Pêle-mêle de début juillet [fr]

[en] A bunch of random stuff.

Je n’arrive pour le moment pas à m’organiser pour prendre le temps de bloquer “correctement”. Je vous fais du coup le coup (!) de l’article “nouvelles en vrac”. Old-style.

Quintus au balcon sur fond de tomates

C’est le moment d’acheter votre billet pour la conférence Lift à Genève les 6-7-8 février 2013, avant que le prix ne prenne l’ascenseur. Lift, c’est à ne pas manquer. (Si vous avez participé à une édition précédente de Lift, vous avez reçu un code pour le prix “super early bird” de 625 CHF, valable encore un jour ou deux! Ne laissez pas passer le délai!)

C’est aussi le moment, si le coworking est quelque chose qui vous parle, de prendre votre billet pour Coworking Europe, qui aura lieu cette année à Paris les 8-9-10 novembre. Je suis à l’affiche d’un des panels du premier jour.

La Muse ouvre les portes de son espace lausannois, avec pique-nique tous les mardis.

Toujours au chapitre coworking, il y a de la place à l’eclau, tant pour des indépendants/freelance que des startups. Venez visiter!

J’ai pris part pour la première fois à En ligne directe, émission de la RTS qui démarre la veille au soir par un débat sur Twitter (hashtag #EnLD), repris dans le direct du matin avec des invités. Je trouve le concept génial. Le sujet du soir où je suis restée pendue à Twitter (plus que d’habitude) était “faut-il interdire/punir le téléchargement illégal“. Vous imaginez la suite. Pirater n’est pas voler, c’est toujours valable en 2012. Je suis effarée par la mauvaise foi et/ou le lavage de cerveau dont font preuve les “opposants”. Croire que le monde dans lequel on évolue (physique, numérique) et ses caractéristiques ontologiques n’est qu’un point de détail pour débattre d’éthique ou d’économie, qu’économie de rareté vs. économie d’abondance ne change rien à la morale, c’est faire preuve d’une naïveté et d’une simplicité de réflexion affligeante. Le tout repris par Magali Philip dans un Storify magistral.

Le Port de Vidy fait très fort avec ses nouvelles portes high-tech sécurisées.

Un chouette Bloggy Friday a eu lieu en juillet, après celui de juin. Les gens d’internet qui se rencontrent offline, il paraît que c’est le truc nouveau super-tendance de l’été. (Les rencontres IRC d’il y a 15 ans ça compte pas, hein. Ni les rencontres blogueurs, pendant qu’on y est. Ni les rencontres Twitter qui existent depuis des années.) Quelqu’un se lance pour faire l’hôte ou l’hôtesse pour le mois d’août? Ce sera durant ma semaine de déconnexion.

Hercule Poirot cherche toujours un nouveau foyer en Angleterre. Quintus, lui, s’installe bien en Suisse et explique au jeune Tounsi comment respecter ses aînés avec pedigree.

Les plantes sur mon balcon et dans mon appart poussent bien. J’ai des piles de photos, à mettre en ligne et à commenter ici pour vous. En attendant, il y a un groupe Facebook “Petites plantes de balcon et d’ailleurs“, si c’est votre genre.

Ah oui, c’est aussi le moment de vous inscrire pour la troisième session menant au diplôme SAWI de Spécialiste en médias sociaux et communautés en ligne. Dernière séance d’info le 21 août.

Et aussi le moment de postuler (jusqu’au 16 juillet!) si vous pensez être la personne qu’il faut pour prendre la tête du SAWI en Suisse romande. Et je suis toujours ouverte à des candidatures de blogueurs motivés pour le blog de voyage ebookers.ch.

Côté boulot, je suis pas mal bookée, mais j’ai encore de la place pour un mandat long terme de “blogueuse en chef” (ou “redactrice en chef de blog”, si vous préférez).

Inspiration, sur Kickstarter: Bridegroom et Amanda Palmer.

Google aménage ses cafétérias pour encourager ses employés à manger plus sainement. Fascinant.

La plaie des infographies.

Pourquoi les femmes ne peuvent (toujours pas) tout avoir.

Passer du temps à ne rien faire, pour mieux faire.

Et pour finir: l’été de mon chat. (Non, pas le mien, celui du journaliste du Temps.)

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Memories of Safran [en]

[fr] Souvenirs de Safran.

Safran was put to sleep on Thursday. I’m still very sad, though I’m not end-of-the-world devastated like when Bagha died. Tounsi seems OK, but of course it’s hard to say. I’m upset, our routines have changed because Safran isn’t there. He doesn’t seem to be pining or going around looking for Safran, in any case.

