Sunday, September 23, 2012
This print by artist Carol Mothner (appropriately titled “Breakfast”) reminds me of the nature of cats and how that has been playing out in my life of late. Two years ago my husband and I were catless with no intention of bringing those angy cat moods into our lives. Afterall, we had the whole ‘dog by the hearth’ thing with our beloved Lab and felt no need to stir things up. But right before Christmas we found a tiny stray feline on our screened in porch curled up against the hunger and the cold. Of course I fed her and eventually she worked herself into our home; after a short while she was also in our hearts and there was no going back. I know you know what I mean.
This cat was a scrapper and a mouser and had a snaggle tooth that was always visible even when her mouth was closed. She weighed three pounds when she came to us and was almost seven years old according to the vet who noticed the teeth. During the two years we cared for her, she was an avid hunter and torture monster that stuffed headless chipmunks down the shower drain; she got stuck up a tree and my husband rescued her; she got locked in a neighbor’s garage for ten days until I finally found her back at three pounds; we would be working in the home office and see her walking on the roof line of our house; she jumped out of windows, in through windows, and as little as she was, she feared nothing. This crafty hunter walked by herself and surrendered nothing. No one could de-cat this cat nor would we ever consider trying.
One night she did not come home—but she had done this before. I found her two days later curled up in a ball in the rain on the porch of an empty house. She did not know me; I had to chase her in order to catch her and then I had to lock her in the house. She slept for days. We took her to the vet and they gave her antibiotics but it was no use; she succumbed to a feline virus similar to AIDS. Her past life would be indicative of such a fate.
Cats have a way of getting to us, of finding us where we live, and even though this cat never surrendered nor lived with us entirely, we were devastated. Our love for her was as fierce as her nature. She set the terms and we always agreed. Inveterately curious, she left no stone unturned. We can still hear her little cat feet at night and see her full moon eyes and secret smiles. Just ask Alice.
And so…as I reflect on the cat I am reminded of how she can show us the value of spontaneous, unpredictable play and how to hunt in the darker landscapes for the hidden parts of ourselves. Then, maybe, we can walk by ourselves, unapologetically, and carry out our true purpose in the world.