I was not looking for a life lesson when I let my cat outside a few days ago. But Sodapop did not earn the nicknames Buddha-pop and Sodi-Wan-Kenobi by becoming a victim to his life experiences.
Sodapop is mostly an indoor cat with daggers for claws who loves his outdoor escapades. Now that we live in the country again, he asks politely to come with the dog and me to feed the horses. Some days he doesn’t ask and just darts out the door. He must suspect the answer would be no these days so he just makes a run for it.
The last time we lived in the country, he impressed my husband and I by swatting birds out of the air and dragging home a rabbit of equal mass by the jugular. Witnessing the circle of life makes me anxious because something must always die in order for the other to survive. My gentle heart knows this circle is necessary, but it doesn’t make the experience of witnessing something suffer and die any easier.
I’ve known that Sodapop, unlike his twin brother Two-bit, must express his animal nature. Don’t get me wrong, if a mouse were to cross Two-bit’s path, he would surely play with it, torture it and then bring the carcass to me as a gift. He just doesn’t have the drive of Soda to go looking for such things in the great outdoors.
This particular day I let Soda outside while I mixed horse feed in the basement. By the time the dog and I joined him outside, he was nowhere to be seen. Probably up a tree somewhere. Too bad I missed that, I thought. I love to watch him sprint across the yard, ears pinned, voraciousness in his eyes, as he focuses all his attention and energy on conquering that tree.
There were several “farm” cats milling about, but no Soda. I’ve been working on releasing my fears of letting him be a cat, so I had convinced myself not to worry about him interacting with these cats as he is way tougher than any of them.
Until Big Bad Tom showed up.
Across the wide forehead in the chiseled face of my beloved Arabian horse are a few white hairs hiding under his thick, black forelock. Autumn has bestowed Handsome with the beginnings of a multipurpose, fuzzy winter coat. With his nose buried in his feed bucket, he mischievously and cautiously looks about, eyes just above the rim of his worn, purple pail. He is cautious of the other herd members milling about, a constant source of competition for food. The mischievous glances are for me.
A while ago I shared my amazement, jealously really, at a spiritual sister’s ability to receive loud, clear responses to her prayers. She said simply, “I ask that Spirit speaks loud as I am largely deaf.” She is not deaf in the physical world, but apparently she is in the spiritual world. My only proof that this worked was her bewildering results. I thought I’d give it a whirl.
A few days ago I shared with Handsome my desire to hear him. I requested that he speak loudly as it is my wish to have a more intimate relationship with him. He fills his bucket with sighs that signal his understanding, echoing off the walls of his pail and floating up to my ears. The next day I am sitting on the ground with his bucket between my legs. Over the last month, he’s taken to flinging his food out of the pail, sending me into brief attacks of panic and defeat. There is medicine and other expensive supplements in there. “Please don’t waste it,” I find myself pleading with him.
Today he flings his food most determinedly and then puts his oily, intense eyeball inches from mine.
In the first breath I think, “you defiant shit!” And in the next breath I feel something shift. I soften as I return his gaze. We are frozen in time. Immemorial. Our souls embrace like long lost friends and I feel like we are transported to another space in time. I am in his world now, the spirit world. The place I’m meant to live while here on earth, a more connected universal plane where words are more of a distraction than a mode of communication. Sounds dreamy. And it is.
“Be here with me.” Is his message.
He is so right. My mind had wandered to what I was going to do when I got home, what I was going to right about in my next blog, what was for lunch. I was with him physically as he ate, but my mind was elsewhere. He had spoken loudly to me and I got it. Now I look forward to our eyeball-to-eyeball time, our soul-to-soul time. Handsome is an amazing teacher, intense and perfect.
My dog Dallas and I begin our daily morning trek up the snow-blessed hill with zest in our laurels and secrets in our ears. I am cocooned in three under-layers, Smartwool socks and Carhartt bibs and coat. Dallas only wears a coat of exquisite strawberry blonde hair with distinguishing gray around his eyes and muzzle. We follow a trail made by our equine friends – occasional hoof-shaped indents left in the snow to prove they trod here once. As we round the bend, I notice the horses are blinking curiously at us – having been warned by the movement of Dallas running amok with nose to ground.
In each hand is a bucket for my beloved ponies. They eagerly leave the comfort of their herd and meander my way. Lots of stroking, hugging and murmuring greet them. Their contented munching becomes meditative so I sit beside them on the angelic cover of ground. Dallas is a few yards off now – sitting – looking out at the world around us. He is sniffing the air – I wonder what he finds – friend or foe. He is vigilant to his surroundings as though danger may arrive if he were not. The horses are alert to the strange squealing in the woods – their ears and eyes swivel to assuage their instincts that it’s nothing life threatening.
In my serenity I am struck by the though that these creatures are sentinels of their own survival. They are students of their surroundings, making sure nothing of harm will come to them. If danger should ever arrive, he will be quite challenged by his greeting of fight or flight. And although I do not have the same concerns of survival as my animals, I certainly have the dangers of my own mind. It is necessary for my health and perhaps one day, my survival, that I become sentinel to my own thoughts and agreements.
How will I respond to danger? How will danger feel when I greet him? Will I even see him coming, disguised a million different ways? Am I gatekeeper of my own thoughts, experiences and reactions? Do I sit as Dallas does, with nose to the wind and catch my own scent of self-deprecation. Are my own thoughts friend or foe? Am I vigilant even in mundane tasks like my horses with an ear and eye to what may be lurking around in the forest of my mind?
I scratch my horses, pick up their empty buckets and walk with them to the water. I thank them for what they’ve shown me and walk back down the path with Dallas, pregnant with reflection. I thank Dallas for his wisdom too as he bounds on ahead of me. I find that there is room for improvement and I vow to treat myself kindly in order to make room for awareness. And as I come to the end of my trail, I snort and laugh out loud at the recollection of a bumper sticker, “Don’t Believe Everything You Think.”