One of the brightest bulbs in my chandelier recently confided that she feels “bewildered, most of the time.”
She said this in response to my wreathing her with words of wonder, marveling at her wisdom and her brightness and the ways she swashbuckles situations with light and grace. (As usual, I am a master of brevity and understatement.)
And all along, Bartholomew grinned and shone.
The shining ones among us always know a thing or two about bewilderment. Where noisier creatures crush their days like cans, the guides and guardians sing in a softer register.
Perhaps that’s because they’ve been thoroughly bewildered.
Bartholomew — Bart, General Bartholomew, BartholoMEW, depending on the staff member doing the (poor, yet earnest) singing — is the textbook Tabby’s Place Cat. Found by the roadside, with no one on his side but the saints and angels; hoarding a humongous collection of years; underweight, blind, and neurologically nebulous; the orange-and-white elder was more “stick” than “creamsicle.”
Blind, pupil-packed eyes the size of pancakes made Bart look bewildered. The residual effects of a past tango with toxoplasmosis left him as wobbly as if he’d come to the wrong planet. But the bafflement ran deeper than appearance, as it always does.
Someone had sacked the old man from a previous position. Someone had seen fit to shake him off like dandruff. The years had been wild and weird and en-weird-en-ing and be-wild-er-ing.
But weird and wild Bart had his light stuck on “shine.”
He loved us from arrival. He loved having his head held to assist his (VERY VIGOROUS) eating of very junky meat by-products. He loved having his ears, gasping caverns of gunk, cleaned. He loved our suggestion that he start a band called Caverns Of Gunk.
He loved proving that there is, in fact, a cat on earth that does not like the white magic that is “Savory Centers.” (Additional evidence duly noted of his extra-terrestrial origin.) He loved our laughs and our voices and our embraces and our very nearness. He loved all the minutes and the hours and the days.
You might say that the baffled, satisfied cat was clearly tame.
I might say that, if you say that, you’re lost in the caverns of gunk.
Bart was sweet, to be sure; someone had almost certainly loved him well, else there was no way he could lunch on love with such abandon. (Savory Centers, no; infinite smooshing by all human arms “ALL ALL ALL YES I CHOOSE ALL!”, yes.)
Or was there?
We’ll never know the sunbeams and moonbeams that Bart walked from there to here, the love given or withdrawn. But there’s no doubt under the springtime sun that Bart is the best of wild.
Reading my dear one’s words, I was struck by the pearl grinning from the oyster of “bewildered.” It’s right there. It’s incandescent. It’s the answer to how the creatures who bless their bafflement are the ones who make us all feel safe.
They have been be-wild-ered, made more — not less! — natural and free, kin to green growing things and leopards and Love — by the mysteries they’re brave enough to behold.
Unable to cage the answers, unwilling to step into the safety of concrete, the wild ones are undefeated. In the arms of the great wide questions, they are free to find the morning in each day, each hour, each minute. With no need to pretend they’re the smartest in the room or the oldest at the conference table, they have a launching pad of littleness and lightness and the existential equivalent of cat’s feet.
Which brings us back to the blazing crystal bulb that is Bartholomew.
The wildest domestic cat in three solar systems knows a thing or two about wonder. He’d earnestly like to take us there with him, so long as we (a) leave the detestable Savory Centers back on earth and (b) pack some extra Q-tips for ear-cleaning enlightenment. He promises to clean our ears of the tired tameness that makes us resent each day’s sameness.
Wild things can see each new sunrise as though it were the first, each new hug as if it were the last, and each mystifying moment as the moment that matters.
Which it does.
As does Bart.
As do you.
Be wildered today, kittens.