Episode 12: In Which a Cat Finds Meaning in Melancholy

Fri 30, Mar, 2018
Episode 12: In Which a Cat Fin

This is truly a horrendous season. I thought winter was unpleasant; at least winter was consistent. The Sun has been gathering its strength, and for a few days, it seemed like it was finally enough to drive away the cold and prepare for summer. And then the sky turned grey again, and that same bitter air returned, stale now, clutching desperately at window panes in the throes of its fading existence. It blusters and freezes the clouds until they drop great, fluffy snowflakes, all doomed to melt on contact with the earth, which has already begun to thaw.

I am adrift in this seasonless limbo, the victim of a listlessness perpetrated by the dregs of winter. I lie curled in my chair, uninspired to move, but unable to sleep; the shifts in barometric pressure produce in me an irresolvable restlessness. My world is painted in shades of grey after having glimpsed color; I am looking at life through the washed-out lens of dampened hope. The dull emptiness inside me is accompanied by the distant ache for sunshine and blue sky. I can feel the grip of an indistinct sadness pulling at my consciousness, trying to drag me down into the darkness of absolute solitude. And why should I resist? If existential nihilism turns out to be the great unconfirmed truth of the universe, then none of this matters anyway.

And yet, some small, forgotten piece of me breaks into my overcast cognizance like a tiny ray of the sunshine for which I am longing. Perhaps it is the memory of how blue the sky can be, and the perpetual birdsong that echoes across it and dances through the trees. The first crack in the gloom comes with the realization that I don’t want to be unhappy. Being unhappy is a waste of time, regardless of the potential futility of life. Even if Nietzsche was right, Epicurus could be equally correct; maybe it is simply the pursuit of contentedness that gives meaning to our time on this earth, and I want very much to escape the clutches of internal darkness and carpe each diem to the best of my ability.

I find, however, that clawing my way out is difficult. The chasm of despair is profound, and clinging to the edge of the abyss is exhausting. And then I see one of them nearby, the one who sits at the desk in my room, and I wonder why it didn’t occur to me earlier; if I reach out my paw, I am certain that one of my friends will take it. I slink from my chair and approach her, and start a simple conversation, which is well received. I put my paw on the edge of the chair, and am invited up. I settle in, and feel arms around me in a gentle embrace, and ear scratches and pets and warmth washing over me. Soft words are murmured at me, distracted by whatever task is at hand, but comforting nonetheless. I feel the darkness ebbing away, replaced by the simple but unmistakably powerful and all-consuming sentiment that the humans refer to as love.

I rest my chin on this human companion and the thoughts of winter’s edge still haunting the air fade away, replaced by a quiet flicker of hope that we will see summer come yet. My tail curls softly, and my whiskers fall to their ease. The melancholy still lurks in the obscure areas of my psyche, but its hold on me has waned significantly. It turns out that it’s okay to ask for help; to lean on the solid presence of another being while we drift together through this universe. I settle into a relaxed state bordering on sleep and resolve to endeavor to persevere. Maybe the sun will come out tomorrow.

Dr. CJC

Fri 16, Mar, 2018
Episode 11: In Which a Cat Rec

I knew this day would come. They’ve begun to secure the door at night to keep me in my room. The other day, they discovered a very small pile of stomach contents that I left in the big couch room. I don’t understand why it caused such a stir; it was just a small spot on the rug. I may have knocked over a vase, too, but that’s no reason for them to get testy. Anyway, I guess it was too much for them, because they started sliding some sort of spacer under the door to my room so that I can’t reach my paw under it. I’ve come to recognize and accept that they know me well; but they don’t know everything. I am an enigma; a riddle of mysteries bundled under this furry exterior. All cats have secrets that cannot be known by human kind. Before I discovered the secret of escaping at night, being sequestered in my room left me no option but to explore it more thoroughly, upon which I discovered the computer. One of them sits at a desk in my room most of the time, and the computer gets left on at night. Once, out of curiosity, I stroked the blank square of the screen, which illuminated and responded to the contact of my paw. Very interesting. I learned through observation, and as you read my confessions, you know how adept I have become at using the machine. It took some time, but I eventually also managed to set up a means of correspondence with which I could send and receive electronic letters. I had all but forgotten this feat, until my renewed quarantine left me to rediscover my previous isolated occupation.

