Friday, September 2, 2016

The post I never wanted to write

Dear Readers,

  With heavy heart I write of the sudden illness and departure of my Beloved feline companion, Oliver. He was one of those remarkable beings who come into our lives and give us the gift of their love and companionship that takes our own heart to a whole new level of awareness and consciousness. 

  He arrived mysteriously, walking out of the woods one day and approached me tentatively. He had been abandoned by his previous person because she had to move and could not take him with her. The landlord found him, locked in a room with an open bag of cat food and brought him to his farm which was about a mile and a half from here, as the crow flies, or in this case, as the cat walks.

  As soon as he arrived, he began asserting himself as the Alpha cat which was kind of amusing because he was not the oldest, nor the largest male here....he was just the one with the most attitude. He kept himself apart from the others in the tribe here and spent much of his time with me, which I enjoyed very much.

  When I made the move to working outdoors more, on my Faerie houses and Environmental sculptures in 2006, he was thrilled and right from the very first sculpture expeditions, he was my happy companion.
Of course we were just starting out together in the process so we were getting our bearings. He had this trick of waiting till I had my face in my camera so I couldn't see him and THEN he'd jump or wander into the frame just as I was about to shoot it. While this was endearing it was not helpful, especially when dealing with fragile items such as dandelion puffs, so we had to have a little talk and got our roles dialed in a bit better.
He listened very patiently while I let him know what was not allowed while I was shooting.

 He never quite fully believed me however and was always offing to help. There were times when he was happy to clean a site for me...
which I appreciated and thanked him for his efforts...but his idea of an ideal location (flat, sandy, warm and rollable) was not always what I thought would make for great backgrounds so we progressed in his job duties.

  During the winter months he often laid by my feet while I worked on building my faerie houses down in the studio. He loved it there and when I realized that the floor was a bit chilly, he got his own chair which he loved to curl up in, even when I was elsewhere. It was HIS chair and no one else dared used it.

  When spring came it would be time to take the houses out into the garden and set them up for glamour shots. First the houses needed to be inspected...
And then when a shoot was taking place he stepped in to help with a little art directing pointing out which way the doors should go or what flowers to use in the decorations...which was very helpful.

Spring would turn to summer and he'd go with me on foraging trips and was always happy to just doze in the sunshine while I worked on a piece or while I was gathering materials.
But if a twig snapped or a bird ventured near, he was all alert in an instant ready to engage with whatever was showing up in our space.
It's hard to tell which season he loved the most. Spring he adored, of course. He was never shy about water and sometimes I'd find him wading in puddles or at the edge of a pond well up to his elbows and hocks. Summer was for lazy naps and chasing mice and frogs whenever possible. Autumn was another favourite time because he loved the crisp air, the freedom from pesky mosquitoes and the beautiful sunsets which we'd watch together often from the bench overlooking the valley.

   But winter was also a time he relished.

 I've never known a cat to enjoy snow as much as he did. He'd plow into the new snowfalls, head down, front feet forward and let it spill over him as he pushed forward like a plow tilling a field. He just loved the winter and would be happy when I tossed him an icicle to play with.
He'd get all wound up the way cats do and he'd go a little crazy with his snowplay...just like a little kid.
But eventually we'd have to get back to work and he'd be ever so helpful with his critiques of my latest efforts....he was a very chatty cat and what I will miss most (besides his exceptionally affectionate purring cuddles) are all the verbal conversations we used to have. He literally would chat back and forth with me...but I never quite got the nuances of his comments, sadly.

