Sunday, July 31, 2016

Weathering Life's Storms

I’m too old for this crap. I’m too old for all the heartbreak, the death and destruction. I’m tired of witnessing pain, and fear, and I’m not just talking about the world stage. I’m also talking about the stage that goes on right outside my window in the natural world.

One of my landlady’s cats got out. She has two housecats and a dog, and during all of this construction going on in the house, with workmen coming and going, and doors being left open, each and every one of them has gotten out. The dog, the one I dog-sit for when they go away, is easy to lure back with food and baby talk. Ebony, the very large male cat, seems to be able to fend for himself in the big, bad world and eventually comes back on his own terms. However, Abbey, the female, never goes outside. She is big, like her brother, but a bit of a sissy. She is terrified of the dog and masks her fears by hissing at people and things she dislikes. She has never been one of my fans, always hissing when I attempted to befriend her, and I suspect it is the smell of my own two female cats that prompts that (as opposed to Ebony who treats me like I’m the nicest human he ever met). In any case, Abbey got out the other day and we could not find her. She is not worldly like her brother and we were fearful that she would either wander out into the road or become a victim to the gang of barn cats that use our yard like it was their own.

Finally, on Friday, I found her in the small garage next to my front door which had been left open by the workmen. She cowered and hissed, but at least we knew she was okay and out of the rain that had moved in. I went in and brought out food and water, and kept an eye on her, talking and cooing. She stayed out there all day Friday and Saturday. It was impossible to go in after her because there were piles of lumber and power tools and too many nooks she could crawl into. Finally, this morning, after a storm that knocked out power and poured down rain, I saw her laying right outside my writing window as if she were waiting for me. When I went out, she was all loving and rubbing her face on my shoe. Speaking softly to her all the time I scooped her up before she knew what hit her and took her inside to her pet parents. She is in dire need of a bath and was pretty spooked by the whole ordeal, but otherwise she has survived.

When I went back out to clean up the dishes I’d left there for her with food and water, not wanting the barn cats to think this was their second home, I spied something dark and fuzzy in the food dish. My heart just broke. It was Vincent, the little grey vole who lived in my garden and to whom I said hello every morning as he scurried from one side of the yard to the other after breakfast, and then back again at dinner time just like a guy going to work and then coming home after a long day of doing whatever it is that voles do. I could not believe that Abbey, an indoor cat all of her life, would even know what to do with such an animal, let alone to kill it and then put it in her food dish! I picked up the dish and went out into the garden, in the rain, and dug out a little place underneath one of the huge hosta plants that I had seen him come out of and go into each day.

So I saved one animal friend but lost another one. Like the day I found a robin’s nest laying on the ground with five little eggs crushed, and the tiny baby birds still inside who had never had a chance, I raged at the Universe. No, it’s not Dallas, or Orlando, or Newtown. It’s not Nice, or Syria. It’s just part of country life. Well, I hope I never get so thick skinned that I treat life and death cheaply and without feeling, shrugging it off as if that's just the way life is. I hope I will always get angry, because when I get angry, I get going.  I speak out on issues that are important to me and for those that have no voice to speak for themselves. I sign petitions, give what I can, do what I can, from where I am and with what I have. I hope I never get so hardened by despair that I turn my back on it and hide inside with the doors locked when the storms of life lash out. I hope I will always go out in the rain and give my friends, even the smallest and seemingly insignificant among us, the love and respect they deserve as living, breathing, sentient beings on this planet.

Upstairs I know that Abbey is now safe and I celebrate her life. Outside my window, under the umbrellas of the hosta plant in the rain, I celebrate little Vincent’s life, too, and all the animals and children of the world that need a champion. May I always be up to the challenge.

And so it is.