Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Not Quite the Christmas Morning I'd Planned

Christmas Eve -- I go to bed late and exhausted, and lie there realizing that I haven't seen one of our two cats for a while. As in, as least a day. Whisper doesn't usually go out in the winter, so I get up and check to see if he's gotten shut up in the attic or in the cellar or is under the bed. No cat.

First light, Christmas morning -- still no cat. So I bundle up and head to down to our neighbor's barn, with our dog, Ruby.The barn is at least a hundred years old and hasn't been used for the last twenty.The neighbors themselves don't live here in the winter. But this old barn is where Whisper goes when he's mad at me for some atrocity I've committed, like going on vacation and leaving his bowl to be filled by the neighbors, or taking him to the vet's. He'll stay in the barn until I come and beg and plead for him to come home, which he will deign to do if I carry him all the way back, scratching his chin in just the right spot. I realize that I might have erred this time by letting the house get too cold while we were having furnace problems recently. I suspect that he's in the barn, having a kitty pout.

I circle the barn a few times, calling his name. Nothing. I'm about to leave when Ruby pricks up her ears and I hear a very, very faint meow from inside. I call a while longer, but Whisper doesn't come out.The barn has many, many holes in the walls and foundation, but only two doors that open. I get in the first one, but there's no sign of him where I am, and no way into the rest of the barn from there. So I go around to the other door, move the rock that's holding it shut, and go in. I've never actually been inside the main barn before, and there are holes in the floor as well as in the walls. It's dark and just about as unsafe as anywhere I've ever been. Nor do I have a flashlight. But I make my way carefully to the far back of the barn, where there's a strange "fixture" that was added years later -- some kind of square silo that's taller than the barn itself, very narrow, and has a rickety ladder build into the far wall that runs up the whole inside of it, with several narrow landings you can step over onto, if you want to. I have no idea what the purpose of the thing was.

I'm still thinking Whisper is down under the barn floor, so I step over this really wide, scary dark space onto the ladder and go down, thinking how no one in the family has any idea where I am, or even that the cat is missing, and that if I fell to my death, no one was going to find me for a long while. But there is a streak of courage in me, and I go boldly down where no one has gone before, not at least for a long, long time (except a lot of spiders).

No cat.

But I can still hear him meowing.

Reason asserts itself, and I climb to the main floor, tell Whisper to hang on wherever he is, and head home for back up.

The family is less than thrilled that we'll not be opening stockings right now, we're going to go climb around in a cold, dark, dangerous barn.

So with husband, grown daughter and her boyfriend, and teenage daughter, we return to the scene, armed with flashlights. We approach the strange structure at the back of the barn. Faint meowing. We listen, argue, listen, comment on the spider webs and holes in the floor, and the narrow ladder rungs. We listen some more, argue some more, and conclude that since I've already been down, the cat must be UP.

The teenager daughter gets voted to climb since she's young, strong, and will fit up the narrow passageway around the ladder. She goes up to the first landing, under protest, looks up, and comes back down. Yes, Whisper is up there. All the way at the top of the peak of the roof, stranded on a narrow ledge. Yes, he looked okay. No, he didn't look like he was coming down any time soon. NO, she wasn't going all the way up there.

I think the next step is to call the fire department. But no, wait. Our grown daughter's boyfriend is an EMT with firefighter training. The problem -- he has a big heart and a brave soul, but he's not exactly a small person. And he's actually a bit scared of cats. But he heads up the ladder.

Afraid to watch, I dash home for the cat carrier, thinking that if we can get Whisper into it, it'll be easier to get him down the ladder, though I'm afraid that the space is too small for a person and the carrier, both. Of course, I can't find it at first, and by the time I return to the barn, our personal firefighter is on the ladder and Whisper is now several landings below him. Our firefighter managed to scoop him off the ledge but wasn't able to hold onto him all the way down, and in a struggle I'm glad I didn't witness, Whisper ended up on the landing above us. Closer, but not budging. And our firefighter doesn't dare move for fear Whisper will dart back up the ladder again.

