Yesterday my friend who was painting the enclosures at the end of the animal shelter alerted me to an elderly cat that needed some attention.
Estimated to be around 12-14 years old now, the frail but alert creature has been on medication to manage her health issues. She was found sick on the street a few years ago. Details of her background and even her name if she had one was only known to the late founder of the shelter.
Gently, I passed the wet tissue over the length of the cat’s body several times to ease her into the change of temperature. Then I moved a fresh piece of wet tissue up the back of her head and sort of passed it over her temple and face lightly to relax her. I was a stranger after all, even if I meant well.
When she with the unknown name allowed me to touch her facial region without backing off, I was then able to see the dried tear stains and hardened snot that needed removing.
And throughout the cleaning and being shifted about, the cat took every opportunity to turn around and face my friend who was watching us from outside the enclosure.
My friend’s feelings for this cat’s plight must have been so intense to generate such a phenomena.
Today when I played the encounter over in my head, some of the lines from “The Divine Image,” by William Blake came up:
“Mercy has a human heart, /Pity a human face/ And Love, the human form divine…”
Perhaps the cat saw God in my friend.
And “Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell /There God is dwelling too.”
We will never know what this old cat was called before. But based on her behaviour and her ability to call up “The Divine Image,” naming her “Divina” might be appropriate. 🌈🙏🐾
On the morning of the final full moon of the Year of the Rat, Emmanuel the Cat slumbers on.
He dreams of Sumerian cuneiforms, Egyptian hieroglyphs and pictographs of the past as he tallies up his lives’ scores.
The distinct letter ‘M’ marking on his velvety forehead that extends all the way to the top of his head and separates into wispy lines down the back of his neck like some elaborate headdress lends the sleeping cat a majestic air.
Perhaps Emmanuel had been a prince.
Emmanuel’s kohl lined eyes, bib of pristine white, ringed limbs and white socks also evoke a priestly presence.
Perhaps this cat was a priest before, and all the ring markings on his furry limbs were bangles he wore for ritual purposes in a bygone era.
Or perhaps this now portly feline had been a prisoner, and the ring markings were once ropes that bound him to suffering.
As I look at the blissful form breathing in the morning breeze, I get the feeling that whether Emmanuel had been a prince, a priest or a prisoner in the past, one thing is for sure.
And that is, someone from his past must have loved him & did all that was required that have resulted in his current life of relative ease.
Today we visited an animal shelter for cats & dogs.
I’m beginning to see life as a series of crossings all sentient beings have to make. Some crossings are very hard. Besides providing food and care for animals, we might help them cross from sickness and fear to more auspicious states through our prayers and personal rituals.
So I brought sage leaves and prayer flags with me to the shelter in hope that they might be of service.
After wiping down the cats, I came to the end of the shelter corridor where a stupa stood on a metal trolley.
A stupa is sanskrit for a dome structure used for buddhist meditation or for holding sacred texts and relics. Stupas vary in size. Some are small enough to be placed on dashboards.
I think the stupa at Boudha in Kathmandu, Nepal, is probably the largest on the planet. Walking around it can cultivate wisdom and compassion. The stupa that needed cleaning today was about half my height.
As I was removing dust from the stupa with a wet cloth, a large orange cat suddenly hopped onto the trolley top. He began weaving around the stupa as if he was making a circumambulation with his body!
When I managed to peel him off the stupa, he wrapped his paws around my neck and started purring and rubbing his face against mine affectionately.
I lit a sprig of sage leaves and passed their white plumes of aromatic smoke over and around the stupa after the cleaning was done.
Then holding the burning sage, I walked down the length of the corridor and paused at each animal enclosure.
The cats were fascinated. Many came towards me and lingered at the wire mesh to be closer to the smoke blessings.
Even their 17 year old dog snoozing at the doorway got up and joined us.
At the section that housed the dogs, we were barked at. Then as their eyes followed the smoke and their ears picked up the prayers, many calmed down.
A girl dog with gentle eyes wagged her tail merrily at us and wouldn’t let us out of her sight.
As I prayed for the animals to be healthy and happy, and to be released from all causes of difficulties in life, I realised I was essentially praying for myself.
Towards late afternoon, my friend raised the prayer flags over the entrance to bless everyone.
We learnt that the shelter caregiver’s late mom had been wanting to get a set of prayer flags for their shelter since they moved here. But the daily upkeep of the place and looking after animals left them with little time or energy to go looking for prayer flags.
My friend initiated this shelter visit about 2 weeks ago. The sage leaves were given to me recently. The prayer flags were gifts from years ago. I learnt that today is the feast day of the archangels.
All these seemingly random occurrences have come together to facilitate my intentions to support animals and their caregivers. And it brings me comfort to know that the prayer flags put up today will be fluttering under the light of the mid-autumn full moon in a day’s time.
I used to carry pretty handbags. Now I carry dogs and cats, and some kibbles.
These days with the knowledge that anyone can carry virus, we’re also obliged to carry hand sanitizers and face masks whether we like to or not.
In fashion magazines there’s a frequent quote that goes, “Women can never have enough handbags, or shoes,” to justify constant buying and spending.
But perhaps this insatiable appetite for bags and shoes is a hidden quest to find out what we really want to carry, and where we would like to be headed during this lifetime.
I recall Ms Jane Goodall having only a small trolley bag and a backpack to hold everything she needs on her cross continental lecture trips to speak for primates. And yet at every event, she manages to look so polished and new. 😊
Bit by bit when I learn to carry what really matters, the old baggage of self doubt and “what would people think of me,” steadily dissolves.
I still like beautiful things, as people born under the zodiac sign of the Hare are known for. My heart still burst with affection at the primary school girls holding their glittery magic pony bags.
But the compulsion to own pretty things is losing its grip on me as my understanding of what I’m meant to carry in this lifetime gains clarity.
The plumber who came to fix the pipes today was enamored of my cats, Ollie and Hakim.
He spoke affectionately about his own cat and a community cat that he and his family had been feeding before it disappeared.
When his work was done, he showed me the missing cat’s picture on his phone. The man who handles metal parts all day long then muttered to himself in Mandarin, “他失终这么久了,可是我就是不舍得把他的照片给删掉.” (translation: the cat’s been gone for so long, but I can’t bear to delete his photo from my phone).
In that split second, I felt I was watching a very private moment in a man’s life.
The picture that accompanies this post was from a friend who visited the desert during the full moon of 5 July. It was very windy there but she managed to find a spot to light a butter lamp in honour of her dog that recently passed on and a community cat that had not shown up at her home for meals.
May the Heart that grieves and pines be comforted by Light.