Monday, 16 June 2014

This week over in Splitting Borders we're doing a series of strips celebrating animal adoption. We thought we would start it off by talking about our own experience taking on our furry baby.

Pomegranate, Pom, PomPom, Pommy, Pommy-kins, Sasquatch, Sas, Furry Face, The Queen, Pomster, The Pominater- many different names for the many different faces of our darling girl Pomegranate.

We adopted Pom about six years ago when my cousin Karen let us know about a kitten that needed a home. We travelled to Wexford to collect her. When we arrived we discovered that she was a tiny, skinny and scraggly little thing. She was not plump, fluffy or bright-eyed; she was small with patchy fur and a squinting eye. It was suspected that she had been abandoned by her mother very early on and we were taking her home long before her natural weaning period would be over. She looked sad.

I have to admit she was not what I had been anticipating when we made the decision to take a furry friend into the family. If you watch enough cat/kitten videos on the internet you begin to expect that every kitten would be a bouncy, mewing, playful ball of fur, just waiting to delight you with his/her cuteness. Our new kitten did not meet these expectations at all.

Pomegranate did not take to me straight away. She cried and struggled when I first held her. Gary on the other hand became her instant surrogate mother. His scent and calm manner had lulled her to sleep as he held her in his arms two minutes after I relinquished her to him.

Love at first hold does not even begin to cover it. Gary and Pom. Pom and Gary. They are a bonded pair. In an imperfect world, the meeting of two imperfect souls can be a thing of magic, wonder and beauty. Gary and I both are no strangers to life not going exactly to plan; to things not turning out as expected. We have had our own versions of patchy fur and squinting eyes. We both have known what it takes to look after and care for a difficult and challenging being in distress.

We lavished this little feline with love and attention. We got plenty of advice from a friend and her family who were long time cat rescuers. In the past I would have declared myself an out and out “DOG PERSON” having grown up with a beloved dog, Casco. Cats were totally new to me. I didn’t understand her ways; I didn’t understand how she showed fear or affection. I did learn though: it wasn’t easy but hand on heart, it was worth it.

In the early years Pom and I spent lots of time together. I talked to her all day long; we chased each other around the house; we can have an extremely awesome game of “Slaps” (where she wallops me every single time). We chirp at each other; the first thing I do most mornings is rub her soft belly and now, when I come home from work she welcomes me in such a way that I feel like the richest woman in the world.

It is not all sunshine and roses for Pomegranate. We think because of her early experience she suffers from separation anxiety. She can over lick her fur in certain spots and she can be highly sensitive to changes in her environment. It can take a long time to get to know her. She is not particularly friendly to strangers. She has improved over time and we do try to make the necessary adjustments when problems arise. She is not perfect but then, neither are we.

The story I think I am trying to tell here is probably one of acceptance of imperfection and the unexpected joy that acceptance can bring. We accepted a difficult and challenged being into our lives and she has shown us just how beautiful and lovable we can be in our imperfections. We would not change Pomegranate. Sure, we would like to help her with any problematic behavioural issues she has developed, but in essentials, she IS perfect. She is loving, warm, playful, intelligent, articulate and giving. Her black cat beauty is breath-taking. Her movements, her elegance and her now rich and glistening coat are magnificent to behold. I consider it a blessing everyday that I spend with her. I could probably write for pages and pages about her like this.

I will stop now but I will say something about the adoption of an abandoned or neglected animal. I want to be an advocate for it. I want to say if there is a nagging thought in your mind towards adopting a pet from a rescue centre or animal charity, a thought or a feeling that won’t go away, I would say listen to it. I recommend it.

Obviously I am not recommending it for everyone. Being able to spend time with an animal is very important, being able to feed them and house them well is as important.

But what I am trying to say is that probably for every unusual, imperfect, and unexpected family there could well be a perfect unusual, imperfect and unexpected animal that may fit into that family like a glove. Try not to discount your situation as being animal unfriendly. Don’t be reckless but maybe don’t be too quick to discount the possibility also. There may be an animal out there that is in need of a home that is as weird and odd as you are. You, in all your unique experience, may be a perfect companion for a lost soul in need of your particular brand of TLC.

The journey is certainly not an easy one. You are essentially inviting an unwell or potentially damaged creature into your home who can not talk to you and there is no hope of them learning your language. But……if you can give them time……..and respect ………….and love……………..and have some patience……..I do believe a new kind of mutual language can develop………yes, I am going to go the whole cheesy hog on this one………you can develop a language of love. This language will be particular to you and the animal in your life. I believe it provides well being, feelings of joy and happiness, and a sense of fulfilment as the bond grows and as you help restore some peace and good health back to a fellow being.

