Too Much Information On How To Have Fun With Cats on Rainy Days.

It’s 20 degrees F here on the north shore of Long Island (that’s a billion degrees below freezing in Celsius I think) and Taffy is out back, under the dogwood tree, rolling around in his favorite dirt bath. The sad thing is, Taffy’s the smart one.

Oh, well. You gotta stay true to your code.

Steve, on the other hand, involuntarily took a little bath last Friday because, Hoo boy, what a week. Bitter cold, then pouring rain, then thaw, then snow, then back to bitter cold. It was the rain that had me fretting AS USUAL about the Steve Situation by the front stoop, not least because I knew I’d have to haul out the bale of hay (again) and change  out his damp nesting material for new, clean, dry stuff (again). I was not raised on a farm, or in a barn. I can’t tell the difference between hay and straw, but let’s say it’s hay and hay is messy, especially in a house.

Hay also tends to break into teeny pieces that lodge in the sleeves and pant legs of one’s clothing in order to pierce and stab you from many simultaneous directions. Hay is Nature’s fiberglass. I am not at all fond of hay.

The good news is that on that very same drenching day I got a soggy parcel delivered to my doorstep that made my day shine bright and, well, bright:

What would I do without the internet? I found these “stackable” lucite end tables for sale in Massachusettes (for a price that I haven’t told Top Cat about) and they are just the thing I need to solve the Steve Situation. Now, as you can see from the photo, these pieces are total crap as “end tables” (unless you’re a Hobbit) BUT repurposed as modular cat housing, these end tables are JUST THE THING.

After I had pawed all the old, damp hay out of Steve’s nest and re-stocked it with new, dry, hay, I installed Steve’s special outdoor heating pad into its cat-shaped hammock position. I then took the smallest “end table” and wedged it back against the rear wall of Steve’s Situation:

Next, I stacked the next-largest “end table” against that first unit:

The third and largest “end table” is positioned so that it forms a little vestibule so that rain will never again slosh off the stoop and run down into Steve’s Situation:

Naturally, after Steve inspected the new digs . . .

. . . he refused to enter it to get out of the rain. Not while there was still day light, and not while I was looking. But lo, when I checked up on him the next morning I discovered that Steve does have sense enough to come in out of the rain after all.

One thing I’ve learned about Steve is that he needs to be able to have a 360-degree view out of his Situation, hence the clear lucite, because he needs to stay on the look out for killer cat ladies, because he’s THAT stupid.

The “end tables” work! The Steve Situation is dry as a martini and this joke:

On the other hand, you have different fingers.

Steve is not amused.

And then it snowed and I did not lose sleep, knowing that my Steve was in a good Situation.

Edwin Hawkins

Aug. 19, 1943 – Jan. 15, 2018

No man ever put 12 words to better use. He almost makes me believe. Somebody say “Amen.”

What is it about obits? Why are they the best source of information about people who you wish you’d known more about? For instance, I read about Barkley Hendricks in the New York Times’ year-end obit wrap-up:

NYT:  For 38 years, Barkley Hendricks, a renown African-American portrait artist who died in April 2017, began his Art classes at Connecticut College (USA) by asking each student to bring in three small objects that meant something to them. The items varied, but he dubbed this the bottle-shoe-and-plate project, because these were the objects most students chose.

Over the semester, the students would draw and redraw them — in different styles, in different media, in different orders — until he was satisfied. While each student worked, he circled the room, clutching his thermos of tea with honey and lemon, peering at their papers. He was known to harangue students for not-perfectly-rounded teacups or loudly harrumph at overdramatically shadowed plates. “You’re in college,” he would chide those who disappointed him.

It was a class people cried in.

Barkley Hendricks did not pant still lifes. He painted portraits. Go figure.

I don’t know if this is a great or a terrible way to teach painting. But I think I’m pretty OK with the concept that learning to paint should be painful. Lord knows my learning curve has not been the least bit fun and you know how misery doesn’t like to drink and whine alone (it loves company).

If you remember, my most recent source of artful misery was this:

It now looks like this:

I painted the shadows blue, and blue does not pick up well in reproduction — it looks darker in person. Just saying.

