I mean, that’s not what’s kept me busy for the past twenty or so days, but it’s a small project I’ve embarked on.
(What did keep me away was an absolute ton of paid writing. It’s hard to write all day and then still feel like I want anything to do with words by the time I’m done. This is especially true when that writing involves hours of researching things like metallurgy and UV-C lighting. By the end of it, my brain is tired and feels like the tail end of a discarded boba tea.)
About a week ago, my S.O. and I found the app Meow Talk. It claimed to be able to record cat noises and translate them into something understandable to humans. I consider myself pretty perceptive when it comes to figuring out what these nerds are trying to say to me, but, admittedly, I was curious. How accurate could a cat recording app really be?
As it turns out, eerily so. It correctly interpreted all his weird little greeting chirps as “Hello.” He also tells the fridge “I love you,” and responds to my attempts to smooch him with “I AM IN PAIN.” Like I said, accurate. Meow Talk isn’t even paying me for this endorsement. I’m just genuinely surprised and tickled that someone was able to interpret my cats weird little trills and yowls. I haven’t yet managed to capture one of his weird 3 AM TED Talks to no one, or the paid mourner-style wailing he does every time we move a piece of furniture, but I’m working on it.
It doesn’t really work on Kiko, but she primarily communicates through touch. If someone makes an app that can turn little paw-taps into human speech, I’d be all over it. So far, I’ve managed to figure out her “please sit by my bowl and watch me eat,” “smooch my head,” and “roll over, I need to nap on your stomach. It’s an emergency” bops, but she’s developed a very robust punching-based language that defies interpretation a majority of the time.
If you have a cat, especially a vocal one, I recommend messing around with the Meow Talk app. It’s fun, if nothing else, and could be informative. Especially if your cat has a weird attachment to appliances.
Some people don’t like the idea of adopting rescue animals, especially adult ones. They worry that they won’t be as trainable as a puppy or kitten — they might have all kinds of behavioral issues and odd quirks from their past home(s).
To be perfectly honest, I’m pretty sure Kiko and Pye were normal before we got them. (At least, I’m reasonably certain that Pye didn’t throw noisy tantrums if you neglected to sit next to him and eat cereal in the morning.)
I don’t know how Kiko could’ve survived otherwise. Her history indicates she was an outdoor cat — undersized, post-partum, a hair’s breadth from losing a leg to gangrene. Now, she taps my forehead to wake me up to watch her eat, will only drink out of a special pink teacup, requires smooches on the head at exactly 11:30 AM, and knows that the sound of me brushing my teeth means it will shortly be Cuddle Time. She won’t eat cat treats — her preferred snacks are strawberry yogurt and butter lettuce. She doesn’t like to walk through the apartment, either — she’ll launch herself face-first at my ankles, cry and hold up a paw as if she’s injured, and make big, sad eyes at me until I pick her up.
Her favorite thing, though, is the exercise bike.
I have a bog-standard stationary bike ever since my cardiologist recommended that I start taking short, easy rides to rebuild my endurance. I don’t know how, and I don’t know when, but Kiko made up her macadamia-sized mind that This Was an Activity of Buddies.
And so, she chubbles.
She sits at the edge of the bed, gazing up at me with her cartoonishly large, round eyes. She knows she has me wrapped around her little white paws, and all she has to do is wait patiently. If I fail to respond, she daintily taps at my knee.
Eventually, I will have to pick her up.
I always do.
I have no idea what she gets out of this. It’s a stationary bike. We don’t go anywhere. There is nothing to see but the bedroom door. She nestles herself into my elbow, flops her head back to mush her face on mine and give me her little :3 smile, and purrs. And she’ll stay like that until I’m done pedaling.
There’s no reason for it. She could be ignoring me, happily cuddling with my partner. The second she hears the telltale boop of my exercise tracker app, she pries herself away to chubble at me. She could be asleep, she’ll wake up. She could be in a different room, I’ll hear the strawberry bell on her collar jingling as she hurries from wherever she’s been hiding. She cannot get enough of turning me into some kind of incredibly inefficient one-person palanquin.
