with one eye open
December 30, 2014 § Leave a comment
Hello! I am called by many names: Abigail, Abbey, Sweet Pea, Butter Bean, Doodlebug, Princess-of-Mine, My Sweet Angel, Little Healer, and it goes on. The latest is Snow Lion. I will tell you more about that name later. My preference is to be called Abbey, thank you, spelled as you see it here.
Okay, so you now know that I am Abbey. You also know the name I prefer to be called by, and even how I like to see it spelled. Yes, I am fussy, but only about certain things: my name, and that all the fur on my body lay in the right direction. Hence, I am clean and beautiful; but please dear reader, do not think me vain or pompous. I am feline. We are, most often, elegant and graceful. That is fact. Moreover, we are not aloof and wholly independent: but opposite. It is reported that one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century, Albert Einstein, said, “Music and cats offer the only escape from the miseries of life.” Winston Churchill adds the reason why in my opinion saying, “A cat is a riddle, inside an enigma, inside a delightful pelt of cuddliness.” Based on my shabby beginnings, I hardly think of myself as superior, or narcissistic.
Mom’s past Journals included brief, meaningful nods to me titled “The Book of Abbey.” I am my human Mom’s cat: her companion and guide as she is mine. We have been together for one year. I wish to share my insights and thoughts about my experiences these past twelve months; especially those of the past few weeks.
A Sad Beginning
In October 2013, I was abandoned on Route 9 W, tossed into a mud puddle near McDonalds, forced to eat greasy scraps of food, and all sorts of unsavory things too foul to mention here. I also had to fight for my life. I was dirty and severely scratched from these fights, mostly with others of my kind. I bear my feline fellows no ill will, for it was about survival. I myself do not like violence. After living with my Mom this past year, I have given great thought to my inherent nature: that of predator. Mom reads about non-violence, reverence of life, compassion and freedom from suffering for all beings and creatures. This is a conundrum for me in so many ways that I … Oh my, I want to tell you more, but Mom would not like this digression, nor my leaping ahead in my narrative. Not … At … All!
Okay, back to the back-story: A woman from a local animal shelter spotted me rummaging through garbage for food, recognizing that while I was not a lofty full-bred, for I am a Basic Model Tabby Cat 101, my demeanor was welcoming, inquisitive, and polite. This kind woman picked me up and I sunk into her arms. She begged the owner of the shelter to take me in. However, they were filled with kittens to adopt for the Holiday Season and had no more room. I was accepted, though, due to my sweet, loving nature. They fed me, cleaned me, and placed me in the front glass room with all the wonderful, cute, cuddly kittens. I feared I would not stand a chance for adoption given I was one year old: those sweet, beguiling balls of fluffy fur were too adorable for anyone to notice me.
December arrived and so did my human Mom-to-Be. She ventured into my shelter the very same day she had put down my soul sister, Lily, whom I never knew when she was alive. I know Lily now, for not only do her ashes remain in our apartment; her gentle spirit graces us too.
When Mom-to-Be walked into the glass room, I was sitting on a shelf, observing the kittens’ antics. At first, she looked at all the irresistible kitties: held, admired, and cooed at them as everyone else did before her. I was not jealous: just resigned. I sat still as a statue, trying for an aura of elegance and wisdom (something cute unworldly kittens don’t possess), when she spotted me and walked over to my shelf, which was level with her shoulders. I couldn’t help myself; I knew I wanted her. There was a blend of sadness and joy in her energy. I gently reached out with one paw and then the other, when she in turn reached for the rest of me and said “Oh my, you sweet child.” That was it. We sat for twenty minutes: Mom holding me to her chest, while I felt her fresh, raw grief through her warm heart. I nuzzled as far into her shoulder as I possibly could; presenting a resounding purr of gratitude that rivaled that of a large lioness. It was done. Someone picked ME, and she took me home.
Life With Mom
Wowee! Mom’s apartment has four good-sized windows with sills to sit, or lay upon. Each overlooks the woods with varying views. I like this one where our family Buddha resides on a table below the window. I sit there a lot if I’m not next to Mom on the windowsill to the right of her desk watching her work. I keep close tabs on her time working on the computer. When I sense she is weary, I pad across the desk to distract her. When she ignores this, I try padding across the keyboard. This usually does it. Well, it always does it. I do get a loud NO, but my strategy works every time: she leaves her desk with me in her arms.
The wild life outside of my windows is amazing, and alas, tantalizing too. I try, I truly do, to contain myself and meditate on the beauty of these beings rather than the consumption of them. This is one of my calmer moments-in-meditation.
Yet, I am not always calm. I am two years old this month and still have a goodly amount of kitten in me! I run away with my Mom’s glasses and hide them. I lie on my back and slide across the floor wiggling my hips. She loves this and I giggle, moving so fast she is unable to take a picture. If she doesn’t pay attention to my eating time, I will nuzzle up to her and then gently bite her ankles. Yikes! How bad am I? I also like to scoot and fly through the apartment, taking death-defying leaps to a chair, then a table, the bookcase, a windowsill or two, the Buddha bench, and then flop into reverie, or … torpor.