It is an amazing feeling to know that every day you are making a positive contribution to another beings life. Of course you will make mistakes, of course there will be illness and distress but think of all they may have suffered if you had not stepped into the frame, if you had not opened the door and your heart to them. Think of all you receive in return; the earned trust of a sad or distrustful animal is the best kind of wealth this world has to offer.  

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

From Where I Am Right Now

Wow, it’s been a long time since I have written anything resembling a blog post. Where to start? Where to start?
Probably from where I am right now would be a good place. So much has happened since I last posted that a recap might be a long, dull and tedious exercise.
So, right now I am sitting up in bed (on top of covers so as not to get too cosy and fall asleep) attempting to write a blog post that I have been threatening to write for a couple of months now.
Gary is sitting beside me inking the third panel of our 188th web-comic strip. I've become a web-comic creator, writer and sometimes illustrator…..did I tell you??
Weird, huh??

I’m finding it pretty weird; weird, exciting, challenging, delightful and expansive; all of these things.
Pomegranate, our beautiful cat, is curled up asleep at Gary’s feet. Her restful THRUMMM fills the room. She looks so comfortable, I want to be shrunk down and nestle in beside her. She has become the golden star of our web-comic series. I think she knows it too; her diva-like tendencies have intensified. Gary has lovingly illustrated her in stories about our day to day lives and we have taken some fanciful adventures too. Our whole world has become available for re-invention. We are drawing a new imagining of life one panel at a time, on the page and off it.

I’m taking it easy today as the rest of my week is kind of full. I’m exhibiting as part of a group exhibition in the NCAD Gallery in Dublin at the moment. It is finishing on Friday and there is a day of meetings and programming I am taking part in. It all sounds pretty fancy and I have to say, it feels pretty fancy too.
I made it a goal a couple of years ago to work towards exhibiting my work in a gallery. I finally feel like I am on the road to achieving that goal in the way I imagined it in my head. I feared for a long time that I would never get there but taking part in this show has quietened those fears and I feel emboldened by the process.

I think being in an exhibition, much like anything that feels aspirational or slightly out of reach, has a dream like quality to it. I could imagine myself walking around my art work in a well lit white space. I could imagine feeling pride and a sense of accomplishment. What I don’t think you can ever really imagine is all the hard work it takes to get there. I mean I know it takes hard work; that is always factored in. But again I think that imagined hard work is always slightly more glamorized in your mind. I could imagine the hard work of self expression, of writing biographies and of promotion.

I don’t think I could have imagined running around Dublin city centre capturing photographs of a street art project I had papered town with the day before. I don’t think I could have imagined myself crouching on the floor of the gallery painstakingly measuring and cutting large sheets of paper for six hours (in the wrong boots that are making me hot and uncomfortable). My effort was so complete I actually smelled by the end of it. I don’t think we dream in that kind of awkward detail. The details of forgetting to bring masking tape or your USB stick not working or every bit of mounting board that you cut going off at an angle and having to start again. The kind of details that make you want to pull your hair out and scream and break things because of their inane simplicity, their everyday annoyance, their avoidable stupidity.

There is a large glass window in the front of the NCAD Gallery, so even as you are setting up your work you are on display. In the midst of my minor and major grievances, I could also feel the power of the moment. Here I was on the inside of the glass, I wasn't on the outside looking in at someone doing the thing that I really wanted to be doing myself. I have had plenty of experiences where I was gazing longingly at people fully engaged and participating in their creative lives while I observed from the side-lines. At those times I wasn't brave enough, happy enough, confident enough or I just wasn't able enough to do what I desired. I didn't feel I had enough internal or external support to put myself and my work out there. If it had been poorly received or criticised I don’t think I would have had the resources I needed to rally, to say “To hell with them, at least I tried!” and to carry on regardless.

After a long time of suffering this angst and slowly building some necessary supports around myself, I finally had had enough and I vowed that the next artistic, creative, crafty thing I attended, I would be participating in it also. That is how I started making for craft markets and sitting behind a table at the show rather than walking in front of them.

So here I am, another step taken down the road to my dreams. I have not only the experience of sitting behind the table now but also of being behind the glass. As I said, it feels pretty fancy. The harder realities of it are important too, I guess. The annoying details mean I have taken the idea or dream out of my head and the wild world has had its wicked way with whatever notion I was carrying around about how it would be. I did it anyway though, even with the crappy bits included and I finished what I started. In a really personal way, in an “only I can really know” moment, I know how far I have come; I know what it has taken and I feel satisfied.