thawing

It’s funny how we set emotional timelines for ourselves, and say, well of COURSE I’ll be there by then. And yes, sometimes it feels like a real victory when we meet those deadlines, and we are there, and we say, I’ve gotten out of that negative place, and now I’ll take on the world and be that perfect person I’ve been intending to be all along. The problem, of course, is when we backslide. Or rather we slide down off the exuberant pile of intentions we’ve built ourselves and say, “Oh shoot, I’m actually still kind of sad about x, y and z.” Our feelings about ourselves change, our feelings about others change, our health changes, the seasons change. We hope that we can learn things.

Anyway, that was all a bit psychobabble. The point is, I feel very much like a work in progress at the moment (and no kidding, I always have been and I always will be). The week I took the pictures in this post I was filled with a sense of real contentment and well being, and the week that I’m blogging about them I’m a little fuzzier about how I’m feeling about life. But hey, that’s okay. The feeling of well being was a blessing, and my feeling now is more self-examining, and I want to be able to dig into that feeling too, and get something out of it.

It’s Spring, and thank heavens for spring. The cold thaws, the nights get lighter, we’re greeted by daffodils and baby bunnies, and we hope that the day to day grind of life gets a little easier. It’s okay for me to bounce around town feeling rosy and optimistic, and yet it’s also okay for me to spend a quiet few minutes watching the sun set, listening to the birdies tell each other good night, and do some reflecting (even of the melancholy sort).

The later part of Spring Break left me feeling springtime optimism and my positivity was bubbling over. This led to a desire to cook and entertain a lot! I invited friends over for Indian food- actually sent out an open invite on facebook to anyone who was in town who felt like eating something I cooked. I made tofu tikka masala, sauteed cabbage and potatoes and carrots with spices (actually an Ethiopian recipe), and basmati rice. And then Myra totally stole my thunder by bringing this beautiful and delicious chickpea bisteeyah.

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Two of my friends were initially excited for the Indian dinner but then opted out when they learned when it would be served at 7:30 pm, a mere half hour before their baby’s bedtime. Determined to see them, and excited to continue feeding all the people I care about, I invited them over for a more child-friendly mealtime (6:00) the next day. That was delightful, because baby Toula is walking like a CHAMP! And she’s just the happiest little bambino, and super chatty.

I decided to make a recipe that my cousin Rachel taught me about: Moosewood’s Russian macaroni and cheese. Its defining features are a TON of sauteed onions (both red and green), caraway seeds, and cottage cheese in addition to the traditional cheddar. It’s really pretty healthy- look at all the vegetables crammed in there!

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My whole family loves this recipe- it’s comfort food with a fun twist. I think this time it wasn’t quite as good as when I’ve made it in the past, probably because I was too committed to health. Low fat cottage cheese is fine (though never buy fat free cottage cheese, please, it tastes like acid and death) but then also using low fat sour cream and reduced fat cheddar just was too virtuous. Next time I’ll rock a little more saturated fat!

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Also at the table was a yummy dip that unfortunately ended up a little barf-colored. I cooked red lentils with whole garlic cloves, olive oil, and salt; then mashed it up with cumin and turmeric. It was good, despite its appearances. The baby loved it! Dan and Bethany were also nice enough to bring bread and smoked salmon. Man, their baby housed that bread. She’s a big fan of the white carbs. Aren’t we all, hahahahaha.

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Okay now by FAR the highlight of my spring break happened on the last day of it. Myra and I headed off on an adventure to… CAT HEAVEN!

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Goathouse Cat Refuge was frankly a little overwhelming. In that it was amazing, and also caused me to lie in bed at night going, “THERE ARE SO MANY SWEET LITTLE KITTIES WITH NO MUMMIES AND DADDIES TO CARE FOR THEM WHAT CAN I DO, OH GODDDDD”.

A totally donation sustained organization, at any given moment there are 350 (!!!) cats at this amazing place. And visitors are allowed from 12-3 every day of the week, and though most of the cats are up for adoption, you can also go if (like me) you aren’t yet ready or able to offer a cat a home but just want to help socialize the animals.

There are a lotttt of cats, but it helps that they have free access to the outdoors (which is pretty amazing, and seems to keep the cats really happy and chill) and are also on multiple levels in the rooms inside, so you never feel overwhelmed by the number of cats (though straight talk: what is overwhelming is the smell).

Some of the kitties are in cages, if for example they’re new and getting used to the other cats, or recovering from medical treatment, or on a special diet. But most get to just wander around. There are, natch, lots of sleeping surfaces.

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This guy, below, was happy to see me. After I took this picture, he calmly decided to climb down from the shelf via my neck. Myra took a series of photos of me keeping the cat balanced on my back and bending down to the ground so he could peacefully disembark. Cats, man. We’re just here to serve them.

