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I started back to work last week, working remotely as I have for years. Most days are all right, though it’s hard to keep my head in the game sometimes and the Rona hasn’t helped. Thoughts about the house, about K, about recovery, about the future flit through my mind as I’m trying to focus on what pays my bills. If a thought finds a vacant mind branch on which to sit, it will do so, wrapping its tiny talons around the synapse and singing a song of distraction.

Work friends who are also social media friends know what’s happened, because obviously I haven’t been shy about expressing myself there. But only a very few direct coworkers know. I don’t want to talk about it to people who can’t relate or who don’t know me well. I have always been shy to speak, which surprises many and is a therapy session for another day. Letting colleagues know feels like it would lead to an endless repetition of emotions, and knowing me, I’d try to make THEM feel better about feeling bad for me. I just don’t need anyone feeling bad for me.

All that said, in these days of Zoom calls and Teams calls, where we have to be on camera and where our backgrounds have been curated to reflect our desired self-image, I keep looking at myself on camera and wondering why I look the same. The background isn’t an issue, as I never worked from the cozy house. I am the issue.

I am damaged from the inside out. Shouldn’t it show? Shouldn’t my face reflect the blush of ash that skimmed my cheeks as I sifted through the ruins? Shouldn’t my eyes be hollow with the cold of the hearth that will never see another home fire? Shouldn’t my lashes be stiff with the tears trapped there by asbestos dust? Shouldn’t my lips be blue with unspoken sorrow and unshouted curses?

Isn’t the toll this is taking on my soul obvious? It is to me. When I look in the mirror, I see sadness in my eyes, an absence of a light that I’m used to seeing within me, one that glows through to the world outside. Perhaps those folks on Zoom know they’re seeing that something is off but they can’t put their finger on what it is. And they’re too polite to put their fingers on me regardless.

I know this lightless landscape within me. I have walked here before, via other paths, and I know I will walk out of it. It’s what I do. The light and the laughter will return. Because it does.

Quarantine Cat Picture

And that something is COVID-19. Yes, so far 2022, is, for me, just banging. Coming in hot on Friday night, with a positive diagnosis on Saturday, fully vaccinated and boosted me has the Rona. I feel my symptoms are somewhere between mild and death.

I’m doing all the right things to take care of myself, so I’m sure it will be in my rear view mirror soon. Right now (perhaps as a blessing in disguise?), it has fogged my mind and taken my thoughts off of the loss of Roscoe, Dusty, and the house. I’m safe with and well cared for by MKL. My dear friend (who has lost her house and all her belongings in the fire) wonderfully brought me at-home tests, beautiful flowers, hot cocoa, and her lovely self yesterday. She came down with COVID-19 about one week after the fire; at least the virus was considerate enough to wait an extra week for me.

So, I feel bad. Just a different sort of bad than only emotionally bad. Achy. Coughy. Sniffy. Feverish. Sore throat. Headache. And grateful for the love, support, and caring that my friends have shown me. I am indeed living in interesting times.

It’s that faraway stare. I don’t think “faraway” is usually one word, but it feels fitting. I had started to call it “vacuous” but that implies a detachment, and this is far from detached. This is a survivor’s stare, one I engage in when I’m sitting on the remains of a brick wall amidst the melted glass that used to be my greenhouse. When I’m seemingly looking at a patch of unmelted ice or something beyond the sky.

Behind my eyes, I’m seeing the golden knotty pine of the living room walls. I’m seeing us rolling a ball from one side of the light lavender kitchen floor to the other, to verify the slope of the room. I’m seeing myself painting the cat room a lovely peach color. I’m seeing K’s blue carpet and sunny walls and the abstract statue of a mother holding a child – a statue my mother gave me, to represent us – that was on the shelf above the desk in K’s room, the desk that has been my grandfather’s. I’m seeing the corner of the garden where the moonflowers bloomed.

I’m seeing what was and what might have been, while looking through what is as if it isn’t. I don’t know if that makes sense to anyone but me.

Amber the Bloodhound came out with her handlers, Duffy and Brittany, to look for Dusty. We’ve concluded that my sweet little snuggle bug did not make it out. But the fire was so fast and the smoke so dense that it was likely only a single breath, and then peace. A small comfort but right now, I’ll take any comfort, no matter how small. As soon as they left, I found what looked like the tiniest glass paw print in the ashes. Thank you, Dusty, for letting me know you’re all right.

