onward and upward

January 7th, 2007 | The Artistic Condition

Thank you all so, so much for your generous condolences about Julia. The stories about your own animals, the T.S. Eliot cat poem, the Jeanette Winterson column, the Eurythmics song (which I’d never heard before, and was perfect), each kind thought and observation you shared —all of this is helping to knit up my unraveled self.

I’m actually feeling pretty good today, but it’s time to knuckle down to work. And daunted as I felt by the prospect of having to write episode #500 in November, that was nothing compared to what I’m feeling as I face #502. This will be the first strip I’ve written without Julia’s assistance since #64. What if my drawing and writing skills regress to this primitive level?

Or worse, what if I can’t do it at all? I know, I know. I’ll be okay. But I always felt like Julia was my muse—not in the sense that she inspired my work, but in the way that she literally oversaw it. She was just always there as I plodded away. On my lap, weighing down my arm as I was trying to type. Insinuating herself right onto my drawing board and threatening to smudge the fresh ink with her tail. Pulling up the masking tape that sticks my paper to the board with her teeth and trying to eat it. Demanding that I stop already and go out for a walk with her.

Uhh…now that I think about it, maybe things will go a little more quickly in her absence.

I got Julia a year before I quit my day job to be a full-time cartoonist. And until quite recently, with Fun Home’s success, I lived in some degree of fear that I’d have to go back to having a day job. So I feel like she has seen me through this phase of my career–and in fact, on to the next. I spent the last couple of weeks on a kind of retreat, huddled up with her and working intensely on the proposal for my next book, another memoir. I was almost done with it on Tuesday afternoon when her symptoms began.

56 Responses to “onward and upward”

  1. Xanthe says:

    I guess this sounds a little mad, but maybe Julia knew that she could go now – that you would be okay ?

    I like to think so, at least (and I love those old strips just as much as the current ones).

  2. Sophie says:

    Wow… your angel cat decided to shed her body once she had seen you through… You know, a Buddhist friend of mine claims he found the reincarnation of his beloved cat a few months after she died. He suddenly felt the urge to walk into a pet shop and there she was, young again, perfectly herself. Who knows?

    And Alison, I loved your drawing back then, so even that extremely unlikely prospect would be fine with me. Lois’ expression in the first frame, the drop of sloshing coffee… the funny menu on the blackboard… A great strip in my book.

  3. shadocat says:

    That “primitive level” doesn’t look too bad to me (ah the Cafe Topaz–memories…)

    I know what you mean by a cat overseeing your work; my childhood cat, Stanley Applebaum (really) was always quietly with me, laying across every pattern I lay down on the floor to cut out, over every paper I was trying to write. The mother/daughter team I have now follow me everywhere I go at home (one’s on my lap) but I really didn’t think about it until now.

    “We pass and
    she abides
    We conjugate
    Her skill.
    While She-creates
    and federates
    Without a syllable.”

  4. Joe Code says:

    Do not worry, your work will go on as before because Julia will still be in your heart.

  5. Deena in OR says:

    Not mad at all. Our Doodah always knew just when somebody in the house needed a cat, and was there. When my housemate broke up with his lover. When my now ex-husband coerced me during our separation. Dude would snuggle right on up and just be present, purring. Comfort enough.

  6. Ellen says:

    Alison, it seems that Julia was, in the true sense of the word, your “familiar.”

    Interestingly, the American Heritage dictionary defines familiar as an “animal who aids a witch in performing magic.”

    Whether you prefer witch, warlock, artist, or conjurer to describe yourself, your drawings ARE a kind of magic (albeit, magic borne of hours of fastidious, dogged work). A fitting definition and tribute to Julia, I think.

    Also, “familiar” is derived from “family.” Of course.

  7. Pam I says:

    I measure my adult life in cats-lives, they give a real sense of our personal stories. My cat Diddles (and her sister Dumpling until she left home) travelled with me from being a wifey in a rural farmhouse, through returning to London, to many changes of address, to her eventual rest under the Philadelphus outside my first solo apartment. When she died it broke a solid link between all those disparate lives; no-one else had known me in all those places. These are big responsibilities for such little scraps.

  8. Ellen!

    Your “familiar” comment…well, even if it wasn’t about me and my cat, I’d have to say it was beautifully written. Um…thank you.

  9. Ginjoint says:

    Ellen, I liked your post – I’ve always used the term “familiar” to describe my cats…it sounds more equal, somehow, than “pet,” which as we all know is apropos with cats.

