“The smallest feline is a masterpiece.” -Leonardo DaVinci
This is Kung Pao. And no, I didn’t give him that name. In fact, I have a habit of naming cats after characters from old movies. So knowing what I do about him now, I’d probably call him Sheridan Whiteside. From The Man Who Came to Dinner. If it was my choice, that is.
But it wasn’t my choice, because Kung Pao wasn’t even supposed to be my cat.
He was named by Caroline. She bought the house across the street and moved in eight years ago. Right about that time, Kung Pao and his sister were abandoned at the local homeless shelter, where Caroline worked. Being both a kind soul and a new homeowner with some extra space to share, Caroline decided to adopt them.
Soon after, Kung Pao set up housekeeping in our backyard.
The soft ground cover under the redwood trees became his living room. The middle of the lawn, his favorite bathroom. He pulled up a chair at the patio table whenever we ventured outside to eat, eternally hopeful that he would be rewarded with a treat. (He usually was, by the way.)
At night he bedded down under the eaves, in the corner of a planter which happened to be right next to the bedroom slider. To my amazement, he slept there even on the coldest winter nights. So I made him a proper bed from a plastic storage box, filling it with a cozy quilt and cutting the lid in half so he’d have easy access.
My husband used to joke that Kung Pao lived with us 23 hours a day, only returning home for meals.
Who knows why Kung Pao preferred it here? I suspect he had a rough life before Caroline adopted him, and we had a space where he could roam a bit but still feel safe and enclosed. Not to mention a bevy of kindred kitties. Maybe he found his people here.
I like to think he was the cat version of Heidi back then, coming to recuperate in the Swiss Alps of our backyard, getting stronger and healthier every day.
Whatever it was, we continued like this for years. And all seemed well. That is, until the “for sale” sign appeared on Caroline’s lawn in 2006 (smart cookie, that Caroline, to sell before the housing market took its long and painful dive). Caroline was headed, literally, for the greener pastures of Salem, Oregon.
So what did I do? I panicked.
I hate to admit it, but a part of me hoped she wouldn’t be able to sell her house! Because it seemed awfully presumptuous of me to ask her to give me her cat. But it wasn’t like that at all. When I finally got the nerve to remark to her, “Well, you know, they say a cat sometimes chooses you,” Caroline was gracious and grateful. She told me she hoped I would ask, because clearly this was home for Kung Pao.
And here we are, three years later. Kung Pao lives inside most of the time now, and fits in well with the rest of the brood. Of course, he will always be somewhat timid and easily frightened.
Yet, he has a kind of wisdom that reminds me of the eccentric Southern characters in Tennessee Williams’ plays.
Like in the photo above. Every single day, after his evening meal, he saunters out to the glider to sit for a spell in the fading light. He tidies himself up. Gazes at a wandering bee or bug. And becomes very still and serene. I’m convinced that if he could, he’d pour himself a cup of elderberry wine and light up a pipe.
Perhaps, because he’s been to the dark side and back, he has an innate understanding of the meaning making power of daily rituals.
The small daily ritual. A few moments to get grounded. An in-between space in the forward movement of our days.
Now me, I’m not as good at that as Kung Pao is. One day recently I came upon a list I made last December. It wasn’t exactly a menu of resolutions for the New Year. I stopped doing that long ago. It was more about life enrichment and enhancement, less about goals and objectives. And as I read through it, I was surprised to find most everything on it was a daily or weekly ritual:
- Walk through the garden each morning
- Make a pot of hot tea every afternoon
- Play with the cats in the evening
- Sit and hold hands with Dave after work
- Try out a new coffee house each week
Okay, I’ve done each of those things some of the time, but not near enough to proclaim them as rituals. So I laugh at the notion that here is this cat, with a brain the size of a peach, who has figured out how to do daily rituals when I’m still woefully lagging behind!
But I know I’m not alone. I know I’m in good company, and many of us struggle to weave these small daily wonders into our lives.
So next year, I’m taking a page from Kung Pao’s book. I have a feeling if I let my eccentricities roam just a tiny bit more, I’ll soon be joining him on the glider as often as I can.
What about you? What do you know about small daily rituals? Or cats? Or anything, for that matter? Share your thoughts here and let’s start a conversation.
WHY NOT START NOW?