Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Hand

Based on my daily intake of snail-mail and e-mail messages, I have concluded that the summer season will continue to heat up with renewal notices and reminders. Following the call to action that Walgreens issued to Lucius, I received a postcard from Dr. O. alerting me that it is time for Brooke to receive her yearly vaccination. Brooke, you might ask?

Last year, during the Memorial Day weekend, I found a petite brown-tabby stray cat whom I named after a friend who is an editor and an art-book publisher. The heat index that weekend was deadly already, and I worried that Brooke would not survive in such a dehydrated and fragile state. Dr. O. let me board Brooke at the veterinarian’s office at a reduced cost until I could find a permanent home for my then-latest rescue kitty. Brooke became Bella Brooke last July, when a museum colleague here lent a helping hand and adopted her. The two are living happily ever after in a spacious garage apartment, and I periodically receive glamour shots of Bella Brooke as proof positive.

Dr. O.’s postcard provided the perfect excuse for me to look at some photos that a friend had taken of Brooke. I never miss an opportunity to stoke my memories of cats I have encountered before. I remember then being struck particularly by one photo used in a flyer that I circulated to feline-friendly people.

I call this photo “The Hand” because it conjures multiple meanings. On one hand (pun intended), there is the King Kong effect–the seemingly oversized hand (and I have small hands proportionate to my 5’ height) embracing the tiny head of a darling cat. On the other hand, there is the broader, humanitarian impulse of reaching out to help others. For an editor, taking a red pencil to a manuscript, or making on-screen changes to text files qualifies as a bona-fide assist. The hand discreetly aids the writer in refining his or her true voice. The Cat Lady extends a hand to help those who technically cannot speak for themselves and articulate their desires. Perhaps the only variation on this helping-hand theme is how you define a “creature in need.”

I happen to think that cats and authors are in the same camp: They need tender loving care and our circumspect intervention, and they also crave affection from Cat Ladies and editors, respectively. In some cases, the Cat Lady and the editor merge as one living creature.

Query of the Day: How do you define a creature in need?

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