“Where are you going to assemble them?” asked Sekhnet, covered in dirt as she tills the rich earth of her little farm in the back. Sekhnet is never happier than when she is covered with dirt.
Upstairs, I tell her, where I can write them down, see them before me, move them around until they make some sense.
“Oh,” she said, “I didn’t know where they were.”
I made lunch for us, vegetable wraps, which we ate out in the garden, which is starting to come to life, there are beautiful colors everywhere. Mama Kitten, now almost three years old, an ancient for feral cats around here, came over to rub against my leg and have her ears scratched, her face stroked. She liked having her back scratched so much that she turned her face around, with an open mouthed expression, thinking of sinking her fangs into my hand, then thought better of it and rolled on to her side, to have her ribs scratched.
Her four latest kittens (she’s given birth to at least twenty, the first litter when she was six months old) are as beautiful as all the rest, as good looking as their beautiful mother. They are not much bigger than large mice at the moment, and much cuter. All the rest of Mama Kitten’s many offspring are dead, but when they were alive they were very handsome, playful little cats. Sekhnet has photos of a hawk sitting on a nearby tree. The fucker was licking his beak the other day as the tiny kittens were dragged by their mother to another hiding place. Six months or a year is a long life for these beautiful little animals.
We have a friend who takes care of a small colony of feral cats in her backyard. She has had them all spayed and neutered and they all get along fine, huddling in winter months in the warm insulated dens our friend makes for them. Most of them are seven years old and older. One year, at her urging, we caught three young kittens here, took them to her vet to be neutered. Within a few weeks all were gone, probably delicious snacks for the hawks. Of Mama Kitten’s many offspring, every one of them a beautiful little animal, these four new ones are the only ones alive. Alive and delicious.
We watch these adorable, doomed little souls, the four of them, then the three, then maybe one. They play, they display bravery, or timidity, they show their little personalities. Then nature does what nature does. Man plans, God laughs. We try not to give them names, though some, like Dobbie, Cathead and Mini Me, we could not resist getting personal with.
We were told by a cat expert that once a feral cat gets to a certain age without being touched by a human it will never let a human touch it. Mama Kitten, as a young adult, often sat close to us when we sat outside, but never let us touch her. Then she began eating from a spoon we’d hold out to her, as her next batch of kittens also did. Then she began rubbing against our legs. Now she is like our pet, living in the merciless wild, surviving not through God’s mercy but by her superior skills as a survivor.
How do you bear the sorrow of seeing these adorable animals disappeared like political dissidents in some South American dictatorship? I have no idea. God’s merciless plan, I suppose. Everybody’s got to eat.
Sekhnet shot a video of Mama Kitten in a stand-off with a fledgling hawk. Sekhnet took the earthbound bird’s side, you can hear her in the video trying to dissuade Mama Kitten from killing the bird, which was almost the same size as the cat. The plucky little predator was not taking any shit from the cat who could have easily killed her. It was a standoff. The bird hobbled off to grow up to feast on kittens, most likely.
When I feel the anxiety that plagues so many in America today I usually try to get some exercise. I walk five miles a day most days, I ride the bike for short, hard, uphill rides or long leisurely ones along the beautiful Hudson River, and always feel better after a ride. Since my fucking idiopathic kidney disease, and the twelve weeks of no exercise after the “chemo,” I have been trying to get back into shape. It has been a battle, trying to get the legs strong again, the heart and lungs back up to capacity. I tried too hard, apparently, a week or two ago, pushing myself two days in a row, and now wear a knee brace. I am bitter, I am anxious, I feel sorry for myself, and angry. If I get up too fast, CLICK!, my knee locks up like a steel trap, with the flash of sudden pain one associates with a steel trap.
Nothing for it but a visit to a specialist. Thankfully I managed to arrange one for two weeks from now. I will try to take it easy, keep my knees calm, take hot baths, let the soreness in my shoulder from doing a sitting one-handed push up every time I stood, when the knee pain was at the worst, calm down. I will try my best to keep myself calm and reasonable. That is more than most people are able to do but I consider it a worthy goal.
There are millions of anxious people who live with deadly secrets, too terrifying to even think about. The threat of certain fearful truths becoming known makes people into fabulous story-tellers, geniuses of fictive narrative. They rewrite history, they invent the present, they dream of a future where they are magically not irrevocably fucked by hideous things they can never admit.
I must take solace where I can find it — from the blessings of my life, of all life, and from my stance– at least I’m not one of those poor fuckers who can’t bear to explore themselves, look at the demons that are always close behind. I may not know everything I need to know about living a good life, but I have a leg up on many people I can think of. Even if that leg is currently a bit tender to walk on, or even to sit with now as I assemble my curious thoughts here in the far reaches of Cyberia.