The answer to my question rests in the tone of my cat giving herself a bath. Sandpaper tongue smooths out the rough edges of her frame. Saliva holds down the rebel cow-licks. Lying in sunbeams of the living room, atop the paisley cushion on the file cabinet, this is her space.
Loudly she processes every section. I hear her over my reading.
Today she investigates those piles of apples on the lawn, is startled by the next two plopping into wild grass tuffs. The path of the speckled moth is discovered leading to the Black-Eyed Susan, blooms frozen by overnight frost, crinkled and breaking, in the next door yard.
Bees still bounce on the lavender row by the driveway. The lady takes a dust bath to the tune of hums collecting last of the season’s nectar. Now, it’s early evening. She stretches out fully on the braided kitchen rug ready for sleep. I envy her.
In my new neighborhood, just up the hill is an empty lot. I discovered it one weekend while taking my cat for a walk. We have foxes in the area and she won’t go far from the home unless someone walks with her. It’s a mutual benefit, she gets to explore and I get some exercise.
The main access road winds its way up a ridge just a few miles outside of town. All of the homes are built off that road with long individual driveways and dense woods keeping any passerby, weather on foot or in car, from seeing the house. It’s more like walking through a thick forest, than a neighborhood, with the only exception being the trail is a two lane gravel road. On this street people want to be hidden from the world, tucked away in their own little paradise, behind a curtain of evergreens. Unlike the suburban neighborhood I had just moved from, where every house is out in the open for all to see, but, I suppose that’s the idea.
About a quarter mile into my walk I pass by four large gates, evenly spaced apart, guarding driveways leading to a neighbor I’ll probably never see, unless they too are walking on the gravel road. The fifth driveway, however, was completely different. Standing out like a sore thumb is an entrance to this abandon lot. No gate or house numbers, no drift wood sign with a family’s last name to mark it, just some long grass and wildflowers.
Princess checking out the neighborhood
When I first discovered the lot, I was hesitant to trespass on it. Being new to the “neighborhood” I didn’t want to start trouble. From the gravel road I could see there was a clearing at the top of it, and thought for sure there had to be a view that was worth the risk. After a quick look for a No Trespassing sign or perhaps security cameras, or another human being, I decided the cat HAD to take a quick look and I couldn’t let her go alone.
This lot is friendly and open; it almost begs to have visitors! Why is there no house here? I learned from a neighbor the history of it: the owners will never build a house on it because like many areas on the island, it has no water. After three attempts digging for a well they gave up and are left with a very expensive piece of picnic ground. It’s unfortunate for them, but fortunate for suburbanites who walk their cats, namely ME.
There is something about this piece of land that holds my imagination. Perhaps it’s the same feeling that the owners received, who ever they are, when they first stood on it. The sunlight reacts to the trees in a dramatic way here. Even the grass and the little wild flowers carpeting the ground just seem to sing in the rays. The land has a natural driveway bending slightly to the left, nice and level branching off the main road. Walking down the driveway, towards the middle of the lot you notice a generous round lump of what I call “Island Rock” protruding from the earth like a gigantic beauty mark. This is the obvious location for the house. From the top of the mound of rock, turning towards the west, you get a wonderful view of the island, the straight and the Olympic Mountains. The land takes a downward slop forward like a ski jump leveling out into a flat grassy field. Madronas lace the outside edges with there signature orange bark.
I can see a beautiful modern home sitting on the rock, with large windows to frame the trees and mountains. Specters of people fill the empty space, living in the home I build here in my imagination. Family gathering together in the dinning room, a couple sitting out on the deck, kids running around exploring the little groves made perfect for gnomes.
The cat rubs up against my leg and sits next to me, bringing me back to our world, our world, standing alone on someone else’s land. With a heavy sign I take in the mountain range across the water. Now whenever I feel restless and need to stretch my legs, I travel up my road to the friendly lot that I’m sure awaits my visit.
Before my eyes crack open to greet the day I’m realizing that today is THAT day. I’m up! Physically my body lay still in bed, covers up to the chin. For the past twenty minutes or so my mind has been turning like a sour stomach; thoughts, images, ideas good and bad, swirling around up in my cranial cavity seeking a quick exit, seeking to be heard. The bed too warm to leave, the scratching at the door reminds me Princess needs food. So I get up and head for my chair and keyboard in the other room; it is time to write… and feed the cat.
