Playing with Ambition (Remembering Gabey)

Below the first image is a repost about one of the greatest loves of my life …

It has been almost two weeks since I lost my beloved Gabey-kitty, leaving a large hole in my heart and space in my life that had been so sweetly and feistily and affectionately filled by his physical presence for 13 1/2 years. I miss those sparkling amber eyes that looked into my soul and his confidence in his own magnificence and just all those little ways and means that were specific to him. His kitty brother and “cousins” are feeling his absence as profoundly as we are, breaking my heart a little more when they look for him or at me asking “Why?”, but they are also mending it, filling the deep sense of loss with their individual precious presences. Comforting and caring for them is a way to actively do the same for myself. And, through their natural awareness of the energy of the non-physical, they are a constant reminder that, although Gabey’s mortal body is no longer here with me, his pure, loving, blessed spirit can never be absent as long as I stay in touch with my better self.

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Playing with Ambition

He makes a grab for my pen, puffing his cheeks, twinkling his eyes, smiling if he could. It’s not that he wants me to stop writing, at least not in the long term, for it keeps me captivated and close to him. He likes to interrupt my ambition, a playful swipe over the page I stare at for a thought too good to miss if only it would come.

He came, small enough to fit in the palm of my hand, with topaz eyes and quick sharp teeth, infecting my hand and heart with feisty vulnerability. Then he was gone, taken as I allowed, others to care for him better. Except I wasn’t convinced, traveling far and near to find the dirt road and unclear path to making him mine.

No one wanted him like I did. Certainly not those who had more than they could handle, separating themselves from his beauty as I thought impossible. In my arms he pretended he didn’t know me, hadn’t tempted and tasted me, too young a fellow to know he shouldn’t cry. I assured him that a love like mine, patient and doting, was all he needed. Slowly he believed, fed on fairy tales and fancy feasts.

Copyright 2012 by DM Denton

Copyright 2012 by DM Denton

And now he’s only for losing if eternity fails us. At times he prefers his own space and I’m more distracted than when he steals my pen and chance for inspiration. Somehow I always convince him to lie again at my feet—on my feet, warming them, massaging them, numbing them, until he notices my papers set aside. He moves up the bed for undivided attention, licking my cheek, nuzzling my ear before smothering me with his love, his gingery mane blinding me as his unexplained pleasure eases my doubts.  

Then it’s all too serious for him. He makes a grab for what is still in my hand, holding it in his teeth, his head and shoulders performing a tango. I laugh though not too loud for it is the middle of the night. We dance for a few moments longer, light on our feet with no need to exercise more than our imaginations.

“The cat is the animal to whom the Creator gave the biggest eye, the softest fur, the most supremely delicate nostrils, a mobile ear, an unrivaled paw and a curved claw borrowed from the rose-tree.” – Colette (French Novelist, 1873 – 1954)

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©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.

For International Cat Day: Portrait of Mischief and Love

August 8th is International Cat Day!

They also made themselves at home on the softness of Donatella’s bed, passively fighting over the mountain of pillows. When their mistress finally got in, they settled across her chest and legs, Caprice playing with her toes while Bianchi enjoyed a stroke up to the skin behind her ears so her eyes narrowed and her purring came from nowhere.
~ From To A Strange Somewhere Fled by DM Denton

Here’s a repost to mark the occasion.

Where was my heart when my hand captured time
in a portrait of mischief and love?

Boots, Sadie and Francie 2 cropped colored

Copyright 2013 by DM Denton

Cats Between the Lines

Cats must be there. Even as I wander long ago and faraway, they follow me, rub my legs, curl on my bed and beg my attention without disturbing it. Their purring is my mantra too, so natural and deliberate at the same time, encouraging the perfect rhythm of my heart. They are soft to the touch yet strong enough in their will. One swipes at my pen to remind me not to take it all so seriously; another paws my arm, eyes green with envy for the obsession that seems to leave him out. Oh, no. How can I tell him? With a turn and a bow and a stroke he’s reassured; with an Eskimo kiss he’s a distraction but—as one of my favorite writers, Colette, once noted—never a waste of time. Yet another stretches, slithers and yawns like a serpent enticing me to a nap. And then I realize I’m being watched, by that scamp who only sleeps to run and jump and wrestle when he’s awake, small and smart and certain I can’t grab him before he runs away again.

