Pushkin’s Obscure Language

Aleksandr Sergeyevich Pushkin, tamed squirrel, wild rabbit, my little half-feral cat. I call you little one, baby, honey, words I save only for you. I bristle at the thought of someone comparing me to an infant or small child and loathe call any human by the same name, but you’re so much like a helpless infant that they slip out, even when I intend to call you by your proper name, the one we chose because your elegant tuxedo markings seemed to fit with your namesake, the great Russian poet.

You’re bigger than you act, a full-grown male, lean and strong, instead of the typical indoor cat padding of fat, but you hide around the house as if perpetually scared of attack, a timid kitten in a house full of dogs. We’re gentle and kind and have been for years, but you still shy away. I hold out my unconditional love on a silver platter and yet you approach it with fear. In a few months, you’ll be five, and you still only accept me with the most tentative expressions of trust.

I’m often reminded of a quote by the real Pushkin,

“I want to understand you, I study your obscure language.”

And I do. I try to make myself as vulnerable as you think I’m scary. I lie back on my bed, perfectly still, arms thrown above my head, wrists crossed, hands limp, neck tilted at an angle so that you will see that I am willing to let you rip out my jugular, and I wait. I wait for you to stop mewing in the hall and come into the room. I let you leap up on the bed without turning to track you with my eyes. And then you stumble around on the duvet, strangely keening as though you are are singing a mourner’s lament. I wait for the moment when you determine that I am harmless enough and start to sniff at my cheek, your cold, wet nose sometimes brushing against my skin.

And then you do what I’ve been waiting for. You put your two front paws on my thigh and then begin to inch forward, until you are finally sitting on my stomach, regally upright like an Egyptian cat statue, bobbing on the waves of my breaths.

I open my eyes and say, “Hi, little guy,” and slowly raise my hand to do what you love best. I trace my thumb along the edge of your mouth and scratch the side of your face until you decide that the affection is too much and leap away, off to examine the world underneath the china cabinet or dining room sideboard.

I’ll learn to speak your crying language one day, and we’ll come to the understanding that I mean no harm. You’ve mellowed with age, and maybe your courage will continue to increase, until you curl close to me at night like Zelda Fitzgerald or remain constantly at my side like Maxwell Perkins. I don’t ask you to put aside all of your insecurities for me or to believe that I am wholly without threat, but I hope that you will accept fragments of my love and let me in just a tiny, minuscule bit. I am not as scary as I appear. Really. I promise.

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Eleanor Does Europe: Traveling Without Expectations

One of the best things about my trip to Europe was that it was rather spontaneous. Cecelia and I had around a month and a half between deciding to go and actually leaving. I only finished printing the itinerary moments before we left for the airport. I didn’t have time to fantasize about how awesome or scary the trip was going to be. It just happened, and I suddenly found myself eating an early lunch in the garden of Southwark Cathedral and fighting off jet lag. I spent the entire trip living in now, not comparing reality to my expectations, and that was fantastic.

Yes, of course, I didn’t leave home without a very detailed document with addresses, phone numbers, websites, hours, maps, etc. and a rough outline of the places we wanted to visit and the order we planned to do them in, but it was in no way a rigid schedule. I suddenly wanted to go shopping at Top Shop and Cecelia wanted to go exploring in Hyde Park? No problem. Let’s meet at the statue of Prince Albert at seven. The prep work was only there to make life easier and more relaxed. I didn’t have to get anxious about arriving at Le Musée D’Orsay at exactly 15:00 on the 24th because we knew the hours and could just fit it in on another day if we didn’t finish the exhibit.

Our small amount of pre-trip planning worked, we saw a lot, and the trip was unquestionably a success. I got to come home a very proud independent world traveler, antsy after eight hours on an airplane, quite tired, and full of exciting stories to tell my family. There wasn’t any part of me that was upset that something hadn’t happened as I had imagined–because there weren’t any expectations I was trying to fulfill.

Perhaps my recipe for future traveling success is to fantasize less and be more slap-dash and spontaneous. There is a certain magic in just rolling with life rather than trying to force order out something so inherently chaotic. Let’s hope I remember this lesson when I travel again at the end of the month.

Eleanor Does Europe: An Introduction

At the end of May, my best friend, Cecelia, and I travelled to Europe to celebrate the end of her first year at Yale and my nineteenth birthday. It wasn’t the first time we had travelled to Europe or the first time we had travelled together without adults, but it was the first time we’ve ever travelled alone internationally and that made the excitement of going to Europe even more thrilling.

We had an amazing time, and I’m determined to get our experiences down in writing before the memories start to fade at the edges and become tired, memorized stories to be trotted out whenever traveling or Europe is mentioned at the dinner table or thought about in generalizations while staring into space and avoiding reality.

So here is the trip in words and pictures.

Let’s commence.

I’d start at the beginning–posing for a photograph in front of the airport, suitcases in hand, nervous but excited smiles on our faces–but that would be too dull. The details of the check-in counter and how I stored my carry-ons aren’t of any general interest.

Cecelia is on the left, I’m on the right.

So we’ll go in images and moments, the way memories are stored. A little bit about the way I felt on the escalators at Westminster, trying to be blasé and fit in when I actually had no idea where I was supposed to be going, sleeping on Cecelia’s lap on the Eurostar, exhausted, anxious, and happy, or looking up at Notre Dame and thinking, “Hello again, let’s keep up these regular visits because I love you very much.”

For those of you reading this in the archives, here are the links to the posts written about the trip:

Coming Soon

In Which Ella is Jet-Lagged

And…I’m back from Europe.

Today has been spent trying to stay awake until eight p.m. I have one hour to go, and I don’t know if I’ll make it. It is nice, however, to have regular internet access again, and the chance to get back into daily blogging. I’m looking forward to sharing pictures and stories from the trip. Tomorrow, I tell you, tomorrow I’ll begin.

But for now, I’m make myself take another walk around the block before collapsing into my lovely, lovely, absolutely wonderful bed.

Goodnight.