Permanent Bond

Today as I walked by a shelf in my art studio, I read a glue label marked “Permanent Bond,” and my mind flashed back to when my niece gave birth. Excited over this first member of the fourth generation of our extant family, I had flown to Iowa from California and my mother had flown in from Wyoming, but we were to see the baby only once in our short visit. After our first viewing, my niece explained that it was very important to her that she and her husband be left alone for a few days to “bond” with their child, thereby closing the door to future visits. My mother, who raised three girls without once hearing the b-word gave the sidelong look but said nothing.

Then my mind flashed back further. I had been called from the porch by the wild cat I had adopted two months before to be led down the stairs to her bed where I sat with her as, like a slow ditto machine, she pumped out three small copies of herself. After these two most intimate hours of my life, how could I have given any of the kittens away? Of these four cats, two are long dead, but the others have been with me for 11 years and I now have a name for  the warm fullness I felt for the three tiny gray kittens.

I share a permanent bond with these cats who leave small piles of organs in doorways. These cats who insist on curling up on my hip or my shoulder as I lie reading, in spite of my allergic reaction to them. These cats who meow insistently at closed doors and shower cubicles––“Now, now, now!” they insist. These cats who bring in baby rabbits, fleas, ticks, and the disembodied tails of salamanders that wriggle out of sight under the sofa. These cats who bring me their infected cuts and ears torn half-way off in cat fights. These cats who, as kittens, could curl up three to a flower pot leaving the flower intact. These cats who know how to form a beautiful still life each time they come to rest. These cats, I must admit, I have become bonded to.

When I try to imagine where I will be in ten years, I see myself living somewhere wild, getting to know the local animals, getting wiser. I know that much of what I’ve learned about humans, I’ve discovered through living with animals. You have to be calm. Quiet. Let them come to you. Don’t grab and don’t make swift movements. 

Some might call people with the temperament to calm animals boring, but if you look closely, you might see through to the quietness that fills out their  beings. They have let the calmness take over. They have ceased fighting it. 

I feel what might be this calmness, but wonder if it is instead numbness. Then my mind works out the answer. Numbness is filled with emptiness, whereas calmness is filled with small details. The line of blue bottles on the shelf. The red leaves at the very tip of the otherwise green plant. The curl of the cat’s head thrown forward onto its stomach. The outflung paw. The dear face of this most beautiful cat that I saw being born.

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Judy Dykstra-Brown
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