Jeanie’s Gift

When a package arrived a week or so ago from my friend Jeanie Croope, I had no idea what she might have sent. It turned out to be a set of three watercolor paintings of my beloved Dixie Rose, who died a year ago today. 

The image above was painted from the first photo I took of Dixie, when she was four months old.

While I’ve been learning to write, Jeanie’s been learning to paint, and watching her progress has been a joy. Being able to share her portrait of Dixie Rose is a perfect way to mark this day, just as this slightly revised version of Carl Sandburg’s famous poem seems just right.

The cat came in
on little fog feet.
She curled into my life,
took her ease
in silent dreaming,
and then moved on.


Comments always are welcome.


53 thoughts on “Jeanie’s Gift

  1. What an excellent reversal of cat and fog from the original. How quickly a year has gone by…

    I see from the Wikipedia article about “Fog” that it first appeared in 1916. How quickly a century has gone by…

    That article gives this account of the poem’s origin, which may be as new to you as it was to me: “Sandburg has described the genesis of the poem. At a time when he was carrying a book of Japanese Haiku, he went to interview a juvenile court judge, and he had cut through Grant Park and saw the fog over Chicago harbor. He had certainly seen many fogs before, but this time he had to wait forty minutes for the judge, and he only had a piece of newsprint handy, so he decided to create an ‘American Haiku’.”

    1. It is hard to imagine that it’s been a year, or that it’s been a century and more since Sandburg wrote his poem.

      Despite the poem being ubiquitous in my classrooms (“It’s a metaphor, children!”) and in anthologies, I’d never read that story about its genesis. “American Haiku” seems just right. I also enjoyed the detail about him writing it on a piece of newsprint, just as I wrote my poem titled “The Task at Hand” on the back of used sandpaper. Of course, in a sense, even the creator of “Fog” was using Sand’s paper.

    1. In truth, Jeanie knew enough about Dixie that she was able to capture some of her other aspects, as well. She managed the sweet, sleeping kitty perfectly, but she also captured the cat with the expression that clearly translates, “Obviously, you don’t understand who’s in charge here. Let me instruct you.”

  2. What a wonderful gift! And even if it’s ever so hard to have to let them go, on the other hand it’s so wonderful when our animals share their lives with us.
    Have a great weekend,

    1. The paintings surely were a surprise. She’d mentioned some time ago that she might try her hand at a portrait, but I never thought another thing about it, and their arrival was perfectly timed.

      You’re right that there’s something special about sharing life with our cats (dogs, fish, birds, lizards … an endless and sometimes quirky list of creatures). But as with any good relationship, the rewards usually outweigh the complications.

    1. Dixie Rose certainly added to mine. I wasn’t sure I was going to post anything about her on this anniversary, but when Jeanie’s paintings arrived, the decision was made.

    1. She was a beauty. In the photo, she’s just exhausted. That was her first nap after deciding that I wasn’t going to throw her back out into the clutches of the boys who’d been tormenting her, and that I wasn’t going to let the boys into the house. She was quite happy to be a house cat.

    1. Having lost her Gypsy Rose, she was more than sensitive to my loss of Dixie Rose. The paintings were a kind gesture, indeed, and I’ll treasure them always.

  3. That is a very sweet gift and Jeanie is a wonderful friend to have done that for you. I’m sure it is now one of your treasures. I had a friend years ago who did dog pastel portraits. Unknown to me, Mary Beth gave him a favorite slide of Cassie to do a portrait. After she died I looked for it and Mary Beth told me where it was. He had it for two years and I didn’t know if he would ever do it so I asked for it back. I am now sorry I had not been more patient in my grief. Dixie Rose was/is a lovely cat.

    1. I thought about posting another of Jeanie’s paintings of Dixie, but I decided it might be best to save it for another time. It’s pure Dixie Rose, but it’s another side of her: she’s wearing her “Me, Cat. You, Worthless” expression.

      It’s too bad you didn’t get a portrait of Cassie, but it is good you got the slide back. I wish now I’d taken more photos of Dixie Rose when she was young, but I wasn’t photographing much of anything in those days, and just didn’t think of it. No matter — I have enough photos to stir memories, and that’s what matters.

    1. She is, indeed. I’ve given her handmade cards and journals as gifts, and of course kept a few for myself. Someday, I hope to get up to Michigan to actually meet her in person.

  4. It is a special thing to have your life presided over by a cat. I’ve been missing my kitty angels myself. Over a year since the last one slipped away. There will be more, only not just right now.

    1. I found myself thinking recently that it would be nice to have another cat, but the time just isn’t right for me, either. At least I’ve stopped looking for Dixie or speaking to her when I come home. That took a while, but I expected it would. We certainly both were blessed with some fine felines.

  5. Aaah that sweet and oh so beautiful Dixie Rose. I had wondered last year if she was still with you. I am very sorry to learn that she went to the great beyond last year. I imagine that you have missed her company and her beauty. Her markings and color were very unusual. In my eyes. I have never seen one quite like her. The painting is such a treasure.

