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Archive for May, 2011

On this damp and dreary spring day, Hannah sleeps curled up in the cat tree, snoring, with her paw placed over her face. Sam sits on top of my feet as I type this entry. And I recall this past week, how spring finally began to brighten the garret apartment, how I found Hannah and Sam sharing the back garret windowsill for a sun-soak.

As I stood, video-recording my two kitties (watch here), I took in their moment of peace: the calm breath, in and out, the steady eye on the world below, the ears open to the outdoor sound, the body warmed by the afternoon light.

I anticipated Sam’s curiosity would annoy Hannah; I expected Hannah to boot Sam from the premises. What happened instead was that my two kitties showed me how to enjoy the simplest of pleasures: them.

*

Hannah was the first cat to inspire me to look at the world, and my life, in a whole new light, and to write about it. Recently, a friend pointed me towards a website devoted to Writers And Kitties, a compilation of photographs of famous writers with their cats. The site is described as “where literature has whiskers and pointy ears.” There, I’ve found Margaret Atwood, William Carlos Williams, Mark Twain, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Stephen King, among others, pictured alongside their feline companions. At the current time, Hannah won’t allow me to take a photo of the two of us (unlike Sam, she does not even like to pose for the camera solo), but perhaps, some day, with the publication of Hannah Grace, we will make the list.

TLS


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{You can now watch Hannah and Sam on YouTube! Click here.}

Hannah, age 8

Today is Hannah’s 8th birthday! It is also the five year anniversary of the day we began our lives together

I recall quite clearly the moment she emerged from her caged cocoon, when the shelter manager brought her into my tiny studio apartment, how she was afraid to be touched by me, how I was afraid to be touched by her. The feelings were mutual. But we were bound by something larger than ourselves, something we held deep in our souls – our traumatic pasts, our love for life – and we forged a bond and we embarked on a journey of hope and healing.

Of course that doesn’t mean Hannah was going to be at all pleased to be taken to the vet for her annual checkup this past week. I had to shut Sam in my bedroom with a sniff of catnip in order to quell Hannah’s anxiety about him possibly intruding on her in the bathroom, where I was trying to get her into the carrier, a rectangular black-mesh luxury-type with a soft, leopard-printed spacious interior. The carrier, which I purchased at Target, opens both on the side and on top, so one can simply lift a cat up and place her inside. However, Hannah did not want to go in. She clung to the exterior of the carrier with a death grip.

Sam enjoys the cat carrier.

I lifted her away from the material and snuggled her close to my body. “It’s okay, sweet girl,” I said.

Then, I tried again. All four of Hannah’s paws attached themselves to the outer edges of the carrier to prevent her body from going in. I gently touched her paws, and, finally, she stopped resisting and allowed me to lower her in and zip the carrier closed. The carrier’s top, which Sam had sat on and smushed, bent downward, but, I concluded, it was still a very nice carrier, for a cat.

Hannah sounded like a siren, wailing, as I carried her down the garret stairwell, into the foyer of the house, and outside into the world of grass and trees and birds and street. Adrenaline pumped through my limbs and I told myself to breathe to soothe my PTSD reaction, but I could not suppress how I was rattled by the way Hannah cried like a little girl being taken out of her realm of safety, against her will.

She quieted, finally, when we reached the veterinary clinic lobby, probably because it was populated by three dogs. Then, placed securely inside an exam room, as we waited for Dr. Parker, the vet, to enter, Hannah poked her head, and then her body, out of the cat carrier, and explored the brightly lit room.

Hannah, age 3 (notice, behind her, the middle photo of a kitten with an uncanny resemblance to Sam)

She resisted Dr. Parker’s hands as he examined her ears and eyes, her teeth, her body, and as I pointed to the spot beneath her chin, where there was a bit of recurring acne. Dr. Parker was unconcerned. “She’s gained a pound,” he said, marking the 8.8 lbs on her chart. Unlike her little brother Sam, Hannah did not enjoy sitting on top of the scale and she scurried off as soon as was possible. “What do you think about the gain?” he asked.

I had anticipated loss. I was convinced Hannah had shed weight since Sam’s arrival. I had thought she was withering under stress, that there was a good chance she was declining. As Hannah leaped off the exam table, I recalled the time, two years earlier, when I almost lost her.  “I still worry,” I told Dr. Parker.

Dr. Parker bent down to the floor, where Hannah circled his body. “What happened might not ever happen again,” Dr. Parker said as Hannah nudged her head into Dr. Parker’s hand, her tail wrapping around his knee.  “She’s doing really well.”

She received a clean bill of health.

Hannah, in the garret, after her vet appointment.

Because Hannah arrived without any medical records, the day of her birth was set as the day of her arrival: May 2. The day Hannah came into my world, May 2, 2006, she was estimated to be three years of age. Five years later, she is eight, and 8.8 lbs, and she has, according to Dr. Parker, great teeth, which translates into a lady getting older but without any noticeable wrinkles.

These past five years, Hannah and I have grown together, traveling along the road of healing. We’ve learned how to be in the world, rather than simply existing on the sidelines. We’re no longer co-dependent upon each other’s fears. We’re breaking out of the terror-laden cocoon we spent our lives existing within, to live, to fly, free of trauma’s legacy.

Happy 8th Birthday, dear Hannah! I hope for many, many more years together.

TLS

Writer’s Note: Today is not only Hannah’s birthday, but it is also the one-year anniversary of the launch of Hannah Grace, the blog. With over 6,000 readers, we’re going strong! Watch your newsstands this month for The Briar Cliff Review Volume 23 (2011), which includes the publication of “Hannah Grace,” an excerpt from the book.



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