King of All I Survey

Our cat Templeton sits on the top of the table on our porch in our backyard in Portland, Oregon on May 6, 2005. Original: IMG_8106.cr2

Templeton loved his outside time and if he wasn’t exploring the sights and smells of the backyard, he’d usually sprawl out in the grass for a catnap. But he also liked being in high places and couldn’t resist the occasional climb to higher elevations to survey the kingdom. This was especially true if I was enjoying a bowl of cereal at the table, he’d wait until I was distracted and then the sounds of slurping would bring me back to attention, Templeton face down and going to town on the milk.

Oh how I loved you little one.

Cat in the Lavender

Our cat Sam hiding in the lavender on June 23, 2009. Original: _MG_5117.cr2

One of my experiments with Sam behind the lavender, one of his squirrel watching spots (squirrel watching is a Sam specialty). The lavender was transplanted from a nearly dead houseplant and is now thriving in the backyard.

Cat in the Nip

Our cat Scout behind a big tub of catnip in our backyard on June 23, 2009. Original: _MG_4996.cr2

One of the things I’ve been playing around with this summer is taking pictures of the cats hidden behind plants. This is Scout earlier in the summer in one of her favorite places in the backyard: behind the tub of catnip.

Cat in a Tube

Our cat Sam looks out from the middle section of the new cat tree on July 18, 2009. Original: _MG_6028.cr2

Sam has also really taken to the cat tree, preferring the middle perch that is covered like a tube. Scout is the only one who doesn’t often sleep in the tree, but she doesn’t change her sleeping spots so casually. Even the sweltering temperatures of a heat wave don’t drive her from her favorite locations in the upper floors.


A red squirrel looks directly at me from a downed tree on the trail to Death Canyon at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming

Red squirrels are known as boomers in some areas, a name I love although I don’t know its origin — these little chatterboxes certainly aren’t quiet, but boomy isn’t quite how I’d describe their shrill alarm calls.

I’ve toyed with the idea of having a series of “Greatest Hiking Days Ever” posts that trace in pictures and words my favorite days on the trails from start to finish, and if I do, September 27, 2005 would be a fine place to start. It started with a lovely sunrise in the Tetons, then black bears dining on huckleberries amidst the fall colors, followed by a wonderful hike into Death Canyon where I met this red squirrel and chipmunks and blacktails and even my first pikas, and ended with a moose family in Willow Flats.

There are many things to love in parks as spectacular as Yellowstone and the Tetons, and perhaps squirrels shouldn’t be so high on my list, but I love the chatter and scoldings that rain down from the trees as I hike the forested trails. I heard almost no squirrels on my last trip there a couple of years ago, a personal anecdote in support of the controversial theory of global quieting. I’m not in a position to say if humans are playing a role or if the earth is naturally cycling from noisy to quiet, just that I missed my treetop companions and I hope they are there to welcome me on my next return.

A red squirrel turns to the side as it looks out from a downed tree on the trail to Death Canyon at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming

Dining Room Furniture

Our cat Emma relaxes in the new cat tree in the dining room on July 18, 2009. Original: _MG_5835.cr2

For the past seven years, we haven’t had one stitch of furniture in the dining room. But it is empty no more!

We stopped by one of our local pet stores and picked up a cat tree with three perches. Of course, being cats, when we set it up in front of one of the big picture windows, they wanted nothing to do with this new thing in their lives. I sprinkled some catnip on each perch and walked away. Scout was the first to venture in, followed shortly thereafter by Emma (seen here in the covered perch).

Sam was a harder sell but after finally trying it out, he has rarely left it since. And he isn’t just sleeping on it, during the afternoon he was swinging all around the thing like a gymnast on the uneven bars.


A close-up of our cat Sam in our backyard while wearing his collar on June 23, 2009. Original: _MG_5004.cr2

While Sam enjoys his supervised outdoor time, he doesn’t understand why Scout is the only one of the pets that doesn’t have to wear a collar when they go outside. I pointed out that Scout was the only one who’s never tried to leave the yard. He didn’t see what one thing had to do with the other.

Which is exactly why you have to wear your collar Samwise.