Nicolas Poussin painted a famous picture in the 1630s entitled “Et in Arcadia Ego”, which may be translated as, “Even in Arcadia I am.” Arcadia, though a real place, has long been synonymous with the ideal of a pastoral paradise, a land with no industry, where people live in harmony with nature; in other words, a kind of utopia. The painting features several shepherds examining a tombstone, with the title words engraved upon it. The meaning most scholars have ascribed to the image is that of death being present even in the best of worlds.
Two years ago today, my friend Tungsten died. She had been with me for less than eight years, but we were together every day of that time and, except for one or two over-night stays in the veterinary hospital, every night, as well. I’ve described the orange one previously, and told of her character, and how it has affected me. I won’t repeat myself here; I’ll save that repetition for another time.
I may inveigh about how Tungsten was taken away with so many years yet to live, but in fact, in this world of uncertainty – which seems to be growing more uncertain every day – I prefer to be grateful for the relatively short period during which she was with me. The tiny terror – a nickname that her means of disciplining bigger cats earned her – could have been killed earlier by one of the many illnesses, conditions or tragedies that afflict our pets. Or, by any number of chances, she could have gone to someone else. But as it was, she came to me, and she and I shared half of her life.
I miss Tungsten every day. Even so, while people have for millennia realised the truth that even in Arcadia there is death, I like to remember that there is also life. And I am lucky to have been able to spend some of that with my friend.