Category Archives: al-Zill Photos

To whom it may concern

Mom recently said to me that she knows something’s wrong if I’m not writing.  How telling.  True, sure, but nonetheless insightful for its simple clarity.

Fox squirrel (a.k.a. eastern fox squirrel, stump-eared squirrel, raccoon squirrel or monkey-faced squirrel; Sciurus niger) resting atop a fence (2009_06_06_022664)

So yesterday, when my eighth blogging anniversary came and went, I sat on the fence regarding how much I felt like posting about it.  Then the day slipped by, a wisp of smoke grasped and lost in the same moment.  Which didn’t bother me.

Abstract photo of the keyboard of my laptop (190_9006_ab)

Because for months now my keyboard has looked less like a communication device and more like an impassable desert.  I felt daunted as I sat in front of it, unable to resurrect even the most fleeting word combinations from the dark and barren landscape at my fingertips.

Heavy morning dew on a blade of grass (20080824_11348_ab)

Substantial thoughts and ideas, let alone the ability to make them manifest, quickly vanished in the light of day, nothing but morning dew of the mind.

The sun setting behind thickening clouds (20081011_13814_ab)

Yet in the sunset of these ruminations dawned a jarring realization.  Though the past year has held its share of challenges, some of which I must carry with me beyond this eighth anniversary, part of my worsening blog malaise stemmed from a disturbing truth I have to face: in the past year, I broke my cardinal rule by allowing someone to influence—Nay, not just influence, but rather to control what I blogged, even if indirectly.

Why didn’t I post anything about The Kids last year?  Why did my writing degrade into nothing short of mundane documentary, a blow-by-blow, dry, uninspiring mess?  Even though the past several months and their inimical ways share part of the blame, here at the beginning of my ninth year at the keyboard, why has blogging become so intimidating, so resented?  It all boils down to a boy and how I let him indirectly manage my personal journal.

That idea made me angry.  And since anger is more useful than despair, it spurred me forward, urged me back to my roots, forced me to decide resolutely that, like I said five years ago to another friend for the very same reasons, this is my blog, my journal, my home on the web.  If you don’t like it, just go away.

While I still have trials to win and obstacles to overcome, that hangup seems to have stuck in my craw for far too long.  It feels good to finally cough it up.

And to show my resolve in this matter, here’s a picture of the Shadow, al-Zill.

A close-up of al-Zill, one of my cats, as he looks out the window (20080613_06470)

He’s watching things blow away on the winds of change.

— — — — — — — — — —


  1. Fox squirrel (a.k.a. eastern fox squirrel, stump-eared squirrel, raccoon squirrel or monkey-faced squirrel; Sciurus niger)
  2. My laptop’s keyboard
  3. Heavy morning dew on a blade of dallisgrass (a.k.a. water grass or Dallas grass; Paspalum dilatatum)
  4. An autumn sunset at the family farm deep within the Piney Woods of East Texas
  5. al-Zill, or sometimes “the Shadow” and “Little Terrorist”

Little Terrorist

Don’t let the innocent face fool you…

al-Zill sitting on a cat tree and looking out the window (2008_12_17_002503)

al-Zill might look sweet and cuddly, and knowing he has brain damage from a pre-rescue coyote attack might lull one into a false sense of pity, but he’s a little terrorist.

Sure, he’ll lie in my lap and look tender and adorable, but then he’ll turn around and bite me for no reason.

Sure, he’ll stand and groom one of his siblings with all the affection he can muster, but then he’ll lean back and smack ’em upside the head just when they’re thinking the world couldn’t get any better.

Sure, he’ll give kisses for just about any reason, but then he’ll keep giving them until he’s worn the tissue down to the bone.

Sure, he’ll sit by my feet and soak up all the petting he can get, but then he’ll randomly bite a toe or sink his claws into my ankle.

Sure, he’ll curl up under the covers with me when it’s time to go to bed, but then he’ll attack me the first time I move.

Sure, he’ll dash to the water and food bowls so he can sit beside one of the other cats while they eat or drink, but then he’ll pounce on them once their head is down.

Sure, he’ll go to sleep nearby, but then he’ll suddenly attack me or one of the other cats and send all of us careening out of bed.

Sure, he’s a little terrorist.  And I love him just the way he is.

He falls sometimes

Black cat at night.  He moves with the stealth of a master predator, one painted with the color of darkness that makes him invisible after the sun falls below the horizon.

Yet something sees him, something large and traveling in a pack, something powerful and hungry.