So, yes. Sometimes, when you adopt an older animal, they can be a little weird. Most of the time, it’s in the best way.
A very grumpy and scruffy baby, but that is probably to be expected.
My partner told me that he’d spotted the wee one on the steps. I was so excited to go see, I actually went out without a mask (or shoes, or pants) to check up on them and leave some cat kibble and a bit of water.
Crow fledglings sometimes spend as long as two weeks on the ground. Nine times out of ten, there’s nothing actually wrong with them, they’re just in the awkward stage of learning to fly, growing their adult feathers, and looking like cranky little Halloween decorations that’ve been left in the attic a bit too long. Crow families and the rest of the murder are pretty close-knit, so their parents are usually right nearby to keep an eye on things. Babies have to learn to spread their wings eventually, though, so it’s not at all uncommon to come across a grumpy youngster, feathers all bedhead-ed up, covered in grass and dirt from hitting the ground seventeen times.
I talked to this one a little bit, left the kibble and water, and came back inside. We’ll keep an eye on them and make sure they still appear healthy, alert, and at an appropriate level of cleanliness (well, for a teenager, anyway). If they start looking listless or ill, we’ll get in touch with a wildlife rehabilitator.
For now? Good luck, little one! Hope you and your fam like chicken cereal.
Crows, ravens, and other corvids are A Thing for me — maybe this baby is one of the signs I’m supposed to be expecting?
Literally minutes after I finished writing the previous, I hit “Schedule” and got up to do my usual nighttime ablutions. I’m standing there, trying to rinse the soap out of my eyes because I am a fool who couldn’t properly use a facial brush if my life depended on it, when something suddenly flies into my field of vision.
“Holy crap,” I responded, followed by a, “WHO told you?!” (NB: “Who told you” is how I react to pretty much anything that surprises or displeases me, and also many things that don’t. They are good words for when you don’t have any better ones, like when a moth pings off of the side of your face, lands on your mirror, and acts all huffy about it.)
It was a little brown moth. Not the sort of pantry moth I might’ve expected, though it was equally small and nondescript. If I had to guess, I would peg it as a Macaria aemulataria, though I didn’t really stick around to check its license or anything. I said goodnight, and got into bed.
That’s when I noticed that I had a new email alert on my phone. The Bloggess put up a new post: The silver moth. Her post is beautiful — full of love, kindness to a wayward moth that found its way into a pool, and memories of her grandfather. She talks about moths as representations of faith, and sphinx moths, specifically, as omens of death. It made me curious about my little brown moth. It wasn’t a sphinx, but it might be a good idea to find out if Common Angle Moths are omens of anything unpleasant. The timing struck me, and life doesn’t have many coincidences.
In dreams, brown moths are said to represent love and attraction. Moths, in general, are symbols of faith, transformation, psychic awareness, vulnerability, and adaptation, among other things. To some, they are omens of good luck. To others, bad luck. Coming on the heels of the cards I drew, I was at least happy to see that small brown moths seem to be a sign of more good things than bad… The kind of things I need to hear right now.
I’m grateful to the little brown moth that wandered its way into my bathroom. I’m grateful that The Bloggess rescued that silver moth, and I wish peace and good things for her and her family. I’m happy that I have another little message of hope, even if it did startle the everloving crap out of me and then sit on my mirror and look at me like it was my fault.
I grew up in an area that, by the standards of my home state, wasn’t exactly affluent. Nonetheless, we had the good fortune to be located near a main road that ran from a major city, through my town, out to several areas that were considerably richer than my neighborhood. This street had some really neat shops — excellent restaurants, fantastic consignment and thrift stores, and even a store dedicated entirely to dollhouse miniatures. (I used to go there to get things to outfit the stable my grandpa made for me for my model horses. The man is a wizard with a saw.)
