It was a western facing window in the afternoon. You can tell that by the sunflowers turning their faces toward the sun just as little Ellf was. Mac, on the other hand, was staring drowsily at the photographer, me. The two found comfort in the warm sun and in the closeness of each other. That was all they needed.
Perhaps we look too hard for happiness. Content lies often in those things the closest to our heart. Warmth, companionship, flowers, and…kittens!
It’s good to be just plain happy; it’s a little better to know that you’re happy; but to understand that you’re happy and to know why and how…to be happy in the being and the knowing, well that is beyond happiness, that is bliss. ~Henry Miller~
Each day comes bearing its own gifts.
Untie the ribbons.
~Ruth Ann Schabacker
Because my weekdays are filled with to-do lists and have-to’s, I cultivate a sense of slowing down on the weekends. The walks I take are longer. The pauses to talk to my cats are more frequent. I smell the air like a wild animal, not sure what the day will bring. It is a time of coming alive again, of thinking different thoughts, of letting my mind roam where it will.
In a way, I become a different person, a weekend person, looking for balloons flying high in the sky, listening for children’s laughter, and anticipating the smell of good coffee as I enter a cafe.
We all have the ability to look closer: when we do, our world becomes a richer place.
I am reminded that there is both joy and sorrow in Mother’s Day. Joy, for the present family connections. Sorrow and regret for mothers who are no longer with us.
But it also occurs to me that the primary attributes that we celebrate in mothers: care taking, love, empathy for others, are present in all of us, whether we arewomen or men, biological mothers or not.
For example, we are mothering when we take care of, and love the tools of our trade. I am reminded of my father, a carpenter and gardener, whose day in the shop or in the field wasn’t complete until all tools were cleaned of mud and grit, polished, and put back where they belonged. That way, he was able to lay a hand on them instantly the next time they were needed. His favorite phrase was, “Take care of the things that take care of you.” He was right!
We take care of and love, other living beings. It goes without saying that I spoil both of my fur babies rotten. They are talked to, coddled, and given the best places to sleep in the bed and on the couch. I, in turn, rearrange myself in the left-over space around them.
But care and attention also extends to the cats next door. One is a gray puss with big eyes, an outside cat with human-parents who sometimes leave for days at a time for work in another town. She’s learned that there’s a fresh water dish and food at my house, at the ready for her in a sheltered area. Her buddy, an orange Tom with a chewed ear, has found a home-away-from-home with two little girls across the street.
We love and take care of both our own children, and others. Watch what happens when a small child gets lost and separated from parents in a large store. Some adult will step up and make sure the child is delivered to the front of the store where a loud-speaker announcement soon ensues, to locate the frantic parents.
We love and take care of total strangers. Once when I was rear-ended on a busy street, I was helped from the car by the guy that hit me! And then strangers were dialing immediately for EMTs. Three burly guys pushed my car out of the traffic lane. We do these things, instinctively.
Where we fall down, sometimes, is closer to home. I am of the opinion that we don’t love and take care of ourselves enough. Sometimes I forget it is a partnership and not a dictatorship from the neck downward.
When I am mindful, I eat what my microbiome needs for nutrition and energy. I exercise, even when I don’t “feel” like it, so that my body gets the stretching and movement that it needs.
But often, when I flub up on a risk that I’ve taken or a venture that’s gone sour, instead of being compassionate with my humanness, I berate and judge myself in the worst possible derogatory terms. I am merciless with my scorn and derision for the failure.
I wonder, why I do this to myself?
Why can’t we be as mothering to ourselves as we are to others?
It’s something I’m working on, especially this very special of days, Mother’s Day.
I started the walk before dawn, collecting clouds as I went. Wispy ones darted in and out of the red rock formations; others nestled in puddles after midnight rains. The pine needles had felted into heavy mats that softened the ground beneath my feet. They created soft nests for windfalls of storm-blown pine cones.
The prickly pear cactus were loaded with buds of gray-green fruit that would swell to magenta chalices in the fall, luring families of javelina to gorge on the ripe fruit. I might walk down the road then and see scatterings of red seedy scat.