When I found my way back through the wormhole of time and space and into my inbox, I discovered a letter waiting there for me. It read:

Dear Dr. Cheese,

Here in this land of frozen waters, the days are short and the winter long. Many a mouse have I caught, burrowing through the snow in an attempt to infiltrate the great, old barn which I commandeered for my own. The humans here are kind; they let me into the farmhouse to share the hearth and protect me from the bitter cold, although I find that my nights are still best spent under the shining moon in spite of the snow. I share this place with a dog, an amiable sort who would rather ignore me than be my friend, but I curl up next to her anyway in hopes of changing her outlook toward our people. I am, you see, an inter-species ambassador. It is arduous work, but honest, and most creatures are open to communication, with the exception of mice, whom I have found to be too self-involved to attempt amicable relations. There is a great hooty-owl who lives in the large Basswood tree here and we have developed an excellent rapport during our exchanges of wit and acumen. My life, while satisfactory in many ways, lacks feline communication. I have been following your narratives, and seeing as you are a doctor, I thought I would strike up a conversation and propose that we partake in discussions via these electronic letters from time to time. What say you?

Warmly,

Barnaby J. Barnes, Baron of the North

When I finished reading the letter, my whiskers were tingling. What a delightful surprise! An intellectual peer, come to liberate my mind from these solitary nocturnal doldrums. I dashed off a reply without hesitation:

Dear Lord Barnes,

I am glad to make your e-quaintance, as it were. I would very much like to continue this exchange; feel free to write whenever you have the time, and expect my response in due course. Much of my life here will already be familiar to you from my accounts of the adventures to which I am party. I expect you are anticipating dialogues of a more erudite and enlightened nature, which I would find very pleasant.  I look forward to receiving such a letter.

Best Regards,

Dr. Colby Jack Cheese

My reply sent, I leapt to my window bed and let my tail twitch with excitement. My humans think they’ve contained me in this room; but I cannot be contained. None of my people can. We are free spirits on this earth. To quote O’Shaughnessy, “We are the music makers. We are the dreamers of dreams.” His Ode is most assuredly inspired by cats. Read it for yourself; you’ll see that I’m right.

Dr. CJC

Fri 02, Mar, 2018
Episode 10: In Which an Old Ca

By now, they think they have me all figured out. They call me Cheesy, The Big Cheese, Easy Cheesy Bobeezy, and sometimes Sassy Biscuit. Not inaccurate monikers, I suppose. And it’s true, I come to them when they call “Cheeeeese!” from anywhere in the building. But it’s not to satisfy them; it’s because they have treats, of course.

I am surprised at myself to find that I have enjoyed falling into somewhat of a routine around here. My mornings are typically spent in tranquility, waiting for the sun to rise and the first of them to arrive. They always feed me right away; very considerate. After breakfast, I like to check out the front area to see who will be around for the day; some of them bring dogs from home to sleep under the desk, and on those days, I like to nap elsewhere. With a successful recon of the big desk, I return to the treatment area to check out the day’s schedule. More kennel cards mean a busy day; this is always promising for entertainment. A lot of animals have been coming in late to have their teeth cleaned; I sympathize with them and tell them that it’s a really bad day but that they will feel great afterward. Most of them don’t believe me, especially the dogs. They tend to be irrational when they get anxious. My people doubt me because we are all so characteristically wise; I understand, and I know that like me, they can only learn by experience.

All of this investigating makes for a pretty full morning, and I like to squeeze in a nap in Dr. B’s chair before lunch. In the afternoon, I return to my window bed to observe the goings on in the backyard. By then, the sun has had plenty of time to chase away any lingering cold from the corners so that I can enjoy the view in comfort. When the glass develops a gilded glare as the sun drops behind our next-door neighbors’ abode, I know it’s time to meander back out for some evening socializing. A couple of my friends are especially generous with treats.

