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 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.

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

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

Remembering the true ambassador of Montréal: Nick Auf der Maur

RuelleNickAufderMaur1

His “office” ― Winnie’s, on Crescent Street (now named Nick Auf der Maur Street)

Je me souviens, indeed.

I was lucky enough to have been born and raised in Montréal, when the city was in its prime.  I was a child during the 1960s and a teenager during the first three quarters of the 1970s. Whether we were anglophone or francophone, lived to the west of or to the east of Boulevard St-Laurent, politically “engagé” on the left or on the right ―  we all could agree on one thing:  what a vibrant, beautiful and culturally rich city we lived in!  A cornucopia of brilliant intellectuals, musicians, artists, doctors, architects, street entertainers, chefs, business owners, restaurants, cafés and bars.  The city boasted the best nightlife in all of Canada. The world fair (Expo ’67) in Montréal attracted people from every corner of the globe and oh, what a wonderful time we all had! And, over the years, one political drama after another kept everyone talking, debating, philosophizing and, yes, writing.

And at the city’s epicenter was journalist, politician, boulevardier (man about town)  and Montréalais extraordinaire ― Nick Auf der Maur (a man who was true to his surname – translated from Swiss to English as “Off the Wall”).

In last Friday’s Montréal Gazette article, entitled “Remembering Nick: paying tribute to a Montreal original,” Bill Brownstein writes, and I quote:

“Rather, Auf der Maur was simply a former downtown city councillor and Gazette columnist — not normally the stuff of legends. He was also a world-class boulevardier and tippler and indiscriminate butt-pincher with a penchant for Borsalino headwear, Donald Duck ties and stinky Gitane smokes. And he was a friend to so many from so many different walks, as well as being the go-to guy for those from outside Montreal who wanted the goods on the city...

… Most importantly, Auf der Maur embraced all of Montreal. He was one of the precious few anglos whose voice carried well beyond the Main. He had street cred among francos as well as anglos. As the late Liberal leader Claude Ryan once put it: he was the only anglo who could fill a hall east of St. Laurent Blvd, the city’s Mason-Dixon linguistic line to many.

If Ernest Hemingway and Nick Auf der Maur had ever crossed paths, they would ― I am certain ― have become lifelong friends.

Alas, Nick’s life was cut short (by cancer) at the age of 55.  He didn’t live long, but he did live well.  His charisma, humour, kindness and mischievous twinkle captivated many.  His funeral service, held at St. Patrick’s Basilica (in Montréal), was standing room only with 3000+ people in attendance.

Nick died on this day, back in 1998. We remember him with a wistful smile and we raise a glass of our favorite spiritual concoction in his honour.

Yes, those were the days my friend. We thought they’d never end.

IN MEMORIAM

NICK AUF DER MAUR

Nick_Aud_Der_MaurApril 10, 1942 – April 7, 1998

R.I.P.

Click on these links (below), for more on Nick:

An excellent book:  Nick: A Montréal Life

A short film: Man About Town: Boulevardier

 

Images via wikipedia.org.