Monday, May 25, 2009

Kitty Mini-Jungle

Once upon a time we had huge pine trees in the back yard, which made it very shady. Jim helped me make a small flower bed, approximately 8' x 10', just outside the dining room windows. I could also see it through the window over the sink in the kitchen when I was cooking or washing dishes, and through the utility room window when I was doing laundry.

Kibbles, my Pekingese dog companion at the time, and I worked diligently planting seeds, watching them grow, and weeding every summer. It was filled with snapdragons, hollyhocks, zinnias, marigolds, sunflowers, red and yellow, flowering moss, impatients, petunias, poppies, pink mums, a white peony, and assorted other flowers at one time or another. Many of the plants were given to me by my mother-in-law, mama, and friends, which made them extra special. I thought about each of the people who contributed every time I tended the plants.

A running water fountain with three children sculpted onto it sat in the center, and bird feeders and hummingbird nector surrounded the bed. Squirrels, birds of all kinds, chipmunks, and butterflies abounded, as well as other wildlife, some welcome, some not. :)

It was a delight to sit out by the flower bed in the shade, listening to the fountain, hearing and watching the birds sing and chirp, as they fluttered about eating or bathing in the cool water. The hummingbirds flying around sounded like tiny airplanes as they zipped about drinking the cool red liquid hanging in feeders nearby.

I heard the soft fluttering of a butterfly's wings once, as it flew swiftly by my ear. Amazing!

The squirrels would come and sit in the trees chattering, preaching I called it, trying to run us off so they could run the birds off and get the seed. It was like a small piece of heaven to sit out there and talk...or daydream.

We also loved sitting at the dining room table sipping coffee and watching the activity. Dishwashing was more pleasureable watching the activity outside. It was a time before digital cameras, and I made tons of photos through the windows using a telephoto lens on a 35mm camera. Wonderful times.

But then Kibbles got so old and sick that she had to be euthanized. It broke my heart. I started community college. Blight hit the pine trees and they all had to be cut, taking the shade with them. Life and various other traumatic events that changed my life took over and I no longer had the heart to have a flower bed.

Some of the flowers came back for a few years, but were eventually smothered out by weeds, vines, sage grass, and assorted other natural plants. A couple of stray cats adopted us. They and my dad's cat ended the bird, butterfly, chipmunk, and squirrel population in the yard, as well as, most other small wildlife that dared to enter. Well, the drought a few years ago helped.

The fountain hasn't been hooked up in years now. It sits there waiting to come to life again, to give pleasure and nourishment. All it needs is a little attention.

Because the bed was surrounded by a foot wide concrete border and a little fence, I couldn't mow it, so I used a weed-eater to keep it neat. I've done that every year up until this past fall. It was overgrown a little and I just left it.

I noticed during the fall and winter how much the cats enjoyed hiding and playing in the bed around the fountain and among the turned over flower pots and bird feeders. They often seek shelter during light rain or snow in one of the bigger open feeders that my dad built. Climbing on the fountain is like Disneyland to the kittens.

This spring I have not touched the garden. It has become a mini-jungle for the cats and kittens to play in. Sammidog also likes to lay in the coolness of the shady leaves. Nature has planted a variety of wonderful plants for us to enjoy.

While the kitty jungle looks like a mess that needs cleaning up to family and friends, it's a wonderful tiny piece of heaven again to me and my pets. There's a whole fascinating world of activity going on in the jungle among the leaves and vines. The cats aren't the only inhabitants if one looks closely.

It's not just weeds and such either. There's a bush with heart-shaped smooth leaves. When the leaves are new they are gorgeous reddish colors. They get green as they get larger and yellow as they die. There's also a vine of some sort with heart shaped rough leaves that resemble grape vine leaves climbing all over the feeder. Honeysuckle and blue morning glory vines climb the surrounding fence. Queen Anne's lace is beginning to bloom and the volunteer pink hollyhock is blooming since I took the pictures.

If, when I'm walking around it, I keep my eyes and ears open, I can see and hear a whole little world busy going about it's daily business of surviving. If I quietly stoop down, I can see the nooks and crannies under the vines with kittens sleeping or scuffling in the cool shade.

These cats are skittish though and often hide where they think I can't see them and watch me. It's when they don't know I'm watching from inside the house that the real action takes place. Right outside my windows there's a virtual circus, and it is such fun to watch.

The kittens chase each other around in the jungle, wrestling around in the vegetation. They climb and swing from the dis-assembled fountain and the feeder. They hide in the overturned flower pots and jump out on one another. It's so funny to see a kitten face under a leaf hat. They chase each other from the jungle, across a small distance in the yard to a tree, and back. Their antics are neverending and funny, and laughter is always good medicine.

Sometimes there's a kitten pile on the concrete rabbit bench, all napping (I love kitten piles), or a lone kitten curled up in a pot or on the cow skull that Sammidog hasn't destroyed yet. He completely pulverized the deer head skull I had in the bed, antlers and all.

I thought about preparing and planting the bed in all kinds of flowers this spring. I kind of wanted to, after all these years, but with Sammidog and the cats, there's no way it would survive. I can't even keep potted plants outside.

But that's okay.

I've found that often to have one thing we have to give up another, and I enjoy my pets. Besides God has given me a garden of a different kind. It may not have a lot of multi-colored flowers in it, but natural plants in a tiny jungle can be just as wonderful. The cats love having it and we enjoy the cats so it's relaxing, peaceful, and healing in a natural way, plus there's no weeding. That's a good thing. :)

The end--pictures follow...

The dis-assembled fountain. I mentioned the other day that we should hook it back up. The cats would love the running water. Jim, who used to not tolerate cats at all, was afraid they'd chew on the cord and get electrocuted, so I guess it will stay like it is for now.

