There’s more magic, you know.
You haven’t found it all yet.
Would Mars lie to you?
You, my dear, may have risen this morning feeling as old as burlap. You may have greeted the day with all the elegance of a cold and molded mustard sandwich.
These words may find you feeling as overcooked as a three-legged cat who misplaced an entire decade.
In which case: rejoice! You share an elite planet with Mars.
More accurately, you share a wiggly neon orbit. For although she has dug her toes into the sand of love, Mars has by no means landed.
You might think that “landing” is the dream of a late bloomer like Mars. Weren’t ten years enough time for tossing and tumult?
We don’t know the details, other than to say that our pewter planet has flown unfriendly skies. If she touched down, it was only a mocking bounce. Years seared the rings off her youth. Black holes swallowed any friendly moons.
Mars was a soul without a solar system, a satellite with a song unheard.
By ten, you and I would have landed some opinions: love is a lottery made for few. Safety is a defective night light pretending to be a star. Hope is as loose as the asteroid belt. Dream big — heck, dream medium — and you’re liable to get beaned by space junk.
Heaven help us by fifty-six (the loose equivalent of ten cat years). Who still expects epiphanies on that side of the sky? Who is still wise or foolish enough to fly?
Any planet that keeps close to the sun, that’s who. Which is to say, Mars.
By the time Animal Control spotted her, Mars had lost ten years to mystery. But sky captains of all species focus on the finding. Mars had found her way through a dim decade, and now she entered an atmosphere of arms and empathy.
She also happened to be in agony.
An injured leg was so infected, the constellations turned their heads in sorrow. There is no question that Mars burned with torment.
How did her round face still shine like the moon? How do ten years giggle like comets when they convene on one bright moment?
Mars knows. Mars is trying to teach us.
If there was to be any hope of a future, Mars would need immediate surgery to remove that star-crossed leg, followed by weeks of very earthy care. Many cats, most humans, and 100% of Congresspersons would rage. Aging and agony do not bring out the best in beings.
Unless they are bent on being alive.
Mars straightened out her sorrow like a pouting child, offering it lollipops and wonder. She took to the telescope. She took to the microscope. There were humans whose cosmology centered on hugs! There were red-and-white trays of celestial fish product!
There were noticeable drops in the agony! There was a yellow happy-ball doing tai chi in the sky every morning!
There were epiphanies! There were revelations! There was a metaphysical mystery called roast beef!
There was, thanks to the Linda Fund Matching Challenge (ongoing now; please, please donate), precisely the care that bears a cat across the lava of pain.
Ten was clearly the very best age a cat should be, short of eleven, twelve, and thirty-eight. Mars’s eyes, stuck on “stun,” poured forth speech: did we not see how magnificent it was to get older every hour? Could we not taste the confetti stardust of time?
Had we never learned that “now” is equal parts time and place, and precisely where we belong? Had we never been found?
But we had, we had! Mars herself had found us, and she thoroughly expected us to be astonished.
In the presence of an oldish cat with an astronomer’s heart, you are forbidden to be anything other than young. Tending to a wounded cat who hurtles through time seeking people to heal, you are permitted to look up again, as if for the first time.
You are pushed to dream.
Mars will tell you her dreams, wide and watercolor as her eyes. She dreams that every living beast should be excited. She dreams that we should address her as “Lady Turbo,” acknowledgment that drowsy old cats tend ancient fires. She dreams that roast beeves will report for duty to her suite.
She dreams that we will never be so tired as to live with merely landing.
At ten, Mars flies higher than most children. She has lived her greatest astonishments long past youth. She does not miss the lost leg nor the missing years. She is fixated on finding. She can’t wait to get spectacularly old.
Seek, and you will fly.
Your epiphanies are not all behind you.
There are splendors you could not bear until now.
Soul open. Wingspan wide. Keep looking.
PS: Flash your spaceship if you are surprised to learn that Mars has been adopted. I didn’t think so.