Pining for the Wild Thing

Sparkle and PoemsI have two cats.  One is friendly, the other, feral. Sparkle should have been named ‘Anybody’s’.  Every human being is her instant best friend. She is totally enthralled with anything and everything I do.  Cosette should have been named “Cautionary Cat”.  She jumps at every strange noise and slinks like a squiggle of liquid mercury defying gravity, up the stairs and under the bed at the sound of the doorbell.  She is preternaturally aware of my feet and scoots away, hugging the floor, as soon as she perceives they are moving her way.  Sparkle is totally domesticated.  Cosette is wild.

Cosette loves Sparkle.  That love is not reciprocated.  They are not enemies, but it is sad to see how Cosette pines for Sparkle, defers to her in all things – even catnip. She bows before Sparkle a dozen time a day to get an occasional and perfunctory head-lick, and makes overtures at play but is always rebuffed. There is a tragic, serial drama of unrequited love playing out in the house each day. DSCF4715

I am in the midst of reading an amazing book; H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald.  It is, at only one of its several levels, a story about the author’s challenges in taming a goshawk for hunting. The writing is incredibly beautiful and more than once I’ve had to put the book down to let myself absorb the imagery she offers, the connections she makes and the emotions that well up as a result.  I am only halfway through, but the book presents the opportunity to think deeply about the unfathomable nature of wild animals and the romance of how and why we humans long to make a connection to that wildness.

Perhaps this has made me more sensitive than usual to the interplay between my cats, and my own longing to make a connection with Cosette.  Outside of the terrible battles (with scars – mine) to capture her for vet visits (never again), or to move her from house to apartment to new house, I have never once held her. Even after more than 10 years, she does not trust me.  Oh, we’ve made a little progress.  If I am seated, she may come to the side of the chair for a short pet of the soft, old-silver fur of her head – but turns first to see if Sparkle is coming too.  If so (and Sparkle almost always horns in for a pet), Cosette will always step aside.

And in the (very early!) mornings, Cosette has gotten comfortable enough to jump on the bed, wail for her breakfast, sometimes panicking when the needles of her un-clipped claws trap her paws momentarily in the blankets.  She will also take a piece of chicken or fish from my fingers after a painfully long and tentative consideration.  But these are the limits of our interaction.

She’s not unhappy.  Her tail is always up and she plays – wonderfully, comically, and loudly – with herself, frequently at 1:00 am.  She’ll carry her catnip mouse up the stairs, bat it down, run yelling happily after it and bring it back up again for several encores.  In Helen Macdonald’s book, the author thrills at the moment she recognizes that her hawk actually can play and express delight. I have that same thrill, smiling to myself in the middle of the night when Cosette plays.

Sparkle is older than Cosette and I’ve noticed these past few months that she’s lost a little weight.  She’s still healthy, happy and very lively, but I am expecting her time to come before Cosette’s.  I wonder, then, if Cosette will be unconsolably bereft, or if finally she will turn to me as friend, companion, playmate.

There are many wild animals on the periphery of my life – the deer that haunt my yard, the opossum and skunk that make appearances, and the raccoons.  But Cosette is my personal wild thing.  And I pine for her.cosette

Little Thrills

DSC00494Little Thrills

The tree’s warm light,

        in the pre-dawn dark.

Golden dance

        of a votive’s flame.

Lap-snuggled purr

        of my cat’s contentment.

And just now, the sun –

                                                         rouging the clouds’ chins.


 

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