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Old age. Why do we dread it? A common fear is ill health, which is probably why 95-year-old Olga Kotelko, the first in my Aging Well series, is so impressive. Another concern is loneliness. There will come a point when we lose friends and our closest companions.

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That’s why I’m now featuring Misao Ihara, whom I discovered in The Daily Life of a Grandma and Her Odd-Eyed Cat in Demilked, a design blog. Misao Ihara found this stray cat with mismatched eyes and called it Fukumaru, so that “the god of fuku (good fortune) would come and everything will be smoothed over like maru (circle).” Her granddaughter, a photographer, began taking pictures of her grandma’s friendship with her cat and their daily lives together.

Even if you’re not a cat person, as I am (that’s cat person, not cat lady), you’ve got to be moved by their bond. Obviously this woman had a husband and family, but now her companion is a cat–and what’s wrong with that? Maybe we must be openminded about our definitions of companionship and a good life.

grandmother-and-cat-miyoko-ihara-fukumaru-8Seeing this old woman’s rustic, outdoorsy lifestyle was somehow comforting. If we must grow old, isn’t this a beautiful way to do so? Farming the land, enjoying the outdoors, celebrating the seasons, eating fruit and drinking tea, sharing space with this companionable creature. Even through photographs, you can feel the dirt and sun and cotton fabric and cat fur. It feels natural and real.

I might be romanticizing things, but those who spend lots of time outdoors, with plants and animals, observing the seasons and cycles, seem to have a clearer understanding of life and death. Misao Ihara is simply living and going with the flow. And that’s not as easy as it sounds.

These photographs have been published in Misao the Big Mama and Fukumaru the Cat.

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