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Live a Little

Lage George, NY

Here in Florida, it’s hard to shake summer when our daytime temperatures are still in the mid 80’s. A road trip to New York state earlier this month has me blissfully lingering in a sweet candy colored autumn state of mind.

I was a little concerned about traveling, but we managed to stay safe and have a great time. Getting out of the heat and out of town was rejuvenating for us all. Now that I’m back home, I’m feeling pleasantly refreshed and eager to start new projects.

For those of you who can’t get away for a vacation, let me take you on a pictorial trip to beautiful New England. I took almost 2000 pictures! I sorted through them and still have almost a thousand favorites. It was hard to narrow them down to just a few. I hope you enjoy the scenic tour up north.

When was the last time you went apple picking? It’s been years for me. We visited an orchard where we could pick ripe apples. In advance of going, we looked dessert recipes up online. It turns out there are a lot of apple varieties and several of them are good for cooking. You want a certain texture and sweetness or tartness for specific recipes. Each type of apple has its own special characteristic that make them suitable for certain uses.

At the orchard, we were given a map that showed us where we’d find the trees with the apples we wanted. It was like walking through a delicious maze with tempting fruit hanging within easy reach on either side. I was surprised by the incredible number of apple clusters that hung from the bent and twisted tree limbs. We limited ourselves to one bag for good reason. Once you start picking it’s so fun, it’s hard to stop. And you can only eat so many juicy apples.

The orchard also had a pumpkin patch with round orange globes of all sizes nestled in a network of leafy green vines. The vivid colors and bold shapes were a striking in contrast to the brown dirt and fading blades of grass. The high contrast landscape was a magical location for taking pictures that echo the dramatic heart of the changing season.

 

With a loaded bag of apples, we then continued our journey to Lake George. My family gathers there almost every summer. I haven’t been there in the fall for a long time. It’s a spectacular time of year to travel to the mountains. We were lucky, the leaves were turning, and the daytime temperatures were brisk and in the mid 60’s. That’s luxurious sweater and fuzzy boot weather for us cold sensitive Floridians. It was the perfect temperature for long walks in the woods and bundled up boat rides on the lake.

Call me silly, but I love to take nature pictures of wild animals. You learn quickly that it’s easy to take a picture of an animal’s back side as it flees your intrusive presence. Taking pictures of animals while they behave without interruption, now that takes patience and a zoom lens, both of which I have. The chipmunk was the most elusive of the northern woodland creatures. I framed dozens of shots but only have one or two pictures I really like. The squirrel was another hard to capture resident. They were busy, busy running around gathering acorns for the long winter. I managed to get a few action shots, but nothing National Geographic worthy.

The real star of my photographs was the colorful, fall foliage. On the trail, the ground under my feet was blanketed with a soft layer of velvety red, golden orange, and sunny yellow leaves. There were tranquil moments, in the woods when I was transported to a wonderland where the wind sang soothing lullabies, and the forest floor appeared to be sprinkled with candy. As I walked, I looked for dramatic compositions with unique shapes and vivid colors that were brought to life by the warmth of filtered light.

The lake is always a captivating subject for my pictures. I can’t take enough pictures of the lake.  The landscape of the area, with the far reaching lake, cupped by towering mountains is so different from the tropical scenery we have here in Florida. While I’m there I try to capture the beauty and tranquility of the rolling water. I think, absorb the spirit of the waves and somehow, you’ll carry that restorative energy with you until next year.

We’re all trying to navigate life and slowly rebuild pieces into it from our former existence. I’m starting with the most basic pieces, the small elements that make me happy and feel alive. That includes a mix of quality family time and special me-time. When I’m taken care of, I have the strength to take care of others. This trip was a string of small, simple activities. The accumulative result of a change of scenery lifted my spirit and has left me pleasantly refreshed.

 

Don’t wait. Go on an exciting trip, big or small, near or far, it doesn’t matter. Change your scenery and shake up your routine for a few days. It’s time to live a little.

