A glorious May Mother’s Day, replete with brilliant blue skies and wisps of sun-drenched clouds, became gardens requiring enormous clean-up once the storm had passed. We had walked in the mid-afternoon, savoring the sun and remarking on the cerulean blue sky. But we had no longer returned home before the skies grew dark and the birds stopped singing. The sky erupted in rains whipping sideways on gusts of high winds.
The peony bushes whipped this way and that, turbulent skies covered the gardens in darkness, and hard rain quickly transformed most of our young gardens to mush. Early flowering bushes cowered to the ground. Spring flowers (daffodils, tulips, hyacinths) toppled over.
And while unbeknownst to us at the time, Cali Cat was birthing her kittens in the peonies’ gardens. Yes, when the storm was fiercest. Yes, when the peonies whipped this way and that. Yes, when on what seemed an idyllic day, a harsh storm decided to unleash its fury. Early May ushered in particularly harsh weather this year, and great gusts of winds blew in heavy downpours of rain. Poor Cali, a first time mama cat, delivered her kittens in an sheltered area of the gardens in the suddenness of the storm.
But Cali Cat knew instinctively to look for higher ground, a place to move her kittens where they would be protected from the storm. The storm ceased as suddenly as it had begun, and at this point, Cali left her tiny, eyes-tightly-shut kittens (three kittens in all) to seek more secure lodging. We could see the tiny kittens, huddled and rounding up and over one another, by looking out the window and casting our gaze directly down to where wet, soppy leaves, pulpy stems, and peony buds served as a canopy over the kittens. The kittens were wet, but also newly birthed.
And while the storm had passed for now, heavy rains began again to fall that evening. The next few days would bring drenching rains and more high winds, and as for Cali? She had already relocated her kittens once, trotting each tiny kitten, one at a time, by the scruff of the neck to beneath a shrub that was on higher ground. The storms persisted, day and night, three days consecutively, and Cali cat, ever the faithful mama cat albeit a young, first time mama cat, moved her kittens yet again.
We couldn’t find the kittens after she moved them from the shrub. She didn’t want us to. We’ve only seen Cali cat once since that fateful week during Mother’s Day, and even then, a good distance away. She’s moved on from the Gardens at Effingham, though the gardens will always remain imprinted with her memory. From the whimsical delight of her kitten-hood to the turbulent night she delivered her own kittens, Gardens at Effingham bore her love. I can still see her sitting atop the wall, looking out over the gardens as we tended the flowers. Cali cat lives on—just not at Gardens at Effingham anymore.