I’m busy getting ready for the first Chat Nomade, a pop-up cafe filled with cat art and objects. Nicole Barrière, Jude Brazendale, Marie-Josèphe Boyé and I are planning it for the first weekend of October, at Tom’s and my place. In November, it’ll be at someone else’s place.
At this point we’re working on the poster and making or collecting cat things.
Cordais friends, mark your calendars now and join us Saturday or Sunday afternoon between 2 and 5 the first weekend of the month for the Chat Nomade.
Je suis occupé à me préparer pour le premier Chat Nomade, un café éphémère rempli d’art et d’objets félins. Nicole Barrière, Jude Brazendale, et Josèpha Boyé et moi le prévoyons pour le premier week-end d’octobre, chez Tom et chez moi. En novembre, ce sera chez quelqu’un d’autre.
À ce stade, nous travaillons sur l’affiche et fabriquons ou collectons des objets “chat”.
Amis Cordais, à vos agendas dès maintenant et rejoignez-nous samedi ou dimanche après-midi entre 14h et 17h le premier week-end du mois pour Chat Nomade.
In the middle of this very very hot, very very dry summer, when we would stay inside our wonderfully cool little house all day every day, Ella, our lively little cat, was eight months old, and Mocha, our sensitive and often reactive dog, was ten years old.
One day the shit hit the fan.
Mocha was on her bed, sleeping lightly. Ella came flying into the room, skittered across the wood floor, attacked the dog’s tail with one flying paw, claws fully extended, turned, and zoomed out of the room. But Mocha was ready. Suddenly the dog had the cat cornered under the coat rack, and her jaws were closing around Ella’s ribs.
I shrieked, shouting at Mocha in my fiercest voice, pushing her away from the cat, and sending her to her bed. There was no need really; Mocha knew where to go, and as usual, she seemed genuinely remorseful.
But the incident was over the top for me. All afternoon, I stormed around, imagining the quiet home in the country I’d find for Mocha, designing in my mind the sign I’d hang at the vet’s and the Facebook post I’d write. I was done with her, this difficult, traumatized animal who’d shown up in our lives just when we arrived in our idyllic new setting four years ago. Despite some good progress, she still terrorized tourists, lurched and bared her teeth at moving wheels of all sorts, and snarled at children who approached her uninvited.
I’d had enough. Which picture would I choose for the ad?
Meanwhile, Ella was fine, relaxing on her chair next to Mocha’s bed, stretching, washing herself.
As these things go – more and more frequently it seems – when I sat down and opened my computer, there was an offer to watch a short series of videos on working with sensitive animals. Needless to say, I watched them.
For a little over a month now, I’ve been practicing a new form of meditation that I learned from the series, which is about James French’sTrust Technique. After 40 years of practicing more or less the same technique I’d learned from Ganesh Baba, I feel like I’m being offered a promotion. The open-eyed, focused Buddhist-style practice French uses takes the inner skills I’ve honed all these years and redirects them outward, slowly refining my awareness of my own state of mind and Mocha’s. I’m only on the second lesson of the paid series, and my relationship with her has changed.
I haven’t replaced my Ganesh-Baba-style kriya yoga practice with the new practice – I do both; they enhance each other – and I look forward to both my private practice and my twenty minutes of meditation with Mocha with renewed enthusiasm.
Based on Reiki, the trick to meditating and eventually cooperating with animals is to master moving into a deeply peaceful state of presence easily, a stillness without thought, that they find comforting. Now, using my attention increasingly skillfully and progressing at Mocha’s pace, I’m learning to communicate that peace to her. She likes it very much, and so does Ella, who regularly volunteers to join in our experiments.
Today, as I drifted back into ordinary consciousness after a particularly satisfying session with both dog and cat, it occurred to me that the skills I’m gaining may be very useful in these increasingly chaotic times. I’m practicing being undisturbed by passing cars, by Tom passing through the room, being unruffled by feelings of failure or frustration, detached from thoughts of the future and the past. I sit on the floor next with Mocha and Ella, breathing softly, fully present.
Then I paint the stool using acrylics. If I’m working on a stool for someone, I try to choose the right colors. Once the color is dry I begin on the design, usually on paper first and then on the stool.
Recently, most of my days have been taken up with writing query letters to literary agents and tweaking Red Vienna, the first volume of Two Suitcases. I even added a short new section. Today Henri IV thought it was time to take a break from it.
Moving to the desktop worked for a short time.
But he was determined. I gave up.
And he decided to take a nap in the kitchen.
A short time later, while waking from a second nap on the kitchen counter, the idea to open his own Instagram account occurred to Henri. I reopened my laptop. He agreed to stay off the keyboard temporarily so we could choose some pictures to share to get it started.
But first he wanted to wash up.
And adjust a few things.
After that, we set up his new site, @henriquatredecordes. Naturally he wanted a simpler name, but some other Henri IVs had already claimed them. Thus, he is forced to go by most of his whole name, which is Henry IV de Cordes.
Satisfied with his day’s work, he sat on his throne to wait for dinner,
We’re told that this winter is not typical for Cordes-sur-Ciel, that it was unusually short, that, in fact, it may well not be over yet.
On nous dit que cet hiver n’est pas typique de Cordes-sur-Ciel, qu’il a été exceptionnellement court, qu’en fait, il se pourrait bien qu’il ne soit pas encore terminé.
After six weeks in California, we came back to our little house in Cordes on January 11. The skies were gray, but the fields were still green.
Après six semaines en Californie, nous sommes rentrés dans notre petite maison à Cordes le 11 janvier. Le ciel était gris, mais les champs étaient toujours verts.
It was cold that month, cold and damp and very gray.
