Janacek doth suffer a sea-change


Janacek was a homely cat—with his mottled brown, gray, white and striped fur—not to mention clumsy, and rather lazy.  They say pets resemble their people, so who knows; perhaps that’s why we picked him from the shelter, this cat who had been dropped off, adopted, and returned to the shelter a second time, before we took him home, promising him a happy life.


Janacek was homely and, admittedly unremarkable…unless you consider shedding remarkable; in this he was a Olympic medalist.  And eye contact—whenever Janacek wasn’t napping in a sunbeam he kept his eyes on his people.  He’d look at us like “Oh, there you are HOB, there you are WOB” and we’d say “Oh, hey stinky cat, hey little man” and this made for a perfect circle of companionship.


Janacek was a homely cat—as in, he wanted to stay home.  We adopted him just at the time we started traveling in earnest, and I never stopped feeling guilty about leaving him behind.  He would not agree to stay with relatives when we traveled, no, cat-sitters had to come to his highness to fill up his bowls and reply to my worried emails about his well-being.  I’ve probably brushed his errant cat hairs from my travel clothes in a hundred cities around the world, always longing to squish up his ears and tell him he was a good kitty.


For a homely cat with a rough start in life, Janacek did well for himself. We spoiled him with catnip toys and let him boss us around.  HOB combed him every day (which you’d think would mitigate the shedding….but no.)  Janacek’s favorite treat was wheat-grass, though in his elder years it upset his stomach and I could no longer leave it out for his unrestrained nibbling.  Nowhere in all the countless poems and stories and plays I’ve read have I ever seen love described as slowly feeding a deaf, arthritic, 19 year old cat individual blades of wheat-grass, but if you asked me right now “What is true love?” this is how I would define it.

There’s a song in Shakespeare’s The Tempest that I’ve been thinking of since Janacek died this morning:

Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes;
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.

Of course, Janacek was a homely cat; I can’t imagine him transformed into coral and pearls.

People who haven’t lived in cities think we don’t have wildlife, but we do—lots of it.  Families of skunks barricade the sidewalk to our apartment building.  Possums scuttle off into the bushes when we return late at night. Robins and cardinals and much rarer birds reward our sharp eyes; two days ago we even saw a pair of Peregrine falcons just off Western Avenue.

While I enjoy the challenge of exotic bird-spotting, my favorite animals are the common ones; sparrows, bunnies and squirrels.  All the ordinary brown creatures have an essential quality of lovableness.  Maybe this is Janacek’s sea-change; he’s transformed into all the hopping sparrows on sidewalks and squirrels fluffing up their tails on tree branches next to subways stations.  Maybe living with these homely animals nearby will make me miss Janacek a little less.



  1. Very, very sorry about the loss of your dear friend Janacek. What a lovely happy life you gave him. He lived to a really fine old age and I think he was a handsome fellow. We can all only hope for a loving someone to feed us individual blades of wheat grass in our very old age.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much. Yes, we were lucky to have him reach a fine old age. A few years ago he almost died and then when he recovered we made a joke that his new name was Bonuscheck.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I’m sure he appreciated every single one of your jokes! Cats understand everything, as you know.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Naturally they do!


  2. Usually I read your pieces and laugh. This one made me cry. What a love. I am sorry for the sadness this guy has left behind. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Tricia. My apartment feels so lonely now—in a one bedroom apartment the cat is never far away.


  3. So very sorry that you have lost your homely – and homey – cat. That photograph of you holding him shows a a real armful of love. And when you think that he had a rough start to live through to nineteen is a real Bonuscheck. Let’s hope the homely animals will help ease your pain over time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kindness Helen. Yes, Janacek was more than an armful in his prime of 19 1/2 pounds!. He barely fit on my lap but we tried…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Lovely tribute to your kitty. Animals bring out something nobler in us I think.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. There are so many animals that need love and just one for me to make happy. I surely tried my best.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. As a dog person I can’t really relate to felines, but I do feel your loss WOB. I had dogs for most of my life and definitely when I grew up. Dogs don’t quite get to 19 years but the ones we had managed to really get part of our family.
    My maternal grandmother lived the latter stage of her life with my mum and our German shepherd Tracey. When Tracey died I wasn’t there; I got home the following day from abroad and in telling me how she went, my grandma – who aged 12 was the one going to town to buy things at the smugglers’ market, under WWII carpet bombings and hence became quite a tough old lady – cried. It’d been the first time I ever saw her cry. Ever.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awww, that’s a sweet story about your grandma. I think we give up all expectations for our pets except for love and companionship and so we become so vulnerable. I’ve never wanted a dog, but I fancy mutts with silly smiles and spot on their side.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. It is the absence of those we are fond of that wounds, whether they be homely or not.

    So sorry your poor cat called up in you the memory of that lovely section, from the depths of The Tempest.

    May you see him everywhere in every homely thing and may his memory live on.

    My father died not long ago and everywhere I look he is as well. Heres my poem about it, if and when you are up to reading it. https://frlcnews.com/2019/10/20/clutter/

    Looking forward to your future travel epistles when you have had a chance to recover!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sorry to hear about your father but so nice to read your poem on all the things that remind you of him. Wishing you many more loving memories!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Same to you. Thanks for checking it out.

        Liked by 1 person

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