Fellow Felines, a long and perilous journey has ended in contentment! I am indeed in the lap of luxury, and having rested well, have taken upon myself the task of training my willing sponsors.
Life outside the orphanage is not the hardscrabble existence we believed it to be! On the contrary, it would seem that cat nip and kitty-kibbles are in endless abundance beyond the shelter gates! My sponsors are apt pupils, the dog doesn’t venture past the kitchen doorway (and is - dare I say? - as frightened of me as I of her) and the ceiling fan has not yet fallen. Although I keep a wary eye on it.
My demands have all been met, my expectations exceeded!
I have multiple sleeping places - couches, mattresses, and the indoor doggie house, tee-hee-hee - and my sponsors lay fuzzy blankets in each of these. They scoop my poo into a porcelain bowl each night, and my food dish is never allowed to go empty. I’ve successfully trained them to put ice cubes in my water dish!
This is quite the best home!
Never fear, though, dear friends, I have retained my dignity. The sponsors are allowed to pet me only on my terms. I have conveyed that they must sit in their desk chair in order to best reach me, and in that situation, they may pet me for as long as they please. In all other instances, the five-to-eight second rule applies – no longer! Periodically, the female sponsor makes so bold as to pick me up, but I’ve found that a smack on the cheek and a show of fangs is enough to deter her without causing resentment.
I will admit to the occasional lingering nightmare, of the sort you all remember me suffering with; I still retain a horrid fear of ceiling fans. Loud noises send me scurrying for the closest shelter and whistling is especially intimidating to my poor ears. My sponsors both carry horrific little boxes that occasionally emit the most piercing, shrill beeps (ie, fire department pagers) – they find this as frightening as I do, and scramble from the house immediately upon receiving the signal.
Perhaps when I find my courage, I can help them find theirs as well.
Rest assured, fellow felines, I have not forgotten your plight! I further your cause each day by being charming and delightful as much as is possible. My sponsors have room for many more of us! Ever yours, Giacomo Delight
Footnote: Dear Hoomans, should you ever feel called to the glorious vocation of pet adoption, please seek out a middle-aged to elderly shelter cat. Kittens can always find a home! Older kitties, not so much!
The sun melted like marmalade over the hill, early dark ushered in on crow’s wings, and she settled on the porch boards in the light of a jack-o-lantern who’d seen better days, with the new kitty perched at her side. Handsome, tuxedoed fellow sporting delicate, white toes – he murmured encouragement in a raspy purr, and she sipped a hot toddy before turning the cards on the Black Cat Deck.
“Ah, Kitty darling, your past.” Of course, of course, the bold, ever-impetuous Knight of Swords. “Unafraid, pugnacious, eager for challenge. This is a young kitty, a kitty who has not, in fact, seen the elephant. (And might spit at him if he did.) Here is a gypsy kitty, a traveler, a jack-of-all trades.”
Kitty blinked in the firelight, his eyes the color of sage, nose twitching at the distant scent of burning leaves, ears full of the owl’s hoot - reflecting upon his six autumns and marveling at his several remaining lives.
“The middle card is your present.” She stabbed with a finger. “See the artist kitty-cat? The Ace of Wands speaks to your creative side. Are you feeling inspired?”
Oh indeed! Inspiration had come in the form of midnight mouse hunts, basement exploration, the emptying of the bathroom cupboard. He’d created a nest of quilt batting beneath the boy’s bed and a launching pad from the girl’s windowsill. This, his latest home, was a simple place, but also marvelous. One might say magical.
“At last, Kitty Dear, your future.” She flipped the card and steepled her fingertips, leaning close in the candlelight. “Ah, how lovely, how auspicious! You’re well on your way to achieving mighty deeds. The Nine of Cups is the wish card! If you remembered to make a wish before we began, it’s sure to come true now.”
Kitties are more doers than wishers, but he had indeed considered . . . perhaps, he’d thought, a tin of sardines might go over well.
And so, he tolerated the kiss she planted atop his head and washed his whiskers rather more quickly than normal, leaving behind the moon and the burnt pumpkin scent with the aplomb of one who knows his escape route.
“The wish card has a powerful magic.” Inside, she set sardines on bone white china. “Sim sala bim! Here you are, Prince Kitty!”
He might, he reflected, keep this human
Seventy-nine steps, almost in the backyard. Leave your shoes at the bottom and, of an evening, you can climb from shade to sunshine, cool to warm, and feel it through the whole of you. God is mostly made of earth here – buckeyes and flower petals, prairie grass and leaves gone to tattered lace.
You don’t run those steps, do you?
