Though I've had a lot of cats over the course of my lifetime, I was never really all that fond of cats -- until I met Alex.
Alex was really a dog in a cat suit -- embarrassingly affectionate and deeply loyal, he was the personification -- or felinification? -- of unconditional love. He would drop everything and run to me if I called his name, stretching his paws up my legs and begging to be picked up, then wrapping those paws around my neck and licking my cheek or chin.
Whenever I sat down for any length of time, Alex would curl on my lap, butting his head into the crook of my elbow or nuzzling the hollow beneath my chin and relentlessly kneading with his sharp claws, demanding all the while that I keep stroking his ridiculously soft fur.
So when, last May, it was discovered that he had a salivary tumor, we were devastated. Sometimes they can grow really fast, we were told; his breathing passages might be cut off in a matter of weeks. So we canceled trips we had planned and began living each day as if it might be his last.
His cheek began to swell, and the hard knot beside his chin grew larger and harder, stretching across his throat, and still his life and mood seemed unchanged: he still went for walks with us and the dog every night, spent hours out in the dune grass stalking and catching the birds and rodents who dared to venture onto our property, and curled happily into my arms whenever I sat down, loudly purring his appreciation for our time together.
They told us he would probably be gone by Christmas, but when 2015 arrived he was still going strong. He became a bit of a picky eater, but was otherwise still very much himself until two days ago, when suddenly everything just... stopped. He curled up on the heated floor in our back room and didn't move -- didn't eat, or drink, or hunt for his cat box -- and so we knew the time had come. We let him sleep with us that night, knowing he was too weak to be the disruptive presence that had gotten him kicked out of bed in the first place, and in the morning we took him in for his last vet visit.
It wasn't our first pet euthanasia -- by now we knew the drill. But it doesn't make it any easier to say goodbye. I know the grief will pass with time, and know there will be other cats to love. But still, today, right here, right now, the ache of love, for what was lost, still overshadows the gratitude I feel for all the joy he brought into our lives. Farewell, my dear, dear friend -- and thanks so much for all the love you shared.
Photography both distracts me
and keeps me centered.
Putting away last night's dishes,
I see this plume of light
rising above the houses
across the lagoon
and rush to grab my camera.
Settling into my meditation chair,
I see the container ship,
still gleaming beneath the pink-striped sky,
and reach again for my camera.
sliding down into my heart space,
I find this poem waiting there,
and interrupt my hard-won peace
to massage it.
And which of these is right, I ask?
Which of these is right?
some voice replies:
Which of these is right?
They handed me these wings they'd built,
and, buoyed with all the confidence of faith,
I soon began to soar, intoxicated by
the grace of flight, the scented air,
the unfathomable lightness
of being borne upon the wind...
But I mistook the sun for you --
its height, the light, the glitter of its robes
the daily rising, its singleness and power --
and soaring ever closer, felt the wax
that held it all together melt away,
and realized I couldn't stand the heat.
Those self-constructed feathers
weren't enough to keep me lifted close
to what I'd always thought -- and been told -- was you,
and so I fell, thinking I'd fall too far
to ever find the Oneness that I'd dreamed,
and fallen find
I've landed in your arms.
Our furnace broke down Thursday, and the part
we need won't arrive til Monday afternoon.
Though we have no hot water,
we have a space heater, an oven door we can open, and a propane
fireplace, and the temperature beneath the gray sky outside is only 45,
so there's a lot to be grateful for.
But it helps, somehow, to dream of
warmer times and places, where there's color, heat, and sun...