Living in the past

I sit on the couch reading, Kazon in my lap with a copy of Walden resting gently on his frame, Vazra on one side of me with Kako and Grendel on the other, and Loki and al-Zill lie end-to-end on the arm nearest me.  The book does little to keep my mind from wandering to the one absent from this scene.

Eight souls count the total of these moments, eight souls in rest and comfort, yet only seven souls remain.  Again my mind wanders from the pages before me, the words blurring until they become charcoal rubbed on paper, an unreadable cloud incapable of occupying the space now empty.

Wind rattles against the walls.  A cold wind, a biting wind howls by the windows.  I hear the photinia bushes scrape their wiry fingers against the glass, their burgeoning red leaves waving back and forth in sunlight that fails to warm.

I slip a small piece of paper between the pages and close the book.  There will be no reading today, at least not of any value.  I reach over sleeping cats and turn off the lamp.

Somewhere in a faraway land a cat meows, a distant sound barely audible for the wind’s constant rage.  My eyes snap to rapt attention looking out toward the patio.

There he sits, his eyes wide and green and staring in with that amazing interest and awe that constantly defined him, and I blink at the vision of him.

It is two years ago, a memory bleeding into the present, for I see him as he once was, as he existed before his rescue, as he lived his life mostly on the patio and in my heart—increasingly invading the latter.

Even as tears begin their march down my cheeks, he meows again…and I am back in that time with him, back in that world.

He talks to me, asks for attention, requests food and water when I’ve yet to put them out.  I reach down and pet him, his thick fur soft against my hands, his colors grabbing the sun and turning it into hues only nature could create.

I feel his purr as much as I hear it.  The whole of the rumbling moves through my hand, up my arm, across my chest.  It is as much a sound as an emotion—for both of us.  I scratch his head and under his chin.  The purr grows with newfound strength.

He meows again, only this time it’s a year later.  He sits on the bed in the dark of morning.  I kneel beside him and grant him his wish.  He soaks up the petting and talking like a sponge does water, taking it in until he seems ready to burst from the essence of it.

Sunlight has yet to pour over the eastern horizon, has yet to fight through the clouds that threaten to dampen the day.  Nevertheless, a great deal of light fills the bedroom.  I see him in the inner sanctum, sure and solid and sitting with confidence that floods the room as an overflowing river might fill a town.  He glows.

His eyes meet mine, reach out and touch my spirit, and the twinkle of stars contain little of the power he exudes, little of the light that emanates from him.  I lose myself in the power of his presence.  Even the cool air and smell of rain pouring in open windows do little to squelch the mood.

Then he meows again.  It’s six months later and he stands at my feet in the bathroom as I brush my teeth.  He looks up at me, meets my eyes, proclaims his need for my affection.

One hand moving a toothbrush to and fro, I reach down with the other and scratch his neck before giving him a good under-the-chin rub.  My knuckles eventually move to his ears, something I know will elicit pure satisfaction.  His eyes roll up in his head as he absorbs the love and gives back as much as he receives.

I recognize the purr that vibrates up and down my arm, that shakes me from head to toe, that fills a moment with more adoration than can be explained by mere words.  Something in me needs that purr, needs that marvelous sound and feeling rolled into a single event.

Food and water stand at the ready just a few steps behind me, though he ignores that and focuses entirely on sharing a moment drawn with love.  I can’t deny the artistry that exists, can’t fight the need-cum-want to touch a predator spirit.

His meow tickles my ear.  It is three months later and I find myself lying on the bedroom floor as he looks down at me from atop the bed.  I hold the camera steady, aim it carefully, and lose the photo for wont of a laugh at the perplexed yet beguiled visage that stares down upon me.

Warm light fills the room from a wall of glass.  Sunset creates a preternatural glow about this creature that utterly defies explanation.  All of his fur becomes alight with a fire that exists in no other place.  And his eyes…  His eyes capture the essence of the star that lights our world, and in that essence they create a world unto themselves, a world of contrast and beauty.

The camera falls to my side as I reach up and pet him, scratch his chin and ears and neck.  He purrs that most powerful purr, that sound ushering the brightest of lights into the darkest of places.

Then another meow, only this one different from all the others.  It’s three months later—four nights ago, and our collective life has been full and rich and marvelous, a place of growing for us, for our relationship, for the buds of friendship that exist betwixt him and the others—and me.

But something about this call is foreign.  His voice is suddenly unfamiliar, alien.  All my ideas fail to explain his sudden panic, his vocal desperation.  The smell of fireplace soot drifts in through the open windows.  It smells of endings.

I leap from the couch and rush to the bedroom to find him writhing on the floor, his calls desperate and lonely, his eyes worrisome in their anguish.  I meet his gaze only to find he can no longer join me in that sacred place.  His voice trails off to a gurgling moan.

