EDITOR’S NOTE: Writer Danielle Walczak, 24, contributed this piece about her battle with a neighborhood cat for control of her kale crop. She lived in Orono at the time, but has recently returned to Westport Island after an extended bike tour. She works for several food and agriculture organizations.

A lot of cats hang out in my neighborhood in Orono, each with a distinct personality but also an ability to permeate personal barriers. The other day the black-and-brown cat with a red collar from across the street jumped into my housemate’s open car window. I once had to run away from the gray cat, who tried to follow me inside. But it’s the tabby cat who is eating my kale.

Rosa Jay/Shutterstock.com

Rosa Jay/Shutterstock.com

This morning, he stared at me through my foggy kitchen window. Past decrepit spider webs and squashed-fly fingerprints, we locked eyes. His green, like the color of my kale currently being digested in his stomach.

I planted late in the season. In August, I spent a day ripping plants as tall as I am out of the ground just so I could give a few food-bearing ones a chance to produce by frost. I planted beets and a few potato eyes, which had grown their straggly arms out of the bag where I left them in my basement – reaching for the few remnants of sunlight that found their way in through the damp stone foundation. Lastly, I planted kale – a cool-weather crop durable enough to withstand at least a few cold mornings, if it matured.

But the cat began eating my kale.

There’s something about a small, domesticated animal decimating the crop a nibble at a time that seems to reflect the changing season. I can’t control the cat, and I can’t control the onset of winter. I’ll soon forfeit even my grasp of day and night and of the color palate of the tree line and the grass. More songs will make me sad, or nostalgic – most of the time I can’t tell which. My routines will take on a new rhythm: waking, checking for cat damage and new growth, watering, repeating. I practice it each morning, enough to become habit by snowfall.

In the morning my nose is cold, the butter is firmer and harder to spread. In fall, I grow tired of speaking in metaphors, but the added distancing of analogy is, illogically, the only way I get closer to anything, or anyone. As winter comes, I feel more guarded yet yearn for connection. The wind is fleeing the winter to dance in the trees – a wave. We can observe the seasons’ properties, but have no control over what will crash upon our deciduous shores. I want a quiet, slow morning to melt butter in my pan. Instead, I wonder what will kill my kale first, the cold or the cat.