Category: Kindred

What David Bowie, Choir! Choir! Choir! and Loss Taught Me About Art

2016-01-18 CCC David Bowie Justin
Choir! Choir! Choir! sings David Bowie at the Art Gallery of Ontario

Last weekend I had the great good fortune of singing a tribute to David Bowie with Choir! Choir! Choir! at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Lyrics I’ve known since I was a girl, “Ground control to Major Tom…” took on new meaning in the context of the singer’s recent passing “It’s time to leave the capsule if you dare.” My throat caught as I came to, The stars look very different today.” In a flash not only did I feel the loss of David Bowie but also the death of my mother, the passing of time and the power of art.

How can a collection of simple words, “Can you hear me Major Tom? Can you hear me Major Tom?” hold our experience of life so powerfully?

How is it that even now as I write, the music returns to my heart and raises the song’s lyrics to my mind and the tears well and I am overcome? In an instant I am transformed into a daughter grieving, reliving the pain of crying out to my mom in the days after her passing, like a baby animal howling for her mother’s return, “Mawwwwm…. Mawwwwwm….”

Art has a gift for containing the uncontainable, “For here am I sitting in a tin can far above the world,” for consoling the inconsolable, “Planet Earth is blue and there’s nothing I can do.”

Art focuses our attention on the finest details of life while expanding our vision into the previously unimaginable.

Art is an opening, “I’m stepping through the door,” into boundless exploration “and I’m floating in a most peculiar way”.

In this world where we so often feel insignificant, small and alone, art lets us know that we are in this thing called life together. We are both always alone in our experience and also never alone in it.

Art holds paradox in her hand like a jewel.

Though I may have been the only one in that room feeling the loss of my mother, all of us were tied together by the silken thread of loss woven by David Bowie, “Tell my wife I love her very much.” All of us were there, slipping into music and lyrics for comfort and understanding, like kids crawl into their parents’ bed when the world is too much.

Coming together in a room of sound and connection was a reminder that we are not alone, even when we are all alone, floating in our tin can, far above the moon.

We are Ground Control. We are Major Tom. We are in this Space Oddity together.

Thank you, David Bowie. Thank you, Choir! Choir! Choir! Thank you, Mom.

Sunday with the Kittens

The Triplets
The Triplets

In the Kitten Zone time works differently. It’s an eternal present. It’s hard to fathom just how much has changed in a week. Whereas last week we worried about fear and feeding, this week we find ourselves measuring in pettings and purrs.

Shibumi Sleeps

We have officially heard them all purring, usually at breakfast but also sometimes when we come close. Shibumi and Scout have both purred while letting us pet them (Yes! We’ve managed to pet them!) In fact, Shibumi’s so happy that Shannon found her lying on the piano, purring in her sleep!


The beautiful Escher remains the most distant. He loves to curl up in kitty carrier, which we have dubbed “the condo,” and stays there peacefully for hours. He moves away from most petting attempts but does like to sit right close to my leg around mealtimes.


Though he’s still very nervous, we’ve made major progress with Scout this week. If his eyes are closed, he’ll let you pet him gently (I’ve even managed to get in around the eyes and nose) but if he sees you, his reflexes have him moving away.

Scout & Shoe

They love to play, especially with shoes, scrunched up paper balls and each other.

Shibumi Wins
Shibumi Wins

They’ve settled in enough to be curious.

Escher Yawns

And comfortable.


We’ve spent a lot of time just being near them, even curling up on the floor with them, especially if they’re sleeping. In fact, one of the major events this week happened when we were lying on the floor.

Shannon & Shibumi
Shannon & Shibumi

What a moment! Shibumi just decided to walk onto Shannon and sit down – the first non-food-related “cat on a human” moment in the Kitten Zone!

Escher & Paper Ball

After Escher’s breakout last week, we thought it was time to start thinking about expanding the Kitten Zone. Our plan was to kitten-proof a larger area, letting them into it on the weekend when we’d have more time to watch over them. They had other plans.

Shibumi Looks Up

Of course, Shibumi made the first move, figuring out how to bypass our makeshift door.

Scout Enters the Studio
Scout Enters the Studio

Then it was Scout who would not be contained. Once he’d found the larger area he also realized he could jump the barrier. So we’ve ended this week with them moving more fully through the house, including into the studio!


It’s amazing the progress a week can bring. I’m already curious about where we’ll be next Sunday!

Taking in three abandoned kittens came as quite a surprise – as does three vet visits, three sets of vaccines and three spay/neuter surgeries! So we’re getting creative and relaunching the Sparkles e-course in support of these much-loved rescues! We’ve even made the registration fee adjustable in case you want to add a little extra to their care package. We know they’d appreciate it.

Sign up for Sparkles – LIVE and bring your creativity to life in just 5 minutes a day. Your heart will start sparkling right away with doing good!

Learning to Receive Love

Shibumi in Carrier

Our biggest worry when we took in three abandoned kittens was that they would never be interested in or even be truly able to connect with people, that they would always be wary, aloof and untouchable.

For the past 11 days we’ve seen them move forward so much. (Follow their daily progress on  Chronicles of the Triplets) Slowly they moved out of their hiding spot beneath the piano. Warily they began to eat, stretch out and even sleep with us near by. Shannon, Justin and I spent as much time in the Kitten Zone as we could. We got down on the floor with them. We threw paper balls. We doled out treats. If we reached out our hands, they bolted.

