Everything has changed.
Nothing has changed.
We have a choice in how we’ll be changed.
If you are reading this from anywhere other than Antarctica, your life has almost certainly taken a twirl in the last two weeks. In late February, when we were all so much younger, we were gleefully elbow-bumping and joking about getting out of unpleasant family gatherings by faking a cough. At Tabby’s Place, we talked of crocheting tiny N95 masks for the cats.
By the Ides of March, it was all cancelled. Broadway. Disneyland. State parks. Gatherings of over 50 humans. Toilet paper.
And, if we weren’t careful: patience. Fortitude. Loving-kindness. Humor.
So I’m here to ask you to be careful in a way not formally promoted by the CDC. As thoroughly as you wash your hands, scrub away your despair and distrust. I can only ask this of you because I’m asking it — hour by faltering hour — of myself.
Feel your feelings and nuzzle your felines and keep seeking the good. It’s there, in your quarantine; it’s there, in the Italians singing from the balconies; it’s there, in the nurses and doctors and healers and helpers who risk their lives for the strangers they love; it’s there, in the long, calm, kind Costco lines; it’s there, in the life that always finds a way and the love that always finds you.
Tabby’s Place has been tornadoed by current events no less than Disneyland. In a week’s time, we’ve gone from gently encouraging high-risk volunteers to stay home, switching to individually-packaged servings of Veggie Straws, and backing off our usual huggy ways to hitting Level 4 of our Emergency Response Plan.
We are closed to the public. No cats in, no cats out.
We are running on a skeleton crew, and we’re talking vole skeleton, not elephant skeleton.
We have sent away most of the community we cherish, volunteers and “non-essential” staff and the vibrant valiant visitors who warm our days.
Since my job involves money-raising and ridiculousness-writing, my physical presence at Tabby’s Place is about as necessary as a turnip. So here I am, far from the Bucca I love, working from home for an indefinite period of time. I know it’s the right thing to do; I am a passionate proponent of flattening the curve; I believe in the wisdom of Level 4. By all accounts I am exceedingly fortunate, but on Day One I’m already anxious for the little band of angels (both species) whose love and goofdom march through my days. It’s the “indefinite” that gnaws at my peace, the wondering when we’ll all get to come home to normalcy and one another.
And I’m just one small turnip in a vast international field, feeling the strangeness and solitude, apart and together.
It’s an uncanny feeling to know you’re living through a year that will be discussed for decades. There will be movies made about these days. Great novels are being inspired by the fears that cloud our eyes this very afternoon. We will spend years processing things yet to unfold. We are all holding our breath and worrying about breathing.
But we are not given the luxury of despair.
It’s a tempting abyss, yet Tabby’s Place is having none of it. So here I give you my solemn oath: we will do everything in our power to lift your spirits in the days to come. Wherever you may be sequestered, however wildly your heart may tremble, we will be here for you with photos, and stories, and silliness that shouts in the face of fear.
You are not alone. We are one big, batty body of love, and it’s part of our peculiar calling at Tabby’s Place to remind you of this (with gratuitous cat photos and self-indulgent musings and prayers and Facebook and everything else in our arsenal).
Tabby’s Place staffers who are far braver and more essential than I am are cuddling the cats, cleaning and medicating and feeding and keeping bliss afloat for the blessed beasts who need never worry about COVID-19. I am in great and ever-growing awe of this team, squelching their own anxieties to show up, suit up, and love in ways that don’t make headlines but do make miracles. I want to be like them when I grow up.
In the midst of their busier-than-ever business at Tabby’s Place, these courageous staffers, and the tiny cadre of volunteers recruited to join them (heroes all), will be capturing our cats’ own COVID-19 response. Expect many, many photos to nourish you in the days to come; here I present you with the first footage of our cats in the time of pandemic.
We’re going to be OK, kittens. I will keep telling you and me every day. Let’s let this all change us for the closer and kinder. I’m squeezing your hands across the miles.
All photos graciously provided by Jae, one of our courageous Level 4 on-site staffers.