I do not know if the Garden State has an official gem.**
I do know, however, that it has a hidden treasure, the jewel of New Jersey: the rare striped Ruby.
We kick things off by kicking it old school with our homeboy J.R.R. Tolkien and his hobbitses. This oft-quoted Lord of the Rings passage went through me like electric current the first time I read it, and it never fails to reassure me and jolt me into high gear all at once:
All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
Meet our deep-earth gem, Ruby.
For nearly two decades, Roobs had been a barn cat (felis barnus). Through the years, her coat got rough, her left eye got bad, and her future got dismal. When the barn’s keepers decided to pick up stakes, they were poised to have Ruby euthanized.
Ruby would not be the stock image of a “highly adoptable cat.” She would, however, be the heroine of Tolkien’s poem. Let’s review:
Not visibly glittering: check.
Old, strong: check check.
Deep: deeeeeeeeeeeep, James-Earl-Jones-voiced check.
Make no mistake; the frost has attempted to plunge deep down this winter. The fall of Tashi left us all trembling like saplings in the wake of a shattered sequoia. The (literal) cold has at times felt like more of a death grip than a “snap.” Ruby was at very real risk of a very real death.
If the polar vortex hadn’t come back to bite us in the tuckus, we’d be sitting in cold darkness on the heels of an ice storm rather than the marshmallowy snow that sugared us this week.
If Ruby hadn’t had that cascade of qualities — extreme oldness! one-eyedness! sad-facedness! about-to-be-euthanizedness! — her story mightn’t have found its way to Tabby’s Place (not quite our tagline: “the place you call when things are so desperate people think you’re just making stuff up”).
And if Ruby had been “highly adoptable,” we wouldn’t get to love her to bits in our lobby.
Which brings us to the second part of that poem:
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.
Ruby’s renewal is as sure as the renewal of all things. May the light spring sure and strong on you this weekend, kittens. Keep awake for the gold and gems that strew your path just beneath the surface.
*We are not talking about the game. Nor are we talking about its wicked cousin, Candy Crush, and its vindictive shouts of “Tasty!” and “Delicious!” and — for heaven’s sakes — “DIVINE!” when it knows we’re disaster-bound. Seriously. Spare us your pity.
**OK, yes I do, because these are the days of miracles and wonder Wikipedia, and I can’t help myself. New Jersey’s official state mineral is Prehnite, and it looks like a diseased gourd.