  10. LM says:

    As I go about this domestic dance with my kittybuddy, Molly, I must reflect of her flexibility, a lesson for those who fear the hurt of their pet’s short span. In her first nine years, she lost three mistresses, two to untimely death and another to assisted living. Still, she decided I was an OK partner. Our conversations are limited – she only speaks Manx – but as long as I keep the petting and the kibble coming and don’t disappear for too long, she’ll hold up her end of the bargin. Hey, that’s what commitment is: a coming together in full realization of the inevitability of separation. I could say that an eighteen year run should give no reason for regret. But who am I kidding?

  11. Elisablue says:

    Alison , I can relate so much to what you wrote.
    My cat saw me through huge changes in my life, then at 15, it seems that when she was sure I was finally safe , she left, in a few weeks. It’s been two years now, but she’s still there looking at me with her green eyes, paws tucked in, using one of her numerous telepath’s channels.

    I love that “primitive” strip up there.
    I think I like all your different ways of drawing, from the early style to the “rounder” (can’t find another word) more recent DTWOF to the more “vertical” Fun Home and your almost “rackhamian” silhouettes in the diary sketches. It just speaks to me in a very deep way, like Hergé or Goscinny used to speak to me when I was a little girl. Actually to “speak” is not the right word, it’s something about being “drawn”, if I may say so, into the frame.

    I guess Julia will always be there, watching you work and explore all those different paths …

  12. Ginjoint says:

    Ellen, also, um, I don’t mean to repeat myself, but I guess I do…in the last thread, I left a quote (it’s way at the end, so it’ll probably get lost) from Pat Califia that kind of ties in with the paganness/witchiness of cats:
    “I love cats because they are never guilty. Dogs are like recent converts to Christianity, forever cringing and publicly accusing themselves while secretly treasuring their vices. But cats are forever pagan, chiefly interested in making themselves ever more comfortable and beautiful, not necessarily in that order.”

  13. Ginjoint says:

    One more thing, then I’ll shut the hell up…Alison, I think it’s quite cool that with the same grace cats use to “pose” in the one spot of sunshine in a room or to lie against colors that complement them, Julia kind of transitioned with you. I hope that doesn’t sound completely moronic or insensitive, because I sure don’t mean it that way.

  14. DeLand DeLakes says:

    Oh, don’t be hard on yourself about your so-called ‘primitive’ past, Alison. One of the reasons why I love your comics is that I really enjoy watching an artist who has been cartooning for a very long time hone his/her craft. I had this thought while pouring over some old Bill Waterson strips recently (another one of my favorites)- it’s really fun to watch a master cartoonist’s style evolve. (Sometimes, the differences are dramatic- does anyone remember back in the 80s when Garfield was the size of a houseboat? It’s like the strip got suckier as he got smaller!)

  15. Ian says:

    I remember reading in a Peanuts 25th anniversary anthology about Charles Schulz and the progression of his drawing style, moving from brush to pen, working with colour and the evolution of his style. His lines became freer and looser as he explored different things and the freer style of drawing enabled his characters to do different things. I’m describing it badly, but I don’t have to book to hand to quote from.

    I seem to remember from reading the Inedible AB that you weren’t too fond of his portrayal of female characters. So I’m reluctant to make comparisons! But he said he drew because he needed to, he couldn’t imagine doing anything else, and even while he was recovering from a bypass operation in hospital, he would be drawing sketches because of his compulsion to do so. I think it’s something all great cartoonists have, (greats including yourself Alison!).

    I think Julia will always be there, supervising and inspecting your work. I’m sure American cats do this as well as our British ones, but I’m convinced in those moments when our cats suddenly look up at the ceiling and you see their eyes following the path of something silent and invisible, that they are communing with the great collective cat consciousness.

    By the way, if anyone’s feeling the need for reading some affection whimsy about cats, I can highly recommend Terry Pratchett’s ‘The Unadulterated Cat’. Definitely different from his fantasy novels but a huge step up from the usual ‘Little book of cats’ oeuvre. It was also the cause of a bit of embarrassment on the train from London to Manchester when it made me laugh out loud in a packed carriage!

  16. judybusy says:

    First, to Alison: I am so sorry about your losing Julia. She was a beautiful cat, and I really enjoyed the movie you made. She was obviously much loved and indulged, and how lucky you were to have such a sweet companion! She was such a constant presence, that of course you will miss her dearly. And make no apologies for that.

    Ginjoint, Pat. C. is so right on in that quote!

