Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Cat Who Walks by Himself

by Jeffe Kennedy

I've always thought I'd enjoy being a nun.

I realize this probably comes across as odd from the girl who already confessed to wanting to be a Playboy Bunny - and to announcing it at her parents' dinner party. I never mentioned the nun thing much because I didn't want to hear all the sarcastic remarks.

Yeah, okay - I'd probably make a lousy nun.

What really appeals to me is the idea of solitude. Of being cloistered away from the world. Of spending my days in contemplation. True, I'm likely not the one to be contemplating Paul's letters to anyone, because I have issues with his take on the world. And I'm not much for chanting.

Sometimes, though, I'd like to pretend I've taken a vow of silence.

Seriously - I've actually contemplated carrying one of those little cards around my neck saying that I'm a deaf/mute and showing it to people when they talk to me. Especially in airports. I'd pop out my little notepad and offer it to them helpfully, so they could write down whatever it is they want me to know. I would totally do this - if it wasn't so insulting to all the real deaf/mutes out there for whom I'm sure that kind of life is a terrible trial that I have no business trivializing.

I just get cranky is all.

I've always been the cat who walks by herself. For those of you who don't know Kipling's story, the salient bit goes like this:

HEAR and attend and listen; for this befell and behappened and became and was, O my Best Beloved, when the Tame animals were wild. The Dog was wild, and the Horse was wild, and the Cow was wild, and the Sheep was wild, and the Pig was wild--as wild as wild could be--and they walked in the Wet Wild Woods by their wild lones. But the wildest of all the wild animals was the Cat. He walked by himself, and all places were alike to him.

and later

Wild Dog crawled into the Cave and laid his head on the Woman's lap, and said, 'O my Friend and Wife of my Friend, I will help Your Man to hunt through the day, and at night I will guard your Cave.'

'Ah!' said the Cat, listening. 'That is a very foolish Dog.' And he went back through the Wet Wild Woods waving his wild tail, and walking by his wild lone. But he never told anybody.

Eventually the cat negotiates the rights to drink milk and sit by the fire, in exchange for mouse-catching and baby-soothing. But always he goes back to his wild ways and his wild lone.

Even as a little girl, I recognized myself in this. I love to hang out in the cave with everybody else, drink the milk and talk about the big hunt. But, after a time, I have to go off on my own and be quiet. If I can have just a few hours where no one talks to me, something inside settles and is at peace.

So, if you see me with that hunted look in my eye, scuttling off towards the elevator at conference or going off to walk around the too-chilly pool, now you know why. Just give me a little time and I'll be back with a smile on my face.

Have the warm milk ready, please!


  1. Now you have gone and done it - I swoon over the language in Kipling's Just So Stories, and I love the cat who walks by his wild lone. Now I will have to dig out my book and read all of the stories again. Btw - while I have trouble seeing you as a nun, I also totally get that need for solitude. Great post.

  2. Thanks, Kerry! I have to read those stories from time to time, myself. It's that insatiable curiosity.

  3. Yup...that's exactly as I feel.

    Have you read Kij Johnson? She has a very interesting take on what it's like to be a cat transformed into a woman in feudal Japan. Very much reminds me of the Kipling observation.

  4. Once my mind stopped boggling at the idea of you being a nun *grin*, I found I really identify with this post. I, too, need a certain amount of alone time, or I go crazy.

  5. I haven't read that, Laura - sounds very interesting!

    Ha ha, Linda! I suspect most of us writers are like this.

  6. I need my alone time as well, but I'm not sure if that's because of the lone cat philosophy. Being with others often reminds me of how different I look at things than the majority of people and that can be really frustrating from time to time.

  7. Frustrating, I'm sure, Sullivan - but your "different way" is what makes you so interesting. You can be our wild pig. ;-)

  8. I totally understand the need for solitude, I feel drained after too long around others and need time to myself to recharge. My husband, and I am sure many others, think I am just unsociable, I think they just don't have the imagination to enable them to amuse themselves!

  9. Yes, Ghost! And more - imagination that needs peace and quiet to be heard!

  10. "Waving his curly tail, walking by his wild lone..."