Apifera Farm - where art, story, animals & woman merge. Home to artist Katherine Dunn

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Thursday, April 01, 2010

Musings amongst cats and graves

The torrent of cold rains and winds of the past two days have subsided leaving the blue ceiling of the gods to once again cover all the heads here at Apifera. I took time to visit the front gardens, accompanied by the front porch gang. Long time readers know the story of the Apifera cats, how one Mama kept having morning, noon and midnight dalliances, procreating like a bunny. Before I could get every new litter trapped, spayed and neutered, the original 5 cats in the barn turned into 25. Some of those were strays that obviously heard the word "Apifera" in the wind of our Savannah Oaks, found their way to the barn and took refuge creating the feral empire of today. Since then, we are down to 12 cats due to death by natural causes, but all are fixed, including the survivalist herself, Mama Kitty [the calico on the wicker]. To this day, Mama will not allow anyone within 5 feet of her [that alone took years].

The original barn cat gang of '04 split up, and Plum, Little Orange, Mama and now BW, all live on the front porch. Big Tony lives in the Big House, and has bedroom privileges. BW has 'fireplace and TV watching' privileges' and try as he does to overtake Big Tony's spot, he won't...as long as Big Tony is with us. We expect Big Tony to never die- because I very clearly told him one day, "Look, things die, I'll die, Martyn will die, but you will not die. Let's just get that straight." He cared not, for life and death intertwine for the cats.

The front garden is where Pumpkin Head is buried, brother to Orange, and his grave sits by the infamous rooster, Ward. Just over the split rail is Sheep Hill, where our beloved head ewe, mistress to the flock, is buried with her three lambs; beside her his Coral Bell and her triplets, and the still born lamb of Blue. I was thinking about graves, and how they are really for the living. We can still go to a grave and "attend" it, like a sick old man who needs his hair trimmed because he can't manage on his own. It allows us to continue to nurture the deceased, even if the deceased is long gone, partaking in that mysterious road trip everyone is so curious about.

My father's ashes are sprinkled near these graves, on the Rugosa bushes. When I first scattered them, I would go visit them each day, and could see little bone flecks. Sometimes I'd pick them up, and talk to them, or just be with them. One day I went, and all the ash chips were gone, except one, and I held it in my hand, and tossed it to the wind.

Now my visits to the garden are different. I still attend the graves, but I relish in the soil that has been nurtured by the dead, and I marvel at the beauty of the quince in spring. I watch the cats be cats, climbing on tombstones in play. The graves are one more thing that connect me to this farm and give me a sense of place. How do you leave land after your bury life on it? It happens all the time, circumstances change, people move on. I think about that and I suppose if I had to leave Apifera, it would simply cease to exist, so it wouldn't matter to me, perhaps.

When I was about to go in, I caught the final picture of Plum and Orange, sitting together on Rosie's grave, looking at life all around them.

"These are the good old days,boys," I told them as I walked back to the house.


Jennifer Morrison said...

Another beautiful post Katherine.
You're home. And I love to read about it.

Katherine Dunn/Apifera Farm said...

Thank you Jennifer, I am very fond of this part of the farm.

Anonymous said...

What pretty, fluffy, happy-looking cats. I have a feral colony, too, but mine is in an urban setting...low traffic, though, and lots of grass and trees but still some dangers...but there are dangers everywhere, I guess, for everyone.

Katherine Dunn/Apifera Farm said...

Thanks Jennifer [I deleted the duplicate comment, FYI]. It took awhile to get here.

Maccadance- oh I'm so glad we are more remote from road, but they do wonder [some of them] to river and cross a gravel road. Some people drive like maniacs out here.

Sharon Stanley said...

very peaceful and beautiful post katherine...another painting of words...what a gift!

Cathy said...

A beautiful post about life, and about grace and acceptance in the face of inevitable death (except for Big Tony, of course).

Paula In Pinetop said...

Yes, these are the good ol days.

Happy Easter, Happy Spring.

Sparroweye said...

I want tradition. I want a green grave but probably will get formaldehyde. I want a stone, and something on it, like, Life's just a journey home once you find your path.
My dog Girl is buried in our backyard with a stone and flowers. I don't think I could leave her here. I think I want a wake. And dancing, singing and drinking. An Irish wake.

hawksnestfarm said...

Katherine, thank you for a lovely post about this rarely discussed topic...farm cemeteries. I am wondering, how did you decide where to place yours? Do you have different locations for each species or are they intermingled?

I have been putting off the gravesite issue for some time now...our dearly departed cat's ashes are in our living room, our deranged rooster Peep is in our freezer, along with my daughter's beta fish that died a month ago.

Yes, I know these creatures need a proper burial, but I am a bit of a procrastinator.

Anyhoo, our hen Stripes died suddenly in my arms the other night. Without haste, I gathered up my husband and kids and some flowers. We chose a good spot with morning and evening light near a big pine tree. "Dig deeper," I kept telling my husband. There, we performed our first burial under the light of a crescent moon.

Now Sam, Peep and the blue beta can have their proper burial too...

Katherine Dunn/Apifera Farm said...

pbird- you do have to consider where your well is, if you have one. The city has laws about burials, so beware. Our small cemetary for birds and rodents is under coastal redwoods, but I cover all graves with stones. Cats and some chickens go in perennial gardens under lilacs where they liked to hang out. Sheep have their own hill. And hens are mainly bruired in chicken yard.I still have my old dogs ashes, oddly can't seem to spread them.

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Thank you for reading! The farm and my art/writing keep me hopping, so might not respond immediately. Thank you for understanding. ~Katherine & Apifera ~