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Lately, I take offense to the word (and idea of) consumer. Is that all I am, a consumer? Companies in the US are so focused on getting us “consumers” to buy products that the products themselves suffer. I give you two examples.

I have issues with gluten and so have two choices when it comes to bread: bake it myself using expensive flours, or buy an expensive loaf. You’d think rice flour breads would be cheaper. Anyway, a few weeks ago I decided to be adventurous and try some new versions. One loaf I bought turned out to have gluten in it, though the package was a bit misleading. The second loaf turned out to be $13.99, a fact I did not realize until I was home. $13.99 for a loaf of frozen bread.

My first thought was the price was incorrect. A phone call to Whole Foods actually confirmed the price was actually correct. It had to have been mismarked on the shelf, because there is no way–NO WAY– I would have purchased it at that price. However, I was told I could return it for a full refund, even if opened. Ok, fine, I will. But I am still wondering who they expect to pay this price for sandwich bread? (Also, I tasted it. Bland.)

The same weekend, the boyfriend and I took a trip to Pet Smart. This was an even worse purchase. We have a large plastic container with a lid to keep the cat food fresh. No need this time: not long after I’d emptied the bag into the container and closed the lid, I noticed maggots crawling all over the inside of the lid. Disgusting!!! I took a loss on the cat food and threw it out, container and all. I did some research after that, and it turns out that Friskies/Purina are pretty much the worst cat foods out there. I’ll not be buying their food again, ever.

I know that I’ve been guilty of not doing my research in the past and not paying as close attention as should be paid to what I eat or buy, or what I feed my cats. That is definitely going to change.

Marketing and profits are taking up much of corporate budgets it seems. I have no stats on this at present, but I have read reputable sources who have not been shy in making public the fact that corporations have not only recovered from the recession but are profitable already. Who cares about expensive allergy-friendly bread or rotten cat food when you are rolling in profits?

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This has been a rough week.  On Monday, my cat Walker was found under the neighbor’s outdoor porch.  He had been missing for over a week.  Although there are really no words to express how I feel, here is a short post about Walker.

Walker lived up to his name:  quite often, he would disappear for days, leaving me to wonder & worry while walking the neighborhood, searching for him.  Several times he was found trapped in a neighbor’s basement, his little face peeking through the basement window.  He quit this habit a few years ago, when construction next to the house began & kept him away.  He hadn’t left home for more than a day in several years.

A lot of changes have taken place in the last month, and maybe Walker wasn’t adjusting well.  A new person, one familiar to Walker, has moved in, along with new furniture and two new fish.  We don’t know exactly what happened to Walker, but it seems as though he may have been injured, and crawled under the porch to die.  Thankfully, someone very close to me took care of identifying and burying him.  It tears at my heart to think that while I was searching for him, he was just a few feet away from me.

I knew he wouldn’t leave home without a good reason.  I knew this because any time I walked over to the neighboring apartments, he followed me, each and every time.  If I went to anyone else’s apartment he would follow me and come to the door, demanding to be let in.   Walker has been in almost every apartment or house in this neighborhood, and was welcomed by all.

My favorite thing, though, was taking Walker on walks.  He would only follow me down certain roads:  he would never cross the main road next to the building.  When I took walks down to the park, he would go as far as the little hill next to our building, then watch me as I walked down the hill into the park.  No matter how long I was gone, I knew that I would find him in that same spot, waiting for me to return.

It’s been a hard week.  Zoe, my oldest cat, has been deeply depressed and has climbed into my lap many times this week.  Zoe and Walker shared 8 years together.  He will be missed– by me, Zoe, and the entire neighborhood.

 

The first story I read from my latest edition of Granta was Mary Gaitskill’s “Lost Cat.”  I sobbed the entire way through.  Gaitskill asked some very interesting questions; mainly, how do we deal with the losses in our lives?  And who determines how big or small those losses are?

Gaitskill narrates the story of a cat named Gattino, a 7-month old stray she rescued from orphanhood in Italy.  But intertwined with Gattino’s story are other stories:  Gaitskill deftly weaves in and out of narratives about her relationships with other people, such as her father, her sisters, and the two underprivileged children she and her husband are involved with.  Gaitskill scolds one of her sisters because of the sister’s hysterical reaction at the imminent death of her cat; later, she experiences the same thing, first hand.

There are several things that stick out in this story as being very important.  The idea of what trauma is, how it is defined, and who defines it is intriguing.  I don’t think there is a pat answer for this question: I believe that everyone experiences things differently and in different degrees.  What is devastating to one person may not be to another.  And due to experience, we all learn different sets of coping skills.  When I speak of certain things in my life as being traumatizing, or tragic, others may question this.  But really, how can you judge what is traumatic for another person?  Or tragic?  You can’t.  And I think this is clear in Gaitskill’s story.  She felt very keenly the loss of this cat, and who is anyone else to say that this was not a tragic loss?

When Gaitskill and her husband had to leave Gattino at a vet’s while they were traveling, she cried; so much so that her sobbing elicited a response from others with her.  But she had the insight to know that it wasn’t just the cat she was crying over:  it was so many other things.  The cat was a conduit through which other feelings came pouring through.  Gaitskill describes this later when talking about her father and his many losses.  Her father lost both parents at a very young age; soon after he lost his dog.  The dog became the door through which his grief for his parents was able to be released.  Gaitskill touches on how some people think that animals and pets have less value (or should have less value) than humans.  But isn’t it sometimes easier to love an animal or a pet than a human? It’s certainly easier to grieve the loss of a pet than a parent; as Gaitskill says, some losses are just simply too big to deal with.

Personally, this story touched me on many other levels.  Not just because I’ve had loss in my life, or because I’ve also lost cats.  I love how she presents grief as such a personal experience, and how it reveals itself in surprising ways.

She stated that the act of looking for Gattino, the waiting in parking lots and all the other things she did, made her feel as if he was still around.  Actions say so much; had she and her husband given up and stopped looking, it’s likely might have believed differently.  Their actions were hopeful.  They believed Gattino was still out there, still alive.

The psychics Mary spoke to along the way gave differing stories of what had happened to Gattino, but they always seemed hopeful to me, regardless of what they said.  Even when a psychic would say Gattino was dead, they would say something hopeful, like they felt Gattino didn’t want Mary to suffer.  The psychic messages Mary sent to Gattino were heartbreaking, but comforting.  Whether or not it’s true that a human can have this sort of connection with a cat beside the point; believing that you can gives the situation hope.  Gaitskill says that she does not consider this ‘magical thinking’ as different than any other thinking.  To me, it’s no different than any of the other thousands of rituals and superstitious type thoughts we all have a thousand times a day.  The thoughts are just focused in a different direction.

Eventually, Gaitskill was able to think of Gattino and feel comfort, not sadness.  When I see Gattino’s photo, I just smile.  For such a small cat, he certainly accomplished so much.

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