1  Meeting

When we met Bingley, he was in jail for vagrancy.

At the shelter they couldn’t tell us why someone found him alone, only that a man had turned in this stray cat at the local shelter.  They told us that he was between a year and two years old, but couldn’t say if his people had too many cats, or if he had bitten someone, or if he had just strayed away.  His paw pads were perfectly pink and soft and clean, so he hadn’t had a rough life for a long time.  He was already long and thin–not starved, but hardly overfed, either.

My wife asked to see a dog-cat, a cat with the friendly, interactive traits of a dog.

The kind woman there said, “I have just the cat for you,” and she brought him out.

He ran up to my wife, jumped in her lap, and buried his face in the crook of her elbow, and he sat there cuddling for twenty minutes.  When she put him down, he came over to me and did the same.  Then he looked me right in the eyes and said nothing, but his look said, “I want to go home with you.”

In case you’re wondering, he’s a buff tabby with white ascot and socks and jade-green eyes.

“Let’s see if we can find another:  he may need a buddy,” my wife said.  The volunteer brought out a few other cats and some toys.  I picked up a fuzzy ball and tossed it to Bingley, and he began to bat it around.  One of the other cats came over and looked interested.  Bingley batted the ball to him, and sat back to watch as the second cat played with it.  I had never seen that behavior before:  a cat sharing his toys.  A good sign . . .

We couldn’t take him home that night–we had to go through the adoption paperwork and the checking of our references–but we got him in a couple days and took him home.  None of the other cats seemed to want to interact with us, though they played with one another readily enough.  Bingley wanted to cling to my shoulder, but we had to put him in the carrier for the ride home.  He didn’t like the confined space of the carrier, but he still said nothing.

When we got him home, he got out of the carrier and again climbed immediately on my shoulder.  We gave him a tour of the house and set him down in my study, which has a window out to the front garden:  the volunteers had told us not to give him run of the house, but to keep him in one room for a couple days until he got accustomed to us and our home.  We gave him food and water regularly, and he got blankets and toys, and we told him he could use the books or the computer in the if he wanted to.

On his first morning home, I went in to see if he was ready to come out.  He had disappeared.

I looked all over the room, everywhere except behind the bookcase.  I thought he couldn’t be there, because from my point of view the bookcase sat right up against the wall.

He had tucked himself in behind the bookcase.

I asked him if he wanted to come out for breakfast, and he came right out.

He has always been a food hound.

After the first day, we left the door to his room (formerly my study) open, but he didn’t come out until the third day, though we would stand poised by the door looking out.  And he still hadn’t said anything.  But at last he began to explore the house.

A few days later he told me his name.  At the shelter they had named him Pilot.  That didn’t work.  I tried calling him that, and he gave nothing close to a response.  Would you?  When I heard the name, it made me think of “Pilate,” and while I’ve always thought Pontius Pilate got a bad rap in the Bible, I couldn’t call a cat by that name.  So we tried every reasonable name we could think of from Spot to Shostakovich.  Nothing worked.

One evening my wife and I were sitting on the couch watching Pride and Prejudice, our favorite version with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth.  Bingley, then still Nameless, jumped up and sat between us.  That in itself was a big step:  he hadn’t yet got up onto anything except us–perhaps his time in jail, caged, had kept his thoughts low to the ground.  But he sat and watched the movie with us.

Shortly Austen’s character Bingley appeared on screen.  You may know the character:  unfailingly kind and pleasant, and everyone likes him.  And the thought struck me:  he’s just like the cat!

I turned to the cat:  “Is that you?  Are you Bingley?”

He looked back at me, then scrunched his eyes closed, nodded, and spoke to me for the first time:  nothing dramatic yet, just a confirmatory “mmrow.”  Then he turned his head back and watched the rest of the show.

He doesn’t watch much television, but he likes Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and tennis.

From that day he has answered to the name “Bingley,” which he chose for himself, and so far he has lived with us for more than eight and a half years, our devoted dog-cat.

 

1 Some Ideas on Writing

Since you’ve fallen upon this website, I assume you’re interested in reading and writing and maybe even enjoy them.

I intend to add some thoughts here periodically, practices I’ve learned of and tried or realizations that have hit me, hoping they may have some value for you, too.

Let’s start with some of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever run across for writers, some public secrets that you may or may not have read or heard.

