cats


Spring, spring, beautiful spring.

When all the birds are on the wing.

Isn’t that the silliest thing you’ve ever heard?

I thought the wing was on the bird!

That little ditty appealed to my early grade school sensibilities when I learned it. But each year, unbidden, it rises to my consciousness when the days start getting longer. Signs are everywhere: green tips are pushing from the earth, cats are shedding, my nails are growing faster. But nothing says spring more clearly to me than the trill of the red-winged blackbird.

Although it happens annually, it’s always a surprise when that first “chip, chip” registers in my dormant winter brain. I keep walking past the cattails until I finally am aware, stop myself and say, “They’re here, it’s spring!” while their red epaulettes flash in the sun.

Many years ago, I had a cat, Tee, who camped with me. Tailless, she would arch her back when petted to the point that we would tell her to hump and nicknamed her the humper-doodle. On one trip, we were on the edge of a marsh and the blackbirds kept up a steady stream of their calling. “Listen, Tee, they are calling you! Hump-hump-er-doodle.”

Now, each spring, when I hear that raucous call of the blackbird, I am transported to those days and that cat and it makes me smile. I’m sure, for others, it’s a different cue. What is it that says springs loud and clear to you?

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It was Groundhog Day and I was filled with hope that winter might be over. Looking out the kitchen window as I washed my breakfast dishes, I glimpsed a black cat beyond the compost near the creek. I confirmed mine was inside and wondered if it was the stray black and white cat that had been MIA for a month or so.

Grabbing my binoculars, I started to focus on what became a moving target. Initially, its back was towards me and then it turned to cross my backyard, go up my driveway, across the street, and up my neighbor’s drive into her back ten acres.

All the while, my brain kept registering small bits of information. It was more of a brownish black with no other colors. Its fur was very lustrous, with a full, thick tail that curled up a tiny bit at the end. Its little face looked more like a teddy bear. It was the movement—front feet together, followed by the back—more of a lope that finally brought identification. A fisher!

I watched the beautiful animal with awe, simultaneously grateful that both cats were in the house. Suddenly, it didn’t matter much more whether it would be winter or spring today. It would just be.