Last Saturday’s posting announced a companion book to A Cat’s Life: Dulcy’s Story, which I’ve been promoting on this blog since December 8 of last year. The first book gave birth to the second. How? Through the wisdom of an editor.
Way back in April 1991, this prospective editor for A Cat’s Life wrote me she’d be interested in the manuscript but only if I deleted half of the 42,000 words. I did and Crown subsequently published Dulcy’s first book in September 1992.
Drawing by Judy J. King from A Cat’s Life: Dulcy’s Story.
The remaining words have languished on the computer since that time. I tried to breathe life into them three times, but that same editor found them wanting. Years passed and the editor left Crown before I finally hit upon an idea that worked for me. However, it didn’t work for any editors or agents I queried. None of them even asked to see the manuscript.
Ultimately, I titled the manuscript Twelve Habits of Highly Successful Cats and Their Humans by Dulcy and Dee Ready and decided to publish through Wayman, a new press that offered publication. In her second book, Dulcy suggests to fellow cats twelve habits that can make their lives with humans and with one another the nirvana they longed for. Following each habit is a short reflection I’ve written to show how Dulcy’s habit has influenced my life. Twelve habits; twelve stories purred by Dulcy; twelve reflections mulled by me.
Today, I’d like to give you a sample of Dulcy’s writing and also of mine. She titles her eighth habit “Accept the Inevitable.” To illustrate her contention that a great gulf exists between the inevitable and the merely intolerable, she inserted a poem detailing her response to my attempt to convert the two cats with whom I lived to vegetarianism.
Dulcy rebelled. Becoming a feline vegetarian was not inevitable, only intolerable. She purred her disgruntlement in the following poem:
Where is my food?
My giblets with gravy?
My liver with sauce?
My tuna with oil?
My beef with its broth?
I won’t taste these pellets.
These are not good hors d’oeuvres—
To one whose fine palate
Knows real haute cuisine.
So give me my food,
My gravy, my beef.
I won’t eat these nuggets.
I won’t stoop to bawl,
But give me delectables,
Or give nothing at all.
Dulcy incorporats this poem into her text for the habit. I follow her text with my own. Here’s my take on Habit 8.
How can we recognize the inevitable as opposed to the intolerable? Dulcy seems so sure of the difference. She saw Bartleby and the love I felt for him as inevitable. But when I brought a third cat into our household, she found this intolerable and disappeared into the pantry for an entire year. Daily she crouched on a shelf there. She left it only to go outside.
For one year she did not talk to me or lie on my lap or lick my fingers. Her message was clear: “Living with Tybalt is intolerable.” And so I gave him to a farmer who later called and said that Tyb was a great mouser.
I have not always been so sure of the difference between inevitable and intolerable. Twice I almost had a nervous breakdown because I accepted as inevitable the conditions under which I was living and working.
But when I let silence surround me and listened to the stirrings of my heart, to the instinct I had for survival, I realized that staying in these situations was not inevitable. The work was merely intolerable. I could leave; I could change the furniture of my life.
What is inevitable? What must happen? Children growing up? Yes. Our bodies slowing down? Yes. Aging? Yes. Death? Yes. Time takes its toll on bodies. They break down, rust out, die. All that is inevitable. And perhaps one other thing is inevitable—love, freely given, abounds in possibilities.
Love can have all the life-giving force of a rain shower. It can help us grow and blossom into all we were meant to be. It can help us flower. The result of a love that is given freely and unconditionally is growth in the spirit.
That growth is inevitable. As the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins says, “It will flame out, like shining from shook foil.” Dulcy believes that the great god of cats calls us to fields of love. That, too, is inevitable.
There you have it—a sample from Dulcy’s companion book Twelve Habits of Highly Successful Cats and Their Humans and a sample also of Dulcy’s wit with regard to her life experience and the philosophy flowing from my own.
Purr and peace to you.