messing around

It’s that infrequent time again where I go back into the WordPress themes and start “trying on” the various free ones. It was also time to remove Lucy’s photo from the masthead. Lucy was the former Arcane Science Lab Cat. I kept that photo on the masthead to lament my personal loss of her. After nearly a year (I put her to sleep last June) I felt it was time to begin to look for a new blog look. I also felt it was time to start giving more attention to all the other creatures still living in this household. I doubt there’ll be another Lab Cat, which is just as well. But there are plenty of Lab Denizens.

And the theme will continue to change for a while. I’m not quite satisfied yet.

getting reacquainted with an old friend

iron tulips

I have been using my first Olympus E-M5 again, the one I purchased January 2013. I bought it back when Lucy was still alive. I have the session of her checking it out when I first pulled it out of the shipping box from Amazon. It had developed a crack on the bottom edge of the pull-up LCD, and so I put it in a drawer thinking I’d get it fixed by Olympus, when I could get around to it. It sat in that drawer for a year until I couldn’t stand it anymore, so I pulled it out, put some super glue on the crack, and continued to use it. While the world goes ga-ga over the latest Olympus camera releases, I continue on with the original body that started the current revolution. I still find it’s as good as the day I purchased it.

I’ve taken everything off the body and put on the newest 14-42mm kit zoom, the EZ pancake. With that combination and a spare battery I’ve been going around as light as possible just so I can have something with me a bit more sophistication than the iPhone. No, I’m not backsliding on the iPhone. The built-in camera is still excellent. But I like to have my options open. That’s why I keep turning back to my Olympus cameras.

Today my wife and I went out for Sunday lunch at Chuy’s on I-Drive. I love the place for its food as well as the wild color scheme around the restaurant. I came back home and worked a bit with the raw files using Lightroom 6.4. More to come…

sectionsliving greens

Here’s Lucy checking things out. The other two cats, Lulu and Ellipse, don’t care. The Gingersnaps, now that’s another story. They seem quite curious about my camera gear.

Lucy Checks Out Her New Olympus OM-D

the gingersnaps, week three

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The boys have continued to grow, consuming a constant flow of kitten chow and canned cat food, and expelling a constant flow of kitten pee and poop. In between the trips to the litter boxes (there are two) they’ve been playing with each other intensely as well as with me and my wife. The way they leap about now, if they had wings like sugar gliders, they’d be literally flying around the house. Which I find simultaneously cute and frightening.

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The Gingersnaps have also started wearing little kitten collars with bells. I had to bell these cats just so I can find them when they’re moving around, especially under the furniture, something they’ve instinctively done since the first day they came to live with us. Greebo is too busy tracking Ponder on the floor to properly model his collar, which is why the eyes are slitted and the head is a bit blurry. Right after this he made his pounce.

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Both cats have also learned how to be held in my arms so that I can rub their briskets and stomachs. My oldest daughter and her boyfriend starting working with the boys when they were tiny kittens old enough to be held. When I hold them this way and rub them their purring goes up considerably. They love to be held this way as long as I’m calm and gentle and not aggressive. When I stopped long enough to use the Olympus to grab this shot, Ponder decided he wanted to swat at the lens; this is a mid-swat photo.

Some of their other little activities include:

  • Their desire to give me lots of licks on my face. They both come up, sit on my chest, and groom my face. And of course they purr the whole time.
  • Burrow under the covers. It’s been cold of late and they burrow under the covers to get next to me and warmth. That tends to freak me out when I’m sound asleep. So I carefully lift them out and put them in a “nest” made from part of the blanket next to me, where they go back to sleep.
  • Chasing their toys all over the floor. Their favorites are round balls with a feather and a bell in the middle. Second favorite is a feather on the end of a string. Third is the laser pointer.

They’re still loving little guys. They’ve filled the void left by Lucy. I can’t forget little Lucy, but these guys are the perfect replacement. I almost let them slip past me; it’s a good thing I didn’t. It’s almost as if they were born just for me. I’m so glad they’re here.

kittens

moma guarding
Life follows an eternal circle; birth, life, death, and birth again. Today was about the birth of five kittens less than a week ago up in Gainesville. The mother is named Sunshine, and she’s a temporary rescue. Why temporary? The owner, a friend of my daughters, had to leave Orlando due to a family emergency. My oldest daughter volunteered to keep Sunshine for the next nine months until the original owner can come back to Florida and retrieve her. In the mean time Sunshine was expecting and gave birth to five kittens; two gingers and three calicoes.

five kitten pileup

It’s been decades since I was around kittens this young. I had to be careful in the room with Sunshine. She didn’t know me and was very apprehensive to have this big stranger around her kits. I kept it low and slow, and kept my distance from her and her kittens as much as possible while taking photos. But I did manage to get away with a few, such as the wriggling pile of kittens trying to find mom for food. Or at least that’s what it looked like from my height.

ginger kitten

where is my mom????

