Catsoul

March 29, 2012

Posted by request…there is more, but this is enough for now.

Maia (1988-2/15/03)

Maia (1988-2/15/03)

Catsoul is vast and mysterious, containing domestic cats as well as the little fierce wild ones, the great lions and panthers, and the ancient sabertooths and their ancestors.  It is the tabby kitten curled up on a pillow, the starving stray waiting on the porch, and wary eyeshine in the urban night.  It watches.  It is the pampered show cat with long glittering fur and a jeweled collar, and the breeder’s castoff with a deformed spine and useless hind legs.  It survives.  It can see in the dark, and it can leap and hunt and play and dance.  It is blind and crippled, deaf and incontinent, feeble of mind and wracked with seizures.  It loves.  It is the beloved skeleton buried in the garden, wrapped in a fraying blanket under a fragrant flowering bush that gives life to butterflies and hummingbirds.  It defines a holy place.  It is the ocelot crawling on a jungle vine, the tiger swimming in a muddy river, and the huge ancient fang shining like blue porcelain in the glacial dust.  It transforms, yet endures.

A cat is a sacred companion whose presence embodies rest and concentration, affection and obligation, self-sufficiency and mutual dependence.  Where cats have skillful, loving care, there is no need for a separate “spiritual practice” because the daily rhythm honors the Catsoul, and even scrubbing litterboxes or washing the floor is “serving in the temple.”  An ever-changing maze of interwoven pawprints and handprints records this dance.

No domestic cat, however feral, is truly “wild” or beyond hope of ever forging a connection with a human.  Even the shyest is descended from ancestors who purred at the touch of a hand.  If they could, these betrayed ones would advise us:  “In all of our souls, a place was made for You in the Long Ago, when we left our stripes in the long grass and came to live beside your First Fire.  Somewhere between fleeing and clutching, there is a place for all of us to meet.”

A cat keeps and nurtures the soul of a home, and you can follow this subtle watching, resting, and loving presence from one room to another, as the sunlight makes its daily journey across the floor.  A house that shelters many cats becomes a sanctuary for humans as well as felines, and here you feel the presence of Catsoul in all its complexity and power.  The long-time residents anchor it.  Those who will not be touched still give it raw vitality.  The kittens renew it and the old and fragile show its precious tenacity.  At its heart are the new arrivals, the ill, and those walking their final days on earth.  These are held in austere limbo between lives, perhaps even in isolation, and form the stillpoint at the center of the turning wheel.  This is a necessary transition that carries the weight of myth.  It is an ancient method of initiation, drastic adjustment, and deep healing.

Each cat makes a unique contribution to its home and caretaker.  Upon the cat’s death, this special role is lost to the household but enters the enduring secret shrine of Memory.  Here, the precious one continues to offer insight and comfort, long past the raw, empty time of grief.  Even after decades, you will still recall the way that one looked at you, the precise texture of the fur, the length of the tail, the gait that distinguished those paws from all others, the first meeting that transformed a kitty into My Cat.

Mountain Lion and Domestic Cat Skulls

Mountain Lion and Domestic Cat Skulls

Yin Yang Cats

Yin Yang Cats

Copper Flutes

These two copper flutes were based on D (small) and Bb (large) 6-hole English tin whistles that I bought years ago.  I played the whistles quite a bit when I was in high school, but quit in college when my asthma became too severe.  The new copper flutes have a larger bore than the tin whistles and a shorter mouthpiece, so the higher notes are easier to blow, and all the notes are quieter and sweeter than a tin whistle.  After some experimenting with hole positions on the old instruments, I added two holes, one at the top and one at the back, so these flutes are fingered like a recorder and are a bit more versatile than a tin whistle.  Unlike the rimblown flute that I posted here a year ago, these are “fipple flutes” and are easier to play (though making them was a lot more work!).  The blocks are carved from manzanita that I collected in the Santa Rita Mountains a couple of years ago.

Flute Mouthpieces

Flute Mouthpieces

The beads on the larger flute are handcarved from local pebbles.  The bluish-green copper ore is from a local abandoned mine dump, the two striped black dolomite beads are from the Empire Mountains, and the pink and grey rhyolite is from the Santa Rita Mountains.

Today I prepared some fabric for an embroidered wall hanging.  This is a sturdy hemp/cotton plainweave left over from a dress that I made several years ago.  At the top of the photo is the natural undyed fabric which is a warm white.  Below that is the same fabric dyed straw yellow with pomegranate hulls (they are rich in tannin, which provides the color; the dried hulls were crushed and the fabric immersed with them in cold water for several days).  I dyed this fabric a few years ago and have used it for a few jewelry bags etc.  At the bottom is some of the pomegranate-dyed fabric that has been “overdyed” with local clay from my yard (once used for making adobe bricks) mixed with powdered red ochre (hematite).  Of course the clay/iron oxide coating isn’t really “dye” since it doesn’t penetrate the fibers – it just sits on top of them.  But the hemp traps it pretty well and the color is quite even and does not rub off.  The fabric was scrubbed in the wet clay/ochre mixture, left to dry while still covered in it, then washed and dried again.  This process was repeated three times.  I was only working with a quarter yard, so it didn’t take long, and now I have a nice piece of warm, earthy-looking adobe-colored fabric for my project.