Next Friday, I will be painting my final picture of Claude Monet’s Giverny garden:

Oh, happy day when all the Monet garden pix are done!

Until then, keep doing what makes you happy . . .

. . . stay true to your code.

Keep Being YOU.

And for Heaven’s sake, Australia, stay cool (like Taffy).

23 Comments, RSS

  1. Kirra

    You are a genius cat carer Vivian! Those clear tables worked a treat for Steve. Taffy looks very happy!

    Sorry to hear about your cold weather variations, we have been rather hot today (42 degrees C = 107 degrees F), so staying inside with air-conditioning is the best, plus reading my new book about Jane Austen. And reading your blog full of snow photos!

    I like your shadows on the bridge, good luck with the final painting. If Mr Hendricks taught people how to paint/draw well then maybe his method is okay. At least they only had three objects to obsessive over, and they got to choose them.

  2. Megan

    Taffy made my day, he’s just plain gorgeous! Glad you had a breakthrough in the Steve situation, too bad he’s worried about killer cat ladies, he is very handsome though… Yes still stinking hot here in Aus. Oh and I think that is straw not lucerne hay… straw is vicious, very pointy and got at getting into your clothing. Still it is a small price to pay for a happy Steve, he must be happy you are his cat butler. Have a great weekend.

  3. Bunny

    That is one beautiful situation you have created for that adorable lucky boy. He should thank you endlessly each and every day you prepare his favorite meals, I’m betting he gets three squares a day at least!
    I love the way you have captured the foot bridge with the extra color, IMHO, it picks that picture up to a TEN.
    Thanks for the cute pics of that happy Taffy.

  4. Christine

    You are so good! Bless Steve’s fuzzy kitty heart…he’s got Woody Robinson’s face, so what are you going to do but care for him in any way he will allow?

    Am feeling color-starved in this bleak midwinter, so thanks for the bright painting, which helped.

    Hope your birthday was glorious:)

  5. Casey

    Taffy takes my heart today. I just have to find a patch of dirt that is big enough for me to scootch around in, and I’ll be as happy as that blissed out boy.

    I love the color of your Monet bridge. You’ve captured the spirit of the place and if it was a poster I’d hang it in front of my desk and take a mental dirt bath every day. I am looking forward to seeing you finish your last painting, but sad that there will not be more Monet-inspired Vivian paintings! It’s been grand watching you paint the most beautiful garden in the world.

    At least Mr. Hendricks didn’t make his students paint self portraits all year long. If I ad to paint the same three objects over and over I’d choose a tea cup, a saucer, and a cat. I don’t think I’d ever get bored, or cry. Jean-Michel Basquiat didn’t go to college, he just had art inside him and made it happen. But, he’s a genius, so I guess the rest of us have to take classes.

  6. Deborah Hatt

    It’s good to see all the painting bits in your weekly blogs of late. And of course, I enjoy hearing all your kitty news. Well, you may not be a farm girl, but I am, my dear, so I can help you with the whole hay/straw thing.

    Straw is what is left-over after grain is harvested (wheat, oats, rye, barley, etc.), and it is used for animal bedding, spreading on your lawn when you want to sprout new grass, etc. What you have there for Steve is good ol’ straw. It is clean, slippery, and free of bugs. Bravo, O noble kitty lover, for you chose wisely!

    Hay is dried alfalfa, timothy grass, and clover, which is strictly used for animal feed. Hay makes great horse feed and fodder for cows, and it smells like summer; but hay is very bad to use for bedding, as it is full of mites, spiders, and sometimes mold and mildew (if it is bad hay). People who use hay in their dog and kitty houses end up with pets riddled with mites, bites, and skin fungus – ick!

    So, there you have it, dear Vivian. This has been a public service announcement, to all kitty lovers who hope to shelter the wayward little rascals. Buy Straw …. never Hay.

    Happy Trails!

