Are spirits in the material world

8 08 2010

I don’t believe in life after death.

There is life, here, in this world, and death both is and signals the end of life.

Now, is there something else, after life? That, I don’t know.

If there is something else, it doesn’t seem that it would conform to notions of Christian or Muslim heaven; those seem so earth-bound, so reflective of what we already have here, only someone’s version of better.  (A multitude of virgins or streets paved with gold? Really?) If there would be something else, wouldn’t it be. . . something else?

Backing up: I think of life as bounded by this earth, but I’m fudging on the whole existence thing, that is, we exist in life, here, and if our existence continues, then it would be in some other way.

Furthermore, that there could be something else doesn’t mean it’s supernatural. I don’t believe in the supernatural; I think everything—everything—is natural, and that that which is called ‘supernatural’ is simply something for which we lack understanding.

(And woo? Woo is a cover, a con: obfuscation masquerading as understanding.)

This isn’t rank materialism. I also don’t believe the (natural or social) sciences are sufficient to make sense of all worldly—universal—phenomenon; I’m not arguing that understanding necessitates a reduction of all things to the latest brand of physics. It’s simply that, if there is nothing beyond nature, then we’ll need new ways of understanding—new sciences—to make sense of that which current scientific methods cannot.

Does this tend toward a Theory of Everything? Perhaps, but since TOE is conceptualized in contemporary terms, it may be inadequate to describe all that there is.

And ‘is’ itself may be—hell, already is—called into question, along with ‘all’ and ‘that’.

*Sigh* It’s late and I”m not making sense.

I’m wondering about death because a little over a week ago Bean died and a little over a year ago Chelsea died.  I don’t think they’re in pet heaven or regular heaven or whatever. I don’t know if they’ve gone some place after death, if their existence continues, or what relationship that existence has to any worldly one. Maybe there’s nothing, maybe there’s something. I know they’re not with me.

But I would like to think, that if there is something, that they neither forget nor are constrained by life. This existence on earth, this life, is powerful, and if there is something else, I’d like to think it offers us more without taking away what we already were. Perhaps there is no full understanding on this earth, no way for us to comprehend all there is; perhaps life is to get us started, but it’s not enough, not enough for us to know.

I don’t know this, of course. And maybe this is it, and this life which is not enough is it. Perhaps this life is enough.

My methods are insufficient to determine one way or the other.





Bean-a-lee-a-lea, Bean-a-lee-a-lou. . . .

31 07 2010

Bean loved to do two things, eat, and:

Sleep

And sleep some more

She slept on the floor, on rugs, in chairs, on tables, on my desk, in my closet, and, of course, in bed:

Whaddya mean, move?

As Chelsea and Bean got older, I set a low chest near the bed to make it easier for them to get up and down. In one apartment, however, I didn’t have room for the chest, so set this stool next to the bed, instead:

Chelsea would step lightly up, but Bean never quite mastered that. Instead, she’d climb partly on to the lower step, then stick her paw into the notch on top and haul herself up and over; made me smile every time. Shoulda gotten a shot of that.

When I had a proper kitchen set-up—i.e., a table and chairs—Bean liked to jump into the chair. She then expected me to tip it back and rub her belly. She’d squeak and squeak until I’d stop, then look at me like ‘You’re stopping? Is there a problem?’

Even without the tip-and-rub, however, she liked to reign from the chair.

This became a point of contention between her and Jasper, as he, too, liked to loll on the chair. Bean would chase him off if he dared slip on to her perch, but at some point this past winter, she ceded the spot to him. It was a concession both sad and inevitable.

Still, she never gave in fully to Jasper, never let him get too familiar. Tolerance, however, she could do.

Early detente

I did see them sleeping together—actually touching—once or twice, but Jasper could never get the hang of how to hang without chomping on Bean. And then he wondered why she wanted nothing to do with him.

Chelsea was the same way, initially, with Bean, although because they were much closer in age, they had more time together to learn how to live together.

Unfathomable in the early years, constant later on

Chelsea, as I may have mentioned, was a marvelous jumper, able to leap from the floor to the top of five-foot bookshelves with little more preparation than a look and a butt-wriggle. This was how she most often escaped the Bean-kitten, as the young Bean had neither the strength nor, frankly, the chops, to follow her.

