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“Slowly, the grin disappeared, until nothing was left but the cat. This is nearly as scary as the other way around.” — From Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” 

Disney's version of the Cheshire Cat

Travels With Maggie

Early last night I was riding in the car with my granddaughter, Jennifer, and her best friend, Ellen. I had spent the afternoon with the two of them at their home in Temple, Texas, and they were driving me back to my RV in Harker Heights.

 As I looked up at the night sky, I saw the glowing grin of a Cheshire cat. Jennifer and Ellen saw it too. And if you were looking up at the sky last night you probably also saw it. But only if your imagination allowed a glowing sliver of crescent moon to morph into the smile of Lewis Caroll’s fictional cat. Its smile followed us during the entire 30-minute journey.

How John Tenniel envisioned the Cheshire Cat

 Later, as I’m apt to do when I’ve seen something interesting in my travels, I did a bit of research to learn more. My mind, however, was not on phases of the moon but on the cat.

The grin I remembered was a Disney creation. I thought it captured, in a Pollyannish way, the mischievousness of Carroll’s disappearing cat. I saw that the original cat, as envisioned by John Tenniel in the 1860 “Alice in Wonderland” publication, had a more wicked appearance.

Good old Wikipedia said one of Carrol’s inspirations for the cat might have been a smiling gargoyle pillar in St. Nicolas Church in Cranleigh. Looking at a photo of the gargoyle, I saw the resemblance.

St. Nicolas Church gargoyle that might have been Lewis Carroll's inspiration for the Cheshire cat

My research then took me to Cranleigh, about which I knew nothing. I discovered it was a large village in England and that St. Nicolas Church with the gargoyle head is still there, as is a crane-adorned fountain built in 1874.

 Imagination and arm-chair travel: What a great way to spend an evening, When I finally turned out the lights and curled up next to my dog, Maggie, I took one last look out the vent above my bed to see that the moon was still wearing its Cheshire cat grin.

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