For to be free is not to merely cast off one's chains,
but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.
- Nelson Mandela -

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Return of the Black Cat

Charlie is back!
I can barely believe it!
At the very moment I was reading Ruth’s comment on my previous post I heard a loud mewing and before I knew it he came walking into the wide open door and when I held my hands out to him, he more or less jumped into my arms!
You were right, Ruth!
He’s skinny as a rake, but looks healthy and dry. All his claws and teeth are still intact, no injuries, no messed up fur. I guess he’s been locked in somewhere.
Aw, I’m so hoping Owen phones from camp soon, so we can tell him the good news.
We have a telephone number for him, but that’s only for emergencies. If we phone now we’re more likely to upset him than anything else. He promised he’d phone home a few times and I think the conversation will go as follows:

”Hi Mum, is Charlie back yet?”
”Yes Owen, he came back on Sunday night!”
”I told you he’d come back, didn’t I?”
“Yes darling, and you were right.”

Right now Charlie is back in his usual place, behind me, on top of the cupboard. He’s just had a little talk with Asha, so she’ll probably know what we never will. He doesn’t look traumatised or shocked or anything else than hungry and tired. Actually, he looks quite content. And I love him more than ever!

And I am still grateful for the insights he helped me acquire. He is, after all, our black cat. He does represent the wild, natural and free part of us. The part we managed to reclaim by coming to this country and by living here, in this house.
And it was that part of me that was afraid to move away from this place, afraid that it couldn’t survive if it had to go back to the ‘civilized world’. By coming back Charlie has shown me that I can take that part of me - that we can take that part of us - with us. Wherever we go.

I was reminded of the saying:

If you love something, set it free.
If it comes back to you, it’s yours.
If it doesn’t, it never was.

I’ve always had my doubts about that last sentence, but in this case I can even see the wisdom in that. It is so True.
My Wild Witch is part of me, and always will be. I can let go of the fear of losing her. By letting go of that fear I have set her free. And now I can take her with me, wherever I go.

Again I’m experiencing how valuable it is to consciously feel everything I feel, to accept all those feelings, however irrational, conflicting or contradicting they may seem. And then to take a step back and not only experience the process but observe it, too. Writing helps me to do that. It helps me to not get lost in my emotions. It helps me make the circle round. It helps me being who I am.

Charlie McGregor

Charlie came to our house last November, together with Asha. We’d just lost our much beloved black cats Joey and Gimli and the house was simply too empty. When we went looking for a new cat in the rescue centre, Charlie came straight at us, which - turned out later - was quite unusual, because he was very withdrawn and shy. He took to Owen immediately and it was love from both sides. “This one belongs with us,” Owen said and he named him, Charlie McGregor.
It wasn’t until we got him home that we found out how timid and traumatized he really was. It took weeks and weeks before he didn’t pull back or run away when we approached him. It hasn’t been that long that he’d let himself be picked up. First only by Owen, but slowly but surely he was actually convinced that we were trustworthy.
The big change in him came when we started to let them go outside, in March of this year. We’d kept them inside all that time, mainly because Owen couldn’t bear the thought of losing another cat - Gimli fell prey to a badger, managed to drag himself home, but we still had to have him put to sleep and Joey just never came back. Also, Asha and Charlie seemed totally happy inside. But then it started getting warmer and windows and doors would be open more often and I just didn’t want to have to watch out for the cats not going outside all the time. Besides, I think it’s a bit unnatural to keep cats indoors, especially when you live where we do... at the moment...
Within days of being let outside, Charlie was a completely different cat. So much more confident, so much more happy. He’d let himself be stroked by us, he’d come running towards us, even outside. He loved to sit on the yard wall for hours at an end, or to go off for a wander in the woods, he’d play in the garden with Asha, he’d sit with us when we were doing things in the yard. And he was catching mice by the dozens. I don’t think he ever went very far, because whenever we’d call his name he’d be there within a few minutes. Of course, he was very fond of his food and we’d feed him as soon as he came home. Every night we’d make sure the cats were in before dark and then they’d stay in till the next morning.

Last Friday night we sort of all forgot to close the upstairs window, where the cats go in and out of the house. They’d been fed at nine o’clock and after that Charlie must have gone out. When Owen found out that at 11 o’clock the window was still open, he panicked and as it turned out, with reason. Asha was inside, but Charlie wasn’t and he didn’t come when we called for him. We all went out, searching, but couldn’t find Charlie. We left the back door open, so he could go into the utility room in case he came back in the night, but when we got up really early on Saturday morning, he still wasn’t there.

Ken and the kids went out looking again, but I didn’t. In my heart of hearts I knew he wasn’t coming back. Only the day before I was stroking him when he was in his usual place, on top of the cupboard behind my computer, and Myrna and I were saying how unhappy moving house would make Charlie. It would take him such a long time to get used to a new house again and suppose, just suppose we’d find a house in a built-up area, or even in town, we would have to keep him inside and that would be so sad.

When he didn’t come back on the Friday night I drew a Tarot Card, asking why he had disappeared like that. I got Ten of Swords. I had the feeling my heart broke and I cried and cried. In short, Ten of Swords stands for definite farewells in order to make space for new beginnings. And the whole conversation I had with Myrna and Charlie the day before came back to me. And I just knew. He didn’t want to move away from this place.

