"There are no ordinary cats," the French writer Colette observed. And those of us fortunate enough to have cats live with us know this to be true; each is extraordinary, as was our Lizzie.
Maria Elizabeth Schiffhorst, known to all as Lizzie, arrived in 1999 after being rescued from wildfires near the Atlantic Coast fifty miles from our home in central Florida. There she took up residence and presided over our living room, where she slept. Her other territory was the screened porch, where she could listen to the sounds of nature while snoozing in the sun.
Lynn and I, both writers, had the pleasure of her company for sixteen years, years filled with humor, playfulness and inspiration. Because of Lizzie, I began to examine the relation between cats and writers. Convinced that cats are the secret muses that mew and help writers create, I produced a book, "Writing with Cats," that gave her a bit of fame: her picture was on the cover, and she was interviewed both on the local radio and in a photo spread in the Orlando Sentinel.
But fame did not faze her. Lizzie continued to be a perfect house cat--uncommonly quiet, hardly ever meowing, gentle, and patient. Even the vet examining her last week, when we realized that her kidney failure was making life difficult, commented that Lizzie was very tolerant in her old age.
Lizzie provided us with a daily reminder that there is another world next to ours, a world where work and worry are unknown, where time does not exist. Cats allows us entry into this world, the contemplative realm I explore in my book.
In more recent years, Lizzie served as the muse of inspiration for Lynn, who has created many stories--some appearing on the Daily Mews website--featuring cats. Many of the two dozen books by Lynn Schiffhorst on Kindle have some feline connection. These include her Cat Tails of Manhattan series and, most recently, stories set in northern Italy, featuring Father Risolino and his cat Carlo.
How can we thank Lizzie, who passed away on July 29 at age 19, for all the ideas she unwittingly gave us? I hope we did so with our love and devotion, which was repaid in kind. She lives on not only in our memories but in the stories she helped to create.
By Gerald J. Schiffhorst