Tokens of ourselves

spotonchairI was deep in the middle of a dream early this morning when I sensed, vaguely, a familiar heaviness on the bed. Then, the sleep-obliterating voice of my black cat Spot.

“Me,” he said. “Ow.”

He had a point. It was past 7 a.m., and I would usually have been up for some time. But I had initially awakened before 4, and it took me awhile to get back to sleep.

The reverie interrupted by Spot’s arrival featured a childhood friend I have not seen in a quarter-century; the plot involved dropping leftover holiday turkey wrapped in cellophane on the lawn of a friend’s house as I approached in the dark, then eating the turkey anyway, grass and all. You know — one of those dreams that promise to reveal the meaning of life if you can only overcome your confusion.

But there was no getting back to it. Spot, an amiable guy who weighs 15 pounds if he weighs an ounce, settled himself comfortably on my chest.crushing

Now, it is a little-known fact that Puritans in colonial Salem did not, as previously thought, use a board and large rocks to press a confession from suspected witches, whose other option was to die of a crushed chest. Rather, they used very heavy black cats, which were, after, all, the witches’ familiars. (This method of execution because historically, Christians — who also brought us the Crusades and the Inquisition — have been much gentler and sensible in expressing their beliefs than Muslims. But, I digress.)

“Alright,” I told Spot, “I’m a witch. You win. Now get off.” And we headed downstairs, me for coffee and Spot — along with his voluminous sister, Puff — for a dollop of canned food.

These are my mornings, and the point of this post — heretofore, admittedly unclear — is to say thank you. Thank you to the animals who share our lives, our laps, our beds. Thank you for their patience, their good humor, their love. I find myself spending more and more time with them — my cats, and the chickens, too — and less with humans, and feeling lucky to have the opportunity.

I am an introvert, easily taxed by the clamor, cavilling and complexity of my own kind. This is especially so in love relationships, which among all human bonds are the most prone to start out as Dr. Jekyll and end up as Mr. Hyde. But all close human bonds are complicated, often needlessly so.

People are largely mysteries to themselves, and other people impossible to fathom. We are always bumping into each other’s unmet needs, entangling ourselves in relationships that accidentally — or, sometimes, intentionally — bruise the soft and secret places in ourselves and each other.  Often, we bring out the worst in each other. It’s tiring.

The cure? Apply a kitten.

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Well, that will work, but I meant directly to the leg.

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Or, keep company with a downy chick.

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Or, a puppy of any kind.

Almost any animal of any age will do, assuming it has not abided too long and too closely with us; spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle notes that dogs, in particular, can be infected by human neuroses.

But most animals, thankfully, retain all their lives the beauty and purity that was theirs from birth. Their needs are simple and transparent; they are incapable of subterfuge or malice. They neither dwell in the past nor worry over the future. They are fully who they are all the time, and that is immensely restful for humans who, in loving animals, often rediscover something to love in themselves.

“They show their relations to me and I accept them,” wrote the poet Walt Whitman. “They bring me tokens of myself.”

“Me,” Spot says. “Ow.”

Thank you, I say, to him and all the other animals who have blessed my life, year after year. Thank you.

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8 comments

  1. Thank you for your humourous and welcome toast to the loving animals we share our lives with, 5 rescued catz share my home and hearth.

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    1. That is wonderful! Very glad for you and them. Thank you for reading and commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I wish I could wrap my arms around your words and embrace them in a giant bear hug.
    Exactly what I needed to hear today. Exactly.

    “We are always bumping into each other’s unmet needs, entangling ourselves in relationships that accidentally — or, sometimes, intentionally — bruise the soft and secret places in ourselves and each other.”

    Sigh….beautifully written, and so so true.

    (So blessed to have 2 loving dogs and 1 super sassy spoiled cat (said cat in currently in my lap) to keep me grounded and grateful and semi-sane. Didn’t know that about dogs and neuroses and Tolle…makes sense though!)

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    1. Well, I feel bear-hugged. Thank you. I’m so glad this post met you where you needed to hear it; it’s so nice when we do that for each other just by speaking openly from our own hearts. And, I’m very glad to know you, too, are surrounded by animal love. Happy New Year to you and them, Christy!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Did you ever get to do your half-marathon, Cate? I took some time off from the blogs, so I apologize I missed the end of your race training. I hope the injuries held off?

        Liked by 1 person

    2. The half marathon went shockingly well, Christy.:) Awfully nice of you to remember and inquire. Here’s the post that served as my race report:

      https://zenofhen.wordpress.com/2015/09/08/grace-gratitude-and-ibuprofen/

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  3. Is the black and white cat Hemmingway? … Puff has always been a bit of a billboard, even as a kitten.

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    1. Yes, that was my handsome polydactyl boy, Hemmie. Good call.

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