I am devastated by the loss of him and most of all my heart bleeds for Owen, for losing another cat. For a moment I was afraid it would have such a great impact on him that he wouldn’t go on summer camp with the cadets. But he did. He left this morning and he was looking forward to it. Glad to be away from the sadness, glad to be away from the house hunting, the insecurity, the house full of boxes. I am sure when he comes back he will still have to do some grieving for Charlie, but I also know that in this case the blisfullness of Aspergers is that once the black isn’t black anymore, it most likely is white.

I strongly believe that every animal we share our lives with, mirrors certain parts of ourselves, of our souls. And as far as cats are concerned, I think they more than other animals reflect the changes in our lives. So I’m sure Charlie didn’t just disappear for no reason, at this particular moment. And I know there is a message in this for me, too, and it has to do with the way we’re looking for a new house. There will have to be definite farewells in order to make space for new beginnings.

Thank you, Charlie McGregor.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Cat-ching up

I am craving for normality.
So instead of the umptiest post about my quest for whatever it is that a new home represents, I am going to do some cat-ching up on some of the more ‘normal’ things in our lives.

I could of course do a full report on the excitement about the latest HP film - Ken and the kids went to see it today! - or about the trance-like state that everybody in this household has gone into since the arrival of the new HP book, but I’m sure that most of you have similar experiences. Or have read enough about it. So I’ll just skip that. For now.

Instead I am really dying to show you our educational project of the past couple of weeks. After all, I would like to make it clear that in spite of everything going on, providing an adequate education for our children is still our top priority. Of course. For this particular project we invited a team of teachers to our house. Allow me to introduce:

from left to right: Rosie, Tilly, Jack, Shadow, Jamie and Misty:

These six sweeties lost their mother when they were four days old. The mother was a stray cat, but luckily someone had seen her go into his shed and was aware of her having kittens. So when he found her body by the road, he went looking for them and took them to cat protection. They took the litter to a foster home, where they were hand reared and bottle fed. These fosterers are friends of ours and Myrna goes there quite regularly to help out. Of course she was there nearly every day when this lot came in and she was given the delightful task of naming them all.

After kindly checking with me if we were alright with it, Mrs D asked Myrna if she would like to look after them at home for a weekend once they were big enough to go through the night without being fed. You can guess what the answer was. It was an excellent incentive for Myrna to tidy up her room, by the way... And she started to keep a diary on everything she learned about kittens, how to feed them of course, but also the pretty realistic stuff about what risks there are with littles ones like that, what diseases or ailments they can get, how to make them pee and poo, etcetera.

The first time they came to stay they were four weeks old and needed to be fed, cleaned and toiletted every three hours. We all helped, but Myrna insisted they stayed in her room. After two nights she agreed that maybe next time they’d better stay in the spare room or in the living room... if only because of the smell... But they were so gorgeous and already they all had their own little characters. I enjoyed sitting there and just observing them for times at an end.

Their second visit was two weeks later, after Myrna’s music exams. This time they stayed for a whole four nights... in the spare room. The main purpose of this visit - apart from enjoyment for all - was to get the kittens used to dogs. So Bobby and Lagsi also got involved into this major educational project. Myrna and I both kept notes about everything we observed and learned and we made a little diary with photo’s for Mr and Mrs D, and possibly for potential new owners. Yes, yes, I know... people don’t own cats, cats allow people to feed and house them...

Let me indulge and show you some more photo's from the diary:

These were taken at the foster home when they were just one week old. 1. Rosie, the runt of the litter. 2. Misty being bottle-fed and 3. The whole litter with their artificial mother, a clever thing with a beating heart and a hot water bottle inside to keep the little ones warm.

Their first visit to our house, at four weeks old. 1. Myrna with Tilly, Misty and Shadow. 2. Little Rosie, hasn't she grown! 3. Jamie loves to go to sleep on the nice and warm power supply of Myrna's keyboard.

1. Lagsi, patiently but eagerly waiting for me to allow him to go and have a sniff. The kittens first hissed and spat at him, but after a short while and in the safety of Myrna's arms they were soon alright. Misty was the first to make nose contact (2). 3. Shadow just loved to cuddle up in Myrna's neck, he loved it even better than playing with his siblings!

Their most recent visit, at six weeks old. 1. They don't need bottle feeding anymore, and they are litter trained. Wow, what a difference! 2. Rosie is so absolutely adorable, but no longer the runt of the litter. She eats for England and is the biggest of the three girls now. 3. Lean on me! Isn't it wonderful to have a supportive big brother? Tilly and Shadow. 4. Jack has the most beautiful eyes.