Cat fed, OK… I’m ready… “You words can come out now!” …Silence answers. “What’s holding up the creative process? Hello?” An emotional beaver-like dam has positioned itself somewhere between my brain and fingers. Perhaps it’s not time to sit; but to walk. It’s 5:12 in the morning. A warm cup of tea in hand, walking around the room, I notice the sound of little tweets outside. The Chickadee’s that frequent the grove tell me the sun must be getting ready to rise.
The sun has a busy schedule to keep, at least a prudent one, it rises every morning on schedule, more reliable than a city bus. Opening my living room blinds reviles the trees in the grove as they start to take shape, painted black on a dark blue canvas. Slowly the sun will creep up over the hills and day will break. Normally I would be enjoying this moment, but not today. It’s too early and my mood is as dark as the sky. Standing there the bird tweets get muffled by the sound of electronic snow emanating from my head, I’m out of tune and need to find a frequency. “Go away sun! I want to go back to sleep!”
Apparently the earth spinning gives the effect of the sun moving, (I saw this on PBS so it must be true). But let’s be honest with each other for a moment, we all know the sun is a lazy sun of a bitch. Outside of being the life source of our planet, this nuclear fusion machine pretty much sits there, like a Little Miss Muffet. The universe really does revolve around it! The sun just sits there stirring and churning inside of itself spewing out fountains of nuclear lava in radiant displays like a scarves dancing drag queen. “Look at me! Look at me!” it says. Oh ya I’ll look at you, and then go BLIND! The human retina does not have pain receptors, so while we enjoy your “splendor” we will not even feel the damage being done! You sadistic pig!
The sun mocks me this morning; it has yet to rise and I hate it. However it is not the sun I hate although I try to divert my brain traffic to that off ramp, I am really nervous about what my day timer has slotted between 10:00 – 1:00. Today’s challenge will come and go; I’ll blink and the day will be over. Do you know how I know? Time continues on with or with out us. That sun that I hate now, will set tonight as it always has. We have no control over the powers of the universe, however you can choose to stay in a moment, wallowing in a muddy existence like a pig in a pen or quickly swallow time down like a Brussels sprout. “Crap! Alright I won’t cancel, I’ll go I’ll go!” I tell myself. “I won’t wallow anymore.” I hate Brussels sprouts!
It’s a new day, fresh and ready for me …and I’m ready for it. (Really I am… honestly)
Birds flying high You know how I feel Sun in the sky You know how I feel Reeds driftin’ on by You know how I feel It’s a new dawn It’s a new day It’s a new life For me And I’m feeling good
written by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse, 1964
The salsa music is on and I’m ready to write. The sun has set and just the faintest color of blue lies behind my madrona tree outside my window. In a few moments the window will completely frame “black”… Just total blackness -click- standing up I turn on my desk lamp and now see my own reflection in the glass now turned mirror. Instinctively my eyes look at what is behind me. Perhaps I’ve seen too many movies? The killer stands quietly behind the unsuspecting…. writer, spy or innocent lady washing the dishes… Where did we get that instinct to always check what’s behind us?
Now the killer only moves slowly and quietly for the voyeuristic crowd sitting in their seats with ICEE’s in their hands. It’s meant as a suspense builder in the movies. I mean, there is always this agent, just hanging out where there’s some good lighting, with her back to the whole room, getting ready to die. She’s calling her boss to tell them she’s bringing in the stolen super scientific silver tube of doom. And there’s that bad guy- or good guy depending on your political position on tubes of doom- he’s swirling the knife handle in his palm, arms stretched out like a praying mantis ready to strike. Honestly in real life I’m sure a bad guy would run up to the victim quickly to perform the deed; catch them by surprise. Walking slowly from across the room really doesn’t make much sense. I mean what if the bad guy gets tripped up on something in route to the target? There have to be at least ten different things that could happen from point A to point B. Perhaps he knocks over the lamp, trips on a shoelace, the floor could squeak, or he steps on a pile of newspapers. (Newspapers can be really noisy you know). It’s just stupid to think they would move so slowly in real life.
I looked behind me and there was no creepy person standing there. For some reason I feel a little disappointed. Then, without warning, two sharp objects pierced my right leg, just above the ankle. My cat had jumped me from the side- bit me -then ran off with the skill of a true ninja warrior! Scared the living crap out of me. “God dang you cat!”
The cat… it’s always the cat. No one suspects the cat.