Yikes! I’m a week behind on blog posts already! Between boat repair projects, several rounds of physical therapy for a new back problem (sympathy pain for Sonrisa?) and the fact that neither Sonrisa or Grin are in any state to take over writing blog posts, I’ve gotten behind. My ink well has run dry.
Things are in a state of deconstruction and upheaval at the yard. Sonrisa is “successfully” broken into several major pieces as planned. Grin is napping along side, waking occasionally to demand his own measures of beautification. He doesn’t want to be left out. Andrew is trying to sort through his Boat/House/Mistress’ affairs and I am at the mercy of a new Muse - or should I say “Mews” - who has invited herself into my life.
What’s a Muse?
Well, maybe it’s just the thing I need to pull me out of this rut of writers’ block.
There are countless examples of a Muse inspiring and appearing in works of all types of art, including the literary. Zelda Fitzgerald stole F. Scott Fitzgerald’s heart and inspired such an obsession over her personality traits that he re-wrote his main character in This Side of Paradise to be more like her. She appears again in The Great Gatsby when the character Daisy Buchanan steals words straight from Zelda’s mouth: “I hope she’ll be a fool—that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.”
You see an equally obsessive, but less romantic, example of a muse in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road at the appearance of friend, fellow author, and romantic competitor Neal Cassady.
In the Steven King’s personal memoir of his writing craft, Writing, he explains the Muse is the mysterious force of the universe that inspires a writer’s best work. It is no particular person or thing, but a divine visitor who arrives at its own whim, but leaves a writer to hammer and saw uninspired prose on his or her own most days.
When I first read that description, I thought: “That guy sounds like a real asshole.”
I’ve never had a muse in any earthly form. Of course, I have days where my writing flows easily, it’s fun, and it turns out better than I’d hoped with no reasonable explanation as to why. Days when I’d eaten more kale and broccoli, drank enough green tea, and had enough sleep? Given the infrequent confluence of those particular events in my life, I don’t think that can be the explanation. Maybe days when I’d imbibed in the creative juices of a rum based cocktail? Likely not. It’s an unpredictable experience.
So, when we arrived at our rental apartment and I met a bandit-masked kitty lounging in the rafters of the car port, I didn’t think twice about her potential involvement in my writing life
“MMMMAAAEEEEEYYYYYOOOOOWWWW!” She says, opening her mouth wide, fangs glinting at me.
“Mew!” I respond, waiting for Andrew to unlock the door.
“A kitty?” He says. He drops what he’s doing and returns next to me to crane his neck skyward. “Kitty, kitty, kitty?” He reaches his hand toward her and rubs his first and second finger together to make a sound that may entice her curiosity.
She rolls her eyes at him and lays her chin on white-booted paws.
“Kitty, kitty, kitty!” He keeps trying, she raises one furry eyebrow at him. I take the apartment keys and let us in. It’s not that I don’t like cats, it’s that I am deathly allergic to them. Within only a few minutes of being in their indoor, enclosed presence, my chest and throat start to tighten. If I touch them, I break out in hives, my eyes swell up and itch, and in a few hours, I’m gasping to breath through a straw like hole between swollen neck flesh. This experience just doesn’t endear a person to the cause of her malady.
But Andrew? He’s a proud cat-guy. Always has been. He loves their aloof attitude, their self-sufficiency, and their appreciation for irony. There is no greater joy than when a cat who, usually swats him away with claws extended, temporarily allows him to wear her on his neck like a scarf. Never mind that, eventually, she claws her way atop his head and uses his 6’3” body as a cat scratching pole. Therefore, he couldn’t be happier that our apartment comes complete with the presence of a cat.
The next day, he finds her sitting atop the wall-perch on the front stoop. He drags the palm of his hand from between her ears, down her back, all the way to the tip of her tail. She arches her chin skyward, then flops on her side, looking up at him with full moon-green eyes. “Mew?” she says. He pets and pets, with two hands alternately, overjoyed.
The day after, I’m standing in the kitchen washing dishes when I hear an insistent, one-sided conversation going on. “MEEEEYOW! MeYYYYYYow! MeeeeyOOOOOOWWWWAHHHHH!” I look out the window and see her standing at my own front door (just to the left of the sink window). She feels me looking at her, looks up at me and in no uncertain terms says: “MYOW”.