The Pyracantha were loaded with caper-sized green berries that would turn red later in the year, a bonanza for urbanized deer who would jump five-foot fences to gorge on the orange-red berries.
In the pre-dawn hush, the birds weren’t feeding, just quietly murmuring in the trees like a group of dorm buddies waiting for breakfast. The flies would wait until full sun, but the mosquitoes were active. A red welt swelled on my wrist and I picked up the pace.
As the sun burned the morning air gold, a male cardinal swooped from a shaggy-bark juniper, its feathers a carmine red. In the scrub oak, a nearby rival acted serenely unimpressed.
Overhead, a phainopepla’s black-and-white wingtips flashed semaphore signals as it landed, bending the top needle-branch of a pinion pine.
The dog walkers hadn’t arrived yet, but one skinny marathon runner adjusted a knee brace and jogged painfully down the hill. I waved to early morning construction crews who were setting up for the day’s work. A scruffy bicyclist wearing a military green scrub cap, old T-shirt and cargo pants puffed heavily as he made the hill top. He gave me a grin of co-conspirators, out in these early hours.
I shared the morning with the animals. A calico cat jumped from a stone wall for a scritch behind one ear. A gray Kaibab squirrel gleaned sunflower seeds from the feeder almost too high above its reach. A cottontail rabbit elongated its hops into leaps as I grew closer.
I didn’t have to own anything to be a part of that glorious morning, and yet I felt immensely wealthy.
The whole world spread before me, free for the taking, when I slowed down and paid attention to the gifts the day offered.
When I was little girl in South Dakota, I would coming running home after school to see the kittens.
My mother forbade us to touch them until their eyes opened, about ten days after birth. That ten days seemed to last forever! Finally eyelids would open to eyes of the deepest blue, and tiny kittens would sprawl about the birthing box. I was entranced.
My mother was a stay-at-home mom, always looking for ways to gather in more income to supplement my father’s modest salary. One year she determined that the best way to do this was to breed Siamese cats. The two kittens she picked were elegant, but before we could see what the resulting litters might bring, my father was transferred overseas, where my pets were not cats, but rather three partridges that we kept in the back yard in Tehran, Iran. And that’s the subject of another story.
But when I was first married, my young husband and I actually did breed Siamese cats. We were starving college students at the time with no extra money. To feed our cats, we made trips to the local meat packing plant for “offal,” specifically kidneys that we ground and cooked with corn meal. This concoction we fed to our rapidly burgeoning family of felines.
At one point we had four simultaneous litters of kittens, their respective moms and one magnificent stud cat wandering about our small two-bedroom house. And then the landlady we were renting from discovered our small business venture and told us we had to leave–immediately! We sold the kittens, gave away most of the moms, and kept one or two when we packed the U-Haul and moved to different digs.
Leaf retreats to his coffee table bunker when he feels insecure
At this stage in my life, I am down to two cats.
One, Foxy (above), is a diminutive brown tabby who has been my inseparable companion for the past nine years. She is, in fact, sleeping next to me as I write this post.
The other, Leaf, is a dark gray-and-white mega-male, some three times larger than Foxy, and seven years younger. I acquired him about a year ago, when a good friend became ill and could no longer care for him.
They are ill-matched in terms of size and age. And both are used to being only cats. I was concerned when Leaf entered the family, but they have developed an elaborate system of cat etiquette.
Leaf gets to eat first, and Foxy watches. Foxy sleeps with me at night, close by my ear, while Leaf sleeps at the foot of the bed. When I lay down for an afternoon nap, the prime position of nap companion goes to Leaf. He watches in fact, and jumps up on the couch before I do. But if Foxy should happen to wander by, he immediately gets down and relinquishes his spot to the brown fur ball who cuddles close. Each has their own nest basket on my writing desk, and neither invades the other’s.
They don’t like each other, but they seem to tolerate each other’s company. I think one would be lonely without the other, like an old married couple that fights all the time but would be desolate living alone.
How did they figure out this arrangement? I wish I knew. But it seems to work for them.
What about you? Are you a cat person or a dog person?
What richness enters your life because they are there?