To Have A Friend Takes Time

Baby Finny 001

In a way, nobody sees a flower, really; it is so small. We haven’t time, and to see takes time—like to have a friend takes time. ~ Georgia O’Keefe

It was the last bell, of the last day, of my last year of classroom teaching, and the last thing I expected was Finnegan.

Amidst the cheers, and hugs, and goodbyes, and promises to keep in touch, and the bustle of children hurrying into summer, in walked a parent with a basket full of kittens, fresh off the farm.

Her daughter excitedly took hold of the basket and carried it over to me. “Ms. O.! Look! Would you like one?”

I had two one-year-old puppies at home, Riley and Clancy, and two aged cats, Sally and Tess. I didn’t need a kitten, really, just then, but there he was, the tiniest, with the biggest paws. A great farm cat, built to hunt mice. Would he be happy confined in a home with two puppies and two old cats, the odd man out? It was already too late; I held him and he was mine. Finnegan. He was so small, but I saw him; he saw me; we became friends.

GBaby Finny 005Baby Finny 006

He was such a mellow kitten, content to play alone, or to snuggle with his much older sisters, or to profess his love for Riley. He adjusted to all of us happily.

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 When he was quite young, he traveled with us to Atlanta to see my family; I can’t remember why, but I have a picture of him in my mother’s family room. He looks quite content, so it must have been a happy adventure for him.

Baby Finny 002

Finny and I created daily rituals: He developed an affinity for playing in sinks, so I would leave a trickle of water running in the bathroom sink every morning, where he could play, drink, and relax. He liked to grab me and comb my hair with his paw. He waited (in the sink) until I’d get out of the shower, stand on the counter, and grab at my head, wanting me to shake my wet hair over him. After more than 20 years together, Phillip no longer waits, excitedly or otherwise, for me to emerge from the shower (nor I for him, to be fair), so Finny’s daily, faithful, and eager anticipation of my 60-year-old self stepping blindly out of the shower was a kind of special comfort: I’m still here; still beloved!

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He loved to smooch, and he enjoyed sitting on my lap and bouncing while I sang “our song” to him:

Oh, Finnegan, again, again,
I’ll tell you that I love you;
Oh, Finnegan, again, again,
Please say you love me, too!

For a time, after Sally and Tessy died, he was our only cat, and a little lonely, but he adjusted yet again, and I think he began to think of himself as our third dog. He loved to escape out any open door—or window—and then run under the decks to roll in the sandy earth, ignoring my pleas for his return. I’d simply have to spend the next hour in vigil, waiting for him to be satiated with freedom, all his senses filled, before he’d grandly emerge, and always with a look that said, “What are you so excited about? You knew I’d come out.”

Eight years ago, we went to the Humane Shelter to find a sister for him, and came home with two brothers as well. Once more, Finnegan adjusted well to being the big brother, showing them the way to behave and belong. We started our Morning Party tradition, gathering in a circle, singing a song (of course), and celebrating the new day. Finny always sat on my left, my loyal helpmate.

He grew into a beautiful cat. His leonine look made him appear fierce, even threatening. Guests sometimes mistook his affect, and cuddled instead with the always-adorable Murphy, but I knew Finny’s deep affection, playfulness, and gentleness, as he knew mine.


When Fergus followed me home one day a few years ago, Finny wasn’t certain this was such a great idea. He conferred with me quite often, initially, making sure I had enough love to go around. But he adjusted. By now he was The Boss, and once Fergus understood this, life sailed on, usually smoothly.

Last year, both Clancy and Riley died, and Finny’s grief was real and touching. His love for Riley had only deepened over the years. He sat at her place on the window seat, and took a long time adjusting to this loss. But he accepted the change, helping me accept it, too.

In October, I brought Malarky home. Finnegan retreated to my lap even more than usual, or to a quiet cat bed in the back bedroom. I worried about his energy level and mood, and tried to give him extra attention when I could. He tried to please me with his acceptance of Malarky, but I could tell his heart wasn’t in it. I thought, with time, Finnegan would adjust as he always had.


We noticed a more pronounced change in Finnegan’s energy and joy last month, and took him in for a check-up. The veterinarian found an abscess and thought some teeth would likely have to be removed. On March 15th, I took him in to the surgery early, then came home to clean, walk the pup, and continue the usual daily round.

I’d just started to make a little nest for Finny’s healing in the guest room, figuring I’d sleep with him for a couple nights, till he felt able to be up and around again. My phone rang, and I knew, as fast as I’d fallen in love with him, that something was wrong with my Finny. It was way too early for his surgery and recovery to be over.

Our doctor said an x-ray had revealed the abscess was, in fact, a tumor, and the cancer “very aggressive.” A few minutes later, I sat beside my Finnegan and whispered my goodbyes to him. And a half-hour after that, I was home again, without him. Forever.