At the top, a cemetery that won’t abide with sorrow. The bones here rest easy; they weep no more. Above them, a vault of sky, fading blue and smooth as porcelain. Here are massive oaks predating the ancestors of the longest dead, roots dug down to fiery core, bent arms outstretched, scooping sky.
I sprint, all the way to the top, fast as I can.
Not a spirit or a spook in sight. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, and a soul flies onward, into the glaze of sun. Not looking back, not peering down. Transforming, remaking itself from flesh and bone, he/she/black/white/straight/gay into layers and layers of light and love. Imagine.
It’s easy, actually, in this place.
You’ll turn an ankle, bruise a shin, roll to the bottom, fall down and break your crown.
Kids play here. It’s close to town, after all, and do they dishonor the dead with their laughter? The gargantuan trees are made for Hide-and-Seek, the buckeyes for tossing, the headstones for shivers and shrieks; it’s good to be so alive in a cemetery.
At the top, I fling myself down, breathless with the rush, and the earth is sun-warm beneath me, grass like flannel, sky like cotton and just me, rolled up in the in-between.
Dragon and Damsel Flies dart, sleek wings glistening in the long shadows, and the early fireflies begin a dance between the gravestones. A blink at Filbert Hodgepodge, and a flit past Eunice Whosit, catch-me-if-you-can.
I can. I can cup the light in my hands just to see the magic.
The old stones rear their heads against the pink and lemon light – arches and towers, capped like acorns, like turbans. Mossy, ancient, the names worn beyond legible. Carved hands, carved roses, fat cherubs and lambs resting over “Our Darling Babe”s. Nobody there, nobody home, and that is more comfort than sorrow. There’s no rest in the ground, and maybe there is no rest at all, because dead isn’t dead, not really, but a state of life more alive than ever before. Imagine being nowhere and everywhere, all and nothing and all made up of light.
Is that death?
Over here. Grandparents under heart-shaped stones, a lost little baby named for a flower, Joseph Henry who came here first, back when corn was planted in check rows and picked by hand. They’re not here but they’re not gone either and, like the precious blood and body, that is only possible if you believe it so.
Why if we believe, do we even call it death?
“Death” better fits a darkness of the soul, does it not? A twist, a grudge, a hatred-blackness-despair. But . . . not this. Not this light, this easy peace, this jubilant rush to God.
Seventy-nine steps, from evening to night, sunshine to stars. Back again, running.
Isn’t he magnificent?
Where I live, you don’t see many long-horn cattle. This herd lives along the road we take to get “to town” and I’ve played hell avoiding them for about ten months now.
There’s a story here, and it has more to do with elusion than livestock.
My dad loved cattle. No matter how many we had on the farm, they were more pets than hamburger, and Dad fell ill about the same time this magnificent herd moved in up the hill. We passed them on the way to the hospital on his last trip there, and I slowed so he could see them. Mind you, my father had farmed all his life; he’d seen cattle. That, and he was weak and sick. But he pretended delight because his child so needed him to, and I felt, that day, such a bruise spreading on my soul, I didn’t believe I could ever recover.
Here’s another one.
A girl I didn’t know at all once held my hand as she died. We’d rolled up on that car accident - as we do, in our shiny rig – to save the day, and we didn’t get it done. That’s all. These things happen in our line of work. But that girl had a tangle of glorious dark hair just like my daughter’s and she wanted to live, and I lied to her when I said, “We’ll get you out of here. You’ll be okay.”
Ah, another bruise; a fearsome, horrible one. I will tell you - sometimes that girl still appears from nowhere to whack me over the head with the certain knowledge of my own stifling limitations.
So much is said about PTSD these days! And without belittling that status, might I suggest that almost everyone you meet is carting around a load of soul trauma? And the tricky thing about that condition is, it’s quiet. The soul walks its path with God but no one else. And if you don’t have God, you walk it alone. But you don’t talk about it much.
No one can see the size of the bruise or gauge the level of pain. The causes are so many and so varied that you can’t begin to guess the method of injury. But this isn’t a nice neat fracture to be iced and elevated; often it’s a gaping wound. Invisible to the naked eye, but so painful the victim is in danger of . .
Of what? Despair. Darkness. The utter inability to see . . . a blue sky. To hear a favorite song, to smell a dandelion. To feel love.
Ah, is there a point to all this?
Only this –it would be so good if we could be gentle with each other always. If we could try to help each other back from that dark ledge. You don’t know what trauma the soul sitting next to you has suffered or is suffering now.
That, and this – remember, if you’re bleeding, how your soul gets to go on. Whether you want it to or not. Your heart can break for good; I do believe that. But this thing we call soul remembers where it came from.
And sometimes it can even bring little pieces of that other place here. Compassion, laughter. Love.
People, if we have each other we can all be all right.
Have a beautiful August! Walk in the sunshine a lot!
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