Tag Archives: cats

Itchy Eyes

In April and May of last year, I asked my hair cutter to cut my hair shorter and shorter as a way to prepare myself for the inevitable.


One day not long after my final haircut, I was at Smile, a neighborhood drugstore. (There’s already an astonishing number of drugstores in Tokyo and they keep opening new ones. At least 99.9% of the junk they sell is stuff I would never buy, and the list of what I do buy keeps getting shorter, but that’s a whole other kettle of fish. A funny thing, though, is that they only sell OTC drugs. Pharmaceuticals are only sold at pharmacies.)

The Smile “pharmacist” is an older woman who has been very helpful when I ask for weird things like mosquito spray in February (She found some!) and cold medicine without caffeine (doesn’t exist). That day, she commented on the shortness of my hair and I made a lame joke about Takarazuka, which is a women only theater troupe, many of whom have very short hair because they play male characters.


Well, she exploded in Smiles (see what I did there?) saying she was a major fan and offering to copy some of her DVDs for me. It was a kind offer and I accepted even though I knew I would probably never watch them. I only know about the group because there were always posters advertising their performances outside the sento public bath I had to use my first year in Japan because my apartment had a squat toilet and no bath.


Last week, we went to Smile to consult with her about my itchy eyes. She looked me over and said that I looked hale and healthy and we told her, gently, that I had had cancer last year but was feeling much better. More explosive Smiles (I did it again!) and she gave me a bear hug, something Japanese people do so rarely I can barely remember how it’s done. Then she plucked a cat hair off my sweater and called over two other women who work there to exclaim over the almost absurd adorableness of our cats.

the boys

But there was something much, much more to all of the oohing and aahing than cats. I was so deeply moved I had to fight off tears, which I could at least blame on itchy eyes.



The pure, white light of the Tokyo summer sun is an evil spawned in Hell. She somehow cooks both down from above and up from below, creating a population of rotisserie people dripping their way along the concrete highways and byways of the city. She could suck the smile off Mickey Mouse’s face, and he’s the happiest mouse in the world. Even with a sun hat and parasol, she still wiggles her inquisitive fingers under my arms, between my toes, down the back of my sweaty shirt.

I could leave the house if I wanted to, but chemo magnifies the effects of the heat by about 1000% and the pain of trying to breathe the miasma is too much. And so I choose to stay home, but after just a few days, I’m starting to have weirdly Baby Jane feelings. It’s like there’s an invisible barrier in the front door, a Star Trek style force field that’s keeping me at bay. But this is a prison of my own choosing. I can leave if I want to. And nobody will serve me dead parakeet for dinner.

The days are long and hot, so I try to find ways to brighten them. For one, I have these fancy tea balls that blossom in the pot, the kind of thing that you save for when the imperial couple comes to visit. But I’ve asked them at least a dozen times and they always find a way to weasel out of it.

See? Here they are. “No, no. A thousand times no. Now stop asking!”

emperor waving

I can take a hint. I decided to go ahead and drink the fancy tea myself.

fancy flower tea

It tastes…slightly musty. I think. I can’t really trust my senses. Chemo does that, too.

I decided to look for beauty elsewhere.

One of the worst side effects of chemo is a terrible sensitivity to sound. I had bought a glass wind chime thinking the gentle tinkling would soothe, but it was instead a relentless clattering annoyance so I took it down. And then one of the cats smashed it. Good riddance.

Instead, there’s this, a freebie made by a local carpenter. They were handing them out at a neighborhood festival recently.

beer can wind chime

This was once a lowly beer can, but it was transformed to raise the simple pinwheel into an art form. (WordPress wants me to pay to include video so I’ll put that on Facebook.) It hangs from a branch in the peach tree outside the kitchen window, whispering sweet messages as it spins in the breeze, my own version of a prayer wheel. “Focus on your gains, not your losses.” “See the beauty in the everyday.” “Have the ice cream if you want it. You deserve it.” “You couldn’t handle yoga today. That’s OK. Tomorrow is another day.” “Don’t strangle the cats.”

It’s so easy to put more significance on the negative than the positive, to let the pains outweigh the joys. But I’m starting to believe this is a choice we make. We are programmed to believe that we need the bigger house, the faster car, the slimmer waist, the designer shoes/bag/watch/nose hair trimmer/whatever. But that is in essence letting someone else make our decisions for us, refusing to take responsibility for our own choices, and never, ever being satisfied with what we have.

So here’s the positive. My house is big enough and I like it. I don’t have or want a car; I don’t want a stranger’s name printed on my stuff. The ice cream was delicious. I did yoga after all and it was heavenly. The cats behave like cats; I expect no more or less from them.

For the most part, my body is still functioning properly.

I’m still alive.

That’s a lot. And that’s enough.


After seventy-one straight days of morning meditation
and my first yoga practice in over a month,
I can say that I’m feeling pretty good.

Life isn’t perfect, but it could be a whole lot worse.