    My own pet story: Growing up, we had a small mutt named Pete. Thanks to his patient listening of my algebra and trig lessons through high school, I made it through–I found if I “taught” it to him, I’d eventually learn it. He also probably learned a fair bit of German as I practiced vocab lists aloud for hours. I still keep a small photo of him in our dining room, some 25+ years later….

  17. Colino says:

    Did I really read that?
    “and working intensely on the proposal for my next book, another memoir.”
    So publishers come to you with proposals? So they have noticed? Now isn’t that something to celebrate? And isn’t that something to look forward to?
    Now that really makes my day. I’m really happy that you should get all the recognition you deserve, not only from critics (which is great) but also from people who put money on the table. Upward indeed, up there where you belong.

  18. Aunt Soozie says:

    Julia as Alison’s familiar…I love that notion.
    and all of you…Sweet Healers,
    so much heartfelt loving sister
    (and brother, and other)
    energy being generated to help our Alison…
    it makes me want to be a witch too…
    harness some of that magic in the air…
    do some conjuring and creating…

    maybe it’s a good thing that the evil doers fired me
    from my real job last week.
    Time to go back to being…
    Yeah, okay, unreal.

  19. Robin B. says:

    You can call that art “primitive,” but I still think Emma’s hot.

  20. Ellen says:

    And as far as the writing skills for Strip #64, well, hell, you caught the excruciating essence of “break-up date” conversation perfectly. At least, that’s how mine have felt. Not that Emma and Lois were breaking up, exactly…

  21. Jana C.H. says:

    Alison, If I could draw as well as you did in the example given, I’d call myself a cartoonist.

    As for writing, the most valuable lesson I ever learned about writing was from my 7th grade homeroom teacher, Mrs. Smith, and it was: be concise! Those three word balloons (and blackboard) say plenty.

    Jana C.H.
    Saith JcH: It’s called light verse because all the heavy work is done by the poet.

  22. Danyell says:

    Julia knew you could do it, we see you doing it. Sometimes friends can only be there for so long and the rest we have to go through ourselves. But if we have really good friends, we’ll be even stronger in their absence, just for having known them.

  23. mlk says:

    how funny that I’ve been reading the earlier books, and read the strips with the Lois/Emma affair just last week. to my mind, those earlier strips aren’t “primitive,” your characters simply changed between then and now . . . as have we all. they’ve matured and aged *how* many years since strip #64??

    I must admit that Mo (and others) have gotten more babelike as they moved from their 20’s into their 30’s. but in my mind that has nothing to do with your drawing skills — more that they found and more clearly defined themselves. when we’re fortunate, that happens during the all important 20’s decade.

    Aunt Soozie, it’s good to have you back! so sorry that it involved the loss of a “real job.” 🙁

  24. Ronnyv says:


    Reading of Julia’s passing made me miss my (late)Tiger-Lily all over again. She looks like she could have been her sister. May memories of her live on in your heart. She was here for a reason. You.

  25. sjusju says:

    I’m so glad you got to spend good time with Julia by your side as she helped you start the process for your next book.

    As much as she’s helped you and been your muse, the things she has taught you will never go away, nor will her impression on your life.

  26. Duncan says:

    I don’t really have any good cat stories of my own, much as I love them. As with people, my cat relationships have not tended to the epic. One night over 30 years ago I encountered a cat as I was walking home from a party, and I realized that cats cruise the night much as gay men do — and this was before I did any cruising. (Of course, we cruise for differnet purposes. It occurs to me just now how odd it is that so many people — including me, remember — love cats but might use the term “sexual predator” as a pejorative. Cats *are* predators, and one reason I love Terry Pratchett is that he recognizes that while still respecting cats. without sentimentality. But I digress.) I’ve had a few cats since childhood, but rarely did they stay with me for more than a year or two — about the same length as my “committed” (and I shoulda been!) relationships with men. But I love meeting cats as I’m walking around town, stopping to chat and rub for a bit, and then moving along. Cats seem to like me as I like them. I dislike dogs, and the dislike is mutual.

    My younger (by three years) brother, however, goes more stability. A year or so before his daughter was born he got a kitten named Sylvia, and when his daughter Deb was born, Sylvia decided that she was her baby. She watched over her at night, put up patiently with an infant / toddler’s tugging and pummelling, and generously shared the mothering duties with Deb’s mom Therese. When I stayed at their house, I’d sometimes find Sylvia watching over me at night too, and it was very comforting. Sylvia lived to be fifteen or so, and it was very hard for Deb when she died. Sylvie had been there all her life. I can’t imagine what that must be like, but I know it’s powerful.

