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A Tale of a Bastard   7 comments

I lost my little Foo last week. He was old and skinny and arthritic, one milky eye and one sunken hip. He hated the cold, and he was ready to go.

But I miss him. So I’m writing this, just for me really, so I can come back and read about him sometimes, when I feel his fierce, solitary little ghost slipping around the farm, wide-eyed and predatory.

He was not a nice cat. He went about with his claws perpetually unfurled, and he stuck them into anyone and anything he felt like. He bit everyone without discrimation. He didn’t mind his own dogs, but he hated any others, and all other cats. He liked humans okay but bit them anyway.

He was a Bastard.

Even before he was ours, when he was still tiny Tommy the Rescue (there he is in the first photo in a rare moment of stillness, sleeping peacefully with baby Anala), he was a hellion, a wild thing, a ferociously independent little force.

Gaby found him when he was only a few weeks old, too small to be weaned. She was pregnant fit to pop, and having work done on her house. She looked out the window one gray day and saw the workmen throwing rocks at something in a puddle. She went out and found a tiny tiny grey tabby kitten, half-drowned and barely alive. She took him inside, got him some catmilk, and saved his life.

Gaby always has a houseful of cats. I think she was at four or five then (it’s closer to ten now, I believe- I’m always a little behind on the count.) This little terror traumatized all of them. He was just too much of a handful, what with the construction and a new baby on the way, so when he was old enough to eat real food (and no one had responded to her pleas to adopt him) she set her jaw and took him to the Humane Society.

Then she came home and cried all day, went back and paid to adopt the kitten she had just dropped off.

When Brian and I went to meet newborn Nali we came home with him. We were in our brief and only catless phase then- the only time since David and I met that ever happened. Since poor David is allergic to cats we thought we might stay that way, but Foo changed all that. Brian and I weren’t sure how he’d react to this news, but Gaby had given us a full return policy so we figured it was worth a shot.

David was mowing the grass when we got home. I walked out to him, Foo on my shoulder. He said, “Oh. A cat.”

And that was that. Foo was family.

Brian wanted to name him Fu Manchu for his black moustachios, but for some odd reason (I was an odd Mom) I didn’t want his name to be spelled F.U. so it became Foo. A silly name that never suited him.

He rode around on my shoulder for the first couple of weeks, claws gripping my flesh, stormcloud gray eyes wide, purring savagely in my ear.

But as he got bigger he decided even that was too much dependence. He never curled up sweetly on a lap. He never begged for treats or a skritch (although he occasionally demanded them.) His eyes brightened to a hard gold, his tough little body grew sleek and taut with muscle, and those claws clicked and pierced and dug all over the house and the farm.

When we introduced him to the dogs, still a tiny fellow, he went very still. Tramp, bemused, looked to Max for instruction. Max grabbed him in his jaws. We made him drop him and told him that he had to protect the new baby kitty, and that was the last time Max ever menaced him. In no time Foo was terrorizing them both.

David was walking Tramp down the driveway one day when Foo dropped down on poor Tramp’s back from his ambush spot on a tree, all claws fully unfurled. As David tells the tale, Tramp screamed like a little girl while Foo bounded off in triumph.

One night I was on the patio and heard a scream. Foo came flying across the yard out of the darkness, something dark and silent and about the size of a lab right on his tail. He leapt up onto the gas tank, the dark thing streaked away into the night, and I picked up my little warrior, his heart beating through his ribs, and he let me carry him inside before shaking free of me. I still don’t know what it was that almost got him, but he came home many a night with battle scars.

He was a hunter par excellence right from the beginning. The moles who tunneled through our yard almost entirely moved out during his reign of terror. To my sorrow they have returned in recent years since he became less able to cover the entire farm. None of the girlcats, hunters though they are, are his match.

He was a bastard for climbing trees and raiding nests in the spring. One year he must have killed a mockingbird’s babies because she went on a relentless jihad against him. Every time he ventured out of the house she would scream piercingly and dive bomb him. She’s one of the few animals that ever rattled him. For months afterwards he would duck whenever a shadow fell on him from above.

I so hoped that he and Ivy would be friends. Maybe if it were up to him they would have been. He liked Gaby’s cats, even though they found him intolerable, and he clearly enjoyed his mastery over us and the dogs.