1. We created a dog-free zone in the living room and it took the kittens a whole five minutes to figure out exactly to where they could go and still be 'safe' from the dogs.
2 and 3. The art these creatures master - and teach - more than anything else: relaxing.
They gave some very special private lessons on that subject, on which the male members of our family scored highest marks (4 and 5). Myrna couldn't resist stroking them... (6)

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Still here

Yesterday morning I spoke to the estate agent who deals with the house by the river. We have a definite answer and it’s a no. No real explanation, this is the owner’s decision.
Strange, actually. I realise that with putting this post on my blog the photo’s of the house will now disappear off the first page.
Gone. Into the archives.
Another strange thing was my own response. After the very brief conversation I put the phone down and sat there, more or less waiting for some emotional tidal wave to hit me.
But it didn’t.
To my own surpise I was feeling a quiet sense of relief. Can you belief that? We’re a week away from officially being declared homeless and I feel relieved when I hear we’re not going to get the house I’ve dreamt of all that time.
I carefully examined myself, did some serious soul searching. Was I in denial? Trying to soften the blow? Was this feeling of relief some sort of natural defense against total devastation?
But I could only come to one conclusion: It’s a genuine feeling.

Over the past few weeks, while I was envisaging our family in that house, I’ve had some moments of serious doubt. First of all about the money. Although a definite rental price has never been mentioned, we knew it wasn’t going to be cheap and it would also cost a lot to keep warm.
Now, especially with all this business of overpayment going on, Ken still being jobless, me trying to deal with an attack of writer’s block and other, more physical impediments, our financial situation is far from stable. Also, I was aware of the effort it would take to upkeep a house and a garden like that, and I know I couldn’t possibly deal with that all by myself.
I also know that between Ken and me, I’m the one who usually sees what kind of work needs to be done and he’s a master in putting as much effort as possible into doing as little as possible. So I could just envisage some potentially very frustrating scenes there.
So I suppose the relief is caused by not having to carry such a heavy burden.
But still, I know that if it would have been a yes, I would have gladly taken on that burden. It wouldn’t be the first heavy burden I’ve coped with in my life.

Or should I assume that the time has come to stop taking on heavy burdens and start making choices that allow a more easy going life? If that’s the case, the Universe has rather a heavy handed way of telling me that. Or is the solution right there in front of me, but am I too stubborn, too short sighted to see it? Too caught up in looking the wrong way, perhaps?

Oh Heavens, I really don’t know what to do or what to think next.
The only choice left now is to Have Faith. I know. And most of the time I Have Faith.

But now, at this particular moment, I can only feel my intense desperation...

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Life in limbo

Never thought the church, any church, would have a major influence on me.
Well, with their Notice Seeking Possession the Church of England has definitely made a dramatic impact on my life.

It is increasingly difficult to Hold the Vision and to have Faith.
And as for Fun... I’m struggling...

I haven’t been able to write, I haven’t been able to blog, although I desperately wanted to. But I just couldn’t find the space in myself to create words, to transform my thoughts into words. Or maybe I simply didn’t have the energy. Again, time is undefinable. It seems to rest heavily on my shoulders while simultanously it runs out.
Forty days until the expiry date of the Notice. Forty days!!

In the past forty days AL quit her college course and went back to Holland, where she's doing her work placement and trying to find a job; Myrna sang in three concerts and did her grade 5 exam; Owen joined the Army Cadets and now goes there twice a week and will even go on Summer Camp with them (gasp); we found out that we weren’t only overpaid Child Benefit, but also Carer’s Allowance, Housing Benefit and possible Tax Credits, so consequently I’ve spent days and days at the CAB and on the phone and writing letters trying to get a grip on things only to find out that we are definitely not in the best possible financial position to move house; Ken’s father came out of hospital because there’s nothing more they can do for him and now he’s getting cared for at home, where we try and visit him as often as possible; we’ve had a gang of six really tiny kittens staying over several times, they were three days old when their mother was run over and we’re helping to foster them; we’ve done a lot more sorting out and packing up and the spare room is full with boxes already; I’ve phoned up about at least fifty houses for rent, only to find out that at least 90 percent of them wouldn’t take pets; we’ve been to see the remaining 10 percent to find out that they were either too far away, all extra costs considered too expensive, absolutely too small, would only take one small dog, were already promised to people without pets or children...; and all the while home ed has been going on as usual, although with less creative input from me, I must confess.

Ah, it’s good to sum it all up, knowing that I’ve probably not even mentioned half of what went on in those past forty days. And looking at what I’ve listed I can understand and forgive myself for feeling absolutely exhausted and drained...
At the same time this list shows that yes, a lot can happen in forty days.

We still haven’t had a definite answer about the house by the river. And there’s another house, just over the border in Scotland... One of the estate agents I am now stalking on a regular basis thought that they might take pets and it seems to have enough rooms and even a garden... But here, too, we’re waiting to hear from the landlord.

Another big AAAHHHH.... Just now something is slowly making its way into my conscious brain... Forty days and forty nights... a biblical phrase... time of transition, time to reach major insights... 40 days of discernment... I must look into that...

Still, although I can truly see the learning curve in this whole process, I have definitely reached the point where I am longing for my life - for our life - to come out of limbo. I am genuinely grateful for everything I’ve learned and am still about to learn from this all, but I am mainly tired. Worn out, to be precise. And I want to literally know where we’re going. I want an end to uncertainty, to insecurity. I want a place to live where we can all be happy and where we can restart our lives. I want a new home. Please. Please! Now.