    When Deb was pregnant with her own daughter, she got a golden Labrador puppy, who remarkably is as good a second mom to her daughter Annie as Sylvie was to her. Once, Deb told me, baby Annie stuck her arm into Kira’s mouth, and the dog let her do it without getting upset, let alone hurting her. Kira is way too rambunctious when I’m around, especially since I’m emphatically not a dog person; but I know Annie (who’s 2 now) has the best friend and protector it’s possible to have.

  27. Leslie says:

    When my Elf died (she was my calico heart), I worked out of my home and she was always a part of that, though sometimes of course in ways that put my deadlines at risk. After she died, I finally found a picture of her sitting straight up, the perfectly postured queen, looking directly at me, the same pose as she’d commonly put herself in, sitting directly behind the keyboard and blocking the view of my monitor whenever I dared to spend more time working than I did taking care of her needs, including giving her my undivided attention. That picture became my desktop background picture, as if she were still there when I looked at my computer, ordering me to stop, breath, and let some serious kitty-love bring me back into myself.

  28. Ovidia says:

    Say the word & we volunteers will be queueing up to smudge ink, chew up masking tape, weigh down your drawing arm & demand your company on walkarounds night or day… I know–won’t work. No essence de Julia, no wisdom of non-committal cat, no years of shared space. Realising now we all owe Julia something too, for her (lurking) presence all the strips we’ve love.
    Please continue not feeling too bad okay? And please don’t feel bad about not feeling bad!

  29. Deb says:

    ‘Familiar’, yes, a very real word for a very real image and being! I believe in magic. We are surrounded by it in all ways. We just need to slow down long enough to allow it to say hello. My thoughts are still with you Alison.

  30. aimes says:

    Alison, I have a pet experience I hope that is comforting.

    I adopted my dog, Ellis, before I began law school. He had been severely abused — he flinched when he was offered a treat, he would yelp if someone tried to pick him up. He was an elderly affenpinscher who had the bad luck of abusive kennel help when his owner could no longer take care of him.

    Despite it all, we became best buds and constant companions. When I came home tired and dragging, he would be there to greet me, dancing in a circle. On the worst days of law school, he would lean against my leg, and just stay there until I picked him up. I could never hug him or cuddle with him, he was too skittish. But he would lay next to me and rest his head on my leg, while I rubbed his tummy.

    I passed my first bar, and then landed a dream job in another state. I studied for that bar, but I failed. I was discouraged and heart broken. Ellis sat in my lap while I cried that night. Every time I looked at him, his ears would relax and he would smile. I was tired of waiting. I started law school at 39, though I had wanted to do it since I was 14.

    I took that bar exam again. A few weeks before the bar scores were released, Ellis died suddenly. It felt like someone reached in and took the love out of me. I carried his little body into the vet’s, and carried his ashes out 3 weeks later.

    I received notice I passed that bar. I was working for a lawyer I admired and believed in, I was given my own case load. Finally, after 40+ years, I was doing what I wanted to do. During the swearing-in ceremony, when I could have been at my happiest, I thought of how hard it is to go home and Ellis not be there.

    To this day, I believe somehow Ellis knew I was going to be ok. He came into my life when he was nearing the end of his. He got me through all the hurdles of the most amazing and difficult experience I have ever sought. He got me over the wall of self-doubt. He was a marvelous little being, and I hope he knows I loved him well.

    I truly believe pets know our lives and are connected to all things, including our tiny failures and doubts that seem so important at the time.

  31. AnnaP says:

    Julia was a real beauty, you were lucky to have one another.

    speaking of cats,
    I have been trying to track down a book by Doris Lessing that was about cats. I remember reading it years ago and it was wonderfull. Does any of you know what the name was?

  32. judybusy says:

    AnnaP, a google search reveals that it is likely Particularly Cats. Good luck finding it!

  33. Chris says:

    Another book?

    How excited am I?

    Super excited.

  34. Mame says:

    Christopher Smart

    For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry.

    For he is the servant of the Living God duly and daily serving him.

    For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in his way.

    For this is done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant quickness.

    For then he leaps up to catch the musk, which is the blessing of God upon his prayer.

    For he rolls upon prank to work it in.

    For having done duty and received blessing he begins to consider himself.

    For this he performs in ten degrees.

    For first he looks upon his forepaws to see if they are clean.

    For secondly he kicks up behind to clear away there.