But oh, how Bean tried. One night, when my roommate P. and I were sitting on the couch, Bean chased Chelsea down the hall and into the living room. Chelsea skipped on to the nearby desk, then hopped on to the bookshelves.

Bean, determined to follow, didn’t bother first scrawling up the couch to get to the desk (a board slung across two file cabinets), and instead tried to conquer the desk in one leap.

She managed to get half her tiny body up, but her back didn’t quite make it. She bicycled her back legs, to no avail, and her front half slowly slid back off, until all that remained on top were her paws, the claws dug into the plywood.

She hung there for a moment, her little body swinging, before she finally let go.

Bean never attained the grace so natural to Chelsea, but she had her own dignity.

And she was sweet and lovable, who pipped and squeaked and purred and purred and purred.

Bean was a good cat. I don’t know if there’s anything after life in this world, but if there is, I hope she and Chelsea are together.

They were good cats.

If there is something else, I hope they’re happy.





you have done well it’s time to rest

29 07 2010

My beautiful Bean is gone.

Beanalea 1994-2010

Her name was inspired by a Jane Siberry song, ‘Everything Reminds Me of My Dog': She has a line about Old folks remind me of my dog/My dog reminds old folks of their dogs (Barfy, Ruffo, Beanhead). . . . Bean! That’s it.

Chelsea had been driving my roommate and me crazy with her constant talk, so I thought another cat might help chill her out. I was in Minneapolis at the time, a couple of houses down from friends, and they went with me to the Humane Society to get a kitten.

We saw one group of kittens, then went into another room (the sick cat room, it turns out) for more. I had the name; I needed the cat to fit.

J., the driver, held up a long-haired black-and-white kitten and said ‘Get her! Get her!’ I didn’t want a long-hair, however, and demurred. (I did coerce convince J. to get that kitty herself; ‘Entropy’, she was named. Aptly.)

And then I found my Bean—full name, Beanalea—and took her home. She lived with Chelsea and me in three apartments in Minneapolis, one in Montreal, one in Somerville, and five in Brooklyn. She didn’t particularly like travelling, but she always settled in once we had, in fact, settled in.

Bean, Beanalea, Bean-goddammit (for a brief period when she was around 6 months), Binkins, Polar Bean, Lima Bean, Navy Bean, Gah-bahnzo Bean. . . she was my Bean.

My beautiful Bean.





I’m watching my sweet mama from my vigil on this chair

5 07 2010

It’s almost time.

She’s been fading, fading, for months; I wasn’t sure she’d make it this long. But we are nearing the end.

I see her hunched-up walk and my breath catches in my throat. I scoop her up and hold her against my chest and tuck my chin into her fur and whisper No, not yet! I’m not ready.

And I set her back down and she walks fine and it’s clear that she’s not ready yet, either.

But it’s coming, and when she’s ready I’ll have to be, too.

Even if I’m not.

My beautiful Bean. . . !





I watch you sleeping on the bed

9 03 2010

My beautiful Bean is sick.

Not desperately so, and perhaps not-imminently-fatally so, but she is ill, and it likely that this illness will at some point result in her death.

It pains me to say this, because I do not want my sweet old kitten to die, but I cannot ignore her decline.

Cannot. Will not.

I did ignore what was happening to Chelsea. It’s so clear, in retrospect, that she was sick for years, dying for months, and almost gone by the time I saw that gone was the best place for her. I spent money I didn’t have on a delusion that at 18 what little life she had in her was enough for a few more years.

It made the ending harder than it had to be for both of us.

So I won’t do that with Bean. I will see her, as she is, an old and sick cat. Oh, I’m doing what I can, within reason, to slow that decline, but at 15 1/2, ‘within reason’ amounts to home care and wishes.

Whether that decline is weeks or months or even a year, I have no idea.

But I’ll be ready, or readier, this time. Chelsea taught me that. Wishes or no, I have to see Bean clear.





It’s raining again

6 02 2010

Penises are trouble.

