The Divinity of Animals

“Animals are divine messengers of miracles that go far beyond emotional comfort and practical assistance. Talk to those who have been transported to a heavenly place by the gentle purring of a kitten or whose broken hearts, burdened by worry and pain, have been mended by a dog licking their hand. They will tell you that animals connect them with the River of Life in ways poets imagine and mystics contemplate. They will tell you that their deepest and most sincere relationships with animals are spiritual partnerships.”

–  Allen Anderson, Angel Animals: Divine Messengers of Miracles

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In Praise of Cats

“I have studied many philosophers and many cats. The wisdom of cats is infinitely superior.”
― Hippolyte Taine (French critic and historian)

“I believe cats to be spirits come to earth. A cat, I am sure, could walk on a cloud without coming through.”
Jules Verne (French novelist, poet and playwright)


“I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul.”
Jean Cocteau (French writer, artist and filmmaker)

“A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.”
Ernest Hemingway (American novelist)

“I have lived with several Zen masters — all of them cats.”
Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

“If you want to write, keep cats.”
—  Aldous Huxley (English author and screenwriter)

All photos (except the cat with the book) are copyrighted by Heather Joan Marinos and they may not be used or reproduced 

© Copyright 2017 Heather Joan Marinos. All rights reserved.

 

The Sound of Quiet

quiet water and sunset

 

“Cherish your solitude. Take trains by yourself to places you have never been. Sleep out alone under the stars. Learn how to drive a stick shift. Go so far away that you stop being afraid of not coming back. Say no when you don’t want to do something. Say yes if your instincts are strong, even if everyone around you disagrees. Decide whether you want to be liked or admired. Decide if fitting in is more important than finding out what you’re doing here. Believe in kissing.”  ― Eve Ensler

Every so often, I like to take a ‘time out’ … to reflect and to dream and, yes, to write. Not blogs, but books.

There is no better tonic, in my view, for cleansing emotional toxins and for clearing the mind than the sound of quiet.

Some call it meditation.

For me, it doesn’t involve stretching or sitting in the lotus position or chanting “Om” …. it simply means that I spend some solitary time, enjoying my own company – no phone calls, no Skype, no visitors.  My husband, cats and dog respect my solitude and always greet me with a smile, a purr and a wag when I resurface.

Taking the time to breathe and rapture in the sound of quiet is not a luxury.  It’s a necessity, a sanity check.

Yes, we all live hectic and busy lives.  There’s so much noise all around us. However, I cannot stress enough how imperative it is for each of us to take the time (make the time) to be still and quiet. By “still” I don’t necessarily mean sitting still, but being still in oneself.  I do that while gardening, working on a home renovation project, reading, taking a long walk and, of course, writing.

I hope that you will take some time out… just for yourself.  Be still. Rejuvenate. Above all, be well.

And so, I’ll sign off for now.

“Cultivate solitude and quiet and a few sincere friends, rather than mob merriment, noise and thousands of nodding acquaintances.”  William Powell

 

The Year of the Cat

Ollie

“And how do you know that you’re mad? “To begin with,” said the Cat, “a dog’s not mad. You grant that?” I suppose so, said Alice. “Well then,” the Cat went on, “you see a dog growls when it’s angry, and wags it’s tail when it’s pleased. Now I growl when I’m pleased, and wag my tail when I’m angry. Therefore I’m mad.”
― Lewis CarrollAlice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

Madness. Writers. Cats. They are not necessarily mutually exclusive. In many instances, they are intertwined in an enigmatic association of sorts.

I am fascinated by my cats – all eight of them.

I also have a beautiful dog, who happens to be equally bemused by all these feline creatures.

He has no choice really, since he is outnumbered.

As I juggle between multiple book projects and a few intermittent life challenges that test my crisis management skills, these cats are my constant. My muses. Their serenity and poise help me to keep things in perspective. They bring me joy. And I do not take joy for granted. Not for one moment.

“I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul.”
― Jean Cocteau

It is not uncommon for writers to have an affinity for cats. Ernest Hemingway, Neil Gaiman, Jean Cocteau, Jean Paul Sartre, Stephen King… just to mention a few.

