Two weeks ago we lost our beloved cat, Archie. He was elderly by all standards, 19, ancient for a cat. He had been with us since he was 3 months old when we adopted each other and we definitely feel his loss and his absence. I miss his weight in my lap as I read or watch TV or feel him tucked by my side as I wrote my blog. I look for him at every turn, sometimes catching myself when I question if he is still outside as the evening turns to night or glancing at the rocking chair where he used to sleep. Such a large gap left by such a tiny being.
I believe the spirit guides that come into our lives to walk this journey with us come in all shapes, sizes, genders, and species. Certainly, Archie was one of those for our family. In nineteen years we lived through many joys and trials together, the good times and the challenging ones and he always sensed when we needed a reassuring cuddle. But the nature of a cat is independence and he certainly had that as well.
We learned lots of life lessons from Archie. He was a “live and let live” type of cat. Over the years our garden found many creatures making a home or sometimes just passing through. Possums, raccoons, deer, rabbit, too many bird species to count, squirrels, many other cats, dogs, the odd rat, even a coyote. In his very zen way, Archie would allow all of these creatures to share his space although there was one mean cat I feared who would attack Archie anytime he came into the yard and I also knew he most likely looked like a tasty meal to the coyote. There were unexpected surprises like when he brought a bird into the house in his mouth and presented it to us still alive. It flew all over the living room before I could let it out, the panicked bird frantically getting caught in window blinds and light fixtures on its way to the open door. Or the baby rabbit he picked up and carried across the yard, it screaming in terror all the while. He never killed though. Even the rat we saw come into the yard became a playmate for him.
What we learned from him during his long time with us is that we can all get along and live in harmony whether we are the same species or not. That there is room and a place for all of us in the garden and beyond. That we all bring something unique to the table. Archie loved his yard, that garden filled with flowers and fruit and plants of all sorts. When he went out he would first stop and smell the flowers blooming along the path he walked, his favorite being the lavender. On hot days he would lie on the river stones in the garden and drink from the blue ceramic fountain, a creature of the wild. I would watch him and remind myself what he was showing me; slow down and smell the flowers. Be in the here and now. Love the simple things in life.
This is not to say he didn’t have his own midlife crisis. One summer when he was about 12 we were overseas to visit family for a month and an old friend was coming to the house to feed and care for Archie. The first day our friend stopped by, Archie ran outside. He was gone for 3 weeks, who knows where. We assumed he stayed in the yard but he was not seen in all that time even though the food left on the deck was eaten. We all worried for him, us an entire continent and an ocean away. The week before we returned, he showed up at the front door and when he was let in he went straight to his food dish and refused to leave the house again until we got back. He returned without his collar and despite trying to put one on him again, he discarded 3 more and refused to wear a collar ever again.
I think of how much wisdom and joy was packed into that little 13-pound body. The day we knew it was the end I was so grateful we were with him. He was ready, his tiny heart giving out at last and it was peaceful. We buried him under the cedar tree, a place he had wandered, dug and sat under for so many years. In the days that have followed, I have not been surprised to see other creatures come into the yard to pay him homage and say goodbye. Just the other day a mother raccoon and 3 of her babies emerged from the laurel bush. The 3 babies frolicked and played in the ceramic pot full of water but the mama walked straight to Archie and rested her front paws on the stones we had laid over him. His little spirit is still alive and well in the yard where he spent his life. Sometimes I almost see him camouflaged in the foliage as I had so many times before, him blending with the greens, greys and yellows of the garden. I lay bouquets of lavender on his resting place, the flower he loved most smelling them appreciatively and one that I would sprinkle in his bedding and litter. Despite only seeing one or two these past years, this summer the lavender is full of bees, joyously drinking from one stalk to the other before moving on to the rose bushes just as I sense him silently moving through the bushes, a shadowy presence in the corner of my eye. The circle of life. Our little lion king.
2020 has been such a year of change and loss. But Archie reminds me once more that life goes on, that new life is coming with the anticipation of the birth of our grand-baby, that the world has ever regenerated itself and that life is what we make it. The other night I had a dream I was washing dishes and when I looked down I could see his tail gently wrapped around my feet as he had done so many times before, risking a step by his inattentive human looming over him. I awoke with the feeling it was all okay. He was the comforting one again. I miss him a lot but I am grateful he was with us for so long and that he is no longer in pain or distress. His zen wisdom lives on. Thanks for all the love and lessons, Archie. Rest peacefully.