New Cats 89.jpg

Safran was with me for just a little over two months, and I feel the need to put in writing the memories I have of him — the good ones, mainly — I think part of me is afraid I’m going to move on and settle down in my life with my remaining cat and forget little Safran. I won’t, of course, but memories do fade away. Prepare for some rambling and a pile of kitty photographs.

Safran perched on the tree

Continue readingMemories of Safran [en]

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Bye Safran: FIP is a Bitch [en]

[fr] Safran est malade: il a le FIP/PIF et doit être endormi -- il n'y rien à faire pour le sauver.

I got home from the vet a couple of hours ago. I’d taken Safran because he seemed under the weather (I got home from vacation yesterday evening). I thought he had a cold.

He has FIP. The wet form. My vet says he has a success rate of roughly 50% with the dry form, but has to this day never saved a single cat who had developed the wet form. I’ll let you read up more on this nasty disease.

Safran 2

I’m heartbroken. I’ll be going back to the vet’s tomorrow afternoon to put Safran to sleep. In the meantime, we’re saying good-bye. We were just starting to warm up to one another.

I like to think that although his post-shelter life will have been short (2 month), it will have been a good one.

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Tounsi perdu et puis retrouvé [fr]

[en] The story, with the details, of Tounsi going "missing" for a bit over 24 hours. Short version: he wandered a bit out of his comfort "territory" because he followed me yesterday morning when I left, and was taken in "a bit promptly" a few hours later by a well-intentioned lady who had run into the "lost cat". He's sleeping on my bed with his mouth open right now.

Il y a 24 heures de cela, j’étais en train d’arpenter le quartier à la recherche de Tounsi. Le coeur dans les chaussettes et l’estomac dans la gorge, pour être honnête.

Tounsi is back.jpg

Hier matin, il m’a suivie alors que je quittais la maison pour aller travailler. Ce n’est pas la première fois. C’est un peu un problème: Tounsi est un chat qui suit les gens, et moi en particulier. Un peu pot-de-colle ou petit chien. L’avantage, c’est qu’il accourt dès que je l’appelle. Le désavantage, c’est que je me demande parfois jusqu’où il va me suivre.

Comme ce soir il y a quelques semaines quand j’ai dû courir pour le semer devant mon immeuble en partant à ma répétition de chant, au retour de laquelle je l’ai trouvé en haut de mon chemin, presque sur la Vallombreuse… Sueur froide, pour le coup.

J’ai donc décidé de partir de chez moi à travers le quartier résidentiel derrière mon immeuble, histoire qu’il ne se retrouve pas direct sur la grande route s’il me suit un peu trop loin. Je le sème, pas très loin de l’arrière de mon immeuble, le nez dans le feuillage du bord du chemin, et je pars l’esprit tranquille: même si Tounsi ne semble pas avoir l’orientation aussi sûre que Safran (je suis gentille), il retrouvera sans trop de souci le bon côté de l’immeuble.

Une journée de travail un peu “course” plus tard, Safran m’attend devant l’immeuble, mais Tounsi est introuvable. Tours de quartier, appels de plus en plus forts, rien à faire. Corinne, que je revois pour la première fois après son départ nomade pour l’Asie il y a deux ans, suit tout en direct, m’accompagne dans mes recherches, et m’offre un précieux soutien moral.

Vers minuit, après plusieurs kilomètres à pied, je pose les plaques pour la nuit et dors d’un sommeil agité jusqu’à 7h du matin. (J’espère que vous appréciez la précision de mon reportage!)

Tounsi n’étant pas là à mon réveil, mon inquiétude monte d’un cran. Re-tour du quartier, je pousse même jusqu’à Mont-Goulin où j’ai pris le bus la veille. Rien. Annonce sur animal-perdu.ch, première vague d’affiches dans les entrées des immeubles aux abords immédiats du mien (et du mien bien sûr!), annonce à la SVPA, téléphone aux abattoirs (oui, c’est là qu’il faut appeler… ouf, rien), e-mail à SOS chats (la puce électronique de Tounsi est à son nom, s’il est trouvé c’est eux qui seront alertés et non pas moi), coup de fil à mon vétérinaire et l’autre des environs, autres annonces online, et départ pour une nouvelle expédition de pose d’affiches, en élargissant le périmètre.