The cat slinks across grass wet with dew, his movement silent, his steps meticulously planned and executed.

And still the coyotes look on, watch closely, coordinate their attack with whispers and glances few could notice.

Sans warning, a blur of dark coats move with suddenness that ensnares the feline in a trap, encircles him with fangs bared, surrounds him with snarls and growls.

There is nowhere to run.  Still he tries.

Then it’s done.  Held in the mouth of a canine, his skull and neck pierced, his jaw dislocated, the cat fights back with all the means at his disposal.

Claws stab the coyote’s face from all sides, blades kicking and scratching with a fierceness the large animal had not anticipated, could not foresee.

In a stroke of luck, pain overcomes the hunting instinct and the powerful jaws relax just enough for the cat to escape, to flee, to run up the nearest arboreal refuge where coyotes cannot follow.

But the damage is done…

Fiction?  Perhaps, at least to a small degree, although not entirely.

al-Zill lying on the floor in a pool of sunshine (2009_02_28_011184)

A fractured skull.  A jaw that doesn’t quite fit together.  A hairless scar above the shoulders.  A mind separated from body when it matters most.  And sometimes when it doesn’t matter at all.

al-Zill fights every moment in often feeble attempts to will his form into submission.

More often than not, he asks for that which his frame cannot provide.  Chasing his tail means smacking his head against the wall or falling off furniture.  Walking across the room can be successful…or not.  Even standing can prove difficult: he falls sometimes.  Not just falls, though.  Collapses.

A closeup of al-Zill (2009_02_28_011226)

Entwined with the innocence and mischief of youth, he gets up and keeps going.  His purr never wavers.  His ebullience never wanes.  And his spirit never gives up.

I see the battle in his face, at least from time to time.

A profile of al-Zill as he looks out the window (2009_03_01_011706)

Mostly I see an indomitable feline making the most of his life irrespective of the setbacks and failures.

Let the sun shine in

Being on call this weekend meant not getting out for more than a cursory run to the store or coffee shop, but it also meant more time with The Kids—along with more time to do chores.

Having my foot chained to a Blackberry and a laptop darkened my mood and butchered all hope of taking walks and doing some writing; it didn’t keep me from enjoying quality time with seven shamefully demanding felines.

Larenti on the edge of the bed staring at open windows with a longing only inside cats understand (2009_02_28_011292)

What irked me most was that I had the camera on the wrong settings.  Having been used most recently for outside telephoto sessions, I hastily changed lenses yesterday but failed to consider anything else before joining in a fur person convention taking place in the bedroom.

Most of the pictures didn’t turn out, but some did.  And since photography is barely a secondary consideration at such times, I wasn’t too bothered by that result.

Besides, I was rather pleased that piles of laundry and perpetual pages failed to dampen spirits.

Kazon sitting amongst piles of laundry and looking at me with that I-love-you-Daddy-now-please-pet-me stare that melts my heart every time (2009_02_28_011611)

We played.  Oh how we played!

And in between the play, we showered in affection.

The characters changed as cats came and went at will.  Time for a bath in the sunshine.  Time for a bite to eat.  Time for a nap.  Time for whatever.

None of them went very far, and every one of them came back again and again.

al-Zill lying in the sun trying to take a nap (2009_02_28_011169)

I feel shamed when work takes from them what they deserve; on the other hand, sometimes it gives them precisely what they need.

I guess it cuts both ways.

— — — — — — — — — —


[1] Larenti on the edge of the bed staring at open windows with a longing only inside cats understand.

[2] Kazon sitting amongst piles of laundry and looking at me with that I-love-you-Daddy-now-please-pet-me stare that melts my heart every time.

[3] al-Zill lying in the sun trying to take a nap.

Quality time

The Kids provide endless entertainment and companionship.  Unfortunately, being cats, they don’t always provide the best photographic opportunities.  I can’t tell them to sit and stay while I setup a prime shot.  I can’t let them run about the yard while I capture some magic moments.  In truth, they keep me on my toes when it comes to photographing them.

When we’re playing, it’s near impossible to snap photos while keeping them engaged.  I try, though.  What I wind up with most often are pictures of empty spaces, unrecognizable blurs, my own feet or hands, a wall or the ceiling, furniture, and anything else except cats.  Such is the curse of holding a toy with one hand as I hold the camera out and snap photos with the other.

