In 2023, it’s excruciatingly easy to live inside our heads.
Fortunately, we are surrounded by beefy beasts who will drag us out to play.
Perhaps I shouldn’t blame the times. Yes, Netflix and cheap WiFi and Instacart have made it comfortable to bibble about like disembodied brains, forgetting we have feet until they fall asleep.
But some of us — surely I’m not the only one — have always tilted a little too sharply to the metaphysical over the physical. Give us our books and our notes and our big ideas, and you can keep all five senses.
We were the kids who spent recess on the bench, discussing Hobbit sociology while marveling at children whose legs seemed capable of something called “running.” We grew up to be hand-wringing heads-on-a-stick who hunger for Meaning and Purpose, while forgetting we have hands.
We are most assuredly not cats.
But our forgotten bodies are instinctively drawn to them. And they are more than delighted to draw us out of ourselves and our circumstances.
No cat in human or Hobbit history has ever been more delighted than Oram. I don’t mean delighted to draw us out of our circumstances. I mean delighted, lights-on, bright-orange, bright-Oram, under all circumstances.
He is astonishment incarnate; he misses zero miracles; he is massive with meaty meaning.
He just doesn’t give it much thought.
What he gives, instead, is his entire body, a great black sea lion of a beast, all the more impressive for being as fast as he is flabulous and as fluorescent as he is flabbergasted.
To behold bright-Oram lighting the Lobby of Quinn’s Corner (something he has been barred from doing, but still does at every scalawaggy opportunity), is to witness speed and splendor and the feline equivalent of full-fat mayonnaise at full gallop.
But there is one thing that will make our dinosaur-sized sultan stop on a dime: you.
The moment Oram’s golden eyes light on your face, all the fireflies in his veins turn around and turbo-charge in your direction.
Oram fills your space, fills your lap, fills your lungs with laughter that makes you remember what lungs are for.
He is unapologetically, exuberantly, intentionally physical, equal parts meatball and mystic.
And, in fact, perhaps only the latter because he can be the former.
Unlike you and me and the little boy who used to sing me Man of la Mancha songs at recess (wherever you are today, I love you), Oram is not worried about meaning. Oram is not worried about anything at all, with the possible and passing exception of when he will next get to bolt into the Lobby.
Oram is results-repellent, purpose-agnostic.
Oram is simply bright-Oram, right-here, feeling alive with all five hundred feline senses. And if you don’t feel his fine fur and feel the good, good weight of your own good, good body, you’re missing the point entirely.
Oram is not inclined to allow that.
Oram, whose body is burdened with the Big Disease, FeLV, thinks little of the leaden things that load us down and lift us out of our bodies.
Oram, all meat and all meaning all at once, is baffled with bliss simply to have a body. This thing EATS and it RUNS and it gets to look at YOU! It has whole conversations with that yellow ball in the sky, that hot-maker that makes its own meaning with black fur.
It has whole conversations with the cosmos itself, none of which involve words.
It has whole conversations with our bodies, which heal us even when we’re not paying attention.
Maybe that’s a good piece of why we’re driven to cats like fireflies to the night. We think we want results and guarantees. We buzz in our brains, galloping frantic circles, senseless and fruitless.
But if you want to be astonishment incarnate, you have to remember that incarnation is a very good thing.
And the little voice under our ribs knows: sometimes we need a warm whiskered sea lion to bask on our belly and ground us in the goodness of the earth.
To remind us that we are earth and mirth.
To drag us down the hill to play, even if we run slowly, even if we can’t hit the ball, even if the name of the game is simply to feel the sun.
Oram’s not going to let his friends miss one speck of sun. He’s going to celebrate every freckle on our faces. And if he has his way (the odds seem quite good), we just might come face to face with our own smiling faces.