I grab the nape of his neck in a handful of flesh.  He has powerful memories of this hold, good memories that bring instant purrs and contentment.  Not this time, though.  Not this time.

Worry fills my thoughts as he continues to struggle.  But not struggle.

There is no purr this time, no eyes filled with ardor and amity, no body listless with the power of trust.  He shakes and writhes.  He flinches at my touch.  He bellows silent horror upon the darkening wind that fills our home.

Of all the love I have felt, never has it seemed so terrorizing.  One fist full of flesh and the other full of fur do little in providing respite for the tortured soul that succumbs to the attack of an unknown adversary.  My tears fall suddenly, drops of salty water seeking refuge in thick, warm, powerful hair.

When his eyes again meet mine, mystical green orbs filled with my own reflection briefly aimed at me, I stop, pause, hold my own thoughts.  Then another meow.  The same horrified call that came before, only dimmer.  And those eyes…  They are full of uncontrolled thoughts and desperation, a crippling fear.

I bundle him up in warm towels fresh from the dryer, wrap him in undeniable affection, and rush him to the doctors who might tend the wounded beast.  But it is too late.

He trembles in my arms, his body distressed to physical limits as his mind reels from the unseen blows of an attacker we cannot stop.  Voice gone, eyes hollow and distant, he seems weak.  Even his seizures have tired and look more like brief shivers.

Before I can make the request I know I must make, he calms, falls silent and still, looks at me briefly as though he has discovered a single drop of clarity.  Then he breathes his last and slumps lifeless against me.

My tears flow freely as I set the book on the table beside the couch.  Staring through sorrow’s fog does nothing to hide the vision of him on the patio one more time, looking through the window at me, asking for a bit of my time with those meows that touched me from the first day I ever heard them.

Then I see him on the couch beside me, talking rapturously as I pet him.  Then in the hallway, in the bathroom, on the bed, and finally back on the patio where we first met.

Now each time I walk outside, I look for him—and sometimes I see him, hear him, feel him.  I find him in the bathroom eating, the sound of his crunching cheering me as I realize again and again that he is safe, cared for, off the streets.  I find him next to the pillows at night resting comfortably as we coast toward slumber.  I find him lying in pools of sunshine, belly to the sky.  I find him sitting nearby when I grab the cat food, his voice joining the chorus of cats.  I find him nestled against me as I sit on the couch and read, my hand always petting him, scratching him, connecting with him.

I see him every day, still in the places we shared, still in the moments we occupied together.

Lion’s lament

I know not when these days began, though I know when they ended.

Larenti lying on the bed (2008_12_17_002472)

I sit on the couch and wait.  I will wait forever for that which is expected: Larenti rushing to my side, leaping atop the cushions to join me.  From anywhere in the house, he always knew when I sat down there, and he would always run to the living room and jump up to take his place on my lap or by my side.

But no more.

The rest of The Kids still share the couch with me at every opportunity, and they vie for my lap and to get somehow in contact with me as Larenti always did, yet the absence remains unbearable, a blade cutting deep with every moment.

Larenti peering over the edge of the bed (2008_12_17_002482)

I lie on the floor next to the bed and look up as I await his usual reaction.  Await is all I can do now, for Larenti’s face will never greet me by peering over the edge of the blankets with a half-questioning, half-delighted visage painted with beautiful earthen hues.  He enjoyed quality time along with the other cats, yet he never seemed sure about this particular game.  I always loved his curiosity in response to my being on the floor beneath him; equally, I loved that he knew it would always lead to blizzards of love between us.

Yet his face will never again peek over the edge of the bed.

The rest of The Kids still engage in Quality Time with the utmost interest and joy, and they try their best to sweep away the loss with kisses, touches, purring, play, and all manner of passion, though the emptiness they seek to fill is not theirs to fill.

Larenti sitting on the edge of the bed (2009_03_01_011699)

I awake and climb from beneath the covers anticipating the morning ritual.  Anticipate is now all that will happen, for Larenti’s voice will not fill the dark room with greetings and requests for affection, his form will not sit on the edge of the bed as I kneel next to it and shower him with soft words and petting, and his formidable purr will no longer bring joy to my heart as he demonstrates his love and contentment.

The morning ritual is forever changed.

The rest of The Kids remain steadfast in taking and receiving adoration in those early morning hours just as they have always done, yet a vacuous chasm now exists that can never be bridged.