 

Enjoy the little things,

Lisa

 

 

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My Muse

My muse lives in the loft, but she’s rarely ever home.

She’s out stirring up trouble, but I’m never really alone.

 

She’s the lifelong playmate I can’t wait to see.

Though most of the time she stays cleverly hidden from me.

 

She lives in the warmth of a hug, the tenderness of a kiss.

She’s the sunshine on still waters, she’s a friend I miss.

 

She’s the swaying curtain that frames my window. She’s the world outside my mind.

Without her gentle coaxing and faithful companionship, I’d be blind.

 

She strikes in a flash like a hummer’s ruby red throat.

But takes her time to enjoy flowers or the rippling sails of an anchored boat.

 

She’s the nagging itch that won’t let me sleep at night, a steady reminder there’s more to do.

She stirs up the past, challenges the future. Her spontaneous whims make each day new.

 

Curiosity and adventure drive her, she’s got something to prove.

She lives without boundaries, she’s always on the move.

 

A free spirit, her life is one of discovery.

With so many riches yet to find, I’m happy she includes me.

 

My muse lives in the loft, but she’s rarely ever home.

She’s out stirring up trouble, but I’m never really alone.

By Lisa Vogt

 

I hope you enjoy my poem. It’s my first! I’m thrilled to share that it was published in the Florida Writer’s Association 2018 Volume 10 anthology titled, Where Does Your Muse Live?  

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Kitten Quarantine Countdown – Part 4    

The barn kittens have names! Meet James, Grape, Kay Brianna, Kool-Aid, and Miley. The barn owner’s clever kids came up with the fancy names.

I love this first picture. The kittens posed themselves. It’s nostalgic and reminds me of a JC Penny style family portrait. It’s like the ones I forced my girls to endure in itchy, but adorable sister clothes. In this case, the kittens were all for a photo shoot. I set my chair up in the barn ally as usual. I sit and read a book or articles while Niki grooms her horse, Glorie. It’s peaceful. There’s a gentle breeze and picturesque views of grazing horses in the fields. The scents range from fresh cut alfalfa to oddly stinky, yet somehow sweet horse manure. The barn is a total senses experience horse lovers can’t get enough of.

The kittens are 6 months old this week!

In previous weeks, the kittens were usually piled in a corner or outside wrestling each other. On this day, they slinked out of the feed room and took over my chair. They didn’t seem to mind they left me standing or sitting on a bag of shavings. Natural light streamed in and lit their sleepy faces beautifully which made my makeshift seat though lumpy, tolerable. I took hundreds of pictures while they wove and rewove themselves together into an intricate furry nest of heads and tails. It was a rare treat to have all five enamored by a single prop long enough for an afternoon nap.

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In the beginning I didn’t pay much attention to the kitten’s names as they moved as a unit. But now, individual kittens wanted attention. They’d come over and circle my feet asking to be pet. They also liked being scratched under their chins. Holding them was still a short, on their terms only, treat.

Miley’s a great model. She did her own stunts.

Miley, the gray stripped female is the most outgoing and first to venture out in search of new thrills. She was often the star of my photo shoots even suggesting her own compositions. She’s a great model and did her own stunts. She’s a sweet cuddle kitty when she’s in the mood.

Taking pictures of the kittens has been a wonderful distraction. Journaling their growth helped me live for today and reminded me to appreciate precious moments. It’s been a few weeks since I wrote about them. I’ve missed the time I spent photographing their adorable antics, but they did their job. They broke down the walls on my writers block. I was inspired enough to write a personal essay which is taking most of my creative writing time right now.

Photographing the kittens growth ended my writers block.

Since I took a break from writing about the kittens, I notice they have fewer milestones to record. Lately, they’re more interested in human attention than seeking out adventure. It’s actually hard to take a picture of Miley or Kool-Aid because the second I squat down to frame a picture they slink over to be pet. Even if I could resist the urge to rub their cotton soft sides, they won’t allow it. They make figure 8’s around my ankles and jump in my lap if I’m not attentive enough.

