Loss

It’s been a year since I lost my mother and 4 since I lost my little furry buddy, Champers, and to be honest, the loss still weighs heavy upon me. Time, they say, heals all but heal is probably not the right word. I think it is more that one learns to deal with the loss. You suck it up and carry on because that is what life does, it continues. You get dragged along regardless. What is really bothering me at the moment is the suffering my mother endured, especially in the last years of her life. I am so sad for her. Those final months at her side, watching her die, really haunt me.

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Above: my mom (on far left) with her brother and his wife. 17, I think?

Now you should know that I am a firm believer in the idea that to live is to suffer. God does not want you to be happy, He/She wants you to be strong! Through adversity we grow and become stronger and better for that suffering. That is if we can find meaning in the suffering. Nietzsche said, “he who has a WHY to live can bear almost any HOW”. And I guess in a way this relates to my last post and the “So what?” question. You are alive, so what? Make it count, do something with it that is meaningful. For my mom that was her children, her family and her animals. For me it is about making a difference: animal rights and feminist rights, and of course, making art that makes a difference also. In this way you find meaning in life. Unfortunately our societies have become very much about consumerism and being consumers. Got to have the new iPhone, got to live in the right neighbourhood, go to the right school. Squeeze out more children; spoil them so that they can also become consumers. Buy huge, petrol-guzzling vehicles and tell yourself it is for safety reasons and never mind what we are doing to the environment. Connect on social media and present yourself as a commodity there too, and bitch and whine but do nothing really. For too many people that is their meaning of life and the world as it is today is the result of that. For too many the idea of being a good provider (consumer) is the meaning of life. No! Go do something meaningful! Make a difference!

Below: My Champers.

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So I guess I like Viktor Frankl’s notion of meaningful grief through the contemplation of one’s beloved. Frankl was a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps during the Second World War where his entire family (apart from one sister) including his wife, were killed. This was how he survived he says; contemplation of one’s beloved. Suffering somehow allows for transcendence when it finds meaning. Existence or experience moves beyond the normal or physical level. Think Mandela or Mother Teresa or even Marina Abramovic. Similarly contemplation of your lost loved ones as well as imagined conversation can lift you up to a spiritual level and help you make sense of the loss. Inside you they will endure. I like that thought. In my contemplative state my mother remains that youthful, exuberant, warm nurturer who loved to have a house full of children, her own and the entire neighbourhood’s. In my contemplation Champers dozes, pressed up alongside me as I read, purring contentedly.

Below: Me lighting candles in preparation of my 40RTY (2016) performance.

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The Cats’ Familiar

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Catwoman: Meeeow!

Back in the dark old days, witches were said to have familiars. These were animal companions, generally cats. During the bad old days of the Inquisition and the witch trials in Europe and America it was claimed that these familiars were given to witches by the Devil. They were said to be small demons which could be sent out to do a witch’s bidding. As a result, along with these so-called witches, many, many cats were tortured and killed. The exact number of women killed for being witches is not known, and the figure often disputed, but it is certainly in the tens of thousands, starting way back in the 1200s. It horrifies me that in South Africa, in this present day, women still face the threat of being accused of witchcraft. Feminist theorists will tell you that this has always been as a result of the fragility of the male ego at work. A woman who displays knowledge of herbs, medicine (mid-wife or natural remedies) or prospers, and more importantly does so without the help of a man, puts herself at risk in a small community. I mean, how can she possibly manage, let alone thrive, without a man to aid her?!! There has to be something supernatural at work!

Here is a simple example to illustrate my point: say a single woman in this community happened to love butterflies and displayed a wealth of knowledge on the subject. Butterflies and caterpillars were seen to be lowly beings, or even worse, demonic. Friedewald writes in A Butterfly Journey, “for some people, these creatures were the work of the Devil, and those who were interested in them were surely up to no good — why, they might even be witches, who must be put to death”. He notes that according “to popular belief, witches possessed the power to change themselves into butterflies in order to curdle cream and butter.” This is where the name “buttervögel” in German and “butterfly” in English came from. Hectic, right!!?

Dear reader, you should know by now that I am known for my “scenic routes”, so this was my roundabout way of introducing my topic: cats. So yes, women and their cats. It is perhaps for the reasons above (witches and cats) that cats are generally associated with the feminine (and dogs with the masculine). Cats are independent, mysterious, mercurial and selective and certainly extremely intelligent and it seems for a lot of men this is not what they want in their women, and certainly not in their pets. You cannot bend a cat to your will or all women and this is very threatening to a lot of men. Now, of course, I am generalizing to prove a point. Some men do like cats, I am a cat person and am considered by most to be a man, and by some, even masculine. I have an affinity with the feline much like I do with the feminine though. As I am pro-feminist so I am pro-feline. I like to think of myself as the cats’ familiar. You don’t choose the cat, the cat chooses you. If you wish to take a cat as your familiar, you must ask permission first. Apparently research has shown that cat owners often exhibit introverted qualities, especially compared to dog owners, who tend to be more outgoing. Cat owners apparently have also been found to be smarter, more sensitive and more non-conformist than their canine-loving counterparts. I don’t know how true all that is but I love cats and I don’t really care what is says about me. At the animal shelter that I volunteer at, I am often called a cat whisperer. They are drawn to me as I to them. I love all animals (which is why I do not eat them) but it is with cats that I share a special bond. So as the anniversary of the passing of my best friend, my furry little buddy, Champers, draws near, I share with you my love of cats.

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Above: Champers

 

Michelle Pfieffer as Catwoman, need I say anything more:

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Rest in Peace, Champers. You remain in my heart and in my memories.

 

RIP Champers

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Two years on and I still miss my furry little buddy terribly.  My Champers passed away on 12/12/2012 and so today I honour his memory, although in truth there is not a day that goes by that I do not think of him. I am reminded of the words of Pi Patel in Yann Martel’s Life of Pi:

I suppose in the end, the whole of life becomes an act of letting go, but what always hurts the most is not taking a moment to say goodbye.

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For me this is what tears me up; that I did not get the opportunity to say goodbye to my friend. Wrapped up in the misery caused by LA Woman’s duplicitous cruelty and my disastrous emigration to the United States (see previous 2012 posts), I was not there for his passing. I am hopeful that I will see Champers again though when it is my time to pass over. I have missed him.

Again the words of Pi Patel:

Animals have souls… I have seen it in their eyes.

 

So rest in peace, little buddy. You and I will meet again as souls in the starry afterlife.

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Images from Ang Lee’s fantastic film translation of the novel.

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