Bruce the Cat and Full Moon Mornings

The moon woke me this morning. Just like last month’s full moon. Suspended like a prison guard’s searchlight outside my living room window. So bright I can read by its light. That moon. Too stunning to turn away. I watch its stealth decent – soon half gone behind the trees across the way. Meanwhile, grey dawn begins to cast its own soft light through the kitchen window behind me. A reminder that soon there’ll be no time to be distracted by light bouncing from a pock marked rock floating in blue black space. My day is beginning. And in the last few minutes of pre-dawn stillness my task is to put down words to describe what I see and feel. 

But that’s impossible because the padded click of Bruce the Cat’s clawed feet across our luxury vinyl plank flooring tickles my ears as he approaches the overstuffed chair where I sit with my laptop resting – appropriately – on my knees. A fresh brewed cup of coffee is on the table to my right. 

Bruce the Cat is deaf. These days he compensates for his deafness with meows loud enough to wake the dead. They are meows that after twenty years are beginning to grow rough around the edges – a combination of Screech from Saved by the Bell, Urkel from Family Matters and a two-pack-a-day habit. And as his primary human companion I know what each meow means. 

‘Hold me. Love me. Feed me. Pet me. Take me out. Bring me in. Leave me alone.’

Despite a stagger in his step when he first wakes Bruce remains nimble and has no problem hopping onto the arm of the chair. He spends a good five minutes investigating – my computer, my face, my coffee cup – before settling on the sofa to watch the moon with me. Or to take a nap.

I adopted Bruce when he was fourteen-years-old the death of his first human companion. I saw his photo on NextDoor and was smitten by the cheeky look in his eyes and his long ginger coat. My own human companion, Ben, was not a ‘cat person’. But he loved me (miraculously he still does). He said ‘as long as Bruce doesn’t jump on the bed’. Not only was Bruce a senior cat, he was obese. So I said, ‘don’t worry, he’ll never be able to jump on our bed’. 

After three days, when Bruce the Cat decided that his new living accommodations were satisfactory, he crawled out from under the couch, sauntered into the bedroom, wiggled his butt to build maximum vertical lift, leapt onto the duvet and fell asleep on Ben’s and my pillows.

From that moment Ben and I knew who was boss. It wasn’t us.

And now, six years later, our lives revolve around Bruce the Cat. We’ve grown accustomed to being covered in cat fur. It’s become second nature to do a visual sweep of the kitchen floor in the morning to make certain there are no horked up hairballs. And we clean Bruce’s litter boxes with the ease and nonchalance of a mother changing a diaper. 

Bruce the Cat will be twenty-one in September and I know that means the time Ben and I have left with him is limited.

If I’m being truthful, knowing that Bruce’s best days are behind him, I feel compelled to spend time with him. To keep him nurtured and comfortable. I cook chicken for him and give him bonito flakes as a treat. I don’t like to upset his routine and avoid traumatizing Bruce with cat sitters. So I don’t leave the house for more than a day. And as the sun rises and the moon sets, I put off writing to offer Bruce the cuddles he and I both need. I love Bruce, I love Ben and I love my home. I feel immense gratitude for all three.

A Fresh Dawn

IMG_6311My bookclub met via Zoom on Wednesday. The book up for discussion was Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart. It was published fifteen years ago but the gifts it offers are timeless. In these extraordinary times we would be well served to keep a copy nearby to dip into when life teeters on the precipice.

Something that was said last night has stuck with me. It was one of those observations that takes us from one point in the conversation to another. Just a toss off – nothing that we lingered on. In the book Pema advices us to breathe. We all agreed it’s easier to watch the news or scroll through Facebook or find a hundred other reasons why sitting still and taking a simple breath is not an option. This morning it’s the plaintive mews from Bruce the Cat.

My alarm rings at 5 AM. Bruce the Cat receives a bit of attention and a dollop of Oh My Cod or Salmon Enchanted Evening.  I’m at my desk with a cup of coffee by 5:15 AM. Five mornings a week I gift myself this wonderful hour of quiet solitude but the truth is that, until today, it’s been wasted on me.

My intention is to use this hour that glows with the breaking dawn to write or meditate or do both but as I sip my brew I’m reading daily briefing emails from Huff Post, CNN and the New York Times. Then I’m responding to messages that landed during the night. I cuddle Bruce the Cat for a moment and the next time I look at the clock that golden hour is gone. It’s time to say good morning to Ben the Human, to strap on my running shoes and begin my day.

Distractions. The emails, the social media, the news – during the first hour of my new day they fill my brain until there’s no more room for what fills my heart the same way eating candy before a meal leaves no room for nutrition.

What distracts you from the calls of your heart? 

My morning cruise through the news is nothing but a habit. The solution is simple. Break the habit. Create a new routine. Answer the call. Breathe.

We can find the motivation to do this by asking ourselves why it’s important. When we lost the structure to our days a few months ago we laid a new foundation and built a new structure. The foundation for my new reality is this hour. When I choose to scroll through emails the foundation weakens. When I answer the call of my heart – when I write – I feel strengthened.

This dawn hour is important to me because the discipline of writing sets the tone for my day. What do you do to set the tone for your day? To keep your foundation strong?

The 5:40 train to San Francisco rumbled through ten minutes ago and Ben’s alarm just rang. Red finches are spreading their wings and with raucous chirps are bullying their way around the feeder outside my door. The world is waking up and my hour is winding down.

It was a good hour. I think I’ll do the same thing tomorrow.