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Easing the Journey Through Shadow & Light

  • Dawn

Small Seeds of Hope: A Short Cat-alogue of Playful Poems

Anti-Anxiety Tool of the Week: Talking Funny

This zapchen exercise can help you express some of the more difficult emotions without tensing up nearly as much as you normally would. Here's how it works: Gently press the end of your tongue up against the back of your bottom teeth. Leave your tongue there, keeping it soft. And talk. It will sound really absurd. Do it anyway. Talk about things that are upsetting you. Talk about how bad you feel. Or how ridiculous. You may end up laughing and that's fine. You can do this exercise by yourself or with others. Sometimes it's even good for resolving arguments or other tensions with someone--if they are willing to be equally absurd.

This exercise helps relax the tongue, flexes the palate, opens up just a bit more circulation at the base of the brain, and generally helps reduce the tension as you acknowledge what is bothering you. But as zapchen creator Julie Henderson notes: "Talking funny is not the same thing as loss of compassion--not at all a way of making fun of suffering."

While laughing at someone else's suffering is almost never kind or helpful, in my experience a compassionate and tender sense of humor towards my own foibles and struggles can go a long way towards easing some of the pain in my life.

This tool is from the sixth Toolkit. Here's a link to the Index of all toolkits.

A Short Cat-alogue of Playful Poems

It's easy to get off balance in a crazy world--especially when it's cold and the days are short and the excitement of the holidays is over. In Eat. Pray. Love. Liz Gilbert says, "The best we can response to our incomprehensible and dangerous world, is to practice holding equilibrium internally--no matter what insanity is transpiring out there." And there does seem to be a lot of insanity out there these days.

If I can stay moderately sane and centered it may not save the world, but at least I'll be less likely to get sucked into the whirlwind and--hopefully--less likely to stress someone else with my stress.

One of my favorite ways to gain or maintain stability is to be playful. And since I am a writer, I love to play with words and to read others who do that well. Here are three lighthearted--and cat-intense--poems. Two by two of my favorite authors, a third by an award winning author I'd never heard of.

They all handle the language brilliantly, and have fun. And I think they all know and love cats, as I do.

* * * * * * * * *


by J.R.R. Tolkien

The fat cat on the mat may seem to dream of nice mice that suffice

for him, or cream;

but he free, maybe, walks in thought unbowed, proud, where loud roared and fought his kin, lean and slim, or deep in den in the East feasted on beasts and tender men. The giant lion with iron claw in paw, and huge ruthless tooth in gory jaw; the pard dark-starred, fleet upon feet, that oft soft from aloft leaps upon his meat where woods loom in gloom—

far now they be, fierce and free,

and tamed is he;

but fat cat on the mat kept as a pet he does not forget.

I'm a big Tolkien fan and fell in love with this poem immediately, due to the delicious words and word combinations, as well as the well-observed truth about cats. Many years ago I found a comment about this poem that I think is worth including here, made by someone named John on an apparently now defunct poetry database, then housed on a Rice University Computer Science website.

"Just a word on prosody: 'Cat' may seem on first reading to be merely a 'hobbit nursery-rhyme', but the technical mastery it displays is nothing short of staggering. The even-numbered lines rhyme with each other and also internally; the odd-numbered ones have internal _triple_ rhymes. And all this is done in lines of two and three feet respectively, leaving barely any room for error; every single word (other than the placeholders - prepositions, conjunctions and auxiliaries) seems to be part of the rhyme scheme. Incredible."

* * * * * * * * *

On A Night of Snow

by Elizabeth Coatsworth

Cat, if you go outdoors, you must walk in the snow.

You will come back with little white shoes on your feet,

little white shoes of snow that have heels of sleet.

Stay by the fire, my Cat. Lie still, do not go.

See how the flames are leaping and hissing low,

I will bring you a saucer of milk like a marguerite,

so white and so smooth, so spherical and so sweet -

stay with me, Cat. Outdoors the wild winds blow.

Outdoors the wild winds blow, Mistress, and dark is the night,

strange voices cry in the trees,

intoning strange lore,

and more than cats move,

lit by our eyes green light,

on silent feet where

the meadow grasses hang hoar -

Mistress, there are portents abroad

of magic and might,

and things that are yet to be done.

Open the door!

- - - - - - - - - -

Elizabeth Coatsworth lived in and wrote about Maine and other topics, producing over 90 books during her life, including The Cat Who Went to Heaven which won the Newbery Award for the best children's book in 1931. Her husband, Henry Beston, was best known for The Outermost House, a magnificent book describing his year living on the dunes of Cape Cod. Without Elizabeth, we may not have had The Outermost House to savor all these years, for she refused to marry Henry until he completed the languishing manuscript and sent it to his publisher!

* * * * * * * * *


by Rosalie Moore

Cats sleep fat and walk thin.

Cats, when they sleep, slump;

When they wake, pull in --

And where the plump's been

There's skin.

Cats walk thin.

Cats wait in a lump.

Jump in a streak.

Cats, when they jump, are sleek

As a grape slipping its skin --

They have technique.

Oh, cats don't creak.

They sneak.

Cats sleep fat.

They spread comfort beneath them

Like a good mat,

As if they picked the place

And then sat.

You walk around one

As if he were the City Hall

After that.

If male,

A cat is apt to sing upon a major scale:

This concert is for everybody, this

Is wholesale

For a baton, he wields a tail.

(He is also found,

When happy, to resound

With an enclosed and private sound.)

A cat condenses.

He pulls in his tail to go under bridges,

And himself to go under fences.

Cats fit

In any size box or kit;

And if a large pumpkin grew

under one,

He could arch over it.

When everyone else is just ready

to go out,

The cat is just ready to come in.

He's not where he's been.

Cats sleep fat and walk thin.

- - - - - - - - - -

I know nothing about this author, but cats obviously inspire some very fine rhythms and rhymes.

I'd love to see some of your favorite poems. Or your favorite cat pictures or stories.

Until next time,


Photo credits:

Woman laughing, Ko Towson, unSplash

Leopard, Bogdan Pasca, unSplash

Cat in sunshine, Jorge Zapata, unSplash

Cat staring, Tyle Rutherford, unSplash

Cat asleep, Himanshu Chaudhary, unSplash

Cat stretching, Thunder Egg on darkspyro


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