“Babyface Sarton”

DSC_0003 (1)Pets. Yes. I used to say, “I have two farm girls and a street-walker.” I still have my two farm girls. My streetwalker passed and we’ve been joined by a merry-andrew. Sarton and Simone are my farm girls. One summer, twelve years ago, I worked on a horse farm. And one day, I came home with two tiny fur lumps of flees. It wasn’t planned or thought of really; mostly it was time for a cat to return to my life. I remember calling a friend and asking a big favor: could she run out and buy some basics for setting up new kittens. By the time I got home, it appeared as if my darling friend had bought out the store.

My Bronte (loving street-walker of a pitbull), thought it was Christmas and that I had brought her the bestest, most wonderfulest, two presents in the whole wide world. I set the girls up in Bronte’s crate. Bronte just lied down next to the crate and watched. Every day Bronte glued herself to the crate, watching, peering, wide-eyed, and patient. I would have to pull Bronte away to go on walks. Sometimes I even fed her right next to the crate. When the girls were around three pounds, I would let them walk all over Bronte. I told Bronte she just had to take it. Strangely, she didn’t mind. Sarton and Simone could nibble anywhere on Bronte. Then we would switch it around, and I would hold one of the girls and let Bronte lick on them. Bronte was good at cleaning them, gentle and light.

I had no idea what fun it would be with two kittens. Whenever I hear someone talk of getting a kitten, I always suggest getting two. Watching Sarton and Simone play was hysterical. How they would run and race. Then just jump straight up for no apparent reason. Run around and around Bronte, then jump over her. Ah yes, the days before cell phones and instant YouTube videos. Only in my head do these memories play. Where wads of paper and empty grocery bags were playthings and play grounds of endless delight and silliness. Then the adorable fur circle they made when curled up and purring.

But I remember, and if Bronte were with me she would remember. Bronte would tell of the bullfight she and Simone once had. I woke up to it. My apartment IMG_4243looked like a crime scene and no one was talking. Not one of those girls: Sarton, Simone, or Bronte ever did tell me what it was about. In fact, Sarton had run and hid. When I found Sarton hours later, she threw up her paws at me and insisted she had nothing to do with it. That was just like Sarton with her sweet tiny kitten face. Sarton always seemed to know her kitten face gets her out of lots of trouble. Even now, when our merry-andrew named Whitman plays with Sarton, I always call him out if I hear any hissing. He’s the big goofy-galloping pitbull. How could Sarton ever do anything wrong with the life long baby face? She is always innocent.

Sarton is the social butterfly; she’ll come out and flop on her back for you. She’ll just waft her parts to anyone, begging for attention. Simone, not so much. Sarton is the fastidious groomer: hours on the windowsill tonguing individual hairs on her paws. Simone, not so much. Sarton is the adventurer. Just ask the girls who was the first to escape the apartment. (Which is why I always wonder about that bullfight with Bronte-I believe Sarton had something to do with it). Sarton has kept her kitten like figure. Simone not so much. In fact, I usually say Simone just has to look at food and she blows up like a tick. Sarton is the ladylike grazer, and Simone is the vacuum. I’ve seen Simone suction up a bowl of kibble in one breath and purge herself in the next.

Even now, I’m thinking on how many little things I’ve been blaming on Simone. Lately with little hairy piles of purge randomly scattered about, I blamed Simone. Or the bottom kitchen cabinets left ajar at night, I blamed Simone. Or the bigger, wider, heavier clumps in the litter box, I blamed Simone.

IMG_7146Friday before last, Sarton went to jump on the side of the tub. She missed. Later Sarton went to jump up on the short bookcase she eats on. She missed. Later after eating, Sarton went to jump off the short bookcase. She missed. Her back legs crumpled under her when she hit the floor. There’s no blaming Simone for her sister’s mishaps.

My baby-faced Sarton has a very low potassium. The good news a week ago Friday was that Sarton didn’t have diabetes, hyperthyroidism, or in kidney failure. Sarton came home with Potassium gel and doxycycline. There was that sad inkling of Sarton’s mortality and age recognition. To myself I thought, she is twelve. She can’t be with me forever, but we can do this K gel twice a day thing for the rest of her life. It’s all okay. It’s doable.