Un premier coup de fil après la pose d’affiches initiale m’informait qu’on avait vu Tounsi dans la semaine — je rajoute du coup la date sur les nouvelles affiches. Je constate qu’environ une heure après la pose, certains concierges bien consciencieux et probablement peu amis des bêtes ont déjà ôté mon affiche (collée avec du scotch de carrossier facile à enlever et qui ne laisse pas de traces).

Alors qu’on commence à avoir fait le tour du pâté d’immeubles (y compris l’école enfantine), un coup de fil: une dame dit avoir observé hier matin un chat ressemblant à Tounsi depuis son balcon. Il miaulait beaucoup et se roulait par terre devant les garages comme une chatte en chaleur (shhh, ne lui dites pas). Elle l’a ensuite vu entrer dans une entrée d’immeuble d’en face, puis repéré sur le balcon d’une dame qu’elle connaissait.

Espoir! On la rejoint, en entrant dans l’immeuble les voisins nous confirment qu’un chat a bien été recueilli hier, on sonne à la porte. Pas de réponse, mais “miaou, miaou”. Est-ce Tounsi ou pas? Je ne reconnais pas encore sa voix, difficile à dire.

Je suis à la fois excitée et dépitée. On redescend. Il y a un mot dans l’entrée de l’immeuble qui confirme qu’elle a recueilli un chat correspondant au signalement de Tounsi, mais qu’elle ne sera pas de retour avant 19h. Pas de numéro de contact sur l’affiche. Impossible de la joindre!

On patauge un peu dans les options limitées à notre disposition. Dehors, on me dit de regarder le balcon. C’est le balcon du quatrième. Tounsi fait de l’équilibrisme sur le rebord, regarde en bas, miaule miaule. Soulagement et stress en même temps — il peut être un peu pataud, et l’idée de le laisser là jusqu’à 19h maintenant qu’il m’a repérée me fait froid dans le dos.

Il essaie de passer la partition qui sépare son balcon de celui d’à côté, ce qui me donne une idée. On monte chez la voisine, je vais sur son balcon, j’appelle Tounsi, le saisis en contournant la partition pour le prendre dans mes bras (pas très dignement le pauvre, mais au-dessus de 4 étages de vide, on laisse de côté sa dignité).

Tounsi n’aime pas qu’on le porte s’il n’est pas dans un lieu familier. Il se débat, alors je sors de l’appart avec lui un peu comme une voleuse, et on entreprend de rentrer à la maison, à pied. Après avoir tenté dans un premier temps de partir dans la “fausse” direction (une idée fixe datant de la veille, peut-être?) on repart dans la bonne direction. Ce n’est pas très loin, trois immeubles dans une zone assez dense.

Enorme soulagement, mais ce n’est pas fini. Je réponds encore 3-4 fois au téléphone (mes affiches ont du succès!) — y compris à “l’autre” vétérinaire à qui l’on avait annoncé que Tounsi avait été recueilli par cette dame. Il faut ôter les affiches, rappeler la SVPA, enlever les annonces, et prévenir Twitter-Facebook du retour du félin prodigue.

Alors que je suis en train d’ôter mes affiches, je reçois un coup de fil de l’amie de la dame qui avait recueilli Tounsi. Après un peu de confusion (“non il s’agit du même chat, oui je l’ai déjà récupéré, non il n’est plus dans l’appart, je suis passée par le balcon de la voisine, sisi c’est bien mon chat que vous avez recueilli et c’est bon, je l’ai récupéré”) j’en apprends un peu plus.

Elles ont trouvé Tounsi dans le couloir au 4ème en milieu de matinée et l’ont immédiatement pris à l’intérieur, de crainte que ce soit un “chat d’intérieur” qui se serait faufilé hors d’un appartement. Annonces à Prilly-Centre, appelé la police, prévenu leur vétérinaire…

Bonnes réactions une fois qu’elles avaient le chat, et bonnes intentions, mais peut-être conclusion (et action) un peu hâtive: Tounsi traînait autour de leur immeuble depuis à peine 2h (allons, poussons à 4 si jamais c’était plutôt vers midi) qu’il était déjà un “chat trouvé”! Bon, c’est vrai qu’il peut être un peu “collant” (et perpétuellement affamé) s’il est un peu désécurisé…

Il y a fort à parier que s’il avait simplement été laissé en paix (et remis dehors), il aurait fini par retrouver le chemin de la maison, ou alors que je l’aurais trouvé lors de mon tour du quartier, s’il avait préféré rester faire le chat désespéré et perdu à 150m de chez lui toute la journée. Ça me rappelle un peu le chat de 2007

J’en connais un qui ne va pas sortir de sitôt sans son collier! (Oui, il l’avait perdu la veille.)