“Okay, okay!” I dry my hands and unlock the door. “What?”
As soon as I open the door, she invites herself in, slithering the sides of her belly along the corner of one wall.
“Ppppuuuurrrrruuuuppppp!” She makes a satisfied sound in the back of her throat that starts low and ends on a high trill. I sigh. “You want to come in.”
She draws figure eights around my legs; I feel her silky fur as it passes me by. I reach down to give her a pat and just like with Andrew she flops down on her side and bears her white belly. “You want a belly rub?” I ask, not understanding cats at all. I go to pet her belly and all four sets of claws pop out. She pushes my hand away.
“Mew!” She says, rolling onto her side and looking up at me expectantly. I rub her back and side, carefully avoiding any insinuation that I may touch her perfect white belly. “Ppppuuuururrrruuuup!” She says in response.
I sigh. “I’m allergic!” I tell her. She ignores this completely, and instead rotates her head into the palm of my hand and stretches her chin as far as it will go so that I will scratch the curve between her chin and neck. She closes her eyes, and I can feel the rattle of her purr-throat. Who can resist that?
Soon, she rolls up to her feet and sits, staring at the door.
“Do you want out?” I open the door a crack, but she continues to sit in the doorway and watch.
I shrug. I return to my business washing dishes, and she alternates between figure eights around my legs and keeping watch at the door. “Are you waiting for Andrew?” I send him a text. “You have a friend who wants you to come home.” So many ladies want his attention: boats, cats, wives….
She stays until Andrew returns home. He scoops her into his arms, which she tolerates for about one minute and a half, then she wriggles away to escape. She collects her alottment of petting from him, then leaves.
This is the start of a beautiful relationship - at least according to my Bandit-Masked Lady. She has now established a daily routine of mewing at the door when she wishes to come in. If I ignore her, she climbs on the window sill and becomes ever more insistent.
She doesn’t like to sit on couches or my lap, but the last few days she has been arriving at first light. Andrew lets her in as he brews our coffee. She climbs aboard the dining table chair next to my writing station and curls up to nap.
Try as I might, I’m struggling to put words to the current state of deconstruction in the boat yard, and equally, I can’t get things flowing on a story about the Northern Thailand Road Trip we haven’t filled you in on, yet. So many pictures, which story-angle to choose. “Uhg, Kitty. Writers block!” I bemoan.
She looks up at me out of the corner of her eye. “MMRRRRRWWWAAAAOOOOOWWWWW!” She lets out a long moan, closing her whiskered lips into a pout at the end. It almost sounds like she is commiserating!
“I know!” I say.
“MERP,” she says, laying her head back on her paw.
“Some help you are,” I think. Just then, an email comes in.
“I’m just checking in with you to see if you have final draft text yet for the children’s book we are working on together. My first draft illustrations are due on Thursday.” I’ve been working on a children’s book for the last three years. Three years! On and off, I admit. I fiddle around with it when I am inspired, and it gets shoved in the dust of my mental desk when I am not. My illustrator’s email gives me a shove away from the parched desert of blog writing to Oddgodfrey: The Mostly True Story of a Unicorn Who Goes To Sea.
I pull out the text as it stands and grumble. With fresh eyes I see several areas I still do not like. I read poor sentences aloud and the cat flicks the tip of her tail. I scribble in my note pad, revise, then reread. “Mew.” She says. “Mew?” I ask. “Mew.” She confirms. So, I send it off to my “beta readers” and ask them: “What do you think?”
“Pppbbbbrrrrrruuuupppp!” The cat says. She stands up, stretches forward, trailing her legs behind her. Then, she tips her self backward, spreading her front toes wide. She jumps off the chair and heads to the door. “Mew! Mew! Mew!” I tip my head and look at her.
“A day’s work done?” I ask.
Ahhh, I see! She twirls figure eights around my legs, then flops on her side to demand a back scratch as her reward. She rolls on her back to the other side….pet pet pet….and then jumps to her feet and out the door. “Jumpa Lagi!” I tell her. (meaning, “see you later” in Bahasa Malayu. She is Malaysian, after all.)