You may recall a recent post in which I noted the odd-cute manner in which Jasper approached the litter box and his business therein.

I even posted pictures.

Well.

There have been developments since then, none of them good. Some cat is no longer confining his or her elimination to the litter box.

At first I thought it was Bean who, tired of being ambushed by the dauphin, went outside of the enclosed box so as to observe better the movements of the said ambusher. I therefore removed the top, thinking this would solve the problem.

It did not.

I reconsidered: What if  the matter were not that of a female cat squatting outside of the box, but of a male cat perched on the edge and overshooting? What if the puddle were produced by a poorly-pointed penis?

This seems to be the case.

I’ve had a conversation with Jasper about his aim, but he gives me the blank look of a teenager bored by everything an adult has to say. If he could, I’d bet he’d stick his paws in his ears and sing la-la-la-la-la-la over my remonstrations.

Boys!





Sugar boy, whatcha tryin’ to do

17 01 2010

Jasper is an odd cat.

When I pour my cereal in the morning, he hops on to the table and rubs himself all over the boxes and me in a kind of ecstasy. He then closely inspects the poured cereal.

He seems particularly to like Grape Nuts.

(For all of you non-critter owning folk who are now gagging at the thought of a cat on a table or a whisker in a bowl of cereal, hell, you’re probably right: it is unsanitary. I also think it’s funny.)

(This may be among the reasons that you don’t have critters and I do.)

And no, excepting the just-poured  pre-milk cereal, I don’t let him stick his face in my food. As I tell him, that’s just rude.

He does generally like to lounge on the table—which I wash off before I prep any food. My tolerance for kitty dirt does have its limits.

Whaddya mean this isn't a kitty bed?

He also has this thing with the litter box: He climbs halfway inside and pushes the litter around with some vigor.

He then perches on the edge of the box to do his business.

Then, back inside for more vigorous litter-shovelling. Which leads to litter all over the floor.

Which explains the broom in the bathroom.

C. wondered if he doesn’t like the lid. Possible, but given that he has no problem crawling all the way inside to scratch at every last bit on the box—minutes, he does this, honest to pete—I think it’s more about Jasper than the box.

Oh, and have I mentioned how well he’s training me? In addition to lulling me into thinking the breakfast routine in endearing, he’s also learned how to sucker me into comforting him—even when I don’t think he’s really all that upset:

The steam pipe in the bathroom knocks like hell, which makes Jasper squeak out a pathetic little cry, which leads me to say ‘C’mere Jasper. It’s okay. C’mere. . . .’ So he’ll squeak a little more, then jump into my lap for a round of head scratching. (And if I stop before he’s done, he’ll shove his head under my hand and wriggle it a bit.)

I gotta admit, I doubt he cries when I’m not home. I bet he just rolls over on whatever surface he’s snoozing and dreams of new ways of manipulating me.

That is, unless he falls off. Boy has no edge-sense whatsoever.

Well. Given that this is his first winter, I thought I’d introduce him to snow. It started promisingly:

But any attempt to lure him on to the fire escape ended at the sash:

Jasper was not impressed with snow.

Bean, of course, is still unimpressed with Jasper.

She’s tolerant enough of his presence, but I have seen them lying next to one another—briefly, it must be said—only twice.

He’s very interested in her, but he can’t seem to figure out that her unwillingness to hang out with him might just be related to his penchant to pouncing on her back or swiping at her with his paw or chomping on her neck.

Bean don’t like it.

In any case, as successful as he’s been in charming me, he’s not yet achieved that Zen state in which he can simply claim any space as his own.

Such as the middle of my bed.

Yes, Jasper may be the Odd Prince of Prospect-Lefferts Garden, but Bean remains Queen.





The year of the cat

31 12 2009

My attitude toward 2009?

Don’t let the calendar hit your ass on the way out the clock.

I don’t usually care much one way or the other for end of year/beginning of year ruminations; my biggest issue is remember to write the correct year on any documents I have to date.

But two things happened this year which affected the absurd household.