Tounsi all set to go out

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Cat Adoption: c'est parti! [fr]

[en] I'm looking to adopt two cats, kittens or adults. Should be near Lausanne so I can meet them first, get along well, go outdoors and be sociable (they will be hanging out at eclau during the day-time, where there are people).

Me voici donc rentrée d’Inde. Mission de mon retour: trouver deux chats à adopter. Oui, deux. Bien avant la mort de Bagha, j’avais décidé que “la prochaine fois” je prendrais deux chats. Je trouve ça sympa, deux chats.

Du vivant de Bagha, vu son âge et son caractère, ce n’était pas vraiment envisageable de prendre un deuxième chat.

Je suis donc à la recherche de deux chats. Chatons, adultes, j’avoue que cela m’importe relativement peu. Qu’est-ce qui est important?

  • qu’ils s’entendent bien (donc typiquement je cherche des situations genre “doivent impérativement être adoptés ensemble”)
  • qu’ils sortent
  • qu’ils soient bien socialisés et peu craintifs: ils passeront du temps à l’eclau où il y a du monde, même si c’est assez calme (je vis dans le même immeuble)
  • que je puisse faire connaissance des félins en question avant de me décider, donc pas trop loin de Lausanne!

Ils seront bien entendu soignés aux petits oignons: pas gâtés (je suis plutôt stricte côté friandises etc) mais câlinés, soignés, bonne nourriture (véto-approved) et excellent vétérinaire. Et maîtresse un peu hypocondriaque, ce qui a un avantage: aucun risque je laisse des situations se détériorer avant d’aller consulter.

Ce n’est pas si facile, comme démarche. C’est en fait la première fois que je me mets en quête d’un chat à adopter. Mon premier chat, Flam, était le chaton unique de la portée suivante chez mes voisins, une fois que j’avais reçu le feu vert parental pour avoir un chat. Le deuxième, Bagha, que vous connaissez bien, a fait le trajet Inde-Suisse suite à un concours de circonstances impliquant un déménagement en Angleterre et de longs mois passés à vivre avec sa première famille. Tous deux sort morts de leur belle mort, Flam à 16 ans, Bagha à 14.

Toute mamy à chats que je suis, je n’ai donc pas eu beaucoup de chats.

J’ai décidé que je parlerais de ma recherche autour de moi, et que je ferais également un saut à Sainte-Catherine d’ici une semaine ou deux si rien ne se présentait. (La semaine prochaine c’est Lift, et deux semaines plus tard le module 4 de la formation SAWI, après ça se dégage.)

Ce matin, j’ai fait un saut sur Anibis et j’ai assez vite décidé de faire une croix sur les petites annonces. Lire les annonces, ça me déchire entre “je veux adopter tous les chats qui me passent sous le nez” et “j’ai peur de faire un erreur lors de mon choix”. Impossible de choisir quoi que ce soit. Typique.

Donc, soit il y a dans mon réseau des chats ou chatons à donner dans les semaines à venir, soit je vais au refuge.

Je sais qu’une des racines de ma crainte d’erreur a à voir avec le fait que j’ai probablement encore à accepter que je ne trouverai pas un autre Bagha. Adopter un autre chat (même deux), ce ne sera pas retrouver Bagha. Je suis encore triste. C’est normal, en fait: être prête à reprendre un ou plusieurs compagnons félins, c’est une étape du deuil.

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The Bittersweet Freedom of Catlessness [en]

[fr] Visite féline durant le mois à venir. Je garde Kitty, le chat d'une de mes anciennes cat-sitteuses. Juste retour des choses, et occasion d'une réflexion sur ma vie sans chat/avec chat.

Bagha's spot on my desk

I’ve been meaning to write this post for quite a few months. What prompts me to write it now is that there is a cat in my flat, and will be for the next month. Kitty belongs to a friend of mine, who is going abroad for a month. She used to cat-sit Bagha back in the day. So, I’m taking care of Kitty for her while she’s away.

Kitty is a shy character, maybe a leftover of her past life as a stray. I have been trying to coax her out from under a piece of furniture with little bits of ham — and my plan for making friends over the next weeks involves clicker-training. You’ll get photographs once she comes out of hiding.

Over the last months, saddened though I was by Bagha’s death, I have been enjoying the freedom of catlessness. I have travelled a lot (maybe too much), and appreciated being able to stay elsewhere overnight on a whim without feeling bad about leaving my cat alone. (One could discuss how justified feeling bad about leaving Bagha alone for a night was, but that’s another topic.)