    1. I suppose everyone thinks their pet is the smartest and most beautiful, but Dixie Rose really was a gorgeous creature. She never was a lap cat, but she didn’t have any bad habits at all: no scratching furniture, no jumping on tables or counters, no taste for human food. But she was sweet and affectionate in her way, and I did miss her terribly for a time.

      It’s possible you didn’t see the post I put up at the time of her death. You can read it here. It has one of my favorite photos of her. I smile every time I see it.

      1. Yes, apparently I did not see that post or somehow I forgot that I had seen it. I was very depressed in the winter and spring of 2018 and depression has me in the same grip again this year. I am going to read the post now. Thank you.

      2. I read your post about Dixie Rose and I left a rather long comment. I hope you find some comfort in what I wrote, I wanted to include a poem but I will have to wade through many of my posts to find it. I will look for it in a few.

        1. I’m glad I linked to it for you. Loving animals as you do, I knew you’d have several experiences of such loss behind you, and would also enjoy the photo and information. The grief is gone now, but I still remember her with affection.

  6. Golly, it doesn’t seem a year has gone by, maybe because I still feel her influence around you Linda. A cat like her is a gift.
    Beautiful painting.

    1. She was a gift, indeed. I certainly hadn’t considered having a cat at the time I rescued her from the young boys who were being so mean to her, but sometimes things just happen. It was a good eighteen years.

    1. As the old song has it, it’s funny how time slips away. Still, the remembering is good — not painful, but as sweet as she was. It amazes me how such a small creature can take up so much heartspace: rather like Percie, now that I think about it.

    1. Sometimes these little “revisions” become obvious, in new circumstances. I’m sure I first learned Sandburg’s poem in 5th or 6th grade. I never imagined I’d find it useful so many decades later, but it fit perfectly.

    1. Since the connections between my eyes, my brain, and my hand seem to be a little warped, if not broken, I never could have produced a painting like that. It makes it even more of a treasure. Your mention of spontaneity’s interesting. The difference between a photograph and a painting intrigues me; it reminds me of the differences between an e-reader and a real book. In any event, it was a lovely, perfect gift that I’ll always treasure.

      1. I’ve thought about this post so much in the last couple of days–the photo and the painting. I’m glad it makes you smile, that’s what’s supposed to happen.

  7. What a wonderful surprise present!! Has it really been a whole year since Dixie Rose left? I know you must miss her, even though cats aren’t quite as “needy” as dogs are. I don’t even want to think about Dallas crossing the Rainbow Bridge. Looks like your friend has learned a lot about art in a year’s time. Good for BOTH of you! When they were handing out artistic talent, I must have been in another line for I do good to draw stick people — this really looks like a calico cat!!

    1. It’s funny — if we’re waiting for a year to pass so something can happen, the year can seem interminable. Looking back to any significant event after a year, that year can seem so short. It certainly is hard to realize that a year’s passed since Dixie Rose’s passing, but so it is. I don’t precisely miss her now, but I certainly think of her frequently, and enjoy the memories.

      Jeanie’s such a creative sort — painting’s one of her great loves, but her talent’s certainly not limited to painting. I’m with you. I can draw a passable tree, but that’s about it.

  8. Oh Linda, that first year… I know it well, as you know. Thank you so much for all the kind things you said here and in the comments — all of which I find a bit overwhelming and lovely. You know how I feel about Dixie Rose. It takes awhile I think — getting used to a different sound in the house, even if she never made much noise. I’m so glad you rescued her. She brought you much happiness and joy and you gave her safety and love.

    I never saw the photo of the Christmas mouse so I’m glad you posted it link. That’s just the best expression. Someday I may have to try my hand at this one and if I do, I’ll let you know!

    1. As a matter of fact, I have your portrait of Lizzie Cosette tucked next to the portraits of Dixie Rose. Your love of them both shines through; it’s fun to have them together. I must confess that even though I’ve gotten over the grief, and have come to the point of not thinking about her every day, as I was looking back through all the photos, I wanted her back in the worst way. That’s not going to happen! But I still wish it could.

      She loved that mouse. I’ll find the other one of her “unwrapping” it and send to you. It was just as precious. I think she liked that mouse as much as she liked her tissue paper, and that’s saying something!

  9. What a beautiful beautiful gift from the heart, and the poem is absolutely perfect!
    I saw this while reading email notifications at home and then waited til back on line (now) — and then the connection was so slow that it took forEVER for the images to load. Well worth the wait!

    This will stay on the screen (with a few hundred other tabs!) until I can appreciate it again when at home.
    (Many pages open about the bad weather sweeping across the USA.)

    1. The weather system itself is moving off, but the flooding left behind’s not good. The NWS in eastern Nebraska had to shut down their radar and evacuate because of flooding on the Platte River, and I’m sure the Missouri and Mississippi will be concerns, thanks to the combined snow melt and rain.

      It’s been great fun watching Jeanie’s progress as an artist over the years. She fussed about what she sent me, but technical perfection be darned — it’s the purr-fection that counts. She really did capture the contented spirit of my beloved kitty, and that’s what I cherish.

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