Now the cat is freaking out, so we send the teenager up again. She manages to get Whisper calmed down, but her arms are too short to reach him. So she climbs back down and our grown daughter goes up. She can reach him, but she's afraid to take her hands off the ladder. So the teenager and I reach over the abyss and try to hold her onto the ladder by pushing on her legs. Not sure how effective this technique is. I'm imagining the ladder breaking and the floor collapsing and all of us being found a week later in a pile. Probably the cat would have been the only one to walk away, and I have to wonder how the forensic team would have pieced together our last moments, and if they would have been able to figure out what on earth we had all been doing in the old abandoned barn on Christmas morning.

My daughter gets hold of Whisper and tries to hand him down while I reach up as far as I can. We can't quite reach each other. No one is having a good time. Finally, she drops Whisper down to me. Ever caught a falling cat in midair over an abyss? I did it, but won't ever try it a second time.

For the first time in his life, Whisper is eager to go into his carrier. A few moments after that, every one is down off the ladder, and we make our way back toward the open barn door.

An hour later, Whisper's tummy is full and he's asleep in the middle of our bed. We're all cleaned up and have antibiotic ointment on our scratches, the Christmas turkey is in the oven, and we sit down to a late breakfast and our stockings.

It's probably completely lost on Whisper how lucky he is that he was adopted into such an awesome family.


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays!

My Christmas Tree!
I wish you all the happiness of the season, whatever you celebrate!

Sunday, December 18, 2011



It's a beautiful, sparkly December morning here in Vermont, and if you live around here, it's still not too late to get tickets for today's shows of The Nutcracker at the Flynn Theater in Burlington, the most magical ballet in the world!  Our show is put on by local dancers from the Vermont Ballet Theater School, of which my youngest daughter is a member of the Company. I've been very busy these last few weeks helping with the production. I volunteer to take photographs of the dancers for many local newspapers (have you all gotten the idea I like to take pictures?) Young dancers are a bit different from wildlife and scenery, but I enjoy a bit of a change.

Busy time of year!  Off to the theater!

Thursday, December 1, 2011


Under the Willow was recently given a lovely review by Elisa Rolle:

Under the Willow is a very sweet Young Adult story, almost without angst and really about pretty boys in love. It’s a “modern” fantasy story, set in a small town in Vermont, about two highschool boys, Shane and Cody. A retelling of the Romeo and Jules story, in more than one meaning: Shane is from the wrong side of the river, the poor side; moreover he has always been the nerdy kid, the one who apparently get it always right, without touching a book; Cody instead is a jock and the rich kid at school, and one that is really not so enthusiast to attend school if that is not related to some sports. I had even the impression that Cody was even a little mean with Shane and for sure, when he is injured and the only one available to help him is Shane, his first thought is that it’s not cool to be seen with Shane.

But after a bit I started to have the feeling Cody feared to be seen with Shane since Shane is the one guy Cody could fall in love with, and Cody is not yet ready to admit he is gay; the coming out process is only hinted, and the related troubles remain a little on the background. I don’t think the author wanted for it to be the focus of the story, but she was probably aware she couldn’t write about teenagers without letting the reader know it’s not easy for them and that the coming out process can be painful.

As soon as Shane and Cody connect, the story takes a fantasy turn; between Shane and Cody is instant love, but that was also due to the fact they are the “chosen” of two opposite factions wanting to use them as their spokesperson. Maybe I wouldn’t have minded a little more of “courtship”, a slower building of love between them, but again, I think that was not the focus for the author. Now don’t get me wrong, this is definitely a romance, and even if tamed, there are also some sex scene, nothing detailed, but nevertheless Shane and Cody are aware their love has also a physical expression.

Under the Willow was cute, a refreshing novelty considering the average Young Adult literature, and for once I didn’t feel like I had to worry for these boys, sure they have some troubles to face, but I was sure that in the end there was a way for them to be together and happy.