Do you ever wake up, look up, and feel quite certain that the morning itself is giving you a funny look?
Do you ever think this might be the day when grace finally, terribly runs out for you?
Do you ever fear that there are apex predators in your pond?
Whoever you may be, a senator or a saint, New Jerseyan or Nigerian, pessimist or optimist or mist-shrouded beast of pure paradox (please email me if the latter), I know there are a few solid things that you and I have in common.
We are afraid at least once a day.
We are living things, ergo in need of more tenderness than we’d like to admit.
We wonder, sometimes, if the jig — the dance, the joy, the springtime of life itself — is up.
But we — you and me — are among the blessedest beasts who ever trembled. We’ve found Tabby’s Place. I’ve been reflecting on this for the better part of fourteen years, and I’m convinced that a huge honking part of why we’re drawn to this Place is the way it shouts down our own fears.
On the days when the day itself seems out to get us, we grasp for resilience in feline form. If an El Tigre can lose his family, lose his lunch repeatedly, lose his gourd and his cool and his pacifism (they do not call him El Tigre for nada), and lose everything that ever decorated his personal reality, only to live and lard about with ever-larger love (yea, “lard” here is verily a verb)…
…perhaps we can handle it when our supermarket stops carrying our favorite flavor of yogurt, or our spouse decides it’s time to quit accounting for acrobat school, or our best friend moves across the country.
In the bleak, howlingly personal hours when we’re up to our earlobes in our own awfulness, we reach for amazing grace and grasp hold of forgiven paws. Will grace and mercy ever run dry on us? Will we finally reach the last drop of tenderness, hold the smooth marble of the final Second Chance only to have it slip from our grip and shatter?
Or will we be as endlessly, luminously forgivable as Everest? The cat who came in from the cold, battered and ancient and muttering strange stories (he swears he was in the Winter War in Finland) should have had the decency to thank us, or to blink at us, or at the very least to forgive us for the indignity of saving and loving and nurturing him.
But, no. Everest has returned our sweetness with Scandinavia-sized scaredness, hunkering down not so much in hygge as in “youze guyze are heckin’ horrendous.” Everest hides. Everest inhabits the ceiling tube. Everest, even if you make the most tender angelic eye contact this side of heaven itself, will shimmy like an agonized wiggle-worm out of your gaze.
But not out of your heart.
Everest, so very needless to say, will never run out of time or tenderness or second billionth chances at Tabby’s Place.
And neither, astoundingly, will we. Grace is a geyser, not a bottle of Poland Spring, and especially not one of those wretched half-bottles with the lid too small to pry off, even if Everest would prefer to pry us off his planet.
But then there are the fears that are as engulfing as they are strange. I’m talking about the apex predators in your pond. The alligators in your bathtub. The lions on your lawn. The pandemics at your party.
Everyone’s scaries take a different shape (mine are a combination of vegan cheese and my own existential unloveableness, with guest appearances by Christopher Walken and Led Zeppelin), but we each have our own monsters of the week or year or lifetime. Into your very own safe space, into the nook you’ve carved in the world, come chomping beasts, and not the magical kind.
But, from far across the ocean, all the way from Oman to Ringoes, come a couple of predatory party boys on a mission to macerate all fear. Although they are cuter than fourteen rafts of ducklings dressed as Ewoks, led by a reformed alligator dressed as Baby Yoda, Mr. Thief and J’Happy are presently the apex predators of Tabby’s Place.
They torture Elliot (Elliot!!).
They lash into Lizzie.
They delight in being the biggest, bawdiest, baddest buffoons this side of a frat house, guffawing at each other and egging each other on and egging the houses of their more neighborly neighbors. Mr. Rogers would not exactly approve. (Won’t you be my apex predator?)
But…Mr. Rogers would not cease, not for one whisker of a second, to cherish them.
To accept them.
To love them onward into greater versions of their goofy, glorious selves.
And he would certainly not be afraid of them.
So let’s slap our scaries around a little bit today, kittens. We’re not going to put out all our fearfires today, but we have everything we need to fight them valiantly. We have Tabby’s Place. We have the example of our own unwavering love for the cats. We have the potent, unmashable proof that unconditional, even irrevocable affection exists. The safety we seek is no lie.
And once we get that into our hilarious human heads, we can get onto more important work: starting an all-banjo thrash band called Apex Predators In Your Pond.
Who’s with me?
Pictured top to bottom: Everest, El Tigre x dos, J’Happy, Mr. Thief, J’Happy, The Brothers BadBad