These monotonous March days, Cuddles, our tortoiseshell cat, spends a good deal of daylight contemplating springtime. When she’s not napping on a chair beneath the kitchen or dining room table, she jumps up on her stool by the kitchen’s sliding-glass door.

I love how she curls her front paws under her chest and ponders the frozen view. She’ll sit for hours without moving a whisker, her beautiful eyes fixed upon our neighbor’s snow-covered woodpile – her hunting ground when the snow melts and the earth thaws.

Sometimes her eyes close as if dreaming of mice. When she spies a passing wing or our chickens downhill strutting in their pen, she swags her tail, slowly. Oh yes, come spring, birds beware!

Cuddles and her sister, Mittens, now thirty-something in feline years, seldom play inside any longer. I enjoy their sporadic wrestling matches which provoke echoes of my mother’s voice. “You girls fight like cats and dogs!”

Oh, those were the days. Once, when my parents left us alone, one of my sisters dared take Dad’s barber shears from the bathroom to use in the living room. Well, guess whose rear-end landed on the point of those scissors?

As I seemed unharmed by the puncture with no show of blood for evidence, my siblings and I agreed it best to keep the incident our little secret.

All’s I can say is God’s angels worked overtime with the O’Brien girls when Mom and Dad left us alone – which they seldom did. Otherwise, we may have been maimed or fatally wounded ourselves.

Back then in the late 1950s, early 1960s, I couldn’t imagine keeping myself out of mischief with reading books like “Old Yeller,” “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” and the Nancy Drew series. My parents read the newspaper. The neighborhood where we grew up in Warren didn’t provide a local library. Two strikes against developing readers of my sisters and me.
Nonetheless, I sit in my study including dictionaries of three different languages, literary anthologies, “how to write” books such as William Zinzer’s “On Writing Well.”

The top shelf of the bookcase my Uncle Jim built for my mother holds her collection of American and English classics, most I have yet to read.

For they have firm competition for my time. Jane Austen’s “Emma,” for instance, the novel that called my name last week which I have completed midway. Indeed, Austen’s wit and circuitous romances make engaging company in March.

A slow reader, I cannot plow through a book, sometimes reading until my eyes ache. Last night around midnight I read this dialogue, “My good friend, this is quite unnecessary; Frank knows a puddle of water when he sees it, and as to Mrs. Bates’s, he may get there from the Crown in a hop, step, and jump.”

Dear Reader, such prose humors me. Written between February 1811 and August 1816 in England, Austen endured several months of March while developing her plots, themes, and characters.

All lost on my sweet cat, Cuddles.

Contact Iris at