    • Vivian

      Public service indeed! Thank you for sorting out the Hay v. Straw situation for me and untold numbers of cat people (about a dozen, but don’t tell any one) who are part of Steve’s World here. I did not know that hay actually had ingredients, but it sound delicious, except when it’s moldy and then it is truly disgusting. I guess horses who eat hay also eat spiders? Really? Well well well…this world is full of surprises.

      Do what Deborah says. Buy Straw, Never Hay, even if hay is more expensive and you’re like me and think that spending more money on your kitties always buys them extra good stuff.

  7. Becky

    Taffy ‘s actions speak of pure joy. How can you not smile when you look at his absolute pleasure.
    I love your strategy for keeping Steve dry….although he is stubborn I think he appreciated it….he is certainly determined to do things his way,

    That was an interesting assignment to draw the same 3 objects over in different mediums and styles….it would really make you look at the object. Sometimes you think you see something when in reality you don’t see it at all.

    Your Monet’s garden makes me smile on these freezing cold days. I am working on winter scenes….my mind seems to gravitate towards whatever season we are in. But I love the garden pictures.

    • Vivian

      I agree that you don’t really see and object until you paint it, but painting the same items over and over again must make you either really love the thing, or hate it with a white-hot fever.

      I’ve painted Monet’s garden approximately 100 times, counting the bits that I’ve had to re-do over and over. I can’t say that I’ve loved the experience, but it HAS made me observe it in minute detail and I feel as if I would know it blindfolded.

  8. Very clever solution to the Steve Situation! It’s modular housing!

    I know the Edwin Hawkins Singers from working with Melanie on her “Candles in the Rain” album from 1970 or so. Remember that? “Lay down, lay down, lay it all down…”

    • Vivian

      I do indeed remember the Melanie song. It’s about Woodstock — I always forget that she performed there, at 11pm on a rainy Friday night.

  9. Peace of mind does not come cheaply…but it is so worth it. Clever you, lucky Steve. It is great that you figured out this cat needs a room with a view!

    If he were human, Taffy would probably partake in a polar bear plunge. He looks as happy as if it were the middle of summer. Sweet kitty.

    The bridge is wonderful. I love how your painting has evolved.

    I think Barkley Hawkins would have been a kinder teacher if he had something other than honey and lemon in his thermos.

    • Vivian

      Peace of mind is often expensive…but worth every extravagant penny. Thank you for the compliment about the bridge — if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again until you’re just sick of trying.

      A thermos of Long Island Iced Tea always puts me in a kinder, gentler mood.

  10. Your little cat shelter reminded me that we once adopted a stray cat. We called him Boris. He never spent the night in the house. Instead we got him a kennel. I placed it near the back door and immediately he stepped inside it, snuggled down and fell asleep. He knew straight away that it was for him. For almost ten years he slept there and then one night he didn’t come home…

    • Vivian

      Dear Sweet Boris. Let’s hope that, like all the feral/stray cat’s I’ve known, Boris had a second “Plan B” family who was able to catch him one day and took him inside and put him on a featherbed in front of a roaring fire, and that’s where he dreamed away the rest of his days.

      Cats. It’s not easy.

  11. I know one shouldn’t pick favorites but I’m having quite the Taffy crush. Biggest sigh — that is one happy cat, divinely dirty and proud of it! I’m so glad you were able to create such a good set-up for Steve. That should work very well with the 360 view, heat and hay. And after zero and below, 20 is practically a heatwave!

    Love the shadows. Just the right amount!

    • Vivian

      Taffy is the best-mannered, smartest, and sweetest-smelling of all my cats. Somehow he manages to brush off his dirt bath before he comes inside, because he likes to be held and smooched, and he’s never grimy when I oblige.

    • Vivian

      I’ve been working on Steve for three years, trying to get him to take a little kitty treat (that he loves) from me, but so far he still regards my outstretched hand with horror. Oddly, it only makes me looooove him more.

  12. Your painting is wonderful!
    Does anyone tell you that you are a cat lady. What a heart for those furr babies. Lucky Taffy and Steve that you understand them so well.

    • Vivian

      Thank you, Marilyn! There was a time that I feared I’d be the Cat Lady of the world, but then I met a neighbor who rides herd on 24 cats, so, whew.

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