My old Sofia

My old Sofia

Seventeen years ago, in forty degree Celsius heat, while painting the hallway of our new house, I met a tiny ginger kitten. She was small, fluffy and curious and held in the hand of our new neighbour who explained the person she had bought her for didn’t want her. Didn’t want her? I tore my enraptured eyes away and looked at my partner who shrugged, then the kitten was mine.

What a kitten she was. Sofia I named her, which may seem unusual for a fluffy kitten (it means ‘wise’) but she did seem to know how to get herself into trouble. I enjoy my animals and they appear to enjoy me. This small fluffy creature was no exception. My older cat, Mr Wicca, was not impressed but my kelpie was. Whenever Mr W growled or threatened her, my kelpie would run to the rescue and poke him with her long hard nose. I am quite sure the kitten set up a few of these instances for try as she might, she could not win over Mr W. She was compensated by the hours spent snuggling up on the dogs’ bed, to Sunny Girl’s delight and the other dogs’ disgust. None of them were allowed to touch her until kitten hood had worn away and Sunny lost interest.

Until then, Sofia explored everywhere and pounced upon everyone, sure of her welcome or protection. The only space Mr W had was curled up next to me on our bed. That is until the day Sofia finally managed to climb up the bedcovers to reach the top. I have never seen a kitten quite so delighted with herself. Mr W stiffened and stopped purring on sight of her. She pranced up the bed and was so pleased that she began grooming his cheek. Mr W relaxed slightly. Sofia got carried away with her success and excitedly began grooming him more and more enthusiastically until she was so overwhelmed that she bit him.

It took years and his final illness before she won him over. Sofia was ever convinced that everyone was her friend, except the cats next door and my friend’s dog who chased her to the top of the shed. (I still don’t quite know how she got up there.) She was never quite the same after that.

My bath time held interest for her. As I relaxed she would jump to the side of the bath, walk out across my shoulder, down my side to my hip. There she would sit and I would laugh. As I laughed, the water vibrated and moved. Ears and whiskers pricked forward, Sofie would bat at the water and I would laugh harder, the water move more and eventually she would be elbows in and I would be slightly hysterical. I would roll her back to the edge for her own safety.

I have never known a cat to enjoy water as much as my Sofie did as a kitten. The ground level bird bath often had leaves on the bottom that I would dutifully clean out. Sofie liked to get to them first and up to her shoulders in the water, she would chase the leaves across the bottom. Funny kitty.

When Mr W died, we were inconsolable, Sofia and I. She had spent the last two years grooming him and curling around him gently, lending her warmth, communing with him in the sun in the garden. Only by herself would she play. Like the night the last of the sun coincided with the front lights and tiny insects danced in the beams. Sofia, up on hind legs, danced through the swarm, batting at the insects, hopping across the lawn.

Sofie was my co-conspirator in many things but particularly in our efforts to rid ourselves of ugly teapots. I love teapots, the round kind. Even though I would say, please don’t give me character pots, guess what I got? I lined them up along the edge of the high cupboards where Sofie liked to sprawl and one by one she stretched and pushed them down. Cats have a strong sense of humour and Sofie was amused by the smashing of the pots. Ears and whiskers pricked forward she would look over the side of the cupboards to where the pot lay broken on the floor. I’ve never known a cat to look as pleased with herself as my Sofia.

She was not pleased when two kittens came to live with us. She did not like them. She made sure her displeasure was known. Even after over a decade together they are still not friends. None of them are young but my Sofia is eldest of all.

Seventeen years old, skeletally thin due to a thyroid condition, she is still happy, amused and relaxed. She will insist that I sit in my chair and lean back so she can sit on my shoulder and chest and purr into my ear. She loves me my Sofia. I am her source of pleasure equal to a cushion in the sun and sometimes better. She doesn’t go far anymore, once my great adventurer, and she makes sure she is home when I am home.

In her twilight years I will give her everything I can for I have loved every moment she had chosen to be with me.

Releasing, releasing, letting go: a short introspective

I have been doing a lot of letting go of late. It’s not been easy but certainly due. I have been writing poetry and prose instead of stories, which is a little unsettling. One of them appears to be a song to a distinctly country tune.

Despite that, I like it. Here is is to share with you.


There were days when my sweet sorrow came for me
and sadness wrapped to protect me from fear.
Sorrow became my friend, my familiar
protecting me in darkness held dear.

