The Church of Awe

If you can look at a spider mite, or a cumulonimbus cloud, or the ring around a full moon and not be simply knocked out by the wonder of it, I can't imagine what it would take to impress you. This day-to-day awe forms the core of my religious experience -- best described as the deepest imaginable appreciation and gratitude.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Earth Loses One Sweet Kitty

I wish I had a better photo of Sable, my cat companion for the past 18 years. She was black, elusive and given to cat ways -- meaning when the camera was pointed in her general direction, one minute she would be there and the next minute, not.

I've known for quite some time that Sable was slowly exiting my world. After a crisis a few months ago in which I thought she wouldn't make it another day, she has faded away by degrees. Once again I am struck -- as I was with my mother's recent death -- with how much time it can take to die, if the organism is healthy to begin with and doesn't experience trauma. Life is so powerful, so strong and tenacious, that it releases its embrace in slow motion, function by function, system by system.

And then, just like that, it's over. One minute she was there, the other she was not. Poof. I had a sweet black kitty and now I do not.

I'm so honored to have shared my life with her. She was one of the good ones. Never bratty, always gentle and companionable. The photo shows just how good-natured she was. She actually liked -- or else patiently endured -- my scratching her tummy as she hung upside down on my legs. Bob Dog always ended up spoiling the game because he couldn't imagine that this wasn't prelude to a rumble and would start gnawing on her head. Even at this affront, she would give him a few warning meows and only as a last resort, if he remained insensitive to her needs, would she bring out those switchblade claws and give him a painful warning that, no, really, she meant that she didn't want her head gnawed upon.

For 18 years that sweet, spunky cat being has been part of my life. She came to us when she was so tiny I couldn't imagine that she would even survive. My daughter found her under a car on a street in Oklahoma City and, although having a cat wasn't in my life plan at that particular moment, one look at her and my heart invented a different future. She was Ariel's cat while Ariel was still at home. Her purring presence witnessed Ariel's adolescence and evolution into college student and young woman on her own. Sable was a fixture on Ariel's twin bed during those long stretches holed up in her room with the music loud and the drama dripping off the walls. Eventually, when Ariel would call from college, it was always, "How's Sable?" before we got down to other business, like, "Got money?"

She was my son's cat, too, even when the dark moods of his black tee-shirt days pulled him away from much that was sweet and gentle. I always knew Austin was still reachable, despite how hard he tried not to be, when I spied him sitting in the rocking chair cradling Sable and talking low and rumbly, gentle as a lamb.

For the past several years, however, Sable has been my girl. All cat, all the time, of course, but still my girl. Her place of honor was in her own little two-foot square of my bed, up by the pillows but never oppressively close. She liked her space as much as I like mine.

She had insisted, these last few nights, on going outside. This wasn't unusual, but what was out of character was her immediate disappearance. The first night, I panicked and spent half the night calling for her and then she suddenly appeared from The Alternative Cat Universe (which I'm convinced is where they go when they simply cannot be found). The next night, I suddenly felt that she had to be outside. I don't know how I knew this, but I'm fairly certain that Sable told me. Her spirit told mine that this is how she needed it to be. And who could blame her? If I had the choice of dying outdoors, surrounded by cricket rasp and bird twitter, wouldn't I want to go that way, too?

But I had my needs, too. And the next time I had the opportunity to hold her, I told her that I needed for her not to just crawl away and disappear. I needed to be able to say goodbye, regardless of when it happened.

Last night, the rains came, and with them, thunder and lightning. This meant that Bob Dog needed to be on my bed, shivering and whining his insane fear of the weather. So as I lay there, trying to settle him down, I again knew that if I went out on the porch, I would find Sable.

She had crawled out from under the porch and, barely able to walk, was trying to make it back to the steps. I scooped her up as the rain pelted us, brought her in to my rocking chair and held her as the gentle spirit I had come to know as Sable simply ebbed away. A few rattly breaths and pffft ... I was holding a bundle of inanimate fur. Sable had disappeared forever into Alternative Cat Universe.

And once again, I am left with mysteries to ponder. What is this spirit that has us be beings one second and simply matter the next? Where does it go when it leaves? And how long does it remain discretely that being? Is there a Sable cat spirit out there prowling the underbrush in some celestial garden? Or is cat spirit like helium that was once contained in a balloon? Once it's out of the fur and sinew that enclosed it, does it dissipate into ether? Do we?

