November 9, 2010
Evensong Suite: Postlude. For Moses.
I’m hoping that absence makes the blog readers’ hearts grow fonder, since I’ve been AWOL on this page for a full three weeks. And full they have been, from lows to highs, with little in between. I’m lucky to be able to say that most everything these days has been a “high.” Almost everything. As I’ll share in my next post.
Twinkling above these words are the deep set eyes of a not-quite-two-year-old miniature Alex, clutching her new, instantly beloved stuffed yellow-eyed black kitty with a grip so unrelenting that we’re all grateful that Aunt Connie didn’t give me a real kitten for Christmas, 1963. I loved cats from that moment on, and since being on my own from age 18, I’ve almost never lived without a couple of strays underfoot: a Maine coon, a Siamese, and various white, orange and grey mottled mutts who all managed to find their way to my address. The fact that there’s a neon sign over my door that blares “Sucker inside: free buffet” has nothing to do with it. Really.
Fast forward exactly 35 years to Christmas week, 1998. A large, scruffy adult black cat with a healed torn ear, a scar on his chin, and a voracious appetite for the doves on my feeder, started visiting my Malibu house every day. Even when the birds flew off, he remained. I’d step outside to cautiously pet him. In a day or two I started holding him. And soon after, I’d take him inside with me while I worked for a while, if only to protect him from more coyote attacks in those dense hillside woods above the sea. Each time I’d return him to the great outdoors, he’d nip at my ankles. He chose me. And he wanted to be an inside cat. I named him Moses for three reasons: that month, I was composing an Evensong Suite for a Los Angeles Episcopal church, and the bible reading for the service was to be Moses and the Burning Bush. And just like that fellow in the Bible, this cat happened to show up at the right house in the neighborhood, with someone who would care for him. And, the month before, my father had died. His father’s middle name was Moses.
My longest stable relationship with a male ended October 19th, when the kindest vet on our island came over and released old Moses, now probably 18 or 19, from the painful results of chronology. I sobbed for two days straight. Mo was the silent witness to twelve important, and sometimes tumultuous, years of my life. He was my constant companion in any place I happened to be, which included the shower, where he would walk right in and stand under the water with me, purring even louder when I’d reach down to pet his wet body with my wet hand. And as readers of this blog know, he loved his adopted bro Smudge; I have almost no photos of one without the other. This cat slept every night tucked under my chin or my arm, and could never be held tight or close enough. Little almost-two Alex finally had her real-life black kitty. I’m so grateful.
During Moses’s final two days, I happened to be finishing the last measures of one of the darkest, most haunting pieces I’ve composed: a work for piano and prerecorded digital audio that Teresa McCollough premiered brilliantly four nights ago at Santa Clara University, titled Vendaval de Luvina. I could never have intentionally timed the alignment of my delivery of this bleak piece and the reality of my life that week, but it was quite intense. I reached the double barline as Moses lay atop my left foot in a near coma, a few hours before we said a final goodbye to each other. The piece, like the moment, offers a heartbreaking release, and I’m told that the emotion translated to the audience that night. My congratulations to Teresa, and my love to Moses. Art, love, and life, are inseparable.