Our partners and very close friends, but especially, our 4-legged companions see us when we are as we really are, when the phone is off, the internet unplugged, the doors closed, the curtains drawn. Our private face, our instinctive behaviors, our nakedness—they hear our prayers and laughter and tears; they know us better than the world ever could, our better natures and our demons. And they love us. That is true intimacy.

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What a relief it is to be as you are and (still) be loved. When they die, our beloveds take with them that relief we came to know in their presence. All those secrets shared, all those holy moments. Finnegan’s special gift to me had always been his sensitivity to my sadness; he knew when I was grieving and remained faithfully present. Without words, we had some of the deeper conversations of my life.

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I am grateful for memories, though they come with a fierce sting, initially. They begin to weave the stories of our loves back together and, in their way, allow them to continue.

I fell in love with Finnegan the moment I saw him, but, as O’Keefe says, a friend takes time. Finny and I created a 14-year relationship that was authentic and mutual. We gave each other our time and it gifted us in return, infusing both of our lives with light and love.

John Leonard wrote, “It takes a long time to grow an old friend.” I miss my old friend, Finny. He blessed my life and enriched it profoundly. He taught me so many things, and I tried to be a good student but I’ve not yet mastered his ability to go with the flow.


His brothers and sister are making peace with Finnegan’s absence. At times, Mulligan keens through the house, searching for Finny, but the energy is settling and who we are now as a family seems to be knitting back together.


I’m still adjusting.

Happy Birthday, Finny!

April 3, 2002 ~ March 15, 2016

Cats, Gardens 077Storm Clouds, Cats 003Storm Clouds, Cats 001


© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without Catherine O’Meara’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors.



Two Steps Forward

DSCF3920February, as it turns out, is the cruelest month, and, here at Full Moon Cottage, we’re glad to see its back end heading down the trail.

DSCF3922The dance February demanded of us caused stumbling, missteps, and then a repetitive one-step-forward-two-steps-back movement that exhausted us all.

We’d been looking forward to some kitchen remodeling, beginning with new appliances. But just when our savings said, “Yes, buy the new oven,” Mulligan came down with a serious infection, and two days later, Miss Fiona needed extensive dental work. Bam; savings gone.

DSCF3787The past two weeks have been spent chasing these poor darlings up and down and over and under to give them their necessary medicine for healing. Fiona has always been extremely reluctant to share space, be touched, hear sounds, experience life…it takes her a long, long time to become comfortable and feel safe, so this has been an inner ring of hell for her. Locating her in the basement circumscribed a unique abyss for us as well, and created colorful bruises in mighty strange places. I swear, one morning I was half under an old blanket-covered couch—Fiona long fled—and almost elected to just lie there for the remainder of the day rather than deduce the maneuvering necessary to wiggle back out again.


DSCF4020But now, we’ve come one step forward yet again: Mulligan is enspirited and inimitably present in his distinctive ways, and Fiona has dared to leave the basement and is characteristically hidden beneath the dining table, safely barricaded by chairs and pedestal. We try not to glance in her direction, as that would send her to the depths once more. Anyway, she has passed the date when medication would have eased her pain, poor thing. Excessive shyness and an inability to understand the language spoken to you can cost you needless suffering, it seems. We’re happy she’s back with us, and we hope feeling better every day.



DSCF3825Winter has been doing the same dance, retreating and returning, but with far more dash and surprising colors than our own awkward shuffle. The sunrises and sunsets have been spectacular, as though winter is kvetching, “OK, I’m going already, but you’ll miss all this!”

 Last Tuesday, we had a lovely snowfall, our last for the season, said the forecasters.

DSCF3917Since the air temperature also danced above and below freezing, the snow turned to mist at times and the resulting crystals were blindingly magical.


DSCF3866A bit more warmth caused a bit more melt, and then a night below the freezing point glazed the snow-covered earth entirely. The next morning, we walked on brilliant and brittle glass that initially, tentatively supported our weight, then yielded and crunched into sugar-cookie crumbs.



DSCF4004So, one step back. Oh, winter, yes: You are beautiful beyond compare and offer us delights we savor. Stay, stay forever.


DSCF3955Well, not that far back. And more than two forward. This week, the weather will turn, has already begun to do so…The fox is back, having burrowed out her den’s door and entered to birth new kits.

DSCF3776The sounds of snow and ice trickling away, and birds wooing mates and nesting, and me sighing at the mud tracking through the kitchen, and the happy dance of two pups and five healthy cats…the cacophony of life after winter’s silence fills our home and hearts.

DSCF3991Let the windows be opened and a new dance commence.


© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without Catherine O’Meara’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors.

Sing, Anyway

DSCF3146Here at Full Moon Cottage, we have been singing up some glorious sunrises this week.


DSCF2909I should correct that. Riley and Phillip have been singing, gloriously. Clancy and I bark, enthusiastically.

