“Time spent with cats is never wasted” – Sigmund Freud
Today I hung a silk ribbon on my favourite tree, an alder, to commemorate World Earth Day. My beloved ginger and white cat is buried underneath and his claw marks are still visible on the trunk. The tree was only small when my cat was alive and now it’s over 20 feet. I hope these trees will outlive us all.
Instead of writing my novel I am staring at a bunch of bananas, or more precisely at the juxtaposition of the fruit with a box of Gourmet cat food, a calendar, jars of pasta, a face flannel and a pack of hair grips. The randomness of this arrangement reflects the insanity of my life during these Covid months. If ever there was a plot I have truly lost it along with any desire to keep a tidy house. The absence of visitors due to the restrictions has eroded my inner hausfrau. Instead I have developed a taste for the creativity of chaos. I used to be one for everything in its place, now I think there is a place in everything.
I keep thinking about the paradox of Schrödinger’s cat. If no one speaks to me or sees me or hears me for several days there is the equal probability that I am both dead and alive at the same time. The reality of my existence is not validated by others. For ten months I’ve been living in a grainy gritty twilight zone like a scene from a movie shot on Super8. I need to keep looking in the mirror just to check I’m still here. There’s always a tingle of surprise when I see myself, relatively unscathed, looking back.
I am writing this with a yellow pen and therefore prone to optimism.
However you chose to spend Christmas I hope you had a peaceful time. I enjoyed an alternative solitary Christmas with my cat…no tree, decorations or turkey but Moroccan Chicken with couscous followed by pumpkin pie and later I watched a Korean zombie movie. This was the view from my kitchen window when I was washing up.
And here was my cat chilling out in her own way…
Wherever you are -stay safe and make the most of the little things in life.
Last night I climbed into bed relaxed and comfortable with my cat Nadia beside me. I switched off the lamp and moments later I heard the sounds of a cat moving around the house. It’s very quiet where I live, bordered by fields so every sound is amplified. I heard a cat jump down from a height and then the gentle clicking of claws on the wooden floor. I was confused as I could feel Nadia snuggled up against my legs. Convinced a stray cat must have sneaked into the house I quickly switched the light back on. There was no-one there. I switched the light off again and the noises continued. It was pretty spooky.
This was not the first time I’d heard unexplained cat sounds since my loyal ginger cat, Sputnik, died four years ago. I’ve sometimes heard a cat wailing. At first I put it down to missing him but now I’m not so sure. Perhaps he’s still around me. It would be nice to think so.
One of my friends had an uncanny experience after her beloved dog died. A few days after his death she was visiting a relative in hospital. As she walked the length of the ward she was stopped by an old lady, one of the patients. “What a lovely spaniel you’ve got there, dear,” she said to my friend. “Fancy the nurses letting you bring a dog to visit!” My friend’s deceased dog had, in fact, been a spaniel. The old lady could describe the brown and white dog following along behind. It’s hard to find a rational explanation for this. The lady had never spoken to my friend or her sick relative before. How could she know about her dog?
Acccording to a recent poll about fifty percent of people in the U.K. believe in ghosts. In an age where secularism and science are the undisputed new religion it’s surprising that so many believe in the supernatural. Cynics would say, it’s all in the mind, a trick of the light, a hallucination or there must be a rational explanation. But surely everything is in the mind. Our experience of what we name ‘reality’ is entirely subjective. The world is perceived and interpreted by our mind, there is no other way. So if we think it’s ‘real’ then it is ‘real’.
The word “ghost” in English tends to refer to the soul or spirit of a deceased person or animal that can appear to the living. In A Natural History of Ghosts, Roger Clarke discusses nine varieties of ghosts identified by Peter Underwood, who has studied ghost stories for decades. Underwood’s classification of ghosts includes elementals, poltergeists, historical ghosts, mental imprint manifestations, death-survival ghosts, apparitions, time slips, ghosts of the living, and haunted inanimate objects.
In Asia the belief in ghosts is more widespread than in Europe. Ghosts are seen as benevolent, healing spirits, ancestors watching over us. In the U.K. while some people are frightened of ghosts, many participate in ghost hunting holidays staying in supposedly haunted hotels. The tourist industry cashes in on these spooky thrill seekers. The medieval city of York is famous for hauntings and organised ‘ghost walks’. When I was six years old, too young to know anything of history or the supernatural I must have seen a ghost in Clifford’s Tower.
Clifford’s Tower is a striking landmark in York built on top of a steep mound. It is the largest remaining part of York Castle, once the centre of government for the north of England. The 11th-century timber tower on top of the earth mound was burned down in 1190, after York’s Jewish community, some 150 strong, was besieged and massacred by an anti-Semitic mob. The tower was rebuilt and the present 13th-century stone building was used as a treasury and later as a prison.