Cats know more than they ever say, probably for the best if progress is ever to be made. A leonine length with legs neatly crossed and head shaped for stillness sets me wondering if any activity could be better than none. Oh, I know. I must make a living, eat and drink and pretend to hunt. So I do so with their goal in mind, eyes squeezed closed and whiskers and paws and tail twitching, to savor sleep as much as success—for the dream of the mouse even more than its taste. 

Cats can be characters, as many as I’ve had there’s no end to the possibilities. I can dress them up and use them in stories that otherwise might not welcome them. I suspect they would be flattered if they knew or be nonchalant: they expect me to take them everywhere I go and include them in everything I do. Saying that, they realize being ignored is freedom from expectation, especially if turned into a choice. And vanishing is just another way of being found.
(Note: ‘Cats Between the Lines’ was originally posted September 3, 2011. The image – the first time I have posted it –  is one I did in the mid 90’s of my then kitty family – Boots, the mother, and her two calico children, Francie and Sadie.)

More Cat posts I’ve done over the years:

Wrestling with Love

A Home for Oscar

Feline Understanding

Too Many Tales

Playing with Ambition

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Darcy and Oscar

Dante and Blake 1

Gabey, Darcy, Dante and Blake 1Dante on Rocking Chair

Gabby and Blake on Windowsill_pe

Butch in Garden

 

Later Donatella sank into English melancholy and the high backed chair, her cats purring basso continuo at her feet …
~ From A House Near Luccoli by DM Denton


donatellasmallest©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.

Perseverance, Purpose, and Mathematics

From a letter Charlotte Brontë wrote to Hartley Coleridge, June 16, 1847:

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Sir,

My relatives Ellis and Acton Bell and myself, heedless of the repeated warnings of various respectable publishers, have committed the rash act of printing a volume of poems.

The consequences predicted have, of course, overtaken us; our book is found to be a drug; no man needs it or heeds it. In the space of a year our publisher has disposed but of two copies and by what painful efforts, he succeeded in getting rid of those two himself only knows.

Before transferring the edition to the Trunk-makers, we have decided on distributing as presents, a few copies of what we cannot sell.

Besides demonstrating Charlotte’s wry humor, which, I have no doubt, masked her disappointment and frustration, her letter also reveals an important choice she made in order to move past this discouraging experience of presenting the Brontë sisters’ writing to the public. I might add that the poetry collection, which they paid to have published, did inspire a few positive reviews from newspaper critics.

I feel very grateful that Charlotte wrote that letter. Of course, she had no idea it would be preserved to reach out and beyond its original purpose and, for all those writers who would come after her, set a sagacious example of how to deal with setbacks, even failures, by acknowledging them, feeling the irony in them, confronting their implications without relinquishing future progress and possibilities to them.

Yellow Rose DM Denton 3 with text

Illustration Copyright 2016 by DM Denton

 

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My mother’s Jane Eyre, 1941 Edition with woodcuts by Fritz Eichenberg

In a letter to her friend Ellen Nussey in October, 1844, Charlotte expressed a similar resilience in the face of defeat when “the enterprise of keeping a school”, which she and her sisters had devised to the point of sending out flyers/”cards of terms” and even thinking about alterations to the parsonage in order to accommodate it, didn’t materialize.

We have no present intention of breaking our hearts on the subject—still less of feeling mortified at defeat—The effort must be beneficial whatever the result may be—because it teaches us experience and an additional knowledge of the world.

 

In the autumn of 1845, Charlotte rather stealthily came upon Emily’s poems. Emily was furious at such an invasion of her privacy and insisted she didn’t write with any thought of publication—perhaps, afraid she might make an enemy of the constant companion writing was to her.

When weary with the long day’s care,
And earthly change from pain to pain,
And lost, and ready to despair,
Thy kind voice calls me back again:
Oh, my true friend! I am not lone,
While then canst speak with such a tone!

Charlotte, who managed to convince Emily to publish her poems under the pseudonym Ellis Bell, would not believe “a mind like (Emily’s) could not be without some latent spark of honorable ambition”.

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Sketch by Emily Brontë

George Eliot also had her thoughts on how to approach any endeavor, likely with the activity of writing in mind:

Failure after long perseverance is much grander than to never have a striving good enough to be called failure.