Last Friday, Sarton stuck her whiskers up to canned food. She turned to walk away. Instead, she stumbled, her back legs wobbled, and she rolled over onto her right side. She was down. This time Sarton and I spent two hours at Dogwood, the emergency hospital. The ER vet, and neuro-vet, used words like iintracranial disease, meningioma, progressive neurologic signs, postural deficits. I understood the doctor was describing my Sarton, but all I could think of was how tiny she was. How itty-bitty Sarton’s head seemed to me. How do you do brain surgery on a peanut?! My face was warm and wet. My left leg bounced uncontrollably. The mortality inkling was now ringing in my ear; it wasn’t an inkling anymore. The clangorous steam train was thundering through my head, my baby-faced Sarton wasn’t going to get better.

Once again, I had to explain to my dog, this time Whitman, that the dog crate needed to be a kitty safe FullSizeRender 11place. Sarton moved in with her own little litter box, beds, and food bowls. For our present good fortune, Sarton took to the comforts of her room and is eating. A good thing for now. I’d like to say that Whitman is lying next to crate because of his concern for his feline sister. Truth is, his lying and whining is only for his frustration that he can’t get to her food or litter box. It’s hard to know what is best. I am only grateful for having come to this place once before. For now I will share what are our days together. I will rely on Sarton to tell me what she needs.

Natural Selection

The Daily Post @Wordpress

Daily Prompt: A classic question, revisited: what are the five items you must have on a deserted island?


1. I suppose the practical part of me would want a hat.

You know one of those kinda cotton/leather trimmed, wide brimmed Indiana Jones hats.

2. Continuing my need for function and order, I’d probably take some sort of multi-use tool.

The kind that has a bunch of tools conveniently all folded up into a streamlined compact bundle topped with a compass.

3. Figuring that this island is quite deserted, I’m thinking I would need something to do when I wasn’t occupying myself with survival. I mean I’d have to do activities not to go crazy right. I’m sure I’d end up talking to myself, but even that would get old after a while.

So my last three items would be

a copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass

a notebook w/pencil

a deck of cards



It is hard to imagine what good can come from a tornado. Really, the whole of a life is destroyed, heaped into piles of debris. Years of work, dreams, memories, and promises shredded in a few moments of unbridled wildness. Later the survivor comes to search through the rubble hoping to find pieces of her broken life.

A tornado ripped through my heart, and I’m struggling in it’s aftermath. The biggest difference between the tangible tornadoes and the emotional ones is living among the remnants of the life afterwards. What damage can be seen by others, and more frightening, what damages cannot be seen by others. How much help does it appear that I need. What can friends do for me. Then there are the offerings of good wishes: I will be better off; I will start anew; This is a good thing; I should see this as opportunity.

I think it was mere shock and disbelief that first drove my body after the storm. The simple necessity of finding a new place to live, packing, moving, unpacking, and breathing. Stopping to think or trying to feel was cruel, stabbing pins in my eyes. The storm picked me up, chewed me up, and spit me out. I was rubbish, broken, and strewn amongst five years of relationship minutia. Often I found myself just standing, staring at walls. The simplest of decisions was brain surgery. Friends could see this kind of damage, so they helped pack. They helped take things to the thrift, donated items to shelters, took other pieces and bags to the dump. In shock, it was easy to downsize; it was easy to throw pieces of my life away.

Sometimes help comes from people and places you don’t expect after a tornado. People who care and see the pain offer their time and energy. I was blessed with such help in unpacking the new little house. Without them I know I would still be staring at boxes floor to ceiling. They unpacked my kitchen and living room. Hung shelves and pictures; helped to turn the little house into a little cozy home. How long I would have taken to try to decide where to put glasses and where to put pans.

However when this first phase of damage began to mend, and the visual debris lessened, the immediacy of the storm clean-up slowed. Next came the part of the aftermath when the depression and fear grew where no one can see. It is in this fearful black place I dwell.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so devastated by a storm before. I had no earthly idea such a storm was even possible. I believed my heart was safe. I believed in a committed lifetime there was no problem too small or too big that couldn’t be solved with compromise and work. I believed a couple rough years balanced out over a lifetime with love. I truly believed I had a shared future. One tornado later, I had nothing. I felt naked, raw, and vulnerably foolish.

