Juggling my hefty backpack on one hip and my over-stuffed, over-body bag on the other—my chiropractor would be appalled—I’m two blocks away when I hear him crying after me. After bobbing and weaving to balance my baggage, I manage to turn around. I am relieved to see that Handsome isn’t following me. My silky gray feline familiar follows me around inside the house like a puppy dog, till he dashes ahead to direct me to our favorite snuggle spot.
Thankfully, not he’s not chasing me now. He’s stationed at his post on the corner of our yard, tensed and scanning both streets for signs of danger. His plaintive meows urge caution, entreating me to return to the safety of home.
Well advised he is to be wary. Our hillside neighborhood harbors serious threats for domesticated animals, even a cat as muscular and fit as Handsome. Hulking machines, at least 400 times his weight, hurtle down our winding, ten-block street, never mind the multiple stop signs along the way. Wily coyotes stalk the sidewalks, sometimes in broad daylight, urban savvy as they have become. Ravenous raptors circle in the sky, hunting for tasty morsels of flesh. Fearless crows in treetop perches divebomb at unsuspecting house cats who might threaten their nestlings.
It’s a wonder Handsome dares to leave the safety of our house at all. Instinct drives him out, despite our efforts to keep him in. He first came to us as a foster, and we’d signed paperwork promising that we would keep indoors. But a person of such limited discipline as I can only endure so many hours of piteous howling and pleading stares. Tail banging the floor, he seemed befuddled by our heartless refusal to honor his nature. I finally broke down and allowed him out. And signed the papers to adopt him. This decision’s on me. And him.
I’ve learned to steer clear of the rabid drivers as I’m walking my neighborhood, and I’m too big for a coyote to take. And yet, like Handsome, I feel my own sense of vulnerability in what seems to be an increasingly dangerous world. New reports of shootings arrive more often than the bottles of milk that once landed on my grandparents’ porch. Social media blasts about the intentional burning of the Amazon rainforest ridicule my mantra-for-sanity that the small things we do matter. The outright refusal of people elected to serve the public good to act on gun violence, climate change, and mass species extinctions inspires cursing streaks of which I am not proud.
I have to force myself to remember what’s good in the world, rather than obsessing on the insanity. Thanks to hours of work with wise teachers, I’ve learned that spending too much time in my own mind is the most dangerous place of all. It invents such convincing “evidence” of my own self-worthlessness –and the depravity of humanity in general—that it’s a wonder it’s not yet been named a domestic terrorist.
Only my regular practice of shutting off that channel of doom—or turning down the volume, anyway—keeps me from running into traffic, screaming. I’m an over-thinking-everything Gemini, so devotion to quiet contemplation does not come naturally. Or easily. Or at all, on some days. Weeks.
Handsome’s steadfast stance on his corner post reminds me to embrace what is mine to do. He can’t stop the speed cars any more than I can put a fire hose to the Amazon. But every morning, he races out of the door to do what he is called to do. Without complaint or cursing. And so shall I.
Blowing a kiss to Handsome, I turn and head back on down the sidewalk, toward the yoga class that protects me from treacherous thoughts, for at least an hour. Then on to the cozy, local coffee shop where the owners will greet me by name. Here, I can settle in and do my own work. And give thanks for all who are showing up and doing their work today. For all who are tending all the children and critters and ecosystem of our one precious Earth. And for Handsome at his post. Watching out for me.