One (tho’ the second thing, if you insist on chronological correctness):

Yes, the Odd Boy, Mr. Jasper himself, came to live with Bean and me. He’s been a sweet pain in the ass and a darling demon. I’m glad he’s here.

Bean continues to withhold judgment on the issue.

The second, of course, is the first:

My beautiful Chelsea died.

It was time. She’d been in a slow decline for years, but the end came quickly. She was in no obvious pain, and she purred to the last.

Still, even a good death is a death, and this was the end of a remarkable creature.

I miss you, Sweet Pea.

~~~

There would be no Jasper without Chelsea, of course, no entrance without the exit.

It’s not that Jasper replaces her (duh), but that the space left by Chelsea opened a space for another.

Would I rather have Chelsea than Jasper? I’d rather that Chelsea had stayed healthy for a few more years, that she had continued to fill her own space. Had she done so, I’d have never gone to Animal Control, never met that smelly little critter chomping on my fingers (shoulda been a clue) through the cage bars.

In other words, there’s no comparison between the two. One departed, the other entered. What was Chelsea’s will remain so; Jasper is creating his own way.

My sorrow at Chelsea’s death coexists with my pleasure at Jasper’s presence.

Time falls away, and leaves Chelsea, Bean, and Jasper. They all came, they will all go; they are all here, always.





There is power in a union

23 10 2009

Jasper’s apprenticeship is proceeding on schedule. I expect he’ll have earned full membership by the time he turns one.

Cats, in case you don’t know, have a union—global, strong, and utterly unbreakable. It is, of course, mandatory, but I’ve met to meet a cat who objects to the basic obligations of the union. And no wildcat strikes, either: the duties are immanent in all cat activities, such that there is no space or contradiction between the feline condition and the union.

Marx could have learned a thing or two from cats.

(It is also important to note the union is basically syndicalist, owing in large part to cats’  anarchist predispositions. No vanguard parties, here.)

There are various tasks which all cats must perform prior to initiation into the union (Indoor or Outdoor Division)—in Jasper’s case, Feline Union Local 226, ID (Brooklyn-East Flatbush)—as well as a selection of electives (to establish a speciality).

Jasper has mastered the following:

  • bag-diving
  • sink exploration
  • tub exploration (*note: extra points are earned if cat jumps into the litter box immediately following tub or sink exploration, thereby allowing for dirty paw-prints to be tracked about the dwelling)
  • toilet flushing inspection (*note: given the noise and generally bowl agitation, it often requires a build-up to the actual inspection, ranging from remaining in the room while toilet flushes, to jumping on lid, to actual inspection)
  • pushing pencils and/or other items from desk or table to floor
  • attacking bits of paper, fluff, or anything which might otherwise be considered garbage
  • garbage diving
  • walking across and/or standing on sensitive regions of body
  • laying in clean clothes
  • disrupting bed-making
  • jumping into chair to which human plans to return
  • batting at ankles from a hiding place
  • shoelace attacks
  • sock attacks
  • chasing string
  • chasing insects
  • poking head in refrigerator
  • jumping into open cabinet doors
  • knocking over at least one plant
  • laying in lap so as to interfere with human’s task (e.g., grading papers, completing crossword puzzle)
  • laying on book/magazine and/or otherwise interfering with reading
  • purring loudly in ear while trying to talk on phone
  • window dozing
  • successful jumps to high places
  • scooting between human’s legs to run out door
  • spewing liquid medicines over floor
  • behaving perfectly in the presences of guests
  • behaving horribly in the presence of guests
  • bogarting other cat’s food (a necessary task, but subject to punishment by other cat)
  • waking the human less than a hour before her alarm goes off
  • leaping on human’s blanket-covered feet
  • crawling into human’s lap on the hottest day of the year
  • spinning 180 degrees in air when surprised
Disrupting bed-making

Disrupting bed-making

Among tasks to be completed:

  • unsuccessful leaps into high places, preferably followed by a crash
  • mauling human when she attempts to place in cat carrier [#need has not yet arisen]
  • howling while in transit [#first trips don't count; need for other trips has not yet arisen]
  • spitting out pills [#need has not yet arisen]
  • interrupting sex [#situation has not yet arisen]
