Happy birthday, Cynthia cat.

Already curled up to the Jonson.Cynthiabirthday

Six years ago my first cat Celia died suddenly from congenital kidney failure. It was already a bad time for me and after spending a horrible week in my catless apartment I packed up and went back to my parents’ home for a week or so. On the day before my birthday my amazing friends picked me up to go out and celebrate — which for us meant an afternoon of coffee and bookstores. But at the end of our trip we went to the pet store across from the Humane Society. It was one of those set ups where they host animals from local rescues, including the HS.

I met Cynthia (formerly named Domino for obvious reasons), as well as another very large and very charming tuxie boy.

I convinced myself that I should probably not impulsively adopt the first cat I met and went home. But it turns out I am terrible at convincing myself not to adopt cats. When I went back the next day I found myself asking who would be more likely to tolerate me reading and writing for long periods of time and was told that Cynthia was a little more of a lap cat than Mr Giant Tuxie.

Actually I was told, in somewhat ominous tones, that she was needy. Really needy. Maybe more needy than I would be ready for.

The first night was pretty telling. After a couple of hours of wandering around, calmly inspecting her new kingdom, she flopped down on the floor, stretching lazily in a ‘you will adore and pet me now’ pose (see above).

In the last six years I have learned that ‘she is a bit needy’ actually means ‘she will insist that you pay attention to her at all possible moments and even when you are busy you will pay attention to her’.

I’ve spent the last six years typing with a cat on my lap, a cat who occasionally reaches a paw upward to pat my face when I go too long without adoring her. Or with a cat laying beside — and then inevitably on — my laptop. And learning to read around a cat who insists on sitting on my books or directly in my field of vision. And waking up in the middle of the night to a gentle paw on my nose or snuffly nose in my eyeball (because I have to say good night to her when she goes to bed at 3am).

I have come to redefine my understandings of the term lap cat.

And no one escapes Cynthia’s demands. Anytime someone new comes to visit she will climb on a table and stare and meow  and reach out her paw to snag their clothes if she can. Or just flop at their feet in her ‘adore me’ posture.

I’ll never know how she ended up as a shelter cat because she’s pretty much the sweetest and gentlest and easygoingist cat around. I do know that I am always very grateful for her company and her affection. Especially in years like the past one where things have been not-so-good. Especially at the times when she intervenes at moments when I’ve been working too long, and forgetting to take breaks, and generally getting caught up in my anxiety that all the things have to be done.

But also at 3am.

So happy birthday to Cynthia cat: my best birthday present ever.

15 May 2016


This week in books.

I haven’t had much time to read in the past few weeks because of paper grading, and exam grading, and then lots of  medical appointments in the morning (which is when I do most of my free reading). So I am mostly in the middle of things. Those things being:

Mitchell, David. Cloud Atlas. Toronto: Vintage Canada, 2004.

B. and I are reading this together and then having a Skype-based book club. I’m finding re-reading it very odd because I have such strong memories of really loving the book, but it turns out I have only the vaguest memories of actual plot details. Which is kind of nice, because I really want to know how the first story ends and am not in any way deprived of the puzzle-structure of the book the second time around.

But also I’m worried it’s not as good as I remember? Updates forthcoming.

Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Vancouver: Raincoast, 1999.

I’ve been re-reading Harry Potter while I sit in waiting rooms, waiting for x-rays and ultrasounds etc, because they’re comforting, and you need something to do there, and because I find it really difficult to read something new in the fragmentary space-and-time of the waiting room. Snoopy Mrs Norris is still my favourite.

Yeats, William Butler. W.B. Yeats: Poems Selected by Seamus Heaney. London: Faber, 2000.

I used to really love Yeats in undergrad. And now I find I still love him, but like different poems. I’m more annoyed by his use of ladies as mediums for talking about how beauty is fleeting and the poet is old and life is fleeting and everyone dies one day (because ladies are people and not just empty pictures, Yeats) but ‘Easter 1916’ just about broke my heart in a way it never had before.

But also I love that Heaney included ‘To a Squirrel at Kyle-na-no’ because in the midst of Yeats talking about the ache of age and loneliness and the tragic history of Ireland you just get this little imagist moment:

Come play with me;

Why would you run

Through the shaking tree

As though I’d a gun

To strike you dead?

When all I’d do

Is to scratch your head

And let you go. (56)

Yeats is pretty great.

13 May 2016

Lady Jane.

After Lucy moved in lady Jane got very anxious and grumpy. She’s always been an anxious cat, and new cats are the Most Stressful Thing for lots of cats, so I wasn’t really surprised. And after six months or so she calmed down a lot (especially after Lucy finally realised that not all cats want to be her very best friend and started giving Lady Jane lots of space). But about two weeks or so ago she seems to have a reached a whole new level of acceptance and has become a very happy cat again. She’s picked up a whole number of habits and behaviours I totally forgot she even had/did. Like, I forgot she used to wake me up every morning by lying on top of the blankets (if you aren’t expecting it, there’s nothing more terrifying than your half-conscious brain realising there’s a heavy weight on your chest, obstructing your breathing ever-so-slightly). And I forgot that she used to follow me around when I’m home, chatting about her day. I forgot how she used to leave her little foam balls at the foot of the bed in the middle of the night. And I forgot that she likes to roll around on the floor ecstatically, paws flailing in the air, and making little ‘mrr mrr’ noises, when she’s happy.

My sense is that Lady Jane just takes a long time to adjust to anything. She took about three years to really settle in after I first adopted her. So I’m actually sort of hopeful that she might even be at ease enough to be friends with Lucy. Which is all Lucy has wanted from day one. For now I’m just really happy to see Lady Jane being ridiculous again.

12 April 2016

This week I’ve been reading…

basically nothing. Because first, I’m still reeling from Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot which is the sort of book that slowly seeps into you and takes hold of your brain and also your feelings in subtle but strong ways (like, it took me a very long time to realise that it was making me feel a constant trickle of anxiety about social rules; also, it represents trauma and depression in complex ways that I still can;t wrap my head around).

Second, end-of-term wrap up has kept me busy. Final lectures to prep, and exams to write, and a Good Deal of Email. Plus grading, grading, grading.

I did start Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale a few days ago. It’s a fast, engrossing read. A change from Dostoyevsky. I have mixed feelings about it. It’s a good modern-day romance along the lines of The Woman in White or The Monk or anything weird by Walpole. But that also means it’s got a lot of the sensationalising of violence (particularly sexual violence) for entertainment that I’m uncomfortable with in contemporary literature. But it also points a bit more to the traumatic effects of violence in ways that Walpole certainly doesn’t give a poop about (I’m looking at you, Mysterious Mother).

We’ll see.

(I don’t know what happened in that last paragraph. I’ve got no real eloquence left these days.)

((I am totally equating the Gothic novel with romance but you prove to me that they aren’t the same thing.))

9 April 2016