Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Ups and Downs

What a rollercoaster the past few months has been.  I've gone from the lowest lows to the highest highs.  No, I don't have manic-depression or bipolar disorder.  But in a two month period, I was proposed to by David, my pseudo husband of over 13 years, then learned my darling little kitty, Camielle, had Cancer, put my wedding plans/work on hold to nurse her for weeks, and then she got worse.  We had to euthanize her and I broke down into a complete depression for two weeks.  After I could get through a day without crying, I dove back into wedding plans which kept me busy.  I started to smile again.  We happily drove to Ohio for our wedding which was the most wonderful wedding anyone could ask for, surrounded by beloved family and friends.

David and I were married in our proud Scottish tradition including hand-fasting and ring exchange.  I married my best friend in the whole world.  We had a brief but beautiful honeymoon on the Michigan Dunes


Now back home, the unpacking done, etc., David is back to work, and I am at home trying to find more transcription work, trying to write, but I find myself back down to another low point.   Feeling so down makes it hard to write or focus on anything creative.  It's hard to step outside myself despite the fact that I'm fully aware the rest of the world has problems too.

But I see Cami in every corner.  I hear her voice.  I'm haunted and also touched by the constant stream of images in my head -and the memories of her smell, her soft fur on my face, the warmth of her head as I kissed her, her breathtakingly beautiful amber-green eyes looking up lovingly into my face, the precious feather soft touch of her paws as she reached up to touch my cheek, the curl in my lap as she slept, all of it, all of it.... how I miss my darling baby girl, the only baby girl I've ever had.

Today when the depression and sorrow began to descend again I tried to cast it aside saying how lucky I am, how much I am loved by my David, my two other cats, my family, wonderful friends.... but nothing kept the daunting darkness from my head.  So I threw my head phones on, clicked on my mp3 player and launched into hardcore exercise.  That worked until about mid-way when some lyrics in a pretty upbeat song resounded with me, reminded me of her again.  I broke down into tears.  I'll never stop loving her, and hope that I can one day think of her without pain.  I don't want to block out the memories simply to spare myself pain. I want to preserve every moment so she'll live on in both our hearts.  Oh how I loved our Camielle.  And David loved her just as deeply. It was the first time in years that I've seen him shed a tear about anything.  I remember how he used to kiss the top of her head or quickly (before I could stop him) suck the tufted tip of one of her adorable ears.  Once I saw I heartily protested that he was "sliming" my baby.  She never seemed to mind, loved both of us so.

So this is my little bit of whining for the day.  Another day it will be more positive.  I know there are others out there who perhaps have children or just fuzzy children as we do, who will understand the sense of loss we're feeling.  It's a terrible ache I feel.  But as Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says -- feel the pinch.  When your heart aches either from sorrow or guilt or shame, don't ignore it.  Feel it. It's part of life.  It carries lessons and wisdom and is real life.  But it's hard.

I love you, Cami!!!  I miss you so much!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Drum Circle!

Last night I attended my first drum circle.  My question is:  Why did I wait so long to go to one of these?  It was fricking amazing!

A few months ago I found a group on called (name has link, below):
The Greater Milwaukee Drum Circle and Kirtan Meetup Group

It was so much fun!  The group is facilitated by a veteran djembe and djun djun drum instructor, Kristie Vosburg, and is FREE to attend.  If you don't have a drum, they will often have many extras to play with as well as what I called funky hand instruments that ring, grate, vibrate, shake, etc.  Though the focus is on Djembe style drumming, you can bring your doumbeks or other drums as well.  Kristie provides some basic instruction for Djembe and Djun Djun drumming, but they can be applied to doumbeks as well.

The group was so much fun.  I felt the urge to add in some vocals once we got jamming and was greeted with yes's all around!  So I did add in some Middle Eastern yaigh yaigh yaigh's and some Latin Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrooo sounds which really added to the fun, tribal atmosphere we were creating.  Two of the drummers even danced around with smaller hand instruments during our last "song."  It was such a blast and so overwhelmingly joyous.  The energy we had filling our room and souls was profound and addicting.  I can't wait for my next drum session and will go again as soon as I can.

Though the focus is on drumming at this circle, it was nice to know that we are encouraged to bring other instruments which are rhythm-based mostly.  I'm guessing that guitars and keyboards wouldn't be good choices, whereas a didjeridoo or hand drum or castanets or pan flute would be, anything that could be played w/o necessarily taking the melody line or something that might evoke that exotic, animalistic sound we're all craving.

Not only are the drum circles fun for the music aspect, but for the camaraderie.  You can't help but smile as you're making music together, and the smiles are exchanged around the circle as we play.  It's SUCH A BLAST!

Just wanted to say -- if you haven't found yet, do try it.  Whatever your interest is, chances are there is someone or many out there who share it.  It's easy to sign up and find those individuals through that site.