For those of you who haven’t met him, this is Mr. Man. He is my constant companion in what we call the “North House” aka, the Bungalow, and keeps me feeling well-loved and snuggled when MKL is in the “South House”. Some people say he has a big nose, but I think it’s beautiful. As a Maine Coon, which people say is “the dog of cats”, he is a vocal fellow. If he loves you, he will give you headbutts – after smelling your forehead to be sure no imposter is disguising herself as his Mom. Mr. Man, also known as Mr. Boo, has only had one other owner besides me in his whole life. I adopted him when he was 13 as a birthday present to myself three years ago. Yes, he’s 16 now, and has had a few problems with pancreatitis, from which he almost died two years ago. That experience – my helping him get better – was a turning point in our relationship. He finally came to trust me, eight months after I’d adopted him. Now, I don’t think we can imagine our lives without each other, though having had cats before (my first one lived to 20), I know that one day, I will have to do so.  But I hope that’s a long time off.

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Lafayette, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this.” — Terry Pratchett

Daily gratitudes:
A successful chainsaw massacre with no loss of limb
An old favorite movie
MKL
Strong arms
True love

 

The Cat

He sits
close enough to my head
on the Red Couch
to be within reach
and to lick
the salt of my tears
off my hand
with his sandpaper tongue.

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Quote of the Day: “Dignity: The moment you live your dreams, not because of what it will prove or get you, but because that is all you want to do. ” — Shannon L. Alder

Daily gratitudes:
Tomatoes ripening on the vine (not mine this year)
The other house in my neighborhood with a metal winged pig
MKL
Kelsea’s happiness
Horseradish cheddar cheese toast for dinner
The return of Peyton Manning

Here’s the reason I’ve been a bit remiss in posting.  It’s not a very good picture….

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but this is Mr. Man. He’s 13 1/2 years old, and 17 1/2 pounds and he joined the household today from the Boulder Valley Humane Society. Even though MKL is rather allergic to cats (and claims he can’t eat a whole one), he was intrigued by the idea of having a Maine Coon. They are known as “the dog of the cat world” because of their size and their chill tendencies. Mr. Man is doing quite well for his first night in a strange house (with a strange woman). He did spend part of the evening under the bathtub, but I probably would have too.  He’s having a hard time jumping up on the bed, but I don’t know if that’s because it’s high (it is), he’s high (he is, on pain medications since he had four teeth extracted yesterday) or he just needs to figure it all out. I may have to get him a step stool if he wants to snuggle in the bed.

So, right now, he is consuming me – not literally, but mentally. He’s a love and I’m so happy.

Cat Loaf

Lafayette, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “Rivers spill mysteries into the ocean, and the ocean washes the answer to the shore.”  —  Tanja Kobasic

Daily gratitudes:
My daughter
Cold remedies
Tea
Red roses
MKL

Opposable thumbs
A capricious gift wasted
On clueless humans.

Birds behind a screen
Taunt me with their carefree song.
“Hush” aches in my claws.

In home’s sweet darkness
I race with wild abandon
Alarming sleepers.

They say they own me.
Enslavement is elusive.
Who is the keeper?

I dislike this food
So I return it to you
A gift for bare feet.

Scratch behind my ears.
I share my love sparingly.
Stop at my command.

Sleeping pillowed head,
Path for my little cat feet
To the other side.

Still as a statue
I curl next to your ankles
Waiting for your step.

Your cooking tempts me.
Chicken on the countertop.
My claws climb your leg.

Nestled in your curves
I spoon with you warily
Until you crush me.

I allow the dog
To drool without cessation
Lying in  your bed.

Lest you forget me
I leave my most precious hairs
Upon your best clothes.

but when I do, it’s 1% milk.

Lafayette, Colorado.

(Today’s photo is in honor of Henri le Chat Noir, winner of the Internet Cat Film Festival last week. As if he cares.)

Quote of the day: “To attract something that you want, become as joyful as you think that thing would make you.”  —  Martha Beck

Daily gratitudes:
Salsa lessons with MKL
Frozen edamame on my neck
Clean quilts
New-old earrings
Dragon rolls

Photo title: Not On The Menu

Trellis Bay, Tortola, British Virgin Islands.

Quote of the day: “The past is unchangeable, but the future is unwritten.”  —  Jenna Petersen

Daily gratitudes:
Company
Productive work-at-home days
Tonight’s casserole
Braiding my daughter’s hair
Hot air balloons in the cool mornings

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