First, the main secret to successful writing (or any writing at all):  make pages.  As a painter must make paintings and a song writer must produce musical compositions, a writer must make pages.  Years ago I was reading Ray Bradbury, and he advised that a person who wants to write should compose three pages a day–every day, no excuses.  As I recall, Hemingway said something very like that.  Three makes a nice choice, but I’d say:  any number you like, even one, just so you do something regularly.  If not three pages a day, try ten per week, or fifteen per month, or whatever you can do.  But make those pages.

Second, on a tv talk show I once heard an interviewer ask Mickey Spillane, writer of noir detective stories, why he wrote what he wrote.  He answered, “I write what I want to read but can’t find.”  There’s a pretty good chance that, unless you have the great misfortune of horrendous taste, if you’d like to read something that you can’t find, someone else is looking for the same thing.  That means you already have an audience.  That’s secret 2.5:  write for that audience.

Third, read, read, read.  You probably want to write because you’ve liked things you read.  Read so you don’t repeat what someone else has written, and read so that you know how good writers put words together.

Fourth, and here’s another powerful one.  I was going through notices in an old copy of one of the many useful Writer’s Digest publications, I think it was the Poet’s Market.  The editor for one of magazines listed there gave this advice:  when you submit something to this magazine, reward me for the irreplaceable living time I’ll spend reading it.  Yes:  spot on.  Always reward your reader for the kindness he or she shows you in reading your work, whether it’s published or not.

I hope you’ve found something rewarding here.  If not, I’ll try to do better next time.  And thanks for sharing your living-time.

 

2  The World of the Text

Theorist Paul Ricoeur wrote about what he called “the world of the text,” the space between the text of a book or story and the reader.  The imaginative space in between isn’t quite exactly the book, and it isn’t exactly the same as the person doing the reading, either.  The reader negotiates that space as a place to experience and interpret the text.

I’ve always liked the term, but I like to use it in a different way.  The world of the text is the world that the text creates and into which the reader or viewer can step:  the deep, old, intricate world of Tolkien’s Middle-earth, the dangerous but darkly scintillating world of a Raymond Chandler detective novel, or the icy, ambi-gendered world of Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness.

I believe that, not just for fiction writers and movie makers, but also for poets and often for non-fiction prose writers (such as biographers and essayists), creating a textual world where a reader wants to stay for a time may be the single most important skill.  Yes, characters and style have great importance, and they may seem to many readers to be the most important components of writing, but if a reader enjoys the world of the text, he or she will return to a book again and again even knowing the plot (and maybe even having almost memorized the book).  That’s true for adults as well as for children–if you read children their favorite books, they want you to get every word just right, because every word helps make up and fill out the world of that book.

In the world of The Lord of the Rings readers can tolerate orcs because they also get to meet elves.  In The Left Hand of Darkness one can tolerate all the difficulties Ai experiences mingling with a different species of humans because of the friendship he and Estraven build.  The masterful peculiarities of the world and how the author weaves them all together into a believable place win readers’ fascination and loyalty.  And we often hope that the writers will go back to our favorite worlds to build more stories into the spaces they’ve created.

My wife says the experience can be much the same for “reading” a work of art!

2  A Few Words

You may not believe this, especially since Bingley was so quiet when he first got home with us, but before too long he began to teach us a few words and to understand a few of ours.

You already know about how he chose his name and that he is a foodie if not a gourmet.

One evening, as the tide of dinner-hour was rolling in, I asked my wife if she thought Bingley was ready for his food.

He was sitting in my lap, and when he heard the word food, he stood up, looked me straight in the eye, and placed one of his paws on my chin. I asked him, “Are you ready for food?”

He said, “Mmao?” The initial sound is a kind of trilled m–I can’t make it, but it’s one of Bingley’s standard phonemes. I tried my best to duplicate his sound anyway.

“Is that what you call it: Mao?”

“Mmao!” He said, and he jumped off my lap and dashed to the cupboard where we keep his food. When I got there, he said it again. I fed him as quickly as I could, and he seemed happy as could be. After supper–his and ours–he came back and jumped in my lap, turned around a couple times, settled down, and sighed loudly and contentedly.  He had taught us our first important word.

A few days later we found out that his word for milk is the same as ours–his is just higher pitched.  Cat language must be tonal.  We give him Cat-Sip, which doesn’t have the chemicals problematic to cats.  I asked if he wanted milk, and he replied “Miiilk,” without the trilled m and with a rising and then falling tone, higher pitched than his usual vocalizations.

