Tuesday, February 3, 2009

My feline side

I seem to have several identities. Some people know me as a writer on spirituality, others see me as an editor and grammarian and former English professor, and many others recall my 2003 book, "Writing with Cats," and think of me as a cat fancier.

To our Lizzie, the cat who inspired the book, I will always be exclusively a cat man. I am the one she mainly plays with each evening. As I do so, I recall the words of one of the many authors who were inspired by their feline companions, Colette: "Time spent with cats is never wasted."

Cats, who seem to be born to do nothing, are generally peaceful creatures who spend their few waking hours in what I call a contemplative trance. As such, they inspire meditation and so are ideal companions on the spiritual journey, as well as on the literary journey, as all the writers who have kept cats would testify.

Writers and cats seem to go together; cats naturally fit in bookstores and libraries. They exude calm and add to the atmosphere we writers need to produce good work. And when we read books, we often turn to books about cats.

One of the most recent is CATSCAPADES: Tales of Ordinary and Extraordinary Cats by Patricia L. Fry, a prolific California writer (Matilija Press, 2009). In this delightful collection of anecdotes, Fry uses her fifty-plus years as a cat fancier to assemble stories of all sorts of cats--traveling cats, adventuring cats, heroic cats, spiritual cats, clever cats, and of course all sorts of amusing ones. She includes the story of a working cat, which would seem to be a contradiction in terms; and there is Gus, the amazing, if reluctant, baby-sitting cat. Although there are no contemplative cats specifically mentioned, they are there by implication in this collection.

Fry,like Mark Twain and many others, melts at the sight of a kitten and simply can't resist stories of special cats she has known and heard about. Especially moving are stories of throwaway cats who made new lives for themselves.

Anyone who loves cats will enjoy Fry's book. Most of my cat-owning friends (that is, friends who serve as staff to their cats) will enjoy these charming and amusing stories of real cats. My only quibble is with the "ordinary" in the subtitle since, as Colette herself declared, "there are no ordinary cats." But, of course, this book (which might inspire me to return to writing more about cats) proves the validity of this dicitum.