Ivy came from a big happy family of lots of siblings and a slew of humans. She was born on the mountain at the Bells’ log cabin and was handled from birth by an endless parade of homeschooled kids at the cabin for Science School. She should have been so ready for a friend. Foo was outside when I opened her carrier and let her out into the breezeway. He spied her from the patio and began pawing frantically at the glass door to get to her. She took one look at him and hissed like a steam kettle, and continued to do that every time she saw him for the rest of their lives together.

When my beloved Aunt Lindy came to visit he bit her immediately to establish dominance. Since she was sleeping in his bed, I had to go in every night and shoo him out so that she could sleep without his fangs looming next her. When I told her his time was coming she told me about the day we had both been in the orchard enjoying the sun, and he came walking across the grass to us. She says she’s never seen a more pure look of love than the one on my face as I watched him.

I was out in the orchard with him one summer night when the mist was thick on the ground, just up to about knee height. I knew he was out with me, but I couldn’t see where he was. Then I saw that question-mark tail come pacing jauntily toward me from the pasture, through the mists. I called to him and he sped up. Then, as he got closer, I could see that the tail was too thick to be his, and a had a white stripe. I levitated out of my seat and called for him. Then I saw him next to Tyr, the pear tree, staring at the skunk with intense interest. I scooped him up and we both made it safely to the house.

He never actually chased the deer, but he sure thought about it. He looked at them, and the horses, with a speculative gaze that was clearly calculating angle, velocity and force.

Foo was a fighter. On two separate occasions he came home with his head so battered that he had to take antibiotics to combat infection, and once had internal bruising after a scrap with the neigbbor’s pack of chihuahuas. The second time it happened Ivy was in a similar state. We don’t know if they fought each other or joined forces against a common enemy. If it was just the two of them it’s the only time they did more than hiss and spit and swat at each other.

He lost the sight in his left eye and it turned milky- as Brian termed it, ‘Foo’s Bond villain eye.’ Around the same time he developed an issue in his left hip. It atrophied and became arthritic, which really slowed him down.

We put him on Cosequin, which helped. His wonderful vet, Jenn, suggested trying him on injections of Adequan. That was a miracle drug. In a few weeks he went from limping to leaping with no loss of mobility from before the injury. We kept him on that for almost a year until he made it clear that he was done with injections. But it gave us about two more years with him. The effects lasted beyond stopping the medication. The winter of ’17-’18 was hard on him as he started to lose weight, and the cold got to him more. But Summer ’18 was his Summer of Love. He stayed outside the whole season, coming in only to eat. He lived on the hot concrete of the patio, or the steps to the deck which were his throne, or most often on the seat of the tractor in the barn. He slept more than anything else, but when he was awake his golden eye blazed as brightly as ever, dead mice still appeared regularly on the doorstep, and he would graciously accept head skritches (but not full body strokes, he was too thin.)

But as the weather grew chilly he began to have a hard time. Sleeping between David’s legs every night was fine until someone moved. The new tabby kitten’s antics were too much for him to cope with. The steps down to the only litter box he would use, and jumping up onto the dry sink to eat, became increasingly difficult. As his skinny little body became even bonier, and his back end began to wobble, it became clear that he wasn’t having fun any more.

When Jenn came he was on David’s pillow, staring fixedly ahead. I believe he was already beginning to travel. He yowled and growled with his old ferocity when I wrapped him a towel burrito for the sedative. Then he lay quietly in my arms while I kissed him over and over. Although he bit pretty much everyone who ever set foot in our house he made no attempt to discipline me now. All of his claws were, as always, sharp and fully unfurled, but not one was stuck in me as he fell into his final sleep.

My little stripey boy is free.