I love the sound he makes when he drinks: a hearty laplaplaplaplap that you can hear across the room.  He came away from his drink with his eyes scrunched a little and with a smile on his face:  his usual signs of relaxed pleasure.

One day when I got home a little late from work (and so late for his dinner time), as I fumbled with the key I could hear Bingley on the other side of the door repeating “Myao-rao, myao-rao,” with stress and higher pitch on the second syllable: I’ve since learned that means either “open the door!” or “let me through!” I don’t think there’s a “please” in there, though.

I’ve heard him say the traditional meow only once. A tomcat from a few houses down was strolling through our back yard and decided to stop to relieve his bladder at our crabapple tree.  Bingley and I were watching through the back window.  Bingley’s meow was more like a howl, a “meee-YOWW!” followed by a hiss–another sound he’s seldom made, at least with us.  He must have felt his property was being invaded, even though he stays indoors.

We had a lot more yet to learn about language, and so did Bingley. For instance, every morning he gets the “Kitty Tour”: I say the words, and he runs over and scrambles up on my shoulder, and we walk around the inside of the house stopping at all the spots where he finds it’s important to sniff or rub his chin and leave a little scent. The tour was easier for me when we got him and he weighed eleven pounds. Now he’s about eighteen, so I get a better workout than I used to. He just calls it “tour,” since he doesn’t see himself as a kitty. But that’s a subject for the next post.

 

3  House Lion

When we have guests over, Bingley will come out to say hello–nothing elaborate, just a sort of “mew,” meaning something like “I’m not sure about you yet, but you may stay for a bit if my people say it’s all right.”  Occasionally he’ll jump into someone’s lap or sit beside someone on the floor.  Once we had over three friends who play guitar so they could jam together, and Bingley sat in cat stance for as long as they played, swinging his tale back and forth in time to the music.  Sometimes he’ll sit in my lap and monitor the conversation, or if he gets comfortable but doesn’t find the conversation to his liking, he’ll settle in for a nap.

Music always grabs his attention.  He’s fond of strings, especially acoustic guitar, and choral pieces, and he likes jazz and Classical music.  He doesn’t care for loud rock music, and he finds Blues a little too depressing.  He likes bagpipe music if one doesn’t play it too loud.

Once, when we had company and had a nice fire going–the fireplace is probably the most special and interesting feature in our little house–a guest was asking about Bingley’s habits.  “Does he go outside, or is he a house cat?” she asked.

Bingley was sitting by the fire, enjoying the warmth and listening to Alison Krauss, and he turned to me to hear my answer.

“Since we got him at the shelter, we’ve kept him inside, in case he went through any trauma.  He’s a house cat now,” I said.

I could tell by the look on his face that he wasn’t entirely happy with that answer.  He began to walk down the hallway, but he turned, and with a little flick of his head, he motioned me to follow.  So I went with him to his room.

He stood there for a moment and looked at me seriously.

“House lion,” he said.

“House lion?  Oh, I understand.  Sorry:  no offense.”

“Right,” he said.

From that day on I have referred to him as our house lion, which he much prefers.  He’s not a small fellow, and from the side you can definitely see the lion profile–though more of the mountain lion than the African lion.

He still wasn’t saying much in those days, just a word or two.  He’ll say rather more than that now, when something’s on his mind.

On Friday we were having an unusually warm day for this time of year, and we were sitting in the window box with the window open enjoying a cool (rather than filthy cold) breeze and listening to the birds.

Two cardinals were having a dust-up in the maple tree out front, and one chased the other into the burning bush at the edge of the house.  Instead of their usual plink, they made a ruckus, giving each other the serious business until one flew off across the street.  The other danced up and down a few times to proclaim victory, then dashed off after his opponent, apparently ready for more.

“Must have been territorial behavior,” I suggested.

“Theological argument,” Bingley replied.

He didn’t look straight at me, just turned his eyes a bit in my direction.

I tried not to guffaw.  Bingley can tell a joke and barely break a smile.  It’s one of his talents, though not especially one of mine, so I value it especially.

3  Senses and Metaphor

Last week some students and I were talking about what I like to call the “tools of the trade,” that is, the technical things a writer must know to write well, everything from grammar and punctuation to manuscript format to basic narrative structure.

