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

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©Katherine Dunn.

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.