Mom’s a photographer, so she often ventures out early morning to do her work. In late November, Mom came back from one of her walks and said, “Abbey, I found a miracle. There was one white flower left in our neighbor’s garden. Look!” And, I did … after she uploaded it to her computer.
This year’s Thanksgiving, our first together, brought a winter wonderland snowstorm. Mom and I were inside all day watching the first large, juicy flakes of the season cover the ground, trees, and limbs. It was snowing such a beautiful snow, all fluff, making the world a magical storybook for that moment-in-time. Mom decided to put up the Christmas tree that day.
When it was all done, the most amazing vision was presented to me: a petite frisson. I sat for hours pawing at ‘colored beings’ just outside the window. No matter how much, or how gently I would pat, pat, pat, they remained still, not reacting to my presence. Nevertheless, it was a delightful exercise in mindfulness.
Okay. Forget the mindfulness. I was, shall we say, a bit slow about those ‘beings.’ It took me one day to realize that the colored beings outside were a reflection of our tree’s lights. However, I had a great time just patting away on the window. I eventually found a favorite resting place under the tree. I like this picture because I’m all blue! I think that’s really cool for a Basic Model Tabby Cat 101.
Months ago, I understood Mom’s rhythm: when she wakes there are things she will do before tending to me. Oh, make no assumptions: I do not go hungry. Mom rises before I care to, so it’s a mere half hour before I’m fed and she settles into reading with her hot mug of Scottish Breakfast tea. She always reads a book having to do with philosophy, religion, or Dickens … Ooh, I must digress and tell you that she read Dickens’s “Christmas Carol” aloud to me. How wonderful, wonderful that truly was … Marley’s ghost, the three Spirits, old Scrooge becoming human and humane … delicious characters with whimsical names, and those delectable Dickensian words. Oh my. What a treat! There are poems too that she reads especially for me; oft times a meaningful Buddhist or Celtic prayer.
One icy, cold morning, following the Thanksgiving snowstorm, darkness prevailed while Mom lit candles and incense. This is part of our morning ritual, and I have to say I love the warm glow, pungent Tibetan scent, and serenity of it all. We began our morning reading when Mom finally sat in her chair by the window, while I positioned myself on the windowsill. (I believe she was thumbing through “Evolution of the Word” by Marcus Borg. This is quite a tome and I am so totally grateful she is not reading it aloud.) In moments, there appeared on the horizon an unmistakable beginning of a mystical sunrise: a convergence of the sun’s first appearance; the pristine white blanketing the forest floor; black tree trunks and limbs with immovable white crystalline snow clinging to the entirety of the landscape. Sitting together watching the sun’s ascent, I experienced a peacefulness and quietude within: as if we were the only two beings in the world to witness this event. I knew in that grace-filled moment how blessed we are to be able to see these wonders of nature. Mom gently massaged my ears throughout.
Do you remember when I was expatiating about the myriad of names I’m called? And, that Snow Lion is one of them? There’s a reason, of course. Mom is reading “The Dalai Lama’s Cat,” by David Michie. Her name is Snow Lion. She too was a rescue in the streets of Delhi. She is a beautiful Himalayan, though slightly crippled in her hind legs. Snow Lions in Tibet are celestial animals, representing unconditional happiness. They are animals of great beauty, vibrancy, and delight.
I believe I am all those things to my Mom, but am thankful she no longer refers to me as her Snow Lion. Celestial? I’m not so certain about that. I am Abbey: Basic Model Tabby Cat 101, providing devotion, companionship, love, and great joy.
I want to share one of my favorite Celtic prayer-poems that Mom reads aloud. I hope that some day I will achieve humility and compassion enough to be a healing light in world:
“Open my senses to Wisdom’s inner promptings
that I may give voice to what I hear in my soul
and be changed for the healing of the world;
that I may listen for truth in every living soul
and be changed for the well-being of the world.”
~A Celtic Psalter, J. Philip Newell
I am content. I’m healthy. The bloody scratches and missing patches of fur when Mom first brought me home me are gone. They’ve been replaced with a plush, silky coat due to Mom’s good diet for me. I play; I laugh; I love. And now, dear readers, I have said enough.
It is time for my nap. Sort of.
Dear snoozing Abbey. It’s your Mom darling. You are my healing light. I give gratitude each day for your presence in my life and the well-being you’ve created for me. Sweet dreams my little Snow Lion (oops).
There are many notable books, including the Dalai Lama’s Cat cited earlier, where animals of all types and species have communicated to us: thoughts, fears, humor, sweet joys, and silent sorrows. There are several though that inspired Abbey and me to write this piece (for she sits on my desk even now up to this final moment), not the least of which was recently written by a dear friend and colleague, Stephen Fajen: The White Lash.
Watership Down, by Richard Adams
The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein
Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame
And, though the dogs in this particular book, do not speak per se, there is one, Almondine, whose thoughts are clearly and elegantly expressed: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, by David Wroblewski.
“Read, read, read. Read everything.” ~ William Faulkner
Wishing all of you a healthy, happy, peace-filled 2015!