So I pulled the blanket of sad right over me,
I wrapped up so tight so no-one could see,
that I had been sad as long as I had lived
with little or nothing but sadness to give.

Throw off the blanket, release all the pain
Feel the fresh air, breath deep again.
There’s no need to have sorrow as friend
feel the fresh air, breath deep again.

From the age of six, the sadness did come to me,
Kept me cocooned, away from the fear.
Whenever the world seemed far too much for me,
I would away in the darkness held dear.

Throw off the blanket, release all the pain
Feel the fresh air, breath deep again.
There’s no need to have sorrow as friend
feel the fresh air, breath deep again.

Now I can step out without fear for company,
I can take off my blanket of pain,
Sadness has lifted, visits occasionally,
I’ve learnt to feel lightness again.

Throw off the blanket, release all the pain
Feel the fresh air, breath deep again.
There’s no need to have sorrow as friend
feel the fresh air, breath deep again.

Throw off the blanket, release all the pain
Feel the fresh air, breath deep again.
There’s no need to have sorrow as friend
feel the fresh air, breath deep again.

(c) CLHHarper 24 May 2014

Twisty Thinking: an Introspective

Twisty Thinking: an Introspective

What is it about other people’s stories? Why, in their stories, do I hear the “somebody done me wrong” song? Why do I feature, unwittingly, in those songs?

It seems to me that there are some people in the world who think I spend more time thinking about them than I do. Should I be? I work and think a lot about my work. I have one child left at home and spend brain time on her. Mostly I think about practical things and activist activities.

I think about tiny homes, gardening, veggies, animals, ethical responsibilities, coffee, living lightly, getting older, politics, art, writing, therapy, Quakerism, Simplicity, retiring, my mother, my niblings, my grandson (actually I think about him a lot), coffee, books, volunteering, painting, teaching, craft, reading, what I am reading, books, science, space, water, coffee, my comfy chair, cleaning (not much, I admit), friends, stories I have heard, stories I have told, new stories, performances, the people I love, the people I have cared for and do care for, writing stories, poetry, listening to poetry, watching poetry, my dogs, my cats, (wishing I had rabbits), butterflies, coffee, teapots, coffee, the house, making a cinema, birds, books, Community (with a capital ‘C’) and coffee.

The theme here is that I don’t think about other people as much as they seem to think I do and I think about coffee a lot. If someone arrives where I am (work, dog park, home) and isn’t chatty or is grumpy, I never assume that is about me. When I was young I thought everything was about me. Eventually I learned that other’s behaviour was determined by their own lives. I am no longer ego-centric enough for it even to cross my mind that another’s behaviour could have anything to do with me. This is handy if I don’t hear from someone for awhile, I assume they are as busy in their life as I am in mine.

Where I come unstuck is when I am accused of thinking things that never crossed my mind. What? Yes indeed. Thoughts and feelings that never occur to me become accusations. How does that work? It’s difficult to defend yourself against irrational accusations. I don’t even try. What’s really hard is when a smidgen of fact gets twisted up in someone else’s reality which then becomes an accusation of my wrong doing. Now, this does not happen much but when it does happen, it comes from more than one. I have a theory.

It’s the full moon this week and the lun-ies are out. Yes, I am resorting to tried and true loony reasoning. There is no other possible explanation when people I believe actually do love me, or at least care for me, treat me as though I have deliberately done something to upset them. Well, for the record, I am sorry they’re upset but the thing is, I really haven’t thought about them that much.

Oh wait, maybe that’s it.

(c) CLHHarper May 2014

Abyss: An Introspective

Way down in the abyss where my soul is lost
no light reaches, and yet
I can picture the stars somewhere far above
in my mind’s eye.

When all seems hopeless, I stop and stare
into nothing, where nothing
can be seen and a despondency
pervades my heart.

Deep deep in the abyss where my soul is lost
I can but feel, nothing.
No cares, no passion, no wish, just so weighed down
that nothing matters, except

this feeling of endless, suffocating despair and
inability to care, but
I remember that somewhere far above
is the Light.

The Light creates, the possibility of being,
of being human once again,
where things matter and beauty can be perceived, so
I hang on.

I have been here before and know that if I hold faith,
bright, beautiful belief,
that Light will reach me, deep in my abyss and
I will breathe purpose again.

When I can see the star light, I climb.
It is painful and requires
a purging of my heart and mind that rips
my soul to shreds.