The kittens are 6 months old this week! They’ve grown so much it doesn’t make sense to break down their progress by weeks anymore. Instead, I’m going to share my favorite pictures, the ones that show their feisty personalities and fun compositions.

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Miley thought this huge old oak tree was a fabulous jungle gym. She was 14 weeks old when this picture was taken. She climbed with ease even though she and her entire family, mama included were fixed the day before. I was amazed by her agility and her comfort level at such heights. It was clear that her graceful moves would make her a keen hunter.

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Niki titled this picture, “When your sister steals your makeup.”

At 15 weeks old the kittens were pro wrestlers. Niki titled this picture, “When your sister steals your makeup.” Kay-Brianna was temporarily winning the fight, but don’t worry, Miley threw her share of paw punches.

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After their rough and tumble match Miley and Kay-Brianna cozied up together in the barn alley for an afternoon nap.

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Miley was always such a creative poser. Here she’s posing for her Cat Quarterly center fold. It’s all fun and games until your picture is photo bombed by a stray chicken.

Kittens are the perfect balance of innocence and badass.

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The kittens took the wrestling into the barn. Their expressions were hilarious. Thank goodness my camera has sport-mode, or I never would have captured these great action shots.

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This pic was so cute I just had to include it. As you can see, the kittens are not shy. They know how to make themselves comfortable.

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The kittens started to venture outside the barn and past the immediate area to the horse arena where Niki has her riding lessons. Grape showed an interest in our activities. Luckily, he stayed safely protected from pounding hooves tucked inside the bottom of the mounting block.

The barn is peaceful with picturesque views of grazing horses.

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Miley liked chill-axing in the barn while Niki tacked up her horse. It’s been fun watching the kittens grow from cuddly infants into playful adolescents.

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On this day, I had intended to read a book, but the kittens had other plans for my chair. The kitten cuddle fest that ensued was worth the minor inconvenience.

Taking kitten pictures turned into a physical calendar of sorts. It was a way to track the passing weeks with hope.

Now that the kittens are half a year old, they’ve settled into a routine of sleeping, eating, and wrestling with each other. Like the kittens we’ve also settled into a routine. We take life day-by-day hoping and praying something will change to bring an end to this pandemic. All the while, there’s a dull sense of sameness. It’s like treading water with no shoreline in sight. We’re living life, but on a muted tone. I’m coping by immersing myself in work, cooking, and spending time with my family.

I’m optimistic about the future.

I think about the future and look forward to the time when we can once again move around freely. It will come. I’m optimistic that we’ll make it through this dark tunnel in time and emerge into the light stronger than ever before. Just like the kittens, I’ll get by with a little help from my family and friends.

Taking pictures of the kittens was a wonderful distraction.

I hope you enjoyed taking this Kitten Quarantine Countdown adventure with me. I’m still going to take pictures of these adorable kittens, maybe not so many though, maybe…

 Joy is possible if you grant yourself time to find it and feel it.

Thanks for joining me. I appreciate you, your encouragement, and your support.

Take care,

Lisa

Thank you to Kiper Farms for all the amazing photo opportunities and for the friendly environment you inspire.

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In case you missed it, here are the links to part 1,2 &3.

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Kitten Quarantine Countdown – Part 1

https://lisajvogt.com/2020/07/11/kitten-quarantine-countdown-part-1/

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Kitten Quarantine Countdown – Part 2

https://lisajvogt.com/2020/07/17/kitten-quarantine-countdown-part-2/

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Kitten Quarantine Countdown – Part 3

https://lisajvogt.com/2020/07/23/kitten-quarantine-countdown-part-3/

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Kitten Quarantine Countdown – Part 3    

May 5, 2020, 9 Weeks Old

Hide and seek! The kittens were now big enough to have free-roam of the barn. They were five blurs running in different directions at the same time. They hid in dark shadows and jumped out to pounce on unsuspecting siblings as they passed. They’d attack, throw a few paw punches, bite an ear and then retreat to hide in a corner. Everything was a fascinating new toy.