Though I collect many exotic instruments to play, I only presently own two doumbeks and one Native American hand drum.  But I'd love to get an African Djembe drum.  These drums have cords that can be used to tighten the drum head (animals skin), and they are made of wood.  After seeing a Djembe  played, my hands are itching to play it.

A Djembe (below) is easier to hold than a doumbek (between the legs at an angle to allow air to flow out the bottom and under you) and allow you to beat on it with both hands in the same direction and starting points, played closer to the body's center.  The Djembe is played with three beats and can be interchanged or combined with both hands simultaneously.  There is the "base" struck in the center with the whole hand and fingers together, bouncing off for good resonance.  There is the "tone" struck on the very side of the drum with the fingers only (from base of fingers and to the tips), fingers together and tight, striking harder for a high treble sound.  Then there is the slap, which is played again at the edge of the skin but with a more relaxed hand and fingers slightly spread. This stroke is the hardest to learn, but sounds quite different once you master it.  I am a beginner so these instructions are probably not perfect, but it will give you the gist.  Attending a drum circle and hearing instruction from Kristie, a veteran drummer, is the best way to learn. She also offers personal instruction if you'd like to sign up for some classes with her.

Kristie also brings a full set of three Djun Djuns (below).  The Djun Djun is a cylindrical double-headed bass drum carved from solid Dembu log.  Found throughout South America and West Africa, these powerful drums are worn over the shoulder or played on the ground, and are played with two sticks: one for the thunderous bass, the other for a bell tied to the side of the drum.   Often the player also has a whistle with which to blow calls and breaks to dancers.  The set of Djuns Djuns can be played by one person or, for even more elaborate sound, one person can take each of the drums (as Kristie says, six hands are better than two!).  The three drums are of different sizes and have different tones.  The Kenkeni is the smallest with the highest tone.  The Sangban is the middle-sized drum (medium tone) and the standard Djun Djun has the deepest tone.  All can be beaten from the top or on held sideways where both heads can be struck.


Doumbeks (below) are crafted from many materials from metals to wood to ceramic and come in many sizes, each providing different tones.  Doumbeks require you to hold them under your arm if standing or over one leg at an angle with the hands starting in different places on the drum.  With the right hand, the dum strikes the CENTER and the tek strikes the right SIDE, whereas the left hand produces the kah sound by striking the left side for the kah with the left hand).  It's more difficult to learn, although I've managed it for these past few years after some practice.

Anyway, I'll always love drumming and can't wait to go to another drum circle!!  What a trip it was!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Pussywillows and Sweet Peas


I woke up at 3:30 this morning because my arms felt so empty it made me cry.  There's a little circle of space next to my chest where my cat used to lay.

Cami, my silver Maine Coon, would arrive around this time each day, perching on my pillow.  First she would knead my pillow, then mix it up by catching -- quite by accident, of course -- my head and shoulders with those taloned toes.  Once I was roused from sleep, she pointed one silver paw toward the precise spot next to me.  This was her point of entry.  It was tradition.  It was comical, really, the way her long, Maine Coon arm would stretch out straight, with deliberate direction, toward the exact location.  If laying on my side, which is how I sleep about half the time, I lifted the covers for her to walk inside.  She would walk in without hesitation, then turn around and recline next to me, her back up against my chest, both her arms extended to rest along my one arm, head on my pillow.  With my other arm, I'd then either encircle her body, tail to belly or just bend it up and over her in an embrace.

The pinnacle of these sleepy, blissful moments was when I laid my head on the pillow next to hers and buried my face in her soft silver fur, feeling the vibration of her double purr against my face.  The sweet music of her joy resonated into my chest.  Inhale, high purr, exhale, low purr and again and again.  What a serene and soothing sound.  Sometimes she would wrap one arm around my arm, as if to tell me, "Please stay. I need you."  I'd kiss her and whisper how much I loved her, my little sweet pea, my darling little Camielle, my baby girl.

And that's just what she was because I have no children.  Cami was the first cat who needed me, loved me, sought me out, gave me affection up-close and personal.  She will always be my baby girl.  We connected right from the start, like two peas in a pod.

And then, about a month ago, she was diagnosed with a laryngeal tumor, most likely Squamous Cell Sarcoma.  After a few weeks of the least traumatic treatment available, we made the decision to end her suffering.  She had dropped in weight from 11 to 8.5 lbs, was no longer eating, playing and her breathing was labored.  The Prednizone only helped for a limited time.  Thankfully it gave us a few extra better days with her.  But it's so unfair to lose a cat at a mere eight years of age. Much, much too young to lose one's furbaby.

