I was over visiting with my mother for a bit this afternoon. It’s only the second week of March, but the combination of warm weather and melting snow has me itching to get into the garden. Even the piles of dirty snow, dead leaves, and bare limbs of all the weedy bushes I failed to chop down last fall don’t hinder that desire.
The little ladder climber in the photo is my mother’s eldest cat. She has half a dozen names, although the one that has stuck with me is Crack Cat. Not a flattering name, but fairly accurate. High strung, reactive, and rescued from a crack house when she was weeks old, Crack Cat has never been what you would call a “lap cat.”
You might coax her into letting you pet her for a few minutes, or you might be able to get her to flip on her back for a short boxing match, but that’s about as far as it goes with her. She certainly has moments of being sweet, and she’s good at putting on a cute, kitten-like face but there’s no denying that this cat has a layer of fear and sadness that never quite seems to go away.
I’ve known people like her before. In fact, I can recall times when I, myself, have been like her. And why? Many reasons I suppose. Worries about careers and relationships. Lost in past mistakes. Fears about the future. A myriad of causes and conditions coming together really, no matter what story I ultimately land on.
Crack cat has mellowed with age. She’s less high strung now than in the past, and is more likely to at least attempt to be friendly or curious, even if she can’t quite get herself to go the whole way.
It makes me wonder if like a lot of us – cats and other animals – get tired of holding on and just let go of whatever crap we are hanging on to as well. I’m not about to claim to know what cats think about, or how their minds work exactly. People love to think they know animals well, but most of us don’t, and sadly we seem all too ready to slide into reductionist thinking about animals — assuming that they’re just a bundle of desires and cravings.
We humans are animals, too, lest we forget. And for all our skills and talents, we slop things up an awful lot, don’t we?
Somehow, I’ve come to believe that my own passion for gardening is, in part, born out of a desire to be less human in the way we’ve come to think of ourselves. The sensory connection to the Earth is a way to break down the assumption that people are above it all somehow.
And every June, when the weeds begin to creep in and take over the places I fail to tend, I’m reminded anew that this body and mind is only a tiny part of the planet, immensely valuable only in deep communion with everything else.
Here, there is room for weeds, for dirty hands, and for sad cats, wandering up and down life’s ladders.
“Crack Cat” © Nathan Thompson
“Wild Lavendar” DesertNana @ Flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.