April 7, 2020, 5 Weeks Old
Things were getting exciting! The kitten’s different personalities were becoming more evident. It was fun to start identifying them by their color and individual behavior. They were full of energy rolling around and playing with each other. They bounced with ease and started calculating attacks on each other, ganging up on the poor sibling who was on the bottom of the pile. The crate was getting small for the wresting, but there were a lot of ways tiny kittens could get hurt or lost in a barn. The confinement was necessary for their safety.
They didn’t seem to mind as they had playmates. Simple things like shavings or a strand of hay were fascinating toys for the fifteen second attention span of a fur ball. Mama kitty was in the crate less often. She returned regularly for feedings and cuddle time. The kittens were still not thrilled about being held. After a few minutes, they’d squirm and howl as if they were being pinched when all they wanted was to go back to playing.
The kittens were full of energy. They calculated attacks on each other ganging up on the poor sibling on the bottom of the pile.
At home we were fighting fatigue and the loss of purpose. I’d wake up feeling like my body was made of lead. It was hard to get out of bed. What was the point? Each day was a repeat of the day before. Days blurred together. Every morning I reminded myself what day of the week it was. We were waiting. Doing our part. Staying home to slow the spread of the virus and flatten the curve.
I had plenty of time. I kept thinking, I was squandering an opportunity to get bigger, more in-depth work done, but I couldn’t focus. I wasn’t inspired. I was a dry well. It was wrong to enjoy my work or feel happy. How could I when people were dying, and no one had answers. Solutions were vague as smoke. Without an end in sight, the weeks blended together.
Like the kittens, our confinement was for everyone’s safety. I coped with the loss of my freedom by focusing my energy on being a positive influence for my family. I made tasty new recipes for dinner. I stopped to watch movies in the middle of the day when asked. I organized home improvement projects to keep our hands busy and our minds occupied. We walked the dogs together, planted a vegetable garden and made a paddock in the backyard for my daughter’s horse, Glorie.
Feeling responsible for my families physical needs, emotional well being and mental health depleted my energy. There was nothing left for me. Admittedly, this was a self-appointed obligation. It’s a mom thing. I know a lot of moms were struggling with the same difficulty. I was constantly positive and calm on the outside. While on the inside, I was fearful and quietly dissolving. Finally, I came to terms with the fact that short term, nothing was going to improve. I had to live in the moment. I had to make my own happiness with what I had and who was available. Above all, I had to be grateful we were all healthy. Like the kittens, simple things and the company of my family helped me get through another week.
April 14, 2020, 6 Weeks Old
I took a few priceless pictures that captured the pure essence of kittens and their perfected balance of innocence and badass.
Oh boy, I arrived at the barn and the kittens had the run of an entire horse stall. They looked small in the huge space, like adorable battery operated toy size kittens. Only these tiny models weren’t slow or limited by a wire leash. These live miniature pets were fast and feisty. They romped and played finding amusement rolling in shavings, batting strands of hay and pouncing on siblings. Fur balls tumbled around and wrestled with each other. When I entered the stall, they charged me, surrounded my feet, and chewed on my shoelaces. Their individual personalities were really beginning to shine. The two striped kittens were the most adventurous. They were the first to run over to me to interact and want attention. They were still a little clumsy, stumbling and rolling now and then as if the floor unexpectedly moved underneath them. A tumble or trip didn’t slow them down. What they lacked in agility they made up for in confidence and enthusiasm for being entertained.
I tried to capture the kitten’s eager little faces and amateur attempts at slinky feline moves with my camera. I’d back away from them to frame a picture, they’d charge me and swarm my feet again. It was a fun game. I walked away. They chased me. Every time I backed up to focus on an action shot, they’d charge me and bite my shoes again. Occasionally, they’d grab hold of my ankle with their tiny, needle sharp claws. I’d bend over to gently unhook them from my legs. They’d roll on their backs and peddle their stubby legs in the air. The invitation to pet their cottony soft tummies was irresistible. It was totally worth the scratches to see their happy kitten faces when I rubbed their bellies.
My photo shoots became increasingly more difficult. The bulk of my pictures came out blurry because the kittens were in constant motion. The real fun came when I viewed the hundreds of pictures I’d taken. Most were out of focus and trash, but there were a few exceptional images that were dazzling. In essence, I’d captured the perfect balance of innocence and badass that’s perfected only by kittens.
I tried to capture their eager little faces and amateur attempts at slinky feline moves with my camera.
