My cat Heidi (Pudding) passed away on Friday. She was sixteen, and had decided her time had come. We'd been watching her get thinner and more arthritic all year, and this past week she lost her appetite completely. There was more to it than that, of course, but she made it clear she wasn't interested in hanging on any longer. She was a delightful cat. She spent her kittenhood running up trees after squirrels, then turning around, tail cocked, and running down them, with her ears pinned back and her wildest expression on. She grew to love food, and would put on a concert of yowls until someone would open a can for her in the morning. She was gentle and cuddly, and very quirky. Her warm solid weight was the cause of many accidental couch naps. In her old age she licked the gravy from the wet food and sought sunbeams and warm laps.
Somehow when I think of summer I tend to picture lazy days spent reading novels in a hammock or bare feet sun-browned and barnacle-toughened padding along dry forest paths. This summer has not been that. It's been full, hectic, busy, the kind with too many workdays. Last month was my high school reunion, which I emphatically said I would avoid, but a chance encounter, a random comment, and all of a sudden we had tickets. An afternoon at the lake with old friends was just as good as it ever was, and felt so overdue. The reunion itself was both incredibly awkward and far more fun than expected. It was interesting the way people looked like themselves, but more, or less, or different than back then at any rate, everyone wearing ten years differently. To my great frustration, I spent the whole next week wishing I had worn my polka dotted dress instead. Ridiculous. This past Sunday morning we slept late and stumbled around the house confused and unsettled. The sky was an eerie sepia-orange-pink, the inside of our house at midmorning was dark as evening. We hoped that a storm was rolling in, and would bring rain, but it just brewed and brooded until we couldn't take it and drove across town in the muggy heat to the lake my husband swam in as a child. I had to turn on the headlights in order to see the console.The sun was a red disk in the smoggish sky and a faint taste of smoke told us what we had begun to expect: this was forest fires. The winds had shifted, bringing to our awareness to what's going on in much of the rest of this province, and it was like a mild version of the July I spent up north last summer. At the lake, the green of the trees was almost fluorescent in the twilight-zone kind of light. The water was refreshing, normalizing, and we returned home in the afternoon able to pick up the threads of tasks we had scattered in the morning.
The reach-tug of the waves along the shore this morning while I walked home from my job in town was validating and soothing to some piece of me that wants freedom and creativity above all, that struggles to meet the schedules of the mundane and hopes pockets of time would open when wished for and treasures would show up on the most drudging of days. I did see a northern flicker and a host of robins though, so that is something.
I am trying to breathe through the dread that comes up each time I think about my next shift at work. I feel so inspired in every other aspect of my life. The wind playing in the trees across the street is a tableau of shifting light on the wide slats of our coffee table. In the next room, bread is slowly rising and the tap drips, keeping time. I've found myself rearranging the house again, as if I get it just right then the rest of my life will fall into place. The afternoon stretches out ahead, all possibility and freedom, the half-formed lists of intentions only guidelines.
These are last summer's butterflies, collected from the roadside on the fringe of the boreal forest.