We can and do decide for ourselves how we perceive the world around us.


Sometimes things are not exactly what they seem.

dog horse ditto

A little adjustment might be all that’s needed.

toner cat

It may be that all you need is a hug from someone you love.

lion babies

And if all else fails, there are always baby goats.

little goats*I’m sorry I can’t post attributions for these, but a heartfelt thanks to whoever created them.

Nutty Poo

One of our Bali adventures was a side trip to a coffee plantation. I didn’t realize until much later that we saw no plantation. We walked a path through a jungle, were given a coffee and tea sampler and were invited to buy stuff before being shuffled back to the bus.

Nancy, our sainted yoga instructor, one of my oldest friends.

We did, however, see some of the famous coffee poo cats, which it turns out are civets of some sort.

This is a sleeping civet.


And this is their poo.


Unfortunately, the poo reminded me of a chocolate peanut roll my grandma used to make at Christmas. At the same time, I couldn’t help but think of Twitchy’s poo, which is so lethal that it can wake me from a sound sleep when she produces it. I also have a hard time enjoying things that cost more than they should. Even in the middle of nowhere Indonesia it was nearly $5 to try the cat poo coffee. Having had $20 coffee here in Japan back when that was a thing to do, I can with confidence say that the experience was over-rated. So I gave the cat poo a miss.

Later that night, a few of us ended up at a convenience store where I discovered that one of our group, despite being a dedicated marathon runner, is a closet Snickers addict. She was delighted to find some on sale, but again I declined. I make it a rule to avoid doing things abroad that I can do at home and Snickers are widely available here. So I got something else.

When I got back to my room, this guy was sitting on my desk, and since he asked me politely, I let him hold my Nockers.


Worst Birthday Ever

I turned 50 today, not something I was looking forward to, and to sweeten the pot, Dana died last night. I can’t tell if my eyes and nose are watering because I’m crying or because of the rotten cold I’ve got.

My one twinkle of joy is that one of my favorite people in the universe wrote a hauntingly lovely song for me:

How often does something like that happen?

I know that pets die, viruses don’t, and aging is inevitable.

Still, is today a harbinger that my 50’s are going to suck? Or is this just my 40’s going out with a bang instead of a whimper?

A Tale of Two Kittens

Plato and Dana were about ten days old when they came into our lives.

PENTAX DIGITAL CAMERAWe had always wanted a cat, but our previous landlord lived in our building and hated all living creatures. She said I could get a fish, but the thought of curling up at night with a guppy was unappealing.

Scroll forward a few years. I was pedaling home from work one evening and saw a sign in a pet shop window:

猫!猫!子猫! (Cats! Cats! Kittens!)

We had recently moved and our new landlord lived in Saitama, safely far enough away that he would never be the wiser.

Someone had abandoned a litter of five tiny kittens in a cardboard box at the shrine down the street. I took that as a good sign, not the abandonment—that was flat out evil—but I thought the kittens might be blessed in some way. One of the neighborhood ladies had taken them home, but she already had three kids, two dogs, a cat, a goldfish and a turtle, and was pretty desperate to find homes for the kittens.

Dana was the liveliest, and prettiest, of the bunch. It was love at first sight for Rochi, not so much for Dana; her eyes weren’t open yet. The three kids gave their mom a beseeching look; Dana was obviously the one they wanted to keep, but mom shot them a warning glance that said, “We talked about this. Let them take whichever they’re willing to take.”

“I want this one,” says Rochi. (Duh.) “Which one do you want?”

I pointed at Plato, who was curled up in a ball, fast asleep and partly buried under other warm, furry bodies.

“Why that one?”

“Because he’s fat. He’s got a better chance of surviving.” I am inanely practical at times.

We took them home, made them a nest of fake fur and started feeding them kitten formula from tiny baby bottles. We’re the only parents they ever knew. Proof of this is that neither ever did the kneading thing, which is a memory of nursing. All they remember is mom had rubber nipples.

PENTAX DIGITAL CAMERA090319_1137080203_1933~02








Scroll forward again, fifteen years this time. Plato got sick. I did my best to keep him alive but eventually he died. I posted about that at the time and won’t go into it now.

120621_2108~01One final scroll forward, this time a year and a half. Last week, Dana got sick. Really sick. So sick that we accepted it was over and would have to make our peace with that. Then Monday morning, I got up early. She followed me into the kitchen, looking hungry, and ate a bit of canned tuna. I did a little jig, then went back to bed to wait for Rochi to wake up. When he did, I touched his shoulder and said two words. “She ate.” He nearly jumped out of his skin (I  NEVER speak first thing in the morning) but quickly recovered himself and did a little dance on the way downstairs.

She’s still weak and won’t eat much, but she is eating. We have no idea how much time we’ve got left with her, but it looks like it may be a while.

I guess the point of all this is that I have no religion and don’t believe in God, but I do believe in hope. Without hope, there’s nothing, and for the time being at least, I’ve still got that.