Cat Companions

While my daughters visit my brother in New Hampshire — eating meat, watching Stephen Colbert, the youngest driving his car — I hole up with my laptop and the cats.

My daughters handled a false oil light in the car, nearly had the hood open on the interstate, and — missing a detour — took a circuitous route along the mountainous Kancamagus Highway. (We’re on the Kanc, my youngest texted me. I wrote back, Why?) On their way home, they stopped and climbed beside a waterfall, then returned for dinner, merry and cheerful.

I clearly (and silently) remember what I was doing at 20 — swapping engines between two VW bugs, wandering lost around Boston. Be safe, I think, just be safe.

Home again, back to school and work tomorrow — as much truth as I need at the moment. Despite what anyone with a twitter account might insist, the truth is whether your family is safe, or not, and no sharpie line can change that.

The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power…. Power is not a means; it is an end.

— George Orwell, 1984


Wild and Tame Creatures

On his favorite perch on the dining room windowsill, my daughter’s cat suddenly stiffens his back and presses his nose near the November-cool glass. Beside him, I’m typing, and I rub his back. He mews an inquiry, looking at me.

Through the window, I see eight wild turkeys, nosing through my young asparagus bed, planted just last spring. The turkey nearest us steps toward the window, raising its long odd legs. The cat and the bird stare at each other, the turkey’s head tipped slightly to one side, so its eye gazes at this little furry tiger cat.

The bird’s bigger than you, I murmur.

For the longest time, these two creatures stare at each other. Then the turkey goosesteps on its way, and the cat, true to his nature, curls up on the table beside my laptop and takes a nap.

Midterm elections, 2018.

I always feel the movement is a sort of mosaic. Each of us puts in one little stone, and then you get a great mosaic at the end.

— Suffragette Alice Paul


Why Love Cats

My daughters’ cat and I are listening to Chris Hedges lecture about the collapse of the American Empire — extremely serious and unfunny — when the cat falls off the hutch and splashes into my pan of lemon-yellow paint.

The cat probably yowled; I certainly shouted. The creature scrambled through the dining room to living room, through my study, into the kitchen, where my daughter grabbed the paint-soaked cat. While she cleaned paint from the cat in the basement, I washed wet paint from our floors on my hands and knees.

We’ve lived in this house not much more than a year. While I love the maple floors, I generally don’t spend much time mopping.

While Hedges kept talking, I realized some of the narrow boards were birdseye maple. Through the closed basement door, I heard my daughter murmuring, comforting her beloved cat.

Whoever laid the floors in this house passed from this life decades ago. I thought of these slender, hard boards in a carpenter’s hand, his sight appraising the grain.

The decision by the ruling elites in ancient Rome—dominated by a bloated military and a corrupt oligarchy, much like the United States—to strangle the vain and idiotic Emperor Commodus in his bath in the year 192 did not halt the growing chaos and precipitous decline of the Roman Empire…. Trump and our decaying empire have ominous historical precedents.

— Chris Hedges, America: The Farewell Tour


The Larch Season, November, Vermont