Real things are whatever they are

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Kobi dozing in the sun

Here’s my cat, Kobi, dozing in yesterday evening’s setting sun. When I wake him up from sleep, unintentionally, he has this puffed-up, wary look, like something that has been baking too deliciously in the oven. He even smells like something delicious (I often call him muffin then). So I bury my face in his fur and feel his rumbling. This is a simple pleasure that I sometimes feel I can’t even talk about without embarrassment, because there is still this idea that you’re really not supposed to love animals this much. But I love this little lion, who rarely gets a mention on my blog, but who is a constant entity in the background. This made me think of Jeanette Winterson’s wonderful article about her lost cat, Minnie:

Most days I said, ‘Come on Minnie, let’s go to the studio’, and she trotted after me to do some work. An animal helper is there in all the fairy tales, and I have lost mine.

There are people, plenty of them, who think an animal is a child substitute, or just a thing on four legs that is nice for the kids.

But a cat or a dog is not a substitute for anything – it is itself, and can be a place of both comfort and continuity. My Minnie cat is gone and although I have planted her under an apple tree, dappled like her, I cannot get used to working without her. I miss her very much and there isn’t such a thing as a Minnie substitute. I will find a special cat again, one day, and I will be lucky, but such a cat will not replace Minnie – the cat will be herself, different, maybe difficult, but decidedly her own.

Only crap, senseless hyper-capitalism reduces everything to interchangeable, buy-another-one, substitutes. But real things are whatever they are, and cannot be replaced in the way our simplistic value system pretends.

And love? Love is not confined to human beings; it is cross-species, and it belongs in nature too. We love what we love, and sometimes we are fortunate enough to be loved in return.

I feel this note of all-embracing love is a good way to say happy holidays, whatever you happen to celebrate this time of year.


Jane Flanagan said...

This is beautiful. I feel the same way about any kind of love and don't ever really recover from lost loves, even if I know they belong where they are. No new love ever takes that place for me and each experience of the emotion is different and new.

I had a dog, Baggins, and he died after I moved to Canada. When I go home, I still let my hand hang down the side of the armchair and expect to feel his wet nose push into it. He haunts our house in ways I don't tell my parents I feel.

And I love that part in Unbearable Lightness when Teresa tells Tomas that she loved Karenin more than him and then says, not more, but in a better way.

Happy Holidays to you too. xx

Odessa said...

"We love what we love, and sometimes we are fortunate enough to be loved in return." --- I love this so much.

What a heartwarming post, Hila. Thank you for this. And I really miss coming here. Still getting caught up with my blog-reading but I just wanted to say hello and wish you a wonderful holiday season. :)


Petra said...

I feel the same way about my cats (and treat them in a way not a lot of people understand, putting my life on hold for them even). thanks for this post!

Gabriela said...

Kobi is so huge! And it's true that cats smell delicious when they wake up, few people notice that :)

Happy holidays!

rooth said...

Aww, this makes me want a pet so badly

felicita said...

just found your blog through metamodernism. love the content, love the focus on quality writing (a fresh change from the hegemony of the visual), and love the UWA component!
keep it up!
an illustrator and ex uwa student based in rome.

Sally said...

Oh...we had a cat nicknamed Minnie. She was the purest sweetest little soul, but she got lost when we moved house.

I still cry over my best friend pup who died in 2009, and I have to remind myself that it's okay. It's not shameful to still feel this way about a dog. Such comforting words about love to read this time of year - thanks Hila.

& happy holidays to you too!

Bethany said...

I love this, Hila. It's so tender and honest. It reminds me of that Mary Oliver poem, 'Wild Geese,' where she says, "You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves." Which is exactly how I feel when my in-laws' beloved golden retriever Gabby snuggle up next to me on the couch.

Teresa said...

Happy holidays to you and Kobi!

Danielle P. said...

What a sweet post, Hila! Thank you for sharing that Jeanette Winterson quote.

I had 2 cats as a teenager and loved them dearly, but adopting my Rebus and being solely responsible for his well-being has a profound effect on me. He's now my best friend, and it makes me livid that some people treat animals as nothing more than objects they can ill-use or even discard when they're deemed "inconvenient". They're living creatures!

Debie Grace said...

It's been years since I had cats. I remember when my cat, the last one, died, I kept crying until the pain isn't so painful anymore. And it's true, those cats are irreplaceable. I miss them :')

tangentsandminutiae said...

I've had a number of animals in my life and losing them broke my heart every time. Each cat and dog were themselves and the pain of losing them never kept me from welcoming a new friend into my life, in time. I've never understood people who refuse to have another animal in their lives simply because it hurts to lose them. That's the price we pay for the years of joy they give us.

Thank you Hila for sharing the lovely quote.

Megan said...

I love this post, Hila, and particularly the last line of that is so true.

My two fluffy cats, Oscar and Zadie, are shining lights in my life (Zadie is pushing her little nose into my hand as I type this, begging for pets). Can't imagine life without them; so glad you have Kobi in yours.

Sera said...

This is so beautiful! I get very attached to my animals as well, they really are very empathetic companions. I also bury my face in my cat :)

Hila said...

Jane: oh yes, people and animals are not possessions, they cannot be replaced. I think perhaps we're supposed to feel that gaping loss when one of them leaves our lives. It seems so straightforward, but it's taking me a while to accept this! Baggins must have been such a lovely dog - I feel the same way about my grandfather's dog, whom I named my cat after.

Odessa: I've missed you! Thank you for visiting, and I hope you've been well (and enjoyed your holiday season).

Petra: Of course, I understand - they're living creatures, how can we not feel something for them? I don't trust people who can't bond with animals :)

Gabriela: He is a huge cat indeed, I really need to put him on a diet! But he is also just generally big - even as a kitten he had huge paws. And don't they smell incredibly delicious when they wake up? Their bellies are just asking for a rub.

Rooth: I hope you get one, they're the best.

Felicita: Hello! Nice to meet you. When did you study at UWA? And thanks, I really appreciate it when people comment on the writing - that's my focus here too.

Sally: absolutely not shameful at all. I really shouldn't feel embarrassed either.

Bethany: Oh I love that poem! It's one of my 'go-to' poems when I'm feeling vulnerable and down.

Teresa: Thank you, I hope you enjoyed the holidays too!

Danielle: I completely agree, I feel such responsibility over Kobi and his well-being - especially since I often feel like it's my role to make up for his shitty first few months in life, when he was mistreated before being rescued. Such a gentle, sweet creature, who deserves so much love.

Debie Grace: I cried like that over my first cat too. They all have such distinct personalities, they cannot be replaced.

Acacia: I agree, this pain is part of life, and without it there wouldn't be any joy.

Megan: I can't imagine life without Kobi either!

Sera: They are really good companions, they know your routines better than anyone!

I'm Jen said...

I love this piece by Jeanette Winterson. She sums up beautifully the companionship my own little canine pets provide, and highlights what many people close to me confuse with a substitute for our lack of children (sigh).

Hila said...

I'm Jen: It is a most beautiful piece.