It wasn’t until I hit middle age, which on my scale will allow me to live past 100, that I discovered that cats are Celtic deep in their hearts. Our cat, she who adopted me and forced her then owner to marry me, like it or not, was in love with the tin whistle and the uilleann pipes playing had her in my lap, unmoving. But she had her Buddhist side as well, sitting zazen for hours, longer if accompanied by shakuhachi flutes. She said that cats were discerning, were connoisseurs of music loved cello, viola and violin but barely tolerated the bass. It was why, she said, all the great composers wrote for the higher strings. And, she would add, as for dogs, well they loved country music most, reason enough for pity.
The black cat walked by the patio again today. He won’t stop and engage no matter how hard I try to talk to him. Some cats are haughty and this one clearly isn’t deaf. Some say it is feral, but it’s too well groomed for that. More likely it has spent too much time with people. The sort of arrogance it shows has only one source and, though we hate to admit it, we know that source all too well.
As the last of the wine glasses is put back on the shelf the Brut recorked and the dishes set in the tray to dry we take a slow walk after the meal hoping the arrabiatta sauce will be less angry, the pasta less weighty, when we arrive back home to the sofa and the purring cat distracting us from the beckoning of the bed.
We bow our heads and utter words not to the cicada speaking through a spring night or the beetle crawling slowly across the leaf searching for the edge. We bid the crow silent, the cat mewling his hunger, just to crawl under a porch awaiting morning, the child to sleep. The stream flows slowly by, carrying a blade of grass and the early fallen leaf.
Ensconced on the couch, the cat hears a bird singing outside the window. Once, she would have pressed her face against the screen, imagining a great chase. Now she listens, content to let the birds sing into the fading sun.
We are in the season of stasis where nothing wants to move and nothing should shed the mantle of snow that has announced winter’s arrival in terms we full understand, as do the finches clinging to the feeder casting nervous glances skyward. The neighbor’s cat has decided that the remote chance of catching a bird or squirrel is easily outweighed by the warmth of the house, and even the dogs down the block have found their own lawns much more to their liking. We know our feet will thaw after our morning walks, but suspect this may happen only with the Spring that seems impossibly far away, and so we imagine ourselves bulbs, clinging to what warmth the earth offers knowing the bloom has infinite patience.
Walking down this road I would like to see a rice field golden in the morning sun with a great mountain rising behind it just around the next bend. I would settle for a town its lone Temple quiet, awaiting the morning bell, the call to sit, with maybe a cat at the base of a statue the Bodhisattva. I am ready to bow deeply to the first monk I see this day, but my reverie is broken by the barely dodged wave thrown up by city bus running late and fast down the crowded street of this upstate New York city.