The Stray Who Came to Stay
by Susan Young

A fluffy ball of fur, she sleeps.
Which end is head or tail?
Sometimes I only see one paw
When winter's winds prevail.
All curled up ‘round herself,
Tail billowed ‘round her feet;
Fuzzy head all upside down
To make her pose complete.
Safe and warm from winter's storm;
Please don't disturb her there.
She's found herself a cozy bed,
Peach Kitty in my rocking chair.

Many people have asked how my studio got its name. I wanted something that would make me smile and would do the same for others. I threw away a lot of business stationery ordered too soon, while I searched for a name. Then in the middle of the night I woke up and knew I had found the perfect title for my studio. Several years ago a stray tabby cat was abandoned by neighbors. She found her way into my life. Petite and peach in color, she was initially dubbed "Bag Lady". My mother Gaynell named the cat "Peaches."

Ten years later, the little peach kitty is still here. She wanders through the yard and enjoys her PURRSONAL domain on the back deck in a well-sheltered chair and good food. When I was working out of my first studio, the garden shed, she'd wander in and out. Sometimes she would climb up on the garden bench at the front window and peer in at me as I sat at my painting table. Other times she'd catnap on the sun-warmed bricks outside the door or stand a silent watch in the tulip bed; my fearless, funny, five-pound friend.

Winter is here. Weeks ago I went out to the back deck on an autumn afternoon and placed a cardboard box into the old rocking chair. I lined it with towels and blankets and covered it with a vinyl tablecloth to ensure protection from blowing rains and snows.

It was time to get the "stray" kitty accustomed again to her cold weather shelter. It's been a while since she has hopped up into the old rocking chair to sleep through the freezing nights. As I prepared her bedding, I wondered whether she would remember our winter routine.

When we have particularly bitter weather, I often get out of bed at 2 AM and look out the back door to be sure kitty is in bed. She's nearly always there. When the temperatures are really brutal, I warm up a tidbit of lean meat or offer morsels of her favorite kitty chow. I place them in her shelter, so she can have her snack without facing the cold. Then she wraps her tail across her pink nose and snuggles back into her towels. This has become a ceremony of mutual trust.

Once again, as preparations were made to protect kitty from wintery blasts, I went through the ritual she and I have established. "It doesn't smell the same", she possibly observes after scrutinizing the scents of new vinyl and freshly washed bedding. So as night falls I warm the towels and otherwise entice her curiosity in case she has forgotten our plan.

Duplicating the words and tones of voice I have used in past seasons, I say firmly: "Get in your bed. Good! Good!" She stands on her hind legs, cautiously peering at the burrow. Usually after a good sniff and a tentative pat with a front paw, she takes a leap into her winter house.

But if it doesn't work the first time, I just place a few tasty morsels in a corner of the chair. Kitty discovers her bedtime treat, gives herself a bath and sacks out. On a cold blustery night, that's good enough for me. 

Copyright 2000 by Susan Young

[MORE of Susan's Poetry]

[Back to Life Lessons]