Teachers come in all shapes and sizes. Mine, often with four legs. A petite black cat was such a teacher.
I met Mama Cat in the summer of 2001. She came with our fixer-upper and was a feral through and through. The first couple of months she tolerated our invasion, watching our activities from a distance. She slept in an abandoned wicker chair on the far end of the front porch. The house had not been lived in for a long time and, according to our neighbor, Mama’s residence had been consistent enough to produce several litters in the crawl space under the house. She looked well fed so I assumed she was a good hunter or great scavenger. Turned out, a gal across the street had taken it upon herself to feed the neighborhood strays that were smart enough to find her front porch. Mama was one of those.
The three of us (me, Ray and Smitty the kitty) were living out of one room so making our old mill house livable – while tending to our livelihoods – took up the better portion of my attention. Mama was a silent presence as we carried in building materials and hauled out scraps. I didn’t give her much thought. That is until I glanced out our kitchen window one cold, damp November morning to see three tiny kittens exploring the pile of old bricks off the back patio. Under Mama’s watchful eye, of course.
My heart did a flip. Then another. Mama Cat kicked the classroom door open with all four paws. (Well, more like sixteen.) I wish I could say my first thought was, “Oh boy. What have you come to teach me?” but it was more like, “Oh shit. Not now.”
A quick Feng Shui scan of the brick pile’s location in the bagua heightened my concern. I was screwed. Four-legged creatures have an unfair advantage with me and Mama had hit below the belt – in my Fame and Reputation* area. I knew the lesson instantly and it was one of my most challenging.
On the earth plane, I was confronted with an issue of balance. How does the cat-lover-mother-nurturer make sure God’s creatures are warm and fed and happy without losing sight of her own needs? (I’m a sucker for cats and had gotten deeply involved in cat rescue when in L.A.)
On the symbolic, esoteric plane I was confronted with an issue of balance and effectiveness. How does the healer-teacher-muse manage her concern and commitment to client’s healing processes without engaging in enabling behaviors or becoming all consumed with circumstances over which she has no control, as well as balance her client’s needs with her intention to edit and self-publish a book?
Here was an opportunity for refinement. Mama had made her Feng Shui adjustment on the brick pile and was not attached to what lesson I would take from these curious little fur balls exploring the outside world for the first time. She cared only for her kittens. Her focus was clear. I, on the other hand, had a decision to make. (One that would reflect the direction of my growth in the Fame and Reputation area of a new chapter in my life.) I could:
- Turn my back and let nature take its course as it had with her. (But they were so small and we were heading into winter.)
- Trap them and bring them in. (But we were living in one room and out of boxes with construction materials all around. Too dangerous for kittens. And besides, Smitty had made it very clear years ago that he was an only child.)
- Make a warm place for them, feed them, try to tame them and spay/neuter the whole crew. If Mama would let me get close enough to turn them, I might be able to find them homes. (But I would have to do a better job of ‘letting go and letting God’ take care of them without obsessing or worrying about whether He was doing an adequate job. God and I have had this conversation.)
Messy and unclear as it was, number three was my choice. I managed to turn the kitten we called Scruffy. (She’d gotten so sick she had no choice but to trust me. Ray found a home for her.) Her brother and sister, Tigger and Sparkle, remained partly feral. They came when I called and allowed petting while eating. I was still working with them the following spring when Sparkle got sick. The vet could do nothing. It broke my heart to have her put to sleep. We lost Tigger to a tumor the spring after we lost Sparkle. (The message was clear. If I planned on feeding cats in this neighborhood, I would have to get better at loving and letting go. Better at being present to the needs and joys in the moment.)
Mama stayed strong. For nine years, she graced us with her presence and, in that time, she patiently taught me that my definition of rescuing did not always match hers. She paced me. Showed me that it was not only okay, but better if I gave in a way that she could receive. (A valuable lesson with clients today.) She followed me like a puppy. I could sit within inches of her while she ate. Place kitty treats at her feet. But never was I allowed to touch her. When she got too old to move around much she slept in a special place I made for her outside our patio door. (Where I could keep an eye on her.) She let other kitties eat her food, knowing that I would always make sure to give her more. (Personally I believe that was part of the plan all along. Keep the cats coming and keep the classroom going.)
Mama went home to God yesterday while I was out weeding and pruning her yard. I knew she was close to transitioning as she slowly made her way to the bush I had just finished trimming. She curled up in the soft bed of mondo grass underneath and went to sleep. Her work was done.
Thank you, Mama Cat, for a job well done. It doesn’t feel right here without you. (But I’m grateful you left before the cold of winter. You and God know how I struggled with the weather thing.) I’ll miss your silent presence and watchful eyes. You got what many feral kitties do not get. A name and a long life in which you were known and loved.
Mama was probably the oldest feral in the neighborhood. In nine years, a cat can spawn 13,960,290 kittens. Thousands of animals are euthanized every year. Please be responsible. Spay and neuter.
* For those not familiar with Feng Shui, the Fame and Reputation area represents our dance with the world. The flow of energy between how we see ourselves and how the world sees us. It is a powerful area to adjust if we want to refine what we project into the world.
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