Any of you who’ve been reading this blog for more than a year or so know that those four winters I spent in Maine before moving to Oregon were heavy with snow storms.
Winters in the Willamette Valley of Oregon are less dramatic. Mostly, it gets dreary here. I took this shot of the last fall color through the window on a soggy day a few weeks ago.
The wettest, grayest days are a good excuse to stay indoors and do things that warm the body and soul. So one day shortly before Thanksgiving, I set upon the stove two humongous pots of winter food – pea soup and apple sauce bubbling away in this photo just as they were getting started.
A few hours later, I had about ten pints of soup to freeze and five or six of apple sauce. Here are some of them.
The human version of storing nuts, I think, resulting in lots of rib-sticking meals stacked up in the freezer after not much effort in one afternoon. Certainly less work than a squirrel puts in.
This time of year, the sun goes down between about 4 and 4:30PM and I’ve found that short winter days and long, dark nights are conducive to contemplating the cat, although paying close attention requires comfort with ambiguity.
It is often said – I’ve said so myself many times – that cats are creatures of habit. They complain when we move furniture around, they want their meals on schedule (damn it!) and don’t like surprises. Routine is their middle name.
So I was surprised recently when, after insisting I get out of bed, Ollie the cat walked away from his breakfast without a bite. He jumped up on the counter and made dissatisfied noises at me.
I, being nothing more than a stupid human, pointed to his food bowl on the floor. No reaction. I stooped down and stirred my fingers around in it. Ollie eyed me from above with pity at my obtuseness.
For no good reason, I put the bowl up on the counter where Ollie immediately tucked into it.
(The photo is fuzzy because he wouldn’t hold still.)
Ever since then, breakfast, but not dinner, is required to be served on the counter. Ah, but wait. Soon after the coffee has brewed and I have settled at the desk to read the news and answer email, there comes some insistent meowing at my feet.
Unlike Siamese cats who are known to yowl at length and with great frequency just to hear the sound of their voices, Ollie speaks only when he has a message to convey – usually a complaint.
Did I say “usually?” I mean, “always” and although I sometimes don’t understand, it is clear every time that Ollie’s is not idle commentary on the weather.
If, as happens some mornings, I try to finish reading an email before responding to his loud demand, a nip – well, closer to a bite – on my ankle redirects my attention to its proper object – Ollie the cat.
After trial and error on my part, he has taught me now that breakfast is henceforth to be a moveable feast. Half on the counter, half on the floor. Every day. No exceptions. So I am now trained to go to the kitchen and move the bowl from the counter to the floor when directed.
That should cover the morning ritual, don’t you think? Oh, don’t be silly. Soon there is more meowing at my feet and another ankle bite if I ignore it. Looking down, this is what I see.
Yes, that’s a mouse, though not a real one, at the bottom of the photo. (And yes, that’s Ollie in his favorite fan chair in the back of picture.)
It had been many months since Ollie last showed interest in his mouse toys. Now they are part of the morning routine and what you cannot see in that photograph just above is that the mouse is soaking, dripping wet.
What do you suppose goes on in cats’ minds about such things? When he finishes breakfast, he finds a mouse he has hidden somewhere, drops it in his water bowl, fishes it out and leaves it next to my desk chair. Every day.
Well, not quite. One day I was rushing to get out of the house early and when I sat down just before leaving to check email, this is what I encountered.
He did that another time when I showered before he had finished breakfast. So he makes a distinction about where to leave the wet mouse: next to me on the floor when I’m at the desk; next to the laptop when I’m not.
So, just when you think you’ve got your cat figured out, he changes his routines.
As soon as we moved to this home, Ollie adopted as his the rattan fan chair (see above). It is where he settles down for both his morning and afternoon naps. Unless I’m not home. Most times, when I return, he casually drops down off one of the dining room chairs that are nearer the door, trying to behave as though he hadn’t been there. He never sits there when I’m home.
Leaves you to wonder just what it is that cats get up to doing when we’re not around.
Recently, however, Ollie has been mixing in all kinds of new places around the apartment. Occasionally now, he naps on the love seat behind my desk chair. Here he is doing those circles cats do before settling in for a snooze.
Most surprising, a couple of days ago I found him asleep on the wicker chaise lounge in my bedroom. I can’t recall that he has spent time there since it “lived” on the outdoor deck of my home in Maine.
Maybe cats are not the creatures of habit I assume they are. Or maybe I just pay closer attention in winter when I don’t go out as frequently. Or maybe this post is just a rambling excuse to use up a few photos that have been hanging around.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mary Ann Hard: Living in the Moment – Part 1