View from the North 40: Tuesday and the safe place
March 27, 2020
The second winter after my husband, John, and I were married, we took in a stray cat that showed up on our place. She was a beautiful blue-eyed, sealpoint, Siamese-cross with lots of white markings, and at her heaviest she weighed 7 pounds, but she was all sinew, claws and attitude. Mostly attitude.
Except that first month or so.
We were in the middle of a subzero January cold spell when this emaciated thing came hobbling by me trying very unsuccessfully to catch an unimpressed cottontail rabbit. I talked to the cat, and her joy at finding a human, I think, burned up the last of her energy reserves.
We took the cat in and for the next week she did nothing but eat, drink water, potty and sleep. We named her Tuesday for the day she showed up. At the end of that week she displayed amazing progress in recovery by adding sessions of staring off into space to her list of activities. This went on for a month.
We had bought toys — some with catnip in them. They all sat unnoticed, though we had clearly went into this cat ownership thing with expectations that we would be keeping a young cat occupied inside during the cold winter, that we might bond during our time of playful interaction, that she might cause us to laugh heartily over her antics while she was stoned on catnip.
Not that we thought she owed us entertainment or she had to perform like a court jester to amuse the royal we, but she rarely even blinked at a toy. Even when I balanced one on top of her head. Not my most gracious moment for sure, but I thought of it as a diagnostic test — pupils are normal, but the patient is non-reactive.
And then one day about a month into staring at the middle distance, Tuesday woke up and ruled the world.
Not the whole world, of course, because she was just one tiny cat, but she ruled our world, which became her world. One of the first things she did is come into heat and get pregnant just before we had enough money saved to spay her, so then we had kittens. And somewhere in there, she figured out how to hunt.
Her first big kill was a full-grown cottontail, which was either revenge or just to prove to herself that she could. Either way, she brought the carcass home to the yard, and the head to the kittens which were in our living room enjoying sunshine and fresh air with the door open. I banished cat, kittens and hasenpfeffer to the yard — just before my company showed up at the front door.
Tuesday loved me, tolerated John, grudgingly adopted the dog we got later, and ignored everyone else, except one friend who wanted nothing else than to hold and pet our beautiful cat. Tuesday would antagonize her by never quite letting my friend touch her, always just out of reach like the brass ring or the Girl Scout cookies you hide from your weaker nature at the back of the top cupboard.
She would absolutely not tolerate feral cats on her home turf. Several times I saw her running all out across our field toward home with the feral cat of the month in pursuit — generally half-again or twice her size. The moment she crossed the invisible line to what she felt was her home turf, she would swap ends and face the threat with whatever she needed to bring.
If her pursuer was too close or running too fast to get stopped in time or, worse, unable to recognize her as a true threat, the stray would run full-tilt into a ball of fury. Once the other cat was turned away, she would sit on the border to her kingdom, cleaning her weapons.
Over the years, during times of threat or danger, whether it is a severe storm, personal tragedy or something bigger like 9/11, I think about Tuesday, because my instinct, like hers, has always been to run to my home turf and hold strong, be confident in the face of whatever is coming, be fierce if I have to.
I have thought about Tuesday a lot in the past few months and more so as the threat from the COVID-19 pandemic has come closer to my home.
I’m here, in my safe place, where I’m supposed to be, with my cleaning weapons, hoping to live up to the character of a 7-pound cat.
My heartfelt gratitude goes out to those who answer the call to leave their safe place to meet the threat in the field, at [email protected] .