It leaves me gasping for air.

Shivering, I sit on the top and watch the hole begin
to mend itself.
Perhaps this time I will not tear it apart anew and
tumble back into black.

Hope is my coin that I pay in full to believe
that I will not return.
The hill heals and grass covers what was my sorrow.
Above, stars sparkle and beckon.

(c) CLHHarper May 2014

once upon a time,not so long ago



On Fridays I sit to write a blog. My youngest cat, let’s call her Gemma (because that’s her name), always tries to help. Gem has many opinions of what I should write and does her best to express this telepathically by boop-ing her head against mine or smooching over my chin, while walking across the keyboard.

While impressed with my cat’s determination to share, am less inclined to transpose her wisdom onto the page. Strangely, instead of being enamoured of my cat’s affection and paw writing across the keys, I can become slightly irritated. Gem believes the correct response is an increase in smooching.

Re-doubling her efforts, Gem insists on my attention. Gem has been practising these techniques for twelve years and has perfected the smooch perch. This is where she sits as close to me as possible, preferable partially over my arm, and when I give her a smile acknowledging her cuteness, she reaches over and licks me on the nose. Gem then walks across my arms, smooching over my chin and glasses as she goes, adding her comments via her paws. My glasses generally end up diagonally across my face.

I am strangely resistant to these efforts. (I have had a lot experience resisting them.) If possible, Gem sits between me and keyboard, lovingly smooching and purring all the while. Perchance this does not bring about the required attention to the detail she wishes to impart, Gem will repeat steps one and two, then stop in the middle of my arms and lick my nose again. Gem discovered that if she stands in the centre of the keyboard, I can no longer use the keys.

Occasionally, Gem decides that drastic measures must be taken. If I am intent on tapping on the keyboard and manage to withstand all previous efforts, Gem simply sits on the keyboard, in front of the screen and looks at me with intense love. I might huff in annoyance but Gemma makes her eyes as big as possible, then opens her mouth to impart a tiny kitten mew, purr loudly and reach again to smooch. This usually does the trick. If none of this works Gem has one sure-fire way to win.

Lick up my nostril. That never fails.

(c) CLHHarper 8 May 2014

Timely Gratitude: an Introspective

I left home at 19, practically running out the door. A few years later, when my Mum expressed how I had shattered her life when I moved out (keep in mind that I returned every Sunday night for family dinner), I responded with, “Mum, I’m not responsible for your happiness.”

True, yes. Callous, yes. Arrogant, definitely. I have read a fellow bloggist’s post on gratitude and I am reminded of my lack of gratitude. I have been feeling so sad at my son’s moving away from home I have been focussed on my sorrows instead of my sparkles. You need gratitude for sparkles.

This week they turned up, unannounced, and have stayed a few nights. A bit of notice would’ve been good but lovely to have them. I have had an handful of texts since he left and have been doing my best not to mind (while minding furiously all the while).

Last night I asked him why he was not calling me Mum any more. He responded that I was only his foster mother and he wanted to call his real mum, Mum. I have had care of that boy, worked my life around him for ten years. His mum died three years ago but had given him up for alcohol when he was six. I told him my feelings were hurt. He was angry with me.

And I have been feeling sorry for myself.

Now I am remembering how my Mum felt as I broke away and expressed my new found sense of separation and adult hood. I am reminded of my youthful callousness and arrogance. I am grateful for the reminder.

I am grateful to have had that little boy, all stick arms and legs, who flew into my arms his first night in my house for a cuddle.

I am grateful for learning all I had to about Autism to make his life better.

I am grateful for the experience of going into battle for him as it made me more assertive.

I am grateful for all I learnt when I taught storytelling at his school and worked with the deaf children there.

I am grateful that I got to fight for what he wanted and not have adult decisions imposed upon him.

I am grateful that I learnt to be a great mum for him.

I am grateful that he called me Mum for so long because it soothed my heart.

I am grateful that we got through the phase when he thought shoving his fist in my face was the way to get what he wanted.

I am grateful that I got to see him through to completing high school and the big effort it was. I really learnt about sticking by someone and what it means to complete something.

I am grateful that he feels strong enough to venture out into the world.

I will focus on my memories until my sorrow eases. Gratitude offers sparkles. I need a few sparkles. I will send my Mum some sparkles for Mothers’ Day. Her happiness may not be my job but I can certainly light up her life.

(c) CLHHarper 2 May 2014