You cannot grasp reality only by way of logic.
Dürrenmatt, The promise
The decision has been taken. From now on I ‘won’t serve my little cats their dinner in the left barn but in the middle shed where my garden tools are stacked away. The door of the second little barn on the right, in which my mountain bike and racing bike are stored and where there is small attic ideally suited for a kitten’s hide out, will have to be shored with a hard, dried branch of hazel wood from the tree I pruned last year. That door is so skewed that the gap between wood and stone is wide enough to allow two little ones access. Can’t be.
After a few days shuttling back and forth between their hangout and their feeding place they now know exactly when food is placed there. They also know that every day, once their food is ready, I sit myself at a distance so that they don’t risk being caught. Our sympathy is, for sure, still somewhat one-sided.
Tonight, however, I shall take a different approach. A second branch of the hazel tree is waiting next to my chair which, this time, I have placed somewhat closer to the left shed, their home. Once they have gone to the garden shed for their food I jump up, throw the door of that left barn shut and also trestle this one with a stick. Cheated you, Boys!
Immediately after my retreat they come out of their feeding place to inspect what has been going on, how I’ve tricked them. I had already installed nice blankets in the food shed to make them feel at home. What more could they want?
However, now it’s me being tricked by them. When, an hour later, I enter the courtyard with my own food and sit down at the table, I hear them scurrying inside the ridge of my préau – the attractive, skewed wooden hood which rises from the low wall separating courtyard and garden, allowing me to sit outside throughout year.
That support beam was hollowed out a long time ago by rats, wood biting insects and God knows what other vermin. The insects still return every summer, so in the end this préau will collapse. The previous owner planked up these holes with a few ornamental boards, between them however there are still slits large enough for my kittens. Not only have these two saved their own skin to relocate themselves there, they also seem to have taken their souls with them.
Migration and transmigration.
Before their departure into the wild outside of nature I need to catch those little devils, so I am now even further off from where I started. The moment I come near them they shoot up like crazy against the trunk of an acacia which I kept as a souvenir – and you never know what you can do with a piece of wood. That trunk is just visible on the left side of this photo.
Also visible are my two treasures. Especially in this spot they are enjoying life to the brim, sometimes they sleep here at night – until I come too close and they sprint upstairs. Admittedly the cat is a domesticated animal, but only in the sense that it defines its own housing and its own interior decoration. The cat never submits to someone else’s rules.
“The cat” as a New Yorker cat therapist put it delicately, “just is a cat.” The problem with this is that the cat from a human perspective is never a normal cat, one can act in a normal way. Despite all man’s cat-love there is forever an impenetrable incompatibility of the juices.
In his Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats the poet T. S. Eliot answered a lot of questions, but precisely not the one question which is invited by its title: Is the cat practical? In other words: Is there even one cat that is practical? From a human, from a humanitarian and thus from a utilitarian perspective I would say: ‘No!’
The cat is a nuisance per se, the cat is undeniably and always impractical. From the perspective of the cat this is of course completely different. Here the cat is eminently practical, always functioning in the most effective way to enjoy a dolce far niente, occasionally interspersed by an outrageous hyperactivity.
Now, from my past infatuations I remember one thing: Before you have any certainty about the reciprocity of feelings and you do not yet know whether The Other feels the same bout you, you better not know or even give her (or him) a name.
Nameless there is still a way out. Nothing is more binding than knowing the name, especially if you gave it yourself… Once the beloved has a name, it keeps swirling through the lover’s head.
So I made sure not to name my two sweety pies. In that case I would get attached to them for good and thus could not follow the instructions of my wife in Haarlem, as far letting them become Buzzard’ Feed in Nature.
But Love itself made me forget all good intentions; perhaps it was even Eliot who pulled me over. This is what he wrote in The Naming of Cats:
But I tell you, a cat needs a name that’s particular,
A name that’s peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?
This then did me in. Given the uncertainty regarding their sex, headstrong I called them Abe and Sebastian. Nevertheless, there still had to happen something drastic in order to lure them from their wooden tent. Naming them, I had now also promoted them to the status of emigrant, something I mentioned in a telephone conversation with the distant homeland. For that coming exodus ties between me and my furry friends had to be tightened, so that finally I might cage them just before their long journey in autumn.
After the unforeseen migration into the beam of my préau what is surely needed now is regular domestication, that is one about which I have something to say. Domestication comes from the Latin domus, or house. Time has come that these two find out that what is involved here is their agreement with my definition of home, not my acceptance of their interpretation of the word domus.
Assimilate! – the order of the day.
Sierksma La Roche 1 August 2016