We tried to take photos of one of the gingers as well as one of the calicoes, but the calico wouldn’t stay still long enough to have his/her photo taken. In any case I had my daughter gently handle them as Sunshine the mother was used to her. Sunshine was already showing signs of agitation at my presence, and the last thing I wanted was to put my scent on her kittens.

I might drive back up next weekend to see how much they change in a week. If I can’t get back up there before next weekend, then I won’t be able to see them until the first of November.

I don’t know if I’ll adopt one of the kittens to replace Lucy. I’m not at that point yet, and it’s going to be a good two months before they’re old enough to be adopted, so I can put that decision off for a while. I’m heading into the end of the year with four-plus weeks of travel split across two trips. I have enough to think about as it is.

Gear

These photos were taken with the Olympus E-M10 and the Panasonic Leica 1.4/25mm set at f/2 and the Olympus OM 1.4/50mm closed down to f/2.8. It was very dark where mother and kittens were located. I juggled between apertures that would allow for reasonable depths of field and shutters fast enough, letting the ISO automatically compensate. As a consequence all of these photos are high to very high ISO.

remembering lucy moments

Lucy - 22 August 2008 to 15 June 2015 Taken 7 May 2009

Lucy – 22 August 2008 to 15 June 2015
7 May 2009

We do not remember days, we remember moments.
Cesare Pavese, from This Business of Living

It’s hard to decide where to begin with little Lucy and big Max stories. They were both such larger-than-life personalities. That’s why their leaving left such deep voids in Judy’s and my souls. We still have two other cats and Ruby the yellow female Lab. So I decided to approach this as only an engineer can, in alphabetical order. We’ll start off with Lucy, the first Official Arcane Science Lab Mascot.

Lucy’s Arrival

Lucy officially came into our lives 22 August 2008 when she walked through our front door. Three weeks prior to that momentous day our next door neighbors had asked my wife if she’d put out cat food and water daily for two cats that they’d been feeding at their front door. My wife did this until that first weekend when I saw her ready to head out the door with another meal for them. I took the meals over and that’s when I first saw Lucy and another cat, a male ginger. I don’t know why I paid such close attention to Lucy, and I don’t think I ever will. But I did and from that moment her possible fate gnawed on my conscience. I wasn’t worried about the male ginger, as he was another neighbor’s cat and a fat freeloader. Lucy was just the opposite, frail and thin, at least to my eyes. That’s when I started to up the feedings to twice/day.

I kept those feedings up until the next weekend, when my concern over her well being grew ever greater. It was hotter than hell that August and the idea of leaving Lucy outside to fend for herself was getting to me. So one day, on a whim, as I was walking back from dropping off another meal, I stopped in the middle of the neighbor’s yard so that Lucy could still see me, and then turned back to look at her, and waited. Lucy wasn’t eating yet; she was watching me. We made eye contact and then she started eating. I stayed until she finished, which didn’t take long. When she looked back up she started to slowly move towards me. I waited until she got close, then I slowly turned and slowly walked back across our yards to my front door, always stopping long enough to see if Lucy was following. For the first two days she stopped, apparently afraid to leave the feeding spot.

But one day she followed me completely home as I’d hoped, and sat at the front door and meowed. I went in and got new dishes of food and water and fed her a second time. I figured she was still hungry and I was right. She started coming to my door every day, which was fine by me. The next door neighbors were home from vacation anyway.

Lucy’s outdoor living on my doorstep lasted for just several more days until one day I opened the front door, stood aside, and waited. Lucy looked up at me, then inside the door with the air conditioning flowing out, and made the decision to come on in on her own. That day was 22 August, and that started a long deepening relationship between cat and human. And two square meals per day in air conditioned comfort.

Origin Questions

23 December 2008

23 December 2008

I have no idea where Lucy came from, but I have my theories. When Lucy first came into the house she was wearing a flea collar. When I took her to a vet several days later I was told she’d been spayed. When I asked the vet where she might have come from the vet said she’d been raised as a lap cat and wasn’t really an outdoor cat. That lap cat behavior didn’t fully (re)establish itself until around Christmas of that year.

That meant, to me, that Lucy either ran away or was just simply turned out. Considering that 2008 was the height of the real estate collapse, where people were loosing their homes right an left, over time I came to believe she was turned out, or more precisely just left behind when a family left their foreclosed home. The reason or reasons why will never be known.