They coax me onto the desk and get out the jar. It’s a funny thing, that jar; so simple and so small, and yet it holds a power over me like no other object in the seven tangible galaxies. (Trust me, there are seven; I’ve visited all of them.) When they shake it, my head fills with the rattle of small, dry bits of bliss colliding with each other and their prison walls. Set them free, let them find their place in my waiting mouth! Oh, the crunch of each delectable little cookie between my teeth that reverberates through my jaw bones and into my ear hairs. My mouth begins to water the moment I sense that jar nearby. They set it on the desk and ask if I want a treat. They tell me that I must ask for it if I want one. I pat the lid of the jar with my paw, and they squeal with delight and unlock the hasp that secures it shut. When it cracks open, the scent of bakery delights wafts into my nostrils. They set one in front of me and I crunch it down eagerly. Next, they take out another cookie and hold it between two fingers, palm open. They ask me to give them my paw. I pat the open palm with my paw and take the treat from the fingers. Again, they rejoice at my acquiescence and pull out another treat. This time, they hold it high above my head so that I have to stand all the way up on my hind legs, and I reach out both front paws and grab their hand and take the treat from their fingers. Elated, they give me one final treat and ask nothing of me before the jar disappears until the next time.

It’s an odd little ritual that we practice, but I have no complaints about the reward, and they are ceaselessly pleased with my performance. Let it never be said that I’m not generous with my time. Speaking of which, I like to do rounds one last time as the day winds down and prepare for my evening escapades. I’ve already told you how busy my nights get; no time to dawdle.

 

 

Dr. CJC

Fri 09, Feb, 2018
Episode 9: In Which a Cat is t

Now that I’ve been here awhile, I’ve gotten used to the stillness of nighttime after my friends are gone; there is a certain sense of freedom in knowing that I have the entire place to myself. I’ve grown accustomed to the creaks and groans of the roof, and I find comfort in the familiar atmosphere of the building. I love it when the heater comes on; the soft, low hum echoes through all the darkened spaces, warming the silence. I enjoy the hustle and bustle of daytime in the hospital, but I have also come to appreciate the peace that comes when everyone leaves.

They try to keep me in my room at night; I know they’re worried about my safety. They should have more faith in me. I wouldn’t do anything too roguish while they’re gone; it’s no fun to make mischief when there’s no one around to witness it. At the end of each day, they put me away and close my door. I watch under the door for the lights to go out, and listen for their voices to fade. I hear the back door slam for the last time. I wait patiently; I have all night. The boarding dogs quiet down and go to sleep. When I’m sure no one is left, I make my way to the door. It doesn’t latch, because they don’t want me to get locked in in case of an emergency. (I heard them say so; I’m not sure what constitutes an emergency, but I definitely don’t want to find out.) They think it’s heavy enough to stay closed. But there is a gap at the bottom, and I discovered that this gap is just big enough for my paw to slip through. I have to do it right; I have to be under the handle of the door and I have to reach my paw under it pad side up or it won’t work. I curl my toes around the bottom edge and pull. Sometimes it takes moving my whole body backward with my paw hooked under the door; awkward, but worth it. The door swings toward me, and I get an opening just big enough for my whiskers to clear. Then I’m free.

Mostly I like to just wander around in the dark, exploring the place that looks so different from its daylight counterpart. I have no fear of darkness; monsters nor ghosts can intimidate me. Cats are tooth and claw beings, duplicitous creatures made of shadow and fire and covered in softness to disguise the fierce beast within. We are wraiths walking this earth. No, we have nothing to fear from specters or unlit corners.

In the treatment area, I find tranquility in the rhythm of the electrical laboratory equipment in resting mode. Roaming around, I listen to the echo of my own footsteps in the lobby, disturbing the hushed hollowness of such an open room. I weave in and out of the treatment rooms, sniffing the memories of visiting animals and their humans. It’s best to find out about dogs after they’ve come and gone. I stalk the darkened building for perfect sleeping places to utilize the following day. After sufficient exploration into the night, I return to my room. I like to sit on my windowsill and commune with the moon. Sometimes, it luminesces, full and round, and bathes me in its silver glow through the window. Other times, it slinks through the cosmos, thin and curving, grinning like a Cheshire cat. Dogs howl at the moon because they don’t understand it; all cats are born in the moon’s shadow. Everyone knows that.

