Will ye no come back again

The Devil in Disguise

Most of the time, things aren’t as complicated as you worry they’ll be, but it’s also true that things are rarely as simple as you hope they’ll be.

A kitten. A cat. A small furry being with big eyes and ears and an even bigger personality. A system of organs and arteries and veins. A way of being part of a family. You can never clearly see the end from the beginning.


We brought Hudson home at four months old, a “brother” to the little grey kitten that Hyla wanted. Different breeds, they fought and loved each other like brothers. They yinged and yanged.

Hudson was tiny. Big ears, big wide eyes. Shy and scared (both kittens had been raised to that point in cages at the breeder’s home—our wide-open living room was a terror for them at first), he bloomed into magnificent purring if you cuddled him in a blanket cave.

At first I thought his purr would be the biggest part of his personality. How little I knew.

We didn’t see eye to eye, this cat and I. He grew up and he was demanding, pushy, acquisitive. He purred loudly. He meowed loudly. He claimed the dog’s bed in front of the fire as his own. He stole food from plates (and the dog’s bowl, while the dog was trying to eat). His kingdom included the kitchen counters and the sink, the beds, the pillows, Michael’s lap the minute he sat down after chores.

He loved bread, waffles, pancakes. He tasted (and ruined) more than one proofing dinner roll and draining goat cheese. He’d chew through a package of biscuits or cookies just to have a taste.

He loved water. Take a shower in the morning and you’d hear Hudson “ree-owing” outside the bathroom door, demanding to be let in so that he could lick the shower floor clean of droplets. If you wanted to call him out of hiding, all you needed to do was turn on the tub faucet and he’d magically appear, leap onto the edge of the tub, and start lapping at the stream of water.

He strutted around knowing full well this house, this life, was his.

He apologized to no one. I resented and admired him. I wanted to love him the way I’d loved all the other cats before him, but things are rarely as simple as we hope they’ll be.

This cat with changing names—Acorn, Thistle, Whirligig, Purmort, Hudson*—often brought out the worst in me (impatience, anger, frustration), but he was always just who he was. No compromising. He could be entirely willful and frustrating one minute, then on your lap the next, exposing his belly for scratches the way a dog would, luxuriating in being touched, purring like a perfectly tuned engine.

Hyla and the Aby

That cat. He drove me nuts. But of course I loved him. We all loved him. And he loved us. Particularly Michael, who is far more patient than I am.

That cat. He was just nine when he died on Saturday, but he packed a lot of everything into those nine years.

He’s out under the big maple tree now. We buried him with a pancake and some baguette and some fur from his brother.

When he was little, so very little, he used to chase me when I went upstairs to the bedrooms. I’d be on the stairs, just a few steps from the bottom landing, and he’d bolt up next to me, rise up on his tiny rear legs, and bap-bap-bap-bap-bap my ankles with his soft front paws, claws retracted. We called it “Hudsonizing.” Unexpected and uniquely him. He did it constantly during his kittenish years, then more rarely.

It never failed to make me smile. I’m smiling right now. And also crying.

* We eventually settled on “Hudson,” short for Mr. Hudson, the Scottish butler on the original Upstairs, Downstairs television series. The title of this post comes from the title of one of the show’s episodes, which featured Mr. Hudson in a visit to his native land, and is also the title of a poem/song, long used as a Scottish farewell.

What to expect when you’re least expecting


You know how things are going along just fine and you think, “Hey, I’ve got a handle on this life”?

Inevitably, that’s about twelve hours before you’re reminded that life is a black box, where things appear smooth and calm and comprehensible from the outside, but, oh, what is inside that box, brewing and stewing?

The oven broke. The Internet connection stopped working. The car’s brakes started making a funny sound.

Two Sundays ago, we did our regular beehive check and noticed that the second box of frames was quite heavy. Honey! We were delighted. The bees were quite busy and we saw lots of capped brood cells (baby bees on the way), lots of cells filled with pollen and nectar, and lots of comb filled with honey. But we didn’t see that many larvae, and we didn’t see a single egg.

And we noticed several peanut shaped “queen cells” on the frames, filled with very large larvae. Those queen cells are where the bees are attempting to raise a new queen, either because the current queen is ill or otherwise not doing her job, or because she has died or flown the coop, er, hive.


On the outside, all looked well. Bees were happily flying in and out of the hive. On the inside, the colony was in emergency mode.

We chose not to panic, trusting that the bees knew what they were doing, put the lid back on and checked again last week. Still no eggs, but the queen cells were now empty. We felt a bit more panicky.

A quick call to our local bee mentor, Troy, confirmed that there was a problem, but not to panic; it’s happened to him, and seems to be happening to many hives this year because the nectar is so abundant and the hives are being quickly filled with honey. The queen sees this as the hive becoming crowded, so she takes off with her groupies in search of a new home, leaving the rest of the colony to raise a new queen.

Those empty queen cells mean that that our clever little bees are doing what they need to do. It’s likely that one or more queens have been born, and now it’s up to the queens and colony to sort out who will be THE queen and to make sure she mates with area drones from another hive.

Meanwhile, Hudson the cat stopped eating. This is a bad sign. Hudson will eat anything: all the available cat food, waffles left to cool on the counter, whatever you’ve left on your unguarded dinner plate, the dog’s food.

He was a bit quieter than usual, but otherwise seemed himself. After two days of this, we took him to the vet. She said he looked “depressed.” She wanted to do blood tests. So we did, and learned that, inside that black box of a cat, we were looking at severe kidney disease.

He’s home again, and we have a new routine that involves prescription drugs, prescription foods, and subcutaneous fluids. On the outside, he seems happy and is eating everything in sight. In time, we’ll do blood tests again and see if the inside agrees with the outside.

I baked blueberry muffins today…the car’s brakes are fine…the internet connection is on again.*

On Sunday, we’ll take the top off the hive, and inspect each frame, crossing our gloved fingers that we’ll see some eggs.

Nothing is as it seems. Life without mystery is a bore. Even so, I’m placing an order for an August free of mystery and anxiety, straightforward and comprehensible, as smooth as the glassy surface of the early morning river. Never mind what’s swimming below.

*Well, except for the three hours it was out, which happened just minutes after I typed that sentence. Ha, ha, ha, very funny universe.

52 Photos ~ How I start my day

The morning guard


Soft March morning


Morning milk



These photos are in response to this week’s theme for the 52 Photos Project. You should participate, too! Read about how it works here. You can see a gallery of everyone’s photos for this week’s theme here. To see a list of all my blog posts for this project, go here.

52 Weeks ~ Friendship (31/52)

RSiegel_Week31 - Bebo and Buddha

Oyster and Hudson

Oyster and Hyla

Fun fact #1: I still cannot write the word “Friend” without singing this song to myself.

Fun fact #2: In the late 60s/early 70s, my father worked for the public television station WQED, where he was Production Manager and Lighting Director for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (among other shows). That porch swing? I sat on it. Those fish? I fed them. I rang the bell at Lady Elaine Fairchild’s museum, swung the pendulum on Daniel Stripèd Tiger’s grandmother clock. I snuck behind the tree where X the Owl and Henrietta Pussycat lived. And, like most of the other kids watching the show, when Mister Rogers sang, “You are Special,” I truly believed he was singing it right to me.