It meant I didn’t know her real age. The fact she was thin due to lack of proper nutrition didn’t help. She might have been anywhere from 1 to 3 years of age before she walked through my front door.

It took Lucy until Thanksgiving before she “became” the Lucy I’ll always remember. Before that time she was shy, backing away if I got close and stayed near too long. I made sure to feed her on a regular basis and then just let her eat. She managed to fill out during that period. She explored all the rooms in the house and all its hiding spots and would set up “shop” in different locations. She would seemingly disappear and put me in a panic until she either walked out of a hiding spot or I managed to stumble upon a spot. Her favorite resting spot was in the kitchen next to the washer and dryer when we were washing the blankets and towels. When they came out of the dryer still warm, I’d fold them and then stack them on the kitchen table to be put away. Lucy would home in on that pile like a heat-seeking missile, where she’d zoom to the top of the pile and then sit and watch everything happening around that part of the house. August to Thanksgiving 2008 was Lucy’s getting-to-know-us period. The house must have seemed chaotic to her, with two Labs (Max and Ruby as a puppy) and two other cats (Ellipse and Lulu). But she adapted to them and they to her. After that she made up her mind to adopt a person, and she adopted me.

The Long Stay

Lucy and Ruby
21 February 2009

Lucy integrated well into the household. She would have her moments with the other two cats, especially Lulu (everybody had moments with Lulu). She knew the drill about vet visits; she had no qualms at all about being put into a cat carrier and taken in the car to see the vet. I made sure to put her in the front seat. She’d talk up a storm and I’d reply back in a soothing tone. Once at the vets it was always a time of intense curiosity until the vet came to visit.

The photo at right shows the first time I took her with Ruby to the vet. Ruby had been born August 23rd, one day after Lucy showed up. We wouldn’t get Ruby until eight weeks later, at which point she was an instant object of curiosity for all the cats.

Lulu facing Lucy
6 February 2009

Lucy’s reaction to both Labs knocked down a common myth about animosity between cats and dogs. It didn’t exist, at least not in our household. All three cats loved to rub up against Ruby as a pup. I have to wonder if they thought of Ruby as a very big kitten.

Or perhaps it was because all the cats, being female, had deep maternal instincts that crossed species boundaries. Whatever the reason, all the little creatures in our household lived in relative harmony, except for the occasional standoff between Lucy and Lulu.

And that lasted all the time that Lucy lived with us. Whenever Lulu and Lucy got within seeing distance of one another, Lulu would start up a low growl that would set your teeth on edge. If it kept up long enough I’d call out to Lulu to knock it off. And she understood enough that it did stop.

How Lucy Got Her Name

Lucille “Lucy” van Pelt – Peanuts

Before Lucy was Lucy, she was called Gertrude by the next door neighbor. The neighbor is originally from Quebec, which may have something to do with the name. I personally feel Gertrude isn’t a fit name for man nor beast. I think Gertrude/Lucy felt the same way.

Lucy had been in the house for about two weeks when one day she decided to visit the back master bedroom and check out the bed. While sitting quietly and thinking cat thoughts, Judy came in the room and happened to notice her up on the bed. She walked over, bent down to say something nice, and while she was hovering over Lucy, Lucy reached up to bat her face away.

Lucy’s reach was with claws still retracted and was meant as a simple bat to get Judy back up a bit. The paw bat was strong enough and accurately placed such that Lucy, even though still recovering from her outdoor life stage, managed to put a little bruise Judy’s lower eye lid. There was no pain involved and she didn’t notice the bruise until a little later. When I saw the bruise and heard the story I immediately thought of Peanut’s Lucy, who was known to whop some of the other characters. I told Judy and from that time onward Gertrude was Lucy. And I think Lucy approved, because she quickly came to respond to that name.

How Lucy Won My Heart So Deeply, And Vice Versa

That process was pretty much over with me after those first two weeks in August. But winning Lucy’s heart took time, and required I just give her plenty of time and space to adjust to life in the house and come to see she was OK. As I wrote earlier I didn’t know how old she was, or what led up to her being homeless, or how long she’d been homeless. But I do believe that animals are not stupid. The bond of animal-to-human love and trust is easily built as well as broken, and while it can be healed, it takes time. So I gave Lucy all the time she needed. I made sure she was given ample food and water and the protection of the household. And over the next three months, her little soul did indeed heal, and I do believe, heal completely.