When they’re playing on their own, I can sometimes get up and grab the camera for some snapshots.  Usually, however, they react to my movement by stopping what they’re doing and running to me for attention or a bit of personal play.  I try to keep the camera nearby for such moments, but that’s not always possible (busy doing chores or eating dinner are two examples that come to mind).

There is only one time when taking photos is simple: when they’re still (sleeping, grooming, etc.).

The next best opportunity is quality time.

Quality time for us happens as often as possible.  It’s nothing more complicated than me sitting or lying on the floor.  It draws them in like flies to honey.

We play.  We show love toward each other.  We focus on the pleasure of just being with one another.

But that represents another challenge.  It’s our quality time; I’m focused on them and they’re focused on me, so photography is nothing more than a byproduct when possible.

That there are seven of them also means my hands are full with making sure each of them receives their due affection.

Nevertheless, I find the happenstance photos from such moments often capture the wild spirits and loving souls that swim within each of these fur persons.

A close-up of Kazon as he looks at me (2008_12_27_003708)

Kazon.  What can I say?  He’s my baby.  When he realizes I’m occupying him surreptitiously in hopes of getting a picture worth the effort, he stops and looks at me with the adoration of a child.  He needs his love, his affection.  And he is a child, a big tomcat in stature with the mind of a juvenile who is always needy, always demanding of personal attention.

A close-up of Kako as she looks out the window (2008_12_27_003718)

Kako.  As independent as she is wanting of Daddy’s time, she proffers a mix of disdain and greed.  Sometimes I can’t get her off my shoulders long enough to breath; other times she smacks me around and lets me know I’m invading her personal space.  I love the bitch that dwells within this feline.  She is both distant and close all at once, a dichotomy that defines the spirit of all cats.

Larenti lying on the bed looking out the windows (2008_12_27_003720)

Larenti.  He is fear made flesh.  I always knew he was abused, for his fear of hands and sudden movements makes this clear.  Yet as much as he wants to engage the other felines, he fears them as much as he fears humans.  A bit of play quickly turns to panic, and a moment on my lap in purring contentment becomes fleeing apprehension when one of the other kids joins us and gets too close, rests against him, gets too near his personal space.  Ah, but he loves his time with me as much as he loves the rest of The Kids.  For a young cat, he still has time to realize the potential of the life I’ve given him.

A close-up of Vazra as he looks out the window (2008_12_27_003723)

Vazra.  He lives up to his name.  Simultaneously amiable and demanding, he is a true king of felines.  He demands things go his way, he demands no one else do what he does, and he demands everyone acquiesce to his needs and wants.  His physical presence, as beautiful as it is, represents a mere shadow of his personality, a big and bold being who loves with the utmost compassion as much as he expects me to answer his every demand.  He’s a mirror of my own soul…

A close-up of al-Zill as he looks at the camera (2008_12_27_003735)

al-Zill.  The neurological damage he suffered before I rescued him ensures he’s a special case in the xenogere homestead.  Affectionate with a purr that can shake dishes off the table, he’s also a child at heart who remains at odds with the disconnect between his brain and his body.  But how he loves the other cats!  As much as he loves me, I might add.  Watching him lie with Grendel as he grooms his older stepbrother warms my heart as much as it does when he pushes his way under the covers at night, when he races to claim my lap, when he follows me everywhere while continually rubbing against me, and when he gives me kisses—sometimes incessantly to the point of pain.

A close-up of Grendel as he looks at me (2008_12_27_003745)

Grendel.  A lifetime of ailments continues to take a toll on this alpha male.  He is Sponge, the cat who can never get enough petting, who can never spend enough time with me (although Kazon gives him a run for his money in that regard).  And while Grendel remains the chief of the watch, I myself lament seeing him weaken, seeing the tremors that plague him all the time now, seeing a great predator reduced to wisps of what once was.  He looks at me with frustration in this photo because I wanted him to pause long enough for a picture, yet I could only demand so much from him before I wept and held him and spoke to him with the utmost adoration.  His time is limited, something obvious by the continued downhill slide of his body.  So many memories wrapped up in this one cat whose flesh can no longer support the soul that made him master of our domain…

Although I tried also to grab a few pictures of Loki, all of them turned out as so much garbage.  He beat me profusely during this episode of quality time.  He ran about, punched me around, argued with me, and basically left me not one opportunity to immortalize his godliness within the digital confines of a photograph.  There will be other times, sure, but I’m sorely disappointed with myself for not being better prepared for his rambunctious and assaulting interaction with me.  For all the abuse I’ve taken from him over the years, I should have known better.