It was a difficult morning for me. In fact it was only 9 am, and I had already cried pretty hard. Sobbed, really. I was dealing with some raw feelings of love and loss and the grief on this particular day was intense. I absolutely did not feel like wallowing in my emotions, and thought that joining my husband at our favorite yoga class would be the best way to try and find my emotional/spiritual center. I quickly grabbed my gear and climbed into my car. Just as I had accelerated to freeway speed, I had to slow down behind a colored sea of cars. Traffic was worse than ever. A drive that normally takes me ten minutes took over half an hour, and by the time I’d made my way to the yoga studio and parked my car, the class was nearly half over. I forced some deep breaths in the hopes I could keep it together, but it was all too much to handle. I burst into tears again. Now what do I do?
I am not a quitter. There had to be a way out of this miserable state of mind. Determined to get my day on track, I decided to spend some introspective time on the grounds outside my yoga center. The garden space is beautiful, and has spiritual significance for me. I brought my camera with me as I walked, took a few photographs of the moss and the statues, and sat quietly, hoping to find some sense of peace. And then I saw her.
She appeared out of nowhere like a beautiful untamed creature from the jungle. She didn’t seem real – sleek and bright with markings like some kind of wild cat with vivid blue eyes. I quickly photographed her from a distance knowing she might run away just as quickly as she had appeared. The click of my camera shutter gave way to my presence. Her bright eyes turned toward me and she immediately bounded to me, paws flitting across the ground in quick motions. She gave an inviting prrrrrow, and begged me to hold her and caress her; she desperately wanted my attention. I stroked her fur and scratched her chin and allowed her to pace back and forth with her full, lean body leaning against my knee, my arm, my hand. It was just what I needed in that moment to soothe my nerves. I let her linger at my side, feeling less alone and less concerned with the rest of my life.
Her desperation didn’t wane. She crawled up my shoulder and down my arm, digging her claws into my yoga pants, snagging the fabric and leaving me covered in fur and dander. My fingers felt the rise and fall of each rib as I pet her and I began to notice a few scars across her nose and tiny scabs on her back. Her ears were dirty and the layer of cat hair on my clothes was getting thick. She seemed hungry. My mind started to race.
She needs me // she came to me // look at her // she loves me // she doesn’t have anyone else // what if she belongs to someone // she doesn’t, she’s dirty // I can’t bring home a cat like this // she needs a vet // I can’t afford that right now // I don’t even believe in owning animals // but she came to me // she needs me // the kids will love her // this will be so special // I’ll wait until I talk to my husband // he’ll be here in ten minutes // I know he’ll love her too // oh my goodness I’m bringing home a cat // a beautiful, beautiful wild jungle cat like I’ve never seen before // this moment is magical // what a beautiful beginning
I envisioned the whole thing playing out: the crazy car ride home trying to keep her from being under foot while I drove, watching her hungrily scarf down the cat food I would buy for her, the trip to the vet to make sure she was healthy, my kids fawning over her when I brought her home, and over the coming weeks and months, the oohs and ahhs of friends and neighbors when they met her for the first time. I even thought about how she might turn out to be difficult, playing out scenarios of late night meowing and clawing, howling outside my bedroom door, messes on the carpet, territory wars with my other cat, my kids crying over scratches. But I could do this. I was ready. I was going to take it on as soon as my husband arrived and I could tell him all about her and convince him we could take her home.
We waited for my husband on a bench in the garden, just she and I. Just ten more minutes. Her desperate demeanor faded to calm and she nestled herself under my arm as a few raindrops started to fall. She put her paws on my leg again, purring, and her claws didn’t dig so hard. Good kitty. This is going to be so lovely, I just know it.
The rain fell harder, cold drops spilling on our bare bodies. I’ll keep you warm and dry, kitty. It was good to feel needed when my eyes were red from crying. I held her snugly as the drops grew fatter. I don’t mind a little rain, but this was a healthy spring rain shower, and we were getting uncomfortably wet. Just five more minutes. I tried to make us as comfortable as possible, careful not to shift around too much now that she’d settled in.
Suddenly, her ears perked up and for the first time, she seemed interested in something other than me. I looked up to see what it might be. Without warning, she wriggled out from under my arm, hopped down from the bench and crouched under a bush nearby. She sat for a moment, not moving. She just had to go to the bathroom. Good kitty. I waited for a moment, my eyes on her. She stood up and moved a few feet further away. I got nervous. I stood up and moved closer, calling to her. My heart beat a little faster.
Here kitty, kitty, kitty. Come here, kitty. She bounded toward me, looking me in the eye. She meowed, then turned and ran in the opposite direction. I called her again. Here kitty, kitty, kitty. She stopped and looked at me, meowed again, then disappeared quickly around a corner. Please don’t go. No, this isn’t happening. I walked briskly to the edge of the garden and looked in every direction, but couldn’t make out her spotted body anywhere. Here kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty.
I stayed for a few minutes, my hair saturated with rain. Birds were singing their morning songs. People started to emerge from the class I’d missed. The whir of wet tires on pavement rolled by. I stood there, waiting, hoping by some chance she would reappear, but knowing she wouldn’t. Did I do something to make her leave? Was it the rain? Maybe. Or maybe she’s just the kind of wild beautiful creature that can love and be loved, but not contained. I couldn’t know. She couldn’t tell me. She was just gone.
I slung my wet camera over my shoulder and walked slowly back to my car, alone.
This happened over a year ago.
It took me a full year to really process this story and what it meant for me. At the time I experienced it and wrote it, I was miserable. I had expectations from my life, and they weren’t being met. Beautiful things were happening, and I was clinging desperately to them while trying to appear relaxed. What I couldn’t see is that life is giving beautiful gifts to me in every moment. There is no need to grip, because when I do, I numb myself to the cascade of happiness that is pouring over me all the time.
When we get hung up on moments that have passed and try to wish them into staying longer, we set ourselves up for disappointment, because moments inevitably pass. When we try to write a script for our futures, we set ourselves up for devastation, because things inevitably play out differently than we expect. Living in anything but the present reality clouds our ability to be grateful for the beauty that is right in front of us.
Presence and gratitude are daily practices.
Thank you, wild and beautiful jungle cat, for coming to me and being with me in my moment of need. You taught me important lessons in loving without attachment, giving gratitude without holding on, and moving gracefully into each new moment with an open heart.