Dude looks like a lady…


I finally stopped by Cathy’s boat and asked her how she and Dude were getting along. She said she was delighted, they’re good mates now. Dude sat on deck, watching me but not making a fuss, and looked pretty contented. Then Cathy dropped a bomb:

“You know Dude is a female, don’t you?”

Oh. My. God. We never thought to look! We were told Dude was male, and accepted that without question! Suddenly, everything made more sense…the gentleness, the quietness, the cat’s docile and homey nature. I roared with laughter, looking at the poor kitty on deck, all these years she’d been misunderstood. I laughed all the way to the shore. I thought of how Kris only ever wants to have male cats, but he also says that Dude was the best-natured cat he’s ever had.
Laughed till I cried. Best joke the universe has played on us, ever. That was a good one.


spectrum birds in colourwheel treesI made a rather happy painting for a journal today…did this in the morning, and in the hours after lunch, before I went to visit a neighbour on her boat. I’m glad I got it all finished before I went, I don’t think I could paint something so happy now.

I went to have tea this afternoon on Cathy’s boat, just next to ours. Was just trying to be a bit more sociable, and spend a little time with all the folks who have been so nice to me, before I go. While there, I brought up the subject of Dude coming to stay with her, and she told me she had rather hoped I was going to bring him over when I came for tea, and had been very excited. I felt rather abashed…she has been waiting a long time now for Dude…I have been putting it off, first telling her to wait till August, then till September. Now September’s at an end, and it suddenly seemed very selfish of me to keep her hanging on for another month or two. I guess I kept hoping for ‘the right moment’ to announce itself…for when I finally felt ‘ready’ to give Dude up. I realised, sitting with her, that I will never be ready. Now is as good a time as any. So I left her boat an hour or two later, promising to come right back with the cat.

I took my time preparing a crate for him to travel in…weaving two ropes in and out of the holes so they wouldn’t slip, and preparing the loops on the ends so that I could quickly tie the lid onto the crate once the cat was inside.

I picked him up, and started to sob, feeling his silky, soft fur and plump warm body for the last time. The silly sausage was purring…he is such a docile and gentle cat. He didn’t fight when I put him in the crate, and didn’t go wild once he was sealed in. I tied the crate up, and he sat quietly inside, wondering what the game was. He didn’t start to complain until he was in the dinghy. Every plaintive meow brought another flood of tears. I rowed him over to Cathy’s boat, because I didn’t want to traumatise him with the sound of the outboard.

We got the crate aboard, and I handed a bag over with his plate, his water bowl, his biscuits, and his brush, snuffling the whole time. She waited until I had rowed away before she opened the crate up.

I had to go back a second time, with his cat litter. Dude got very agitated, and Cathy and I swapped things—she handed me back the crate and ropes, I handed her the litter—via her dinghy, so that I wouldn’t come too close to the sailboat. As I rowed away a second time, he seemed to be looking for a way to jump over the guard rails and into the water. Cathy distracted him, and then he just sat on the back deck, watching me row away. Since I got back on board, i have tried not to look out the window at her boat…I don’t want to see him looking across the water. I think I’ll sob all night, tonight.

A part of me feels breathless…I surprised myself by just up and doing what had to be done, and it’s only starting to sink in now that Dude is not with me. I’ll miss his purring by my shoulder in bed, the adorable way he likes to sleep with his head high up on a pillow like a person, the considerate way he has learned to ‘massage’ and claw at the bedclothes just next to me, and not into my arm or head, and the sight of him stretched lazily out on the carpet at my feet.

I’ve been reduced to a leaky, snuffling mess. Cats, of course, are not like humans, they are practical and resilient creatures that live every moment fully in the present. He is not suffering the way I am suffering. He’ll be a bit put out, and he’ll look for me and the boat he used to live on, for some time. But on the whole he will settle into his new life with his new human, I think, much faster than I will get used to living without him.

I have got another two months of living here to get through, and my biggest fear is that Dude will one day try to swim across if he sees me on board. I hope, hope, hope he stays at his new home, and that the sight of me coming or going doesn’t make things difficult for Cathy.

This is just one of several tearful separations coming up…October is going to be a weepy, emotional, difficult month. Lots of advice about following your dreams will mention the pulling up of metaphorical anchors…it sounds romantic, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to do. At least, not when the other end of every anchor chain is fastened firmly to the center of your heart.

