Much will be asked of you today.
Sweep the Cheerios from the kitchen floor.
Click all the pictures of stoplights.
Deliver meat nuggets to a cat who thinks he is Caligula.
The good news about the fourth item is that you are already doing it.
I know this, because I know who you are. You are the Tabby’s Place family, the morning glories on the lawn of the world. You are already excited about tomorrow’s cereal when you get in bed. You remember the dawn when others curse the night.
You remember the cats who have no regrets about being “forgettable.”
Everyone remembers the Caligulas and Weird Als, imperious and flamboyant. People in baseball caps reading I Am Not A Cat Person will smile in spite of themselves at Hips and Alex and Olive.
They will not remember Magda. They will not have noticed her in the first place. They will have spotted her yellow light and hit the gas.
But you stopped. And stopping your own story is the first part of remembering someone else.
Magda, you will remember, is a cat who did not choose Tabby’s Place. She is a pint of cookies and cream who will never melt for our kisses. She is caution and dignity, bravery with boundaries.
We cannot carry Magda in our arms like a loaf of sourdough, and we cannot get her to sign a contract with “sweetness.” She will not let us dress her as a unicorn or Wonder Woman later this month, although she is both. (Hips will beg us to dress him as a jalapeno and Weird Al, since he is both.)
We cannot compel Magda to sweep herself into expectations, to tidy her timidity for an adopter. We cannot fault fast-moving people for forgetting the feral cat who chooses her own sunshine.
We can remember her, right there in the solarium, alive as the electric and the eccentric.
We are mad for Magda at Tabby’s Place, melty for a cat we can’t touch. She stretches in the sun and wafts potent peace in our direction. She is gladness in black and white, and her eyes are completely kind. They widen when we walk in. We are her friends, her protectors, her respecters.
She is glad we are here, because we have convinced her we are thrilled she is here.
Some might think Magda would welcome our forgetting. She suffers inflammatory introversion, and our faces cause her condition to flare. Just slide the meat nuggets through the door and be gone.
But unlike you, they have not been paying attention. Magda notices our noticing. Magda’s eyes widen with warmth. Magda sees herself seen. Magda sees that it is all very good.
The French mystic Simone Weil said that “Attention, taken to its highest degree, is the same thing as prayer.” Magda lives in a sanctuary with its own sacraments. Magda is the unspoken “amen” to unconditional love.
Magda remembers that we remember her.
And if ever we forget how much it matters, we must remember to take a walk down the hall.
Do you remember Polly?
Do you remember Beirut’s eyeless sibyl, the seer who seemed stitched-shut? The busy people have forgotten. The bristly people have tried to forget. They tell me her face is disturbing, her anxiety unsettling. They say they can’t not see her startling face, even when they close their eyes. I would like to tell them that this is their heart pounding on their senses from the inside out.
But I don’t need to tell you to remember Polly. She is embroidered behind your gaze, her long legs circling your memories. The blind cat was never “the blind cat” to you. You paid attention to the ponderous stranger with ten thousand senses. You paid notice to the cat who repaid kindness with caution.
Love yields dizzy dividends.
Polly climbed the ladder of our attention. She saw angels bustling in both directions. She saw the sun in the orange window boxes, and she saw the silly wisdom of a sanctuary for unwanted cats, and she saw herself onto a stage where cats play and cavort and cackle at the janky word “hopeless.”
Polly, cat most serious, cat most careful, frolics and rejoices.
Polly rises with excitement every morning, because Polly is remembered.
If you’re a Tabby’s Place cat, you can be anything you want to be: unicorn or jalapeno, introvert or explosion. But shy though you may, you cannot be forgotten.
Much will be asked of you.