    For thirdly he works it upon stretch with the forepaws extended.

    For fourthly he sharpens his paws by wood.

    For fifthly he washes himself.

    For sixthly he rolls upon wash.

    For seventhly he fleas himself, that he may not be interrupted upon the beat.

    For eighthly he rubs himself against a post.

    For ninthly he looks up for his instructions.

    For tenthly he goes in quest of food.

    For having consider’d God and himself he will consider his neighbour.

    For if he meets another cat he will kiss her in kindness.

    For when he takes his prey he plays with it to give it a chance.

    For one mouse in seven escapes by his dallying.

    For when his day’s work is done his business more properly begins.

    For he keeps the Lord’s watch in the night against the adversary.

    For he counteracts the powers of darkness by his electrical skin and glaring eyes.

    For he counteracts the Devil, who is death, by brisking about the life.

    For in his morning orisons he loves the sun and the sun loves him.

    For he is of the tribe of Tiger.

    For the Cherub Cat is a term of the Angel Tiger.

    For he has the subtlety and hissing of a serpent, which in goodness he suppresses.

    For he will not do destruction, if he is well-fed, neither will he spit without provocation.

    For he purrs in thankfulness, when God tells him he’s a good Cat.

    For he is an instrument for the children to learn benevolence upon.

    For every house is incomplete without him and a blessing is lacking in the spirit.

    For the Lord commanded Moses concerning the cats at the departure of the Children of Israel from Egypt.

    For every family had one cat at least in the bag.

    For the English Cats are the best in Europe.

    For he is the cleanest in the use of his forepaws of any quadruped.

    For the dexterity of his defence is an instance of the love of God to him exceedingly.

    For he is the quickest to his mark of any creature.

    For he is tenacious of his point.

    For he is a mixture of gravity and waggery.

    For he knows that God is his Saviour.

    For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest.

    For there is nothing brisker than his life when in motion.

    For he is of the Lord’s poor and so indeed is he called by benevolence perpetually–

    Poor Jeoffry! poor Jeoffry! the rat has bit thy throat.

    For I bless the name of the Lord Jesus that Jeoffry is better.

    For the divine spirit comes about his body to sustain it in complete cat.

    For his tongue is exceeding pure so that it has in purity what it wants in music.

    For he is docile and can learn certain things.

    For he can set up with gravity which is patience upon approbation.

    For he can fetch and carry, which is patience in employment.

    For he can jump over a stick which is patience upon proof positive.

    For he can spraggle upon waggle at the word of command.

    For he can jump from an eminence into his master’s bosom.

    For he can catch the cork and toss it again.

    For he is hated by the hypocrite and miser.

    For the former is afraid of detection.

    For the latter refuses the charge.

    For he camels his back to bear the first notion of business.

    For he is good to think on, if a man would express himself neatly.

    For he made a great figure in Egypt for his signal services.

    For he killed the Ichneumon-rat very pernicious by land.

    For his ears are so acute that they sting again.

    For from this proceeds the passing quickness of his attention.

    For by stroking of him I have found out electricity.

    For I perceived God’s light about him both wax and fire.

    For the Electrical fire is the spiritual substance, which God sends from heaven to sustain the bodies both of man and beast.

    For God has blessed him in the variety of his movements.

    For, tho he cannot fly, he is an excellent clamberer.

    For his motions upon the face of the earth are more than any other quadruped.

    For he can tread to all the measures upon the music.

    For he can swim for life.

    For he can creep.

  35. Mame says:

    okay…so that was a long and weirdly religious poem…but it was by Christopher Smart, who was weirdly wonderful and it’s a cool metaphor. There are some versions of a chorale arrangement of the Jubliate Agno that have a wonderful soprano singing this part of the glory of god to be manifested in the daily life of a cat.

  36. Darren Zieger says:

    Anna P:

    I’m not personally familiar with them, but a quick Wikipedia/Amazon search provides two Cat-related titles (pardon the mess below of this blog doesn’t parse HTML link tags):

    Particularly Cats and

    The Old Age of El Magnifico

    Actually, the description of Particularly Cats, which is a 2000 re-issue of a 1967 work, says that the new edition includes the story of El Maginifco, so the second title may be redundant.

    There’s also a 1991 edition titled “Particularly Cats…and Rufus,” but the description doesn’t shed any light on the “Rufus” bit.

    Anyway, all three titles are available used for cheap, so you could order all three and compare, if you want to 🙂

  37. purlypuss says:

    Oh, I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of Julia. My condolences added to the pile.

