8th and Massachusetts

a pit bull, a rough looking guy, whose bones seem stiff, he is grey with white spots, big barrel chest, skinny legs,  his demeaner is somewhat attached as he watches the humans sit,  there is a collection of dog food cans, I see him pee on the fence behind the RV, his collection of feces piles around the garbage.

 My mornings usually start with my cat Sheba letting me know its time to wake up, step outside, take our walk around the yard. She does want me to follow her around her path, then sit and enjoy the morning with its stars with her and listen to the birds waking and beginning their day.

She gazes at me between her bushes of territory, her look of that connection that loving pets have, this is home and life is good.

When the time is right, she lets me know when its time for her to receive her breakfast.

We step back up the stairs, into our house, I feed her, then begin preparing for my day at work as she gives me a disappointed look and reminds me, she has the track ball, bird on string, and other games that have no possible equal of fun and importance outside of those doors.

As I step into my car, then turn onto the street,

Its difficult to find an argument with her.

8th and Massachusettes has been a “layover” spot for me for a number of months now.

Its also a rather permanent tent encampment.

There are a few RV’s, trucks with campers, and a dozen or more tents.

All in various and continuous states of decline.

There are early mornings I drive by and see a few sitting by a fire or “rough made” BBQ making their meal or coffee but sightings of people there are rare.

The evidence by their comings and goings is evidenced by their garbage and their constant addition of “stuff” broken furniture, lawnmowers, various metal and wood objects, things that make no sense to me, as it seems there is effort at carrying this stuff to the location for no reason at all except for the possibility that it makes a fence around their dwellings, a   trip hazard, or lose definition of their space.

Garbage begins to fill in between the spaces of the objects, paper, unwashed clothes, food wrapping, boxes.

The height of this “fence” begins to equal the height of the tent.

One of the RV’s is in rough decline, it started out ok, then windows break, panels fall, tires leak then go flat, the garbage and collection of stuff around it gather high.  They have a BBQ, a pit bull, a rough looking guy,

whose bones seem stiff, he is grey with white spots, big barrel chest, skinny legs,  his demeaner is somewhat attached as he watches the humans sit,  there is a collection of dog food cans, I see him pee on the fence behind the RV, his collection of feces piles around the garbage.

He makes his way around the perimeter, sniffs, on guard as he seems to know its his job to keep a look out, be ready.

I am confident, that whatever the humans do not notice, he does.

Tarps will stretch across multiples of these homes, there are walkways inside and under these tarps ties to the garbage and collections of stuff.

Seagulls, Crows, Rabbits who keep wary of the dogs, Rats I see often scamper from one point to another.

There is a woman I guess to be in her 30s that lives in one of the better kept RV’s, she has found a business across the corner of her parked home has left their spicket available.  She access this water for filling cooking pots, general water for drinking and cleaning.

She drops her gray sweatpants relieves herself as she leans against the building. A rat makes a rush for her grocery bag she leans to her left, picks up a rock and is able to hit the bag, the rat darts away, she pulls up her pants, her dirty white t shirt is sweat soaked and no bra.

A man riding one of the red rent a bikes rides begins to ride by, he is gliding a rent a scooter in his hand as he drives by and says something to her, she flips him off.

A small unhealthy-looking Rat makes a run across the intersection, a dirty brown grey gull dives on it, they fight, the gull picks it up in its beak and shakes it dead, two other gulls, a bright white one and a dirty grey one fight the hunter for its meal. They tear at the Rat, but the hunter makes off with the Rat in its mouth while its tail dangles out of its beak.

The woman with the grey sweatpants opens the door to her RV, a can falls out, she kicks it under the RV, then steps up, closes the door behind her.

I begin my route again heading to Northgate.

It’s a busy day, more people than usual for our “covid period”

I hear an older male voice talking to another passenger about what a great looking dog she has and is it ok to pet?

“Yes! Please do… he loves to say hi, they begin talking, her stop is next and she exits.

He starts talking to me about his dog.  A dog he lost 4 months ago,

She was the best dog in my life, tells me stories of how he got her at a rescue kennel when she was maybe 9 months old.  She always went to work with him at his Martial Arts Studio where he was a sensei.

They ran together, vacationed together and had a bond that the special pet of a lifetime gives you,  

He was hit by a car, it ended his career and he was homebound for an extended period of time.

“She was everything to me, she was home.”

He started crying, bawling, “I’m so sorry he said.”

Sir, I understand, let it out, its ok, I’ve had that special pet, I know what your going through. Its really ok,

“She saved me once, she didn’t have too”

How so?

“I was downtown, it was late, my back was turned on a group of guys, and one reached out to mug me with a knife.

Before I could knock him down,

She grabbed his arm then tore into him, he stabbed her down her side, she needed 25 stitches and almost didn’t make it.

