Wrangling Feral Cats



“I can’t imagine you doing that.”


He’s known me all his life, the total of his 25 years. Mostly, I suppose, through the eyes and words of my sister, his mother. Consecutive years passed without visits, but not many.


I was telling him a story about my childhood in rural Pennsylvania. We had several cats. Outdoor cats my mother called them. We fed them, and that’s as far as my mother felt her responsibility extended. Spaying and neutering were not actions she felt compelled to finance. She enjoyed the cats, but she and my father had six daughters to feed, clothe and educate.


My mother paid enough attention to the cats to know when a female was pregnant. When she thought the time was near she lined a cardboard box with a hand-me-down pink baby blanket, and placed the mother-to-be carefully inside. And each time the cat leapt out of the box, and stalked off into the trees.


Half feral, the mother cats inevitably wandered into the woods to deliver their litter of kittens.


“Thomasina or Grace or Penelope had her kittens,” my mother would eventually inform us when the cat showed up at the back door begging for food, skinny, her nipples filled with milk and hanging low. “Go get a burlap bag and follow her. Bring the kittens back.”


We were little girls ranging in age from 2-12. The mother cats were far savvier than we were. We were loud, excitable, and clumsy. The mother cat always knew what we were up to. She’d circle back to the house, curl up in the empty box, and fall asleep. We promptly forgot about her, and returned to weeding the garden, or creosoting fence posts, whatever our disciplinarian father demanded of us on a given day.


Weeks passed until we were at the right place at the right time in the right mood. Finally, we followed at a far enough remove to sneak up on the mother cat through the trees and the brush, and find the kittens. By this time, never having spied a human, the kittens were well on their way to becoming feral. They hissed and spit when we came near. We slipped our hands into canvas gloves, slid the kittens into the burlap bag, and carried them home, the mother cat trailing behind.


We locked kittens and mother in the upstairs bathroom. With the exception of my father who had the exclusive use of the downstairs bathroom, and who cared little for our captives, we visited many times throughout the day. We ooohed and aahed and cooed and stroked, and within a week they were tamed.


When I got to the part about placing them into the burlap bag, my nephew remarked that he couldn’t imagine me doing it. I didn’t ask him why. I continued with the story.


I was trying to distract him. He was fresh out of rehab, and his girlfriend, also recently released from a separate rehab, refused to speak to him.


After a long descent into madness, his girlfriend’s parents had appeared at their door, and plucked them from their hidey-hole. They took charge of their daughter, and, by virtue of geography, I was charged with my nephew. He was ready to accept help. I urged him into rehab, and 30 days later he was tamed.


Maybe one day when he looks back on his history he’ll remember the story of hissing and spitting kittens in a burlap bag, and he’ll imagine it, his aunt with gloves on, wrangling feral cats.


Rescuing Bumblebees




This morning, while waiting for our yoga teacher to arrive, I sat outside in the sun with two other women, and prayed that I would not be invited to join their conversation.

“Have you let go?” one asked the other

“Yes, I have,” she answered, “I’ve let go of everything I can.”

“Have you become aware of the spaciousness around you,” the first woman wanted to know.

“Yes, it feels nice,” admitted the second.

“It takes awhile,” offered the first, “to understand that spaciousness comes from inside. It’s an internal process.”

Say what?

My yoga buddies were talking about the effects of a minor health issue. But, it’s just as likely they might have been discussing a son or daughter leaving for college, or a change in hair color.

I get tongue-tied during these esoteric conversations.

All I want to do is work up a sweat in my Ashtanga class. I don’t want to think about what I don’t comprehend about internal spaciousness.

I live in a tie-dye town surrounded by wine vineyards. Our economy is driven by the over consumption of alcohol. Limousines for hire happily drive tourists to wineries where they sip a Russian River Pinot while attempting to comprehend what the wine pourer is talking about. He’ll ask if they smell the soil in the wine. And whether they taste the fruit forward splash of raspberry and apricot with a finish of chocolate and cinnamon.

Say what?

All they want to do is get drunk, and flirt with their driver.

This is the Left Coast. I love it. It suits me. I live in a blue bubble. I love it that some old men on the Right use that term in the pejorative. It means they won’t be moving here anytime soon.

Since it’s a huge tourist draw, my little pocket of the Left Coast attracts an enormous number of daytrippers from all over the country. Once while wine tasting with friends from out of town we listened to a couple from Florida enter into a heated discussion with a couple from Seattle over guns. Naturally, the slow-witted mantra, guns don’t kill people, people do, was trotted out at high volume. To which the Seattle people responded: Tell that to the kid who is collateral damage in a shoot out.

The Florida couple was “outgunned” by the preponderance of Lefties.

All we want to do is convince the other side our paranoia is more worthy of outrage than theirs.

Yesterday on Facebook, that bastion of intolerance, someone deemed a celebrity sanctimonious. Irony is clearly lost on that dude along with self-awareness, and the definition of sanctimonious. No one is more sanctimonious than the guy who called out the celebrity as sanctimonious.

Isn’t that a great word, by the way?

All we want to do is castigate all those who do not share our worldview. I’m right, you’re wrong. Who can say it the loudest, and with the most venom?

I returned from yoga to find a terrified bumblebee pummeling itself against a sun-warmed window. Carefully, I wrapped him in a kitchen towel and escorted him safely out the door.

For a second he seemed to hover as if to say thank you for rescuing me. Or maybe he said fuck you for leaving the door open ushering him into a labyrinth of turmoil and despair.

I don’t understand the esoteric buzz or body language of bees. But, I aim to learn. Through this study maybe I’ll expand my consciousness, and come to understand the nature of internal spaciousness. It’s worth a try.

Or maybe not. One thing I do know is how easy it is to finish a bottle of Russian River Pinot Noir.