This marvelous photo of writer/philosopher/political activist Jean Paul Sartre and his existential cat epitomizes this writer’s obsession.

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I’ll leave you with a song that I used to listen to ad nauseam…. back in the mid 1970’s. I just listened to it the other day and, man, did it bring back a flood of memories!

The Year of the Cat

(released in 1976 by singer-songwriter Al Stewart)

This is the long, live version performed in 1979

 

Top image: photo credit by Heather Joan Marinos (Copyright © 2014 by Heather Joan Marinos. All rights reserved).

Bottom image: photo via buzzfeed.com.

The Ides of March and lessons learned

MayaAngelou

(Photo Credit: Dwight Carter)

And so I will, Maya.

For me, the month of March came in like a lion and crisis management skills were put to the test…

… until the 26th, when a ceasefire occurred.  Someone or something (you may call it God, The Universe, Fate, spirits of loved ones long since gone,  or simply the natural order of things) pressed the “Pause” button. A feral cat that I’d been nurturing at home, gave birth to a litter of four healthy kittens.  A kitten (only 11 months old) herself having kittens.

There’s a lesson that I want to share, so stay with me… this is not one of my Catmania stories (I’ll save those for another time!).

I made an assumption about this kitten (“Ophie” –  short for Ophelia… think Hamlet).  Because she is still very kitten-like (behaviorally), I was certain that her youth and inexperience would cause her to mishandle the birthing process and that she would either abandon, mishandle or harm her litter.

I was so wrong.

With luminous eyes and soft whimpers, she gave birth to each kitten and knew exactly what to do and how to do it.  Her natural mother’s instinct kicked into full gear and this kitten became a diligent, loving mother. To see her, you’d never guess that this was her first litter. I was filled with awe. Still am.

It made me think long and hard (this is where the lesson comes in) and I realized that some of the recent crises in my life have skewed my perspective… and not in a good way.  Too often, these days, I assume that the worst will happen, rather than the best (or at least, the “better”).  I’ve always been a worry wart, but I’ve taken it to new levels and perhaps this attracts more negative energy, thus creating more problems, more crises, and more drama.

Clearly, someone or something thought that I needed an “Aha” moment.

Point taken.

And so, I share this lesson with all of you.

As a very wise friend of mine often reminds me…  “Everything is going to be okay.”

Maybe it’s time to believe it.

I am grateful that March is going out like a lamb.

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Ophie (Ophelia) and her babies (Photo Credit: Heather Joan Marinos)

 

Reflecting on Grace

“All the natural movements of the soul are controlled by laws analogous to those of physical gravity. Grace is the only exception. Grace fills empty spaces, but it can only enter where there is a void to receive it, and it is grace itself which makes this void. The imagination is continually at work filling up all the fissures through which grace might pass.” 
― Simone WeilGravity and Grace

For many people, myself included, this has been a difficult year. Despite that, I’ve come to the realization that all of the year’s blessings, though considerably less in number than the hardships, are (one-by-one) mightier (in force) than all the challenges combined.  

The few blessings have given me hope, solace and joy. 

The few blessings have somehow managed to outweigh all the pain and suffering.

The few blessings have made me deeply grateful.

The lesson to be learned is that “Grace fills the empty spaces.”  The blessings I’ve received this year are nothing short of pure grace.

In the spirit of this holiday season, count all of your blessings.  The challenges come and go. The blessings, however, have staying power.

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 Note: the pictures are of “Ollie” — I rescued this abandoned kitten <she was 5 hours old, see photo at the very top> and she is now a little over 3 months old <photo above>, and thriving. 

She is my greatest blessing of 2013.

“A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.”

Ernest Hemingway

Photos: Copyright © 2013 by Heather Joan Marinos. All Rights Reserved

Debunking the Crazy Cat Lady Stereotype

This is the sequel to my June 14th blog post, Catmania

woman-holding-cats

“A catless writer is almost inconceivable. It’s a perverse taste, really, since it would be easier to write with a herd of buffalo in the room than even one cat; they make nests in the notes and bite the end of the pen and walk on the typewriter keys.”