One of my favorite shops was a pet store. It had a room full of friendly, inquisitive parrots of every description, another full of exotic fish and anemones, and plenty of other cages full of exotic animals — hedgehogs, a toucan, I even remember a kinkajou. The shop was run by a very nice family, and, as far as I know, staffed entirely by the owners’ children. All of the animals seemed to be healthy, well cared for, with the kind of outgoingness that comes from regular handling.
My family wasn’t very well off, so going to this pet store was an outing just as much as going to the zoo might be. We rarely bought anything more than a bag of cat or dog food, but it was fun just to walk through and look.
I remember going one year when I was around four or five, maybe six. It was winter, and cold enough that I had on a lavender knit cap, a matching puffy coat, and a set of mittens on a string. I was walking past a row of cages, peeking in to see what my wide tiny child eyes could see.
The cage was large, especially to me, and I don’t know how many it housed. They clambered over the branches suspended between the bars, spun rainbow-colored blocks strung on a jute rope, and sat watching the passing customers with their shiny, shoebutton eyes and fistfuls of half-chewed monkey biscuits in their paws.
I don’t remember how it happened — I wasn’t actually that close to the cage. All I remember is turning away to look at a group of guinea pigs, and seeing a long, slim, black-haired arm snake into my view. A split second later, pairs of tiny hands pulled my hat down over my eyes and yanked me back against the bars. In the tiny sliver of light at the bottom edge of my hat, I could see more pairs of hands, arms, and even a few tails holding my coat.
“Um.” My mouth immediately went dry. I had the sneaking suspicion this would somehow be my fault, and I was almost as afraid of yelling and startling the monkeys into starting up a cacophony as I was of my mom spotting me and starting one at home. “H-help?”
I couldn’t see much, and my arms were stuck out like the kid in A Christmas Story. I was starting to panic, but also worried about struggling and accidentally hurting a monkey. Their little arms looked so spindly and fragile — deceptively so for something capable of restraining an entire kindergartner. I would’ve felt guilty for the rest of my life if I accidentally hurt one. I had also seen enough “U BREAK IT, U BUY IT” signs in other stores to foresee this ending badly. I didn’t know how much a monkey cost, but I knew we couldn’t afford one.
I could feel the panic rising. What if I didn’t manage to get free? What if they stole my hat and I got in trouble for losing it? What if the monkeys tried to eat me? I turned my head frantically, hoping I could clear my vision enough to spot another customer, one of the employees, anyone whose attention I could try to get to help me out of my incredibly dumbass predicament.
Was this a hostage situation? Would they let me go for a banana? I didn’t even know monkey ransom was a thing, let alone had the foresight to bring anything I could use to barter for my freedom. I didn’t think my mom did, either, unless the monkeys were willing to negotiate for some Trident wrappers and half a pack of Marlboro Lights.
It took awhile for my mom to find me. Baffled, she started trying to pull me free before giving up and going to get one of the owners. It took both of them and the work of several patient minutes of prying away tiny fingers to free me, while monkey bedding and the remains of chewed-up biscuits rained down on us. The capuchins seemed to think this was hilarious.
In the end, I did (perhaps unsurprisingly) manage to get free. No monkeys were harmed, and my hat was only slightly unraveled. We still went to that pet store for years afterward, but I did stop wearing hats there.
Part of being Pagan, for me, is seeing the sacred in everything. I’ve seen some people arrive there because they were raised that way. Others arrive there after a crisis. From the unsprouted embryonic leaves in a seed (tiny, but strong enough to split a rock), to the chaotic force of a tornado, there is a majesty and a power in everything.
I am reminding myself of this because I do not want to be an oyster.
Still, as I was shuffling my new copy of The Wild Unknown oracle deck the other day, I had my hopes up. What energy would it help me connect with? A wolf? Lion? Maybe a snake?