She was so gentle to the vet, as she laid on the table, she licked his hand as he cleaned her, she was always so sweet, I had no idea she was a fighter until she did that.”

Wow, I said, she really sounds amazing to me,

At the next stop, his hand appeared under my covid clear plexi shield and showed me a picture of her, she was a beautiful brown and white, blue healer, sitting proudly next to her sensei.

He told me more about her, he cried some more, saying, he hadn’t cried since she passed and again, he was so sorry.

We arrived at his stop, he asked me, “do you mind if I step off the front, I don’t want people seeing me like this”……

Of course sir, take care of yourself,

He silently stepped off, he was older than I first thought, may have been 80, dressed in black, black baseball hat, dark sunglasses, his skin stark white, he looked smaller than his voice, he leaned on the brick building and was breathing deep as I pulled away.

It took me a few minutes to recover my breath,

I thought of my previous cat and how long it took to get over her.

I thought of Sheba, and how she greets me when I get home.

Laying on the floor, stretched out, belly open waiting for a gentle rub, her ears perked, her eyes gazing at me with praise that I am home again

And its time for a walk in the garden with her, sit listen to the birds,

Then time for her to receive her dinner.

I will be home.

Early Blue

 

 

Sitting on the front yard bench, Sheba inspecting the perimeter of the yard, smelling over night visitors, following trails of a stray rodent, a moth flutters between her paws as it rises from the grass that lays as a charcoal green carpet, a spangly rose bush untrimmed reaches to the cement grey arch over the sidewalk.

Blackberry brambles back lit by Cedar, Madrona, Fir hold the last midnight blue below them, above light begins its turn for day.

Rain drips from leaves like applause as the light stirs shadows out of the pockets.

Crow’s and Blue Jays continue their struggle over territory,

A single crow draws one of the Jays out of its nest, caw’s  and scrambles as it appears the Jay has the upper hand of the crow, 3 crows attack the nest, the remaining adult flee, as two chase it away, the last crow plucks a baby out of the nest, drops  it, then grabs another and flies away.

Jays and Crows scream at each other as the drama of the battle ends.

Sheba has made her way back and sits next to me on the bench, her wide eyes watch the Crows as they fly over us towards their nest in a back-yard Tree.

The streetlight across the street goes dark, the rain becomes a pour as I climb the stairs to the door, closing behind us.

Hummingbirds and the Surgeon

He retired a few years earlier and had spent over a decade a garden to attract Hummingbirds and Butterflies.

They had me over for dinner as we just finished their project of their living and dining room,  and some window coverings in other parts of the house which was on the bluff just North of Edmonds, expansive view of the Olympics over the Sound.

They owned a NW Contemporary House that was situated in the middle of a large flat of land that he had spent over a decade developing a garden that was meant to attract Hummingbirds and Butterflies.

He retired a few years earlier and was loving that he was able to spend his time in the garden, as well as building his outdoor kitchen that’s back was to the house.  It had a canvas cover that could be used if needed.  He had laid large shale tile on the ground to define the dining area that faced the view, he liked to cook for his guests as we took in the view and the Hummingbirds.

It was spectacular, hundreds of Hummingbirds of all colors, red, brown, yellow, green…. , Butterflies of many types,  darting and floating around all of these flowers and bushes, It was nothing short of magical as you also watched the large container, cruise ships, fishing vessels, day cruisers, sail boats and canoes go left and right on the sound.

Their house was next to a green belt and they had been adopted by 2 cats over the years, I asked if they were a problem for the Hummingbirds and he said, “rarely, mostly they just watch fascinated”

My head was buzzed by a bird then I heard a “pop”, I looked behind me and a bird had hit the glass and was lying on the ground.  The Calico cat was fascinated and looking at the bird, I quickly and carefully picked the bird up, it was knocked out, I held it in my palm and carefully stroked its head, after a few seconds its eye’s began to blink open, it slowly stood, ruffled its wings, tilted its head as it looked at me, pruned itself, then flew a circle around me and landed on my hand again.

Pruned itself once again, looked at me, tilted its head then flew off.

“Aren’t they amazing creatures” he said,

I sat there with my mouth open as his wife squeezed my shoulder and refilled my wine.

Earnestine

We kept food out for him, and discovered he was living under our side stairs

We moved into this house about a year and a half ago, the house is smaller than we preferred, but the yard is huge, two greenhouses and two storage sheds, and still plenty of room for my workshop.  When we moved here, we inherited a yard that attracted a number of cats, 4 or 5 by our count. A few were neighbor cats and 2 or 3 were strays.

At first, we didn’t see much of our new little grey cat, we would occasionally see him looking from a distance or hurrying around a corner, he kept his distance. He and Sheba got into a scramble, I stamped my foot at him, he ran and kept his distance from me for quite a while.