DSCF3089As for the cats, Murphy only sings like Johnny-One-Note when he’s locked himself in another room; Mulligan and Fergus have lovely voices; Finny has an eerie pre-furball ejection song, and Fiona apparently believes life is a silent movie.

But Clancy and I sing, anyway. We enjoy it. We bark at the sunrise and at the dogs’ nemesis, Bertie the Squirrel, and his Gang.


I was thinking about this during today’s howling blizzard. We felt sorry for Bertie, so we didn’t bark at him today. In fact, we tossed a few extra sunflower seeds out there, in an effort to keep our nemesis going strong.

DSCF3277So, no visible sunrise this morning, but we’ve been cozy, hanging out and making art. I was asked to teach art class to our after school group this year, grades 2 – 5. I love it, although I’m not, by any stretch of the imagination, a visual artist. (Which is why I love photography; I can [try to] capture scenes that take my breath away, but that I can’t reproduce with paint or any other media.)



DSCF1553I can design; I can teach about talented artists; I can come up with fun lessons; and the fact that my examples are less than stellar removes any intimidation factor: the kids have responded most enthusiastically and with amazing gifts. They can tell how much I enjoy fiddling with color and pattern, and how little I care that I’m not the “best” among our group. We just have fun.




DSCF1534For many years, I denied myself the joy of playing with art materials because I knew the end result would fall so very short of what I imagined. I had a great, but rigorous elementary education, and it remained rigorous when we had “art class,” once every week. By the end of September during my first grade year, I had learned I wasn’t an “artist.”

But time kind of strips away such self-judgment  and doubts, doesn’t it? And life is so much more fun, as a result. We’re all as capable of making art as we are of making love, and the results needn’t be measured or judged in either undertaking, so much as deeply enjoyed. The pleasure derived from creativity, or making something unique (and therefore, holy) from nothing but love, is a gift no one should be denied.

Today I made some Kandinsky-inspired circle trees, a chalk cityscape, and a paint-blob creature.



DSCF3215Oh, and—inspired by the storm–I painted these tiny owls in a tree “printed” with bits of cardboard. I can’t wait to see what my students create from these ideas!

DSCF3206And I designed a barn wood caddy to hold these twelve cream jars I bought at an antique store last summer. I wanted it for my dining table, so I can put garden flowers in the jars as a centerpiece. In-between shoveling and snow-blowing, Phillip used our blizzard-day to finish some carpentry for clients, but he also took time to create this for us:




 Perfect! Hooray for the artist!

DSCF3280I’m grateful for the snowy day and the time it afforded us to make art. Actually, Clancy and I prefer to think we barked down the storm. Who says we can’t sing? We love it, and we’ll sing, anyway.




© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without Catherine O’Meara’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors.


From Festive to Restive

DSCF2363The long exhalation of January has begun… the Christmas decorations are stored away for another year and have been replaced by new piles of gardening catalogues, decorating magazines, novels, and cookbooks.

DSCF2040And cats. More cats than I’ve recalled tending over the past few months.




DSCF2406I always liked having two cats. It seemed sensible and within the bounds of social propriety.

DSCF2059But five? Five seems borderline crazy, yet what are you going to do? They each came with a sad story of a now-or-never need for a home; tiny Fergus even followed me all the way down the trail in the cold rain of a dreary November day, as if determined to prove both his worthiness and desperation…He may have paused to wheeze a bit, very Oliver Twist-ish, to tug even more deliberately on my heartstrings. My “Foolish for Felines” sign must have flashed extra-brightly that day. And I do have a weakness for them: I think I carried Fergus the last 20 yards home. (“Sanctuary!” he cried.)

DSCF1116The house is big enough that they usually roam and catnap wherever they like and they seemed to disappear amidst the festive Christmas brilliance. I guess they hid under the Christmas tree or in their strategically-placed cat beds all during the holiday season. But now, in January, they seem to have multiplied and become very present along the back of the couch, or standing near windows, or strolling through the living room and hallways. They remind me of the nuns in my childhood who always seemed to glide around together in groups of two or more. Cat-clusters.


DSCF2349Not a problem this past week, when frigid temperatures and snowy gales kept schools closed and all of us huddled indoors, except to dash out and refill the bird feeders. 




DSCF2323Even the dogs, it seems, have been comforted by the cats’ added body heat, content to lie at the window or in front of the fire and tolerate the feline members of the family with mature grace.



So, we’re settling in for the restive season: time to read, and nap, and dream of gardens-to-come, and soups we’ll have to make, and projects we’ll have to tackle. Cuddling with each other, a couple dogs, and a company of cats, life seems cozy indeed.DSCF2152


© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without Catherine O’Meara’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors.


The Fine Art of Cat-Napping

Guest Author: Finnegan the Cat

Finny 010Hello again, dear reader. The human who calls herself my mother has dashed out once more to weed and mulch gardens between our current, intermittent thunderstorms. While I do not know precisely what these tasks entail or why they must be accomplished, I have seized upon her frenzied behavior as a welcome opportunity to once again share my wisdom with you.