THANK YOU! to all my commenters on the previous post. I appreciate you! It’s lovely to see everyone again after so long an absence. I’ll visit you all to catch up on what you’ve been up to!

Too Old

He’s not my type
besides he has six girlfriends.

Which is it?
he’s not your type or
he has six girlfriends?

He doesn’t have six girlfriends
they’re only friends
you know, platonic.

Why do you say
he has six girlfriends
if he doesn’t?

When you’re of a certain age, my age
you look around
and you see things that aren’t there
at least not there for you.

Like what?


Are you too old to be loved?

I am.

Do the purple hydrangeas ever remind you
of bruised faces
bobbing at the window, as if seeking refuge?


Do you ever weep with the mothers in wind-blown small towns
the ones who accept delivery of flag-draped coffins?


Do you ever shout and pound your fists on the floor
when you hear of a woman raped the next street over
or 10,000 miles away in an unfamiliar country?

I do all of that and more.

Then do not say to me that you are too old.
Say to me the world is still young
shot full of promise…
and the potential for love.

Love Poem #22





I drove by your house again,
saw your car in the driveway.
I thought about ringing the bell.
I didn’t do it.
Are you proud of me?
I exhibited that self-control
you’re always touting.
I can do it. I can give you space.
It was tough not to knock, or ring, or shout.
I wanted to see that glassy-eyed look on your face.
That look that says, I’m afraid.
I know what you’re afraid of.
I’d banish that fear if you’d let me.
If only you’d let me
love you.
It’s been so long since I’ve posted anything I forgot how to do it… the time has come to finding the discipline.
The inspiration for the poem is a friend who told me a story. I worry about her definition of love. 

Jeannette – Part 2




“It’s ok Billy.” Billy did not resettle himself at Jeannette’s feet. Instead, he leaned against her right leg. She held his leash, not his harness, so he was not “working,” in the parlance of service animals. Jeannette breathed in the loamy scent of his fur, still damp from the rain shower that had escorted them to the Library as they disembarked from the bus. She loved the smell. It irritated her when strangers, not intending any offense, sniffed, and laughingly announced that Billy smelled like a wet dog. She never got used to it. In the voice of a sarcastic child, she repeated the phrase back at them, “he smells like a wet dog.” And then she stomped off, ignoring the volley of apologies that fell like shed fur behind her. So many irritations to endure in an average day.

“Oh my god!” Carrie shook Jeannette’s shoulders as if to wake her.

“Oh my god, is right, Carrie. That was loud. Probably Mitch is dialing 911.”

“How is that possible, Jeannette? Your own mother!”

How was anything possible? The world was full of lunatics like her mother. Jeannette sensed a hush fall over the Reading Area. In the thirty years since the event, she had told only two others the truth. At least once a month someone on the bus, the supermarket, a convenience store asked: Where you born blind? What happened to you? or her favorite: Why do your eyes look like that? She delighted in their embarrassment. Like what? I can’t see them, what do they look like? Followed by the stuttering apologies. She knew exactly how her eyes appeared. Her grandmother had described to her the gray white film, like a cataract but ridged, tiny hills and valleys, where the cornea had been burned away, the aqueous humor drained, where a green iris and a pupil should be, but weren’t. Sighted friends at school had sometimes remarked on long, beautiful eyelashes. Get lost, she’d replied. They did, and she was left alone.

Jeannette squeezed the leather of Billy’s leash, it was slack, and Billy stayed put.

“My mother was under the spell of her religion. She believed society was degrading, and soon the decadence would rival Sodom and Gomorrah.”

Carrie sighed into Jeannette’s hair. Jeannette savored the warmth.

Carrie tightened her grip on Jeannette’s shoulders, “Christ, Jeannette, I can’t imagine. I have goose bumps all over my body.”

“My mother felt it was her duty to save me from the corruption. She didn’t want me to see the filth on TV, or in magazines, even cereal boxes.” Jeannette’s shoulders ached from Carrie’s grip. Carefully she pried them loose. With a gentle squeeze of a hand she released them. She listened to the rustle of crisp cotton as Carrie folded her arms across her chest.

“So young,” Carrie squeaked.

“My grandmother, my mother’s mother raised me. She told me the story over and over. More times than I cared to hear it, actually.” Jeannette smiled, of all things, and tilted her face up to Carrie, an offering. Why did she smile? Why tell her any of this?

“Jeannette, I don’t know what to say.” Jeannette detected Carrie’s fight to hold back tears.

Extending a hand she discovered that Carrie was hunched over as if in pain. She rubbed Carrie’s left arm and wondered what color blouse she wore.

“I should be comforting you,” Carrie whispered, “not the other way around.”

“I think sometimes, though less frequently now, about my four years with sight. I remember color, the pink blanket with white stars. And a blue unicorn that I carried everywhere. I would wrap the blue unicorn in the pink blanket so that only his head was visible. I’d carry him around like my mother had carried me. And I remember Delilah, my dog. She was a stray who wandered into our house one day, and decided to stay. She adopted us. She was a black and white collie, like the kind that herd sheep. I can see her clearly in my mind.” Jeannette shifted her weight. Billy raised his head.

“It’s okay, Billy, good boy.” She bent to caress the side of his face, and he lowered to the floor resting his chin on her foot.

“What made you tell me this now?”

“Oh, I don’t know.” Jeannette paused, lowered her clouded eyes as if to look at Billy.

“I know what you call me, Mad Dog, and I guess I wanted someone to know. It’s not an excuse. You’re the only one I can talk to.”

“Oh shit,” Carrie moaned. “How did you know?”

“Voices carry.” Jeannette shrugged.

Part 2 of Jeannette… one more part will follow as her introduction to the story.

Thanks for reading!  🙂