This is a castle:
This is a cat:
That is actually my cat, Taffy, lounging in the driveway, using a rock as a pillow. It doesn’t look comfortable at all, but that’s Taffy.
I was thinking about the qualities of Patience last week because I got a call from a friend of a friend, who had discovered four feral kittens, all black as night, on the loose in her neighborhood and needed help in trapping them. She knew that I’m a cat-catcher from way back, so the next evening I loaded up my traps in my car and drove six miles to meet her and several other concerned cat people who wanted to get these kittens into safe homes. If you remember, trapping feral cats is how I got Taffy in the first place, him and every other cat who has called Top Cat Manor home. (Currently, there are eight cats ruling this roost, and I’ve trapped every one of them.)
So I set four traps and I ask everyone to back away, to give the kittens room to roam. As it turns out, they aren’t four kittens — they are three kittens and a very young mama cat.
For the first four minutes, the kittens sniff at the food that we use as bait for the traps, they pad cautiously around the contraptions, trying to figure out how to get the food. . .
. . . and nobody can stop talking and fidgeting, worrying about how the traps might not work, how the kittens might be too scared or too dumb to figure them out, how horrible it will be if we don’t catch them, etc etc etc, suggesting that we move the traps closer together, further apart, on the other side of the property, use different food, etc etc etc. Some people tried to entice the kittens with their own food, to hand-feed them to grab them bare-handed. Someone ran home to fetch Portuguese tuna fish, which is supposed to be the very thing no cat can resist.
Everyone who had never trapped cats before (and no one there had ever trapped cats before) could not keep still, or quiet.
And that’s when I noticed that, contrary to what I’ve always thought about myself as a person always in a hurry, I do have great patience. You need great patience to catch cats. You need to watch, and wait, and be calm and careful, which I am, for however long it takes to catch a cat.
You need the same kind of patience to build a castle, as I am going to show you today.
You can see the obvious appeal of this little castle illustration that I found in a children’s book from 1924:
Those towers were a fun challenge to make:
And pointy roofs!
I must have spent an hour trying to get those side towers, because their roofs would not work until I figured out that they had to be faceted, and not smooth as in the illustration:
Beware the people who draw castles, for they are not limited by real life and real physics, so they tend to illustrate impossible constructions.
When the castle was complete, I put it on a small platform in the middle of its book-base:
Then I tried to come up with a way that the pages of the book could shape the hill on which the castle perches:
But I could not come up with anything that worked. So I pulled the castle away from its base, and I decided to cut into the book itself:
I didn’t feel bad about destroying this book. I chose the book because it came into our used book store in deplorable condition — the binding was shot (I had to glue it back in place) and the dust jacket was gone, and it was stained and shabby…which made it worthless as a collectible, but valuable to me as a perch for a castle.
It’s not a book that I would have liked much anyway, even if it had been in perfect condition. The book is a first edition, 1976 copy of Roots, which is a book I don’t like because I don’t like plagiarists and I don’t like liars. In 1978 Alex Haley lost in court in a suit brought by Harold Courlander, an author from Bethesda, Md., who contended there were substantial similarities between Roots and his own earlier novel, The African. The settlement was kept secret, but rumored to be several hundred thousand dollars.
Alex Haley also claimed that the story of Roots came from his maternal grandmother’s recollections of an ancestor’s journey from Gambia in West Africa to slavery in America, but when it was proved by the Times of London that hHaley had fictionalized much of the tale, Haley issued a mealy-mouthed statement that his book was truthful as “a symbolic history of a people.”
So I felt just fine cutting up this book:
Last week at the used book store, we got an old copy of The Goebbels Diaries. It’s a collection of the writings of Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda. I’m going to feel A-OK cutting up the words of a Nazi.
As for the cat catching, we caught the mama cat and two of her babies within 15 minutes. I took them home with me, and they were picked up the next morning by volunteers from a near-by rescue.
It took three more days to catch the last kitten, who was the runt of the litter. We assumed it was a “she” because tiny as she was, she was able to survive on her own for those days so she was obviously was the smartest of them all. Oh! I can’t tell you how heartbreaking it was to watch her, day after day, come around looking for food and family, this teeny little thing alone in the world.
By the time we caught her she had become famous in the neighborhood, so she was immediately adopted by the daughter-in-law of one of the home owners in the area. She was taken to a vet, who confirmed she was a she, and she now lives with two other cats who treat her like their own babies and a very accepting Labrador Retriever.
She also as a new name. She’s called Velvet.
As if that weren’t enough to celebrate, the world was also gifted with the simultaneous conviction of Paul Manafort and the guilty plea of Michael Cohen.
It’s been a great week for America and four black cats.
Have a fabulous weekend, everyone. May all your quests have happy endings.