Ancestral energy lives in the stars above us, the stones beneath us. Their memory gathers in oceans, rivers and seas. It hums its silent wisdom within the body of every tree.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Where Grief Meets Joy

Eating in private.
In the middle of June, we lost our youngest cat, just a few years after the death of our middle cat. We were just beginning to lessen our hard grief for Luna when Bella died, and it seemed incomprehensible to hold two times such a loss. And then Mara came.
We weren’t looking. Not yet. When Luna died, it was a couple of years before we could contemplate the idea of a new cat. We spent our time watching Bella come out of her shell and revel in her new position within the house. We eased our grief by watching her come into her own. And then she faded, just as quickly as Luna, and was gone.
The quiet in the house was overwhelming and we knew we needed new life, sooner than later. But the grief was a literal and physical ache. My arms wanted to scoop our little tortoiseshell monster up. I wanted to hear her raspy, croaky cry of demand. I wanted to sing the little songs I had made up for her when she was shy and still living under the bed. I wanted to fall asleep with her lying on my ribs, head on my breast.
I can’t open a can of tuna without a moment of sadness that Bella and Luna don’t come running into the kitchen. I missed the sass and backtalk of a cat that doesn’t want to do what you tell it to do. And then came Mara.
I think I might like to be with you now.
She might have been watching me for days without my noticing. It was heartbreaking to spy her hiding in the doorway to the basement next door, watching me in the garden with the stance of an animal ready to bolt should our eyes meet. So I ignored her while I weeded. I ignored her while I watered the garden. I went inside, put some food in a dish and put it out at the edge of our yard for her, and went back in. It was ten minutes before she approached the bowl and ate her fill, rapidly.
We did that for a few days. Every morning while I was gardening she was there, black and white with wide yellow-green eyes. I would talk to her softly while I trained the morning glory vines around the trellis. I put her food out before I started in the garden, each morning bringing the bowl closer to the porch. Each morning, she waited less time before approaching it. Then one day, a week and a half later, she came running to me as I put the bowl down. I didn’t try to touch her. But I let her rub against my ankles.
My heart was torn. I could feel affection growing for her but when I went inside, it was my girls I wanted back. The as-yet-unnamed cat was not the first we have invited to shelter at our stoop. In fact, she bore an uncanny resemblance to a brother and sister pair who were dumped as kittens. They were purchased for two children, and abandoned when the family moved, left in that same basement doorway. By the time we noticed them, they had grown into sleek and feral strays. They would shelter out the rain on our stoop and get regular, free meals from us. Neither were interested in being part of our family, but they adopted us as kin just the same.
One day, Little Boy came without Little Girl. We never saw her again. He came and went on his own for over four years. One time, after a lengthy absence, he strolled up our sidewalk with three kittens in tow; a black and white, a tiger, and an orange tabby. Little Boy was showing them where he scored free food. And like good patrons, we fed his wards as well, until another neighbor took them in.  
Little Boy eventually died after a bad fight. A neighbor took him to the vet but there was nothing to be done for him. So it was heartwarming to see the young cat hiding in the same doorway where we had first seen him, with such similar markings.
I don't think you understand- I live here now.
After she decided our house was safe, our new friend was bold about running to greet us when the door opened or the car returned. Then she stopped leaving at all, and was sleeping full-time on our stoop. We put out a tote with a towel in it for her, to protect her from the storms she hated. I started reading on the porch just to spend time with her. I didn’t forget about my grief for Bella; being around another affectionate cat made me miss her more. But I was aware, at the same time, that there was a special connection happening between us and I wanted to give it a chance. She and I were building a relationship that was all our own.
I thought about my ancestor work. I sat outside with her at night, to the sound of crickets, and told her the story of Little Girl and Little Boy. I told her the stories of Luna and Bella. I asked her if she wanted to live with us and she climbed into my lap for the first time and head butted me. She went to the door and stood up, pawing at it.
You are totally gonna let me inside.
When we pulled her name from the ether, when we called out the name Mara, and she looked up at us, we knew that if we could open ourselves to the moment, we had met another animal that could be part of our family. She was meant to be. We named her Mara Silver, for she was the silver lining in an emotionally dark summer. I made the practical decision to let Mara have Bella’s food bowl, though I cried when I washed it out. I was washing out the last bits of her. But I smiled when I put it down in front of Mara, and watched her eat her first meal in a safe place.

Told you.
It was because of how deeply we loved Luna and Bella that there was enough love to fight through the grief. We had enough love to welcome a new member into our family. The legacy that those we lose leave behind is love. Let that be the light in your darkness. There is always love. Be the beacon of sharing that love with the world, and those who are gone will live on through your actions.

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