Happiness is an unmade bed

dude in red egyptian cotton 2

On my days off, our pussycat, Dude, crawls into bed as soon as Kris gets up…4:30 a.m. on work days. Dude likes to sleep on Kris’ pillow (like many single pets, he thinks he’s human) beside me. When I get up a little later I don’t have the heart to disturb the warm ball of golden fluff lying so still and contented in our bed, and so let him be. The virtues of a neatly made bed are overrated, and I would much rather enjoy the sight of a small lion with its head on a pillow, dreaming a small lion’s untroubled dreams.

As February gives way to March, and time rills on irrevocably, I have been taking more photographs, doing more sketches, and spending more pampering time with Dude, in general. I am making the most of what time is left before we have to say goodbye to this sweet-tempered and gentle cat…the best cat we’ve ever had.

Kris and I have got a big 5-year trip looming…by sailboat to South Africa, and then to South America…that we’ve been planning and preparing for, for years. We’re nearly ready and when we go in 9 months’ time, we won’t be able to take Dude with us (the good news is that a lovely older lady has already asked to take him, so he’ll go straight to a loving home) For one thing, the boat’s not cat-safe…we would probably lose him during an ocean passage; secondly, if he does survive all of South Africa, the Amazon, the Caribbean, and return with us, Australia’s draconian quarantine laws wouldn’t allow him back into the country.

The trip, of course, will mean leaving so much more than Dude behind. But I am focusing and steeling myself for this little one, I think, as practice for the bigger partings to come. If such a tearing apart can be practiced.

2014 is shaping up to look like The Year of Letting Go. It’s a hard lesson, and doesn’t ever seem to get easier with each loss or loosening.

models and mail art

model for a bed

I use plasticine a lot to make models or mock-ups for drawing…especially strange, three-point perspective drawings. It’s cheating, sort of—not because I am drawing from clay models, but because I then pass them off as drawings of the real things—but it sure beats looking at other people’s pictures on the internet., and there’s the added creativity of shaping stuff with my hands.

There’s a painting I want to do that involves a bed, and since I haven’t got a proper-looking bed to draw (our single-layer mattress sits on a low wooden platform, just 6 inches off the floor) I made one out of plasticine. It’s about the size of a pack of playing cards. Will do my sketches using this.

I did a few drawings of the bed, and then added a pair of oars to it. Just playing with the form. Nice way to calm down an overactive mind and smoothen the thought wrinkles from between my eyebrows. It may well become the subject for some other drawing. And so it goes…

rowing to dreamland

Also made a mail art postcard for a friend in Germany today. A scrap of Indonesian sarong on one side, the beautiful old-fashioned wrapper of a bar of Spanish chocolate on the other.

chocolate postcard

Not-So-Still Life

Not-So-Still Life

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday;this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any—lifted from the no
of all nothing—human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
—e.e.cummings (No.65 from XAIPE)

Lucked out this morning…had one of those serendipitous moments of everyday gorgeousness as I sat down to breakfast by myself.

It was cold on deck and I wasn’t feeling particularly inspired. I pinned a bedsheet to the clothesline to air it, then shuffled around getting something to eat. I had wolfed down most of the kalamata bread in dry chunks, had peeled and quartered an orange, and was about to pour a second coffee and bundle away to my work table inside (out of the wind and cold) when the arrangement on the table in front of me stopped me in my tracks. All I had to do was move that old brass lamp a little to the left, and take the picture.

The sheer unlikelihood of an arrangement like this forming by itself, in our utilitarian and generally unattractive home—rather than having gone around trying to set things up for a photo—and then my having spotted it even though I wasn’t feeling creative or receptive to anything, strikes me as being ten times more precious than the beautiful or attractive things that I work on, think about, influence and pour my creative resources into.

And it made me wonder whether there mightn’t be two kinds of creativity—the kind that imposes itself upon the world, making something out of nothing, “breeding Lilacs out of the dead land…” sort of thing…and the kind that simply looks around, and sees the beauty and perfection that has always just been there—and which one would I prefer to have?

Or maybe they are two sides of one coin, and you cannot have one without the other?

a boudoir chair?

in the sun

A pink and black stuffed chair? What next? *sigh* I don’t know, I keep trying to lead this painting to a bright and sunny park, and it keeps veering off towards the burlesque theater or cabaret…

To relieve the tedium of looking at this painting all the time (believe me, I’m tired of it, too), I snapped a pic of Mr. Dude for you—he was napping in my old studio chair (the painting that I have spent all the daylight hours working on for the last 7 days does not impress him one smidgen.)

Seeing him from this angle, it becomes quite clear why Kris sometimes calls him ‘Pasha’. I have my own nickname for Dude, too…


Yeah, Fatty, you know I’m talking about you.