Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Millinery: Inspiration

Every day lately, this butterfly has been dropping by my garden for nectar refreshment amongst the verbena.

I rush to get my camera and then we play "catch me if you can".

I lock focus, hit the shutter button and the butterfly flies.
And I get another picture of a leaf or flower that really isn't all that special.

Yesterday I was feeling so down I almost didn't play.

But the light was so perfect and the butterfly lingered, as if to say, come on, I'll let you take my picture today.

Nice, huh.
Today, when I downloaded the pictures, it reminded me of a hat in the Houston Community College millinery collection.

Autumnal inspiration interpreted in velvet and beads, probably about 50 years ago.

Maybe that was it. Or maybe its just what it looks like to me. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Yesterday fragmented.

It was our first perfect autumn day, cool and crisp and sunny.

It was the first day I had felt fully alive in weeks.

And then, suddenly, Tidbit died.

Posted by Picasa

Proverb: A much loved child (or cat) has many names.

We called her Jennyanydots.

And "Jenny".

And "Tidbit".

"Princess Pretty Whiskers".

"Our Girl"




and "Sweet Sweet".

She was only five years old yesterday when we lost her.

It had started out to be such a beautiful day.

Jenny had some scratches on her oh so white tummy. She was licking them and had made the area rather bare, and rashy, so I had made an appointment for her at the veterinarian.

It meant getting up earlier than usual. She firmly resisted getting into her carrier, as all right minded cats will, and dove under the bed.

Next we put the carrier in the bathroom, a small space so she couldn't escape us, and gathered her up, apologizing the whole time, and explaining that she really did need to have her tummy looked at, and slipped her into the carrier.

She protested pitifully as I drove. Once we arrived, she was perfectly lady like, and sat quietly as the vet examined her. She had gained two pounds, not a good thing. The scratches were addressed with a cortisone injection. I mentioned that she was grunting slightly as she walked sometimes, but not always though.

The doctor suggested that overweight cats sometimes did that, and that perhaps we could help her exercise more by using a lazer pointer light for her to chase.

Tidbit never saw the point of a lazer pointer light. She was willing to move for a bit for catnip though.

She protested less on the ride home. After exchanging a sniff over with Tiggie and Hart, she settled in for a nap.

I got busy decorating the house for fall. It was the first time it had felt like fall, crisp, cool, "windows open" weather. Tidbit wandered through the efforts, and I remembered how she always looked like autumn to me, especially with the sun on her fur and the sunlight making her ears glow. She had such bat ears as a kitten. Now they seemed rather small for her body.

The purple martins arrived, and the pileated woodpecker. I talked with my mom, and got caught up.

Then I trimmed up some of the garden landscape. The cats all came out for a couple of minutes, and seemed to enjoy the weather as well. I almost took a picture.

It didn't seem like much work, but I was just tired enough that I decided to take a quick snooze before heading out to work. Tidbit was on the bed, and I petted her and listened to her purr for a few minutes, maybe 10 minutes or so.

I left the houses at 4:40, and I arrived a bit late at work. It was a busy night, and my co-librarian taught two classes, so I didn't even take a break. Or check my email until almost nine. When I looked, there were two emails from Bernie, asking me to call him immediately. Tidbit was at the hospital.

When I called him on my cell phone, he was already in the school parking lot. He said we would talk when I got off work. I suspected Tidbit had died, or he would have told me what was happening.

At 9:30 I finished work, and joined him in the parking lot. He said that around seven thirty he had heard an odd meow, and went to investigate. Tidbit was on our bedroom floor, beneath the window, one of her favorite places to nap. She was breathing hard, and was limp and very hot. Hart and Tiggie were nearby watching her.

Bernie tried to reach our vet, but they had just left the day. A recorded message said to call a 24 hour vet office off of 1960, a roadway about 30 minutes from our home. He called, and they said to bring her right in.

This time she didn't protest at all as he eased her once again into her carrier.

She died on the way.

The vet said that cats that die suddenly almost always die of heart failure. They see a lot of cases like ours, being a 24 hour veterinary office. People late at night bringing in their cat, who one moment was chasing a string, or walking across a room, or jumping down from a lap, and then the next moment, suddenly, inexplicably, was dead.