Barbara Holland

The tale of catmania continues.  The stray cat siblings – two month-old “Fric” (male) and “Frac” (female), born to the beautiful and fiercely protective “Foo”, fathered by – not one,  but two – tomcats “Crazy Cat” (looks crazy, but is a doting father and “husband”) and “Smokey”  (Foo’s wild and passionate “bit on the side”)  – continue to grow and flourish in my garden.  By day, they alternatively frolic and sleep (Foo lounges and tomcats go hunting) in the lush tropical flora of my back yard.  Every evening they make their way to the side yard, in anticipation of dinnertime.  They hide, and wait. Their patience is rewarded when they hear the sound of my front door opening.  They recognize the voice of the human who says (every time, without fail) in a sing-song voice: “It’s dinnertime!”   The neighbors (within earshot) shake their heads and roll their eyes.  The crazy cat lady places down three plates of food and refills all the water bowls with cold, fresh filtered water.  Then she leaves.  All five cats come out of hiding and the crazy cat lady watches and smiles from behind her window.

By late night, the cat family gather together on the side deck.  Whilst the mum and one of the dads  lounge and watch indulgently (the restless casanova Smokey spends an awful lot of time prowling about elsewhere), Fric and Frac wreak havoc.

Each morning, the crazy cat lady goes out to refresh the water bowls and remove the empty food plates.  She also straightens up all the fallen plant pots, picks up the patio seat cushions that somehow found their way into the jasmine bushes, and covers the tears on the car cover (to avoid the wrath of her husband who, incidentally, is not inclined to catmania).

Granted, I am a crazy cat lady ― but not in a truly insane way, like the character of Dr. Eleanor Abernathy (from the television show, The Simpsons).

And recently, I learned that I am not alone.

Throughout the neighborhood, there are women (on every street) who take it upon themselves to feed the stray cats that inhabit their yards.  These women are young, middle-aged and old.  They are students, business professionals, artisans, writers, and homemakers.

They are not insane.  They are simply nurturers. 

“Authors like cats because they are such quiet, lovable, wise creatures, and cats like authors for the same reasons.”

Robertson Davies 

Cats are smart.  Although they are natural-born hunters, they will gravitate to places where they may find a hassle-free meal.  It just so happens that women tend to be the nourishers and caretakers. That being said, there are also just as many crazy cat gentlemen. Two streets down from me, there is a fellow who always has a row of water and food bowls set up beside his front porch.  I saw a litter of kittens curled up together near one of his jasmine bushes.  What is it with cats and jasmine?

I digress.

Some men enjoy cats because they are more self-sufficient, more low-maintenance  than dogs.  Ernest Hemingway  and Sir Winston Churchill would probably concur.  They were serious cat lovers.

As for my being a cat lady, I don’t mind the title.  I use it tongue-in-cheek. I will keep feeding this family of strays until they decide that it’s time to wander on, as strays inevitably do.

Will I be sad when that day comes?  Hell, yes!   

I enjoy watching them interact with each other,  and I am discovering a lot about animal behavior.  We humans could learn a lesson or two from them.  

“And how do you know that you’re mad? “To begin with,” said the Cat, “a dog’s not mad. You grant that?” I suppose so, said Alice. “Well then,” the Cat went on, “you see a dog growls when it’s angry, and wags it’s tale when it’s pleased. Now I growl when I’m pleased, and wag my tail when I’m angry. Therefore I’m mad.” 
― Lewis CarrollAlice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

cool_places_to20sleep_04

Images via petmd.com and dennysfunnyquotes.blogspot.com.

Catmania

Limecat

“I believe cats to be spirits come to earth. A cat, I am sure, could walk on a cloud without coming through.”

Jules Verne

Many, many years ago in Montréal (Québec, Canada), I went to get my ears pierced for the first time.  The ear piercing specialist, recommended to me by a dear college friend, had an office in the west end of downtown Montréal.  My husband (he was my fiancé at the time) accompanied me to her office, for moral support.  When we walked in, we were taken aback by all the cat figurines, cat artwork and cat photos that filled the office.  Ruth was clearly a seriously eccentric cat aficionado. 