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Cat bunk beds! This room (with the series of shelves you see below) had approximately 28 cats in it (Myra counted) but it just never seemed that crowded. They seemed really happy and chill.

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But I thought the really amazing part was the outdoor area. It was a warmish day- low 60s- and both cats and humans were stoked to be spending some time outside.

Lots of things to climb on.

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Lots of things to climb in! I think a human child would enjoy this kind of space just as much as a cat.

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This guy was a boss climber. The roof he’s climbing off of was the quarantine building for new kitties or sick kitties. There is also a kitten cabana (!) There were only a few kittens the day we were there but the staff said the kittens really started coming in in April and May.

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I loved this lady. She was the most confident, friendly cat. And had the most GORGEOUS fluffy tail.

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There was some playtime as well outside, hahaha.

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This kitty had the most beautiful green eyes and just wanted you to pettt himm. On the one hand, you felt like these animals had a wonderful, cat-friendly space and had all of their needs met and seemed really content. On the other hand, some of them clearly just wanted a forever family where they could be loved and cared for by one person :,(

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Outdoors, basically everything was a scratching surface. A lot of the trees looked a little ragged at the bottom!

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How amazing is this climbing structure?! I want one!

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I loved this chubster. He was very affable.

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The white cat was like I HAVE MANY IMPORTANT TASKS TO ACCOMPLISH TODAY I MUST BE OFF.

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This cat was super sweet and kind of had a face like a little fancy purebred cat. There’s something about this vantage point looking into things from above that cats just seem to love.

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Nuzzle nuzle.

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Kitty buddies looking contemplative together.

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The cat was nibbling on the pinecones and then when I went over to take a picture he looked a little embarrassed.

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There are some kitties who have just always been feral. They stay on the outskirts of the outdoor area (which is large, so they definitely can get the solitude they desire, while having their needs for food and water and veterinary care and so on met). They were having a big sunbathing party.

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We petted SO MANY CATS. Seriously, if you have blood pressure concerns, go to this place and do some quality cat petting.

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More scratching.

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Can you even with this little guy’s belly camouflage? So cute!

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Don’t you love when cats stare intently at something like they’re trying to solve an important mystery and then peacefully close their eyes, like “Ah, I see it now. All is well.”?

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This little guy LOVED me! (In general, what’s with cats and toes? What weirdos). At one point he put his paws up on his knees and I started to bend down and it was like he was trying to climb into my arms sob sob sob. Then another kitty came over to say hello and this guy hissed at him, like, “DO NOT RUIN THIS FOR ME BRO”. This is what haunts me when I lie in bed at night, man- little baby kitties with no families.

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(Also, apparently from those billions of goosebumps on my legs, it was really too cold that day to be wearing shorts, eh?)

Emotionally drained but happy after our visit, Myra and I then went to one of Pittsboro’s other lovely offerings, the bakery. These cupcakes were adorable but I guess you have to special order them because they were only plastic models. Sigh.

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Nonetheless, they had a yummy selection, including slightly less adorable regular cupcakes.

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Myra and I both opted for the donuts, which were SO good. Light and yeasty and sweetly frosted. I got one with homemade lemon curd inside and it was SO good- tangy, like I like it!

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Then I went home and my neighbor brought over ridiculously delicious spring rolls made with love by her Thai mother. And I hung out with my girlfriends and we giggled about life.

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Spring Break was done and I felt like the flowers I saw around me, like I was thawing. I felt an overabundance of blessings in my life, despite some of the pain it contains too.

I am blessed, to have a family that contains so much love- my life was so enriched by my cousin’s presence and the years I got to overlap with him.

I made many steps in becoming the person I am in my now-finished relationship. As my roommate wisely pointed out tonight, when you make the decision to love someone, you choose to make them part of your life story, however long your time with them overlaps. They’re always written into your story, and you are the person you are in part because of them.

I chatted with a pro today (I was feeling a little freaked out after my insane- literally, insane- allergy medicine reaction last week) and she mentioned how she could see me benefiting from incorporating more mindfulness into my life. I told her about my resistance to the idea of making my mind completely blank. She said, why not just go for a walk, and for its first ten minutes, turn off everything else in your brain and choose to focus on what’s around you. The breeze, the chipmunks, and so on.

I took these pictures on some of my walks home from class the other week. Daffodils on every lawn, popping up seemingly overnight.

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I despaired during my first spring in North Carolina- where are the crocuses?! I thought we were in the wrong climactic zone. Imagine my deep, deep joy when I saw these guys peeking up out of the dirt. Hello, spring. Hello, renewal. Hello, hope. Hello, change.

Bless you, dear little crocuses!

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