Departed to the judgment, A mighty afternoon; Great clouds like ushers leaning, Creation looking on.
The flesh surrendered, cancelled The bodiless begun; Two worlds, like audiences, disperse And leave the soul alone.
-Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)
Bantha was an impressive example of felinity. Those who knew him well (especially in his later years) will vouch for his honorable character and his surprising canniness, but a reflection on Bantha really has to begin with his resplendent physical attributes. At its most basic, his was a white coat with patches of tabby gray and brown, lined with some black streaks. But that prosaic description conveys very little of Bantha's majesty. His fastidious grooming habits maintained a remarkably crisp white pelage (except for a conspicuously neglected area of about one square inch just below his chin). His fur was thick and fluffy and as soft as any that I've encountered on a shorthair cat. At times I joked with Bantha about the unreasonable amount of earthly resources that he exhausted in the preservation of his luxurious coat. His model was unsustainable. If the Animal Kingdom enforced any sumptuary laws Bantha would have been a multiple felon. Invariably (and I mean this literally now), he was the most dapper, gentlemanly fellow in the house.
Bantha had big green marbled eyes that could project a peculiarly humanoid quality. If you managed to catch him between naps those eyes shone brightly, alertly, perceptively. He could lock you into a stare from across the room. If this occurred while he sat with a puffed chest beside his empty food bowl, the meaning was clear. But he and I participated in many staring sessions that were less apparent, more elusive.
There were a few other physical characteristics that defined Bantha. He had long white whiskers (not unlike a sea otter), a patch of brown on his nose, a ringtail like a lemur, and razor sharp claws that could allow a cheerful visit to your lap to end in bloodshed if you found yourself inadequately attired. Bantha was a good-sized cat, a few pounds over the ideal weight.
To Mrs Reynolds' Cat
Cat! who hast pass'd thy grand climacteric,
How many mice and rats hast in thy days
Destroy'd? How many tit bits stolen? Gaze
With those bright languid segments green, and prick
Those velvet ears - but pr'ythee do not stick
Thy latent talons in me - and upraise
Thy gentle mew - and tell me all thy frays,
Of fish and mice, and rats and tender chick.
Nay, look not down, nor lick thy dainty wrists -
For all thy wheezy asthma - and for all
Thy tail's tip is nick'd off - and though the fists
Of many a maid have given thee many a maul,
Still is that fur as soft, as when the lists
In youth thou enter'dest on glass bottled wall.
-John Keats (1795-1821)
My first encounter with Bantha occurred in the barn where he was born. He was one face in a row of kittens staring down from a hayloft. We presumed him to be a female when my sister selected him for adoption when he was about three months old. The name "Bantha" was applied before we realized that he was a little boy kitty, but in contrast to his long-time companion The Little Cat, Bantha's name was immutable and enduring, impervious to conditions such as gender.
Bantha was something of a loner as a young cat. Many people considered him to be unfriendly. But I always felt like I had a grasp on Bantha's personality and in my judgment he simply understood the sacred value of solitude. He could be quite distrusting of strangers, but even that characteristic could be traced back to an incident from his kittenhood when he was briefly abducted by an overzealous lessor. As his years advanced Bantha became more comfortable in the company of people. He became a pretty gregarious cat. When we lived together at the chalet he would greet me at the door when I returned home, rolling around on his back as I rubbed his tummy.
from First of All
. . .This is a dangerous moment
that can plunge you into silence
for a million years
Fortunately the sound of clarinets
from a wandering klezmer
drifts into the kitchen
Allow it to distract you
from your cheerless meditation
The refrigerator will go into
and the cat will climb onto the
For no reason at all
you will begin to cry
Then your tears will dry up
and you will ache for a companion
I will be that companion
At first nothing will happen to us
and later on
it will happen to us again
-Leonard Cohen (b. 1934)
Most of Bantha's time on earth was spent in the serenity of slumber. Even among cats, his laziness was remarkable. It was not uncommon for Bantha to pass an entire day unmoved in one cozy spot. In colder weather he curled up into a big fur ball and covered his eyes and nose with a paw. When it was hot he sprawled himself out in such a way that he could crowd you out of a bed.
Bantha was a very picky eater. Eventually I was able to assist him in cultivating a consistent fondness for the taste of Fancy Feast dry food. He had an interesting practice of sometimes covering his uneaten food, like a leopard on the savannah.
Throughout his life, and literally unto his dying moment, Bantha enjoyed being cradled like a baby. If you had to move him from one location to another, the cradle was the preferred position, and Bantha looked quite charming from that angle. He purred loudly and exuberantly. Just a day before his death the vet commented that his purring caused difficulty in hearing his heart rate. He was a strong, robust cat, but illness and injury weren't unfamiliar to Bantha. He dealt with worms, pneumonia, asthma, a very dangerous infection, and finally lymphoma. He did it all with a quiet stoicism.
in the cicada's song
that it will soon be gone.
-Matsuo Basho (1644-1694)
Please sign the guestbook for Bantha by clicking here