 

 

 

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Posted December 14, 2018 by suzmuse in Uncategorized

LSQ blog post   2 comments

my poor  neglected blog. i really need to get back here more often.

but in the meantime, here’s my latest LSQ blog submission. my blog is centered around female archetypes in greek mythology, and LSQ asked for crone-focused posts around yule this year.

http://lunastationquarterly.com/a-company-of-crones/?fbclid=IwAR0gz3g5dNYi5Hruv6y3uS_bePGzD7f4MByq3uuwxYQFsIWpD_C2NPpyXBs

Posted December 2, 2018 by suzmuse in Uncategorized

oh dear   4 comments

the Lenaia were pretty deep and rich this year, but I barely touched on the Anthesteria.

bought Fiona in the middle of them, so there’s that.

forgot the Thargelia entirely. still amazed at that.

didn’t do the LEMs.

and nothing for the GEMs. i don’t think i’ve done NOTHING for them in the last decade or more.

i’ve had some amazing experiences and communications, but ritual this year has been remarkably light or absent.

keep this up and i’ll have to turn in my recon badge.

khairete

suz

Posted October 4, 2018 by suzmuse in Uncategorized

re-grounding at Moonshadow   Leave a comment

IMG_0242it takes me about 24 hours to catch up to myself when i travel and come home.  being able to wander solo helps.

all the girls came out with me wander in the moonlight. including the kitten, who took half an hour to catch and bring in afterwards.

it’s staggeringly beautiful. the fireflies are scattered like diamonds in the grass.

when we got home (after a nail-biting drive) i ran out back to say hi to the mares. fiona was way in the back, in the woods. when i called her, her head snapped up, her ears flew forward, and she came jumping out of the underbrush, and galloped over to me.

that was a moment so full of happy i don’t have words.

and just to keep me sufficiently humble, it took no time at all to return to the rhythm of chanting 47 times in a 12 minute period, ‘delilah, quit eating poop!’ later in the evening.

ivy is purring on my lap. marley is curled up next to the keyboard, glowing spookily in the orange light of the pumpkin. delilah is pleading with me to go to bed, so she can.

home.

 

Posted September 29, 2018 by suzmuse in Uncategorized

pears in the moonlight   2 comments

the big cats came with me to make offerings to Athena, Mnemosyne and Persephone at the corner pear tree. marley sat and watched while i poured out brandied peaches among Muninn’s roots while the fat moon rose over the trees. ivy prowled close to the house.

crickets are starting to weave their song into the deep buzz of the cicadas. to my surprise the bullfrogs are also singing tonight. it created an odd, discordant music, weirdly unsettling.

the mares drifted over, lips flapping, mooching. muninn is covered with silver globes, shining in the moonlight. i fed them to the mares, sweet juice running over my fingers, greedy crunching.

the early dew is chilly. the fireflies are done, but there were odd gleams in the darkness of the trees. maybe just moonlight on the leaves.

i love late summer.

Posted August 25, 2018 by suzmuse in Uncategorized

pony therapy   8 comments

28059544_10155276503281546_3004589278357429413_ni lost my mojo with Fiona back in the spring. she tossed a friend of mine and hurt her pretty badly. it sucked that my mare hurt someone i care about, and also sucked that seeing it scared me more than i realized at the time. sucked most of all that the Face could feel my fear, of course, and she lost confidence in me. we had a few really not-fun rides.

i got help from my young Jedi master, Gabrielle, the daughter of my friend Lettie who is also my Arab guru. Gabi is a slip of a girl but has been riding the entirety of her two or so decades, as a catch rider so she can manage pretty much anything she lands on. and she and Fiona liked each right from the gitgo. Gabi has a wonderful feel and empathy for a horse. mine’s not bad, but it’s the result of decades of study and hard work. Gabi’s comes naturally AND she’s worked at it, so it’s a great deal for all of us. Gabi has unlimited access to a really nice horse, i get a Jedi master at the beginnging of her Jedi career when she’s in my price range, and Fiona gets ridden by two people who adore her.

yes, i’m long in the tooth to be a Padawan apprentice. but here i am.

it’s been a lousy summer for riding. between the bugs, torrential rain and a miserable series of blicky colds for me, i haven’t been in the saddle much.

but between lessons, Gabi’s rides on the Face and my own efforts, we’ve had a decent amount of success.

so i was optimistic when i climbed aboard on saturday, despite the heat and mugginess and bugginess, and the divine Miss Fi’s displeasure at working in tropical weather. she showed her ass pretty early. for once my paddock was JUST dry enough to work in, so we started there and then moved to the front field just to warm up. and sure enough, by the fallen tree (she’s been saying there are gremlins there since it came down, although she grazes around it quietly enough at liberty) she started hunching up her naughty little back and tucking in her naughty little nose and stutter stepping her naughty little feet and saying in no uncertain terms, ‘i can buck! just watch out! i’m gonna buck!’

