Facing the Moon Again

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On the whole, I prefer cats to people and through the years I’ve been lucky to know many amazing felines. Especially Leo.

I lost him last summer. Through at least some fault of my own. He was only 3.

 

 

 

LeoyawnLeo gave his all to everything. He was enthusiastic, eccentric, hilarious. And above all, loving. He adapted, accepted, and enjoyed whatever came his way, to such a remarkable extent that I began to see him as a spiritual guide. He was always purring about something, with a motor that could be heard across a room. He purred when he ate, he purred when you looked at him, he purred as he walked around.

 

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When I scratched the side of his chin, he would invariably lean too deeply into the experience and fall over. At which he’d shake himself and lean just as deeply, again. And again. I don’t know how long he would have kept it up – I always stopped first. During the scratch-lean-fall episode in this photo, he repeatedly slid off the arm of a chair and came back for more, purring all the while. I’m probably the only one who wants to watch this video of a chin scratch session, but you’re welcome to join me…

 

 

 

When we got a rescue dog, all but one of the cats soon figured out that the dog was afraid of cats, and made nefarious use of that knowledge. Leo never got the memo and fled at any sudden movement by the dog (who in turn would flee because Leo made a sudden move). Eventually Leo discovered that dog tails make fun toys and that launched a friendship between those two exceedingly cautious individuals.

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Leo was enormous, standing a head taller than the other cats. He was galumphing yet graceful. One of my favorite things was the way his spine undulated as he strolled.

Another favorite was how he reacted if I tried to hold him. He didn’t like to be held, but he wouldn’t squirm away. Nor would he give in to it. Instead, he would stand stiffly on my chest until I released him.

 

 

 

He’s been gone for nearly a year yet it still hurts to talk about him in past tense.

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Can you spot Leo in this picture? He started life as a tiny feral stray kitten. I’m grateful to the shelter worker who devoted extra hours to handling him, to give him a chance at adoption. The feral kittens don’t often get out of the building.

As Leo grew – and grew – he maintained the view that everything was larger and tougher than he was. Tougher, perhaps was true. Such a gentle and humble nature – not descriptors that often get applied to cats.

 

 

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Leo adored and admired my older cat Luna, who became his mentor in cat behavior. Luna is innately a cool feline dude and he was patient with Leo, but Leo never quite got it. The cool feline thing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leo was friendly with all other cats. When I left Missing Cat flyers on doorsteps I heard from more than one neighbor, ‘I used to see him all the time, he hung out with our cat(s).’

 

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It’s safer, of course, for cats to stay indoors, but they’re so much happier outside. So I let them out during the day then locked them in at supper time. Every morning I’d get a knot of anxiety when I opened the cat door, and breathe a thanks when they were safely back inside. But I knew that if they could talk they’d tell me they’d rather live short interesting lives outside; so I honored those preferences. Until recently.

Last summer I was away from home for nearly 3 weeks, on work trips with a vacation sandwiched between. Leo, especially, hated it when my suitcase came out and I left home. I was the only human he had any bond with.

 

A few days into my trip, I got a phone call that Leo had stopped coming inside. He was hanging out down the street but wouldn’t come home.

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When I got the call, I was enjoying a lazy afternoon by my brother and sister-in-law’s pool. The trip took on a taint after that call. I was thousands of miles from home. I’ve rarely felt more helpless.

I love traveling but I am a complete homebody and always get homesick.  When I’m away from home, I use the moon to connect with my absent loved ones. I look up, know I’m seeing the same moon that they are, and with that can better enjoy my time away.

 

On that wretched trip, my last night away there was a gorgeous full moon. That night, like every night since the phone call, I tried to send Leo thought messages while I stared at the moon. Silly, of course, unless it wasn’t. Go home buddy, I’ll be there soon.

When I woke up to catch my pre-dawn flight, I was swept with dread, a certainty that something terrible had happened to Leo.

I’ve got a lot of if onlys.

If only I’d kept the cats locked in the whole time I was away. Sure they would have been miserable and driven my daughter crazy. But.

If only I’d flown home early, right after I got that phone call about Leo. Sure it would have cost lots of money I didn’t have. But based on neighbors’ reports, he was around, people saw him – until right before I got back.

If only I’d paid more attention to numerous indications that the drought was driving more wildlife down from the mountains and into my neighborhood. Once I got back home from my trip, I learned from neighbors that on every block, multiple cats had gone missing of late. Coyote sightings increased from occasionally to daily. I could have realized some of that earlier.

