This winter has been short on sunshine.
Have you noticed?
There have been so many cloudy days in recent weeks that when the sun comes out it's an event.
Just ask Miss Kitty, the resident feline and sunshine connoisseur at the Sullivan household.
Saturday, for example, was a day much like cat heaven.
I'm making a big assumption about that, because (a) I'm not a cat and (b) I have never been to heaven, cat or otherwise.
Judging by Miss Kitty's behavior Saturday, I'm guessing cat heaven is a swell place.
The way our house is situated, the morning sun is trapped by the L-shape of the exterior walls on two sides of our patio. As sunshine heats the sidewalk from the family-room door to the garage door, Miss Kitty transforms. Ordinarily, her cold-weather existence consists of eating, drinking and sleeping on a sheep's wool pad warmed by an electric pet heater. With a little sunshine, she adopts the antics of a playful kitten -- a rather large kitten, if you get my drift.
This past Saturday, Miss Kitty, who shuns all cat toys including those laced with catnip, was warmed enough by the welcome sunshine to find her favorite toy in the narrow strip of a flower bed that runs under the family-room windows: a clod of dirt.
I'm not making that up.
Miss Kitty, on a good day, will entertain herself for hours -- or until a bird flies over or a neighbor's cat approaches the driveway or a car passes by -- with a piece of dirt about the size of a golf ball.
Anyone who walked up to our patio on such a good day would look at Miss Kitty, pushing a ball of dirt and chasing it, and shake his head in pity that the poor cat lives with such miserable owners that they won't even buy a cheap red rubber bouncing ball.
Don't let Miss Kitty pull your strings.
She is perhaps the most pampered -- or, as a friend used to say, "accommodated" -- house cat in existence.
Another peculiarity we've discovered about Miss Kitty is her water-drinking habits. She has a bowl of fresh water right next to her food, but she prefers one of the low birdbaths out in the patch of ivy behind the patio hedge. She precariously balances on one edge of the birdbath, dips a paw into the water and then licks the water off her paw.
Who taught her to do that? Was she raised by raccoons?
I do not know the answers to those questions, of course.
On Saturday morning, when the sun topped the wild hedge behind the house and pushed the patio temperature to balmy levels, it just so happened that a shaft of brilliant sunlight went through the window of the garage door, framing Miss Kitty's food dish and water dish in front of the workbench.
For a while, the sun created a perfect spotlight on a scene that could only involve one Miss Kitty, feline extraordinaire, who sat just so to take full advantage of the sunshine while daintily dipping her paw into the water dish and licking it.
Over and over and over.
I am here to report that I've never seen Miss Kitty happier. The only thing that even comes close is when one of us picks her up while she is petted by both of us at the same time. And in recent days a third set of hands, one of our visiting sons, has kicked up her purr several more notches.
If, as some believe, heaven is what we make of our existence here on Earth, then Miss Kitty is our guide and seer.
Maybe you have one of her disciples at your house?
R. Joe Sullivan is the editor of the Southeast Missourian.