a poem from
OLD POSSUM’S BOOK OF PRACTICAL CATS
The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn’t just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I’m mad as a hatter
When I tell you a cat must have
THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.
First of all, there’s the name
that the family use daily,
Such as Peter, Augustus, Alonzo or James,
Such as Victor or Jonathan, George, Bill Bailey —
All of them sensible everyday names.
There are fancier names
if you think they sound sweeter,
Some for the gentlemen, some for the dames;
Such as Plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter —
But all of them sensible everyday names.
But I tell you,
a cat needs a name that’s particular,
A name that’s peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers,
or cherish his pride?
Of names of this kind I can give you a quorum,
Such as Munkustrap, Quaxo or Coricopat
Such as Bambalurina or else Jellylorum —
Names that never belong to more than one cat.
But above and beyond
there’s still one name left over,
And that is the name that you will not guess;
The name no human research can discover —
But the CAT HIMSELF KNOWS,
and will never confess.
When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same.
His mind is engaged in rapt contemplation
Of the thought,
Of the thought,
Of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Deep and inscrutable singular name.
– T. S. Eliot, “The Naming of Cats”
April 18, ‘15
Today was THE Spring day we dream about on Ground Hog day and long for through the last 6 weeks of winter. The kind of day where the sights and the smells of spring are prevalent and make one’s heart involuntarily sing…. The song in my heart began at 6:30 a.m. when I opened the back door and stepped out on the porch to hear the spring birds singing spring songs. The air smelled sweet and clean. The air was also warm enough not to bring on a chill.
And today is the day I go to Litchfield to pick up the kittens! I felt so eager I was ready to leave the house a good 20 minutes before I actually needed to leave!
So, I left anyhow. I drove to Litchfield and spent about 15 minutes on the bank of the Bantam River listening to the peepers and spring birds in White’s Woods Nature Preserve. I made a video of this spot I love so well, recording some of that sweet spring song. I also had conversation with 2 young women who were sitting in lawn chairs on the bank of the river who were basking in the sun, fishing, talking to each other in soft tones and drinking coffee. We shared our joy in the day, wished each other well and then I drove off to buy some kitty litter before I went to pick up the kittens.
I went to the store where I’ve been buying litter for many years. Usually when I stop by, there are many people there but this morning it was just the owner and me. I like talking to her and it was nice to have the time, as usually she is very busy. When I left there, it was 8:55, which meant it was time to go to the store where I was to pick up the kittens.
That was a lot of fun. The store owner, her mother, her husband and a friend were all there plus 3 very well-behaved big dogs. The 4 kittens in the large cage were amusing to us all as they were very hungry, very playful and interactive. All 5 humans turned out to be dedicated pet owners and the conversation was fun and lively. I almost hated to leave. All 4 of the kittens were siblings and I felt a little bad that they had to be separated. I also felt pleased that they seemed so un-stressed by their long trip from Arkansas to Connecticut in a van with 80 puppies.
The 2 kittens I’d selected from photos last week are so alike I’m having trouble telling them apart. I made a list of names for these kittens, thinking I’d know what to name them when I saw them, but nothing came forth from my list or out of the blue.
It turns out they’re very laid-back kittens especially for being barely 8 weeks old. We got to know each other a little better on the ride home as they lounged on a blanket inside my cat carrier. One or the other would occasionally mew and one bit my finger but more as if curious as to what was this thing, not in fear or anger.
After I got home with them I let them play around the living room for awhile. I also put Bird in her cage on the floor. They’d never seen anything like this and are properly awed.
Then I shut them in the bathroom so they could feed, hopefully use the litter and take a nap. Awhile later, Auntie Cindy came to welcome the newbies and to have lunch with me. We had a fun half hour playing with the kittens who seemed to be recharged and rarin’ to play after their half hour nap. It was while we were playing with kittens I mentioned that they’d come from Arkansas. Auntie Cindy said “Just like Bill and Hillary!”
For whatever reason, these names seemed right. Hillary has been used as a male or female name; consider Sir Edmund who climbed Everest…. We thought about it awhile and a decision was made. The names that ‘the family use daily’ are now Bill and (masculine) Hillary. They came with names so Bill is Bill Phillip and Hillary is Hillary Mikey. I’ll never know their ineffable names.