Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Cool, early morning light filters through trees before it presents itself, quietly, at the windows of our house. It enters through clear panes of glass and pauses on wooden window frames before sliding into the room. From my bed I can see into the leafy treetops and, through the spaces, beyond to the pale, silvery sky.
I am awake, not because of the light or the birdsong that began before the first rays of sun had barely stained the sky a brighter hue, but because the cats have decided I should no longer be asleep. Their attempts to rouse Morgan or I usually begin around the time of the first tweet of a bird in the forest. They walk stiff-legged with stomping steps around the room, or climb the walls with scratching claws, or stick cold noses and tickling whiskers into our faces. If we somehow weather these things, clamping the covers tighter, they might settle down for a while but usually so they can think up louder, more disruptive things to do.
I stumble out from under the covers and Chestnut, who has been loudly grooming himself at the foot of the bed, looks at me eagerly as if to say, “Oh, are you getting up now?” He leaps from the bed and thumps down the stairs behind me.
In the living room, Bear is waiting at the bottom of the stairs, tail sweeping from side to side. She does a tiny tapdance, then stretches her front legs straight out, chest to the ground, tail in the air like she’s bowing, then yawns a squeaky yawn. She stomps her feet again, then with an over-exaggerated lick of the lips, a circular toss of the head and a snort, she’s clambouring down the stairs to the kitchen.
Chestnut stands waiting for us at the bottom of those stairs and makes a disgruntled, grumbling, beeline to the food cupboard when he sees me appear. I turn in the other direction and Bear and I descend the last few steps to the entryway, where Murdoch is emerging from his bed.
Murdoch stretches like a cat, first bowing with his tail in the air, then pulling himself forward until his back legs stick straight out behind him and his toes curl. When he stands tall again, he yawns with a loud, deep vocalization from his chest that could be interpreted as “Good morning!” or “It’s about time. Breakfast was supposed to be an hour ago.”
I put the dogs out and turn to see Chestnut and Cleo sitting as close to the edge of the top step as they can. Their bell-shaped bodies fill the space and they stare at me with focused eyes as though trying to bore into my brain and control my thoughts. If they could stamp their feet, they would be doing so at that moment with great impatience.
As soon as I make a move to go up the stairs, the cats are running to the cupboard again, meowing; it seems almost involuntary in its insistency. I scoop out some food for the cats and they fall all-over themselves each trying to be the first one to the empty dishes, then anxiously wait for me to fill them before jostling for a place at the bowl that appears to be heaped a little higher.
I return to the door to find Bear and Murdoch standing with their noses just about pressed up against it. I tell them to wait and as I open the door Bear rushes in with Murdoch right behind her. I dish their food, and for a moment the sounds of crunching kibble and clanging dishes fill the air.
In the contented lull after plates are licked clean, I have a few minutes of peace to brew a pot of tea and make my own breakfast. I sit down and just bite into my toast when the cats flash past in a blur and thunder up the stairs. In the living room overhead they tumble across the floor. It sounds like there are twenty cats instead of two. I know Chestnut is chasing Cleo, it’s never the other way around. Hisses and loud, angry half-growls are tossed down the stairs followed by the cats themselves thumping back to the kitchen.
Murdoch’s feet clomp on the stairs to the entryway and his face appears at the baby gate, anxious to know what he’s missing out on while Bear looks at me from her bed in quiet exasperation as the cats tumble past. I shake the spray bottle menacingly at the cats and they stop what they’re doing. Cleo walks away with her tail straight up in the air like a victory flag and Chestnut retreats to the stairs to sit quietly and wait for me to put down the sprayer.
I resume eating and a few minutes pass before Chestnut appears beside me. He sits and looks up at me, wide-eyed and cute, feet and tail all neatly tucked in tight to his body like a model cat. He almost looks small from that angle. I shake my head, but pat my lap and he leaps into it, his solid, warm weight settles in and he drapes himself across my arm which rests on the edge of the table and purrs his loud purr, like an idling engine, while I finish my breakfast.