Wednesday, September 5, 2018

MY CAT GAVE ME A WRITING LESSON

Where are the palm trees?
by Gayle Lynds 

Where do you find your life lessons?  I just got a big one from our cat, Domino, who is the least likely of creatures great or small to impart insight.  Still, he gave me a whopper — about life, writing, and aging.

Domino?  Even though he's lazy?  Yes! 

He's so lazy that he sleeps 20 hours a day, minimum.  Then he lolls around pretending to keep his eyes open.  He’s a Manx, which means he has no tail, and that means he should be built with large, powerful haunches so he can leap and kill prey.  Nope, he’s got slim hips.  And jumping is hard anyway because he’s, ah-hem, padded with 18 gushy pounds of squeezable love that the vet says is okay because he’s a lonnng boy and his weight is stable.  As a result of all of this, Domino has given up hunting.

But then he’s old — 13 cat years, which is about 69 in human years.  Born in Southern California, he spent his first three years in Maine refusing to go outdoors again.  No palm trees here.  There’s a certain charm in that kind of stubbornness. 
He's learned to compromise with his bed. He's bigger than it.

In further argument against his ability to teach anyone anything, his nickname is Scaredy Cat.  When someone comes to the door, this magnificently large, tailless feline flattens back his ears and races the hell out of there.  He’s terrified of strangers — human or otherwise.  Please don’t expect to see him.  He’s busy, hiding.

Then a few days ago, an old friend visited.  With her was her bright, happy, galumping puppy of some 30 pounds.  Thankfully, Domino was nowhere in sight.  Obviously he’d pre-hidden.

The big puppy raced into the kitchen, around the living room, and disappeared into our bedroom.  Almost instantly, a terrible moan exploded from there, followed by whimpers. 

We rushed into the bedroom.  The puppy was standing in the middle of the room, tail between his legs, looking down at the cat.  He’d been caught in the remorseless gaze of a born gladiator — our Domino.

Domino’s green eyes were blazing.  His chubby body was puffed out to twice his normal size.  He was David; the dog was Goliath.  He was old and had skinny hips; the dog was full of the fountain of boundless youth. 

Still, Domino advanced.  He hissed and swiped a pawful of claws at the dog’s nose.  Whimpering, the dog jumped back.

“Domino!” John said, chastising our unruly beast.  “Leave that poor dog alone!”  As if Domino were accustomed to beating up on dogs.

Trembling, the puppy peered across at us, spotted his owner, and with a look of relief, bolted past her and out the door.  

Domino stared after the dog.  I swear, he was smiling. 
           
But then from the kitchen, the puppy barked loudly. 

Domino froze.  He frowned.  His size deflated.  Flattening back his ears in horror, he vanished under the bed. 

John and I stood there, two writers.  The room seemed to ring with Domino’s absence.  Domino had braced his fears and been powerful in a grand moment of outrageous courage.

So there you have it — we writers can have similar characteristics to Domino:  feelings of laziness, difficulty in hunting (i.e., writers block, delivering on deadline, etc.), weight issues, stubbornness, hiding out to avoid company, and the coup de grâce — every 24 hours we get a day older.

Rogue Chris Goff wrote a terrific blog called “Don’t Tell Me ... I Forgot” about the issues of memory loss and writing, and that got me to thinking about aging and the writer.  We hear a lot about the downside of getting older, but the upside is that most people never get dementia.  We live longer and better than previous generations.  And best of all, life has given the gifts of experience and what we’ve learned from them.  That’s called wisdom.  And yes, we can continue to work and create....

Immanuel Kant wrote one of his best philosophical works at the age of 74.  Michelangelo painted the awe-inspiring frescoes in the Sistine Chapel at age 75 and completed The Pietá, his greatest work of art, at 87.  “I am still learning,” Francisco de Goya wrote when he was about 80.  Giuseppe Verdi composed the opera Falstaff at 80 and his classic “Ave Maria” at 85.  Frank Lloyd Wright completed the design of New York City’s Guggenheim Museum when he was 91.
Domino gazing at me in bed, preparing for his next nap.

In his moment of explosive bravery, Domino reminded me that we are more than the sum of our parts.  No matter our age, we overcome, rise to, glory in, make, and contribute. 

In fact, Domino proved the point a few minutes ago.  Our yard is overrun with chipmunks, and one of them came blasting in the front door.  Domino was sitting nearby, grooming himself in preparation for his morning nap.  He lifted his head, spotted the darned rodent, and herded it back outside, and then stopped at the door to observe.  He’s still not going to hunt.  He does it his way.  And so can we.

Do you have a favorite part of getting older?  Please share!

11 comments:

  1. I've always loved Domino. Now that I've read this story, I am even more in awe of how very special he is - and how very right you are. Age does not define us.

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    1. It's a hard lesson to internalize, at least for me, that age doesn't define us, but maybe that's what Augustine meant when he said the journey is all. We're journeying, sistah!

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  2. Gayle, Domino's grand stand reminds me of the poem, The Tale of Custard the Dragon, by Odgen Nash. You must look it up and read it. Such a great story, and totally what happened (to both the pup and Domino, lol).

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    1. What a wonderful recommendation, Robin. Thank you!

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  3. Bravo, Domino...and all of us "writers of a certain age." 😊

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    1. Domino leads, and I follow! Wonderful to hear from you, LC!

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  4. I wish I still had a 29 year old body but I’m very glad I don’t have my 29 year old mind.

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  5. Your discussion of aging reminded me of a question Satchel Paige once asked: "How old would you be if you didn't know how old you are?" Now, how would any of you answer that one? And thanks, Gayle, for a delightful post.

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    1. OMG, Karna, that's a wonderful question! Rattles the brain. I'm gonna thunk on it.

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  6. At our last high school reunion, my grade school classmates and I stood around and ponder the question--what age do you feel? Most of our answers ranged from 21 to 32 or 33. Note, we are now a bunch of sixty somethings. Then there was this one friend who looked a little sheepish and answered, "Twelve." It was a joke and came with a very cute story of why, but it was interesting to me how young we all felt in our minds, despite the creaking of our joints. Go Domino. I was delighted that he let me pet him!

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