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While exploring, the kittens were equal parts daring and skittish. They’d run full speed at something that caught their attention, like a frayed rope, and then just as quickly, spook and scurry to safety under a muck rack. With all the new and exciting props to play with the grey striped kitten still thought my shoelace was worth a nibble. The chewy plastic tip was great for teething. The only time I was able to get a picture with more than one kitten was when they stopped for a quick snack and a cuddle with mama. She was still happy to nurse them even though they were almost as big as she was.

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At home we were trying to occupy our hands and distract our minds from the truth. The virus was spreading like an insidious weed across the country and booming in major cities. May was going to be more of the same quiet chaos. We continued to shelter-in-place and avoided going out for anything other than food, household necessities and tending to Niki’s horse, Glorie at the barn.

 

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The kittens were equal parts daring and skittish.

I suggested another new home improvement project I’d been wanting to tackle for a few years. Since we had plenty of time and nowhere to go it seemed like good timing. We replaced Niki’s old bathroom countertop with new, more contemporary style tile. Joe and I used our art glass skills to hand cut every tile and then puzzle-piece them together to make an attractive, clean looking design. I’m really pleased with the finished countertop and the way it gives Niki’s bathroom a more adult look.

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Like the kittens, we were equal parts daring and skittish about living life in the, new normal, an overused term I love to hate. Several times I wanted to surrender to my inner weakness and fear. I ached to throw a few paw punches, bite someone’s ear and then retreat under the covers. I considered chewing on my shoelaces, but feared they’d taste like you know, horse poop. In the end, I held it together with bailer twine, the endearing love of my family, the compassionate understanding of friends and vodka.

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Texting friends pictures of the kittens became a weekly treat I looked forward to.

On the bright side, when the kittens were one week old, I texted a kitten picture to three girlfriends who live in three different states. Texting them the kitten’s growth and hilarious antics became a weekly treat I looked forward to. My friends and I went from texting annually to reaching out to each other several times a week. We lead different lives, but we have a long history that goes back to high school. Over these past months, through texting, our friendship has grown stronger. We share our stories, our struggles, and our hopes for a bright future. We’re closer than ever before. These amazing ladies are tropical flowers on a volcanic slope. Their friendship is a real blessing and for that I’m thankful.

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May 12, 2020, 10 Weeks Old

Stars were born! As I sorted the hundreds of pictures I’d taken of the kittens, I noticed a trend. The grey striped kitten and black striped kittens were the stars of my photo shoots. Looking back that had been the case from the first photograph. While the other kittens were content to play among themselves these two wanted more excitement and human attention.

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This week the kittens took their shenanigans outside. They romped and played with each other in the yard outside the barn. The kittens were more agile than before, doing skilled acrobatic moves with slinky grace. They hid like mini mountain lions crouched in the bushes where they tracked every jerky move of passing chickens. I saw the maturing essentials of competent hunters in their twitching tails tips and their keen eyes.

It was fascinating to watch them explore new surroundings. I saw ordinary things in new ways. Trees became jungle gyms. Blades of grass were camouflage. There were still some clumsy moments when everything turned upside down, but the kittens were resilient as Jell-O and rebounded quickly.

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This week the kittens took their shenanigans outside.

Photographically, the new settings and vivid colors added a lot of interest to my compositions. The kittens were fast and moved unpredictably. I shot strings of pictures in sport mode hoping to get a few good pictures that were in focus. It was entertaining to watch their bouncy moves and see their expressive little faces while taking their playing so seriously. I managed to captured some exciting actions shots that were rich with fierce kitty character.