This time, I do not address fellow felines, but seek to widen my ever-increasing circle of devotees by directly addressing humans and instructing you, from my superior vantage point as a rightly-adored member of the species felis silvestris catus, in the fine art of napping, something we cats know about and practice deeply and intensely.

My thinking has undergone brilliant revision: Earlier, I sought to aid my colleagues in the training of their humans (, but hundreds of e-mails from eager students have informed me that their humans are so exhausted and ill-tempered that education and improvement pose challenges even the most diligent feline cannot surmount.

I deduce this to be due to humans’ lack of sleep, observing as I have that it is both a pleasure and spiritual practice you largely avoid. Thus, if I can successfully remedy your need and capacity for sleep, your training as better servants to cats everywhere can resume.

Using my siblings—and, of course, myself—as models, I will illustrate approaches to restorative slumber that you may not have previously considered or attempted. While some human scientists encourage napping as a method for recuperating one’s mind, body, and spirit, I instead encourage you to consider it as an art form, and the highest calling one might pursue, for true Art, in itself, is rejuvenating.

And, please, banish ideas of “power-napping” and other such obscenities from your vocabulary and mind. These are euphemisms used by “success-oriented and managerial” types to suggest a nap is something accomplished quickly and with the utmost strain, in order to achieve the most beneficial results regarding your increased productivity. (Their gain, your loss; such is capitalism, my friends, and believe me, you derive no nap-like benefits from buying into its tireless resolve to suck your body and soul dry…but I digress.)

I will return to my political ideologies in another post, but, for now, I must again emphasize that you eradicate such filthy terms and faux practices as “power-napping” from your mind and life. Instead, I would submit that the neophyte napper must accept that the fine art of napping requires sustained periods of self-accepting but resolute practice, resulting, one hopes, in up to 16, perhaps (I can dream) 20 hours of sleep every day.

Behold: a photograph of my mother “napping” in an automobile many years ago, captured by my father, who may have better used his time focusing on the road before him.

Kitty napping 001While I would hardly recommend a moving vehicle as the most welcoming spot to pursue one’s naps, we shall see that location is best designated through personal preference. At this time, mother’s method, as you can plainly see, lacked delicacy and the controlled “athlete in repose” image one aims to achieve. Still, for a beginner, there were aspects of her approach that might have encouraged a professional tutor of my distinction, but, sadly, her apparent need for a drool cup–an unfortunate lapse in mother’s style and form that continues to this day–made problematic the likelihood she would ever attain a true mastery level in her napping, a forecast many (many) years have proven true. Study and learn from this, dear reader.

Here, then, a Beginner’s Guide to Napping, today covering the basics of location, form, and duration.

Location: Sun-puddles are the finest places for napping, wherever they are found. Rugs, window seats, boxes, sinks, commercial cat-beds (if one must), and, of course, human beds are recommended, but please explore your unique napping preferences and be willing to experiment. One of my favorite places to nap is atop the clothing and blanket dryer when it is running full throttle, and Murphy (although I cannot recommend the general sloppiness of his postures, save for Pose #3; see following) often naps high above the living room, on top of the TV cabinet.

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Cat Naps, Gardens, New Bridge, and River Flowing Upstream 034I would caution you to refrain from napping anywhere in the kitchen, especially on a counter or tabletop, as our mother (if her acknowledged odd behavior can be extrapolated to other humans) pitches a royal hissy fit when we dare to attempt this. I have responded with my keenest “Calm yourself, woman” glare to no avail, so have abandoned this location as acceptable. For now. (As I have referenced, she is aged and I will likely outlast her.) You may have better luck with your family members, or may live alone, so I say have at it, if your kitchen counter is calling.

Posture: This is where the true artist emerges. The first position I would suggest is the casual magnificence demonstrated here, by moi, in the Crossed Paws Pose. Note the peaceful maintenance of the head’s position.

End of April to May 2 oriole, grosbeak, gardens mourning dove ne 014Alternately, but with greater practice, for it is much more advanced, one may hold the head just so, at a jaunty angle.

End of April to May 2 oriole, grosbeak, gardens mourning dove ne 021As you progress in your art, you may attempt the following: Moving from position one, above, a yawn (still napping, of course) is executed, and then one drops, almost imperceptibly, to the “Perfectly Prone” position. A trifecta of nappage postures, as it were. Do not try this too soon in your learning; you are bound to be discouraged when you fail.

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End of April to May 2 oriole, grosbeak, gardens mourning dove ne 012Sometimes examples that demonstrate the antithesis of a lesson best teach:

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And no.
And no.

Sadly, and once more, no.

Sadly, and once more, no.

Another pose to master is to rest on one’s ventral side, casually, the One Paw Extended Pose. (Casual to the beholder, of course; one’s focus must be riveted.) You can see my attempts to teach Murphy (a.k.a., “The Ham”) are ruined by his relentless inability to focus on anything but the camera.