  • singeing whiskers in candle
  • spazzing at presence of sticky item on fur
  • growling
  • breaking at least one item of human
  • laying on back, spread-eagled, in presence of guests

#While apprentices cannot be held responsible for failure of humans, they are nonetheless encouraged to manipulate humans so that tasks may be completed.

Jasper has shown a particular ability in the specialty of Technology Disruption:

  • walking across and/or standing on keyboard
  • blocking monitor from human’s view
  • rendering keyboard dysfunctional through the stomping on a particular combinations of keys
  • pulling cord(s) out of computer
  • attacking mouse
  • hitting mute button on keyboard
  • sending computer into sleep mode
  • inspecting printer output

To complete certification in his specialty, however, he’ll have to

  • turn computer on
  • turn computer off
  • jam printer

Once he achieves full membership, he may not only pursue as many specialties (including but not limited to  Nighttime Disruption, Meal Disruption, Theft & Disappearance) as he wishes, he is free to innovate in the development of new specialties.

Bean became an emeritus member (Feline Union At-Large, ID)  upon reaching her 15th year this past fall. Any participation in paper-blocking and bag-diving is therefore strictly voluntary and meant solely for her enjoyment.

We humans, of course, have zero control over and only limited bargaining power with this union. They are united and strong, and we, weak and scattered.

Which means they’ll win every time.





Down to me, the change has come

29 07 2009

My new best friend:

Because of him/her/it, I am now able to sleep (mostly) in peace, and Jasper has been downgraded from Vampire Kitty to Hyperactive Kitty.

And no, this teddy bear is not stuffed full of catnip or some other contraband. He is simply soft and floppy and about Jasper’s size.

Backstory: Jasper bit, as all kitties do, and I did the whole withdraw-attention thing to get him to stop. He did not.

I’d lift him off the desk or bed, place him close to the ground, and drop him. He’d jump back on and resume biting.

I advanced to the water bottle. He didn’t like the squirt, but it provided only a temporary deterrent. At times, it only meant that I’d have a damp cat leaping toward my face. Repeatedly. In the middle of the night.

What to do, what to do. He’s a kitten, kittens bite. But, shees, so much? Every moment he’s awake?

So I did what any semi-sane and extremely tired kitty-owner would do: I searched online for solutions.

Many opinions: Just say No! Tap his nose. Don’t tap his nose. Blow in his face. Don’t blow in his face. Squirt him. Don’t squirt him. Confine him. Wait it out. Put your finger in his mouth and hold his tongue down [honest!]. Distract him.

Ah. I’d been trying aversive operant conditioning, trying to get him to associate bad things (shouts of No! physical removal from the bed and desk, water squirts) with biting, but all it was doing was pissing him off.

And, of course, pissing me off, because while I would never ever ever throw the kitty across the room, when said kitty is raking his tiny and sharp incisors across my skull at 4 in the morning, I am sorely tempted to do so.

But, distraction. I could give that a whirl.

I had held off from doing so, not wanting Jasper to associate something benign (play, a toy) with biting, but, as numerous commentators pointed out, this is what kittens do.

They’re also not the brightest of creatures, so any concerns I might have about Jasper associating biting with positive feedback is, well, overestimating the intellectual capacities of a months-old id.

That night, then, when Jasper launched his attack, I removed him from whatever appendage he was gnawing on and stuffed the teddy bear into him. He immediately transferred all his tooth-and-claw energy into teddy, and left me alone.

Sweet honey on the rock, he left me alone.

Granted, he still wakes me up, and sometimes I have to push the teddy toward him a couple of times, but thus far he’s more than willing to beat the shit out of the stuffed animal rather than me.

(Bean still prefers to beat the shit out of him if he dares even to paw at her tail. I figure that’s for the two of them to work out.)

During the day, I distract him with various toys (mice, plastic rings, wine corks, etc.), and while he still jumps all over my keyboard and likes to chew on books, his taste for my flesh has waned.

He’s more relaxed, I’m more relaxed, and, most importantly, I can actually enjoy him.

A gentle, positive approach. Thanks be to teddy, it works.

Who knew?








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