11/26/2012 (Jen’s bday) – Minneapolis, MN
Hello my beloved readers, all two of you 🙂
Boy, do I have a story for you today! (You can skip the preface by scrolling down to Fall 2006)
Preface – Last I wrote I said that I would be following my heart in all things and see where it took me. I was true to my words. From Bellingham, I left for Livingston, Montana, and house-sat for my friend Jim for a week and half. That week and a half was a journey in itself. I simultaneously experienced the equivalent of a childhood summer vacation (sleep late, watch movies, read books, take baths, walk around … nothing to do but what I wanted to do at any moment – wonderful!) and a fast-track spiritual mind-expansion (this happened last time I house-sat for Jim as well. I think his house is built on a special energetic vortex). But this isn’t the story I am writing today. From there, I drove to Minneapolis, via Rapids city, the Badlands, and back to Rapids city because I had forgotten my pillow there. When I got to Jen’s house, the Arthur Ave house in which I lived when I was writing my Master’s thesis two winters ago, I decided to stop and stay. It’s a good house, with great people, and I feel good in it.
There is, however, a man I love. After being gone all year (India, then the PCT) and having not spoken to him in 7 months, we fell back in each other’s lives. So, here was the situation as of this morning: I could go to Bellingham and be with him, I could go to India and find some assistant work with my Yoga teacher from the teacher training I did earlier this year, I could go to Thailand for an advanced Yoga teacher training, I could go back to school and study energetics, I could become a barista in Bozeman and have a fun winter of ice climbing in a new place, I could stay in Minnesota, I could write a book, I could … There are times in your life when the future is so wide open that the only thing you can do is nothing. You can only sit on the shore of a sea of options in a state of trust that the most propitious current will make itself known, eventually. That’s what I did. My only job here was to keep an open mind, an open heart and watch for opening doors, knowing that any introspective time is followed by a time of action, and that I prefer to wait until I know in which direction to leap. But that was not counting the odd option out, that option I just could not have imagined in a million years. That is the story I am telling you today.
Fall 2006 – I was on a hike to Fragrance Lake with my friend Mike when a little black and white feral kitten came out of nowhere and straight to me. He sat at my feet, looked up and meowed. I am not typically a pet-person, so I don’t know why he came to me, but he was insistent and assertive. When I picked him up, he started to purr very loudly, so I took him home. Smaug was a good addition to our home. Chuck took care of all his basic needs, food, etc., and I tormented him as a sibling-cat would. I always admired him; he was fearless, loving and independent. He could hunt his own food, chase a full grown raccoon three times his size, catch a bird in flight 7 feet off the ground in one paw swipe, and find the most inopportune time to lay on me, my computer or my book . As soon as he was grown enough, he ruled the neighborhood. He obviously lived with us by choice, not because he needed anything from us.
Summer 2007 – One day, Smaug left. He was gone all summer and we figured he finally had met his match in a raccoon or other large animal. He never seemed to have much concept of his own small size; it was entirely conceivable that he had taken on more than he could chew to his demise. Summer passed. Fall started. One night Chuck said, “You know, he’s been gone three months, I just don’t think he’s coming back. I’ll take the cat door down” . That same night, some wild meowing happened at the back door. Smaug had returned. He looked like Skeletor, but he had a lot of energy. He came into the house, followed us around and meowed fervently for several hours. He had always been a quiet cat so this was unusual behavior for him. We figured he had many stories to share, “… then there was the time under the bridge … then there was the time with the raccoon … then there was the time …”
Winter 2009 – Chuck and I decided that it was best if we parted ways. Since he was moving to a house and had a job and I was about to embark on what has since been a nomadic life, roaming half-aimlessly and intermittently living in my truck, it made more sense for Chuck to have Smaug. I didn’t want the responsibility. Chuck and Smaug moved to Seattle. I visited once, but Smaug only gave me the cold shoulder and pretended he didn’t know me (Chuck though was very nice). Then Chuck and Smaug moved to Longmont, Colorado (which involved having the cat sedated because he hated being in a cage in a car). Wherever they went, Smaug adapted well, caught prey, brought them home, terrorized the neighborhood, and napped and purred on Chuck’s lap. Then, one summer day, two years ago, Smaug left again. He had left once before, so Chuck didn’t worry. It seems summer infuses that cat with an extra need for roaming, to which we both can relate. Months passed, then years passed. Eventually, Chuck got a new job in Seattle and moved back west, but without a cat.
Summer to fall 2012 – I talked about Smaug a lot on the trail, a lot more than would be normal, I think, for a person to talk about a cat that she didn’t keep when she had the choice and who was likely dead at the fangs of some Coloradan predator. I wished a cat would find me on the trail as Smaug had. After the trail, I drove my friend Threshold to Breitenbush hot springs and stayed with one of her friends who worked there. In the house was a Smaug-cat. His name was Mr. Pickles; he looked just like Smaug. He was fierce, outdoorsy and liked to lay on my chest when I was trying to read exactly in the same way Smaug did. That made me sad. I started to cry a little bit and Mr. Pickles gently extended his paw with claws retracted and petted me on the cheek. He understood. Unfortunately, Mr. Pickles’ owner was very fond of him and wouldn’t let me take him away, though I asked. I started thinking that if I stayed in the US (instead of going to India or Thailand), I’d get a cat. Really though, I didn’t want ‘a’ cat, I wanted MY cat.
Today – This morning, I was walking along the Mississippi River trying NOT to ponder the many decisions cropping up in my mind – do I stay here? do I drive to Bellingham? If yes, when? etc. -. I said “Universe, I just need a sign. Show me what I need to do next. Oh, and clearly too, because you know I don’t get subtle messages. Thank you.” Not sooner had I uttered this little request that my phone rang. “Hi, this is the Longmont Animal Shelter. We have your cat …” I called Chuck. “You know why I’m calling you?”, “Yes, That Damn Cat showed up (we used to affectionately call him TDC – That Damn Cat – so he wouldn’t know we were talking about him) after being gone for two years!” I told Chuck I’d take him. Chuck said he would too, but that he couldn’t go get him because of his work in Seattle. I, however, am just roaming anyway. So, that’s what I’m doing … I’m driving to Colorado tomorrow (Jen’s birthday is tonight and I want to stay for that), getting my cat from the Longmont Animal Shelter and visiting with CO friends, then driving back to Bellingham where I will likely stay put for a while because in addition to a loved one, I now have a cat.
So, that’s the story of the amazing returning cat. The Animal Shelter people said he looks dirty but healthy and that our story just made their year so that they will try to cut the retrieval and mandatory vaccine fees to a minimum to help us out. They also said that he seems “grumpy about being in a cage” (big surprise) but that his ears perk up when they call him Smaug. Oh, and they sent me a photo:
Ha ha! He does look grumpy.
I leave Minneapolis tomorrow, after having breakfast with my best trail-friend LB (Last on the bus). I’ll be in Colorado in two days. And … Leap!
The Roaming Bobcat.