I am good at some things: coining band names, remembering obscure theological miscellany, matching scrunchies to appropriate outfits.
Cats are good at just about everything, but especially that last item.
(OK, cats are shamelessly and spectacularly poor at modesty, humility, and clarinet, but that’s about it. OK, OK, they are also unskilled at limiting consumption of string cheese. But so are most of the greatest minds of our generation.)
If you could only be good at a few things, presence should be one of your top picks. I don’t mean attentiveness or alertness or even mindfulness, so much as the almost mindless, mirthful marination in the moment that comes so naturally, it scarcely looks like a skill.
Make no mistake: it is a skill and an art and a triumph. It’s also a gift to the hapless hummingbirds among us.
But even among the gifted and talented (e.g. cats), there are maestros and miracle workers so singularly skilled, they take our breath away. More accurately, they give our breath back to us.
When the sweetness drains from the moment and my mind runs to a moment many moons away, it has often been one Honey Rosenberg who has forced me back into my body. She has done so in the way that Honey does everything — emphatically, effusively, with more than a hint of exasperation in her enormous eyes, eyes that hold eons and enigmas and the essence of the entire universe together, without concern for explanations (they do contain concern for string cheese, but this is justified).
Pardon my effusiveness, but (a) I told you I’m lousy at “less is more” and (b) Honey is more than even “more is more” can capture.
And Honey is more than capable of capturing me just when my mind is off to the races, betting on every dismal dark horse that may or may not ever leave the stable of “what if?”
It happens like this: I’ll be in Honey’s Office (which she generously shares with her manservant, Jonathan), yapping about something or other. It could be the state of Development at Tabby’s Place. It could be the state of geopolitics. It could be the state of New Jersey and the fact that Bruce Springsteen’s songs all seem to be about death, lust, God, or getting out of the state of New Jersey. My brain will beat its wings faster than a hummingbird but a thousand times less lovely; my present will be sent packing into a future that feels as tight as a hazelnut but a thousand times less scrumptious.
I will completely forget the beautiful persons and beautiful felines and beautiful New Jersey and beautiful life present in that very room, that very moment.
And Honey Rosenberg will remind me.
She will remind me by vaulting through the air and dumping her precious person into my lap like a 55-gallon drum of blackstrap molasses. She will remind me by insisting herself into my arms, her pointy marmalade muzzle like a drill into the iceberg of my anxiety. She will remind me by gazing with all her grace and her exasperation and her power (let the reader understand: her power is vast) into my darting eyes.
She will hogtie me into this day, this hour, this minute.
And she will do it primarily by way of a question.
“WOMAN,” she begins, always in all caps, always at the far end of her patience. “Must you march yourself out there in the field of Not Yet, or will you be here with me?”
(Unspoken but obviously on her mind: “Only a fool would squander a second with me. Are you one of those? Do I need to ask twice?”)
And I realize — in fits and starts and gasps and gallops of the heart — that this is the big question, the real question, the only question.
Will I give my love and my strength and my fears and myself to the creature who wants my literal love in the only instant we’re guaranteed?
Will I surrender my one-trip ticket to the Future Of Fear for a staycation with the sweetness of this second?
Will I foist myself upon blank pages that may or may not ever flip, or will I pull out the permanent marker for the one paragraph we’re promised, the one embrace we know is ours, the one moment we can be sure we can share?
Will I be all in? Or will I be out of orbit, out of sorts, out of time when I finally do have to leave this seat and this second and this opportunity to love and be loved?
What really matters? Honey really matters.
I have everything I need in this moment: life and hope and love and my own breath.
Sufficient for the day is its own trouble and its own tenderness.
Tomorrow will worry about its own things and its own treasures.
I can either be a comet right here, or a shattered meteorite hitting the ground of graces not yet given.
I think I’ll stay right here with Honey and breathe.
And when I forget again — which I will, along with the rules to Carcassonne and the fact that nobody else thinks No Ninos en la Canasta is a great band name — Honey will hold me to the promise of this hour.