Here comes the holiday season, the time when we all feel a little festive and a little fragile.
The truth is, we are more and less fragile than we think.
But when music is mortar and cats are skylights, we are more earthquake-proof than we fear.
Tabby’s Place is situated in a kind of sweet spot, a geographical smudge that the skies forgot. Sure, we get our share of irritating ice storms and the occasional bomb cyclone, but by and large, we escape the epic disasters of our coastal kinfolk.
Perhaps this is God’s consolation prize for plunking us in a squiggle-shaped state populated entirely with underdogs, our lives set to the tune of songs about wanting to escape to New York or Newfoundland or a new life somewhere with legitimate bagels.
But in the company of cats, particularly the cabaret of cats in our keeping, every day is a newfound melody. And every verse will humble and hearten us at the same time, if we’ll let it.
As a sanctuary for “cats from hopeless situations,” and all the more now that we’ve built a sidecar for the most vulnerable and valiant of all, we “should” remember that every beloved is breakable. But most of the time, we’re so blinkered and besotted that we cheerfully forget. Most days, the earth beneath our feet is solid.
Most days, Honey‘s old age guffaws at itself.
Most days, Durin‘s disease keeps quiet.
Most days, Boom blasts the speakers so loud, we can’t hear the drone of his (many) diagnoses.
Most days, the most we have to manage is an inconvenience or an inelegance or an infuriation too small to register on the Richter scale. We forget our umbrella; we forget to pick up the Fig Newtons at ShopRite; we forget that everyone we love is made of the finest silk, which tears easily.
And then the tune and the tide turn, and we remember. My dear Lord, do we remember.
The earth opens. The dinosaur of death grows flesh, a fossil gone ferocious, snatching our sweethearts. We remember that we are not the boss. We remember why The Boss sang primarily about lust, God, death, and, yes, getting the heck out of New Jersey.
Epic disasters descend upon the sweet spot. We see empty seats at the Thanksgiving table.
Everything feels ephemeral. The weather wrests the song from our hands. The music box that soothed us to sleep now shrieks: “everything can be stolen, and nothing is safe.”
We are more fragile than we think.
And this is exactly the time to remember that we are less fragile than we think.
Cats, silken sprites composed primarily of stars and song (with small percentages of carbon, tuna, and narcissism), are technically more fragile than we are. The strongest among them survive for two score and a little more; their kidneys are crinkle balls that quit before they’re old enough to vote; they are earthquaked easily, treehouses in the gale.
But their love is a bunker.
Antin will not cut and run if you’re too distracted to hug him today.
Miriel — that miracle of grace behind an FeLV+ face — will not resent declaring you her Very Best Friend if you run late or run through the motions or run past her on your way to something far less important.
Shaggy will not vault you out of his heart’s pocket if you make a mean joke or buy the wrong squeeze-chicken or drop every single one of your index cards on the floor while addressing the United Nations General Assembly.
(HA HA HA HA HA I MADE A FUNNY. There is no “wrong” squeeze-chicken. And, administering aforementioned aqueous poultry directly into the mouths of dignitaries might avert some unnatural disasters at the United Nations General Assembly. But, I digress.)
Love is stronger than death, so you’d better believe it’s stronger than our ability to irritate and infuriate each other. (This is very good news around the Thanksgiving table.)
Here’s the mystery and the melody: we’re breakable. Disaster can pluck any one of us, any day of any year.
But if we’re vulnerable and valiant and loud enough in our love, neither death nor life nor dinosaurs nor disco muzak nor our own screw-ups can pluck us out of each other’s hands.
Our bodies are balloons in the hurricane.
The love between us is the unblinking eye that will see us through.
The cats will live and die and love us until we remember all of the above.
We underestimate how close we all walk to the veil, even when we feel it brush our whiskers.
We overestimate how close we come to pushing each other away.
We underestimate how closely we’re connected, how steely the sinews that bind us in a big bodacious body of love.
We forget our bodies are fragile; we forget that our bonds are not.
And then, the cats fling open all the skylights and remind us of absolutely everything that matters.
Hug your loves tight tonight, kittens. The bonds you share are sturdier than you fear, even as the bodies you inhabit are autumn leaves. We are fragile and safe all at once, but be of good cheer: the house of love will stand after the last storm.
Today, more than ever, every living creature at Tabby’s Place is grateful you’re here, under the roof of mercy with us.
Happy Thanksgiving, kittens.
Pictured top to bottom: Miriel x2, Jeannie, Durin, Boom, Antin, Miriel, Shaggy.