I visited the tower with my father and grandfather, climbing the fifty five steps to the entrance and then up a twisting stone staircase to the roof. We were on the decked walkway at the very top of the tower admiring the panoramic views of York. I wandered off on my own, as children do, and descended a narrow spiral staircase, not the one we’d ascended. Halfway down I discovered a furnished room bathed in a rose light with the door ajar. A man wearing a crimson, velvet cloak trimmed with white fur was seated at a desk, his back turned to the door. He was writing with a quill pen. I was astonished. With great excitement I ran back up to the roof to find my grandfather, dragging him down the stairs to see the strange man with the fancy clothes. But everything had changed. The door was now bolted and disused. There was no-one there. My grandfather dismissed my claims as childish fantasy but it was completely real to me. It was only years later, as an adult that I recalled this incident and realised the mysterious figure must have been an apparition.
I would love to know who or what I saw that day. Was it just a memory imprint in the fabric of time, like a psychic photograph?
When Winston Churchill visited the White House soon after World War 2, he reported a ghostly experience. Naked after a long soak in a hot bath with a cigar and a glass of Scotch, he was walking into the bedroom – only to encounter the ghost of Abraham Lincoln. Churchill kept his cool and announced: “Good evening, Mr President. You seem to have me at a disadvantage.” The spirit smiled and vanished.
The writer Arthur Conan Doyle spoke to ghosts through mediums and Alan Turing who invented the first computer believed in telepathy. These three men were all famous for their intelligence and yet they believed in the supernatural.
So perhaps I’m in prestigious company! It’s good to think that there might be more to life than our humdrum material world, that there’s still a mystery to ponder.
I would love to hear your personal ghost stories. Please leave a comment if you have any. And sleep tight! It’s the living and not the dead we need to worry about!
(To my Cat)
Satin smooth, a dashing tuxedo doodles
in the dark. Coiling, recoiling, she sparks
twin moons centre stage, chartreuse chanteuse,
all that jazz with twinkles. Scrumptious svelte.
The rasp of velvet, the descent and scorch
of needle claw. Bipolar and molar, the healer
of bones. Her silent hum, vibrations that thrill.
Stubborn as a willow in a storm, she bends
and does not break. Not shades of grey
but endless grace. Elastic, fantastic, shape
-shifting dreamer, she weaves a fandango,
spellbinding tangle of chains.
We are all born to die but for me
it’s my sole purpose. Survival
to the grand finale is impossible.
You can barely call it a walk-on part.
I spend the first act cutely vulnerable,
reclining on the designer sofa, a perfect
enhancement of the minimalist set.
I am catapulted from the balcony
of a high-rise apartment, so unseemly
and messing up my hair.
In my last scene I’m Jackson Pollocked
on the sidewalk, a splattered composition
in red, black and pink. You hear the wail
of violins. It’s a shocking tear
-jerker moment, murder by my lady’s
sweet-talking lover but how else
would you know he is a serial killer?
There will be no happily ever after.
But I still have my American dream,
last minute rescue by SuperPuss streaking
rooftops with a rodent between his teeth.
After sunset we will wander Central Park,
lapping lattes and gazing up at the stars.
Spring is just around the corner here in the UK and we have Easter this weekend for those who celebrate it. However, it’s actually snowing in northern Scotland today and not at all typical weather for the end of March.
I want to wish everyone out there a very happy Spring Holiday. It’s a good time to look to the future with hope and optimism and to celebrate all the wonderful things that make life worth living. Spring is a time of renewal, growth and positive change. There’s a different energy abroad, a time to seize each day.
I took this photo at the local pet shop….Easter eggs for cats! Hope it makes you smile!
…sleep in yellow fields,
dream of the shadows
in the deep purple wood.
I woke to snow this morning and a strong sense of silence and isolation. The snow muffled the sounds of traffic from the village and I felt like I was on another planet. Looking out into the pristine garden I recalled my childhood excitement at each snowfall. I opened the bedroom window and gathered a hand full of white from the sill. The cold made me feel more alive. Years ago I had a collie-cross dog called Floss who loved the snow, ploughing through it with his head down snuffling and snorting, rolling around in a frenzy. He would return home eventually with tiny snow balls dangling from his long hair, thawing out all over the house and leaving puddles in his wake. Cats are far more sensible. Nadia went out warily, making staccato steps as the snow stung her soft pads. She left a delicate solo track across the decking where my green Buddha looked on serenely.
“I do not dispute with the world; rather it is the world that disputes with me.”