Resilience

I’ve mentioned before on this blog (right here, actually) that a stray orange tabby has taken up residence in the bike shed of my apartment building—a no-pet building. Not that I have anything against pets. I live here, because it’s cheaper to live here. I don’t have a pet anyway. Well, not officially. The orange tabby, whom I’ve nicknamed Feral, is my unofficial pet. I share him with my next-door neighbors who also feed Feral.

I assure you, a cat is in this photo. This is from the previous post. Feral is not fond of having his picture taken.

Feral prefers tuna, but not the cheap kind you can get at a discount store like Aldi. His palate is much more highbrow. Albacore tuna, please. In water.

Late last fall, my neighbor built Feral a little house out of a cardboard box, and lined it with straw. This house fit snuggly at the back of the bike shed. Feral seemed to like it. During the cold winter days, particularly the below zero days, I felt better, knowing Feral was out of the chill wind.

Anyway, last week, I went out to feed Feral, only to discover that his house had been thrown away. The bowl I used for his food had been placed on the sidewalk.

Feral had been evicted.

As I mentioned, I live in a no-pet building. Someone might have informed the powers that be of our secret pet (though technically, he’s not in the building; he’s in the bike shed).

Two days later, I peeked in the bike shed, only to discover Feral curled up behind the bikes once more. Despite the loss of his box, he’d returned to the only place he seemed to call home. So that night, I left a bowl of food and some fresh water, only to discover the next day that the food bowl was missing, and Feral too.

He’d been evicted. Again.

I thought he was gone for good. Nope. He turned up on a day when rain fell like the proverbial cats and dogs.

At the back of the apartment building is a window with a view into the attached bike shed. I could see Feral in there, sitting nicely, waiting for me to bring a bowl of food.

Feral is the picture of resilience for me. He survived being dumped in this area by someone who didn’t want him. He’s made it through a number of winters. Sometimes he comes to the shed bearing scars earned from fights. He won’t let anyone come near him to take him to the vet. He runs away and stays away if you try to pet him. All he wants is food and water. But sometimes, when I stand at the window and look in, he meets my gaze. Just that little bit of contact—knowing I’m nearby, though behind glass—seems to be enough.

Tuna from bumblebee.com. Other photo by L. Marie.

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The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

I’ll bet you know that the title of this post is a variation on lines from Robert Burns’s poem, “To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough.” And you also know that the title of John Steinbeck’s book, Of Mice and Men, came from the same poem. Go, you.

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Burns and Steinbeck

The lines from Burns’s poem actually go like this:

The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley

I thought about those lines when I headed out to my car the other day, and saw the feral cat sitting on top of the grass/weed heap near my parking space. Why do I call him the feral cat? I live in a no pet building. This orange tabby—abandoned by someone undoubtedly—has adopted my building as his home base, though he lives outside. (And yes, I sometimes feed him.)

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Somewhere in this photo is a cat if you look really hard. . . .

For a small rodent or a bird, it’s never a good sign when a cat sits so still and his eyes are open. I believe Feral Cat waited for a mouse or a bird to appear. After all, this is the same cat who months ago toyed with a mouse in my parking space just as I pulled up to park in it. The cat would allow the mouse to run a short distance, then would pounce on it. He did this over and over. Finally after a few tense minutes with me sitting there fuming, the cat grabbed the mouse and ran off. (For those of you who like mice, sorry. I was not about to get between that cat and that mouse.)

With that memory in mind, I cringed when I saw the predator hunched on the hill. By the time I scrambled to take a few photos, the mouse or whatever the cat waited for still hadn’t arrived. The best laid plans, as they say. So he settled down to stare at me and possibly roll his eyes at my clumsy attempts at photography (see above). I was a bit relieved. I didn’t relish watching him attack another a mouse.

Speaking of the best laid plans, what prompted this post, besides the fact that I still have yet to give away the Shadowfell series by Juliet Marillier (see interview; this is due to spam-bots who posted as fans and real fans who now already own the books), is the fact that I’m frustrated by my progress (or lack thereof) in my novel revision and, to a degree, in life. I had hoped to be finished with my revision, or at least around page 250 or 300. I haven’t even reached page 200! The best laid plans . . .

I’d also hoped I would at least be at a point in my life where I made the kind of dough (money for those who aren’t familiar with the colloquial term dough) that allowed me to book a trip to Rome for research and not blink an eye at the expense. Um, nope. Not even close. The best laid plans . . .

Colosseum-Rebuilt

I wasn’t one of those kids who had a plan for her life along the lines of, “When I grow up, I wanna be a supermodel, a CEO, an astronaut, and a pirate.” I was too busy breaking things at home, writing stories, and daydreaming. See? I’m the ultimate pantser, even in life. Having a plan would be like outlining. After my days as an undergraduate, I also didn’t have a ready-made plan for my life other than “get a job.” It’s interesting how “get a job” later turned into “keep a job” in a steadily tightening economy. Soon, the plan to “get a job” returned when “keep a job” wasn’t exactly feasible. The best laid plans . . .

Often plans have to make way for new plans. (Like my plan for having this post up on Thursday. It didn’t happen obviously.) The word flexible comes to mind—the need to be flexible in this time of plans made and plans unmade.

yoga-ss-tight-1

Somehow, flexibility seemed easier when I was eight years old, and my only complaint was that my parents wouldn’t take my brothers and me to McDonald’s (always my plan). Instead of being flexible—rolling with life’s changes, life’s disappointments, life’s that-cat-is-in-my-parking-space again—I feel like a pretzel, instead of someone gracefully bending back like the woman above. But I keep trying, keep bending, keep making those plans that might have to be unmade.

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At least I’m thankful for one thing: I’m not a mouse hiding in that grass heap with a cat sitting on top waiting for me to make a move.

Mouse

Have your best laid plans ever been overturned? How did you stay flexible?

Mouse and Robert Burns painting from Wikipedia. Book cover from Goodreads. Yoga photo from womenshealthmag.com. Pretzel from sweetclipart.com. Colosseum from photo from 2.bp.blogspot.com.