Il faisait froid ce mois-ci, froid et humide et très gris.
It even snowed a little.
Il a même neigé un peu.
But it was cozy indoors and there were at least a couple sunny and clear days each week.
Mais c’était agréable à l’intérieur et il y avait au moins deux journées ensoleillées et claires chaque semaine.
It was a good time for making potimarron soup.
C’était un bon moment pour faire de la soupe au potimarron.
And poached pears.
Et des poires pochées.
I love seeing the trees and bushes without leaves.
J’aime voir les arbres et les buissons sans feuilles.
We took long walks with the dog. One day, I noticed hyacinths in bud in front of a neighbor’s house. It happens, our neighbor said, but then it gets very, very cold again, and the buds never bloom.
Nous avons fait de longues promenades avec le chien. Un jour, j’ai remarqué des jacinthes en boutons devant la maison d’un voisin. Cela arrive, a dit notre voisin, mais ensuite, il fait à nouveau très froid et les bourgeons ne fleurissent jamais.
It was about then that a fortunate thing happened. We’d wondered who the abandoned garden across the street from our house belonged to, and had asked around before we left for California. We could look over the wall and see that, though largely covered in brush, it looked like there there were fruit trees, a chicken coop, and maybe a well.
C’était à peu près alors qu’une chose chanceuse s’est produite. Nous nous étions demandés à qui appartenait le jardin abandonné situé de l’autre côté de la rue de notre maison et nous l’avions demandé avant notre départ pour la Californie. Nous pourrions regarder par-dessus le mur et voir que, bien que largement recouvert de broussailles, il semblait y avoir des arbres fruitiers, un poulailler et peut-être un puits.
Travelling for so long – we’d left Cordes in mid-October for Morocco, stayed four weeks, returning for only a couple, before our time in California – I was longing for roots. As I fell asleep in all those different beds, I’d imagine asking for permission to use that garden: cleaning it up, pruning the trees, digging over the beds and planting vegetables and flowers, and maybe even having a few chickens.
Voyager pendant si longtemps – nous avions quitté Cordes à la mi-octobre pour le Maroc, sommes restés quatre semaines et n’y étions revenus que deux semaines avant notre séjour en Californie – je rêvais de racines. Quand je me suis endormi dans tous ces différents lits, j’imagine que demander l’autorisation d’utiliser ce jardin: le nettoyer, tailler les arbres, creuser par-dessus les lits, planter des légumes et des fleurs et peut-être même avoir quelques poulets.
Our neighbors, Dominique and Lucie, were kind enough to keep Mocha for us while we were gone. A week or so after we came back, we invited them over for dinner. To our delight, Dominique told us the garden belonged to Lucette, who passed away three years ago, and whose house was maintained by her children, though they rarely use it. Coincidentally, they were there that weekend.
Nos voisins, Dominique et Lucie, ont eu la gentillesse de garder Mocha pour nous pendant notre absence. Environ une semaine après notre retour, nous les avons invités à dîner. À notre plus grand plaisir, Dominique nous a dit que le jardin appartenait à Lucette, décédée il y a trois ans et dont la maison était entretenue par ses enfants, bien qu’ils l’utilisent rarement. Par coïncidence, ils étaient là ce week-end.
The next morning, Tom went over, introduced himself, and minutes later, we had permission to use the garden.
Le lendemain matin, Tom est allé se présenter, et quelques minutes plus tard, nous avons eu la permission d’utiliser le jardin.
And, even though it was January, there were irises blooming.
Et, même si c’était en janvier, des iris étaient en fleurs.
We also found a peach tree already budding.
Nous avons également trouvé un pêcher en herbe.
So we began work in the garden, pruning, clearing brush, cleaning up in general.
Nous avons donc commencé à travailler dans le jardin: élagage, débroussaillage, nettoyage en général.
On February 10, M. Jazz de Rodez, a cat of great dignity and considerable curiosity, came to live with us.
Le 10 février, M. Jazz de Rodez, un chat d’une grande dignité et d’une grande curiosité, est venu vivre avec nous.
While the two of them make their peace, the garden keeps growing.
Alors que les deux font leur paix, le jardin ne cesse de croître.
Now there are trees in bloom everywhere.
Maintenant, il y a des arbres en fleurs partout.
Inside, Mocha waits a little impatiently to be taken for a walk.
A l’intérieur, Mocha attend un peu avec impatience de se promener.
And Jazz is sleeping on my lap.
Et Jazz dort sur mes genoux.
I don’t think winter will come back this year.
Je ne pense pas que l’hiver reviendra cette année.
Although it is a dog, a wonderful dog, who came to us almost immediately upon our arrival in Cordes, the village is better known for its cats.
Almost everyone in Cordes-sur-Ciel has a cat. And, like a mini-Istanbul, Cordes is home to many feral cats.
In addition to doing their regular work with the rodent population, these wild cats drink water from bowls left out for them and eat kibble sprinkled on people’s doorsteps. (Mocha is also a big fan of the kibble, and has to be convinced daily that it’s not for her.)
There’s an organization, Le Chat D’Oc, that catches, spays and releases, finds homes for, or keeps as many of the feral cats as they can, and individuals do their part, but there are still plenty of cats.
Mocha, at this point in her life, is a rabid cat-chaser. She’s not great with certain dogs either, but I haven’t seen a cat that doesn’t run from her yet. This one was coming up the Pater Noster stairway very confidently – until Mocha gave him the eye.
The next moment, he was gone.
Most of them keep their distance.
This guy, who lives along the footpath where we take our regular evening walk, has been getting braver daily.
I’m working on Mocha.
I don’t know how long I’ll be able to live here without a cat in the house.