We learned, instead, to sit close by, to sidle up inch by inch and be patient. (I can barely describe how badly we all want to reach down and pick up these little boos and hold them to our hearts!) The more we spent time with the kittens, the more we became aware of their signals. If there was any tension at all in their body, any wariness in their eyes, we moved away.

In the past few days something started to change. For me, it started with Scout.

2015-07-12 Scout

Scout has been the most terrified of the kittens. It took days for him to even look at me. And now when he does, it’s looks like this – full of soul and… something.  It’s as though he is longing for something but has no way to ask for it.

It isn’t food because, trust me, they’ve all learned how to ask for that.

I’ve spent hours sitting quietly next to Scout. I’ve counted it a success every time he hasn’t moved away. Then, the other day, he surprised me by shifting and coming in a little closer. I was amazed when next he reached out his paw towards me. I gently moved in just a little bit. He put his head forward. Emboldened, I gently stroked his paw, just once, twice, and then, heart full to bursting, I let the moment go.
JRS 2015-07-11 Shibumi near Stove

Soon Shibumi showed signs of a similar longing. As I sat with Scout and Escher, she trotted over and curled up near me too and started to purr. Gently, I reached out and touched her side. She startled and then came back and looked at me. I tried again. One stroke. Two. She moved away and returned. This time I tried petting her head, gently rubbing around her ears, and she sat there as though on a precipice of longing, on one side the familiar, on the other side love.

That’s when Escher became curious as well.

Escher on Purple Pillow

His desire was clear, as was the fact that he didn’t know what he was longing for, how to ask for it or how to receive it. I reached out gently. He pulled away. I tried again, approaching from a different angle. He stayed very, very still. I rubbed his head and up around his ears and watched. It was like he didn’t quite understand what was happening but he couldn’t walk away.

It was in that moment that I started to understand is that we are literally teaching the kittens how to receive love. The desire is there but they have no experience with it at all. They have never been touched kindly, never stroked until they fell asleep, never picked up with love or kissed on the nose.

And though love is a wonderful gift, for the kittens, just as it has been (and may still be) for many of us, learning to receive love and affection is tremendously uncomfortable while being magically magnetic.

Love is vulnerable. It’s a risk. A risk we need to keep on taking if we want to feel loved and at home.

The Triplets Together
photo by Shannon

Taking in three abandoned kittens came as quite a surprise – as does three vet visits, three sets of vaccines and three spay/neuter surgeries! So we’re getting creative and relaunching the Sparkles e-course in support of these much-loved rescues! We’ve even made the registration fee adjustable in case you want to add a little extra to their care package. We know they’d appreciate it.

Sign up for Sparkles – LIVE and bring your creativity to life in just 5 minutes a day. Your heart will start sparkling right away with doing good!

The Magical Art of Naming Cats

2012-02-25-Bascha & Me

When I adopted my very first cat, Bascha, I spent a lot of time researching cat names, including what makes a cat name magical. These are the principles I used then and they have guided us with naming The Triplets today.

First, Get to Know Your Cat

Sometimes this happens very quickly. It’s almost like your intuition tells you “Hotspur” or “Miss Mittens.” This often happens to me when I meet Cats in the Hood. For example, I’m sure you can see why I named this guy “The Emperor.”

The Emperor
The Emperor

But cats can be subtle creatures and it may take a while for them to reveal themselves to you. Give yourself a chance to see them in different situations and moods. If you’ve just brought them home, give them a while to adjust. Their seemingly tentative nature may give way to something entirely different once they feel at home.

Trippingly off the Tongue

Make it a name that you enjoy saying, something that’s delicious to your mouth. This is where our personality is the magic ingredient. Some of us like sweet tiny bonbons while others enjoy savoury treats. Try saying “Piu-Piu” or “Salamander” or “Harvey”. Notice how different each feels? You’ll be saying this name a lot. Let it be soupcon of delight.

Jamie & Jinx 2007

Sweet Nothings

Choose a name that is rich in sounds that are easily discernible to your cat. With Bascha it was the “sh” sound. With Jinx, the “ks”. If you’re unsure, try the name a few times and watch for a hint of movement in the cat, especially in the ears. If you find they keep turning their ear towards you when you use the name, you’ve got a winner.

PS You can tune the names you’ve chosen for a cat’s ear and we naturally tend to do that by adding a bit of rhythm or a sing-song quality to how we say it. I can still hear how my sister Shannon would call out to her sweet Gobo. His name had a melody all its own.

Jamie & Gobo

Try It On for Size

Spend a day using the name. See how you feel about it and how your new-found friend likes it too.  A name that feels good to both you & your cat will become a word of love magically bonding the two of you throughout your lifetime.

Re-Introducing the Triplets

We’ve been going through this process with the triplets. We knew it was time because their “names for now” were starting to stick. After much contemplation, conversation and experimentation, we have found names we just love for Big Brother, Little Sister and Grey.

My Name is Scout

Scout (aka Big Brother): This was the one name we all knew immediately was exactly right. He’s the explorer, the first to jump up and over and behind – but only if there are no people nearby. He’s also the most distant so far, the one who has the most to learn about being around us humans.

My Name is Escher

Escher (aka Grey): Escher is a gentle, contemplative cat. We thought the name of the Dutch artist whose meticulous works are thoughtful and mysterious and feature “velvety dark greys and blacks” would suit him just right.

My Name is Shibumi

Shibumi (aka Little Sister): This is a subtle Japanese word describing a of beauty and we just love the sound of it, especially the “boom” in the middle. I heard this word over a year ago and have been carrying it in my heart. One look at Little Sister and we knew it was hers.

What have you named your cats?