Tuesday, February 24, 2009


(From one of my favorite sci-fi series of all time, the Chanur saga by C.J. Cherryh. The character on this cover is Pyanfar, captain of a merchanter which gets involved in political intrigue in a multispecies pocket of space; she is Hani, from a planet of matriarchal feline sentients, a brilliant hera.)

An update to my recent post, This Week in Maggieland:

Dinah is doing better. She began eating kitty treats if I crumbled them up and praised her as she did so. From that she moved on to dry kibble if I did ditto. Today she's eating kibble without persuasion, although she's still hitting me up for treats. (No fool, Dinah.)

I'm even more relieved at how she's back to chatting at me from various corners of the house, waiting for my reply, and accompanying me from room to room. She's still thin, though gaining it back -- she's always been slender and not focused on food. I keep her kibble out all the time. She never had a period of hunger in her life, and that makes the difference. When I've had cats who spent any amount of time in the streets, they have been prone to eating everything in the bowl, whether they're hungry or not. Then puking it up if they were already full. I guess once that fear settles into their bones, it doesn't dislodge easily.

I made a deal with Dinah a couple of days ago: I told her I would pet her as much as she wanted, in the way she liked, if she'd keep coming to me for contact instead of hiding away. I don't actually think she understood me, at least not linguistically. Dinah's vocabulary is smaller than most cats I've lived with because she just doesn't care about communicating on my level. She is Feline to the core. Alice had the largest animal vocabulary I've ever witnessed, comprehension of words that honestly I think went beyond inflection. Dinah chooses to comprehend "No", "Treat", her name, and "e-mail", as in when I say "I should check my e-mail", whereupon she rises and heads for her perch beside my computer.

But my promise was backed up by behavior, and she's responded enthusiastically. She doesn't want to be touching me when I pet her, unless there's a comforter or two between us. She likes to be at arm's reach, so I cannot possibly grab her and hug her or (even more icky) kiss her. Even then, she will periodically jerk away and/or swing around to take a nip at my hand. So petting her is tiring on my arm and not very emotionally gratifying: It's clearly me being of service, not a shared pleasure. She almost never purrs. Still, now that I made my vow, she's coming four and five times a day to allow me to stroke her back and occasionally rub her ears (where the risk of being bitten is highest) until she wears out.

It's worth it. It really is.

Someone suggested she ate a bug that had been killed by pesticides and it made her sick. The thing is, she doesn't eat bugs. She kills them, or disables them, but leaves them for me to clean up. Maybe she tangled with a venomous spider and got bitten, that seems possible. Or maybe it is little gator's cat Lydia, who has been sacrificing catnip mice to Bast on Dinah's behalf, that turned the tide.

I try to find some sort of meaning in the reality that at this point in my life, when my ability (and incentive) to connect with other forms of life is at its apex, I am living with a cat who is stand-offish. I'm glad to have her, as she is. (I have enormous respect for the Catness of cats.) And I'm glad she has me. She would not last long Out There. I do find it ironic, however. And if it's another goddamned life lesson, well, can I please just drop out of school for a while?


Liza asked a great question in reply to my post. She said

"I'm more concerned about you and your loss when Diana chases the great catnip in the sky.

Other than Jesse's subscriptions, what do you need from us? Not a kitten, I imagine.

'Cause we need you. Love, Liza."

First of all, Dinah wants to point out you misspelled her name, u humin mowron u. That's from her, not me.

Second, well, part of what I needed is in the message above: To know that I'm needed. That I haven't vanished from the web of humanity because of this isolation. That I make a difference.

A couple of other requests come to mind -- aside from the subscriptions. (Money may not be able to buy happiness but it does buy health and peace of mind.)

The place where I've reached in my novel (Ginny Bates) is really tough, ya'll. I'm writing under duress. I don't want things to be going the way they are, but my characters insist I cannot play deux ex machina here and "fix" things. I'm heartbroken and trying to do right by them all. I wonder if you readers are mad at me for the plot turn, or disheartened and not reading at all. I could use some feedback. Especially if it includes love for my characters, who sincerely feel separate from me.

Also -- I've noticed several folks appear to be reading Skene as well. Feedback there would also be nice to get, though I'm not as emotionally invested in those characters.

The other thing is that I feel backed up, emotionally, from worry and stress. But when I talk about what's going on in my life, I mean openly without any censorship, well, folks who love me have a hard time hearing it. I understand worrying about me -- I'm worried, too. Still, I could use some space to cry, freak out, just be a mess without then having to hear you give advice, problem-solve, or reassure me. I can reach reassurance if I can simply get the feelings out of my way. I'm smart and competent, and I'll accept (or ask) for help when I need it. But lots of time, all I need is to get my brain back in gear.

For instance, my young friend who died this week -- she was found by another poet I know with her asthma inhaler in one hand and her cell phone in the other. The call to 911 had not finished being dialed. She was a mother of a little boy, and if you're a parent, you know this is your worst nightmare, dying and leaving your kid on their own. Especially lesbian mothers. I can hardly bear this happening to her and her son. I don't know where to take those feelings.

And how could she have an attack so rapid that she couldn't call for help? She would have, I know she would have if she could. You can see where it might hit me where I live. Literally.

I know few people can actually offer this kind of listening, especially when it involves hearing about poverty, physical pain, and loss. Still, I thought I'd put it out there. It's the worst part of the isolation, the feeling I have that I can't tell the whole truth because people can't stand to hear it. (True for all of us, I'm sure.)

Okay, that's as much update as I can handle at the moment. Time to go lie down and avoid the network news. Thanks for being out there.

Thurber dog reading a book P.S. Speaking of animal communication, there's a wonderful essay by J.R. Carpenter up at Geist called "Words Dogs Know" -- check it out.


C. Diva said...

Well, I'm reading, fwiw. I think you are doing just fine honoring these characters you have lived with for several years now. It is a helluva way to end our time with them, but it does show them all at their best.

a couple things.
One, it is Ash Wednesday (from one good Baptist to another ;>).
and Two, a question: Has Ginny Bates ever painted Chris?

Liza Cowan said...

Dinah, I knew that. Really. Dinah, like in Alice in Wonderland. I apologize purrfusely.

Dinuh Notjochild said...


Uhpolojee exceptid.


Dinuh in dat book wuz naimd aftur me.