John Skelton, the Tudor poet laureate, called the collection of things he knew how to do his “conning bag,” the ideas and strategies he understand and could use any time he needed them.  Writers should always keep filling our conning bags, and every now and then we should dump them out and clean up everything we keep there.

Aristotle wrote that of all writing techniques, metaphor has the greatest power:  odd and fascinating that the most moving item is the one that isn’t there, the one to which we compare something that is there.

Metaphors and every sensory detail we can think of, we start with them:  they bring abstract ideas to breathing life.  Years ago I participated in an evening poetry reading at the university.  I had stuffed my poem full of all kinds of detail, making sure I hit every sense at least twice.  After the reading, another of the poets came up to me and said how much he had enjoyed the poem, but that he couldn’t remember anything after the line about bacon frying in the skillet.  It had made him hungry, and he couldn’t hold on to any of the lines after that, though they had been pleasant enough as they floated by.  Hunger wins out over poetry most of the time, and olfactory images may be the strongest of all.

I’ve always liked the line from one of Keats’s letters:  “load every rift with ore.” That is, fill every line of poetry with as much life, energy, experience, truth, and power as you can.  One of the many astonishments I experience every time I read Paradise Lost is that Milton left hardly one toss-off line in the whole poem, as long as it is.  He filled every rift with ore, and my copy, which I’ve used for more than twenty-five years now, has nearly every line underlined and annotated–which makes the underlining no longer helpful, bu makes me laugh with wonder at what a great poet can do.

Now I feel like reading Milton and sizzling up some bacon, but I don’t eat that anymore.  Maybe a nice warm, cinnamony bagel with soft raisons and some melted butter, dripping yellow-gold onto the plate.  Tasty.  Or maybe just some crunchy celery, with bitter, savory leaves, to save some calories . . .

4  Working with a Net

Occasionally someone will ask me about pursuing a career as a writer:  is it possible, how should prepare for it, how should one do it?

Quick answers:  it’s possible, but not easy–a writer needs extraordinary drive and patience; read, read, read, and write, write, write; I don’t really know how to do that, since fortunately for me I don’t write for a living.  I write because sometimes I want to, and sometimes I must.

W. H. Auden told a story about a young would-be writer who asked him about being a poet.  Auden asked, “Why do you want to be a poet?”  The questioner thought for a moment and replied, “Because I love words.”  Auden followed, “If you had given me any other answer, I’d have suggested you spend your time otherwise.”  Auden’s is an interesting answer, but not the only answer, at least as I understand it.  A person could also say, “Because I love stories” or “Because I want to try to add something to the great storehouse of literature that I have always loved so much” or simply “Because I have to do it.  I can’t eat, sleep, or think clearly if I don’t.”

Often I’ll get a question about how or where I get ideas.  That’s a kind of embarrassing one, since I’ve never had trouble getting ideas.  I have more than enough.  My problem has been getting the confidence, focus, and time away from my employment life to practice enough and learn how to start, continue, and finish pieces of work.  The ancients used to say not “I think that” but “the thought came to me that”:  I suspect ideas come to most of us pretty often, but we brush them off as random thoughts of little use.

Sometimes the real issue behind that question, when it comes from younger persons, is simply that they haven’t yet lived long enough to have clarified for themselves what they really want to write about.  More living means more experiences, and more thinking means more ideas for writing.

Now, when I get an idea that seems to me to have promise, I start with list-making:  the blank page is my worst enemy.  Get it down, with as many details as possible, as quickly and clearly as possible, then go back to it later to see if it deserves more thought and more effort–that’s my main method.

For the young person who wants to write, I also suggest what I call working with a net.  If you want to work the trapeze of writing, find a reasonable and decent way to make a living.  Auden said to take up carpentry:  something very different that requires different skills and thought patterns so that one sits down to write, the mind isn’t already tired and clogged with word-business.  Then writing time is language-time and pleasure-time, not drudgery.  Carpentry is good, but anything that helps you gain experience and make and save money and puts you in a position where you have some leisure time to write will do.

Every writer must find his or her own methods through practice and persistence and an open mind to ideas that come from anywhere and everywhere.

Good luck, and best of success!

4  His Manservant

Bingley is a student of languages.

One sunny afternoon, when I was sitting here at my desk writing, I heard an odd sound.  The window was open, and Bingley was sitting in the window box looking out through the screen.  A small bird was hopping around on the ground just below, among the evergreens.

