Saturday, November 18, 2023

Nine Lives

When I was a girl, my parents took me to the Disney movie, Thomasina. It's the story of a girl and her cat, but it's also a movie about death and rebirth, magic and mystery. And faith. When Thomasina dies, she arrives at an ancient palace filled with hundreds of Siamese cats. From there, she ascends the steps upward until she comes upon the ancient cat goddess, Bastet--the golden cat-headed woman. She's the fierce protector of the crops (she does catch mice, after all.) But, she’s also the goddess of pleasure, pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood. In the movie, her voice is melodious, feminine and reassuring. Gently, she sends Thomasina back to earth for another go-round.

Our handsome tuxedo kitty, Monsieur Mustache died on Monday. It's been a sad week here on La Belle Farm, but Dr. Thompson and I are moving through the days, doing our best. It helps that we still have our orange tabby, Mister Pickles, Monsieur Mustache's brother. So we have a feline companionship. And that is no small thing.

I've had many cats (or should I say, they've had me). A cross-eyed Siamese named Gato was my first cat. He was my confidant, keeper of secrets and constant companion for twenty-one years. Along the way, there were kittens who died too soon, a beautiful Siamese that my mother found at a shelter who died of distemper. There was Nemo, an all-black cat with just one tiny patch of white under her delicate chin. There were the last remaining cats that belonged to my mother--three of them--who had come to her door for food and never went away. Papa Callan faithfully took care of them long after her death. He didn’t like cats, but a promise is a promise.

My daughter and I adopted two orange tabby brothers--Brownie and Sugar. 

And now, all of these cats have climbed the stairs in the palace, past the Siamese guardian of the gates and up to meet their golden goddess. I like to think that the goddess has granted them all another life among the humans.

Monsieur Mustache is special because he was my first Tuxedo cat, and I fell hard for him. I had never had a Tuxedo cat companion before. However, there's a consignment shop in my little town where the lady keeps her Tuxedo kitty, named Stella. I always scratched Stella under the neck when I visited the store and over time I grew quite fond of her. And so, on the day Kassie at our vet's office called me to say, we have a Tuxedo kitty up for adoption--Mister Pickles brother, I said yes.

I immediately fell in love with this kitty with the big yellow eyes and I brought him home to Mister Pickles and said "Look, here's your brother!" Mister Pickles took all this in stride, and more than this, he declared himself alpha cat, the one who's in charge, because he had been at our little farm house for two whole weeks and already knew all the ropes. He showed Monsieur Mustache around the place--here's where the humans hide the food and the treats, here's a good place to scratch and sharpen your claws. Here's how you can annoy them so they'll wake up and feed you. Here's how you get them to let you outside. Here’s how you get them to let you inside.

There were days when Dr. Thompson and I felt overwhelmed by this dynamic duo. But in time, a routine developed. They spent most of their days outside catching mice, eating grasshoppers, peeing in the flower garden (I never said these two fellas were perfect.) And in the evening, they came inside and raced to their food bowls.

Monsieur Mustache taught me about generosity. He often let Mister Pickles nudge him out of the way in order to finish his brother’s dinner. He taught me about dignity in the face of disaster. When the end was near and he had trouble walking, he never so much as let out a meow of complaint. He looked at me with trust and love and faith. 

Where does a cat's faith come from? Perhaps it's from the golden goddess of cats. Perhaps it's from knowing they are granted nine lives. Or perhaps it's just their nature. I don't know. But what I do know is this--the cats in my life have taught me how to live fully, how to truly love in the midst of not knowing what the future will bring. How to be present to the endless mystery of life, and how to gracefully accept death.

Creative Friends--have faith. Love fully and completely. Live in this moment. And when the moment is right, I wish you the courage to let go.



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