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A year ago this week, my second novel (historical fiction), To A Strange Somewhere Fled (dedication above), was published. As with my first, A House Near LuccoliI was optimistic on its release and for its subsequent reception.

“What a fool you must be,” said my head to my heart, or my sterner to my softer self.
~ Anne Brontë, Agnes Grey

I don’t think I ever have or will fool myself into thinking my writing lends itself to mainstream appeal. However, I do still believe it can and should be read by many more than have already. I’m very grateful to every buyer, reader, and reviewer. But, if I’m honest, I have to admit I’ve had moments of feeling very frustrated, defeated, even of breaking my heart because I find myself questioning my lifelong calling to write.

Looking to those who have come before also helps, although there are contradicting philosophies …

The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt. ~ Sylvia Plath
or
The writer who loses his self-doubt, who gives way as he grows old to a sudden euphoria, to prolixity, should stop writing immediately: the time has come for him to lay aside his pen. ~ Colette

My wish to survive and write more and feel “the effort must be beneficial whatever the result may be“, inclines me towards the latter advice. Sylvia Plath had hardly begun to explore her potential when she took her own life at the age of 31. In contrast and, in no way meaning to demean Plath’s ongoing struggle with depression, Colette lived out the natural span of her life to the age of 81, experiencing marital abuse and other difficulties and setbacks, taking detours on unexpected roads, often expressing philosophical optimism. “You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm.” “Hope costs nothing.” “Be happy. It’s one way of being wise.”

I believe what made Colette a survivor was her ability to create out of the dark as well as the light: “Look for a long time at what pleases you, and longer still at what pains you…”

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Colette in old age with one of her cats

So now, whenever I despair, I no longer expect my end, but some bit of luck, some commonplace little miracle which, like a glittering link, will mend again the necklace of my days.
~ Colette, The Vagabond

So what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Or, to paraphrase: what doesn’t stop you writing makes you more determined to do it.

In the past year, I have contributed three short biographies to The Literary Ladies Guide to the Writing Life: Mary Webb, Christina Rossetti, and, just this week, Jean Rhys (click each name to read them). In different ways, all three overcame discouragement to continue writing. Mary Webb attained some positive critical attention and even won the Prix Femina Vie Heureuse, but her books didn’t actually become commercially successful until shortly after her death in 1927 when Britain’s Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin publicly praised her writing (you can see an actual letter he wrote her here) and called her a neglected genius (Hmm … he couldn’t have said so a little sooner?).

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Illustration Copyright 2016 by DM Denton

Yes, writers struggle with their own doubts, but also from others’ perceptions and avoidance, especially those close to them.  They can’t help wondering if praise from those quarters is patronizing and, on the other hand, find it hard to deal with their work being dismissed or even ignored by those who “should” be the first to encourage and help to promote their work. Christina Rossetti’s own brother pronounced her too pious to care if her writing achieved any success, an unfounded assessment in view of her passion for and lifetime pursuit of poetic expression.

There is always another side, always. ~ Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea

Jean Rhys’ last novel, Wide Sargasso Sea, published when she was 76, finally brought her popular success and financial reward, but she wasn’t impressed, saying it had come “too late”. Yet, like Colette, in spite of a life resembling a roller-coaster ride of experiences, relationships, and sometimes crossed-purposes, and while rebelling against how “her obsession (to write) gripped her”, she also understood that writing got rid of obsessions and produced “clarification”, that even if she didn’t want to write, she had to since “life has no shape, art is necessary, it provides some shape, at least to hold on to”.

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Jean Rhys

“All of writing is a huge lake. There are great rivers that feed the lake, like Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky. And then there are mere trickles, like Jean Rhys. All that matters is feeding the lake. I don’t matter. The lake matters. You must keep feeding the lake.”  ~ Jean Rhys

When I was young, writing was about dreaming up and playing with stories until I grew tired of them.

Young Diane at Typewriter

Now, chosen by them, I honor them as they do me by giving them the best expression I can and persevering patiently when they are troubling because I know they will be ultimately rewarding to my sense of accomplishment and completeness—no matter the mathematical odds against them bringing me fame and fortune.

From To A Strange Somewhere Fled

No one was there, except whom she mournfully invited and didn’t hope would appear. Until something was forming and even stirring, one line then two, black marks turning into graceful strokes, almost half-a-page filled before she knew it, pouring like blood from a deep wound. If only she could keep it flowing, instead of grief drying it up and making it hard and leaving a stain with no poetry about it.