I had no idea how I could be so wrong. I had no idea how I could mean so little to the one person I who had accepted all my flaws and had said I matched perfectly. Perfection was conditional. The relationship debris felt like handfuls of sand running through my fingers and blowing away.

I suffer from depression. Sometimes it is kept in check, and sometimes it spirals out and seems to rule my world. I don’t usually write about my depression. Even with all my anti-depressants, getting out of bed is a struggle. The hardest thing each day is to show up at work.

Rollo May said that depression is the inability to construct a future. The foundation I based my future on is gone, and much of what was the structure of my past five years is in question. I think many people who suffer from depression hide it, cover it up, disguise it. I think many people who don’t suffer from depression, as a clinical diagnosis, don’t understand the depths of fear and paralysis it can cause. Imagine the darkest night you’ve ever known, without stars or moon. You walk naked in coldness on sharp objects. Reaching out for anything familiar to grab hold of, there is nothing. The objects you step on become sharper and the coldness turns to ice. The voice in your head starts to play the tape you’ve heard most of your life. “There is no point. You are not good enough. You never will be. You’re in trouble now, so hide. There is no point.” When the voice echoes in your entire numb body, and your feet bleed without pain, you stop and crouch into a ball. Maybe you cry. Maybe you just wish you weren’t there anymore. This description barely touches upon the despair of depression.

Now I can stare at a wall for hours; the old tape plays in my head. I have various versions of this tape, as this tape has played in my head since I was a teenager. Everything I do takes hours, cleaning the tiny house, laundry, and school work. I’m supposed to keep an activity log at work. It’s one of the first signs that my balanced outlook is slipping. Its the easiest task I’m required to do, and yet I don’t. Sometimes hours go by as I try to decide what to do, then I do nothing, and then feel horrid for wasting the time. I get nothing done. Certainly no school work. Every day I drive to work, usually late because it took every fiber in my being to get me dressed and out. Every day driving to work I cry. Mostly I’m scared to face people. I’m afraid they will find out. Find out that I’m not prepared; find out that I’m faking. I can’t call in depressed. Depression might be a medical diagnosis, but mental health is certainly not an accepted excuse for missing work. Well unless of course, you are hospitalized. Then it’s okay to talk about it because depression is a whispering disease. “You know so-and-so tried to kill herself, so now she’s in the hospital.”

When events, like tornadoes, trigger depressive episodes eventually it becomes harder and harder to differentiate between the storm devastation and the depression. What is normal sadness and heartache? How was I so foolish?  What is the unfounded belief that no one will want me after being broken by such a storm? How do I even think about that when I was so sure I had my forever after? How will I ever get out of this darkness now? What’s the point because I always end up here?

For the present, my skin feels like leather and I’m walking in waste high snow up hill. If I see people, there is a smile I pull from my pocket and attach with sticky glue. At the sound of holiday music or talk, I leave my body, fly up to the furthest corner of the ceiling, and hide until the moment passes. At home, windows are black and the carpet is nails. I exist in cold thick oatmeal and indecisiveness. Fear. There is always fear. Someone will find out, and the mental illness alone will make me less than.

Having never survived a tornado before, I don’t know the first thing about rebuilding. I don’t even know if I ever want to again. I certainly don’t see the good of it.

Gone to the Bridge

With a heavy heart I write that I have let Griffy begin his adventures at the Rainbow Bridge. Griffy came home from the hospital with directions to eat whatever he liked. At the hospital he had taken to only eating chicken and the like. When he came home, he continued eating the like for a few days, and then he stopped. Simultaneously, the test results came back positive for cancer. As my heart broke with the confirmation of my fears, I knew it was time. Then last Thursday morning, Griffy let me know it was his choice too, as he stopped using his back leg. Together we spent the day cuddled on the floor under a blanket.

Griffy gave so much and it was time to give him rest. I post a video of how I will remember Griffy at his best.