“Whatever occurs is neither the beginning nor the end.”
Marge Piercy has written about ‘writer’s cats’ – the special feline friend that will snooze on your desk all afternoon as you wrangle a phrase, sculpt a paragraph, coax a chapter into full flower, or over-mix your metaphors (as I’m doing right now) into a soupy mess. Either way, the cat is by your side, eying you balefully as you sigh, cut, paste and delete. At some point she might walk over to the printout of the draft you’re agonizing over and sprawl luxuriously in top of it, as if to say:
“It’s only paper. Chill.”
Grrrlfriend-the-cat was a stray: she found me in the Kootenays of British Columbia as I took a walk in a forest, one beautiful, gilded summer evening. She was mewing impetuously; I took her home. I was spending the summer there, writing, and since no one responded to the Lost Kitty posters we put up all around that rural community, she became my companion – for thirteen years.
When she got sick last summer no one thought she’d last this long. But she rallied enough to fly with me across the country, spend a summer on a porch of an old Vancouver house greeting anyone who happened by, and then return to Toronto for her last winter.
This weekend she called it quits. Stopped eating. Could barely walk anymore; fell into a peaceful sleep, still breathing. When I came home that evening I found she had somehow, miraculously, hauled herself onto my bed. She wanted to spend the night there, next to me. As I petted her before falling asleep, I felt an uncanny, and almost joyful sense of mutual understanding, between human and animal: it was her time.
My lover and I spent much of the next day with her, being close by, talking, cooking, eating, reading. She died in the night.
It’s different than the passing of a sibling, a parent or a friend. It is a lighter sort of passing, but profound nonetheless. It is absence, rather than loss. A companion is gone from my life.
Someone suggested that my anticipatory grief (I was disconsolate earlier this week!) is also a way of anticipating, and working through, other, future losses.
Pema Chodron, a Buddhist nun, writes: “Death in everyday life could also be defined as experiencing all the things we don’t want…. Having a relationship with death in everyday life means that we begin to be able to wait, to relax with insecurity, with panic, with embarrassment, with things not working out…”
So anyways, I’m making soup today. Sunday soup, a grounding ritual for me. I’m working on a deeply flavoured chicken stock, and trying out a new recipe – creamy chicken vegetable soup from everybodylikessandwiches.blogspot.com.
Life – beautiful, full-flavoured, complex and uneven – goes on.
Photos by Laurie Bell.