I've been sharing my studio with an enormous marmalade cat for almost nine years. His official name is Marley Bear but more often, he is simply Bear (or sometimes Bear Bear, Mr. Bear, or Lover Bear.) You see, Marley is quite unlike any cat I've ever known. He certainly isn't anything like my other cat, Tuscany, who embodies everything cat haters hate about cats: Tuscany is self-centered, moody, ill-tempered on a whim, aloof, manipulative. I love Tuscany in spite of her personality quirks but I absolutely adore Marley and to me, Marley isn't really a cat. He isn't a dog, of course. No, appearances to the contrary, I think the only explanation is that Marley is a Bear, twenty pounds of thick, soft orange fur that can drive you crazy while stealing your heart. People laugh when we call him a Bear but then they meet him and say "Wow! He really is a bear!"
Bear is all about connecting. He loves to be kissed on the nose and his first "I'm so happy to see you again" gesture is often to lean his nose towards my face so I can give him a kiss. He hates to be separated from either myself or my son. He howls at the door if he sees either one of us leave. He bounds down the stairs when he hears me come home and then circles my legs, kneading the air with alternate paws as he prances in joy at my arrival. (I get this same reception when I get up in the morning and when I get out of the shower.) When my son Daniel comes home, Bear waits to be picked up so he can lick my son's face and nuzzle his neck. After cat naps, Bear hops up onto my studio table, purring, meowing, head-butting, and reaching for me with one paw, reconnecting after his "time away." If I'm busy working and art supplies stand between me and him, Bear will sit at the edge of the table, moaning softly until I clear a path to my arms. He'll turn round and round and finally settle down, curled up against me, using my arm as a pillow. He'll sigh deeply and drift back to sleep, contented by my presence. This break in my artistic momentum used to annoy me but now I embrace it. There's nothing quite like a Bear sleeping in your arms.
Bear spends a lot of time up on my studio table. This can be very inconvenient as he takes up quite a bit of space. Fur and paint are never compatible. However, I've learned how to gently push him to one side so I have enough room to work. In nine years, I've never seen Bear not look angelic when sleeping and I've literally taken hundreds of photos of him sleeping. When he rolls onto his back, snoring softly, it is impossible to resist rubbing his substantial and sumptuous belly. Sometimes, I stop what I'm doing all together and lay my head on his chest, listening to his heart.
I could go on and on. (I've written about Marley Bear before so if you want more pics check out this post.) I feel a deep sense of connection with this creature. He just loves to be loved and I am happy to oblige. Lately, Bear has found his way into my sketchbook. His constant presence, amusing antics, and precious personality are an inspiration and I think that eventually, with some drawing practice, Bear will be starring in a children's book or two. For now, he's starring in my studio, demanding kisses and cuddles and snuggles and giving as good as he gets. How lucky am I!