DSCF0015The third pose, however, resting one’s head like an infant upon one’s forward, sweetly-curled paws, The Neonate Pose, is one of Murphy’s specialties. It makes adult humans say, “Oh, how cute! How precious! How darling!” If one goes in for that sort of childish thing, this pose may be your favorite.

DSCF0013The fourth and most challenging “solo” position is to execute a perfect circle of contentment, as I am doing here, in the aptly named Circle of Contentment Pose.

Cat Naps 003This cannot be forced, but rather demands elegance, the perfect coiling of the tail completing the circle, the head resting on all 4 paws…Mulligan comes close; when he is not licking himself, he can be a most surprising student in mastering what would seem far beyond his troubling intellect.

Cat Naps 012

Sadly, the new sibling, Fergus, falls far short of the circle pose, but we are practicing diligently and daily.

Several weeks ago.
Several weeks ago.
Today. Sigh. I persevere.
Today. Sigh. I persevere.

Lastly, I would say a supreme pinnacle, a “mountaintop” you may want to hold in your napping dreams, is the Happy Family Nap Pose, which, as is plainly apparent in this photograph, my siblings cannot yet grasp. Here, I am almost at wit’s end trying to elicit cooperation in this most strenuous of poses. As you can see, Murphy has positioned himself far too closely to my posterior and then immediately fallen asleep. Synchronized sleeping is key in the HFP. Fiona and Mulligan are clearly seen to be out of alignment; in addition, Fiona is looking scornfully at the camera, while, again, Mulligan’s fascination with licking himself has robbed him of focus entirely.

catz on bed 5.16.12 010Finally, I must address the duration of napping that a true artist would demonstrate. To aspire towards anything less than 10 hours would reveal one’s permanently amateur status. Begin, I caution, with the stated 10, and build up your endurance to the Mastery Level of 16 hours, and then 20 hours (the latter conferring the status of Supreme Master). I humbly admit I have achieved this level, and seek to guide my siblings towards similar perfection. Mulligan, if I can deter the licking, may do well. Fiona seems to be developing her own system of napping. We shall see: these secondary schools of form and content are so often drenched in inferiority; for example, consider Pantanjali and then Iyengar, if you catch my drift. The mind quickly turns from such blatant perversion. Perhaps Young Fergus, if he can vastly improve his form, may be most likely to succeed as the next Master, but he has years of practice ahead of him.

As do you, dear reader, so get to it. 

April 22 2013 snow, sun, early spring gardens, high water 002


© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without Catherine O’Meara’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors.


Love in the Time of Climate Change

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Today I’m making a hearty soup and enjoying fresh breezes kissing our rooms through open windows, a sweet delight for the cats. This is the new and unpredictable norm for December, for nothing about our climate this past year has hinted at what’s coming next.

This past weekend we found ourselves alone and together, with nothing scheduled and surprisingly caught up with other life-maintenance tasks…so we relaxed.

Honoring days of rest, like tending to self-care, were themes often discussed and put forth as goals, but rarely practiced authentically in our busy lives, up until a year and a half ago; I’m happy to say that since dedicating ourselves to our version of a “slow life,” we’ve gotten better at this.

This weekend, we watched holiday movies, went for long walks, took Riley and Clancy to their favorite dog park, grilled a wicked good meal out on the deck, enjoyed our unusually warm weather, and listened to Christmas music while we read, nestling with various four-leggeds.


005My spirit felt bathed in light and peace, utterly relaxed, and utterly grateful.

At many points in my past life, this would have been a weekend neither noted nor savored as remarkable, other than for its record-setting high temperatures. Now, I treasure moments of happiness, ordinary time made extraordinary by the attention and appreciation due and accorded it. I notice all the ways Phillip deepens and refines the energies of my life, and I isolate blessings as they drift through moments and settle in my heart.

mama and daddy easter 1951 001This photograph of my parents, taken the April before their wedding (Ah, April in Minnesota!) sits beside my bed. I love the sweet joy they seem to feel in each other’s company, the hope that exudes from their spirits, still.

Years later, when he was 65, my father suffered a massive stroke that caused his next 15 years to be lived confined to their home, my mother choosing to serve as his caregiver. I spent as many vacations visiting them as I could, and often lamented the sadness and “littleness” they now had to endure, rather than all the joyful adventures they’d planned following my father’s retirement. This hadn’t been foreseen and wasn’t fair. And I thought I should be closer, geographically, to help more.

I vividly recall the time my mother said, “Oh, it isn’t all bad. We have good conversations and we laugh a lot. Your father’s been able to know his grandchildren, and we’ve enjoyed working on his writing together. Good friends have blessed this time for us…and here’s the thing, Kitty: your job is to tend your own life. We never know what sadness may be in store for us, what challenges lie ahead. Enjoy each other and the blessings that come your way as deeply as you can while you’re able, and take nothing for granted.”