I could have done so many things differently.

If only.

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Our neighborhood is empty of cats now. Some are now forced to be indoor cats, like my unhappy campers. Actually, mine now have a giant dog-run cage thing that lets them go slightly outdoors. One of them thinks the cage is cool, one is indifferent, and one of them thinks it’s a cruel trick.

 

 

 

 

They used to love to hang out on this patio, as Luna and Leo are doing in this photo. Leo was always in one planter or another. He was rough on the plants.

A couple months into Leo’s disappearance, I took down the signs I’d posted around the neighborhood. It wasn’t intentional, my putting them in his favorite planter.

I found myself incapable of trashing the posters. They sat in the planter through the winter. Finally, after the rain ruined them, they no longer felt connected to Leo and I could recycle them.

I don’t know what happened to Leo. No remains have been found. But then that’s how cat disappearances go. Certainly, no one has called about his microchip number. I’ve been searching shelters and Craig’s list ever since; although sporadically now, eleven months later. I’ve been blessed with volunteered help, well-wishes, and miracle reunion stories from numerous wonderful strangers; and I’ve been harassed by  ‘we found your pet’ scams.

Perhaps a coyote didn’t get Leo. But that’s by far the most likely scenario.  Beautiful warm night, full moon, Leo chasing bugs, doesn’t notice the pack until… 

Every damn time I walk outside, I still have a flash instant’s fantasy that he’ll come running up from god-knows-where he’s been.

I hate being outside in my neighborhood at night now, especially when the moon is bright. I need to get my moon-gazing back. It was one of my favorite things about being alive.

I usually honor my animals with memorials when their lives conclude, but I haven’t been able to manage one for Leo. For almost a year, I haven’t been able to look at photos of him and have shied away from my memories.

But I need to get past that. Avoiding memories is worse than losing him. It’s like he never existed, never graced my life at all. Nothing could be more wrong than that.

Leo, your presence in my life was such a gift. I miss you so much.

Hope to see you on the other side.

(Written for WP Weekly Photo Challenges Admiration and Pure.)

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Moments Now vs. Moments Later

I know I’m not alone with this dilemma: the more photographs I take, the harder it is to enjoy the moment. That camera-phone stuck to my face – that oh! good shot! scrutiny – blocks my senses.

But if I’ve got photographs, I can re-live (a weak yet satisfying imitation of) that moment. Without photographs, all I’d remember would be the beach with the pier is nice at sunset:

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By the time I uploaded my photos, I’d forgotten how the surf distorted the pier’s reflection:

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Nowadays, I’m really trying to live in the moment, so as I continued my walk, I pocketed my phone. Then unpocketed it. Many times.

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Capturing a pelican on camera marks a different kind of living in the moment:

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One of the great things about the beach is how quickly everything changes. Every moment really does last a moment. Here’s what happened to the sunset when the fog got just a bit thicker:

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One solution to photographing my moments away might be to keep going back to the beach. I don’t need photo memories of stuff I do and see all the time – do I? Hmm. My photo library draws a different conclusion:

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My cats and my granddaughter. I’m lucky enough to see both all the time. Yet the photo library keeps growing in both categories… Thank goodness for the digital photo era.

(The WP Weekly Photo Challenge was Broken.)

The Lame and the Sublime

Yellow cheers me. It’s true – and a reminder that cliches become cliches because they are true.

I approached the topic of the latest WordPress photo challenge with dismay or maybe disdain. Yellow. Lame. Does an orange cat count? Maybe I’ll sit this one out. But then I was out for a walk at sunset and this sky reminded me of how important yellow can be:

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Blue. Black. Purple. Red. At different times, each has been my favorite color. Yellow has never topped my favorite list, but when it’s in a group it always wins my attention and my heart. I decided the sunset was a sign that I should do the photo challenge and I kept my camera out until dark. It was reassuring to know the universe was helping me make life’s big decisions.

At my front window I caught a reflection of the sunset, plus holiday lights in my front room, and a distant glow of bedroom light:

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(Those power lines are reflections; they are not in my front room.)

A patio light had sunset glimpses behind its lattice fence:

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I’ve got lights outside for the holidays, and this one sucked all the sunset out of the view. Yellow is like that:

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On my front door is a wreath with dangling folk art animals. The last rays of sun turned this gator’s scales gold:

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Near the gator hangs a big cat which gleamed yellow-white in the sunset. I could never figure out what kind of big cat this was supposed to be, even before the sun bleached most of the color from its fur:

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That’s one beauty of folk art. Interpretation is loose and never literal.