Now that I’m clearly out of the acute stage of grief, and that my catless life seems very normal, I wonder how I’ll feel about giving up some of that freedom again for furry companions. Of course, the freedom you give up for an animal when its young and healthy is not the same as when it is old and declining. (Kittens, though, are another story. I’m not sure I want kittens. Kittens are cute. Of course I’d love kittens. But I’m not sure I want to go through a year of having baby cats in the house.)

I’m not finding it too difficult to enjoy my freedom. I thought I would be more conflicted about it. Feeling bad about being happy to be free [because I don’t have a cat anymore]. I was a bit, intially. Now… sometimes I even forget to be sad. I think that’s a good sign.

This month with Kitty, in addition to helping out a friend, is also an opportunity for me to be “with cat” again. Another cat than Bagha. I mentioned that one of the things I needed to do to sort through my grieving emotions was separate my sadness of losing Bagha from my sadness of being catless. Maybe the coming month will be a chance to tie up a few loose ends around that theme.

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What Made Bagha Such a Special Cat For Me [en]

[fr] Un pas de plus sur le chemin du deuil, alors que je m'apprête à éparpiller les cendres de Bagha dans le jardin où il passait ses journées. Tentative un peu laborieuse d'identifier (et de trier) ce qui dans la douleur de la perte de mon chat est proprement la douleur de sa mort, et ce qui est simplement la douleur de la solitude retrouvée.

I started writing this months ago, not long after Bagha died. In India, to be precise. As a way to help me come to terms with his loss, I spent some time trying to write down what made him special for me. What is it exactly that I’m grieving, through him?

Bagha's Floppy Nap 3

I actually tried to blog this once before, and that ended up being the article “Sorting Through Grief“. Like all painful things, it’s tempting to postpone this kind of exercise — but now that I’m preparing to take Bagha’s ashes out of the back of my cupboard to scatter them in the garden he loved, I feel it is time to pick up this list again. I need to move forward. These last weeks, or maybe months, I’ve slipped into a not-too-uncomfortable limbo somewhere along the road of grief. There was a little sideroad somewhere with a bench, and I sat down.

It’s time to start walking again.

What follows is a little raw. It’s also not “perfect” — meaning that I’m aware I’m failing at sorting through some of the things I was hoping to sort through while writing this. That’s the whole point, I guess. Otherwise I would just sail “happily” through grief, if it wasn’t that difficult for me.

So, what made Bagha such a special cat for me? Quoting from my previous post, here’s what I’m trying to disentangle:

  • what it means for me to now be living completely alone (ie, “petless” => by extension, what having a pet — any pet — adds to my life)
  • what made Bagha special, as compared to other cats (his personal caracteristics, pretty objectively)
  • what made Bagha special for me, in terms of the relationship we had and what he meant to me

I’ll start by setting aside the obvious: what kind of cat Bagha was, outside of the relationship I had with him.

Physically:

  • he was big and strong
  • he was a beautiful animal
  • he had a mashed-up nose and ear tufts
  • he had a long non-twitchy tail
  • he slept on his back with his front paws crossed
  • he was long-legged and slim with very sleek fur — had the body of an Indian cat
  • he was a spotted/striped tabby with lovely eyeliner

New Year Bagha 1And also:

  • he slept on his back, front paws crossed on his chest
  • he had a very girly high-pitched meow which was kind of comical for such a big boy
  • he snored gently in his sleep and made little moaning noises when being petted

Character-wise:

  • he wasn’t fearful
  • he liked people and people liked him
  • he was smart
  • he was communicative
  • he was dignified
  • he had an attitude
  • he was cuddly without being needy
  • he was patient and tolerant but not out of fear
  • he had a strong character
  • he was very territorial and peed on all the bushes

It's MY computerThings he did (I’m aware we’re in the anecdotal department here):

  • he opened the fridge
  • he drank out of the toilet
  • he gnawed on drawer handles
  • he played with sticks and chewed them like a dog, holding them between his two front paws
  • he would creep into cupboards the second the door was opened
  • he opened drawers
  • whenever possible, he would rest his head on a pillow (proper or improvised — a laptop would do)
  • he would deftly knock over glasses of water to drink it
  • he would knock things off my bedside table if I didn’t wake up fast enough

The cat and his humanHow he was with me, bearing in mind that this is pretty standard cat-behaviour:

  • he loved having his belly rubbed
  • he liked being carried under one arm
  • he liked being cuddled curled up on my chest
  • he’d sleep with his head and paw resting on my arm

More about his behaviour and interactions with me and other humans, which is maybe a little less “cat-standard”, but not yet the stuff that made my relationship with him so special:

  • he would come back home all by himself, right into the flat, and come and say hello
  • he trained the whole building to let him in and out
  • he would patiently let me give him his meds or put his collar on before going out
  • everybody who met him liked him and saw he was not an ordinary cat

Here we are, now. The cat-companion. This is what the emptiness of his absence is made of.