At home we were trying to make the best of a bad situation by focusing our attention on home improvement projects we could do as a family. We designed and built a rustic wooden fence around my flower garden. It’s primary purpose was to keep the deer out so they wouldn’t eat my plants. Of course, I wanted something special with custom woven wood sides and so the project took two weeks to complete.
After the fence was done, we then added new flowering plants. My garden became a beautiful sanctuary for me. It was a quiet place I could go to center myself. Seeing the plants flourish and grow was promising. I loved that the lush foliage attracted all types of native wildlife. Lizards, frogs, birds, and fairies moved into the tranquil space. I enjoyed the peaceful harmony of being one with natural while watching the animals make their new homes.
My flower garden became a beautiful sanctuary for me. It was a quiet place to center myself.
The state had been shut down for two weeks. We only went two places, the grocery store, and the barn. I felt anxious about going to the store. I hated the tension and not knowing exactly what to do or how to behave around other people while in the store. Do you reach near someone to get the avocados or do you lurk nearby and wait like a produce stalker? I had anxiety when we’d go anywhere other than the barn. The further we drove away from the house the more my insides fizzled like I’d had too much caffeine. As soon as we headed back in the direction of home my heart started to settle down.
I didn’t mention this to anyone as I feared it showed weakness and that I’m not as tough as I pretended to be. I wanted to be the rock, not the gravel in their shoes. I suspect my true feelings were obvious to everyone in my family. They played along without judgment or ridicule. They let me nurture them and in effect it strengthened me. That’s what families do. That’s what this family does.
Again, I said out loud on our weekly drive to Niki’s riding lesson, “I’m so happy we have the barn to go to.” I know what to expect there: friendly people, a productive lesson, fresh air, a bathroom to clean and of course, frisky kittens.
April 21, 2020, 7 Weeks Old
Attack of the kittens! Yikes. The second I stepped into the stall with the kittens I was swarmed with tiny needle claw love. I had to quickly close the door behind me to prevent an escape. They piled on my feet and grabbed my ankles. The stall was littered with cat toys, but they were bored with the bell filled balls and stuffed mice. Instead, they were deliberately trying to instigate a fight with my shoelaces. I couldn’t get away fast enough to snap a picture.
The two striped kittens easily out-maneuvered my attempts at taking their pictures with speed and agility. When trying new angles I had to watch where I stepped as they darted underfoot in the blink of an eye. When wrestling among themselves their face punches and ear biting was more aggressive and punctuated with little growls and howls. At one point they all swarmed my feet and clawed my ankles. I was the new and interesting toy. I heard Joe and Niki laughing in the barn ally when they heard me yell from inside the stall. “Ow, ow, ow, ow. OW!” It was like being nipped by adorable piranhas. I shuffled my feet and stepped out of the stall quickly closing the door on charging kittens. I warned Joe and Niki, “No one should go in there alone!”
The kittens out-maneuvered my attempts at taking their pictures with speed and agility.
Who could blame them? The kittens were bigger, bolder, and impatient to leave the confines of the stall to seek new adventure in the outside world. Later, I went back in to play with them and take pictures. This time I had Niki for reinforcement and a feather tipped whip for a distraction. The kittens tumbled and played around the stall.
The four walls of the stall looked the same, but the grey striped kitten knew where the door was. She sat there and begged me with pleading eyes to let her out. There were a lot of dark corners in the barn where a tiny kitten could hide or get lost. It broke my heart to disappoint the kitten, but I had no choice.
Like the kittens, we were equally eager to leave the confinement of our house for fun and adventure in the outside world. Our forced togetherness was getting old. Small comments that we would have laughed at before spurred spiteful retaliation. I worried about the long term effects of our new lifestyle. Introverts must be thrilled that there’s no obligation to make eye contact, shake hands or hug anyone. I missed contact with people. I was tired of our limited surroundings but going out frightened me in a paralyzing way. I suspect I’m wasn’t alone. We all have our own way of hiding our fears for the sake of pride or duty. I craved physical space and mind space to center myself, but there was nowhere to go. No escape.
I retreated outside to my garden and found moments of peace while watering flowers. My garden is a small, intimate space. In the past, I enjoyed looking at the landscaping as a whole. Now, I had the time to look deeper and study the details without distractions or demands. For a few glorious moments, I became one with the space. Like the growing kittens, I was a naïve child of curiosity. I plucked dry blooms off cascading petunias. I was warmed by the setting sun as it lit flower petals on fire. I saw encouraging signs of a budding ecosystem. Lizards used the new fence rails as a superhighway to quickly run from one end of the garden to the other. Frogs took up residence in my fancy bird houses. Songbirds dropped in for a drink from my glass birdbath. My body relaxed. My mind was at ease. Joy was possible if I granted myself time to find it and feel it.
