Intakes are good: Cats. Breath. One another’s faces and voices and real, physical presences and essences.
But in times like these, intakes can take us by surprise and take command of our trembling hearts.
“Intake” is, in a sense, the soul of all we do at Tabby’s Place. In the 3,000-page, tiny-font Tabbilexicon that lives somewhere in the Ringoes Library, intake is defined thusly:
noun: Standard welcoming procedure for new arrivals at Tabby’s Place, including much hugging, much kissing, occasional hissing, and running a teeny tiny toothbrush through fur for signs of ringworm, among many other indignities. “We intaked three cats this morning.”
Intake is embrace, in our world.
Intake is entry into the family you can never really leave, not even if you are adopted, not even if you bite continuously, not even if you repudiate the Tabby name, not even if you become a vendor of vegan cheese, not even if you start a One Direction cover band called One Deflection.
If intake is welcome, intake is our essence as it pertains to both cats and people (the latter generally spared the teeny tiny toothbrush procedure).
Intakes are generally manageable, measured, carefully scheduled so as to avoid anxiety and agita and more chaos than you can cram in a thimble or an hour or a harrowed human’s hummingbirdy heart.
We know when cats are coming, and the numbers in which they shall arrive.
We plan our social interactions and work hours, our dinners and our dreamtimes.
We keep it all calm and comfortable. Too many intakes, and you’re taken too far afield of sanity, and prudence, and the comfort zones out beyond which there be dragons.
We try, anyway.
But sometimes, the intakes take over, and it’s up to us to let them take us where we belong.
On April Fool’s Day of this very year, the intakes took the form of an onslaught. Writing from Rapunzel’s Tower, I am spared the gritty, grueling hands-on labors of far braver coworkers than I. But our team — our outrageously extraordinary team — welcomed wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow full of unexpected cats, to the point that it all felt like a joke, except the laughter was from insanity rather than hilarity (although there was a good deal of both).
We had just intaken twenty-three cats from three different countries, no I am not making this up.
We — by which I mean my luminous, exhausted, extraordinary outrageous coworkers — had just taken a breath, taken a seat, taken a longing look at a mug of coffee, perhaps.
We were in for a joke and a joy and a jubilee of cats: eight shining soot sprites, two of whom had recently birthed five smaller sprites each. If you’re counting, that’s eighteen felines (all of whom are, as a bonus, almost entirely identical).
Comfort zones shredded.
But we’re not made for comfort zones at Tabby’s Place. And so, we — again I idiotically include myself among the true heroes, the elegant eminent intakers — hurriedly, whole-heartedly crafted fresh comfort zones for cowering kittens and caravans of cats.
It was courageous. It was outrageous.
And it was — here I speak entirely for myself, but maybe not exclusively for myself — strangely encouraging.
Maybe I can clamber over the walls of my comfort zone, too.
Maybe I can intake more than I imagine from this tower of quiet and safety.
Maybe the return to the wonderful, terrifying, over-much world, the reopening of overwhelming overjoying overabundant doors, will be more worth it than all our worries dare to shout (and good golly, do they shout).
Maybe we need to just remember and remember and remember and remind each other over and over that community — sloppy, shrieking, unpredictable, unreasonable, invincible, indispensable, beloved community — clobbers comfort zones every single time.
Intaking eighteen cats: worth it.
Intaking a deep delicious daunting breath: worth it.
Intaking the world around us again, even if we’ve forgotten how, especially then: worth it.
I don’t know what the upcoming weeks and months are going to look like, kittens. Some doors will fling open; others will pop up peepholes while keeping closed a little longer. Some of us will dance like divinity into the new, old, full world (I’m looking at you, radiant Kitty). Some of us will need divine assistance to crawl back into the sunshine, ride the roaring dragons, be with people, be full people again.
But we will intake it all.
And — I believe this to my mushy meek marrow — we will be intaken by the Great Good Something at every step.
Many more than eighteen cats are counting on us.
“This is the true joy of life, the being used up for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.
I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live.
Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for a moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”
– George Bernard Shaw, and also Consetta, pictured in the top banner because she is (a) beautiful and (b) wise, even if she is (c) irrelevant to this post.