    I’m oddly comforted by so many seasoned cat owners (I’m on Cat Number One, estimated to be between 6-10 at the time and so is probably 10-14 now) who say that their cats don’t leave them until the cat is sure the owner is good and ready. I certainly hope so.

  38. purlypuss says:

    *6-10 yrs old at the time of adoption from the shelter.

  39. Wendy B says:

    Has anyone read Cats (and their dykes): an anthology? It was published in about 1991 and it has some great stories, poems and reflections about that special connection.

    My fur person is Zack, approx. 15 years old, an amazing being who came into my life three months before my brother died. Zack-a-roo has taken really good care of me in the 13 1/2 years since.

    By the way, acupuncture has really helped with his arthritis.

  40. Feminista says:

    My condolences to Alison and all others on this blog who have lost furry friends as well as humans.

    I have endured multiple losses in the past 4 years: my father’s death after years of Parkinson’s disease followed immediately by job loss in March 2002; the tragic death by suicide of my husband/companero of 25 years in 2003; involuntary estrangement from my daughter for the past 3 years; and at the end of Dec.’06 my mother’s death after a 4 year decline.

    My cat friends Oreo and Jasmine have been a great comfort to me; they can tell when I’m upset and will sit next to me or cuddle in my lap.They also get excited when I give them their favorite treats,milk and tunafish.

    I was at a meditation session last night sponsored by one of the groups I belong to,Living Earth,which deals with political and spiritual issues. The consensus of the group was our modern,fast-paced society doesn’t deal well at all with grief; we are expected to carry on with our lives after a short bereavement period. Well,I’m here to say that grief lasts as long as it lasts. Current grief stimulates past grief. What helps me the most is talking and making connections to supportive people,yoga,writing,and walking.

  41. Lisa B (Lisa Bernstein) says:

    My two 18-year-old cats died last year. I wrote a song about one of them as she was on her long way out, “When Malika Sleeps” that may give comfort and joy. (It’s recorded on my new CD “What’s New, Pussycat?” — tunes all about cats! — and on a happier note, you might like to hear a woman sing the tune Tom Jones made famous…gives it a whole new flavor.) Thanks, all, for the words here. The best response I can give is these lyrics. You can hear about half the tune on http://cdbaby.com/cd/lisab3 or check it out on itunes (http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewAlbum?playListId=167824648). Love.

    When Malika Sleeps

    When Malika sleeps, I can see her dream
    As her ears start to twitch, as she runs through the trees
    Then the day fades to dark, and she jumps back on her chair
    And she sleeps, how she sleeps, oh my creature dear

    When I first met Malika, she fit in my two hands
    And she started to purr like a boat on dry land
    And she gazed up at me with her gleaming green eyes
    Soon to race through our rooms chasing ghosts and a fly

    Now Malika lays very thin upon the bed
    Just a coat of striped fur and a regal head
    Once she hunted and stalked, full of muscles and nerve
    Now she rests all the day and wakes to blink at a small world

    But she still cries to eat like a person wailing prayers
    And she fervently purrs and grips the flesh that’s hers
    And she stubbornly leaps to forbidden countertops
    To lick what she covets, what her keeper forgot

    Oh may I feel the hand of a loved one on my head
    May I sleep as solidly in the last days on my bed
    May my eyes shine as bright when I look into your face
    As Malika’s still shine when she lifts her head with grace

    Could the reason we live be to know such strength?
    Could the reason we love be to sieze it with grace,
    And let go, and let go, like the cat who walks away
    Can we leave all our sorrows behind with the day?

    When Malika sleeps, I can see her dream
    And she dreams of a life filled with brightness and play
    Yes, the time we’re alive is a light between two dreams
    Then the night calls us home
    And we leap into the dark
    Like a cat who can see in the night,
    And who runs even in dreams. ~~~

  42. mlk says:

    Feminista, I’m so sorry to hear of your losses! wise words that current grief stimulates past grief . . . one of the reasons that grief lasts as long as it lasts.

    Alison, while we don’t know you well — much as we’d like to, or at least think we’d like to — it’s evident that you’ve had multiple losses in the past year. a relationship, your beloved familiar, not to mention at least one piece of electronic equipment and your status as an invisible author. please take whatever time you need to grieve, in whatever way you best handle loss.

  43. fonzingaling says:

    So very sorry about Julia. We lost a cat 18 months ago & still think of him every day. You can’t rush grief.