About a year went by and we started to see more of him, we also kept food out and found that he had be living under our side stairs. He would watch us with a serious face.  Long stares of sizing us up, he watched our every move.  I thought he was watching with Earnest and that would be a good name for him.

We got to know our neighbor and He told us what he knew of her, (Earnest now became Earnestine) that she had been around for at least a decade, was the two occupants ago cat and was left behind for some reason, and might be the mother of several of the neighborhood cats. He kept food out for her, but never saw her much.

When we would did see her, she was always tense, Earnestine’s survival method was to run and avoid all cats, she was the one lowest on the totem pole, she was too small, too old to protect herself, avoidance was what worked for her, when she was confronted by Tom, she screamed, some kind of unearthly type of plea, would break our hearts as we ran out to chase Tom off.  Pam would spend time with her and was making slow progress, It was then that we learned she is a “Hemingway” cat:  If you’re not familiar with the term, it refers to 6 toes on each foot, (24 toes) also, one eye socket is a little smaller than the other,  Earnestine would take food from us as long as we weren’t too close, then one day as Pam held out her hand, Earnestine touched her nose on Pam’s finger, then soon Pam could pet her, I was making similar, but slower progress, her face started to relax from being earnest, to something sweet and curious. Food would now be eaten while we were close and we were allowed to pet her, then she came into the house, as long as we kept the door open, she was ok, if I closed the door, she would jump at windows trying to get out.  It took a bit, but now she trusts us, and will lay with us if we sit on the kitchen floor and purr while we pet her and talk to her. She never ventures farther into the house.

Earnestine still wants to stay outside, she is a feral cat, and showing her age, too skinny, bones, and limps from an old hip injury that might be arthritic, we put together a warm cat house that has a heating pad and is insulated. We have fallen in love with her and hope this keeps her well for the winter, as she has lived a long time for a feral cat, as much as we want her to share her house with her, we fear this might be her last winter. 

Walks with Sheba

Sheba is a little black cat with Amber Eyes.

As with most cats when she was young, she was feisty and adventurous spent long hours outside and committed Genocide on the local mouse population, I’m convinced they moved out of my old neighborhood because of her.

Then she got into a fight, a larger cat, grey, unkept and used to winning.

It’s been my experience, when cats lose a fight they change, they become more home bound, cautious.  Out of the 6 cats in my life, only one of those cats ruled the neighborhood, a medium sized Tortoise Shell with a huge attitude.  We called her Tootie ( short for Tuti Fruiti, this is what happens pets when little kids name their pets), one of my memories of Tootie was her going after the German Shepard across the street.  He was not timid and bullied some of the dogs and some of us kids. One day Tootie wasn’t having it.  They snarled at each other, then Tootie leaped onto his shoulders and dug in…… The German Shepard, surprised, started running down the street and Tootie hopped off halfway down, sat, licked her paws and watched him dart into a neighbor’s yard.

Tootie lived to the grand age of 22 and only because she succumbed to being hit by a Truck.

I moved to Burien last year, new neighborhood lots of new sounds and smells the house I live in came with stray cats 3-5 by our estimate.  And, there is a Grey cat, pretty good looking short haired guy that what we can tell, runs the neighborhood.  We call him Tom.

Sheba was chased and taught the rules during her 1st week. 

It’s a big yard, a couple of fruit trees in the back, 2 small greenhouses and a couple of storage sheds…. Lots of room for cats and 1 of the strays, we call her Ernestine lives comfortably under our back doorsteps.

Sheba and I love our Mornings. Summertime sometimes as early as 3:30 she lets me know its time to go out, Ill grab a cup of Tea and open the door, she steps out and looks back at me to make sure I follow.  I walk behind her, we go to the bushes that line the street, walk south, then around the house.  I keep my distance by about 10 ft or so.   She keeps and eye on me but doesn’t want to be petted in front of the strays.  Sometimes Tom peeks out from the Greenhouse, glares at each of us, determines he will stay away from me, pulls his head in. She sniffs bushes, cautiously walks the sidewalk, Ernestine greets us as we walk by (she’s friendly, but doesn’t want to be touched just fed) Sheba glares and wants nothing to do with her, I say good morning Earnestine and we continue on.

Our walks somedays take a half hour, sometimes I sit and watch her go around, when she’s done she comes and sits by me on the bench and we listen to the Owls do their last hoots of the night and the crows begin their day, we watch the sky get brighter, we listen to the neighbors starting cars while others take their dogs past us on leash and wave. 

Sheba watches it all, and watches me, I stay out as long as I can, when its time to go in, I just say, “Time to go sweety”. Sheba follows me up the steps.