The raw, painful space that Cami left in me is terrifyingly empty.  Oh how I loved her.  It feels as if no one will ever need me that way again.  It's a desperate longing so akin to hunger.  It's physical.  I starve for that silver baby in my arms.  I wonder how I will survive this loss, though know that many have before me.  And losing my own mother to Cancer many years ago, I am well aware of my own strength to survive such immense pain and loss.  But the pain never goes away; some days it's as raw as ever.

Though at times it feels unbearable to miss those we loved and lost, I have asked myself this question and am comforted by my own answer... if someone could erase all memory of either of them and all the pain along with it, what would I say?  No.  Those memories are beautiful and beloved, and I honor both of them by remembering.

This weekend we planted a Giant Pussywillow tree in our front yard.  I know that in the spring there will be lovely, silver fur buds on all the branches, and I will think of Cami.  I'll pick one off and kiss it, feeling the silkiness of fur against my lips.  It will be my Cami tree.  I also planted Sweet Peas on her grave; what better flower to put there next to the sweet pea that snuggled so deeply into my heart.

Cami was delicate like a sweet pea, and like the flower, she always surprised us with her multi-colored personality.

She proud pony marched, long plume tail held high, across the house with a feather baby in her mouth. Its attached string and rod trailed several feet behind her until she deposited the feather in her dish.  She mouthed it occasionally as she nibbled on her dry food.  It gave her comfort somehow and made the food taste better.

Cami loved to hide behind translucent silk curtains and jump out at passersby for a feigned feline attack.

When David and I watched TV in the living room, we always felt her eyes upon us as she reclined on the very top of the cat tree or on top of the entertainment center.  All the while she kept her gaze on my face, her mouth turned up at the corners in a grin.  We liked to say she was keeping on eye on her "peoples."

Water was a magnetic attraction for Cami.  She had a great affinity for any running water or contraptions that produced it.  Most evenings, as I prepared for bed, she visited me in the bathroom, stretching up against the shower door, meowing for entry.  I would sometimes slide it open and turn the faucet on to just a thin stream.  In a few seconds she'd jump up onto the ledge, duck her head under the tap and lick the falling water with delight.

And then there were her adorable mee-yawns.  She was very vocal, meowing on a regular basis for love, treats, dinner, attention, you name it.   And thus, often, we'd catch her meowing, only to have it interrupted mid-meow by a sudden yawn.  It truly sounded like "meeee-yawwww," and ended in a sweet high note that melted your heart.  She always had that surprised look on her face at the unintentional interruption in what would have most likely been a fascinating Cami monologue.

I loved the way she reclined in a chair with her long arms stretched out, oh so long if you've ever seen a leggy Maine Coon cat, and then endearingly crossed at the wrists.

She would sit at any number of windows, chattering at birds and other critters in that funny staccato way, her darling tufted ears alert and radar-aimed in their direction.

Cami was skillfully adept at determining which pair of clothing you intended to wear for the workday.  Even after laying out several items of decoy clothing on the bed, she still managed to choose and lounge on the very garment that you planned to wear.  Conspiracy theories did come to mind.  She didn't want us to go to work so many impediments to that end seemed to creep up in our paths whenever she was near.

Anything partially hidden stirred in Cami an uncontrollable urge to oust it from it's hiding place.  A Q-tip tucked under a rug or door, a stray sock peeking out from under the laundry basket, a paw of one of the other cats overhanging the cat tree -- all were pounced upon and with the wildness of a jungle cat.

If there was a lap to be had, she was in it.  If the path to your lap was blocked by reading material or other unwanted objects, she'd make her request known with petulant baby meows.  Once said lap was claimed, she took her time kneading it, giving it biscuits, to make it just the right texture.  Sometimes this meant, depending on her last trim, being stabbed for a few minutes.  But the  puncture wounds were so worth it because she'd also lean up against your chest and rub your chin with her cheek, purring with energetic vigor.  Then she'd plop down, bend her long body into the tiniest, compact circle, wrap her long tail around her body, tuck her paws up under her chin and sleep.  And for the first few minutes, she'd lift her head to peer up at me, just gazing into my eyes, and the message was absolute -- I love you.  Then she'd purr and purr until falling into a silent deep sleep.  Though captive and captivated by this adorable circle of silver fur in my lap, I loved these moments with her.

Cami was named after Camielle, the archangel of divine love.  I adopted her on Valentine's Day. It was apropos.  She brought so much love into this house to both David and I, as well as the other cats.   She rubbed up against our big curmudgeon Razz, whether he liked it or not.  And she eagerly played games of chase and hide and seek with Fhinnian.

How does such a bundle of silver crawl so assertively into your heart, burrowed there so tightly, that once she is gone, it feels expanded fuller than ever before but empty, oh so dreadfully empty?

I love you, Cami, wherever you are.  And thank you for being my silver baby, my little girl, my sweet pea.