Joy was possible if I granted myself time to find it and feel it.
April 18, 2020, 8 Weeks Old
Freedom! The kittens were big enough to leave the horse stall for supervised play time. I opened the stall door on sleeping kittens. They perked up, yawned, and stretched the full length of their leggy bodies. The grey striped kitten was the first one to get up. It looked out the open door into the big world with wonder. It stepped cautiously out into the barn ally. The black striped kitten and a black kitten soon followed. The barn was a wonderful playground with fascinating new things to entertain curious little kittens. On this day, nosing a lead rope and batting a leather halter was entertainment enough. The kittens stayed close to their stall. They darted back in if startled by a big noise or quick movement as are common in an active horse barn. It was fun to watch them play with ordinary objects like they were fancy toys.
Their personalities were becoming more obvious. The grey striped kitten was always the first to approach me and play by untying my shoelaces. At one point, it curled up on my shoe and fell asleep. It didn’t like being held though. After a minute of mildly tolerating my cuddles the claws came out and I quickly, but gently returned the kitten to the floor. It was too busy to bother with me for long. It had shadows to chase and hiding places to find. It was at that time that one of the black kittens started coming over to me and asking for attention. It liked to be held. I know because it was as relaxed as a rag doll in my arms. While I stroked it’s soft fur it looked at me with bright happiness in its eyes and purred contently against my chest.
Photographically, three things changed that week. First, the natural lighting in several places in the barn, outside the horse stall, was spectacular and lent itself to stunning pictures. Lighting is crucial to capturing an emotive image. Artistically, this was really exciting.
Second, the kittens were fast. It was hard to focus on moving targets darting in and out of shadows. I had to change my camera setting from portrait mode to sport mode. Portrait mode gave me crisp focus on the subject with a soft, dreamy background. It’s great for stationary subjects and still life photography, but not rowdy kittens. In sport mode I took pictures in rapid-fire succession to capture the live action as it happened. A huge advantage to this setting was capturing unexpected, spontaneous poses that showed movement and personality.
And thirdly, the addition of props and unique settings added a lot of interest to my photos. In some cases, it helped with scale by showing how small the kittens were. In other instances, it added welcome splashes of color. Photographing the kittens went from passive point-and-shoot to an athletic event. I welcomed the challenge. It was a real accomplishment and thrill to get one or two exceptional shots. At times, I felt like I was on safari documenting the secret behaviors of wild animals. Heaven knows I stepped in, and even sat on enough horse poop to be considered a pro. Really impressive pictures come at a, sometimes stinky price.
Photographing the kittens went from passive point-and-shoot to an athletic event.
Like the kittens, we were looking at our new world with uncertainty. In the beginning of our sheltering-in-place the days blurred together. Now the weeks blurred together. We looked forward to the end of the month. It had been suggested that things would be different then, hopefully better, but no official report committed to anything.
We were stuck in a perpetual wait and see holding pattern. It was a continuous loop of bad reruns. More confirmed virus cases. More deaths. No answers. No accountability. That’s when it became clear that the nightmare that consumed April was going to destroy May and likely June. Numbness settled inside me. Call it acceptance, call it cowardice, call it survival, or call it defeat. Yes, it was all these things.
There was a glimmer of light. Life wasn’t all bad. The slower pace meant more meaningful family time. We tried new foods and new recipes. I bought my first mango and made mango salsa for a side dish to roasted sea scallops. YUMMY! Let me tell you the mango seed, or pit or whatever it’s called is messed up. You never really see it to know what you’re up against. And the sweet meat of the mango is as slippery as minnows in a bucket. It’s a culinary win to dice one without shooting slick pieces onto the floor.
What have you done for yourself today? Take a few minutes to do something special to improve your outlook and well being. Look at the positive impact tiny kittens are having on me, and now hopefully you.
Wishing you good health and happiness,
Thank you, Kiper Farms, for a safe and friendly place to go with horses and kittens.
Don’t miss Kitten Quarantine Countdown Part 3 – Follow my Blog!
Week 9- The kittens were big enough to roam the barn freely. Everything was a fascinating new toy.