Phillip and I with my parents many years ago.
Phillip and I with my parents many years ago.

“Time held me green and dying,” wrote Dylan Thomas in the haunting poem, Fern Hill. I know my sweet dog companions will be 12 this year, and Finny the cat will be 11. Phillip and I are in our mid-50’s…not old, but no longer green, and, like all of life, gradually living towards our dying. These facts are not all-consuming, nor entirely depressing to one who gardens and honors life’s circles and spirals, but they certainly contribute to the poignant attentiveness brought to bear on moments when we can be here, now, all together in peace, joy, and relative health.

Mulligan helping Dad prepare breakfast.
Mulligan helping Dad prepare breakfast.
Murphy enjoying spring breezes in December.
Murphy enjoying spring breezes in December.

At one time, I would have considered such a weekend dull and unproductive. How lovely that the gauges by which we assess our lives change, and how grateful I am for a companion with whom I can share and value simplicity and stillness, ordinary days made precious just because we’re together, grateful and aware, no matter what’s coming down the pike. Because the climate of any relationship is always changing, forecast or not, and deep reserves of joy, daily kindnesses, and simple, commonplace moments of laughter and love help us to weather the storms and shifts, expected or surprising, whenever they arrive. 

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© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without Catherine O’Meara’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors.

A Story for the Season

On Sunday, after I’d put away Thanksgiving decorations, we decided to begin setting out a few Christmas pieces to ready our home for the holiday. Every day, I’ve pulled out a new box and selected a few decorations to place in a window or on a mantel, noticing the stories all around me: stories behind every decoration and every piece of furniture where they’re placed…I cannot separate myself from these stories; my own accrue and add new layers to the objects until finally, everything shines with story.

My great-grandfather made this little table, from scrap lumber and fruit crates, for my mother when she was a child. She collected the pewter dishes.

Due to our new cat, Fergus, and his continued period of adjustment to our home, and us, and the 4-leggeds, we’ve decided that maybe a Christmas tree encrusted with all of our glass ornaments wouldn’t be such a great idea this year. In past years, the cats have enjoyed playing and resting on the quilt beneath the tree; this year, I’m afraid that feline power struggles might bring it all crashing down. Better to lower the odds, I think. There are plenty of ways to make the home festive without a tree, but we’ll miss it.

Murphy and Mulligan napping beneath the tree.

Fergus and the dogs are doing fine with their introductions; the other four cats (oh, God, I’ve become the Crazy Cat Lady) are struggling a bit more with the refinement of pecking order and ego assuagement. We have every reason to believe all will be well, but these relationships, these stories, will need to progress according to their own timing, and I think we owe our 4-leggeds all the time they need. Fergus is as placid as Buddha sitting in his kennel, despite the sniffs, spits, and indifference form his new siblings. He forbears.

When he’s alone with me in my office, he loves to sit beneath the computer screen and watch the birds through the picture window. He runs to the door when he hears the other cats; he yearns for community, it seems. He loves fearlessly.

Today, his siblings entered his private room and began to sniff and acquaint themselves with Eau de Fergus. Murphy and Mulligan were especially intrigued, meticulously conducting their version of a CSI, and covering every square inch of the room before accepting a treat.

Murphy smelling Fergus’ food bowl.

Tonight, we’ll supervise a first face-to-face visit and see how it goes. We’re hopeful that by the time the New Year rolls around, we’ll have a larger, peaceful, and happy family. Fergus appears to be a force of love; he audaciously chose me on the trail one very cold, wet day and followed me home, and has never stopped exuding that charming trust and desire to connect. All creation, it seems, can reveal the Love of our Source. We often overlook, I think, the myriad ways those with whom we share the planet can teach us about love and loving.

I read that Pope Benedict XVI (“Buzz-Kill Ratzinger”) has written a new book in which he states there were no animals or angels present at the birth of Jesus, nor was that birth date calculated correctly. While I understand his point is to de-mythologize Jesus and place his life within a more historically exact context by removing the inaccurate embellishments that surround our handed-down version of Jesus’ birth, I also believe that for many people, the animals, shepherds, and angels are intrinsic to the story, especially for the young and young-at-heart. For Christians, this was a life like no other, a life that serves as a template, worthy of celebration, as all lives are, but one that was recognized as such from the start.

So rarely do we see the ways Love in-breaks and enters our world, causing unnoticed eruptions of hope and joy all around us.  But once, more than two thousand years ago, some of us were actually paying attention. The story that celebrates the birth of one of us who got it right needs no updating or fact-checking; it was never about the angels or animals, but they pin it down in our imaginations and allow us to vicariously enter the birth and so the life, and so the dance of pure goodness modeled for us, however clumsily we misstep.

