120. Every happening, great and small, is a parable whereby God speaks to us, and the art of life is to get the message. ~Malcolm Muggeridge

The world has different owners at sunrise. . .
Even your own garden does not belong to you.
Rabbits and blackbirds have the lawns;
a tortoise-shell cat who never appears in daytime
patrols the brick walls,
and a golden-tailed pheasant
glints his way through the iris spears.
~Anne Morrow Lindbergh,
pioneering American aviator and author

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In my yard are squirrels instead of rabbits, mockingbirds instead of blackbirds, an assortment of stray cats instead of one tortoise-shell cat, and garter snakes that slither through the grass instead of a pheasant that glints his way through the iris spear.  So it is that my yard has as Lindbergh penned “different owners at sunrise.”  But since I planted everything for the wildlife as much as for me, why shouldn’t they come and sometimes in large numbers all through the day and night.

J. Philip Newell says that God’s glory glows “in the glistening of a creature’s eyes” as well as in “every emanation of creation’s life,” and that we can reverence God “in all that has life.”  My guess is that’s why some people garden in the first place.  We are fascinated by and delighted with the flowers and the wildlife, but we long for the presence of God into our green temples–that Presence that we feel and see in tiny buds breaking the soil, in pinkish purply glows in the eastern sky, in a silver slivers of the moon in the darkness of night, or in the delicious stillnesses in the garden as day passes into night.

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made. . .  ~Romans 1:20   ✝

22. Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened. ~Anatole France

Most cats do not approach humans recklessly.
The possibility of weapons, clods, or sticks
tend to make them reserved. . .
Much ceremony must be observed,
and a number of diplomatic feelers put out,
before establishing a state of truce.
~Lloyd Alexander

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A beautiful stray cat came into our world some time back, and slowly but surely we managed to earn some of his trust.  From his size at the time he started coming into our yard we decided he was about a year old, and from his behavior it was apparent he had had some unfriendly encounters with humans.  However, as time went on he seemed to take more and more of a liking to us, and eventually he chose to stay in our yard most of the time.  As he became more accustomed to our presence, he started letting us get close enough to pet him.  Then one day he began loving us back in the way that feral cats do, but the exchanges were always done with that predictable element of guarded caution.  For example when I’d be out working in the yard, he’d follow me wherever I went and throw himself down to nap while I worked, but he never fell so fast asleep or got so close that he couldn’t make a fast get away if need be.  As the months passed he became more accepting of us, so much so that he followed me into my studio one afternoon and napped there.  Subsequently that became a daily thing, and he would even remain there on cold, cold nights.  After that winter, we were so in hopes he would one day let us pick him up and get him in a carrier to go to the vet’s for his shots and neutering.  Sadly though his trust fell just short of that.

The cat clawed its way into my heart
and wouldn’t let go. . .
When you’re used to hearing purring
and suddenly it’s gone, it’s hard to silence
the blaring sound of sadness.
~Missy Altijd

For a short period of time this yellow cat we named Beastie called our yard his home. We had managed to establish “a state of truce” with him, but as it turned out it was never going to be a complete surrender.   One day the call of the wild became much stronger than the call of the safe and secure.  The first time he left us, he was only gone for 6 days, but then he left again the next day for another 5 days.  After the third departure we never saw him again.  What became of our little feline friend we’ll never know.

Give sorrow words;
the grief that does not speak
whispers the o’er fraught heart
and bids it break.
~William Shakespeare

When Beastie disappeared for good, he took pieces of my heart with him, and if I hadn’t given my grief to words, as Shakespeare suggests, I fear my “fraught” heart would have broken and all its chambers flooded with tears.  Jean Burden was right when she said, “Prowling his own quiet backyard or asleep by the fire, a cat is still only a whisker away from the wilds.”  The Beast Man was never far from his feral beginnings, and when the wild called, he could do naught but answer.  Agnes Repplier summed it up best when she said, “it’s impossible to banish these alert, gentle, and discriminating little friends, who give us just enough of their regard and complaisance to make us hunger for more.”  Indeed, I have hungered for more ever since; in fact I’m still hungering and hurting because there’s no more of his sweet life to be shared.  My big backyard that I love so much seems like an empty and lonely place without that “silly” yellow cat to keep me company.  He was a confidant and consultant in my garden dreams and schemes, and I was his protector from pesky mockingbirds wanting to keep him from their nests and from any and all suspicious human interlopers.  I know I need to put this behind me and move on, but it has been a long time since grief has had so heavy a hold on my heart.  There was just something compelling and charming about that sweet boy, and he, a cherished presence too soon lost, will be forever missed.