Two Cassee Book Images with Gray Background with text 1

Ill-success failed to crush us: the mere effort to succeed had given a wonderful zest to existence; it must be pursued. ~ Charlotte Brontë

©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.

 

Portrait of Mischief and Love

Where was my heart when my hand captured time in a portrait of mischief and love?

Boots, Sadie and Francie 2 cropped colored

Copyright 2013 by DM Denton

Cats Between the Lines

Cats must be there. Even as I wander long ago and faraway, they follow me, rub my legs, curl on my bed and beg my attention without disturbing it. Their purring is my mantra too, so natural and deliberate at the same time, encouraging the perfect rhythm of my heart. They are soft to the touch yet strong enough in their will. One swipes at my pen to remind me not to take it all so seriously; another paws my arm, pleading, eyes green with envy for the obsession that seems to leave him out. Oh, no. How can I tell him? With a turn and a bow and a stroke he’s reassured; with an Eskimo kiss he’s a distraction but—as one of my favorite writers, Colette, once noted—never a waste of time. Yet another stretches, slithers and yawns like a serpent enticing me to a nap. And then I realize I’m being watched, by that scamp who only sleeps to run and jump and wrestle when he’s awake, small and smart and certain I can’t grab him before he runs away again.

Cats know more than they ever say, probably for the best if progress is ever to be made. A leonine length with legs neatly crossed and head shaped for stillness sets me wondering if any activity could be better than none. Oh, I know. I must make a living, eat and drink and pretend to hunt. So I do so with their goal in mind, eyes squeezed closed and whiskers and paws and tail twitching, to savor sleep as much as success—for the dream of the mouse even more than its taste. 

Cats can be characters, as many as I’ve had there’s no end to the possibilities. I can dress them up and use them in stories that otherwise might not welcome them. I suspect they would be flattered if they knew, that they expect me to take them everywhere I go and include them in everything I do. Saying that, they realize being ignored is freedom from expectation, especially if turned into a choice. And vanishing is just another way of being found.


Note: ‘Cats Between the Lines’ was originally posted September 3, 2011. The image – the first time I have posted it –  is one I did in the mid 90’s of my then kitty family – Boots, the mother, and her two calico children, Francie and Sadie.



donatellasmallest©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.

Cats Between the Lines

Cats must be there. Even as I wander long ago and faraway, they follow me, rub my legs, curl on my bed and beg my attention without disturbing it. Their purring is my mantra too, so natural and deliberate at the same time, encouraging the perfect rhythm of my heart. They are soft to the touch yet strong enough in their will. One swipes at my pen to remind me not to take it all so seriously; another paws my arm, pleading, eyes green with envy for the obsession that seems to leave him out. Oh, no. How can I tell him? With a turn and a bow and a stroke he’s reassured; with an Eskimo kiss he’s a distraction but—as one of my favorite writers, Colette, once noted—never a waste of time. Yet another stretches, slithers and yawns like a serpent enticing me to a nap. And then I realize I’m being watched, by that scamp who only sleeps to run and jump and wrestle when he’s awake, small and smart and certain I can’t grab him before he runs away again.

Cats know more than they ever say, probably for the best if progress is ever to be made. A leonine length with legs neatly crossed and head shaped for stillness sets me wondering if any activity could be better than none. Oh, I know. I must make a living, eat and drink and pretend to hunt. So I do so with their goal in mind, eyes squeezed closed and whiskers and paws and tail twitching, to savor sleep as much as success—for the dream of the mouse even more than its taste.  

Cats can be characters, as many as I’ve had there’s no end to the possibilities. I can dress them up and use them in stories that otherwise might not welcome them. I suspect they’d be flattered if they knew, that they expect me to take them everywhere I go and include them in everything I do. Saying that, they realize being ignored is freedom from expectation, especially if turned into a choice. And vanishing is just another way of being found.

Cats must be there whether off by themselves or entwined with each other blending colors and creeds, laying on my feet or an angel at my shoulder, between the sheets…or novel pages which means manipulating history a little for their appearances. Even as they don’t seem relevant, I hear their breathing and know I’m still alive, remember their passing and feel them present, anticipate more to come and believe they too will save me—persuading my life and writing to pay tribute to what is here and gone and yet to be created.

 Image Courtesy of Google

©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.