Larenti sitting in the hall (2009_03_01_011652)

I grab the cat food or treats, and then I look and listen as the horde descends upon me with much meowing and jockeying for position, although now that one face in the background will never offer up the plaintive cries that always made me remember the skittish one who would stay back, stay out of the fray, but who nonetheless joined the restless herd in pretending they were all starving to death.  While I never let the food bowl grow empty, the sound of the bag meant tripping over cats eager to get something fresher than yesterday’s offerings, and tapping on the top of a can of treats or shaking a bag of treats would bring them all running.  Larenti stayed out of the commotion as much as possible, always lagged behind while still showing the same devotion to goodies—or even just a refill of the bowl.  His eyes wide as he watched me closely, he would offer up his sorrowful yet beguiling voice as part of the feline chorus that defined such times.  Only now his face will be missing, his voice silent, his stunning and wide eyes only a memory of what was.

Food and treat time now bears a fresh scar that will never fully heal.

The rest of The Kids continue creating loud, boisterous obstacles under my feet whenever they hear the food bag or treat containers; however, I keep wishing for that seventh song and hoping for a sighting of the lion, neither of which will ever caress my soul again.

A close-up of Larenti (2009_02_28_011212)

I grab the camera as afternoon sun fills the bedroom with warm light and pools of sunshine where The Kids gather.  I will never have another chance to see how such moments brought out the stunning colors and contrasts in Larenti’s face.  His large green eyes would catch the light like diamonds even has his beige tabby coat glowed like a fire on the beach.  His beauty was undeniable, yet at such moments it became a cause for celebration that the universe itself could not ignore.  I loved to feel his gaze resting upon me, his eyes devouring in great sweeps all that could be seen, his jovial spirit spilling from them when finally they touched me directly.

Only now the camera will never capture his magic again.

The rest of The Kids still offer their magnificence when the light is just right, still congregate in the bedroom where a wall of glass proffers afternoon pools of sunshine where they can bathe and nap and gather the warmth unto their bosoms; the pain of one missing, however, screams like an unhealing wound.

A close-up of Larenti (2009_02_28_011342)

Larenti: November 2002 – March 2009

Too much loss

Too young.

Too soon.

Too horrible to face.

A close-up of Larenti (2009_02_28_011203)

Larenti died tonight.

Maybe a brain tumor.  Maybe something else.

We just don’t know.

What goes without question is this: He began having seizures late in the evening.  Rushed to the emergency vet, his condition worsened—and it did so rapidly.

No matter the treatment offered, he stumbled down the pathway toward end.

And finally he reached his destination.

I haven’t the will or interest in saying more, at least not now.

The most recent photos of him I’ll share soon.

And stories.

And thoughts.

But for now, I plan on weeping my heart upon the altar of time that so readily takes.

Passing through

A melancholy sky dangles above the world with just enough cloud to ruin good lighting but not enough to stop the shadow army.  I march on nonetheless, confident at least one thing seen and photographed will be worth the trip.

Even if not, however, I know of the magic nature wields and how it revitalizes even the wariest of souls.  That I need more than a good picture.

Not long after I reach Sunset Bay and attempt to capture a few shots of the blue-winged teals far across the confluence, I hear a goose overhead and look up to witness less conventional fare soaring above the treetops.

A Canada goose (Branta canadensis) flying overhead (2009_03_21_013079)

A lone Canada goose (Branta canadensis) circles the bay and disappears behind the impenetrable shield of woodlands springing to life.

I feel the opportunity has gone, has slipped by with only that one view.

Yet I hear the goose calling still, and its voice rings closer and closer until I see it fly out back over the lake, falling slowly, braking, moving into position to land.

A Canada goose (Branta canadensis) landing in White Rock Lake (2009_03_21_013085)

It settles into the water with ease and begins swimming into the bay yet away from my location.  I rush to the pier where I hope to have a better—and closer!—view.

The sound of wood creaking and cracking beneath each step welcomes me to my favorite spot on the jetty.  It reaches into the heart of Sunset Bay, past the sandbar where pelicans preen and coots cavort and ducks dance, where gulls and geese and cormorants spend part of their time at the lake, where so much life happens that it can overwhelm the senses of the unprepared.

Yet the goose angles further away from the pier even as I get into position.  It swims toward shore but away from the commotion at the confluence.

I follow.

A Canada goose (Branta canadensis) swimming near shore (2009_03_21_013100)

Amongst sleeping scaups the goose swims slowly.  Somehow I feel it watch me as I dash along the shore vying for a better position, a closer seat from which I might enjoy the view.

Crouched amongst the reeds and alligatorweed, my feet sinking in mud, I watch as the goose paints a slow circle through the south end of the bay.

A Canada goose (Branta canadensis) swimming near shore (2009_03_21_013130)

All the while it watches me, or perhaps only watches the shore where so many people have come to enjoy the beautiful morning made luscious and alive by recent rains.