A cat lady. 

Evidently, her eccentricities had an impact on us because, decades later, we still remember her (and her office) vividly.

Which brings me to my own story of how I seem to have morphed into …. yes, a cat lady.

I’ve only ever had two cats:  Crabby Abby (a stunningly beautiful white Persian cat who died of cancer in 2008) and Miranda (a mischievous black Maine Coon cat who thinks she is a black Labrador retriever like our dog, Bacchus).  Miranda (a.k.a. “Puss”) is an indoor cat.  She does not step a dainty foot outside the house.

However, about a month ago (early May), something inside me snapped. 

And this is how it happened:

Once upon a time, there was a South Florida garden that became a haven for cats and kittens that have no homes. Yes, strays. They are beautiful, yet also sad creatures. They fight for their lives every day and every so often a Human gives them some solace and kindness. These creatures have a code of honor that they live by. I would like to introduce you to Fric and Frac — and their mother, Foo (these are my nick names for them). As it turns out, “Foo” gave birth to “Fric” and “Frac” in my garden. Nocturnal creatures, they frolic after dusk on my patio chairs and throughout my garden. At 7:30 pm (every day), I feed them fresh slices of turkey breast (sodium-free) or canned tuna – along with premium Orijen (Canadian, preservative-free/organic hard cat food/kibble). I fill up bowls of fresh, cold water – twice a day, so that they have some reprieve from the hot Florida climate. They will not come near me because -– although they know that I feed them – they nevertheless have a mortal fear of Humans. Humans can be mean to stray creatures. It is best that they continue to be wary, because if not – they may perish. The other stray cats (and there are many) are very respectful of this new family of kittens. They pass by the garden and do not eat their food. They understand. This is the code of honor that I refer to. It is instinctive. The picture (see below) is of “Foo” lying on our patio chair, with “Fric” reposing above her and “Frac” resting on top of the back cushion. It is late at night and you can see their eyes.

Friic, Frac and Foo (Photo Credit: Heather Joan Marinos © 2013 - All Rights Reserved)

Fric, Frac and Foo
(Photo Credit: Heather Joan Marinos © 2013 – All Rights Reserved)

One night ago, drama ensued.  Frac was nowhere to be seen. Foo was frantic, looking throughout the neighborhood for her lost kitten.  Her two male companions (don’t ask!) – tomcats I  nick-named “Smokey” and “Crazy Cat” – suddenly no longer guarded the yard.  They disappeared, in search of the missing kitten (we couldn’t figure out which one of the two gentlemen cats is the father). 

For one and a half days, the yard was empty.   And I, the crazy cat lady, was distraught.  Fric was hiding under the car, without a sibling to tousle with.

This evening, at 7:30pm per usual, I placed the food and water outside.  Foo and Fric came to eat.  But the two tomcats and the lost kitten (Frac) were still nowhere to be seen.  A little after midnight, I peered out through the window and what I saw made grin.  Foo was lying down serenely, while Fric and …yes, Frac! … were suckling milk from her.  Nearby, Smokey watched and kept guard.  He was, after all , the tomcat who brought Frac home.  Perhaps the mystery of the father’s identity has finally been solved.

Smokey  (Photo Credit: Heather Joan Marinos © 2013 - All Rights Reserved)

Smokey
(Photo Credit: Heather Joan Marinos © 2013 – All Rights Reserved)

As a special treat, I went out (an hour later) with some more food.  Foo hissed at me, to warn me not to step too close to her babies.  Looking through the window, I can see the entire cat family enjoying a celebratory feast of fresh tuna.

Friic and Frac  (Photo Credit: Heather Joan Marinos © 2013 - All Rights Reserved)

Fric and Frac
(Photo Credit: Heather Joan Marinos © 2013 – All Rights Reserved)

Foo (on bench) while Fric and Frac frolic (Photo Credit: Heather Joan Marinos © 2013 - All Rights Reserved)

Foo (on bench) while Fric and Frac frolic
(Photo Credit: Heather Joan Marinos © 2013 – All Rights Reserved)

I am honored to be their caretaker … if only for a brief moment in time.