This past spring and summer was a difficult time for us both. I was working on my book and not outdoors as much as we were used to being together. I knew he was unhappy with not having his play buddie to entertain and impress. I was unhappy about not sharing high quality time with him, but writing the book just went far slower than it was supposed to and took longer than it should have. On the times when I did venture into the garden and he'd be waiting for me, I could see his disappointment with the situation.
But like so many busy people, I thought we still had lots of time ahead of us. I thought we'd get thru this and then there would be years more of adventures to share and journeys to take together...but sadly, he had a secret brewing in his liver and he didn't let me know about it until it was too late. I brought him in to the vet on the 24th and she let me know that it was probably not treatable. I was in total shock and despair...which is not a good place to be in if you need to act quickly and try other options. He still looked so good and despite a few changes which were completely reasonable to expect in an older cat, still seemed "himself"...and he enjoyed keeping track of what I was doing in the garden.
This image was taken last week-end, just 4 days after his diagnosis. We were on track for some intensive alternative therapy work and fabulous supplements and products were ordered to help fight his cancer. I was very hopeful. Animal communicators were very all seemed like we had every chance of at least extending his life a little bit, but alas, on Wednesday his condition changed, and by Thursday morning it was clear that his body was no longer able to support his big Spirit. He passed peacefully in my arms in the garden on a gorgeous late summer afternoon.

I cannot imagine life without him...and I know he will visit me in Spirit when he can...but the suddenness of this loss is very sharp right now and my grief is very deep. He brought such joy and delight with him when he walked out of the woods 14 years ago and I never took our time together for granted. I just wish I had not been so distracted this early summer with the book project. I might have seen the subtle clues that he was not well....but I can't linger too much on the "what ifs" is done. He has made his transition, and on a day of a powerful solar eclipse too so there is perfection in all of this, even if I can't see or accept it fully right now. For me, my heart is just hurting and I need to give the process full measure and the respect it deserves because grieving a loss well is how we get over/through it best.

   I love you Oliver, Blessed Be.





Marili Deandrea said...

Dear Sally,

thanks for sharing your beautiful adventure with Oliver.
I live with 3 cats and can perfectly understand what you're going through.
He was a happy, lucky creature. It's time for crying now but remember that he will always be with you.


Sally J Smith, Environmental Artist said...

Thank you Marili,

Yes I agree that the feelings need to cycle in their own time. It's like a storm on the mountains, you cannot make it come or go, you just need to let it rain, and when it is done, the sun will return. Thank you so much for your very kind words. In the same way that they are still with us, kind thoughts and words from one another keep us all connected in mutual support and understanding...your generosity of spirit is always a shining example of such thoughtfulness, thank you! And Blessings on your feline friends!

hugs in return,


PS...could you send me an email sometime, I'd like to ask you something....

msmarilyngray said...

I am so very sorry for your loss. Your story was so moving, I could almost feel your feelings. They say time will heal, but I have found that you never really 'heal', you just get used to the idea. Best to you for the future and thank God for your sweet little kitty that shared so much of your life!

Naviana said...

Oh dear, sorry for your loss, things like this are the saddest ever. At least I feel that the loss of a cat is like loosing a very dear person. I've grieved for my cat for some months now, he died in june. It was totally heartbreaking, and the truth is, I still miss him incredbly much. After he died I made a little landart flower tribute funeral for him :) Perhaps you would like to see it?

Marlyss said...

Beautiful tribute.

Sally J Smith, Environmental Artist said...

Thank you MsMarilyngray,

You are so kind to write. Yes, having Oliver here was a real blessing and it will just take time to get used to this "unfamiliar spaciousness" as someone called this time of letting go. Thank you for your thoughtfulness.


Sally J Smith, Environmental Artist said...

Thank you Naviana for your lovely words. I did visit your blog and saw your tribute to your beautiful kitty Link. He looked like a Fairy gift! We are so fortunate to have these beautiful, amazing creatures come and share their lives with us. Your words touched me deeply and I hope your Plum tree is flourishing. Link was a very special kitty, that is clear, and your love honors him. I don't think we ever stop missing them, it just gets a little easier to live without them. I hope he has visited you in a dream...or let you know that he is fine...they do that sometimes.

Thank you so much for sharing your story...Blessed Be

Naviana said...

Thank you for sharing your very kind words with me. I know you truly know how it feels to loose such a beloved companion. I love what you wrote to me: "Each act of grace and kindness that we give to Earth's creatures affects all of the Earth." I do indeed dream of him often, the dreams have been beautiful and has been quite comforting to me. Blessings back to you! <3

Welcome to the enchanted world of Environmental art and Faerie Houses sculptures created by Sally J Smith. Here you will find photos of the artist's unique art-forms and hear some of the stories from behind the scenes as she shares with you her creative process.