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A fresh new year has arrived and with it very little in the way of cheery outlooks for topics we hear about when we turn on the computer, radio or TV. During our annual Timberjay Christmas break, I …
A fresh new year has arrived and with it very little in the way of cheery outlooks for topics we hear about when we turn on the computer, radio or TV.
During our annual Timberjay Christmas break, I delighted in leisurely mornings with coffee and my three cats, Rainy, Lil’ Bit and Grady. I lounged in my LL Bean flannel nightgown until noon on many days talking to them and enjoying the loveliness of my Christmas tree with its white lights and beaded heirloom decorations. I watched some good movies and enjoyed TV shows such as Yellowstone and Bridgerton. I also watched the birds at the feeder, joined by my indoor cats who love to watch them, too. I have been teaching my youngest cat Grady some new words like “no, down, water, paws, poop” and even “egg”. How entertaining it was one day while he watched me peeling eggs. He was so curious about the egg shells so I let him bat them around a bit before giving them a toss....since I am not a garden mulcher. Then, while seated elsewhere to look through my mail, I spoke about the egg project and he eagerly dashed right back to the bowl of eggs. Having been the owner of ten (mostly shelter) cats throughout the years since 2003, I am sure this little guy can be taught many words. He is an exceptionally intelligent cat in comparison to others I have had as roommates. In addition to wanting to learn to make egg salad and eat it, too, he is an extremely loving boy. In fact, I wonder if he isn’t the reincarnated Casanova or a past lover of mine! It’s the way he extends his front paws to touch my face and nuzzle my neck, licking to an extreme...if I were to let him, that causes me to wonder. He can be quite a spectacle, yet I adore him and am trying to get him to calm himself a bit. All of my cats do calm me, expecting little in return.
Northern Minnesota’s cold and isolating winters are a gift to those of us who enjoy quiet reflection. The past year brought deaths and departures of men and other friends who were in my life, with some that lacked the closure I hoped for. I am a person who likes to amend difficult situations that arise between people, but not everyone is like me. By the time the holidays arrived, I was feeling like an old Christmas card that loses its glitter after being shuffled around. I confer with the fact that I am unable to change the opinions and often misguided beliefs of other people and am practicing “The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck,” a favored listen on Audible. Like my sister says about those who hold gripes and grudges, “Some people just chew and chew on things for a very long time.” Chewing is noisy and I want to be at peace while retaining some of my glitter, and all of my humor. A hearty toast to 2022!
This past Sunday night, the last night of my vacation, I sat in my office nook just off the kitchen until the wee hours. I was nestled in the wine-colored wing back corner chair I once purchased from a woman on Ely’s Echo Trail for $15. To recall how I met the chair is always comical, with the visuals of two women in the dark trying to wedge it in my small car. When I saw it on Facebook’s Marketplace at 8:30 p.m. one night, I decided I had to have it and sped off to Ely from Soudan. I’ve often done spontaneous things like this. So, in the dim lamp light sitting in that chair, I was having a conference with myself the way we often do at the start of a new year. The conference gave way to rich moments, starting with a cat jumping up to settle in. I was holding the Icelandic Lopi wool sweater my mother knit back in the 70s. It has draped the back of my desk chair since her passing in 2012, being held in permanent hug position by one of its ornate silver buttons. It is too small for me to wear but purposeful with the soothing aura it lends. I raised it to my face and discovered it still holds a trace of some fragrance mixed with the lanolin of sheep’s wool. With one hand I was petting Grady while he slept in my desk chair near my propped feet...curled up in the green knit blanket I bought on the island of Inishmore. The blanket always brings back the beautiful memories of a trip to Ireland just as mom’s sweater brings memories of her. My conference ended with this truth - I am so happy to have so many wonderful memories that lay the groundwork for positive beginnings in this new year.
Living man-free now with just my cats, hats, patterned chairs and organized commotion, I have learned much about who I am and I accept myself as basically a “good egg”....to use a once-favored expression. It’s great to be comfortable in my own skin. These days I don’t have to cook for anyone else, clean house as much, or explain where I am going or why. How I spend my money is my own decision, too. I grin with delight when I go to bed...no longer shoved to one edge and jammed between a snoring partner and intensely cuddling cats only to hurl myself from bed and failed attempts at sleep to flee to another bedroom for space and stillness. Sports events no longer blare from a volume-hiked TV and on a personal note: I never have to quip, “Stay offa’ them nips!”
Cats are my balm and calm. There is no way you can look at a drowsy or sleeping cat and feel any tension. Animals have emotions and you see them expressed in so many ways, just look at their eyes and it is obvious. A cat will never be insulted if you refer to it as black, white or Siamese. A dog might however, but I adore dogs, too! Cats know who they are. You don’t have to tip-toe around issues with cats or question their motives. They belong to no political parties. Their constant presence and lack of concern for anything outside of their world can greatly reduce stress for us humans and there are studies that support this.
The recent death of animal activist Betty White has prompted what is being called “The Betty White Challenge,” a fundraising event slated for this coming Jan. 17, which would have been her 100th birthday, encouraging people to make a donation ($5 suggestion) to animal shelters or rescues in her name. It’s a wonderful idea and has gone viral. If you are interested in donating, see the shelter addresses at the end of my column. You can also find places online, but like anything else, beware of scammers that are posting fake sites to take your money. I was impressed and touched to learn about Betty White. In addition to being an actress with a long-running career, she had a lifelong love of animals. Throughout her long life she supported numerous animal-related nonprofits through adoption, donations, volunteering, fundraising, and recording public service announcements. She also served on the board of trustees for the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association.
I will be taking up “The Betty White Challenge” next Monday, Jan. 17 and making my donation.
Lets give back to our beloved animal friends. They have been with us through the COVID pandemic, deaths, celebrations, and our daily struggles. Animals are our true friends.
Here are some local agencies that assist pets in need.
• Contented Critters: 1939 Old Hwy 1, Ely MN 55731, 218-638-2153
• Mesabi Humane Society: 2305 Southern Drive, Virginia MN 55792, 218-741-7425
• Precious Paws Humane Society: 101 1st Ave SW, Chisholm, MN 55719, 218-254-3300
• Range Regional Animal Rescue: 11215 Hwy 37, Hibbing, MN 55746, 218-262-1900
• Contented Critters-Makinen: 4986 Town Line Road, Makinen, MN 55763
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