Sofia’s been gone since yesterday morning. I cried when I woke up in the middle of the night. She’d done this already three days in a row, but the latest she showed up was midnight. I remembered Richard talking about the poems he’s writing for their cat Sunny who died only weeks ago. He’s wishing he’d been as loving, as open to her, as appreciative of her in her coming as he was in her going. I tortured myself in the dark with memories of pushing her off the bed with a pillow when she returned at midnight two days before and wouldn’t settle on the bed with us but kept making determined strikes for the bolster above my head. I wondered if she had found a home where she’s happier, where she is better loved. Even as the thought broke my heart, another followed on its heels. How could I deny her that?
Logic tells me she is only up to independent cat things. But I can’t remember when she had a stretch like this. Sebastopol? Over a decade ago? It’s an upswing in her cyclical illness, I think. She must be feeling better to take off like this. She’s hardly left the courtyard in months, almost always returned in an hour or so on the rare occasion when she did. She would disappear like this when she was young, first a response to her adoption, feral cat that she was. Later because the Hopland countryside was irresistible. I’ve gone through this with her for years.
I am sitting in the courtyard in the late morning, telling my mother about it on the phone. She’s been gone for over 24 hours now. “I tell myself she’ll be okay,” I say. “But every time I wonder if this will be the time she doesn’t come back.”
And then there is movement beside me. Sofia appears in the courtyard on her quiet cat feet. She acts as though she never left, or had been gone only for a moment. I tell my mother she was the magic talisman. I cry again, a muddled combination of relief and gratitude and fear. And then I laugh, kneeling, hugging her, shaking teardrops around us on the cement.
I am determined to stay current with my blog this year, so I will post today no matter what. Even if what I post is terrible. Natalie Goldberg does tell us we need to be willing to write the worst crap in the United States, yes? Or in the universe. Though I don’t believe she means we need to be willing to publish the worst crap in the world. Only that we need to not be afraid to write badly. We need to not be afraid of our thoughts, afraid of ourselves. We need to be willing to put everything down on the page—no holds barred. Still, after the act of writing we get to choose. Do I really want Uncle Horace to know this about me? What about the people I work with? Do I really want to publish this even though it seems clunky and unpolished? Am I really willing to be that honest, show that much of myself to the world? It is a choice we face again and again, like deciding not to light that cigarette, not to cheat on our husbands. But unlike failing at quitting smoking, unlike making that decision to light up, choosing to edit out parts of our story doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Right? Each time we send something we’ve written out into the world, we decide how much we want to risk, how vulnerable we want to make ourselves. We get to keep ourselves safe. And I think that’s a good thing. (I can hear the clamor of this controversy even as I write.) Is it without its own dangers? No. We might end up not being willing to take risks in our writing. We might keep ourselves too safe. But knowing it is our choice what to reveal, when to reveal it—that’s a comfort to me (if also a conundrum). Thank you, writing gods. Thank you for that. And here’s to being willing to risk. Here’s to trusting we can still be safe.
One of those recent horoscopes in my daily paper was about trusting my gut. Donna, the clairaudient, told me the same thing. “Trust yourself,” she said. “Don’t second guess yourself.” I thought I did trust myself. But when I read it in the newspaper, it seemed so direct, so simple. The first reaction, the one I feel in my body, that’s what’s true. Go with that. I knew that. But it reinforced what Donna told me, made me think about it again. And when I was floating on my back in the hot mineral water, the wind fierce outside the sheltered pool, it came to me that I wasn’t trusting myself. I had no idea. I’m not sure how this pattern evolved. But I will often have a gut reaction, and the next thing out of my mouth is something like, “Of course, I could be wrong.” I think it may be because often the toughest tests for trusting my instincts involve other people, and I want to be fair. I don’t want to be attached to being right. So I say what I believe, and then I try to give them the benefit of the doubt. But I think what gets put in play is I am doubting myself. And I don’t want to do that anymore.
For weeks now many of my horoscopes in the L.A. Times have seemed especially apt, like the one or two lines were written just for me. One of my favorite ones said, “If it makes you want to run away and hide, you should run toward it and wave your arms as the bigger-than-life force you really are.” I love this. I put it into practice right away. Now whenever I see one of the two work colleagues online who make my belly sink, I flap my arms at my laptop screen. It leaves me grinning. And speaking of things that make you want to run away and hide, it came to me the other day that some of the (endless?) fear images my mind seems determined to present to me might not be just autopilot fears but bits of precognition. Sometimes when they arise might I be getting a glimpse of possible futures? And can my prayers or my banishing of them help to manifest a different future?
I am sitting naked in Desert Hot Springs. Not sitting about in the center of town, no—in a small, modest resort with natural mineral springs. The warm wind has been whipping about me for hours, loud in the fan palms beside the pool. A statue of Quan Yin presides poolside. I’m in the shade now. I’ve been reading most of the day. I go into the hot mineral pool until I’m sated. The wind makes me cold when I emerge, and I wrap myself in my sarong until my skin is dry and the warm air heat seeps into me again. This morning I did yoga. I did qi gong in the early afternoon. I faced northeast, a potted bougainvillea beside me, the low slung hill visible over the bamboo fence. It has been one of those days that go on and on, the quiet stretching of time, summer days in childhood. I feel relaxed, lucky. I am grateful I’ve found this place. My eyes feel sore, a lingering fever. This morning before the wind began, there was a cactus wren laughing from one of these palms. There was a loose dog in the street when I walked here from the bus stop. I look forward to the day when coming here will feel familiar, like visiting someone I know well. I close the door behind me when I leave and walk away. I look back and see the waxing moon hanging above the roofline in the late afternoon sky as though it’s guarding the place. The moon follows me all the way home.
At odd moments, I find myself missing bird sounds. Have I just become greedy? This time of year when I wake up they are not nearby. I hear bird voices, but they are coming from a distance. Right now, though, someone chirps from the Palo Verde, the high note coming through the open kitchen window and then gone. I miss the goldfinch who used to chatter in my neighbor’s yard. Once in a while a house finch comes to sing in our tree. I stop to savor it, as though I can pull those liquid notes through my skin, his song alive in me beside my beating heart. And sometimes when I wake up now to muted sounds of life I remember that first spring when we lived on Avenida Ortega. Early every morning a cacophony of bird sounds grew and swelled, like nothing I have ever known before or since. I want that again, that unbelievable crescendo. But I will remember to relish what we have here and to never overlook the music, to cherish each voice always. And I’ll work to help build more of a community here, too. (I have secret hopes the hedges in the new development will come alive with birds.) Here’s to feeling once again at the center of that symphony.
I have to pee at 5:30 in the morning. When I come back to bed, I reach for my big chunks of citrine and chrysocolla. I lie there, rocks held in my fists, body sprawled and comfortable, soft from sleep. I feel excited and happy. Even work thoughts don’t change that. I hear a raven calling nearby and the sound of morning traffic. I hear the pwitter of dove wings in the courtyard. The doves are polishing off what is left of yesterdays seeds. I feel reassured by dreams I don’t remember, my body fed by sleep, fortified, my heart soothed without knowing why. I prop myself up in bed to write and end up staring out the window. There is a small bird bouncing on the tip of a Palo Verde branch, a goldfinch maybe, or a verdin, lost amid the yellow blossoms. I am not yet wearing my glasses. Between that and the lingering softness of sleep, the world has no hard edges. I continue to drift on fuzzy thoughts, content. Later, fully immersed in the busyness of the day, I am stopped by the moon over my shoulder when I am coming in the gate. I pause, reminded, and pull that early morning softness to me, a shawl across my shoulders.