  • he slept with me every night
  • he would follow me discreetly from room to room
  • he’d sit on the table while I ate
  • he’d wake me in the morning to go out with just one meow
  • he would come and lie down where I patted my hand
  • he would come and cuddle when I watched TV or worked at home

Taking some rest

Trying to rise above the mundane details of daily cohabitation (even if they’re important), here are some of the deeper roles Bagha played for me:

  • he would be waiting for me, always happy to see me
  • he kept me company every day
  • he helped me connect to people in my building and neighbourhood
  • he connected me to India and Aleika
  • he was a constant through all the changes my life went through these last ten years

Of these, I guess the fact he kept me company and was happy to see me are more pet-generic than Bagha-specific.

But the role he played in helping me find my place in my neighbourhood, the connexion to India and Aleika, and the ten years of my life that he saw me through — those are things that are uniquely linked to Bagha. No other cat will ever be able to give me that again. He was a living, breathing, purring witness to these things, no lost forever. I carry those years and that part of my life completely alone, now.

Along the same lines, here are two more things I’d like to add:

  • he made eclau a special coworking space
  • he brought me closer to some of my friends who lived in my flat to take care of him when I was away

Eclau will have other cats, and be a “special” coworking space in that respect in the future. Salem, my upstairs neighbour’s cat, has already taken quarters on the couch, and will probably soon have his own page on the eclau website. Some time next year, I’ll be ready to have cats again, and they’ll come to eclau too. It will always be a kitty-friendly coworking space — but Bagha was the first, and his constant presence in the office was soothing for those who worked there.

The fact that quite a few of my friends cat-sat at some point or another when I was travelling over the last ten years made him a connexion between me and them — connexion which is now gone, like some of those friendships. His absence makes their pastness a little more present.

On a more emotional level:

  • I loved him and cared for him
  • I gladly gave up some of my freedom because I loved him
  • I accepted some risks (like losing him to a car accident) because it gave him a better life

These are things I learned for life because he was my pet, and will treasure for ever. His legacy in me. Traces of his life that his death cannot erase, and which — I believe — make me a better person.

I believe there is no meaning in the world other than the meaning we put in it, consciously or not. Beyond the meaninglessness of life and death, we choose to make sense of our lives so that we can keep on growing.

Maybe Bagha’s biggest gift to me, beyond the ten years of precious companionship he gave me, is in his death. I got to say good-bye. Not at the moment of my choosing, of course — death rarely gives us that — but did get to say good-bye properly. I am saying good-bye.

So here’s the meaning I choose and which makes perfect sense for my life, almost as if it were provided by some intention bigger than and beyond me:

Bagha let me love him for a long time and with all my heart, so that I could learn to love and grieve properly.

Amongst all this, I wonder, what is just the pain of finding myself “alone”, or catless? What does it mean to me to have a cat? I’ve tried to break it down into “plus side” and “minus side”, because part of the grieving process is also greeting the new good things in my life brought about by this loss (I have a blog post draft sitting in WordPress titled “The Bittersweet Freedom of Catlessness” — I will write it someday).

Having a cat means:

  • having company to sleep with me at night
  • having somebody to care for
  • having somebody waiting for me to come home
  • having somebody to communicate with and keep me company
  • having cuddles and affection handy when needed
  • having an attraction for visitors and a topic of conversation to make friends amongst cat-lovers

But it also means:

  • giving up some freedom (no unplanned trips)
  • expenses (food, vet, etc)
  • having to cat-proof the home
  • having to get up to let the cat out, or change the litter
  • worrying that it didn’t come home (or might not)
  • negotiations with neighbours/concierge if it causes any trouble

The pain of losing Bagha is still very present, nearly five months after his death. There is still a terrible pit of sadness in my heart, but it doesn’t overflow with tears anymore when I don’t want it to.

I sometimes try to imagine my future cats, who are maybe not even born yet — I fear that I will not love them as much as I loved Bagha, or that they will not be quite so extraordinary, and I know that I still need to spend some time walking down that road.