A glass gazing ball. If you look close, behind and just a little to the right, you can see Sammidog's face. He's a camera hog and when he saw me making pictures of the bed he jumped over in it and posed.

It doesn't show up much, but the honeysuckle is blooming and smells so good. It's all along this side and one end. You can also see the wooden bird feeder under the other vine, Rabbit Hop Cafe painted on the roof. The kittens climb these vines like they were ropes.

One end, behind the fountain. See the orange and white cat enjoying her jungle. She resented my intrusion on her nap. :)

The front of the bed with the concrete rabbit bench. The pink hollyhock on the left is blooming now, and the Queen Anne's Lace is beginning to.

You can't see the overturned pots, etc in the pictures, and I know it just looks awful and like a snake den to some of you, but it isn't. It's our own tiny jungle, complete with jungle cats, and fascinating adventures just waiting to be had. :)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Ilsa And The Puppies

Ilsa And The Puppies

Drawing and Story by Sharon Pope

Ilsa tried to stay in the shadows as much as possible, but shafts of light from the street light spotlighted the very thing she was trying to hide...two puppies.

She stole them from her neighbor's yard during the middle of the night. The neighbors wouldn't miss them. They had so many dogs and puppies in their fenced in back yard and Ilsa was so lonely. She had no one to call a friend.

Ilsa was homeless and lived in a large pasteboard box around the corner in an alley. She once had a husband, two children, and a nice home, but everything was taken in a few seconds during a tornado a couple of years back. She fell into a deep depression and took to the streets. Nothing mattered anymore, not even whether she lived or died.

It was a good sign that she was lonely now. It meant that she was beginning to feel again and that her heart was beginning to heal a little. A sliver of light in the darkness.

She had often stood and watched the dogs and delighted in their antics as she made her daily rounds scrounging for food and necessities. It was a bright spot in her day. She was a fighter, but the depression and thoughts of ending it all had almost won this time.


She cuddled the puppies in her arms the way she used to cuddle her babies as she made her way back through the cool fall night to the box she called home. It felt so good to have something alive and warm giving her face wet kisses again, squiggling and squirming between her arms and her chest. She hadn't realized how much she missed and wanted that.

The puppies were non-judgemental and wanted to love her. Dogs were like that. She picked these particular two, a Pekingese and a small breed hound, because they were the two that came to her immediately when she stealthily opened the gate. They made no fuss when she picked them up, closed the gate back, and walked around the corner and down the dark alley.

Ilsa had thought about doing this for a couple of days and found some string in the garbage can near her box that was strong enough to use as a leash. She immediately tied them to her hand, once inside the box, and the three of them crawled into the old sleeping bag that she called a bed. She would worry about feed and water for her new friends in the morning. They snuggled right up against her as puppies do. She had babies again to care for. Oh, she was so happy to have the company that she could barely get to sleep, but the soft little snoring sounds from the puppies, like a lullaby, lulled her into a peaceful slumber.

Early the next morning there was a rapping on the side of the box. Ilsa never had company and couldn't imagine who it could be. Frightened out of her wits, she stuck her head out though the box opening to see a policeman standing there.

"Good morning," Ilsa said, rubbing her eyes. "Can I help you? I have permission to be here."

"We're looking for two puppies that were stolen from around the corner last night. They were worth five-hundred dollars apiece. Have you seen them by any chance?" The policeman was trying to see inside the box as Ilsa crawled out to stand up facing him.

Ilsa couldn't lie. Tears were streaming down her face as she turned and scooped the two puppies up out of the box. "I was so lonely and I didn't think they would miss them. They have so many, and I didn't know they were valuable. I'm so sorry! I knew better than to steal them. I just couldn't help myself." She was talking in a pleading tone, her words tumbling out over one another. "I don't want to go to jail."

Another feeling had returned. The feeling of fear. But that was better than no feeling at all.

The officer escorted her back around the corner to the Crester's place and rung the door bell.

Lisa Crester answered the door, looking irritated. She took the puppies from Ilsa and looked them over. They didn't appear to be harmed any. Ilsa's home made leashes still dangled from their tiny necks.

Ilsa apologized profusely and explained why she took them.

"Aren't you the lady who lives in the large box around the the end of the alley? I've seen you passing here often."

"I am." Ilsa was so ashamed and could barely look Lisa in the eye.

"I'll tell you what. You've returned them in good shape and you seem genuinely sorry. Instead of having you arrested, I'll give you a chance to make it up to us if you want."

"Anything." Ilsa sniffled. She couldn't stop crying. It was as if a dam had burst inside her. Lisa, in a moment of compassion, put her arms around Ilsa.

Ilsa hadn't been hugged in a very long time.

A little teary-eyed herself, Lisa said, "I need some help with all these dogs and my kennel business since Frank has gone back to work. If you want to try it, I'll pay you room and board, plus a very small weekly salary. It'll be on a trial basis for a while, until I know I can trust you."

Ilsa couldn't believe the offer. "You can trust me, I give you my word. I've never stolen anything before in my life and never will again." Her tear-stained face offered up a shakey smile.

"Good, you can start right away. I'll show you where to put your things, and I think I have some clothes that might fit you. I was going to donate them to Goodwill, but you might like them."

"Well, I'll let you two ladies work it out from here." The policeman turned and went back to work with a smile on his face. If only all his cases worked out so well. He would check back on them in a few days.

Ilsa followed Lisa through the modest home to a tiny guest house in the back yard near the kennel. A new home, a new family, and all the puppy love she could want.

Another feeling bubbled to the surface as Ilsa stood inside her new home. Hope.

The End

PS--This little story was written spur of the moment, stream of consciousness, which is how I really enjoy writing. It hasn't been properly revised yet, so please overlook any writing mistakes. It was written to go with the doodle drawing above. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.