“Where is the first place you will go when this is over?”  The first time I was asked the question, I wanted to scream. A sneak attack by an invisible enemy had just left the entire world in crisis. My brain was on a non-stop merry-go-round of daily statistics: How many people were infected; how many were in hospital; how many were in intensive care; and how many had died. I couldn’t think about what I would do when it was over; I could only think about what to do to get through it. 

A year later, we are still not at the end of it, but I know where I will go – where I need to go – when this is over. I will go to the ocean. 

I want to stand on the shore and feel the undertow steal the sand from beneath my feet and try to carry it back out to sea. I want to watch the sun create crystals that sparkle, shimmy and dance on the waves. I want see the turquoise water of the shoreline deepen to a inky, indigo blue on the horizon. I want the tangy, salty scent of the ocean air to fill my nostrils and my lungs.  But mostly, I want the soothing, rhythmic sound of the ocean’s waves to clear my mind and wash the slate clean. 

A Man and His Cat – Part 2

(You can find Part 1 HERE.)

After Jack died, for weeks we expected to find him curled up on the living room couch or looking out the glass patio doors at the birds. But we didn’t and something was missing.

So within a few months we began the search for our next pet. We had a wish list:  Ben had a fondness for orange tabbies and I didn’t want a kitten. They’re adorable but I didn’t want to manage nocturnal sprints and other kitten adventures. We knew no cat could replace Jack.  This new one would have to make his or her own place in our hearts.

One Saturday on the spur of the moment we went to a pet fair at a local park. We made the rounds of animal shelter booths with mostly dogs and only a few cats for adoption. We were about to leave when we came to a table with two cages. One held a sweet kitten named Timmy with black and white tuxedo markings. I poked my finger in his cage and he swiped playfully at it.  It was a game but he was in it to win.  Next to him was an orange tabby named Carrie. I slid my finger between the bars of her cage and she gently curled the tip of her paw around it and looked at me with beautiful green eyes.

The fair was ending and I agonized over which one would come home with us.

“I thought you didn’t want a kitten,” said Ben, gesturing toward the tuxedo.

“But he’s sooo cute,” I answered.

The shelter volunteer took out the tabby and cuddled her. The cat soaked in the affection, completely oblivious to all the activity around her. The pendulum swung slightly in the tabby’s favour. But I found it hard to commit and looked for excuses to delay a decision.

“I think we’d like to take her. But we didn’t bring a carrying cage though, so …”

“No problem! Take this one and bring it to the shelter tomorrow,” the volunteer replied cheerfully.

 “But it’s almost five o’clock. All the pet stores will be closed and we don’t have food for her.”

Quickly she reached under the table and pulled out a bag of cat food. “All adoptees leave with a bag of the food they’re used to. That way, you can switch her over slowly to whatever you want to feed her.”

And just like that I was in the driver’s seat of the car with Ben next to me, the carrying cage on his lap.  As I pulled out of the parking lot, I heard a low, whir coming from the passenger seat. “Is she PURRING?” I asked. She was. And that’s when I knew we had been played. We didn’t choose this cat, she chose us.

She divides her affections equally between Ben and me. Or should I say, she divides her demands equally. From Ben, she expects cat treats, a game of catching shadow puppets on the wall and a good belly rub. From me, she expects a lap that is always welcoming, a place at my feet in bed and whatever else her little heart desires.  She’s a charmer, though, and she has definitely carved out her rightful place in our home and hearts.

Winter Postcard

Photo: Birds Calgary

Mother Nature has been kind to the inhabitants of our small part of the planet this winter. She placed us all at the centre of this virus storm, probably in an act of rebellion for the disrespect we have shown the planet.  But now she  she seems to be relenting  by offering us a winter of inestimable beauty.

There is snow – lots of it – for skiing, sledding, show shoeing or just walking. The scenery is a photographer’s dream. I’ve seen stunning photos of wintry landscapes, a magnificent snowy owl, and horses gleefully cantering in the snow, leaving a trail of powdery snow dust behind them.

Recently we went snow shoeing at a nature park. The trail was a pristine carpet of white, bordered by dark-green fir trees on either side, as if a giant garland was wrapped around it. As we walked, I spotted a pileated woodpecker up ahead. (This might make me sound smart, but I knew the bird by its simpler French name, “Grand Pic”. “Grand” means big in French because this species is much larger than others in the woodpecker family. I had to look up the English translation.)

The woodpecker had latched onto the trunk of one of the trees, his scarlet-red crest adding a splash of bright colour to the scenery. His beak hammered repeatedly at the trunk, the sound echoing in the silence of the forest.

Ben was behind me and I signaled him to stop so we could watch from a distance without scaring him away. After a few minutes, we inched forward until we were facing him. Slowly, Ben took out his cell phone and took a few steps off the trail and into the deep snow closer to the tree. The bird wasn’t at all daunted. He accepted our presence as if we were other woodland friends like Bambi or Thumper. Ben snapped a few pictures which did not do justice to the handsome fellow and then we moved on, leaving him to continue foraging for his dinner.

The moment reminded us that we are privileged to share this planet with such beautiful creatures. Maybe that was Mother Nature’s plan all along.