Whereas: Geraniums and gerbils and gel pens exist.
Whereas: You are personally fashioned from the same stuff as hummingbirds and Harold.
Resolved: You, life, and Harold are exactly who and what and where you were destined to be.
I am and I am not you. I am an Enneagram 2, an unrepentant detester of guacamole, a wearer of ill-advised quantities of glitter, a failed ballerina, a jittery introvert who hides behind my keyboard but will sing the entire score of Les Miserables if requested or not requested, a diabetic Catholic insomniac composed primarily of hope, love, neuroticism, and Cherry Zero.
You, you’re perhaps a debonair dancer who excels at multiplication and social butterflication, a boisterous Buddhist, a protestor against the marginalization of the vulnerable and the existence of margarine, a camo-clad County Executive with a Don’t Tread on Me flag on your front porch, an iconoclast or an idealist or the actual ice cream man.
And yet here we are, under the same full moon, full of the same splendor, incomplete without each other, incomplete without a full awareness of our incompleteness.
But to be incomplete and incomprehensible is to be close to the cats and saints and angels.
Just ask Harold.
Harold once held the world close to his chest like a jewel or a child. Hobnobbing with the squirrels and the saplings and the secret Forest People, he rambled New Jersey, taking gambles and taking full-color delight in each day as it was delivered.
Like every cat worth his whiskers, Harold was happy with himself. At home in the cosmic community of creatures, he was content, one inimitable cookie in a big, bawdy bakery. He did not need to be anyone else. He did not need to fix any potholes in his personality. He did not need to understand, much less neutralize, his oddities.
He did need to look both ways before he crossed the road. But that is the one thing he didn’t do.
Raise your hand if you always do what you need to do. OK, then.
Harold’s moment of misjudgment — perhaps he was pondering a daffodil, letting a hawk soar halos over his head, leaning in close to listen to the nearest Forest Person’s whispers — changed Haroldian History.
A car, a swerve, a moment that threw all the other moments into the air like meatballs.
The kind of moment that drains out all the watercolors in favor of stark black and white.
Heaven was summoned, and a honey-hearted witness was present, and soon Harold was held and heralded and hurled through space and time to the Place called Tabby’s.
And this place, this patchwork quilt of kindness and quirk, saw the glory.
The glory of one baffled, broken cat.
The glory of one cracked cookie.
The glory of one inimitable individual, “just” a stray, “just” a several-pound thatch of fur and fear, “just” one trembling nose under the boisterous sky.
Tabby’s Place knows what it’s like to be just one, just a piece of the cosmic huckleberry pie, a fragment and a fractal and a filament in the larger light.
We are not that larger light, not by ourselves. Many shelters and Samaritans of Goodness and sweet secret people from forests near and far are needed, and our niche is a wee nebula in the dancing spiral galaxy of love.
But we know it needs our scrappy starlight.
And we knew we — and the whimpering, weary, wonder-starved world — needed Harold.
And so it was off to Dr. Fantastic (let the reader understand, “Dr. Fantastic” is our composite name for all the shining specialists who save our cats’ lives). In those early hours, the picture was incomplete: Harold had suffered head trauma. Harold was blind. Harold’s brain was swelling. Harold could not eat anything but oxygen, which he gulped down like Cherry Zero.
The black-and-white photo was very still indeed.
But then the reels started rolling.
Harold hungered. Harold stood. Harold heard that the Maury Povich show was ending after thirty years, and determined that he had reason to live. Harold heard the whispers of friends from the forest to the skies.
And then, one day, Harold — just one cat, one little work of art, one eccentric exhibit in the vast museum — came into his colors.
And he came upon the best friend a Harold’s heart can hold: Carolyn.
Harold’s foster mom, Tabby’s Place Sanctuary Associate of extraordinary heart and immeasurable coolness, took the frame off the wall. She took the battered painting into her gallery. She did not take her eyes or her love off of Harold.
She took time to take us into the painting: Harold was stealing her heart. Harold was being “the actual best.” Harold was the only cat in the wider Tabby’s Place community who would be seen eating a particular variety of putrid wet food. Harold was a Hufflepuff. Harold could solve every Wheel of Fortune puzzle with just two letters.
And being “just Harold” meant Harold was wholly Harold. Harold had the whole of Carolyn’s heart.
So love’s whole enchilada slid another chair up to the table.
Our scrumptious survivor has since come “home” to Tabby’s Place, where the reel rolls on and the masterpiece makes us all several brushstrokes more complete. We wouldn’t be fully “us” without Harold; he wouldn’t be Harolding the world with happiness if not for us.
Individually, we’re piecemeal, pie slices and half-paintings. Together, we’re delicious and beautiful. If we were all perfect squares, our pieces would never interlock, and no stunning puzzle could ever be pictured.
Which means my incompleteness and your incompleteness are immeasurably good for everyone involved.
We’ll forget this tomorrow, I know. We’ll see our little pastel scratches in a Walmart frame and find ourselves apologizing to the museum for being an insult to its hallowed walls. We’ll spot some sorry anchovies on our skinny sliver of pizza and prostrate ourselves to the Chef, crying “I am unworthy to be considered your cookery.”
But Harold hasn’t finished Harolding us.
Maybe someday, if we’re hardy and Haroldy enough, we’ll get to the place where we can say: “I yam what I yam, and the particular sweet potato casserole I bring to the cosmic table is somehow enough. Needed, even.”
And in the meantime, the same Harold who once let the hawks halo overhead is here* to remind us: you and I and life itself are incomplete and entirely enough.
We have each other.
We have cats to hold and heal.
We can see light from a 12.9-billion-year-old friend. We have many friends yet to be discovered. We have gifts and glitterings and offerings that are ours alone. We can save lives and plan anti-margarine protests and fill each other’s gaps with color and compassion.
We can, and we will.
Take Haroldy heart, kittens.
*Update: As a matter of fact, Harold is not here. HAROLD HAS BEEN ADOPTED WITH EQUALLY HALLOWED HEROES HADLEY AND WHITNEY. (You bet your yams I’m yelling.) But Harold’s healing work continues to happen, at Tabby’s Place and beyond. We thank you, gentle herald.