A Canada goose (Branta canadensis) swimming near shore (2009_03_21_013133)

Its turn complete and its surveillance of the shore done, I watch as the goose swings south again and heads toward Winfrey Point.  It picks up speed now, swimming with a bit more purpose.

A Canada goose (Branta canadensis) swimming near shore (2009_03_21_013423)

I follow.

Or is it me who is being followed?

I walk south past the point and past the arboretum making my way to Garland Road where the lake ends.  Each time I turn around, the goose is there, there near shore following the water’s edge, always nearby, always right over my shoulder.

I come to realize we are sharing this time together, neither of us owning it any more than we own the air in our lungs or the light in our eyes; I come to realize neither of us is following the other, but instead we are both on a journey of rejuvenation that happens to carry us on the same path for a wee bit, and so we share the moment, share the experience.

And I’m the better for it.

Canada geese are not unheard of around these parts, although they are not warm-weather residents.  Rather, they migrate through here each year and sometimes, rarely, a few remain through winter.

Being there at the moment this lone bird stopped to rest was a bit of fortune I had not expected, but one I welcomed with open arms.

Empty cries

I hear them now, even at this hour.  I stand on the patio and listen to the mournful cries of a pup.

Pain?  Sorrow?  Isolation?

The language might change, but the sentiment remains clear.

I let the sidewalk carry me toward the lake.  The sound of my shoes scuffing along the pavement walkway echoes even on a night filled with wind and blowing leaves.

The storms will come, the rain, the feeble attempt to stop drought, but they will not satiate the night’s desire to amplify this creature’s distress.

I set those thoughts aside, push them under a rug of detritus made from despair and disinterest.

I am not that man.

Shut up!

I feel.

That’s not enough.

Plaintive.  Can one describe them any other way?

What terror besets this animal?  What anguish does it sing upon the wind?

My steps cross from concrete to grass.  The cold of human approach turns to something different, something alien yet welcome, something threatening and promising all at once.

I no longer recognize my path.

My shadow elongates and tracks across the ground as I pass a light in the distance.  I no longer recognize my shadow either.

But I walk on.

Stabbing me with each call is apparent distress.

Why does no one answer?

Because no one cares.

The voices in my head become a vile thing, a ghoulish thing, a revolting thing of cold and relentless debate.

Yet I still hear it.

A branch scrapes against my bare arm leaving a badge of exposure.  I scarcely notice such things anymore.  No one else notices.

Somewhere in the night a car door slams and feet shuffle momentarily before briskly moving further into the darkness.  Eventually they disappear behind the cloak of sound that defines this moment: the rustling of leaves, the wind stirring against my face, the wandering voices of tree frogs and what few insects remain, the occasional hoot of an owl.

And, of course, the poor lamentation coming from a small animal I have yet to find.

You won’t be able to help.

Should that stop me from trying?


But I’m not that man.

Maybe you should be.

Leave me alone.

To my left I hear the trickling of water.  The creek remains bathed in shadow and only a few reflections of light dance on its surface; just enough to guide me along its banks.

Crumbling earth.  Rocks splashing.  Not me, though.  Ahead, somewhere ahead where I cannot see, someone or something moves along the same bank and stirs the soil from its rest by being too near the edge.

Stopped dead in my tracks, I whisper, “Hello?”


You’ll die out here tonight.  Turn back now.

“Is someone there?”  The words tremble a bit, something I fear is too obvious.  Then in a deeper, more confident voice: “I asked if someone is there?”


Now is a good time to consider running, yes?

I’ve had enough of you.

Obviously not as you’re still out here.

For the last time, be quiet.

Is it worth your life to pursue this?  You haven’t a clue what you’re looking for, what might be happening.  Is that enough?


A stirring of leaves upon the ground, this time not by the wind but instead by something still hidden that has moved closer to me without being seen or heard.

I stare into the darkness.

Something is out there, something dangerous, something evil.  Run!

I will not.

Then I’ll play no part in this game.  You carry us to toward our death.


Two eyes.  Two eyes that reflect back to me the pittance of light that exists in the deep of night.  Two eyes in the darkness.

And again the small lamentations of a beast in despair.

Then the shadow peals back enough for me to see a female coyote no more than ten feet/two meters away.

She protects something.

Yes, she protects her domain, her health.  Tell me why we’re still here!

Because we care.

Care enough to face death?


Then so be it.  Behold…

The cloak of blindness falls away rapidly such that I stumble back a step or two, my feet looking for steady ground in the face of that which brought me here: a coyote mother protecting her offspring who finds itself stranded on a small bit of rock in the middle of a creek.

The leap to shore seems minuscule, a minute jump even for a child.

Yet the pup cries out again, unleashes its fear upon the wind and night.

And the mother takes one more step toward me, one more deliberate movement telling me I am not welcome.