My Secret Snuggler

chattyI have a cat who is a secret snuggler.   Chatimec, named for a ski trail, has a snowy white body.  Strangely, his head and tail have brown stripes on them, except for the very last tip of his tail, which peaks through with white again.  Chattimec came to us from a shelter when he was about seven weeks old.  He is a skittish cat.  We have always been gentle with him, but somewhere he learned to be very cautious.

Although it is not obvious, Chatty is almost always in the room with you.  Despite his wariness he loves to be in the company of humans.  Sometimes, when I am working on my computer, Chattimec suddenly appears, as if from nowhere, and jumps onto my desk.  He plays with the pens, scattering papers.  Then he stands guard and stares out the window at the squirrels.  When I make dinner he sits in a corner of the kitchen to guide me in the preparation.  Chatty watches me with knowing eyes and blinks his approval of my ingredients.    Outside on the deck he will sit in the Adirondack chair opposite me while I read my book.  We are quiet companions.

If he is feeling in the mood Chatty will come close for a quick pet.  He will never approach you while you are standing, only when you are sitting.  He stays for a short time, insisting on having his head scratched by moving his body back and forth to put his head directly under your hand.  When he has had enough he saunters away.

Chatty and I have established a routine for the night.  He will sit nearby in the family room while I watch TV.  When I decide to go to bed I simply say “bedtime Chatty” and he is up to follow me.  Yet, he will not make it obvious.  He may linger at his food dish in the kitchen as I turn the corner for the stairs.  If I stop to check in with my husband who sometimes is in his office working late Chatty will hesitate and pretend to be interested in something on the floor.  As I go up the stairs he looks out the front door waiting for me to get to the top.  Only then, does he come up the stairs.  On some occasions he will follow me into the bathroom and sit on the edge of the tub while I brush my teeth.  If he is feeling frisky he may chase unknown objects around in the tub.  Most nights however, he sits at the top of the stairs, waiting.  He does not sit in typical cat fashion.  He lays the front part of his body across the landing, but the rear two legs hang over the first step and rest there.  No matter how long I take he waits patiently for me.

I know Chatty will sleep at the bottom of my bed but he does not want me to know this.  So I pretend to be oblivious.    He stays at the top of the stairs.  I put on my PJ’s, and hand lotion and finally turn off the light.  It takes me a while to settle in.  I must have the blankets tucked under my chin in a precise manner.  The bottom half of the bed has to be flat, with both the sheet corners nicely tucked in.  I move around, but eventually find a good spot.  With the lights out and me at last quiet, it is then that Chatty makes his move.  He stealthily comes into the room.  With cat precision and noiseless feet he alights onto the bed.  He settles in quickly.   If I sit up and try to acknowledge his presence he will stop in mid movement. His tail stiff in the air, one paw poised to walk, held in stride.   He does not like to be seen.  I have learned not say a word to him, but I smile quietly to myself.  It is a comfort to have a cat sleep by my feet.   I will not tell Chattimec that I know his secret.  He likes the comfort of snuggling too.


Winter And All Of It’s Glory

I love winter When I walk outside, I am exhilarated by the wallop of the cold air on my face, and in my lungs.  I want to breathe deeply.  My skin tingles.   It brings me to life.

There are days in winter when the sky is a luminous blue. Your eyes are entranced by the contrast between the snow-covered pine trees, with hints of green, thrown up against a brilliant sapphire blue.  Ride a ski lift on a frigid, sunny day and take a look for yourself.   You will be awed by the magic of it.

As I child I anticipated winter.  Spring was fine, but summer was too hot.  Fall was getting better, cool days, brisk nights.  The tree leaves changing into their fall royalty.  But, every year I would pray for snow on my birthday.  Never realizing this would be a difficult task for mother earth, as my birthday is in October.

At an early age I watched the Olympic ski racers and my heart pounded.  I knew I had to try that sport.     I fantasized about the adventure of skiing.  I wanted to be on the slopes all day and feel the cold wind burn my face as I carved turns through the stately pines.  After an exhausting day, I pictured myself sitting beside a roaring fire, dressed in a trendy ski sweater, laughing with friends.  Who wouldn’t love that?