so i put her to work, walking serpentines and figure 8s, pole bending around the trees, ducking under the branches, halting, backing, just keeping her brain so busy with Things that she got so interested she quit thinking about bucking. we looped and zigged and meandered back to the paddock, where she relaxed and i went right into a brisk sitting trot.

trotted and trotted, over the poles, which she did MUCH better than last week, big circles, little circles, direction changes, leg yields, spirals, collected to working and back again. boom. not only did the physicality wear the rough edges off, she’s just so smart and curious that if i can capture her brain and not give her anything to resist, she can’t help but come along.

at the right lead canter, her bad side, she picked up the wrong lead twice and made bucking noises again although she never actually bucked during the entire ride. but i made a cool discovery- if i do the trot poles on the right rein and ask for the canter immediately after, i get the correct lead AND no drama. score!

left lead canter was awesome, quiet and stretchy on a longish rein, two full circles.

cool out back in the front field, feeling like a pair of boss bitches, but at the tree she started jiving again. i immediately hopped off, ran up the stirrups, loosened the girth, and started leading her right into and under the limbs, climbing on the big branches and bouncing on them, inviting her in to play. ‘i wanna rock and roll all night’ came on my spotify so i took the reins over her head and began to headbang ponderously. she found this alarming (to be fair, anyone would) but by the end my girl was dancing with me. we bounced and played all around the fallen tree and in and out of all the others, and then trotted laughing breathlessly back to the paddock.

my mojo’s back.

 

Posted August 19, 2018 by suzmuse in Uncategorized

Coming in last   2 comments

pexels-photo-635503.jpeg

In 2000, when I was 40, I ran my first 5k. My friend Martha patiently trained me for months beforehand, distracting me with her funny stories and gentle good humor while I bitched and moaned and whined and complained. The race was the Run Through History at my Antietam Battlefield (yes, it’s mine) and I came in last.

It’s kind of fun coming in last. The race crew is REALLY excited to see you. You get way more cheers than you do coming in not last but toward the end of the pack, which is where I’ve run pretty consistently ever since that first race.

I actually took a long break after that inauspicious beginning, but when I started getting close to 50 and my weight was creeping up and my energy levels were fizzling out and I realized I don’t like bicycling or pilates or yoga at home by myself but I also don’t like to drive to (or pay for) gyms and walking didn’t seem to be doing the trick, I decided to bite the bullet and get back in the game.

I did a 5k. Then I did a 10k. I did a few more. Then I got really bold (and Martha came back into my life and got me ready, bless her) and did a half marathon. That was a huge high moment for me, crossing THAT finish line. At no time did I ever lose a ton of weight or develop anything like speed. But having the tenacity to plod for 13 miles was pretty heady. I was proud of myself, and rightly so.

The ol’ man eventually jumped on the bandwagon, and he’s a natural athlete so he got really good really quickly. Before long we did our first half together, and by together I mean we were at the same race. I don’t expect anyone to keep my pace. I have had vultures circle me. No lie.

Then we got a crazy wild hair up our respective asses and decided to go for the big prize. I still can’t believe we trained all that winter of ’13-’14, not only brutal distances but brutal weather, but we did it. We ran the Gettysburg Marathon in spring of 2014. Gettysburg has a 6 1/2 hour limit which I was sure I couldn’t reach and I didn’t care. I had myself pegged for an 8 hour finish and the ‘official’ time and medal didn’t matter one little bit.

Well, until about mile 20 when, to my utter shock, I realized I had a shot of making it across the finish line in under the time. So my last 6 miles, already miserable, were even more so because I was pushing it past my comfort zone (not that there’s a comfort zone in a marathon) in order to make it.

And I did it. 2 minutes under the time, and 3rd to the last of all the finishers. Damn, that felt good. And I’m not sure anything in my life has tasted better than the carton of chocolate milk I polished off, my medal around my neck.

Survived all of that, the training and the marathon, without injury, but 6 months later in the Freedom’s Run half I ballsed up both feet, and have been coping with plantar fasciitis ever since.

