The Gardener (The Cat Who Loved Flowers)
oil on canvas, c. 26 X 20 inches. A painting recently reworked, changed and added to
There appeared a notice with his photograph in the local post office. He was called Tom. I hesitated. First time in a long life of cats I was cat-less, which both shocked and unexpectedly freed me.
My last Brooklyn cat, all white, one green one blue eye, deaf and toothless Gorgeous, had died on July 4th, 2004, having attained 20 years.
I met Tom three years later on that post office bulletin. I thought his name derisive Tom Cat, and added a few letters and lineage.
Initially, Thomas Jefferson was the frantic enemy combatant, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about him either. He skulked off despite my heavily laden honey talk. He had a peculiar knack for opening doors and drawers. I would walk into a room to find every single drawer pulled open. I suspect he was looking in vain for his ‘cat door’. It was almost a year before he spoke, purred, or let me hold him.
Thomas Jefferson’s previous mother loved him and he loved her. Some ill-advised plotting from doctors and care-takers in her last months disallowed his presence at her bedside which would have done them both most good to have been encouraged. He was locked away in the laundry room, treated begrudgingly. I can barely imagine his state of mind at his separation from his best person.
These few years later I can’t picture my life without him. He came to me a fulsome 21 pounds, and it never inhibited his racing through gardens or climbing trees. Thomas Jefferson II is just one damn big cat.
Thomas and I have been through 5 new houses together, from suburbia to wild and wooly off-grid, dirt road. We are now close friends and confidantes whose every contact is filled with mutual purring.
I observe that he loves gardens, and flowers. He will go out of his way to be in the vicinity of a whisker-brushing petal, to weave into and through clusters of lily reeds and calla lily, and settle for a nap in the shading bough of a geranium.
Thomas Jefferson II is master of the garden intruder. I try to discourage his interest in bringing in presents of little corpses, the garden assaulters, the bulb eaters, the home invaders.
He explores up the hill and out the meadow and has resigned himself to my disallowing his first foray at dawn, not til I’m sure the raccoons are bedded down for the day/night and the mountain lion who stalks the river’s edge is asleep. The crows and Jays and little thundering tiny birds I feed send up a protest to which he is oblivious. This is a cat who has done war with wild turkeys ten times his size and sound, and shown them a thing or two.
Thomas Jefferson maintains a sanguine attitude toward dogs. I always get the feeling he cannot imagine anyone choosing to be a dog and he will not be budged by their obviously inferior status. Except that one time in Big Sur when he climbed a tree like lightning to avoid a Whippet, a fast and slim number who clearly couldn’t understand why anyone would choose to be a cat.
So in contrast to his first days with me (Photo above), there is the painted portrait of Thomas Jefferson Sparhawk in repose, arm extended as he always does, making contact. We know each other, he welcomes me, he is the constant talker and purrer to his happy provider, the recipient of his largess.