    In the hope that this cheers you for a second:


  44. silvio soprani says:


    Yes, true words about grief. I especially appreciated your naming the things that help– making connections to people, walking, and writing. I agree. My response to grief has often been withdrawal and isolation, which have their place when the other lifelines do not seem possible. But the most healing things I do are making music with others when I can, and just walking when I can’t. What is it about walking? It is a perpetual source of peace, I think, when I can slow my mind down enough to accept that walking (like grief) takes as long as it takes.

    The other thing I wanted to say to you is that I understand how it feels to have an “involuntary estrangement” (as you put it so well) with a child. It seems so hard to accept that someone with whom one was on the same wavelength with for so many years suddenly cuts off that affection. The hardest part is sorting out whether one is responsible for it (in which case one could change one’s actions), or whether one just needs to let the other person alone for a while to work out what they are going through. It is difficult for a mother to “do nothing” in this situation. At least that has been my feeling.

    But I am grateful for all your thoughtful and insightful posts on this blog. It is the synthesis of many minds together that has created a treasure for my heart here.

  45. Larissa says:

    I wanted to reply to the last entry but well, I have two small children and, I admit, I got distracted. So here I am. We’ve lost both our long time beloved cat, Hecate, *and* dog, Boris, this year, both friends of about 15 years.

    I know what you mean about one phase to the next. Animal companions can be the surest of friends when we’re on a new adventure, eh? I guess Julia knew you’d be ok. And 18 years, and ones with an owner like you… I’d like to fantasize she’s bragging about how wonderful this life was, in Egyptian Kitty Nirvana. Julia, the sleek black kitty who likes croissants is my Hecate, I’m sure she’d love to hang out.

  46. Feminista says:

    MLK and silvio,thanks for your kind words and support,and I too appreciate your wisdom and humor. Thanks for mentioning singing as that also has continued to bring joy to me for many years.

    My mother gave me many gifts,including the love of music,and the strength to do what needs to be done,to paraphrase Garrison Keillor. She introduced me to the radio show Prairie Home Companion in the early 80s,as she enjoyed the stories from a fellow Minnesotan about life in a small town. In visits to my maternal grandmother as a child,I met Norwegian bachelor farmers,grovery and general store owners,began to understand what it was like to live in a place where everyone knew you,and gained an appreciation for the subleties of Scandinavian humor.

  47. Aunt Soozie says:

    MLK…thanks for the welcome back.
    Monday is your day and in your honor this big wonderful Gospel choir joins with my congregation’s big wonderful Jewish people choir and they sing together and rock the house. On Friday night we’ll all convene at our temple and on Sunday we’ll all be at the church. I can’t wait to feel the spirit in my loins. In fact, I believe that I’m feeling something in my loins right now…oh, wait, my mistake, that’s something else…nevermind…

    I do want to come chew on Alison’s masking tape, sit on her lap and weigh down her arm. I’m quite adept at smearing ink and I’m also capable of prowling around in a haughty stealthful manner. I don’t believe I’d fit in the box on the desk.

    So, has anyone drawn up the volunteer schedule? Do we need to organize a meeting and a potluck to dialogue and gain consensus on how to approach this cat temping position?

    Let me know.
    Aunt Soozie
    ps…for the potluck I think we should go vegan, let’s defer to the most limited of our group so as not to exclude anyone…except for the cats, they can have meat, right?

  48. silvio soprani says:


    Funny you should mention Prairie Home Companion. A old folkie friend of mine in the 80s used to listen to it religiously. At the time, I thought the musical guests on his show were just a notch above Lawrence Welk–I thought they were incredibly hokey.

    Somehow in the last 10 years I have become a regular listener, and the music, while sometimes not as cutting edge as one might be used to,no longer seems hokey. It just seems good.

    Also, I have come to really appreciate the historical focus Keillor brings to each show, depending on which city he is broadcasting from. I have learned to see each locality as having something special that keeps every town, USA from being the same Walmart/McDonalds experience.

    And what I love the most is the way the show presents really traditional, even conventional local cultural stuff (like a state fair or someone’s granddaughter singing a patriotic song) side by side with truly hilarious political satire of the current situation in Washington. And one hears the same audience that applauded enthusiastically for the patriotic granddaughter also laughing hilariously at a put-on of the President. Kind of restores one’s faith in the whole concept of “Middle America.”

    I’m not aware of the show ever having been broadcast from Baltimore but I know he could really make some hay here.