It could be heart worms, or just a heart defect, or in most case, nine out of ten, unknown causes. Her being overweight could have contributed to it, but maybe not. The cortisone injection probably had nothing to do with it. The stress of being taken to the vet that morning might have added to the stress on the heart, but maybe not.

Bernie stayed with Tidbit for a long time. He said he stroked each of her patches, the orange one that looked like a heart, the black one that looked like a bat, the orange and white stripes, and the grey and black stripes, and her long beautiful whiskers. He said he cried over her, and told her again how much we loved her, and that she should go to heaven and find Mac, her protector cat, that loved her as a kitten, he who died, slowly of cancer four years ago. We still miss Mac.

Bernie then drove to meet me. We went back to the vets and picked out an urn, and I had to decide if I wanted to stroke her one more time or just keep the memory of our last cuddle on the bed. It was hard, but I decided to just keep the memory. It was hard to drive away, I wanted to take her with us, and bury her in our garden where it was changing to her colors, and into the season she loved best.

But Texas soil is clay, and saturated now, impossible to dig in more than a few inches. So we had to leave her behind. We'll get her ashes in a few weeks.

What will I remember about Tidbit:

How she looked at me the very first time.
How she purred then.
And how she seemed to smile when I came back, like I promised I would, to pick her up two days later when the animal shelter said I could have her.
How she was so tiny. And how when the very big and gentle Mac came up to give her a welcome, she unleashed a salty kitty hiss that made Mac's eyes grow wide in amazement.

How she played. And how her nose had three bands of color, peach, and grey and black.
The black smudge by her noise, like a beauty mark that appeared in her teenage months.

How she would bunny hop in the morning to greet me.

And how slept with me, the only cat to ever let me hold her like a baby as I slept.

She was like a Beatrix Potter cat, all white lace ruff, and shiny black guard fur, and sweet simple ways. Her calico ways, short tail, stripes and spots and gentle manners. She never seemed to be in a hurry, or plotting capers like other cats.

She just enjoyed the sun, and being with me.

She was the cat I had wanted my whole life. She was the cat I hoped would live to be twenty or more. I never dreamed we would lose her so soon. Too soon.

She was a cat who had a perfect life.

Except that it was much too short.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Woody Woodpeck came a knocking on our tree

Ah, cool weather at last! The sky is clear, and purple martins were whooping it up in the back yard this morning. Probably twenty five of them were flitting around the pine trees.

I called Bernie away from his desk to come listen to the racket the martins were making, and mentioned that I kept hearing a knocking sound.

Bernie, who can see the tiniest lizard and the best camouflaged snake (but not anything needing to be picked up on the floor of the house...) immediately looked up higher in the pine tree and spotted this gorgeous pileated woodpecker having a bug for breakfast.

We always get excited when we see Pileated Woodpeckers because they are rather large, and make an impressive knocking sound as they peck (when we moved here I kept wondering why I was hearing jackhammers in the woods, duh...)
Posted by Picasa This was the first time we have ever had one visit our own garden. We regularly have redheaded woodpeckers, that look rather patriotic with their bright red, white and black/blue feathers, and are so serious as they quietly go about their peckering business.

We also have ladder back woodpeckers. They are real characters. They raid the bird seed feeder, shaking their heads from side to side in the seed, which serves to scatter the seeds with their bill. They actually dump all the seed that they don't want or like from the feeder.

When they do come across a seed they actually want, they stop the scattering and grab the good stuff (sunflower seeds), and fly away to another perch to enjoy that treat, or punching it away into a crevice.

Those little rascals can take down my bird seed by 25% in about 10 minutes...I wind up tapping on my window and speaking sharply to the loony bird:

"Stop that. Stop that right now!"

They are so goofy looking as they swing their head, I can almost hear them saying to themselves:

"I don't like this, and I don't want that, I don't like this, oh, and I don't like that...ah, here we go, um, yummy sunflower seed!"

They are so amusing, in their little red cap, that in the end I just wind up going out to buy another bag of bird food, making sure it is a brand with plenty of those tasty black sunflower seeds, because, apparently, the way to a birds heart is through it's stomach, and I want to make sure that Mr. Ladderback will keep coming back to my feeder for more.

Mr. Pileated...well, I think he is just going to have to make do with whatever bug is available, 20 feet up the loblolly pine tree. I hope he enjoyed his feast this morning, and will come back.

He's welcome here, anytime!