Posted in Pets, Photography

How To Love A Cat

How To Love A Cat by Nancy Malcolm

            We filled out mountains of paperwork, completed a background check, paid our fee, did a home-visit to the foster parent and solemnly swore to care for her until the end of time.  We knew we would be a good match, but did they?

            Emmy Lynn came to us through an adoption agency.  She had been born during Hurricane Harvey and transplanted to Austin shortly thereafter.  We have always been partial to little black cats, so after our Blackie left this earth, we waited one year to make sure we were ready.

RIP Blackie Marie

            “She’s shy,” the foster parent kept saying, but she also had two other cats and a loud, hyperactive Lab living there, too.  We persevered and finally got to hold her for a minute or so before saying yes, we wanted to adopt.  A week later, we were bringing her home, where she promptly hid inside our leather couch for two days.

            “She’s shy,” we mused.

            She finally crept out from the couch and began purring, rubbing our legs, eating, and pooping.  Then, over night she began racing around the house, demanding snacks and kicking her litter out of the box. 

            “Remember, she’s just a kitten,” Boo smiled.  “She needs our love and support.”

            “I don’t get a minute to myself,” I countered.  “She follows me around the house, wanting me to carry her everywhere and is only happy if I sit still and pet her.”

            “So?”

            “I’m busy,” I retorted. (Busy being retired) “She’s like a toddler.”

            In the morning during my sittin ugly time, she would sit on my lap while I did my prayers and daily reader.  If I dared to get up for more coffee, she would chew on my Bible and try to bite me when I took it away.  Get thee behind me, Satan!

            She would race from room to room, jump on counters, and at Christmas she jumped up into the tree trying to bite the lights.  At one point, I called the adoption agency behavior hotline.  I was anonymous, but I felt ashamed as I kept asking, “Is this normal?  I don’t know what to do. I got a water bottle to spritz her when she acts up….”

“Oh No,” she interrupted. “Absolutely no spray bottles!!!”

The hotline worker kept repeating that she is a kitten and simply doing what kittens do.  “The only acceptable discipline for her is ‘time-out’, she said.

            “How do I do that?”

            “You go in another room for a few minutes and she will eventually understand that Mommy will not accept her behavior.”

            “Thank you,” I said without meaning it, and I promptly went to my room and shut the door.

            The next day, I went to the swanky pet store in our neighborhood and asked for help in keeping this little kitty happy and entertained.  Money was no object as I purchased several ‘never fails’ and ‘guaranteed’ toys and gadgets.   I vowed to stay calm and renew my patience with this adorable, bad to the bone kitty, and s l o w l y she adjusted to life and we have adjusted to her.

            Emmy has charmed the grandkids and trained them to her liking.  She will play fetch with her soft felt balls, even bringing them back, and dropping it at my feet.  She sleeps with her tongue out and still is the happiest in my arms or on my lap.  She sits in the ivy in the front yard and waits for mothers pushing strollers so she can greet the children, and she climbs up between the comforter and sheets on the guest bed to nap when no one is home.  If we go out of town, she is always forgiving and charms her sitters with good behavior.

She is delightful, funny, loving and loyal.  She’s our little black kitty and this we know to be true…In a perfect world every cat would have a home and every home would have a cat.

Posted in Photography

The Hummingbird

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In grief as in life, we often say, see or do things that make us feel better or more connected to our loved ones.

“Oh, there’s Dad again,”  someone may say while looking out the kitchen window at a cardinal sitting on a fence post.  While another might notice yellow butterflies on their morning walks, declaring, “I know that’s Mom.  She loved the color yellow.”

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It’s not so much that I believe my loved ones are reincarnated into insects or birds, but it does feel like a gentle embrace from the other side, meant to comfort and bring peace.

My friend, Mary, passed away last year, rather suddenly.  She always loved dragonflies and was drawn to their vivid colors and flighty paths.  She had dragonfly notepads, nightgowns, and tote bags.  She adored all things ‘dragonfly.’

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Try as I might, I am not convinced that every dragonfly I photograph is Mary.  “Hold still, little beauty,”  I whisper to them.  “Let me take your picture.”  I know Mary would have loved my photos and might even have asked for a framed one for her walls.  While I do not feel that these dragonflies are Mary, I do believe that it is her spirit that beckons me to seek the beauty in nature, urging me to take time to enjoy God’s creations.

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We recently put up a new hummingbird feeder in our backyard.  I made the nectar and as we hung it I fully expected hummingbirds by dusk.  Two weeks later my little friend arrived.  Flighty, thirsty, and perfect, although not flashy in color like the butterfly or dragonfly.  Every day she drinks the nectar and then flits to an adjacent branch to hang out for a bit, then over to a flowering plant, then back to the feeder.  Then, without warning, she flies away until another time.DSC_0436

Hummingbirds are the smallest birds, yet they can travel up to 49 mph.  Their heartbeats nearly 1200 beats per minute and they get their name because of the humming sound of their beating wings.

I feel like a hummingbird sometimes.  My attention goes from details to musings.  I flit from rigid routines to spontaneous creations, photography, or writing.  My concentration varies.  My observations bounce.  When I’m dead and gone, will my daughters see a hummingbird and say, “ Oh, there goes Mom.  She never could sit still.”?

