Outside the lines

Outside the lines

The latch has not closed.

The ink has not dried.

The Sketch is still in process.

From the tiny emirate of Kuwait she came, a dappled cat with eyes of fire. Some great six-winged angel kissed Sketch with colored clouds before sending her to earth, and Sketch has never forgotten the sky.

Sketch would prefer to forget many of the moments painted in her mind, tortured frescoes from frenzied years.

There were the wandering stray days and the weightless flight west.

There was the clash of cats, those frantic funnel clouds swirling Suite C.

There was love — Sketch squeezes her blazing eyes and sees it like her soul’s tattoo — and then he was gone, gone, gone like the moon when dawn burns.

Sketch has been burned.

Three years into a life scripted by angels, Sketch’s sky fell when her dad passed away. We had never expected to see her swirls again…but, once a Tabby’s Place star, always a Tabby’s Place star.

The grey lines of grief are etched across her canvas, and she props up her drawings in the city square for all to see. Clobbering Carrot, assaulting Alex, exuding indignation like a plume of white smoke, Sketch is clouded, crowded with emotions.

Even among cats, Sketch is unusually honest, unafraid of being misunderstood. Like anyone acquainted with sorrow, she carries questions. They draw her through her days.

Will she feel safe again? She can, and she will, and she does, in freckled bursts that are the best moments of any life.

Joy jots cartoons that make her laugh, and she takes her stand against the lie that love only draws one picture per lifetime.

Will she stop holding her breath, waiting for the next star to fall? She can, and she will, and she does, in the sun-showers that serve light and dark at the same table.

Sketch’s flaming eyes, angels’ torches, tell us that she is happy and anxious, at home in the world and far from heaven.

Will she find a lasting picture, a likeness she cannot lose? She can, and she will, and she does, in the unconditionals that surf changing conditions.

Tabby’s Place can’t defeat death or corral change, any more than we can freeze the swirling sky. But we can love her in her fury and her peace, and we will, and we do.

Sketch is secure in our love, and as unsettled as anyone alive. Sometimes I look at her and feel I’m witnessing an out-of-universe experience, a cat contemplating how far she’s come and how far she has yet to go.

Here we are, muddling through the Milky Way, while Sketch, uncommonly honest, is somewhere in the Large Magellanic Cloud.

A galaxy churning with newborn stars, the Cloud pulses with change. Like every honest cat, Sketch is an astronomer, and she wafts among wavelengths and wonderings. She has not yet landed. The picture has not come into full focus.

She is a fully-drawn character, but she retains the right to remain a Sketch in progress.

Sketch has lost so much.

We have all, by the time we’re old enough to read these words or spar with clouds, lost so much.

But grief and growth and gain are only a few galaxies apart, and we have light years to let the picture come into focus.

Sketch is in no rush. Love has come, love is here, and love will come again. The story is not over. The gate is not latched.

A beautiful life is still in process.

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