Who is Chuck and why does he like to travel?

I was born to be a writer and when I wrote my novel Wild Point Island, Chuck, my orange and white recently rescued feral tabby, got it in his head that he wanted to travel to the island and see the place for himself. Well, of course, Wild Point Island, can only be seen by revenants (you'll have to read the book to find out who they are) and Chuck is no revenant so instead, I concocted a plan to take Chuck with me when I travel around the world, which I do frequently. Not an easy task. First, I have to deflate the poor kid of all air, stuff him in my carry-on bag, remember to bring my portable pump, and when I arrive, I pump him back up. Ouch. But he's used to it by now and given the choice to either stay home in his comfy cat bed or get deflated, he pulls out his passport, ready to travel, every time.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Chuck-the Reluctant Tai Chi Learner


Here's my Chuck, controlling himself at the food bowl, waiting for his sister Ella to finish.

Okay, a minute later, he couldn't wait any longer and began to eat.  You can see his purple collar in this shot.

             For those of you who follow my blog, you may have--over the past few months--formed a certain impression about Chuck.
The hero.  The rascal.  The cat about town.  World traveler.
Snack lover.
What you perhaps didn’t know and I was reluctant to share is that Chuck is a confirmed overeater.  Put a bowl of snacks in front of him, and he won’t stop eating until the bowl is 100% licked clean.  
The Chuckster just loves to eat.  Here he is, face in the bowl, chomping away.

My vet, Dr. Charlie, says that his overeating problem is linked to his insecurities.  Like people, he eats to feel in control of his environment.  He is struggling to control his anxieties.  My Chuck even wears a calming collar--it happens to be purple--which he’s not to keen about--which helps keep his anxieties at bay.
Which leads me to what happened when Chuck and I and my husband were traveling through China, in Xian, to be exact, and we had an opportunity to learn Tai Chi.
Now, I’m sure that some people believe that cats don’t need to learn Tai Chi.  They don’t need the benefits of this ancient Chinese martial art.  
But I disagree . . . given Chuck’s history. 
Yeah, my Chuckster is a world traveler, but his dirty little secret was that he was gaining weight at an alarming rate and we needed to do something to get his anxieties under control.

The Chuckster comes up for a breather . . . but before he's finished, the food will be gone.

What does a cat have to be anxious about?
It’s difficult to say.  Chuckie doesn’t talk much about his issues.  I mean he doesn’t meow much.  
So while we were cruising around China, visiting the sites, we decided to join a Tai Chi class. 
Of course, it was my idea, and my first challenge was to get Chuck to go along with it.  To become a willing participant.
My plan was to bring him along and explain the benefits on the way, casual like.  So one morning we set off.  Luckily, the class was offered outside on a public square.  The other fortunate event was that in present day China, there is no longer a ban on cats, like there was eight years ago, when the country was in such bad economic downturn, that the population was not allowed to have cats or dogs as pets.  Nowadays, families can have unlimited cats and one dog per household.   
Anyway, as we strolled toward the class, I told Chuck that Tai Chi offered two separate benefits.  First, there were health benefits. Tai Chi relaxes the mind through the slow, slow, slow movements.  When someone learns how to do Tai Chi, they must concentrate on the physical movements.  This concentration forces you to take your mind off other things.  It is a kind of meditation.  You can’t think about your other problems and concentrate on Tai Chi at the same time.
I’d even brought some statistics with me.  
“Chuck, in twenty-one of thirty-three trials, they reported that Tai Chi done from one hour in duration to one year brought about reduction in stress, anxiety, and depression and enhanced the mood in patients who were both well to begin and in patients who suffered chronic conditions.”
Chuck shrugged because he didn’t think he had a problem.
“Chuck, Tai Chi might even have some effect on corisol production which means it might even affect your heart rate.  All good things, Chuck.”
Now here, I have to confess that I know Chuck worries a lot about Ella, his twin sister.  He is always keeping an eye out for her.  
But again Chuck didn’t acknowledge that there even was a problem.
The second benefit, the one that has made this ancient martial art so popular, is that Tai Chi also teaches one how to defend themselves, but I could tell as I began to talk about using leverage as a way to react to force that Chuck was just not interested.  AT ALL.
We arrived at the appointed place.  
We introduced ourselves to the instructor, who was getting ready to start.  

Our Tai Chi instructor dressed in the usual free flowing relaxed outfit.

Tai Chi for cats?
At this point, it sounded ridiculous, even to me, but even so it would have been nice if only once, the Chuckster wasn’t so obstinate and had just tried it!
“All right,” I conceded. “You win.  This time.”
I’d already contracted for the class.  
Bob, my husband, pointed to the group of people already assembled.  “You may as well get up there and get your money’s worth.”
I marched up the front and took my place, still seething, still mumbling under my breath about Chuck and how things never seemed to work out.  
Chuck eyed me from the sidelines, nestled in and comfortable.  
But as I imitated the instructor’s movements and lost myself in the experience, my bad mood dissipated and by the end of the session, I felt calmer.  

I'm in the yellow T-shirt and jeans, trying my best--my first time ever with Tai Chi.

As you can see from the photo, the movements are very fluid and controlled, very slow.

Here I am, watching and taking a breather as the instructor demonstrates how to move.

Legs are wide apart for stability.

As we practiced our Tai Chi, a crowd gathered to watch . . .

“That was great,” I pronounced when it was over.  “So glad I tried it.  So glad I took a chance.”

Chuck meowed his answer.  
“Yeah, yeah, not for you.  I get it.”  
        To read more of Chuck's adventures, log onto www.katelutter.com.  

        Or if you're a reader, or even a reluctant reader, my paranormal romance, Wild Point Island, has just been published.  It is available as a paperback or it can be downloaded on your kindle or nook at Amazon.com or Barnesandnoble.com. 

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