(I’ll level with you, this feels like a bit of hypocrisy considering my inward criticism of certain sectors of new age spirituality — like that nobody ever seems to have a dung beetle or a pantry moth as an animal guide.)
I don’t necessarily not want to be an oyster because I think they’re gross or boring, mind. They remind me of a sinus infection and aren’t exactly the kind of thing I’d want to hear Sir David Attenborough discuss at length, but still.
The Wild Unknown describes oysters as patient and persistent, but likely to hide things. They can be shy and withdrawn, and suffer from self-doubt. “When the oyster card appears, it’s important to reveal your inner treasures.” When in balance, oysters are generous and masterful. When they’re not, they are reluctant and silence themselves. To bring things back into balance, making yourself share something helps.
He’s a huge, sweet, orange doofus, albeit a surprisingly bright doofus. He’s learned a number of verbal commands, like “sit,” “up,” and “off” (even if he thinks “off” means “stop what you’re doing and run over to flop your gigantic butt on me”). There is one thing he hasn’t learned, and, at this point, I’m not sure he’s ever going to.
Don’t eat plants.
I don’t have poisonous plants. The only toxic ones I have are those that contain calcium oxalate crystals, and are more accurately described as “really irritating.” I also keep my plants well out of his way.
… Or so I thought, until I walked into the bathroom and spotted one of my lovely spider plant pups laying in the bathtub. Fortunately, they’re neither toxic nor irritating, because this pup was also very chewed.
This spider plant has a ton of offsets, so one isn’t really a great loss. Still, I managed to find it soon enough, and the roots were more or less unscathed, so I figured I’d see if I could save it. Luckily, spider plants are like goldfish plants, ghost plants, and pothos in that they’ll root with a snap of your fingers.
Note: I link to some products here, but I’m not getting compensated for anything. Trust me, I don’t think any of these companies actually wanted to be associated with this idea.
This was not the post I planned to write.
This was not the week any of us planned to have.
Let me start from the beginning.
Neither my S.O. nor I have family in the area. I left the house I grew up in pretty much the second I was legally old enough to do so, and have moved wherever the wind blew me more times than I can count. He left home for college and job opportunities, to pursue his dreams. The end result is that we’re here pretty much alone, though his family has always been just a phone call away when we needed them. Unfortunately, this awesome family sustained a terrible loss.
Tl;dr: With pretty short notice, we had to find a way to get to a funeral in Mississippi.
We looked up plane tickets — $857 worth of no luck.
We looked up Amtrak — 44-odd hours of no luck.
He didn’t want to be away from home for too long if he could help it. I didn’t want to leave our cats alone if I could help it. We’ve had them for a little over a year and, in that time, we’ve discovered that Pyewacket needs more daily mental stimulation than a human toddler, and Kiko has separation anxiety that will make her try to destroy doors and hit the road in a bid for a Homeward Bound-esque reunion. Since they are both rescues, we also didn’t want to put them through the experience of being taken and dropped off in a kennel-like boarding facility. We also haven’t had to use a sitter in the past, so we didn’t really have anyone we knew well enough to trust them with.
(By the way — If anyone tells you cats are independent creatures, laugh at them. Laugh the high, gibbering laughter of the mad.)
We love them, but they are weird, weird animals. Ultimately, we decided that the simultaneously-most-sensible-yet-most-ludicrous solution would be to take the cats on a road trip.
Yeah, I know.
Two cats. Five states. One car.
It should be noted that these nerds hate being in carriers. They had a vet appointment for some boosters and a general yearly checkup two days before we left, where they sat in the waiting room growling at each other, Pye hissed at everything, and the vet came right out and said, “Yeah, this trip? It’s a pretty bad idea.”
Nevertheless, I kept on keeping on with my dumbass plans.
I’m not gonna lie, this was a long, strange journey. My S.O. was a surprise pallbearer. We visited a rad occult shop in Memphis. Mississippi poisoned our car. I’m going to have to break this up to keep it from turning into some kind of novella.