I anticipate snowstorms like a school age kid. I know the snow dance by heart. I religiously follow the Weather Channel, and feel I personally know Jim Cantore.  It is thrilling to me, when he is seen in Albany, NY, predicting a storm.  That means our part of the country will be blessed with the big one.    You will not see me running to the grocery in panic before a storm.  However, I will make sure I am stocked up on hot chocolate.  That way when I come in from my heady tromp through the snow, I can melt by the fire and enjoy a nice steaming cup.

To me there is nothing more beautiful than the world after a snowfall.  Everything is so clean and brilliant, like starched white shirts.  I am mesmerized when I see a big field stretched out in its blanket of snow.  It sparkles with diamonds in the sun.   The snow covered earth runs right up to the trees and helps display their leafless branches.  The branches reach out like arms and twist into wonderful shapes.  It is quite a beautiful art form.  Something you will not have the opportunity to enjoy in the summer.

When it is cold enough the ponds and lakes, even the rivers freeze over.   It is rare but there is nothing more enthralling than to see water frozen as it made its way down over the fall.  It is motion, literally frozen in time.  I know, to love winter and its beauty is not for all.  But, this year take a walk and you too may come to realize the wonder of winter.

My Least Favorite Tradition

iiIn my mind there is nothing quite as lovely as a Christmas Tree.  The more lights the better.  I prefer my tree with multi-colored lights.  I think it lends a happier, light-hearted tone.  But, white lights give a Christmas Tree a quiet, stillness, like snow falling in the evening.  Either way I am mesmerized with the sight of a lighted pine tree.

When I was growing up in Indiana my family put our tree in front of one of the windows in the living room.  Each evening as you drove in the drive the tree smiled out at you, welcoming you inside to hot chocolate and homemade Christmas cookies.  To this day when I see a Christmas Tree in a window I get a warm glow from within.

Consequently, this time of year I feel melancholy because I know we need to take our tree down.  It is my family’s tradition to put our tree up on the Friday after Thanksgiving.  Yes, Black Friday.  When many others are fighting their way through crowds in the mall we head to our favorite tree farm, Ellm’s Family Farm.  A funny name for a farm that raises pine trees.  We board a wagon being pulled by a tractor and search the all familiar map hoping to find once again the area that contains the perfect tree.  Some years we freeze and battle the ice and snow.  Others, like this year, barely require gloves and we grew warm hiking in search of our prize.  The search takes a while because our group must come to a general agreement.  Over the years our collection of tree hunters has always included my husband and I and our two daughters, but some years we have cousins, grandmas, and lately boyfriends.  My husband enjoys being able to now hand the saw over to younger people for the annual cutting.  And he is happy he no longer has to pull the tree through the fields back to the trolley.

Once home we begin with our traditional mini hot dogs wrapped in crescent rolls, accompanied by beef stick and cheddar cheese.  It is funny we now normally eat far more healthy than this, but traditions tend to stick and we have not been able to let go of this one.  The Christmas CD’s are loaded and play pushed, we are ready to begin.  Because the lights are so important to me, I string them onto the tree.  I start with small twinkle lights near the center of the tree then on the outer branches I put larger lights.  This illuminates the whole tree and causes it to glow even with competition from other lights.  Last we hang the ornaments.  They are a haphazard assortment, but every year they resonant their splendor causing me to rethink my thoughts of a themed tree.

As my youngest daughter does her final tradition of placing the star on top we all step back and admire our work.  One of my favorite things to do is to sit in the room with the lit tree and admire the warming glow and the wonderful scent of the pine.  When the girls were younger my husband traveled frequently.  Each year, on one night, during the month of December, when he was away, the girls and I would sleep under the tree.  I was like a kid receiving her most sought after gift every time I rolled over and saw those shimmering lights.  I would fall back to sleep giddy with my view and a huge smile on my face.

Every year I fall in love with my Christmas Tree and every year I dread taking it down.  I spend as many evenings as possible absorbing the glimmer from the lights.  But, it is now January.  The holiday season has come to an end.  I figure I can squeeze just a few more nights of Christmas Tree gazing in before the inevitable happens and I have to un-decorate my master piece.