Our house on Noon Road has a new look! After years of looking out the front windows at a rickety railing on the front porch, we have a replacement. The railing has been falling apart almost since the day it was put together back in 1995. Finally, I asked my son Isaac if he’d be interested in a “little summer job.” “Yes!” he said. And the work began.
The easy part took such a short amount of time, I didn’t have time to take a “before” photo before he had the whole thing torn off the deck. A little push here and there, and it was pretty much demolished. But I did take plenty of “during” photos. What you see in the first photos of the slideshow are the posts. We needed five of them. They came from the maple tree next to the one that once held a huge tree house that Barry and I made with help from our kids, Angela and Isaac. Kids and adults alike used to play in it. The maple next to it is huge, and Isaac cut some beautiful wood from it.
The top and bottom railings were cut from a cedar tree that grows near the northwest corner of our house. I don’t remember how many branches it took, but the tree needed to be cleared from the house anyway. So… maple posts, cedar railings and the slats are either salvaged douglas fir, and also maple. The salvage pieces were trimmed and cleaned up a bit, as were all the new pieces. Then Isaac measured, cut, re-measured, trimmed some more, measured again, and laid it out to fit the parts. That took a bit of time, and a few cuss words, but it all went according to plan.
Building the railing was not an easy job. But in the end, what I wanted was exactly what I got. I consider myself the art director, and Isaac the artist and mathematician. I say “mathematician” because as you’ll notice, the railing uses crooked, bent, and twisted pieces for posts, railings and slats. However, you’ll also notice that the slats are spaced evenly, and placed about as perpendicular as possible. Isaac was out there doing the math on small scraps of paper and chunks of wood to be sure everything would fit. In the photos, you can see some circles and x’s he drew to measure from, and as targets for the drill bits. He also strung baling twine from the top to the bottom rungs in order to measure from here to there with some degree of accuracy. Toward the end, it was real tough putting the whole thing together, but obviously doable, as you can see. There was lots of pounding with Isaac’s homemade truncheon, and sharpening of chisels and knives. The truncheon lasted almost through the whole job, but not quite.
Isaac finished the railing (except for the stairs section, which will be finished soon), and then took off for Evergreen State College, where he’s taking Russian and a class called Motion and Matter that includes physics, chemistry and calculus. Those of you who know Isaac understand that he couldn’t be having a better time right now. Meanwhile, Jim and I have a great piece of art to look at every day. It’s wild and beautiful.
–posted by Anita K. Boyle
Egress Studio is located in a rural area of Whatcom County about fifteen minutes outside Bellingham–an idyllic and even wholesome place to live and to work. In a bucolic setting like this, there is a phenomenon that happens regularly brought about by possibly well-meaning, but rather thoughtless and naïve people. I’d like to think the people are just stupid, but I know that’s not true. Several times a year, cats of all sizes, shapes, colors and ages appear out of nowhere in different parts of the county. It’s like a weather forecast gone bad. Some meow at strangers’ front doors. Some find their way into a barn or shed. Still others are only seen in the corner of your eye before disappearing into the underbrush. People think these quiet country roads are a perfect place, with their thousands of mice, for a cat to live. Should be a perfect place for a cat. But it’s not. Typically, cats can live for a while outdoors. However, they rarely die of old age. Instead, things happen. Generally, they become meals for a wide number of predators: coyotes, owls, hawks, dogs and raccoons. Of course, vehicles cause havoc with their numbers, and malnutrition is a serious concern, too. Cats being domestic animals can only lead a long and healthy life if they have regular feedings by their human “domestic” partners: us.
Almost every county-dweller has a story about the feral or “wild” cats that have come to call. Often the cat is a queen, who produces a collection of tiny kittens to the delight and horror of their human hosts. Kittens are always irresistible. But when one opens their home to a feral mother and brood, the question in the back of one’s mind is: “Yikes! What happens in a few months when they become adolescents?” It’s a seriously scary thought. Right now, I know of a family of wonderfully happy kittens and their mom who are being cared for by a couple of friends of mine, Chris and Noel.
The mother cat was abandoned. My friends took pity on her and diligently fed her daily for the last year. Chris says, “The poor thing was so frightened, she wouldn’t let anyone touch her but always showed up for her meal.” One day they noticed she was carrying something in her mouth across their lawn. This happened a few more times until she had placed five furry bundles in a special place she discovered outside their house. She obviously trusted these humans. Chris and Noel hatched a plan to capture the mother in the basement, which was surprisingly successful. They then brought the five frightened kittens in to join her. Success again. For the last couple of months, the kittens and their mother have been thriving under the care of my good-hearted friends.
Well, the kittens are eight-weeks old now, and will be ready for good homes of their own in just a few short weeks. They are calm and silly as any properly brought up kitten can be. Check the photos on this post to see what they look like. Cute doesn’t quite finish the description. If you are looking for a new roommate in orange, gray or buff, please send an email to Noel (firstname.lastname@example.org). You are welcome to visit the kittens to play with them until they are twelve weeks old. But do talk with my friends about these little kittens. One of them could become your new best friend.
And the connection to art and poetry? The kitten photos here are taken by Chris. I may add more later. And I’m sharing a couple poems about cats: one by Christopher Smart, and this one by William Wordsworth…
from The Kitten and Falling Leaves
by William Wordsworth
See the kitten on the wall, sporting with the leaves that fall,
Withered leaves—one—two—and three, from the lofty elder-tree!
Through the calm and frosty air, of this morning bright and fair . . .
—But the kitten, how she starts; Crouches, stretches, paws, and darts!
First at one, and then its fellow, just as light and just as yellow;
There are many now—now one—now they stop and there are none;
What intenseness of desire, in her upward eye of fire!
With a tiger-leap half way, now she meets the coming prey,
Lets it go as fast, and then, has it in her power again:
Now she works with three or four, like an Indian Conjuror;
Quick as he in feats of art, far beyond in joy of heart.
—And the next poem, if you have a few moments to regard a legendary cat…
>For I Will Consider My Cat Jeoffry (excerpt from Jubilate Agno)
written between 1759 and 1763
by 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.
Post by Anita K. Boyle