Friday, July 20, 2012


There is a grey cat who has started to pass through our yard almost every day. He is a dark tabby with only half a tail. I said to Fred the other day that I had glimpsed him. “He showed himself to you,” Fred said, implying that it’s up to the cat who sees him and who doesn’t, and it’s true, I see him more often, and I want to offer him a home if that’s what he wants, the whole 9 yards.

Two weeks ago the cat with half a tail sat on the back deck and talked to me through the screen door so I put out a bowl of dry food. He dashed away. A few minutes later I looked out and there he was, eating. I went for my glasses to get a better look. It wasn’t my grey tabby. It was a large, plump raccoon.

Someone says that my dog Tamar is going grey. I wonder if they are right and this morning, putting away the old – decades old – sepia photos my aunt just sent from Hungary, I study a photo of Tamar when she first came to us eight years ago. With relief I see her nose in the photo is no less grey than it is today. But she no longer likes to go for a walk with me in the mornings. She still will chase the ball, but she’s content to stop after two or three rounds. I used to never be able to throw it long enough to suit her.

And I have been with the same person now for 12 years and we look the same to me each day, but I see old photos and yes, I suppose, we look a little younger there.

I have started to draw. Last week I did not go to the office, and I didn’t travel to a distant place. I wanted to be home with nothing to do.

I have started to draw. It is a bit of a miracle, drawing, looking at something – the wheelbarrow, the bricks – and making marks on the page with the black pen, the marks so different from what I am looking at, but making them anyway, and then there is a drawing.

I stopped drawing when I was 9 because Nicola could draw so well. Her horses and dogs were perfect.
I’ve started to draw again though, like writing, the hard part is stopping doing other things, and wondering each time: will I draw again?

I sat in a cool, shaded place near my home with pen and pad, a place I had never realized was so perfect for sitting. It’s been there all along, just yards from my house, and I had never sat there before.
Another morning I walked into town, early, bought an iced coffee then -- as a real, unusual treat – a New York Times, lingering, sitting outside, paging through the paper though I had seen its headline online two days before.

The next day I took my laptop, entered the manuscript where I had last left it a month or two ago and continued each morning – the early walk into town, the iced coffee with half and half, $2 and a quarter into the tip jar, outside with laptop, describing the time in Greece.

The first day back at work I walk first into town, get the coffee, sit not for an hour and a half, but for 20 minutes, and then don’t make it back the next day.

Friends post an article on Facebook about how being busy isn’t good for you, but I don’t read past the headline. I know this already. I want my time at home to be like my childhood was in summer – the idleness part. I want my brain to get off track.

I clean a room that has been neglected for months, but I don’t clean it down to the ground. I clean up the major messes, and leave it at that, and don’t get to a bunch of projects I thought I might.

Often, in these years, I contrast choices I make now to how I thought things should be those many years I lived with Natvar where if you cleaned something it meant there was not a dust mote left when you were done, where empty time was a selfish sin, where everything that was not strictly regulated was dangerous and at fault.


Victoria said...

This is so wonderful, Marta. I can see myself all over this page--the whole-hearted attempt to sit and write, but leaving after 20 minutes, the scanning of the headline and moving on before reading any more, and the food left for the cat, the raccoon, the cat...

And the scrumptious last line.

Thank you!

MartaSzabo said...

Thank you very very much, Victoria. I'm glad it rang true for you. Thanks for reading it and leaving a comment! Better than gold! Marta

Mudd said...

LOVE it, Marta!

And yes... do it... bring back the idleness — those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.

Though as you can see, I'm spending MY idle time catching up on your delightful stories. Thanks!