A Poem Dedicated to an Old CatPosted: April 24, 2010
Dedicated to the most gentle, loving being I have ever encountered.
Things I Found in the Woods
Tiny rivulets of water released from thawing soil
flowing beneath last year’s debris, trickling and gurgling all around
hurrying down hillsides before the freeze returns.
A cup-shaped fungus holding a tablespoon of snowmelt
for a song sparrow to sip, practicing its vernal melody
for the time when spring arrives in earnest.
Ferns, newly-green, draped on cliffs,
fluttering like garlands in the mild, caressing breeze
gathering a little nourishment to last the rest of the winter.
Fallen trees blanketed with bright green moss,
thick and lush already in the brief January thaw
filling a span of life in but a few days.
Four young white-tailed deer, capricious as the gusts,
feeling the flush of their first spring as adults
cavorting as if winter might not return tomorrow.
An understanding that life and love are cycles,
and that the moment must be taken for what it offers
even if what it offers is not what we expect.
A fraction of your dignity,
and the desire to walk with you to the end of the path
as you transition from this beautiful world into the next.
I’ll tell Moses’ full story some day; 19 years of love can’t be condensed easily.
She had been a feral kitten my niece managed to capture, only because Moses was near death from starvation. To everyone’s surprise, she not only lived but thrived, except for her hobbled hind legs—the “knee” joint hadn’t completely finished and the bones kind of knocked against each other.
Just give me good food, no medications, Moses said, but most of all, let me lie in the sun every day. And so I did, indoors or outdoors when I could be with her.
She was healthy and rational until about a month before she died, and she knew what was coming and accepted it; I could see this in her eyes. To appease myself I had her checked by a veterinarian and even emergency when she had breathing difficulty one night. She forgave me for this, and I wrote this poem sitting in the waiting room for them to finish some procedure.
Waiting for Moses
I remembered a moment earlier in the day
even through the fear and pain of your impending death:
in that moment when I reached out to you
and you firmly rubbed your face against my hand,
nuzzled your nose between my finger and thumb
and lifted your chin for me to scratch underneath,
eyes squinting at me, whiskers curved forward, nose crumpled;
you, reassuring me.
The look in your eyes wipes the tears from my face
and I can, for the moment,
spontaneously smile and love you completely as of old,
above our grief.
And just a day or two later I was in the woods photographing the spring thaw in wonderment at the changing of seasons and the transience of life—here it was still winter but it felt like spring and everything that lived was taking advantage of the moment.
So was Moses. So should I.
So I resolved just to let her follow her course and she would let me know what to do.
I have kept this lesson in my heart with each of the older kitties I’ve loved since. I don’t care what’s coming for us. I love them right now, this moment.
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