Flash was born somewhere in the town of Okotoks, on the edge of the Alberta foothills, and, after what was probably a hardscrabble beginning, ended up at Pound Rescue, looked after by the kindly Gabrielle. Around the same time, I bought an acreage a couple of towns to the west, in high country. It was 10.5 acres of poplars and pasture, a big old house and barn. But no barn cats—that essential part of rural life. So I called Gaby, who just happened to be looking for a home for five black-and-white cats, all related. I agreed, and Gaby arrived with five very frightened, very feral cats. We shut up the barn (no horses at the time) and put out big tubs of cat kibble, water and litter pans, so the cats could spend time getting used to the place and learn to think of it as home base. The hardest part was getting the cats out of the wire cages. Each one had to be tipped and the occupants shaken out. As each one hit the ground, it raced up the wooden walls and disappeared into the rafters. Sometime during the first few days, one of the cats did find a way to escape, but the rest stayed in the barn, and when I opened it up again, they were ready to come out and explore.
After a while, they started showing up around the house, but quickly took off at the slightest hint of movement or noise from inside. They were so fast I couldn’t get a look to tell what gender they were, and gave them names based on their markings: Big Flash, Little Flash, All Black and Chin Dot. They gradually got used to me, didn’t run quite so quickly. Little Flash was the one who hesitated, hung back the longest, was the last to run. She was also the first to let me scratch her back and chuck her under the chin. I always kept food and water on the deck, and when winter came, I put a shelter there with a brood lamp and some old blankets inside, and a litter box in the other corner, out of the wind and snow. They got tame enough to stay inside in the warmth when I slid open the doorwall and put out fresh supplies. In warm weather they still regularly patrolled the barn and the woods around the house, but always knew where to come for the TLC. The first casualty was Big Flash. I never found out what happened to him, probably a red fox, coyote, or a great gray owl, but one day he stopped coming. Eventually it was the same with Chin Dot. Only the scrappy All Black and gentle Little Flash (by then, just Flash) remained. One day Flash showed up with an injured leg. By this time I was able to pick her up, and so managed to get her to the vet. She spent a long time taped up, with stitches, on antibiotics, and ended up staying the entire winter inside, winning everyone’s heart. And she never went back to the wild. A decade later we all moved to Ontario. When I collected the carriers at the Windsor airport, the first one I saw was Flash, her saucer eyes staring back at me. I said, “You OK Flash?” The answer was a long distressed yowl that brought a chorus of descending “Awwww’s” from the entire deplaning crowd. These days, when she’s curled up in my lap, I sometimes remind her that she has come a long way. I ask her, “Did you ever envision all this when we shook you out of that cage so long ago?” The answer this time is contented silence.
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The Cloud Messenger (Meghadūta) is a lyric poem by the respected Indian poet, Kālidāsa. The poem centers around a yaksa in exile. Longing for his beloved, waiting for him on a Himalayan mountain, he asks a cloud to take a message to her. The sights he tells the cloud it will see on its way make up most of the poem.
The idea of recording observations appeals to me. I thought The Cloud Messenger was the perfect title for a blog about the journey that we all make as we move through our days.
I'm a baby boomer who grew up dancing in the streets of Detroit during the classic Motown years, lived beside the Rocky Mountains for many years, now retired and living (and writing full time) in S. Ontario. I have one blog for rock 'n' roll oldies, and one for nature, poetry and life along the Lake.