And when I do falter in my dance, I have always found animals whose love can lead me back to the path quicker than any sermon. Humans like Jesus are rare indeed; animals who love as selflessly as Jesus are not.

I believe we should be very cautious about re-writing well-known and beloved stories, and even Pope Benedict, a Vatican correspondent said, agrees that the traditions surrounding Christmas play a role in nurturing our grasp of the deeper truths the story reveals.

Our own stories, the ones we write with our lives, reveal their deeper truths, too, if we listen. This Christmas, we won’t have a tree, lit and splendid; instead, we’ll celebrate two stories: the birth of Jesus (which is the story of Love’s possibilities being born every day, always, in our hearts), and our story, too, about a tiny abandoned cat named Fergus, who loved everyone he met, and his new family, who had to learn more about loving so fearlessly.

It’s going to be a good story, I can tell: the echoes of other stories and the spirits of those we’ve loved will shine all around it…There will be many animals as featured characters in this new story, and I’m quite certain that on Christmas Eve, when we gather together for treats where the tree would have been, we’ll hear angels singing.


© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without Catherine O’Meara’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors.

Departures, Heralds, & Wonders

Deep autumn has come to Full Moon Cottage and its neighbors. The fields of feed corn have been harvested and cut back to the earth. Ridges of golden stubble stand in rows that stripe the hills.

The landscape and its population are transformed. Shorn of the dense stalks, our view is lengthened and widened to coming winter’s stark openness. Whatever—and whomever—the cornstalks obscured now risks exposure. Deer wander the furrows and debris, seeking sustenance, and providing defensive exercises for Riley and Clancy as they patrol the eastern windows.

Every morning, between 7 and 9 A.M., I receive faithful, raucous, reports delivered every-5-minutes in yips and barks and meant to alert me to deer, turkey, squirrel, rabbit and low-flying hawk movements on the lawn or in the bordering woods. Or in the far distance, just in case territorial invasion might be imminent. (By 9 A.M., the daylight counsels the wild ones to conceal themselves again, and the dogs are ready for a well-earned nap. Mom is ready for a Bloody Mary, but settles for tea and quiet.)

Other surprises have come out from the cornstalks as well. This little fellow emerged from the farmer’s field beside the trail and followed me home a couple of days ago.

Apparently, his first year of hard-knock life has sharpened his abilities to identify me as an easy mark. He is now housed and fed and has received a fine once-over from our wonderful veterinarian. It will take a few weeks before “Fergus” is ready to socialize with the rest of the clan; hopefully, his integration with the other 4-leggeds will be peaceful. (Insert laughs.)

Our summer companions have begun to ready themselves for hibernation, flown to warmer habitats, or surrendered their brief lives to the circle’s rhythm. This beautiful Clouded Sulphur butterfly succumbed to the cold that blew down the trail last night. I offered it a blessing and gentle burial beneath leaves at the side of the trail.

The red-winged blackbirds are flocking up, rehearsing songs, and preparing for their migration. Huge numbers gather on the new islands the drought formed in the river. The air is warming again and expected to reach temperatures of 65°F (18°C) by the weekend before dipping back down again to a more seasonal 40°F (4°C) on Sunday. The blackbird choir will be missed, but their departure signals that the welcome and deep silence of winter is near.

Departures may also serve to herald the new.

Frost, the art designer that accompanies our colder temperatures, nightly paints the gardens and grasses with glittering beauty, creating visions of stunning glory even in death, a fine way to translate one’s energy during times of transition, I think.

Conversely, bringing the houseplants back indoors last month generated unexpected and early blooms in the cactus, violets, and even the jade plants, making the house more colorful and cheerful than the grays and browns that begin to dominate outside.

Our daily walks are a bit more brisk and bundled, and we’re happy to withdraw indoors, rest with books and tea (and 4-leggeds’ treats), and slow our rhythms down to congruence with the rest of nature, grateful for the sweet blessings of Fergus and cactus blooms, heralds of hope and affirmations that the circle’s turning continues and continues to offer surprising gifts, if we open our eyes and hearts.


© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without Catherine O’Meara’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors.

The Training of Humans, by Finnegan, the Cat

The human who passes for “my mother” in this absurd and endlessly amusing world is temporarily away from the computer (to which she seems permanently attached these days). She is probably searching the freezer for chocolate remnants; such is her crazed obsession and weakness. Formerly, her power to withhold the delicacies for which I yearned was somewhat stronger, although years of training have resulted in my ability to “guide her” into what I have determined is behavior necessary for my survival and peak mental acuity.

And it is this training of humans I propose to address today. All training, of course, is created with the deliverance of treats and comfort as its endgame and ultimate goal.

I have found, over the course of many years filled with trial and error, that despite their reputations for clumsiness, ineffectual respect for boundaries, and inability to (initially) acknowledge feline superiority, humans can, eventually and with steely perseverance, be trained to follow simple commands and even gain some reliable abilities to serve the cat who can be patient and occasionally indulge his human’s need for affection without, of course, becoming overly familiar or permissive.