    Perhaps someday Alison will be broadcasting from each place she tours. (Well, she’s already “broadcasting” graphics, and text, and video. It’s just a short hop to speech!)

    Speaking of tours, I see from the NEXT thread that Alison is on her way to France. I look forward to the (vicarious) sights!

  49. Amy in Madison says:

    I truly love the drawing from the old strips just as much as the current drawing, just in a different way!

    I’m so happy for Fun Home’s success and best of luck with the new memoir!

  50. Speedy says:

    Alison: Sorry to hear that your cat Julia has passed on after 18 years. Julia was my Polish grandmother’s name.
    This recalls my grief when my dog Uggie(1948-1962)died. Uggie was part Manchester-Chihuahua.
    Speedy State College PA

  51. little gator says:

    I volunteer to whine for food.

    or demand, screech, yowl, or whatever vocalisation you prefer.

  52. little gator says:

    I just remembered this: My heartcat Rudy was only eight when he died of cancer and it could hardly have come at a worse time in my life.

    At about that time, a friend of mine in Ontario(I’m im MA) was in a coma with complications of diabetes and kidney failure and expected to die. We both belong to the same pet-related mailing lists, which is how I know her.

    Shan woke up the day Rudy was put to sleep. She said she felt/dreamed/whatever that an Airedale and an orange and white cat were walking around on her bed encouraging her. There’s only one Airedale on the list, and he’s fine. He also does search and rescue work with his human. We’re all certain the cat was Rudy checking on her on his way to where-ever he went.

    Shan is phobic about cats after being mauled by a vicious cat as a child. BUt when she thought there was a cat on her bed she wasn’t scared at all, knowing how kind and loving Rudy was to all humans.

    They said she’d never be well enough to go home and would spend the rest of her life in a nursing home. When she elarned that, she somehow got well enough to go hime, because she couldn’t bear to never se eher dogs again.

    And as for the name Julia, mny greatgrandfather had the following Julias in his life:

    His mother, his first wife, his second wife’s sister, and his own sister. He only had one daughter and she was *not* named Julia. His sister was nicknamed Dolly which used to be the female equivalent of Junior for a child with the same name as a parent.

  53. mlk says:

    the talk about past cats has reminded me of the two that were with us when my ex and I separated. I haven’t seen them for 10 years, and they may have passed on by now. If still alive, they’ve been long lived, like so many of the cats described here.

    funny thing about these 2 girls: they both behaved as if they lived in a one cat household. Toby (medium haired tortie, looked like a small lion) made overtures towards friendship but Bathsheba (medium/long haired grey beauty with a floofy tail) would have none of it. Sheba was the first in the household, so she set the tone.

    I’d considered the girls to be my husband’s cats, which is why he took them both when we parted. we’d both cared for them, but DWm lavished them with praise and did all of the grooming (Bathsheba had a tendency towards mats, even with regular brushing. Toby just loved to be brushed!).

    I didn’t realize until he’d moved with them to NC that the girls and I also had special bonds. I still laugh when I think of how Toby protected her turf from a much larger and energetic dog. True, he was chained in the next yard, but she looked fully prepared to stand her ground if he broke loose. Sheba loved to climb trees and, fortunately, was able to get down and back into the house. Toby I called our “pocket cat,” I could hold her comfortably on my forearm. Sheba was long in body as well as fur; with her front paws over my shoulder her rear paws would be at my waist. When I held Sheba this way she and I would touch noses and give each other cat kisses.

    ah, the memories that animals leave behind . . .

  54. Anonymous says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about your cat, Alison. I’m a longtime reader & lurker who has always enjoyed your work. I’m reminded of something a friend of mine said when her dog passed away – “We should all have such good fortune to know that much love before we die.” I wasn’t sure if she was referring to herself or her dog, but I think it’s fitting. Having owned 3 dogs in my life I feel lucky to have been taught the joy of love, living in the moment, and memories. I thank you for sharing so much with the world, and I wish you a wonderful 2007.

  55. Pharmacy says:

    If developed sperm don’t leave the body, then there is no risk of getting pregnant. oh and its take before the intercourse so once again, no chance. Hooray for sex with no condoms! WBR LeoP

  56. Mary Ellen says:

    I’m just catching up with the site after an absence of a few months….I’m so sorry to hear about Julia the cat. I recently lost my Jane, after 17 years. She was also always with me, and yes, as Ellen in an earlyer post said, was my “familiar”. I often referred to her as my fur child. I miss her more than I thought I would.

    Condolences to you and also congratulations on your ever-evolving work (and drawing!).