He may THINK he’s saintly

Photo 1: an orange cat sitting on a floral bedcover. Photo 2: an orange cat standing underneath a table lamp with a stained glass shade. Photo 3: an orange cat asleep on a sofa, with a round pillow standing up behind his head like a halo.

Raphael’s life with us has spanned grief over the loss of an elder cat to joy at new jobs to everyone staying home all the time while a pandemic makes everything topsy-turvy.

He may think it’s been boring, but it’s been anything but. He now has actual hours where he sleeps like a big cat (and grows like a panther), so I can get some work and knitting done. He wants to smell everything new that comes into the house (including candied ginger and candy corn).

I sent photos to the neighbors, and their toddler thinks he is HIS cat. So precious.

I still miss Leia, but it’s getting easier.

Long lost histories

Standing out in the field.

When talking with family, old stories crop up. So-and-so was a farmer in Country A… no a shepherd in Country B before he he left for greener pastures.

My ancestors lived, generation upon generation, in a northern country with shifting borders. From the 1800s on, they moved in 12 or 7 mile increments. Eventually one person left for work, choosing the Americas. His descendants lived in a 20 mile radius, until a generation left for work.

Now, most of life’s celebrations are virtual — phone conference calls with family, mailing packages, etc. During these “meetings”, I’ve heard lots of family stories, and I’m knitting these memories together and finding big gaps. Some of the gaps reflect people who were too busy working and living to write stuff down, except in their budget book. This year, it feels like everyone’s everyday moments are slipping away. I sincerely hope this is temporary….

So was my ancestor a shepherd or a goatherd or a cattle herdsman before he left for this continent? I will probably never know, although it amuses me to ponder. I know where he wound up: beside a lake, working as a carpenter, fisherman, farmer while raising a family.

A walk without photos

Today, in-between rainstorms, I walked 7 short blocks
Past graveyard stones, over crushed white gravel,
Down the driveway that was once a country lane.

The neighborhood had many simple lawns, with ruby
Velvet spires of coleus glowed, their soft leaves
A surprise behind prim pickets and boxwood.

Some yards ran riot with flowers, tempting skippers
And bumble bees to sample mountain mint, herbs. 
Some had peppers, beans, Swiss chard in neat box beds.

Dog walkers were briskly jogging with purpose.
But I slipped outside to stroll by others' gardens,
Watching when the Monarch butterflies took wing.

— © rjn, 14 August 2020

At home with cats

We had an outdoor visit with one friend (who dangled a string outside on the porch, to Raphael’s delight). But mostly we’re staying home except for things that must get done:

  • Going to get provisions (food market or pharmacy)
  • Mailing letters/packages to family
  • Evening walks when most people are indoors

Unfortunately, the mosquitoes are out and about. This limits outdoor time, although I’m considering a brisk afternoon walk to return a library book (and look at neighbor’s gardens). This indoor time gives me opportunities to snap photos of Raphael. So here’s my beautiful model in the morning light.

Orange cat looking to the right. Radiator and window with sunlight in the background. Purple walls, white window frame, green leaves outside.
If you look closely, there are two cat faces….

Birding from Home

The tree cover here is a bit thick to see actual nestlings, but the Schoolhouse Farmhouse provides the opportunity to watch barn swallows build a nest and feed nestlings. Here is video from the nest cam:

Taking a mental holiday

Any plans I had for a vacation or holiday trip are on hold. Even traveling to see family seems risky: crossing state lines, wondering where safe bathrooms are in transit. Travelogues are now my jam. I’m watching programs in English or German. Some of the programs on Y**tube from WDR can show English subtitles if I set my preferences, which helps. I’m looking for scenery other than my home’s four walls. I’m also writing down which EU location would be a good trip, once that’s possible again.

As part of this weekly 3-hour holiday break, I’m experimenting with watercolors based on photos from past travels. San Diego was amazing, and I have some good photos for paintings. Here’s one I painted based on a photo of boats in the harbor.

It’s a great mental exercise, putting you back into a different time, when you were having fun. So what do you do that allows you to feel less stressed and less stuck? I have friends who are on a strict book reading program, and others who are streaming cable shows. There is no right answer.

When kittens turn into cats

We’re at that point where he goes from cat to kitten to cat again.

Anyone know how to mark when a kitten becomes a cat? He’s one year old, and full of opinions, but still seems to be growing. This week, his fur got longer. The other cat is vaguely resentful that he breathes her air.


Last night, we watched footage online from concerts of choruses that were going to be at our summer’s big singing event.

I should be packing for the event – getting my outfit from the cleaners and checking my boarding details, except it’s all been canceled. Mercifully, the timing of the pandemic means all the singers aren’t converging in one place for our convention. I love singing. I love what singing does: making me feel 3-dimensional and almost a part of the elements. As an alto, I get the best of singing worlds: sometimes a rumble that supports the sopranos, and sometimes a trill that sneaks above the top line.

It’s all canceled, and postponed to a distant date. Hopefully my nonprofit chorus can bear the stress of NOT singing for the safety of everyone.

For now, seeing all those familiar faces is bittersweet. And I think about my own chorus and wonder, to quote an old song “When will I see you again?” Link to The Three Degrees. This singing group’s look and Philly sound was iconic when I was a kid.

So, I wonder, and wish. Online meetings, phone conversations and letters only go so far.

For want of a horse…

Featherweight in front, Singer 404 slant needle in back.

More like, for want of a [specialized part], I’m putting off servicing the [*&$#@%!!*] sewing machine. We have a second machine that I could get parts for, and I’m going to oil it today. The latest things I need to procure (shopping remains a pain in the neck) …. a small amount of kerosene to clean the gears, and some carnauba wax to polish the outside of the machine. The old manual didn’t talk about these things: it’s almost like the machine is possessed with Loki’s trickster spirit. I sincerely hope not.

This smaller machine is an inherited Featherweight. I added new parts that were missing, so I haven’t had a chance to get it running yet. Fingers crossed it isn’t temperamental. I’ll be working off and on to get it up and running, but only when the kitten is sleeping.


Around the yard, mementos grow
From other swaths of green:
Gardens transplanted
From other gardens; Plants planted
So that 1918 lives on near the lawn.

Heart-shaped green leaves catch the faint breeze
Under willow branches;
They dance to music
Our parents heard. Below the ground
Water swells; small blooms glow under the trees.

– © rjn, June 2020