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There are six large blue jays that visit our bird feeder every day.  Occasionally they are raucous and loud, trying to dominate the backyard.  I’d swear one of them is my Dad, just trying to get in the last word.  Trying to control, even from beyond!

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It behooves me to wonder who would want to be remembered as a squirrel or pesky fly, but every family has one of each.  Maybe our loved ones visit as birds or maybe a Higher Power nudges us to notice the beauty in nature, helping us to slow down and feel a connection.  Whatever is true and whatever is your truth, enjoy the noticings and remember your loved ones from beyond.  And if you receive a hummingbird feeder from me for Christmas, keep it.  Someday, I may come for a visit.

 

Posted in Travel

Missing My Port Aransas

Every year around my birthday, I plan a trip to the beach.  There’s something so peaceful and predictable about the ocean and its natural habitat.   This year will be different because of circumstances beyond our control, but as Jon Kabat-Zinn said:

“You can’t stop the waves…. but you can learn to surf.”

Take a look at a few of my favorite photographs from last year in Port Aransas.

Blessings to you all

 

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Posted in Friendship

And Then There Were Three

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I’ve always been an early riser; I simply must.  It is my time to “sit ugly” and spiritually and mentally prepare for the day.  As I sip coffee, I often stare out the window, enjoying the rising of the sun and watching the birds fly in for a snack.

In our backyard is a bird bath that serves as a way-station for the many birdies that frequent our neighborhood.  They nibble at our bird feeder, get a little drink and take a little bath…then fly off again to decorate the trees and sky with their beautiful colors.  Our bird feeder is guaranteed to be squirrel proof, but still…you know how crafty those squirrels can be.

A few weeks ago I glanced out the back door, checking on my plants, the bird feeder (aka squirrel feeder) and saw two small owls sitting in the bird bath!  They were sitting side by side, turning their heads, acknowledging the blue jays and pigeons who wanted their turn to bathe.  The owls would drink, splash and then sit perfectly still while their heads turned side to side.  I ran to get my camera and tried taking pictures through the glass, but that didn’t work.  So, I gently opened the back door and snapped away.  I thought this was just a fluke, but so far, every day at 6:30 a.m. my owl friends drop by for a bite, a bath, or a drink.  Maybe owls like to ‘sit ugly’, too.

After the first few times I saw them, I thought perhaps it was an omen.  Maybe it was a sign I should pay attention to, so I googled “owl visits” and “what does it mean if you see an owl?”  Lots of things popped up, as you might imagine.  Much of it was about finding your Spirit Animal and Native American folklore.  Was an owl on my totem pole?  I really didn’t know.

However, as I read, it boiled down to two main messages:  consistently seeing owls was either a sign of really good luck, wisdom and magic OR a really bad sign, like imminent death!  YIKES!

After reading for awhile, I came to my own conclusion.  Perhaps our backyard was famous in Audubon circles, and these owls wanted to check us out.  Maybe God simply wanted to bless me, a faithful early riser, with a beautiful surprise.  What if the message was, “take time to be present, notice the glorious world in your own backyard”?  

 

A few days ago, I stood waiting at the backdoor, taking my first sip of coffee and wondering if my friends were on their way, when all of a sudden...there were three.  One little owl would bathe then fly up into the tree and the other two would come down to splash.  They all three took turns and rotated branches and birdbath; then they flew away to do whatever they do during the day.  Perhaps sleep.
I’ve haven’t seen the 3rd owl since that day.  Some mornings only one will show up and some days two.  I suppose one day, my owl friends will move on and find another a.m. stop-over.  Meanwhile, I’ll continue my morning ritual and maybe keep the camera nearby just in case my owls fly in…..that sounds like a wise thing to do, don’t you think?

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Posted in Friendship

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

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There’s something about taking pictures.  It connects you with the human race…  It gives you a mind’s eye view of the world… Shows the window to the soul…Tells a story…Frees the imagination…Captures the truth.

It is a universal language.  Everyone loves to see themselves in photographs and to see photos of people and things that they love.  When I am behind my camera, I see the greater good, the brightest color, the person behind the eyes, and the wonder of all God’s creatures.  There is nothing that rivals that feeling.

Wherever I go, when I take my camera, I am transported to another dimension!  Strangers are drawn to me and want me to take their picture, or ask me to use their camera to take their picture.  Once on a trip to Mardi Gras’, I began taking pictures during a street dance.  Soon, couples I didn’t know and would never see again,  danced by and posed, wanting me to capture their revelry.  I must have taken 300 pictures in a two-hour span.   Photography breaks down barriers and builds relationships.

When I was 10 years old, my dad let me take a camera to Girl Scout camp.  It was a Brownie.  Brownie Cameras were boxed shaped and you looked down through the top to find your subject.  The film had to be threaded through the inside maze until it clicked into place.  I thought it was fabulous.kodak-860732__340

 Through the years I have had the Brownie, Polaroid, Instamatic, Digital and of course disposable!  After I retired, I purchased a Nikon 3100 and began my true love affair with photography.  I have, of course, chronicled our family’s growth, events, and trips,  but I have also been fortunate enough to capture some glorious sights.. and here are just a few.

197Outside of Denver at Buffalo Bill’s Grave!017Kerrville, Texas

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My beloved Maine!086Peek-a-boo Kitty

071San Antonio Zoo

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Sunset was taken courtesy of God and Galveston!