Here are just a few techniques I have mastered and I share, to ease your task if faced with breaking-in or training a human. Progress to advanced techniques with great caution; my human, at any rate, forgets our lessons quickly and new tricks must be reinforced repeatedly, for days on end, before the lessons are extended.

To begin: Studied indifference, a cat’s natural inclination, cannot be overstated for its power to guide a human towards subservience. When mine calls, I do not immediately run towards her, like my “siblings” (perish the thought), those two dogs, who–from my educated perspective–are slobbering, mentally bereft beings barely able to form thoughts, let alone string a few together and design a potentially rewarding action. (I weep with mirth at the thought of them actually trying to execute an action with finesse!) But I digress from the intention of this post; to wit: training and maintenance of the human, and the uses of indifference. She calls; I remain seated with my eyes closed. She calls again; perhaps I open one eye before settling more deeply into my comfortable seat, or blanket.

I have learned that if every fifth call is responded to by slowly approaching her, my majesty and superiority clearly apparent, I will gain greater pats, kisses, and treats than if I respond, like an imbalanced fool, to her every attempt to summon my presence. Try this over the course of a few weeks and soon you’ll find that your human’s rightful deference to your feline preeminence will infuse and dominate your exchanges; have no doubt.

Indifference can also be used when one is offered a gift; its purpose being to gain greater gifts and with more pleasing frequency. Thus, when a new and tempting foodstuff or toy is set before me, I sometimes sniff and then seemingly reject it, walking away, until I hear my human’s downcast sigh. I may stroll casually, in calculated and slow circles around a table or room, glancing back only occasionally, before again approaching the delicacy or delight, feigning a lack of desire. I cannot emphasize enough that if you do not practice this and instead pounce upon a proffered treat with naked, joyful hunger, you will lose the upper paw in your training regimen.

If you have younger felines in your household (I, alas, have three) they can be used for more than substitute mice, although certainly this is their chief source of amusement. I have trained the one who seems most appealing visually to beg for food with unremitting, if sickening, cuteness. I learned about this quite by accident, but in my admirable way, seized upon the opportunities it presented. Murphy (also known to our embarrassingly simple humans by the stomach-emptying nickname, “Bunny Bundles”) began to follow me into the bathroom sink during my morning frolic.

I pushed him out. He jumped in again and again, despite my efforts to curb his enthusiasm for bonding with what he called his “big brother,” having understood that our humans’ use of this term implied I was in agreement with its implications regarding our relationship. I was not. But as I pushed him out of the sink yet again, I noticed our actions in the mirror and, like lightning, formed a plan. His next imbecilic leap beside me resulted in an embrace and a lesson, using the mirror, regarding methods for appearing vulnerable and in need of caresses.

It has paid off in spades.

Now, when I desire a caloric boost, I simply poke Murphy and he dutifully jumps up to the human’s desk, or lap, gently pawing or nuzzling, sharing the well-rehearsed innocent, large-eyed expressions our bathroom sessions have helped fashion, and quickly gaining us added visits to the troughs of heaven (as my poetic nature leads me to call them). It seems to be a form of human enchantment; it works so quickly and unerringly. If you lack younger siblings and can endure behaving in a manner so demeaning, I recommend using a mirror and practicing first. The one time I tried it I scared my human, who thought I had taken ill. This was most awkward and unplanned, and the resulting probing and application of thermometers most unpleasant. Thus, and ironically, I am thankful, at least in part, for Murphy’s presence.

My sister, Fiona, has so far not responded to my enticements in regards to training our humans; I believe, as the sole and spoiled female feline, she believes it is an unnecessary bother. One day, I fear she will discover the error of her ways. She cannot hide behind her angelic persona forever.

The last technique I will share today is one I call “blocking.” I am facile with this practice, but have taught the technique to the younger Mulligan, due to his accepted proclivity for obtuseness and my clever use of this in human training strategy.

At my prodding, he will stand in front of the television screen or computer screen, staring vacantly, in that way he has, without menace or purpose. The humans will gently ask him to move. I have trained him to always look to me first. (This required endless hours and I find I am still recovering from the weakened state of total exhaustion that communicating with Mulligan requires, but it has achieved dependable results.) At any rate, I am stationed behind my humans when he does this and signal, with my commanding glare, that he remain in place, blocking their view of whatever idiocy has entranced them. Eventually, one of the humans will remove to the kitchen and fetch treats to lure Mulligan away. And, in their blessedly misguided generosity, if one receives treats, we all do.

As with all my training techniques, it works like a charm.

I have so much more to share and will gladly do so at some future time. I can hear my human approaching and must locate Murphy, to prod him into character, mastering yet again his appealing mendicant posture.

Having a well-trained human in the home makes life purrfect.


© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without the author’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors. Thank you, and gentle peace.