|Christmas Eve wading in freezing water at Hemlock Trail|
The stray calico is serenely cleaning herself on my potting bench. She is the same size as the largest pot, a black plastic number from Wal-Mart that I bought to replant the money tree. That’s something to write down on the to-do list that I’ve been meaning to start. I call the cat Baby Girl, or Calico, and in my myth-mind she has some of that calico cat from Sun Valley in her sometimes. We sit together on the back porch and watch the birds. Sometimes she makes a halfhearted attempt to catch one, but I can tell someone is feeding her well, and her hunter heart is not hungry enough. Her contentment soothes me, even though I know we’ve been lucky with the weather so far. It’s as if she isn’t at all afraid of the biting cold that is sure to come. I know that it might kill her if she doesn’t find adequate shelter. She doesn’t seem to worry about it. Maybe she thinks I will let her inside.
Now the little Jaguar has come into the yard. I think he might belong to someone I know. The calico ignores him, and he finds no birds, so he leaves. Just like that, he is here, and then he is not. A cat in my neighbor’s house cries mournfully at the window I cannot see. There are cats everywhere. At least one of the three inside will be waiting by the back door when I enter the kitchen in search of coffee. I will watch my step because I heard one of them bark up some nastiness earlier, probably Jack who can’t stop gnawing on my ponytail palm. That poor plant has survived all manner of indignities including being used as a scratching post and being abandoned on a dry corner of the porch one summer. It is ragged and spare, but it was my father’s plant, and it means something to me that it has managed to survive in the chaos of my life. I can’t take credit for keeping it alive, like so many things in the world that I love; sometimes it just disappears from my view as the tunnel vision of depression closes in.
Kai cries at the refrigerator, stretching her porcelain forepaws up against the door, a furry yogi for one moment. She spends a lot of time sitting on me, balanced across my crossed legs or perched on my shoulder. She is the smallest cat I have ever lived in a house with, and her weight is almost nothing. I go to sleep at night, after the usual round of cat shenanigans, with her tiny head resting in the hollow of my clavicles, her body aligned with my sternum. I read somewhere that cats purr on a frequency conductive to healing. I don’t know if cats are aware of this power within them, although from the behavior of MY cats I would guess they are. Even Fred, the bakery cat, jumps up on my lap and purrs for me sometimes. They might eat me if I died and they were hungry, but right now they are trying to heal me with their purrs.
So there are many cats in my life, and also many birds. The birds are different though, because I can’t tell one nuthatch from another. They come and go and I watch their antics and if I can stop reading or looking at Facebook for a minute they become a spellbinding labyrinth of peace and beauty. Nature, or God if you will, has made these creatures and I have the honor of beholding them. These moments of bird-watching nirvana are fleeting of course, when the squeaking of a neighborhood chihuahuaua shatters the silence and then I realize my hands are cold and my cigarette has gone out and my lower back aches because of the way I was sitting so I could watch the downy woodpecker up in that tree.
I’ve been knitting and listening to a book called Real Happiness by Sharon Salzberg. It is a meditation primer, a 28 day course in finding your breath. Of course I do not stop my knitting to sit in the lotus position and close my eyes, but I do try to follow my breath while my hands continue doing their own thing. So far I am into week two of the program, and she’s introducing the concept of Mindfulness. Week one was pretty much about releasing judgment, and just acknowledging your thoughts and feelings without labeling them as good or bad. It has been a helpful reminder to me as I struggle with the SAD. The scarves grow off the needles, one row at a time, and I see with persistence I make progress.
The strange weather that rolled through last night knocked a piece of my house loose, and it banged against the siding all night. I got up about 4am to identify the noise, peered out the bathroom window up toward the eaves, sighed heavily, and determined that there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it. Eventually the wind died and the banging ceased and sleep came back. I woke up warm in my bed, with hot running water and a flushing toilet, happy that the only thing wrong with the house at this moment was a two inch wide piece of dangling aluminum.