may awful events are congealing here.

Thanks for the good wishes, Rob-bear.

Elisabeth said...

The grey feline is still missing, Laoch but there's still a good chance he will return. Thanks, Laoch.

Elisabeth said...

Our cat would have had to travel all the way to Canberra to find me, River, and now I'm home he hasn't twigged that I'm here. Hopefully he'll get the idea of a home coming soon.

Thanks, River.

Elisabeth said...

I imagine that's one of the great sadnesses, Yvonne, having to put a beloved pet down.

We had that experience once with one of ours a few years ago. The fact that he was old and had had a good life - at least in our minds - did not soften the pain.

Thanks, Yvonne.

Zuzana said...

Dear Elisabeth,
what a beuatiful, touching post.
There is something universal going on. Today in my post I touched upon the subject of death and after I posted it and went on visiting my friends blogs, I have to conclude that over 80% of all the blogs I read either speak about God, afterlife or death today.
Coincidence? You tel me...
I share your sentiments. I too feel there is some connection between everything alive, even plants.
And I would too feel the same emotions if my Sammy went missing, he is right now the only living thing in our house, my companion and my friend.
I hope your grey baby boy is ok, have a great week.;)
Let us know when he gets back.;)

R.H. said...

Zuzana you are so good looking, in a foreign way terrifying to us peasants.

Elisabeth said...

The cat's still missing, Jim. I've held off responding to your comment and those following yours on two counts. The first, my hope that the cat returns and I can announce it here with some fanfare - though that's still not to be - and the second, I've come down with a bit of a cold, one of those colds that sound worse than they are but are nevertheless a little paralyzing, at least as far as extra duties are concerned. I don't feel clear headed enough to write meaningfully, for instance.

Also, I've been away at this conference and it usually takes a little while to settle back in.

I mentioned to one of my daughters this morning that it seems whenever I go away I get ill, and therefore it makes me wonder whether I should not stay put.

She was annoyed with me then. 'You can't stay in the same place all of your life,' she said or words to that effect.

She's right to some extent, especially as she traverses the world. If I want to see her I'll need to get used to traveling more, however averse I might be to the idea.

As for the death of your old school friend that sounds very sad. To lose someone from the past who mattered so much then can be even more devastating perhaps than losing someone you see often. It's the death of the dream, of the possibility, of the missed opportunity.

I've been sedating myself of late in the evenings revisting re-runs of the old sit come 'As Years Go By', with Judy Dench. Lovely stuff, witty and poignant about a relationship that might have been but war got in the way. You might know it - it's out of England.

Thanks, Jim.

Elisabeth said...

No good news yet, Joanne, after 4-5 days. I'm hoping he's like your cat- a tad miffed and therefore gone off to find a new home, albeit temporarily, and soon he will return.

Thanks, Joanne.

Elisabeth said...

It's sad Kass, to think of a cat who never returned. I've come across this new concept of late: ambiguous grief, the grief people feel for instance when someone goes missing. You can't really grieve because you're never sure whether they'll eventually return or not.

Thanks, Kass.

Elisabeth said...

I've just been over to our neighbour's house, Pat, to ask about our missing cat and she reckons she saw him last on Monday, only a couple of days ago. She's sure she saw him. This gives me hope. Maybe our cat has gone visiting locally and will one day soon decide to return. Such unwanted changes, as you say, are unsettling.

Thanks, Pat.

Elisabeth said...

Well it's been five days now, Kirk, but as I just said earlier to Pat, there's been a later sighting of the cat only two days ago, so it looks as though he may not be so far away after all.

thanks for the commiserations, Kirk.

Elisabeth said...

Sadness looming indeed, Heidi. When does it ever it hover ahead shimmering on the horizon? As long as it travels in the company of joy, and pleasure and all those other less burdensome emotions that are the lot of the human condition.

Thanks, Heidi.

Elisabeth said...

Thanks for the good wishes, Karen. This missing cat is particularly meaningful in our household as the only other male, besides the dog and my husband. Boyfriends might be occasional visitors but it's not the same. We need that extra dollop of testosterone perhaps.

Elisabeth said...

Anni from Belgium, how lovely to see you here again. Hopefully the missing cat will re-materialise, too. Thanks.

Elisabeth said...

Thanks for your kind thoughts Zuzana. I hadn't myself noticed a particular emphasis on death within the blogosphere lately, though I suspect it's always around somewhere, hovering in our thoughts.

Still no sign of the grey cat but I haven't given up on his return yet.

Thanks, Zuzana

Elisabeth said...

Yes indeed, Robert, from her photo, Zuzana is a beauty. I'm not so sure about 'us peasants' being terrorized but I take it you speak for yourself.


Juliet said...

The conference sounds stimulating - so important for writers to break the isolation and meet with other writers. I do hope your cat returns safely from whatever his cat conference might be.

Elisabeth said...

A lovely thought there, Juliet: my cat's at a much needed and stimulating conference, soon to return.


R.H. said...

One night I heard a bloke standing at intersections around here yelling his dog's name. Seems it got out and wanderered away. It's very sad. I hope your cat comes home eventually.

Elisabeth said...

I've just come in from the garden where I've been calling out the cat's name, Robert. I do this several times a day now, sadly so far to no avail. Thanks for your good wishes.

David-Glen Smith said...

As others have said, it is hard when a pet disappears; I feel for your situation. Hope for the best.

Elisabeth said...

There's still no sign of our cat, David-Glen, but thanks for your good wishes.

aguja said...

I hope that your cat returns safely. Perhaps it is locked in somewhere nearby ... if there are neighbours who have gone on hoilday. We always search and search and call incessantly when one of ours goes missing.
I agree that we have more in common than we might think with the animal world and it is a nonsense to me that peolpe want to categorise things and create compartments when life is designed to flow.

Thinking of you and yours - and don't be afraid.

Sergio Barcellos said...

Hello, Elisabeth... sorry to hear your cat is missing! Thought I would drop a line to say that it was good seeing you in Canberra! Hugs,

Elisabeth said...

How far do we spread the search, Aguja? We've looked everywhere in the house and garage and local neighbourhood. The cat could be anywhere. It is distressing as much as I can be reasonable about it. Thanks for your good wishes. I'm glad to know we are not the only ones who fret like this.

Thanks, Aguja.

Elisabeth said...

It was terrific seeing you in Canberra, too, Sergio. And lovely to see you here on my blog. Please stay in touch and thanks for your good wishes, especially for our still missing cat.