Earth Journal

Vol. 8, No. 15
April 13-19, 2000
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Spring Is on Her Own
by Audrey Y. Scharmen

A goose-feather snow fell in the first week of April as the greening apple tree in my yard clutched anxiously its nosegays of buds and softly complained. But beneath the boughs, the ground was still merry with periwinkle and a lone tulip prepared to bloom on the grave of my cat.

Spring had always been his favorite season. He had the look of a new lamb as he romped happily about the yard. There were birds to stalk, rabbits to harass and moles to excavate from their catacombs under the lawn. His expertise endeared him to local gardeners, even those who professed to hate cats.
And there were boats to oversee. His stubby tail and awkward gait were the traits of his unique breed. He was Manx, descended from islanders, and the sea was in his blood.

That we discovered when he was young, on the October day when a big wooden sloop, bound for Europe, tied up at our dock beside the creek. She was Amantha, well groomed and still beautiful in her golden years. The captain was a young Heathcliff, the crew a lovely German woman, her child and a cat. They were a cast of romantic characters straight from the pages of a novel. Our cat was fascinated with them, and he spent every evening of that chill week with all of us huddled around the wood-burning stove in Amantha’s cozy main cabin listening to sea tales.

And then they were gone: Mere acquaintances who had sailed into our lives and quickly off again into a stormy autumn, leaving us to yearn.

Winter was long and boring, and when spring came our cat took to haunting the dock with a look of longing on his funny, pointed face. He was such an unlikely sailor. One could not imagine him in the boots of a swashbuckler: He was so proper and portly, with ordinary short white fur and varicolored spots. If he had been able to speak, I suspect it would have been with the subtle accent of a British butler.

All that summer he was restless and melancholy and neglected his gardens. He got into trouble on the docks. He boarded boats without permission and took lengthy naps in the captains’ quarters. He prowled the gunwales and fell often into the creek. He was a clumsy swimmer, and a ramp had to be built for him.

Once, he was accidentally locked inside a boat for several days, in an old sloop that resembled Amantha. Some nights, he would crouch on a low piling and bat at fireflies for hours. And he took up with unsavory critters, nocturnal possums and raccoons. He even kept company with a young skunk for a while; they were sometimes seen at dawn sitting together beside the lane.

Finally he settled down, stayed home nights and seemed content with summer mole patrol and days of dock-dreaming. He slept away the hated winters, and he lived to a ripe old age.

He died in springtime some years ago. A true Gaelic, he was buried on St. Patrick’s Day. The Royal Dragoons’ Bagpipers played for the service while March blustered about the shore, scattering Amazing Grace notes all the way across the cold blue creek where the first transient sloop of the season lay at anchor.

Now the apple tree moans as rowdy grackles move in amid her blossoms. Rabbits nibble at the new sprouts of phlox, and giant moles happily uproot the periwinkle.

Spring is on her own.

Copyright 2000
Bay Weekly