Bingley made a series of rapid clicking sounds, with a mini-mew in the middle.  I think it was his attempt to communicate with the bird.  I took him to mean, “Wouldn’t you like to come in for lunch?”

Once, when we had someone working out in our front lawn, Bingley began to pace the living room floor and growl, like a dog, then periodically jump on the back of the couch and stare out.  He’d make an abrupt sound that sounded like a cross begin a “ruff” and a “mew.”  He had watched the neighbor’s dog across the back yard do that (except for the mew):  I had stood there with Bingley watching that dog.

The first time I heard Bingley say anything complicated, I was so startled that I didn’t quite believe what I had heard.  Not the content:  that was likely enough.  The manner, though, surprised me.  I was sitting on the couch reading, and Bingley was sitting on the floor not far away cleaning his paws.  Then I heard this:  “I say, Jeeves, can you just get me a couple of those nice chicken treats?”

The voice drew me from my reading, in which I was deeply engaged.

Bingley was the only other one in the room besides me, and the intent and expectant look on his face matched the request.

I had already come to realize that he thought of me partly as a friend, partly as a brother, and partly–maybe mostly–as his butler.

Most of the time I’m all right with that.  And I remembered that on the lowest of the bookshelves in Bingley’s room among the novels and reference books sit copies of P. G. Wodehouse’s Carry On, Jeeves and Very Good, Jeeves.

I got Bingley his treats, and he seemed very happy with that.  He finished his bath and jumped up in my lap, nudging my book over a little to make some room to sit down.

A couple times I’ve caught him, when I’d been writing and had got up to take a break, standing on my chair with his front paws up on the desk, looking at the screen where I’d been working.  At first I’d thought he was just attracted to the light or wondering what I could have found so fascinating there.  Once I asked him what he thought of what he’d seen on the screen.  He shrugged, tipped his head once to the right, and once to the left, and returned to look out the window again.

Every now and then my wife and I will stop at one of the animal shelters to look at the inmates.  We may pet a few or give them some treats or make a small donation of money or blankets.  We often think about whether we should get Bingley a buddy, or if he would find having a new creature here troubling or even traumatic.  Today I had to stop at the Petsmart to get him some food and litter, and so I looked in at the cats there.

One of the cats, jet black with brilliant yellow eyes, came walking toward the front of his cage looking right at me.

Then he hissed.

Then he put his head against the bars for petting.  I went over and scratched his ears and petted his forehead for five or ten minutes.

I turned to go, and I was leaving, I looked back to see what the cat was doing.  He hissed again, then began rubbing his head and shoulders against the bars.

So I went back and petted him some more.

Finally I had to go.  I looked back one more time, and the cat made kind of a mini-hiss and began cleaning his paws.  Then he scrunched his eyes at me and mewed as if to say, “Thank you.  Please come by to visit again.”

Very nice cat, just, I think, with a bit of a language problem.

Or maybe I had the language problem:  maybe hisses don’t always mean what you think they mean, any more than kisses do.

I’ll have to ask Bingley.

 

5  Exercises

Do you like doing writing exercises?

I have mixed feelings about them.   They can work pretty well, I think, if one tries them honestly but doesn’t take the results too seriously.

The best exercise I’ve ever found is still pastiche.  I did my first pastiche when I was still in my teens.  I spent Saturday afternoons attempting to write a chapter being Bram Stoker, H. G. Wells, and Victor Hugo.  Hugo was the hardest:  I had read Les Miserables and Notre Dame de Paris, and they had blown me away.  But to read and feel moved by them and to write like them require completely different magnitudes of understanding.  I had no hope of succeeding and certainly no pretensions of genius.  Nonetheless, trying to get inside the thoughts of another writer and recreate his or her style–free of one’s own ideas and notions of style–teaches more than anything else I’ve ever tried, read, or heard about stylistics and storytelling.  We tend to think we have a style of our own long before we do, and getting inside another’s style shows just how hard it is to find one’s own way or ways.

I’m teaching a poetry writing course this spring for the first time, and I’ve tried a number of different exercises to help the students think about poetic style.  One day each of us picked a person who should have a poem written about him or her; we started with list-making, describing the person’s traits or qualities, then turning the list into a poem.  One day we talked about haiku, then wrote one–then rewrote it twice to think about other ways of trying to get at the same feeling.  One day we wrote two versions of a quatrain, one with rhyme and meter and one with free verse, trying to make each equally “good” and complete.  One day we wrote about place, again starting with list-making and turning the list into a descriptive piece that might then lead to something more than simple description: an understanding of its history, aesthetics, or personal importance.

