Mad Cat

Get down!

My Guy just yelled at the cat, but only after a loud crash in the vicinity of our dining room.

Sophie … the likely suspect … left my office with an attitude moments before the commotion.

PLEASE. PLEASE! Open the window.

She begged this all day. The featured image at the very top shows her this morning … that’s not a pretty fog in the background. That’s smoke at 10:00 in the morning.

Sophie is so confused. She runs from window to window. She pounds on the glass in furious repetitions with her little paws. She whines. She even took a swipe at me with her claws … just close enough to let me know that she’s not playing, but not so close as to draw blood and get herself in big trouble.

Why won’t I let her indulge in her usual bird and dog watching/listening? Don’t I know how much she loves every sound of life outside our windows? And it’s not even winter when I can be expected to be stingy and not let cold air in and expensive heat out.

Unsuccessful at swaying me, after trying on and off for hours, she sulked out of the room and threw a cat-tantrum, knocking something heavy enough to make a huge thump off of the table downstairs. I didn’t hear the sound of shattering glass, so I’m not going to investigate. I’m a little worn out too.

It’s been like this all day today … and all day yesterday … and if the forecasts hold true, Sophie might have reason to keep up the tantrums into tomorrow.

Her problem?


We’re surrounded by a thick layer of faux fog. What should be a reason to pull out pumpkin spice and sweaters … is not. It’s not an early autumn fog, but smoke … smoke from fires near and far … trapped in a weather pattern that has it hovering over every town and city in the state … seeping into our homes … into our very pores.

We took a quick drive to check on our garden in a little town 15 minutes away. On a normal day, the background would be filled in with a forested line of hills, just inside the Idaho border.


The smoke is a cruel reminder of the devastating fires that decimated at least 95 homes and 100 other structures just 30 minutes from us … not even a week ago. A Labor Day firestorm … a storm that has scarred far more than the territory.

With fires all over Washington, Oregon, and California … and now the smoke … we’re all a little on edge.

The way of life here in rural Eastern Washington is that we depend on our volunteer fire departments. That means that every time fire fighters are needed, an alarm goes off at the local fire station, alerting farmers in the field or others who may not have seen their cell phone or heard their pager. Cell reception here is spotty and unreliable so the alarm is necessary.

We’ve heard the alarm way too many times the last few weeks. With an unusual dry August, farmers have had to battle field fires on top of helping with the tragedy in Malden. Now, every time we hear the fire trucks roar through town, it’s in the back of all of our minds … Malden … how quickly it burned … they had 10 minutes to get out.

It’s in the back of all of our minds … fear of a fire overtaking our town. What used to be unheard of is now a worry.

But we try to act normal.

Our volunteer system is sometimes confusing to newcomers because the noon whistle is an old tradition here as in many rural towns throughout our county. The fire alarm also goes off at noon every day to signal lunchtime. To try and eliminate confusion, a separate noontime alarm has been moved from the fire station to our main street, right above the library. It goes off promptly at lunch time (which is 11:57 AM in our town … apparently, no one wants to be late for lunch around here). Hardly anyone gets rattled by that alarm … except maybe me. I work in the library, so get a good jolt when I happen to be there at noon … I mean … at 11:57 AM.

To get back to Sophie’s tantrum … the source of her problems is not so much the smoke as it is me. Of all the challenges of this last year … COVID, lockdowns, family crisis, the blizzards of the winter before. Of it all, the smoke is hardest on me.

I find it hard to breath, as every one does. But even more so, I struggle with a choking sense of claustrophobia … I hate not being able to see … to not have a good sense of where I’m going … or of what’s coming. Fog has a similar affect on my nerves. More than once we’ve driven across the state when it’s been entirely enshrouded with fog. Sad to confess, but I was tense and snippy the whole time, insistent that My Guy keep his eyes sharply on the road. Fog or thick smoke … they both make me feel very vulnerable.

I’ve had thoughts of crawling back in bed and pulling a book close or even just going under the covers and trying to sleep the day away. But even with every window shut tight and with diffusers in every room and vinegar simmering on the kitchen stove to purify the air, our drafty old house can’t stop the smoke smells from creeping in. Trying to hide from the smoke only made me more aware of it.

People who know me well, think of me as pretty tough. Well … this is my kryptonite. It’s not a fear of fires … it the feeling of suffocation and being trapped. These kinds of feelings put me on the edge of panic … just to be real.

So … I can give in to that edge of panic … or try to turn it into a better than hoped for day.

My List for Coping:

  • plug in decorative strand of lights in the kitchen
  • fill up the diffuser with calming oils
  • get out battery powered candles that we use during the holidays
  • upbeat music … my style of upbeat is the Piano Guys at an earsplitting level. I know … I’m a wild one
  • check in with the kids (our adult children) on Face Time
  • check in on friends who had family that had to evacuate because of the threat of one of the major fires (all is okay now)
  • check the forecast to remind myself that this WILL end
  • meditate and pray … give thought to what the people in Malden endured as smoke and fire raced upon them with little time to respond … of the people in Oregon who lost whole towns as well … of firefighters who never get a breath of fresh air as they fight to save the property and lives of strangers
  • pray for the families who tragically lost loved ones … and remind myself that my struggle to breath is nothing
  • pray for resilience for all of us
  • distract the cat (and myself) with treats … cat treats for her … people treats for me

What did not make it on my list is open the windows.

And Sophie is still sulking about that.

Poor, mad cat.

Thank you for reading “Small Stuff”.  This is the second of two blogs sites that I keep.  You can find more on my thought&faith blog at Wishing you a beautiful day full of the Small Stuff that transforms life into BIG STUFF.

A note to my “silent” readers … thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to read my work. I’ve learned that many of you are shy about commenting or hitting the like button, but I want you to know that I appreciate your visits and invite you into the conversations whenever you are ready.

Wishing you peace in all things … Shelly