It puts a crimp in your running for sure. And sets up a vicious circle of not running because your feet hurt, so you gain weight, which makes your feet hurt more, and increases the chances of re-injuring them because feet don’t like the weight/running combo, O no my precious.

I kept doing the shorter runs for a year, but the pain took a toll. I managed one more half, and then basically quit running. I’ve barely run 4 miles at a pop for the last year. I honestly can’t remember the last time I ran further than that, and mostly what I’ve done is walk, or nothing.

Lots of nothing.

So what possessed me to sign up for a 10k trail run? Trail runs are not my friend anyway. I don’t run well on trails. I trip, and sometimes fall, and for an aging fat girl falling is not fun and potentially dangerous.

I thought I’d get ready, that signing up would motivate me, but it didn’t. I got so angsty about it that I told the ol’ man I was going to switch down to a 5k, which would still be challenging. Trail runs feel like twice the distance of road runs. And that wouldn’t be bad. A 5K trail run after a year of no training would be a good start.

But then spring happened. I was so euphoric at having warm sun and cool breezes on my winter-shriveled skin that I threw caution to the wind and stayed in the 10k.

The farm where the run took place was an hour away, up in the mountains of West By Gods Virginia on a spectacular farm with naturally raised sheep and chickens,  lovely fields and woods. It was once around the course for the 5k and a simple second loop for the 10. Fairly small field, which was nice because the woods required single file, and there weren’t a lot of port-a-potties.

I started out walking at the back of the pack, got stuck behind people walking even more slowly than I (imagine that!) through the woods, then walked all the grassy bits and bumped up to my slooooow distance jog only where the well-surfaced dirt road was wide and safe. And downhill. It was challenging, but even out of shape it was a sensible plan that I could maintain.

By the time I looped around the 5k-ers, even the slow ones like me, were finishing up, and the 10k-ers were well on their way around the second loop. So I had the rather unique experience of having the entire course to myself, which was really kind of wonderful.

By then the sun was getting pretty hot, but it coaxed out the sacred intoxicating fragrance of fresh-cut hay, one of my favorite smells in the world, one that tells me the Mother is right there, immanent, present and manifest in my world. There were streams and ponds with peepers and bullfrogs. Most of the trees were only just waking up, so still traced lacework fingers against the blue blue sky. It was just me, and the mountains and fields, and some really sweet volunteers who didn’t guilt trip me for keeping them waiting.

As I topped the last hill the ol’ man was waiting for me, to cheer me across the finish line. As it came into view the announcer called my name and everyone there broke into applause. And as if that weren’t wonderful enough, a big bald eagle came soaring right overhead. Himself, giving me an attagirl.

I didn’t get a picture of him. The fellow up there is a stock photo (thank you, WordPress!) But he was every bit that spectacular. Especially since the run is to benefit the wild bird population of WV.

Heh. I am a rambler. I didn’t really start this bloggy post to talk about my run, but about the way my attitude has changed about running. I’ve never had any ambitions to win or even to be fast. But I had some sensible goals along the line- to improve my time, to work on intervals and hills, get my wind up, my heart rate down, lose some weight, get better at distance and trails. I even achieved some of them.

It seems funny to think about now, but during the marathon training David and our brother-in-law Michael, who did the marathon with us, were doing a long run, somewhere in the 20 mile range, but it was my short week. I did a sweet 7 miler around Sharpsburg, and every step was happy. It felt SO good do ‘only’ 7 miles after the increasingly long ones I’d been doing. I remember thinking ‘7 miles will never seem long again.’

Well, I was wrong about that. Also about one of those silly parameters I set for myself that I’d never do a mile slower than 15 minutes, and do at least one half marathon a year.

Goals are great. I don’t know how one improves without ’em. But I’m not in a goalie place right now. My run today was the run I needed to do today, and it might not be the run that’s right for me next week. I’d still like to work back up to halfies again. But at a weight that’s a top end for me and hinky feet, who knows?

Today’s time was 16 minutes and 44 seconds per mile. I came in last. And I loved it. I’m no longer in a place where I beat myself up for it. While I’d love to be slim and fit and fast, what I am is someone who at 58 with a big round belly and bad feet can still lump along for 6 miles. Today that’s plenty good enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted April 15, 2018 by suzmuse in Uncategorized