Reaching out to Judy 4 July 2009

Reaching out to Judy
4 July 2009

I knew it was healed when one day, out of the blue, she started to walk around my ankles, purring. And I don’t mean soft purrs. Lucy would purr like a motorboat. She’d be loud enough that even with my damaged hearing I could hear her standing straight while she was on the floor. That was around that first Thanksgiving.

We need to talk... 10 January 2010

We need to talk…
10 January 2010

From that point forward she made it her duty to visit me, especially when I was sitting in my lounger. She would patrol the house and on her way through the TV room, if she spotted me, she’d pick up her pace and then make a running leap into my lap. The first couple of times it was a bit startling, but I quickly grew used to it and would look forward to her visits. I give her rubs and she’d settle into my lap and purr, purr, purr.

Peek-a-boo 2 May 2009

Peek-a-boo
2 May 2009

After determining that she was going to adopt me, she also checked to see if we could sleep together. She started to check that out by first sleeping at the foot of the bed. Later, after she grew comfortable with that, she would come up, curl up into a ball, and snuggle into my midriff. More than once when I woke up in the middle of the night I had to be careful not to squash a little cat. But that never happened, and she kept that up, especially during her illness.

During her illness I would reach down to rub her head and tell her how I loved her. Outside of taking her to the vet that was about all I could do. I’m pretty certain she understood the emotion if not the exact words. And it helped sustain her so that she lived a little longer.

Play time 22 April 2014

Play time
22 April 2014

She was like any other cat. She loved to play with toys, both conventional and 21st century. Her favorite conventional toys were the kind that she could play cat soccer with on the floor. Our house has tile flooring throughout, the easier to keep it clean of messes. It makes for a marvelously low-friction surface for rolling objects, for which all the cats found useful. But it was Lucy and Lulu who took the most advantage of the tile floor for playtime. The 21st century toy she loved most was the little red laser pointer. I would send her scampering from one end of the house to the other, and up walls, trying to capture the little red dot.

What follows are a few more photographs, in general chronological order. The final photos at the bottom are towards the end of both Lucy and Max.

Rolling thunder 19 June 2009

Rolling thunder
19 June 2009

Innocence incarnate 12 November 2009

Innocence incarnate
12 November 2009

Contented 1 May 2010

Contented Cat
1 May 2010

Clown 1 July 2010

Clown Cat
1 July 2010

Sharing the big chair 3 September 2010

Sharing the big chair
3 September 2010

I think, therefore I am a cat 25 May 2011

I think, therefore I am a cat
25 May 2011

Watching outside 27 June 2011

Watching outside
27 June 2011

Christmas Cat

Christmas Cat
25 December 2011

Mysterious Cat 6 June 2012

Mysterious Cat
6 June 2012

Camera Cat 7 January 2013

Camera Cat
7 January 2013

Watchful Cat 19 October 2013

Watchful Cat
19 October 2013

This photo shows Lucy’s one special house spot. It’s an old cabinet in front of the main window. We’d feed and water her in this one spot. Lucy would eat and then settle down to look out as the world passed by, one paw drapped. My daughter says that windows are like TV for cats.

Spy Cat 7 November 2013

Spy Cat
7 November 2013

A bag full of Cute Cat 25 March 2014

A bag full of Cute Cat
25 March 2014

Cat Napping 11 January 2014

Cat Napping
11 January 2014

Watching 26 July 2014

Watching
26 July 2014

Little Angel

Little Angel
15 September 2014

Coy Cat 15 September 2014

Coy Cat
15 September 2014

Lucy and Max, one last time 15 March 2015

Lucy and Max, one last time together
15 March 2015

There’s no other way to describe Lucy except as an exceptionally sweet and outsized personality in a small cat body. If her physical size had matched her personality she’d have been tiger-sized. Which makes why she was abandoned by her original owner(s) even more inexplicable to me.

It was the exposure to that outsized personality followed by its loss that has left such a painful void in my soul, every bit as big and painful as Max. She was around during some of the most tumultuous times in my life, providing solace and a barrier at home against an indifferent world. I foolishly thought she’d last nearly forever.

I’ll always remember these years I’ve enjoyed with Lucy, all her purring, the morning wake-up walks up my chest and into my face, the mischievous playfulness, and especially the unconditional love she showered me with. She broke just about every myth and convention I’d ever heard about cats and owning a cat, and all in a good way. She had her moments with Lulu, but everyone has had moments with Lulu, and to be fair to Lulu she’s been quiet and mopey with Lucy gone. She’s missing Lucy too in her own way.

Finding Lucy was one of the most improbable moments I think I’ve experience in my life. Yet I know that there’s lots more like Lucy in the world, and they need the same care I gave to Lucy. I guess it’s just a matter of time before I we find each other – again.