From my backyard, I watched the sun finish setting over the top of my home and the mountains. That warm glow is from my kitchen:

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(The thick diagonal line across the window is a branch in the foreground.)

So, okay, WordPress knows best and this photo challenge turned out to be sublime.

For my fellow nerds, I’ve used the wonders of the internet to determine that a typical yellow has a wavelength of 570 nanometers. That’s a short wavelength. Only orange and red are shorter.

Now we know.

Phototravelog: Williamsburg Bridge Walk

The Williamsburg bridge connects Brooklyn with Manhattan and is a marvelous application of Erector Set construction principles:

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My latest trip to New York, I walked the Williamsburg bridge on a dark but lovely afternoon. To my left, I saw its more famous cousin, the Brooklyn bridge, along with the Manhattan skyline:

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On the Williamsburg bridge, the pedestrian walkway is a cage. The human eye quickly adjusts to this and ignores the bars, enjoying the view beyond. My phone camera, however, ignored the bars only in the few places where I could position the camera smack next to the grid, lens between bars:

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Even when the cage is not prominent, the view is cluttered, which adds a distinctive industrial beauty:

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Pedestrians walk above cars here:

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And alongside trains!:

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It turns out the subway is not just subterranean. Here are two trains passing, bread-‘n’-butter, in opposite directions:

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This video almost catches a train exchange. Behind the trains, note some reasons not to drive:

I think I remember reading that a public art project made some pink decisions:

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The public art continues to evolve:

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Underfoot I found my favorite:

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On the Williamsburg bridge, even the eroding asphalt paint looks good:

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(The WP Weekly Photo Challenge was Angular.)

Modern Hieroglyphs

Deep in the bowels of a public parking structure I discovered this modern equivalent of a cave painting:

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Can you guess what it is? This is a quiz without an answer key, because I dunno. My guess: this is the glue that remains after a sign fell or got removed.

I was in the hospital recently (hip replacement surgery), where one sleeps – or doesn’t – at odd hours. This is what my bed controls looked like at 3 am:

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The WP Weekly Photo Challenge is Converge.

Subterranean Fear and Wonder

The New York City subway system is awesome.

Awesome (adjective), causing feelings of fear and wonder – Merriam Webster Online.

I love the New York subway. Sure, it can be noisy and crowded and dirty. Subway cleaning crews are as rare as baby pigeons and they seem to keep missing cesspools like this one:

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On the other hand, sometimes on the platforms there are musicians – damn good ones! – who improve your day with their music, whether or not you toss them any money. And the stations have a grimy beauty, thanks to many generations of tile art:

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When I tell you I’m a writer, I also admit to being a voyeur and a snoop. The subway is a great place to eavesdrop and observe (although it never takes long for input overload to occur). I look at all the people around me – well, one doesn’t look directly, one glances and senses – and I try to figure out who they are, what they care about, what their lives are like. Trains go by, more people framed in the windows, like sideways-advancing filmstrips.

2014-10-07 08.55.30As a novice rider, I took great pride in decoding the station and route map, negotiating the turns and turnstiles and signs — in actually getting where I intended to go. Now that I’ve had some practice, most of my trips are successful, and on brave days I try tricky transfers. Nonetheless, each visit to New York brings at least one time when my target station flashes past, the train doesn’t stop and I realize, oops, I’m on an express train. I get out my subway map app to determine how far out of my way the train is taking me. On the map, white dots show stations where express trains stop.

I have always appreciated the subway, but my current interest falls between preoccupation and obsession. This began on the day I glanced out a train window and saw another train that was at eye level, until suddenly it descended. Or my train ascended. Or both. How many levels are there down here below ground? I wondered, and I still don’t know the answer. When I went to the Transit Museum (yes, I went to the Transit Museum), I asked the bookstore guy if they had any 3D models of the system. He thought that was a cool idea for a future product and passed it along to his boss. In other words, nope, no 3D model.

Use of public infrastructure requires trust and perhaps ignorance. The transit museum exhibits confirmed the engineering brilliance of the system – and showed me the decrepit-looking control box that ran the system until way too recently. When I step into electrical gadgetry that shoots me around underground, I don’t want steampunk involved, thanks.

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At the Transit Museum I learned that New York’s millions of buildings and people are suspended above antique cavities that were tunneled long ago, through stone and under water, by methods crude and jury-rigged. Well, I guess if it were going to collapse it would have happened by now.

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(The WP Weekly Photo Challenge topic is Achievement.)