I think the exercises are working pretty well and the students are enjoying them.  Last week we had about thirty minutes left in a class period and I asked them if they’d rather spend it working on their previous drafts or trying a new exercise.  I assumed they’d rather chat over and edit their drafts, which they would soon have to turn in, but nearly everyone immediately called out “Exercise!”  So you know what we did.

Another policy I keep in class:  if I ask them to try an exercise, I try it with them, on the chalkboard so they can watch as I work through it.  I try not to think about what I might do with the exercise beforehand, so that I don’t have an advantage; they can then see how I struggle with it and try things (some work, some don’t) just as they do.  I tell them not to use what I write on the board as an example; I do the exercise simply to show them that I value it enough to do it myself, that I would not want to assign it to them without finding out for myself if it has value.

Exercising together, I find, is good for the heart and the lungs and maybe even for the soul.  So far the practice has carried over into the students poems:  I can see them using what they’ve done in the exercises in their subsequent poems.

I don’t know yet if any of these class exercises will carry over into my own private writing.  Lately I’ve been in a stage where I’m so eager to write that I don’t need exercises:  I need ways to stop myself from writing so I can get myself to school to help the students.  Should we have “pause” as well as “play” buttons for writing?

5  Ways to Communicate

Bingley may decide that dinner time has arrived even when it hasn’t.

If he thinks I’m napping at dinner time, he’ll jump up onto my chest then down on the floor then back up on my chest and down again, springboarding each time.  No way to nap through that.

If I’m reading, he’ll jump onto my chest, push my book aside, and begin kneading my pecks while wearing a friendly look on his face.  If I tell him it isn’t time yet, he’ll move down a little to knead my stomach; his expression gets more intent.  If that doesn’t work, he’ll move down farther and knead harder:  with his claws out.  His face gets more pointed, and his look grows almost menacing.  I may not give in to an early supper, but by that time his message has got poignant, and I get up and find something else to do until dinner time officially comes along.

If only I could get him to knead my back that way, I could save on chiropractic bills.

This morning he had a brief chat with a female cardinal that was sitting in the burning bush–which isn’t doing much burning at this time of year.  But what a blessing that the weather was warm enough that we could sit in the window box with the pane open!  After sizing up each other, the bird said “beep!” and Bingley replied with a soft “mow.”  Again the bird said “beep!” and Bingley answered with another quick “mow.”  After two more exchanges the bird flew off.  Bingley’s tail swung energetically through the whole exchange and for a time after the bird left.  I got the feeling that they understood each other from the beginning.

You can probably think of times when you got someone just the right present.  This past week my wife had a bad cold, and on Saturday I come home with a dozen red roses.  That was the right gift.  Last summer I came back one day from the Petsmart with a tall cat-tower, about five feet high with four levels.  I rubbed a little catnip into each level just to make it a little more enticing.

I don’t think I needed the catnip.  The moment he saw it, Bingley jumped right up and climbed to the third level.  He embraced the post and gave his new toy a big hug, then stretched out and purred loud enough to wake Rip Van Winkle.  Getting to the fourth level himself is a little tricky, but if I place him there, he’ll sigh, settle in, and nap contentedly:  he’s at the top of the world.  That was the right gift, too.

He loves to munch on plants, but the large ones don’t do well in his digestive system, so we try to keep him away from them (yes, of course we check first to make sure they’re safe before we bring them home).  Every now and then we bring home a new batch of catnip or cat grass.  He dabbles in the catnip, sampling, but he loves the cat grass.  As soon as we get in the door with it, he runs over and begs to taste it.  As soon as we put it down, he starts munching away.  Then he’ll turn back toward us with his eyes spinning around in opposite directions.  Then we put it up on top of the cupboards for a couple days.  I wouldn’t have guessed that cat grass is a hallucinogen.

In the morning when we play, I’ll ask him to do his tiger jump. We have a string with a soft toy mouse tied on the end, and I’ll flip the mouse up in the air over his head.  He launches himself up with all four feet in the air to catch the mouse.  Then he gets an appreciative “good kitty!” and a nice bowl of Cat-Sip.

Yes, most of the time we communicate pretty well, whether he feels in the mood to talk or not.