Friday, October 27, 2017

Slow Glass, Ash and Me

Christine had said often as our cat Ashley showed signs of age and decline that he might not be with us much longer. I didn't argue, but I compartmentalized the concern and focused on taking care of him and just sharing the world with him.

Ash was not given to reach out with a paw and grab your arm for attention as our other cat, Oliver, is wont to do. He'd sit on your lap quietly in the evenings, facing away. Or he'd call out from the edge of the bathtub in the morning a minute before the alarm went off, hoping to have the tap turned on to a trickle so he could drink fresh, directly from the faucet.

In the days after his passing, I've found myself racking my brain, dredging for memories, specifics, wanting to hold on and realizing so much of life is day-to-day routine, and it's sometimes hard to pull moments from that. 

As mentioned in an earlier post, Ash showed up just after Hurricane Rita sent wind and rain into Northeast Texas in 2005, so he was with us 12 years. At first he was not adopted. At first we ran a newspaper ad seeking his owners. He'd been neutered and cared for at some point but later neglected it seemed. 

While we waited for someone to turn up, he stayed outside, and feeling vulnerable since he was blind in one eye; he'd sequester himself in the woods just on the outside of our wooden fence. If we stepped out the back door, he'd slither under the fence and charge to greet us. 

Those little mad runs are etched in my mind as are other moments, but I guess in grief in the desire to find all of 12 years immediately, I was hit with frustration and a lot of things including Rod McKuen poems resurfaced.

"The mind is such a junkyard," McKuen wrote in one poem, and I can confirm that. Sometimes I can watch a show I saw in the '60s and recite next lines. 

For other things, like a cool autumn evening sitting on a patio in Texas with Ash at my side, the mind's a little harder to access without things to jog it. 

Of leaves and memory

"I remembered today, that among the silly things you saved was a brown-and-yellow leaf. I shook out every book I owned to find it. Still it's lost..." - Another McKuen poem.

I read McKuen as a teen, disregarding teachers who dismissed him and longed for me to read Shelly, Browning or T.S. Eliot. Perhaps the lines were maudlin and purple, but the introvert I was, struggling to wrangle the depths of my feelings and contemplations, found resonance.

And that line came back to me. I've felt like that, doing the same seeking of intangible moments. I had to comb my office for a disk of photos. I had tucked it into my backpack during Hurricane Irma in case we had to evacuate here in Orlando. I took it out again before heading to Vegas, again to keep it safe, but I failed to tuck it back into the CD file box again with useless game disks that no longer work.

Finally I turned it up and fired up an old laptop and looked through snapshots and video clips.

I was reminded of a Marvel comic magazine I read for a while as a kid, Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction. It adapted Bob Shaw's "The Light of Other Days" then used the concept from that story, slow glass, as a framing device for future issues of the anthology comic.

With slow glass, instead of looking straight through a pane, light passes through slowly. A piece of glass exposed to a brook where deer come to sip and birds flutter, would reveal the scene much later when it emerged. 

Put a glass by a brook, then take it home and weeks later the scene would play again before you.

I pulled up images and video clips, pursing something similar, a return to moments when Ash was young and spry, always in what Christine referred to as His Own Ashley World but ever sweet-natured, affectionate, of course curious.

In Unknown Worlds, a gangster who sought to preserve his wife's memory, used slow glass to capture a day of her on the beach before murdering her in envy then wept when learning the emerging image would last only as long as she was originally exposed to the glass. 

What we have
Photos last a little longer, but I was struck by the sense of futility. Photos last longer, but they are still imperfect in their way.

Yet wonderful. 

I found video of Christine opening a present one Christmas, and Ash came bounding into the periphery, chasing a toy, flicking it under a china cabinet then following it as far under as his size allowed.

A snapshot of Ash sitting on a cat tree, his ever-quizzical expression aimed at me and directly into the camera lens.

Another snap of Ash standing on an afghan, frozen in the midst of a ritualistic stomp he did, mixed with a periodic miaou.

Video Ash in the yard, not doing much.

It was not enough of course. Nothing is enough in the loss of a pet or a loved one, but bittersweet is what we have. 

Nothing fully calls back all the memories you're chasing. As McKuen noted, the mind recalls "candy bars but not the Gettysburg address, Frank Sinatra's middle name but not the day your best friend died..."

But memory helps and images and video do their best to bring back the light of other days even if sometimes things are just a little blurry.


Charles Gramlich said...

flashbulb memories. These are the kinds of things that come back to me as I remember lost pets. Little short moments, flashes, then gone. Sometimes it seems the same with past human relationships too, even though folks might still be alive but are gone from your life.

Sidney said...

Very true. Se remember highlights.

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