Life Is a Gift

Well, one of the kittens died.

I know, it was grey and ugly, the product of its homely, drab, tabby-striped, alley-cat, pregnant feral mother that someone dropped off on our property. The morning she gave birth we all looked at one another and said,

Grey is such a drab color, so opposite to the way the Norwegian Artist paints. But even grey, in its own way, is beautiful. Autumnal Reflections by Steve Henderson.

“Great. Four new grey and ugly alley cats that all look like their mother.” And then we found the family a box that we set on the porch where it would be safe, put out food and milk, and guarded the area from the chickens (they’re bullies, you know) while the mother ate.

“Maybe,” I told the Norwegian Artist, “after we feed her for several weeks, she’ll feel safe and warm and wanted.”

“That’s what I’m afraid of,” he responded, and proceeded to coo at one of the kittens. Okay, to be strictly honest he didn’t coo, but he didn’t snarl either. The lifting of his upper right lip could as easily be interpreted as a smile as it could a sneer, but I’ve never known the Norwegian to sneer.

There’s something about motherhood that ennobles animals who are otherwise anything but noble, like this ratty, random cat. Within hours she had commandeered the porch, streaking like a bullet from the box toward any animal that stepped within 10 feet. When Mozart, the Russian Blue patriarch who has benevolently overseen the feline farm for 15 years, padded softly behind the carrier, there was a pronounced thwack as the new mother poofed up, her trebling, trembling tail hitting the ceiling before she hurtled onto the bewildered interloper.

Motherhood — and fatherhood — are beautiful and ennobling things, in the world of humans and in the world of nature itself. Reflection by Steve Henderson

Ten seconds later she was back in the box, licking the grey matters of any dirt they could have picked up in the interval of her absence.

Three of the grey matters were quiet and complacent, the fourth piercingly and unrelentingly strident, which I attributed to its blindly – and I mean this literally – wandering far away from its mother and out of the box, where it yowled and its mother looked concerned, not quite sure of what to do. I kept putting it back, commenting to Tired of Being Youngest, “This one’s going to die if it doesn’t stop wandering away.”

As it happened, it did die, but not because it wandered, but because it just stopped – stopped yowling, stopped striving, by next morning stopped breathing, leading me to wonder if it had been yowling for more reason than just being intrepidly stupid, and if the mother never stirred herself to rescue it because she knew it was better not to.

So small. So innocent. So beautiful even in drab greyness. It lay in my hand, sleeping a deeper, more permanent sleep than its littermates, which it looked just like, but it wasn’t, not anymore.

Tired of Being Youngest wrapped the body in a soft pink cloth, then dug a tiny grave beneath the maple tree, where nobody will inadvertently plant tomatoes. She covered the top with rocks (to discourage the dog), and ended the ceremony by strewing the surface with flowers.

Life is a gloriously mysterious and mystically beautiful gift. Spirit of the Canyon by Steve Henderson, available now as a signed limited edition print.

Yes, it was an ugly, unwanted grey kitten from an uninvited cat, and there are three more that look just like it still in the box. But for a brief moment it was alive, and loud, and outwardly normal – a promise of life enigmatically aborted at the point when it had just begun.

And this promise of life, and then absence of it, awes me – because life is a precious, awesome, mystical and mysterious thing, something I have no power of granting or taking away, but can only mourn, and marvel.

Life is a gift.

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5 Responses to “Life Is a Gift”

  1. Francene Starr says:

    Please have that mother cat neutered…if she is wild you can catch her in a humane trap—the spay/neuter place in West Duluth will spay her for a reduced fee.

    • Francene — we are working on that, and I am calling various feral cat spaying programs, but we seem to fall in the cracks as far as funding goes. We have no problem keeping the odd creature, and indeed would like to provide her with more security than her former “owners” showed.

  2. Dorothy says:

    How tender, and beautifully written.

    • Thank you, Dorothy. The remaining three kitties are growing splendidly and quickly, just beginning to totter out of the box (eyes still closed), much to the mother’s apprehension. I pick them up and run my fingers over their perfect little bodies. So delicate, and yet so strong and determined to live.

  3. [...] kittens from the most recent unsolicited pregnant stray cat dumped off at our country home (Life Is a Gift), and I did something I haven’t done for a long [...]

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