Bagha arbre 1

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Two Deaths [en]

[fr] Deux décès, l'un humain, l'autre félin, et mes réactions assez différentes aux deux.

Two heart attacks, even. The first is Bagha, you’ll have guessed. Jean-ChristopheThe second is Jean-Christophe, who was deputy head in the school I taught at and with whom I stayed in touch over the years: fellow blogger and lifter, I enjoyed our lunch-time conversations about social media, web technology, education and the various things of life. He was a really friendly, genuinely nice person. I didn’t know him very well, but we did hang out once in a while. He wrote a very nice piece about me for Ada Lovelace Day in 2009. He died almost exactly a month after Bagha.

I was very, very shocked by Jean-Christophe’s death — and remain shocked. You don’t expect young, healthy people around you to drop like a stone and die in the middle of a basketball match (he was 42, a regular player, didn’t smoke…). I was also shocked by Bagha’s death, but the grief was so great that I just couldn’t stop the tears for days on end, and it took over.

Two deaths, one human, one feline, one of a being who shared almost every single day of mine for 11 years, the other which I would see a handful of times every year. Two different reactions on my part. On a slightly “clinical” level, I’ve found it interesting to observe how I’ve been processing both these deaths. Beyond the obvious animal vs. human difference, I’ve realised that what really counts is the role they were playing in my life.

Jean-Christophe was a truly lovely person. His death pains me, and even though he was somebody I trusted (to the point of collapsing in his office during my first year of teaching when things were not going well at all) we weren’t close. He was somebody I knew and appreciated, a part of my network (our discussions revolved primarily around work and common interests, not each other’s lives). If I think of his family, my heart breaks for them, but I am not touched as if it were my family.

Not seeing Jean-Christophe is the normal state of my life, so beyond the shock of the announcement, I am not confronted much with his death. A couple of times I’ve thought “oh, I should ask Jean-Christophe if he knows somebody who…” and caught myself. Beyond the shock and discomfort of seeing the sudden death of somebody who is just a few years older than myself, and of knowing that a wonderful human being is no more, the impact of Jean-Christophe’s death on my life has been pretty minimal.

Maybe this minimal impact (compounded to the fact I was in India for the funeral so couldn’t attend and therefore share others’ grief) has allowed me to stay in some stage of denial — or maybe the fact he was a rather “weak tie” in my life simply makes the whole grieving process less painful and visible.

Eclau oct 2009 24Bagha, on the other hand, even though he was “just a cat”, was part of my everyday life for years and a primary emotional attachment. His loss is a huge disruption in my life, all the more because he was an elderly cat who had started to require care — some parts of my life were organized around him. Making sure somebody was there for him when I travelled, coming back home to give him his meds, being available to take him to the vet when things weren’t quite right.

Except when I was in India, I have not been able to “forget” his death much. The flat is lonely without a feline presence. Another cat naps on the couch at eclau (I’m happy about that, though). I’m still surprised that I can stay out when I hadn’t planned to. I can leave stuff lying around in the flat (even food) and nothing happens to them. Open cupboard doors are not important anymore. I’m not woken up at 6am by somebody furry who wants to be let out.

When somebody asks a group of people “who has a cat?” I have to keep my hand down now. I don’t have a cat anymore. I’m not a cat-owner. I’ve had a cat since I was nine, even though my first cat, Flam, lived at my parents’ for three years when I moved out, and I was briefly catless between her death and the moment Bagha officially became “my” cat. But being a cat lover and owner has always been a big part of my identity, which I feel I have now lost (risky parallel: does it feel like that to long-time smokers who give up the cancer-stick?). Of course, I will have cats again (after India early 2012 is the current plan), but right now, I’m part of these petless people.

Almost everything in my life reminds of his death. I still have a photo of him as background image for my iPhone, because I’m not sure when the right moment to change it would be, and what to replace it with. Though I’m slowly rebuilding a layer of habits and memories of my new life without him, I feel his loss almost every day — some days worse than others.

This makes me realize that in a way, it is less the intrinsec value of the being who died (who would dare put a cat’s life before that of a human being?) than the role played in one’s life and one’s emotional attachment that determines the amount of grief. Sounds obvious, uh, nothing new under the sun here. But it has another taste when you’ve reached the conclusion all over again by yourself.

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Of Grief and Travel [en]

[fr] Retour d'Inde, et je pleure mon chat comme il y a un mois, après une sorte d'interruption où le deuil a gentiment glisser sous le tapis. M'habituer à son absence alors que je suis ailleurs, dans un contexte complètement étranger, c'est une chose. A la maison, cela va prendre nettement plus de temps.

