The Buddha, The Dharma, The Sangha

"Spiritual powers and their wondrous functioning--hauling water and carrying firewood." --Layman Pang, upon his realization

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Textures of Sadness

November 2, 1998-November 27, 2010
Jams, aka, Mumbles, was a great cat. She was a lot like a dog, ever present, living large and a big part of my everyday life. Now that she is gone, it casts into sharp relief all those little places she filled, which are now awfully empty. She had long stopped jumping on the bed, due to a lot of heft, and she didn't need to be petted much, but I talked to her a great deal, and like most cats, she answered back.
She was also the Master of The Silent Meow, which always seemed so Zen!
Those of us who are left without her have had some trouble adjusting.
Her sister cat spent a full day looking everywhere in the house for Mumbles. She looked outdoors as well. Though there was no love lost there, the absence of her nemesis has thrown Tizzy into a new state of being--the edge of crossed cat paths and food territory has been erased, and now Tizzy does nothing extreme, as her name implies. There is no longer any need to be in a tizzy.
The dog seems resigned to being the only other animal Tizzy interacts with now, and rolls a baleful eye when she hogs his dog bed or eats his food--with Mumbles on the scene, there was always an ally, another animal to absorb some of Tizzy's aggressive behavior. Mumbles was good companionship for the dog, she was like a calm puppy, and many afternoons, the two would share the dog bed or chill outdoors together.
So in the animal kingdom, everything has shifted ever so slightly.
In the human world, it is of course, a place to practice non attachment, impermanence, interbeing.
After we left the vets without her, we returned home, printed out the most recent photo of Mumbles and placed it on an altar for her. Then we rolled up the rug she had used as a litter box for the past week, washed the floor and unrolled a new rug. I washed several beach towels I had used for her bedding and threw away her cat chow, washing the bowl.
And then I sat down. Suddenly it seemed as if she had never existed! We had exchanged the real and very sick cat for the photograph of the cat, where her illness was not so apparent.
That happened too fast....
For a few nights, I woke in the middle of the night and leaned over the side of the bed, expecting to see her sprawled on the sheepskin rug where she loved to sleep. One night I dreamed it was a human being on all fours on the sheepskin, and another human being crawling out of the room. A nightmare, I swung my legs to the floor, waking quickly to nothing at all, my feet on the sheepskin. I think I muttered, "No way, bastards!", got back into bed and fell asleep instantly.
Another night, I awoke sobbing. Again, another dream. I didn't even dry my eyes, just fell back into a deep sleep.
The subconscious is working over time to process the loss of a cat, a loved and loving being.

Waking hours bring random memories: the many times she tried to get into my lap while I meditated, or after sitting, looking up at me and giving me one of those silent Zen meows...what more was there to say?!? Just silence.
Even funnier, the times I went in to meditate, and she was already on the zafu and zabuton, eyes gently closed.
I think of how her back legs thumped on the stairs when she ran down for breakfast, diet chow in later years, or how she waited patiently for us to air lift her on to the computer chair and spin her around really fast. Sort of like Hershey Park for cats, she dug her claws in and really hung on!
There are such random memories: the way I could hold her in the palm of my hand as a kitten, and then the way I had to hold her as a grown cat, clutched under one arm like a package, while supporting her front legs with my other hand. Licking whipped cream, pouncing on a bird but then not quite understanding what came next in the drama of the hunt, resulting in catch and release, stealing the pot scrubber and finding it later in someone's bed, never leaving our side when we were sick (Nurse Nammy), her twice broken tail....
There are now so many gaps in the routine, so many spaces in the habit track, and nothing rushes in to fill the space. I keep thinking of another cat, but a little voice also pulls me back away from filling that space too.
I wonder about these spaces. They would certainly be more cavernous with a greater loss. Still, I am restless and floundering with this loss.

We watch as all that lives reaches its peak of ripeness, of beauty, of health and vitality, and then seems to crest a wave, or take one step down the other side of the mountain, and if we are watching closely, we can sometimes define that point--mostly though, we recall that point, looking back over the course of a life lived, and we say, that was when everything changed. Yet everything is always changing, is in a state of continuous flux and flow, we only imagine it to be otherwise, and then act somewhat surprised when we see the down swing, the ebb of life energy, the flowers that drop their petals or the human being who seemingly ages overnight and we are shocked seeing them again.
Do I look like that? we wonder. Have I changed that much? Do I walk that slowly, with my shoulders bent?

My practice prepares me for death, for leaving, for helping others leave.
My practice allows for these spaces of emptiness that now exist without Mumbles, the absence of habitual activity and endless ego creation. So just letting this be what it is at the moment is all I can do, and really, I can't even "DO" that, I just need to exist within this space without turning it off, or out or away, without clinging to any part of it--so that's what this practice is for the moment, uncovering and living in accord with the textures of sadness.