I’ve been wanting to tell this story for a while now. Some of you may have already heard it, but perhaps you haven’t heard the whole thing.
It was, oh, let’s see, about fifteen years ago. I had spent the morning immersed in rehearsal, and now I was having an artist date: lunch and shopping at a mall in the city. I had some money to spend, and I was enjoying myself. I’d had sushi for lunch, and had just bought a gorgeous pottery mug, earthy purple and brown, adorned with figures dancing by the fire. (I still have that mug.)
Then I went into the bookstore next door, and began poking around.
I was having a wonderful time. I was in total artist date mode: blissfully solitary, delighting in my own company, following my nose and open to everything. Wide open. That’s the best explanation I can offer for what happened next.
I saw a book. Maybe you’ve seen it yourself. It became fairly popular, but at the time I believe it was still quite new, and certainly I’d never seen it before: Why Cats Paint.
I picked it up, and began flipping through the pages. I was enchanted. Wow! There are people who believe that cats paint? Cool! Hey, maybe they do! Why not, after all? Yeah, why not? This is fabulous!
I bought the book, of course. It was that kind of day. Besides, I was eager to know more. I flipped through the pages on the train ride home, splashing joyfully rather than drinking deeply. I was so happy.
Then I got home to my partner, and excitedly showed him the book. “Look at this!”
He looked at it. Smirked. “Cute. It’s a joke, of course.”
“What? No, it’s not a joke! I know it looks like one, but they’re serious! The authors have — wait, let me show you…”
And I looked.
But something had changed.
Suddenly, it was a joke.
Satire. Rich, detailed satire. Tongue firmly in cheek. Sly, witty, droll.
How could I have missed it?
I was so embarrassed, I couldn’t even bear to keep the book. I ended up giving it as a birthday gift to a friend who loved cats. I think she liked it. She certainly seemed to appreciate the humor.
Before I gave it to her, though, I showed the book to a number of other people. Most of them chuckled: very cute, a good joke. Only a very few people lit up inside, eyes widening, and said, “Wow! Is this true?”
(They were my siblings. Coincidence? I’m guessing not.)
The whole thing is still a bit of a mystery to me. I mean, I’m not an idiot, and I’m usually not a fool. I understand satire; I love satire. And no, there were no pharmaceuticals or other foreign substances involved — nothing tangible, anyway.
For a few hours, I lived in a world where cats might paint.
And it was beautiful.
Perhaps I’ll find my way back there someday.