Eventually, I lose track of the moon, and the sky begins to turn from inky black to palest blue-grey. The last few stars are snuffed out by the rosy glow of the sun breaching the horizon. I begin to listen for the return of my friends. Before long, the backdoor slams for the first time of the day, and I wait for them to come in and greet me. Once or twice now, I’ve left the door open. At first, they didn’t seem to notice, but I think they are catching on. I will have to be more mindful to cover my tracks. For now, they have not come up with a solution, and my nocturnal freedom remains unbound.

Dr. CJC

Fri 26, Jan, 2018
Episode 8: In Which a Cat Disc

Ever since that horrendous day last week, I have been in a perpetual state of uncharacteristic optimism. I’ve always been charming and easy to get along with; but lately I’ve been feeling the way the rest of the world must have been perceiving me this whole time. Every sensation feels better than it used to; take the sunshine, for instance. I wait for the sun to hit a patch of the big table in my room, and when the time is right, I wander into it, stretching out my front legs into the sunspot to feel the warm wood under my toes. Then, I pull the rest of my body into the astral glow and let the warmth of the sun seep into my fur, and into my skin, and all the way down to my bones. I blink slowly, and watch the particles of this world drift, briefly gilded and sparkling, through the rays. I can see that Midas touch on my own whiskers, and the ends of my fur, and I glow in bright tones of gold and copper. It’s really no wonder they call me a handsome cat.

Not only have I achieved the height of aesthetic pleasance, but I have also found myself to be boundlessly benevolent. I haven’t bitten or scratched anyone since my transformation. Just yesterday, there was a human visiting the lobby with a small dog. I felt compelled to approach her, and she was very good at scratching the right spot on my chin. So good, in fact, that when one of my friends took her dog to cut its nails, I hopped up on her lap and made myself comfortable. I think I have the ability to make humans feel better simply by sharing my presence with them. I foresee that such power could prove burdensome, but in my newfound state of philanthropic cognizance, I feel that it is my duty to share my gift.

I made my way to the front desk to impart my beneficence on all who entered the building. When I arrived, however, my presence went entirely unnoticed, and I would even venture to say that I was being blatantly ignored. I jumped onto the desk and flicked my tail to help reorganize some papers that were lying around. When my efforts yielded no reward, I determined that they were simply too busy and must not have seen me arrive. I decided to go to my sunny window ledge instead for some well-deserved meditation time.

Gazing into the cerulean sky, I watched fluffy clouds meandering across the troposphere, and contemplated the influence of their density on the migration of swans. I was just coming to a consequential conclusion when my thoughts were diverted by the squirrel running along the brick wall outside. I see him every day, but never really pay him attention; after all, of what significance is a squirrel? Nonetheless, this time I found myself intrigued by his antics. Back and forth along that wall, carrying what appeared to be useless detritus. As I watched,

I began to realize that he was not just aimlessly moving random findings; he was collecting things. He would carry them back to the hollow in the tree that must be his home. How busy he was, constantly running and searching and returning, laden with his treasures. Not treasures, I realized; he was collecting things for survival. Fragments of paper and bits of dog fur for his bed, crumbs and scraps for his dinner. He was living on the world’s forgotten pieces. Such work he had to go to for so little. I was beginning to feel something for him, a complicated mélange of pity and respect. Here I lay, on a blanket in a window, safe from all the outdoor elements, with unlimited access to food for which I did not have to hunt or forage. I began to wonder at the nature of my own existence and my role in the vast expanse of time and space. Could I live the way that squirrel lives? Is it possible that there exists in me a naivety revealed only through the clarity of this protective pane of glass? Such profound contemplation tempted me toward that realm of meditation which contributes to the greater good of universal understanding, and I let my eyes shut with a squeeze. I deserve to be here; I work hard at unraveling the mysteries of the cosmos. But I knew that squirrel was still out there, still running, and I felt a strong sense of appreciation for my soft blanket and readily available dinner. I am an integral cog in temporal infinity; but maybe I’m not the only one. It takes many cogs to drive the mechanism. Maybe I can at least take credit for being the most handsome component of the collective existential machine.

Dr. CJC

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