At home, we put on brave faces. We tried to build a new routine to help us feel better or at least be a little productive. Meanwhile, the bad news was relentless. More confirmed virus cases. More deaths. Our world had turned upside down.

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I walked every day to get out of the house and enjoy open spaces. I’m fortunate to live in a beautiful wooded area with lots of room to roam safely. I forced myself to entertain only pleasant thoughts on my walks. I focused on my body moving and the lush scenery around me. I listened to the birds and I felt the breeze brush  my face. I reminded myself daily how lucky I was that my family was healthy, and we were together.

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May 19, 2020, 11 Weeks Old

The curious kittens found new places to play in the yard and in the barn. They were flashes of fuzz darting around. A discarded roll of wire was a fun tunnel to roll around in. The tack room, with its clutter of gear made a great wrestling arena. One clueless kitten was brave enough to tug on a lead rope while a huge horse was attached. They were getting increasingly confident and boldly aware of the many entertaining nooks and props they could make their own.

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It was about this time that I questioned my motives and grip on reality. I wondered, why was I so enchanted with these kittens? I spent hours chasing them around the barn taking hundreds of blurry pictures of fur. I asked myself, what makes kittens unique and different from other cute baby animals? It took some time, but I figured it out. Kittens take on the world at full speed. They’re all in all the time. For kittens, there are no obstacles only actions. Despite their small size and inexperience they’re fearless. Their zest for life glows in their mischievous eyes. It’s that blind confidence coupled with reckless curiosity that make them fascinating. I’m now convinced, it’s that fiery vulnerability that inspired Mother Nature to bless cats with nine lives to give adults like me, the gift of childish amusement.

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Despite kittens small size and inexperience they’re fearless.

Like the naïve kitten leading the horse, we were overwhelmed be the enormity of the situation we found ourselves trapped in. We did our best to stay positive by exploring new nooks and props at home. Most importantly, we faced the unknown together and that’s what got us through. I also credit these comical kittens who live each day with enduring optimism mingled with good old brawling.

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May 26, 2020, 12 Weeks Old

Agility training had a whole new meaning this week. The kittens were attracted to a fence behind the barn. They practiced climbing, and falling. Finding balance was a tricky endeavor. Eventually, they mastered the narrow rail and enjoyed the elevated perspective.

Finding balance was difficult for me as well. It was apparent that we’d be living this dysfunctional way of life for a long time. There would be no casual visiting family or friends. Trips to the mall to shop for clothes were not possible. The joy I used to have eating in restaurants was gone. It was time to accept that things I’d previously took for granted were now nostalgic memories of life before. The future looked different. For the first time in my life, I didn’t have a clear picture of where I saw myself in six months or a year. What I did have was love, faith, hope, and occasionally good old brawling.

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Writing about the kittens has been uplifting for me.

Writing about the kittens has been uplifting for me. I procrastinated opening my mind and my heart to my feelings by being silent, by not writing. I was wrong to stay away from writing so long. The logical side of my brain knows the emotional side needed time to come around to where I am now. The inner workings of the soul are complex and fragile; it will not be rushed into action.

What I want you to know is this: I’ve felt less anxious and more at ease since I posted Kitten Quarantine Countdown Part 1. Writing about my fears has made them less debilitating. They no longer have a death-grip on my heart. This has improved my attitude and has had a positive influence on my life as well as my other creative interests like art, gardening, and cooking.

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You know what you need to clear the fog and get out of that dark prison you’re trapped in. Don’t wait any longer. I’m here to give you permission to do something that makes you happy. We need our strength of heart and mind for the long haul.

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Thank you for reading my blog. Sometimes, I feel like I’m throwing shavings in the wind and not making  a bit of difference. I means a lot to me that you are still here. You’re making a difference for me.

Take care,

Lisa

Don’t miss Kitten Quarantine Countdown Part 4 – Follow my Blog!

Week 13- The kittens have names! Meet KOOL-AID.

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Kitten Quarantine Countdown – Part 2

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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,

Lisa

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.

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