As all of you must know by now, my cat Bagha died just ten days before I was due to leave on a month-long trip to India, my first “real” (understand: three weeks or more) holiday in many years. It’s been a horrible, horrible loss for me — and if at this stage you’re thinking “just a cat”, switch to “11 years of life together”. I cried every day until I left, and was still very upset when I arrived in India.

Ready to Pounce

At some point, in India, I stopped crying. Different context, people around, not much privacy, but mainly, I think, lots of exciting Indian life and people to keep me busy. Over a month, I had plenty of time to settle down in my holiday-life over there — and holiday-life and travel clearly never involved having Bagha around.

When Bagha was alive, I would miss him when I was travelling. The first days would be the worst, and then I would get used to it and stop thinking about it. After a few weeks, though, I’d be really looking forward to seeing him again. It was part of what would draw me back home.

So, maybe I was just following my normal travel-pattern here too.

Coming back has been really hard. In all honesty, it feels pretty much like I’m back to where I left off before my travels. A few things have changed, though — the work of time: I’m not in shock anymore (I’ll talk about shock in a later post about another recent death), and I don’t really expect to see Bagha sleeping on the couch or on the bed when I enter a room. I still have “where’s the cat?” or “I need to get the cat” moments, though. Many times a day. and I’m going through a lot of tissues again.

I don’t know if this “break in grief” was a good thing — not that I regret going to India at all, and I immensely enjoyed my time there — but I remember wishing I had “more time” before leaving while I was preparing my bags and departure.

Bangalore 142 Fancy Buildings.jpgWhat this trip has shown me, though, is that life goes on. Or at least, that I can rebuild a life for myself. This is very similar to what my year in India showed me: that I could start from scratch somewhere and find friends, have a life, be happy enough. (I write happy enough because generally, that’s how I am — “happy” on its own has not often been a general state in my life, though it’s a regular short-term feeling.)

But life elsewhere without my cat and life at home without my cat are not the same thing.

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Bye-Bye Bagha (1996-2010) [en]

My beloved Bagha died last night of a heart attack.

Bagha @eclau 3

As all of you who know me can imagine, I’m devastated. Bagha has been my constant companion through the last 11 years — at home and at work, from India to Switzerland, and the cuddly purrball of my often lonely nights.

Bagha was an extraordinary cat with a lot of character and a quite incredible early life story. By some weird twist of fate, in less than two weeks I’m heading back to the precise place in India it all started a little over 14 years ago. My plan is to take Bagha’s ashes with me.

I knew I’d have to write this post one day, but I really thought I’d have more time to prepare for it. Bagha was FIV+ and had a heart condition, and he’d been showing clear signs of ageing and slowing down these last two or three years. But I thought he would continue slowing down, or develop complications due to his FIV status. I didn’t imagine it would be this brutal.

His last day was very normal: out for a stroll, back in for some food, a cuddle, and the beginning of his long day-time naps. He spent the afternoon on the bed while my friends and I baked Christmas cakes, coming over to help us clean egg-yolk mess from the floor (a rare treat for him).

We heard him crying out early evening and found him trying to hide under the bed, in pretty poor shape. Though we rushed him to the emergency vet, his heart was too damaged, his body temperature was dropping, and there was nothing to do but let him go.

Facing life without Bagha is a bit scary. I sometimes said we were like an old couple. We knew each other well, had our habits, and our lives integrated pretty seamlessly. I moved into this flat with him 10 years ago. He’s been the resident cat at eclau for the past two years.

I wonder how much time it will take for me to stop expecting him to show up or be in the garden when I come home. How long I’ll wake up in the morning surprised that he isn’t on the bed, or hasn’t woken me up to be let out.

I miss him terribly.

A lot of people knew Bagha. He was already famous in IUCAA (Pune) when we were living there. He quickly made a name for himself in his new Swiss neighbourhood. He’s had a good handfull of catsitters during the last 10 years, who came to live in my flat and care for him while I was travelling. He has fans online and offline, not least through eclau.

I can’t face telling everybody who knew him personally right now, so forgive me if you learned this sad news through this blog post.

Bagha was a great pet, and I know I treated him well, and he had a great life. There are worse ways to go, too. I’m thankful he was a part of my life for as long as it lasted. And I think that everybody who crossed paths with him, for a few minutes or much longer, was lucky for it.

Bye-Bye Bagha. You were loved. You’ll be missed.

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