CW: This article has mention of grief over pet loss.
Writing can be a very solitary craft.
Often when I’m writing, I voyage to strange new worlds within myself. Sometimes it’s hard to come back because I can’t find my way home. Thankfully, I have had a few Muses throughout my life who have trod gently alongside me through terrain that is unknown and unfamiliar, and they are able to ground one part of me in reality while another part of me ventures forth into the unknown.
I’m speaking, of course, of my cats.
Since writing is a craft done when I am alone, or one that makes me feel as if I am alone, it’s always been a comfort to me to have a cat around, and more often than not, on my lap as I write. Their presence and their constant purring in my life have become a touchstone for me as I travel rough ground, searching for new words.
My first Muse was my cat Mave. When I first saw her, I was at a friend’s place, and she walked into the back garden. She was a tortoiseshell-calico mix and so small, she barely filled the palm of my hand. I emptied out my bag and brought her home. I didn’t know that I wanted to be a writer at that point, but I had begun to dabble. When I wrote my first short story, Mave had sat on my lap. And as I began to learn how big the land of words was, Mave had been my constant companion.
She also helped me as I struggled through life with cerebral palsy. She knew when I was in pain or when it hurt for me to walk. She would find me and sit next to me, pressing into me as if she wanted to take the pain away.
Once, when I was out of work, I thought I would try writing a novel. A friend had told me to go for it since my resume was out there, and I had already seen every job agency. He urged me to take the time to write my novel and give in to the desire I had to work on it. Sometimes that pull was so strong, my fingers felt as if they would burn if I did not write.
During that week, I did give in. Mave, my constant Muse, sat on my lap during the entire time I wrote. I took comfort in her presence, and the constant affection was like she cheered me on. I was trying something new, a genre that at once thrilled and terrified me. It was a fantasy novel about a young girl whose grandmother tells her never to enter the mirror, never to step into the world it shows, even if it seems enticing. It became my first published novel: The Ghost Mirror. I named the young witch in the tale Mave. As she helped me write the tale, it only seemed right. Mave approved.
In 2013, I had to say goodbye to Mave after seventeen years. I was heartbroken for months afterwards. She had been my rock, my constant companion. She was always looking after me. During the onset of my multiple sclerosis and its diagnosis, she never left my side. Losing her left a hole in me. That hole is still there but its grown smaller over time. I remember how lost I was without her there beside me, how shattered I felt.
Tula also came into my life in an unexpected way. A man on Kijiji was giving her way. She was a little black cat with a white tuft on her chest. I debated about taking her so soon after Mave’s passing. It had only been a few months. Was I ready for another cat? I would have to be because as soon as I saw her, I just knew that she was mine. She was so beautiful. When the guy dropped her off, I had no idea how much she would change my life. Tula was so fearless, so wild. I longed to have such confidence.
She was also a Muse. While I was recovering as much as I could, I began writing poetry. I would write a few words at a time and stitch them together into poems. Tula was there when I completed my first poem and headed down the road towards healing. Tula was with me as I learned to walk again, as I learned to type faster. She was with me as I tried to put my life back together again, or at least into a shape that I recognized.
She was with me for every word I wrote and every sentence. Often, she would lie by my laptop and watch me work, trying to type the keys at the same time as I did. It was like she was cheering me on, letting me know that by learning to type again I would find my voice. She was there for my first poem, my first blog post and the publication of my first volume of poems, Talking to the Sky. She saw me through it all.
Tula was also someone that loved me when I could not love myself. I wasn’t lonely with Tula there. I’d feel alone in the world, but when she came to see me or when she came seeking affection, I felt loved and needed.
Eventually, Tula would help me write what seemed like the most important book of my life. I had been tempted to put together a memoir of my experiences with multiple sclerosis for some time. I had started by writing what I called “my little book of positivity,” focusing on the positive things that I had taken on in order to help myself heal.
The only problem was that after only twenty pages, I was done. I paced back and forth, wondering how to proceed. Over time, the solution became clear. I would write about everything—every horrible, amazing, awful, magical detail.
That memoir became Little Yellow Magnet. It really is the book I had the hardest time writing, but it’s also the work that means the most to me. Tula had remained nearby while I wrote every word. She wasn’t much of a lap cat, but she would sit close by and watch me as I typed.
I’d like to think that Tula’s strength and fearlessness are my own and that they run throughout the book. She kept me well during the most horrible time of my life, and I can only hope that Little Yellow Magnet made her proud, especially her appearance in it.
Six months ago, we had to have Tula put down. After eight years together, we had no choice but to say goodbye. I thought I was okay, but I was shattered again. I spun into a deep depression, and things were very dark for a few months. I felt the old tangle of the leaves within my head, and I was lost within myself.
It took a while, but I was able to say goodbye to Tula in my own way. I wrote a letter to her, lit a candle, and I hoped that she could hear my words. I hoped that she would forgive me. She had come into my life in a time when I needed her the most, and I had had to let her go. Gradually, I was able to pull myself out of my depression, but it took time, and it was so very deep. However, my husband and I let ourselves grieve and honour the gift that Tula had been in both of our lives.
Even though both of us were grieving, we missed having an animal in the house. I knew that I wanted another fur baby, but I wasn’t sure I was ready just yet. I wasn’t sure I deserved to be loved by another animal. However, sometimes life has a way of bringing you together with the being you are supposed to find.
We discovered Anakin through a friend of a friend. The owner was terribly allergic and was looking to rehome him. When I saw the first picture of him, I knew that I could fall in love with this cat. He was a silver and white tabby with the kindest face I had ever seen. I asked my husband if it would be okay if we contacted the owner and, after looking at Anakin’s picture, he said yes.
When we met Anakin for the first time, I knew that we would eventually be taking him home and so did my husband. This little one was just so kind. Gazing at him, I could tell Anakin would turn our house into a home, and I was right. I never realized how comforting a cat could be and ultimately how healing they could be. As he became adjusted to our home, he blossomed. I have never known a more affectionate cat, no disrespect to Mave or Tula. Ultimately, Anakin has filled our lives with light. I had not realized how dark things had gotten until we brought him into our lives.
Anakin is a Muse, too. In fact, he sat on my lap or on my desk beside me throughout the writing of this article and he’s been helping me while I work on my current novel in progress. He’s always very helpful when I don’t feel like typing. In the years to come, I know that he will help me write many stories and travel with me as I voyage through the lands I create.
That’s the thing about my three Muses. In their own way, each of them has been my healer, my confidant, my inspiration and my comfort. Though there are no words spoken between us, I have the words on the page to chart the journey that we’ve all been on together. Mave helped me to find my voice, Tula helped me as I started along on a new path, and Anakin brought me joy when I needed it the most. They are all part of my heart and my story.
I can’t wait to see what the next chapter brings.
Jamieson Wolf is an award-winning, number one bestselling author of over sixty books and writer of Two Steps at a Time, a blog about having multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy. In 2019, he released his gripping memoir, Little Yellow Magnet, followed by Love and Lemonade (the third book in the Lemonade Series), and his short story, The Descent, appears in the Nothing Without Us anthology.
He is an accomplished artist who works in mixed media, charcoal, pastels, and oil paints. He is also something of an amateur photographer, a poet, a perfume designer, and a graphic designer.
Jamieson currently lives in Ottawa, Ontario with his husband Michael and their cat Anakin. You can read more about Jamieson on his website or his blog, and can connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.