Mysteries I'm too limited to answer. But I can tell you this: Whatever that is -- that life, that animation, that amazing juice -- it is miraculous and utterly worth honoring. I stand in gratitude and awe.

Hallelujah. Holy cats.



Blogger Dan said...

So sad. Goodbye Sable.

7:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tears stream down my face as I read your piece and write this; you have expressed so beautifully and perfectly the bittersweet feelings of loving and losing a companion, of any sort. (I've lost two of my own dear felines in recent months.) Thank you for sharing KC. Vicki

8:24 AM  
Blogger Rikki said...

that's the perfect picture of her -- it captured the personality you described. i'm glad you could be with her when she moved on. i'm also sorry for your loss.

9:39 AM  
Blogger Jo said...

Oh dear, Dear KC, my heart breaks for you. What a wonderful kitty and what a wonderful life - and what a terrific picture. These little furry things have such a grip on our hearts. Thinking of you and Bob with love,

Jo, Poppy and Chunky

12:35 PM  
Anonymous Kay McCullough said...

KC -- I have been thinking about you and did a search. Came up with the other blog first, where you wrote about your mother. She was so beautiful, and your honest and heartfelt words are comforting to those of us who have not yet experienced this inevitability. A lot has happened since last we said goodbye. I hope I am older, wiser, more mellow, and a tad more irreverent (I almost typed irrelevant! HA.) Hope you haven't been affected by the storms -- are you still living in your old spot 'tween 2 of my children's favorite places??

3:02 AM  
Blogger KC_Compton said...

Kay -- How great to hear from you. Yep, still here in eastern Kansas and loving it. Not the chiggers and mosquitoes and occasional ticks and humidity part of it. But everything else.

Are you still at the CST?

Thanks for getting in touch. I'll call you there, if that's still the place.


5:59 AM  
Anonymous kay said...

NO, I have been gone for more than 2 years. Can you believe it? Jim and I are in Ocala, FL -- in the midst of rolling hills and horse farms that rival Kentucky. I would never -- NEVER -- have chosen the Sunshine State, as you can imagine. But fire trucks are being built here and Jim was given the opportunity to move with the competition when his Casper plant closed.

Not many left at the CS-T who you would know. It's definitely not the same -- gone corporate.

Here is my e-mail:

12:38 PM  
Blogger Schmutzie said...

You are being featured on Five Star Friday:

8:06 AM  
Blogger Gypsy said...

I stand in awe of that transition too. I wonder. I awe. And then I obsess!

Thank you for sharing!

7:00 PM  
Blogger KC_Compton said...

Thanks, Gypsy. I'm glad you found my blog. I've just been chiding myself to get busy and write something new. I just sort of stopped in my tracks a while back and haven't been able to get myself going again. But .... ONWARD!


7:50 AM  
Blogger ORcoastGEEZER said...


Great blog

What's going on with you these days?

We continue to enjoy Yachats on the central Oregon coast

Max Glenn

12:28 AM  
Blogger KC_Compton said...

Good to hear from you -- and good to hear things are going well on the Oregon Coast. How's the weather out there?

I'm staying ridiculously busy in very wonderful ways -- my band played in Italy this fall, so rehearsing and preparing for that took some energy, and my job is going great in a demanding, challenging, rewarding way.

My band is, in fact, singing in Oklahoma City in February as a fundraiser for the Peace House and, I think, Donna's church ... So if you still have OKC contacts, we put on a really good show.

7:51 AM  
Blogger Melody said...

I loved your post. I was right there with you feeling what you felt and loving Sable too. It is amazing that you were able to be there for those last precious minutes.

I think that all good animals go to heaven too...or heaven would be a hell for me. Hopefully I'm right, and someday when your journey in life is done Sable will be right there to intertwine her body around your feet and welcome you Home.

4:04 PM  
Blogger KC_Compton said...

I got a sweet card after one of my dogs died a few years ago with a poem about how all our animal companions are waiting for us over on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge. I love that idea. I imagine it's just a sweet myth, but it's one I embrace whole-heartedly. When I imagine it, I have quite a menagerie waiting for me there on the other side. And I'm not done yet.

Thanks for reading me.

6:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...; You saved my day again.

3:08 AM  

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