Catastrophe

annie and daisyCatastrophe fits this post because I’m here to tell you about the death of a brave soul, our cat Daisy. Daisy joined our family in September of 2001 and I thought of her as our 9/11 cat, as that was when she showed up at my college, looking for handouts, and my feelings of helplessness and vulnerability led me to take her home. She was never as tame as our other cats, but my daughter Annie persevered in turning her into her best friend. On Valentine’s Day we learned that Daisy’s persistent difficulties with an infection stemmed from a tumor in her eye cavity. It was too late to do anything except let her go.

Catastrophe has a really cool etymology, and I’m pleased to learn that it was in use in the 16th century (the century in which my novel is set, and yes there is a cat in my novel):

catastrophe (n.) Look up catastrophe at Dictionary.com
1530s, “reversal of what is expected” (especially a fatal turning point in a drama), from Latin catastropha, from Greek katastrophe “an overturning; a sudden end,” from katastrephein “to overturn, turn down, trample on; to come to an end,” from kata “down” (see cata-) + strephein “turn” (see strophe). Extension to “sudden disaster” is first recorded 1748.

And just to round things out, here’s a poem about my daughters.

On this Earth

             “in which / all the characters who died in the middle chapters /
            make the sunsets near the book’s end more beautiful.” – Tony Hoagland 

All the sunsets are not more beautiful
but sometimes one is. Sometimes
the moon is so fulsome in its fullness
it’s like a soccer ball my daughters have left out
in the cul de sac, that close, that round and white.

I rest my foot on it and feel
for a moment the gravity of the earth
tugging us both from our orbits.
Sometimes the moon hangs there–
drop-dead gorgeous in her negligee of clouds–
I take my daughters out in their pajamas to see it.

I take them out in the night air knowing fully
what a cliché we are, I am, never forgetting
the poetry workshop advice to forget hearts and moons.

But knowing, too, that someday I will be gone
and for my daughters, some nights, the moon
will be more beautiful because I was here
on this earth with them, though I couldn’t stay.

daisyThe veternarian reminded us that cats live in the moment, and that’s partly what they seem to be here to teach us. She said, “Go ahead and cry, but try to think some happy thoughts for Daisy, too, because she’ll feel your emotions.” Goodbye, Daisy.

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6 thoughts on “Catastrophe

  1. As another friend pointed out, my novel is set in the 17th century (it begins in 1653)…so much for my Ph.D. Even so, I like that it’s an old word and in use in English (not just Greek) for a long time. In the rewrite, one of the aspects I’ve been trying to heighten is a sense of catastrophe, that sudden turning, and overturning.

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