A Feline Petit Prince by Barbara Ardinger
I am tamed by cats. I live with them. Note that I do not say that I “own” cats. Cats are their own beings, as are the dogs and fish and gerbils and parrots and other critters that may live with us. Do farmers and ranchers really own their chickens and cows? I don’t think so. They’re our kin. We’re all the children of the Goddess, of our blessed Mother Earth.
I wrote recently about one of my all-time favorite books, Le Petit Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, a book I first read in my high school French I class. Le Petit Prince is said to be a children’s tale, a sort of fairy tale of the desert. Actually, it’s “about” many things: the value of childhood innocence, the incomprehensibility of serious adults (in his voyage from Asteroid B-612 to earth, the prince visits a king, a businessman, a drunk, and a lamplighter), the follies and the lessons of love. In the Sahara Desert, the Little Prince meets a golden desert fox that tells him that we see better with our hearts than with our eyes. The fox also asks the Little Prince to “tame” him, that is, to allow them to become familiar and friendly with each other.
I am tamed by cats. I live with them. Note that I do not say that I “own” cats. Cats are their own beings, as are the dogs and fish and gerbils and parrots and other critters that may live with us. Do farmers and ranchers really own their chickens and cows? I don’t think so. They’re our kin. We’re all the children of the Goddess, of our blessed Mother Earth. Christians sometimes use the term “stewardship.” In my mind, this does not imply ownership; stewards serve others. We can’t “own” the land, either. The earth is her own being, a conscious organism; again, we are stewards of the planet, and all I think we can “own” is the structures we build on her. I guess what a so-called land owner has is really a long-term lease. But…some of our houses have indwelling spirits, and I can’t help but wonder if the mobile devices we keep in our hands 24/7 also become ensouled as a result of that contact. But I digress. I’ll take this topic to another blog.
The two cats who live with me today are rescued Maine coons named Heisenberg and Schroedinger. Yes. Named after the famous quantum physicists. If you don’t already know about Schroedinger’s cat, here’s a link. If you don’t know about the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, you can read about it, too. With cats…well, it’s all true. Multiple universes. Either where or how fast, but not both. My first Schroedinger, BTW, was a calico who lived with me for 21 years. Madame Blavatsky in Secret Lives looks just like her. My cat did not, however, speak English, and I’m pretty sure she hadn’t been a famous occultist.
My first Heisenberg was a silver cream Maine coon with golden fur and a gorgeous fluffy tail. I first met him in 1987 when he was a kitten lying in my neighbor’s window. When the neighbor moved, she couldn’t take the cat, so he came to live with me. Schroedinger wasn’t sure she wanted company, however, so she spent the first weekend he was with us perched in the bathroom window. The cats made friends. Maine coons make friends with almost anyone. A few years later, we lived for six months with an evil roommate. She let Heisenberg out. I phoned my friend Clarissa, and she did some magic and found him. “Go home,” she told him. “Your mommy misses you.” And home he came—he leaped over the back fence, crossed the patio in two bounds, and just happened to knock the ironing board over before he landed in my arms. Evil roommate had a bruised knee. We moved to Long Beach. Here’s a photo of him. (My keyboard is protected by a plywood cover.)
When Heisenberg was about 15 years old, he suddenly lost a lot of weight. I took him to a vet, but the vet misdiagnosed him. A year later, I was referred to Dr. William Ridgeway at the Long Beach Animal Hospital. He is my hero. Heisenberg, alas, had a tumor about the size of a golf ball in his intestines. My 18-pound cat now weighed about eight pounds. The ultrasound showed that the tumor was inoperable. I had to make that correct but awful decision to send my feline friend to Summerland.
By that time, I had a whole circle of email friends who were sending prayers and healings to my cat. “Heisenberg is a majorly magical cat,” I wrote them. “Well, duh, aren’t they all? I know that many of you are already sending healing energy. For that I thank you from my heart.” A month later, I sent out another email: “I have just made an appointment for euthanasia for Heisenberg. It will be a little after 9 a.m.on Saturday. I will have him cremated, get his ashes, and put them in a little wooden box that I’ve had all my life. I’ll put a toy in with him and put a picture of him on the lid of the box.”
The night before I took Heisenberg to see Dr. Ridgeway for the last time, I crawled under the bed with him and read The Little Prince to him. As I wrote in an email, “The little prince wanders on the earth for a year and meets the author, whose airplane has crashed. At the end of his year on earth, the little prince fulfills a bargain with a snake. Saint-Exupéry writes, ‘There was nothing but a flash of yellow close to his ankle. He remained motionless for an instant. He did not cry out.’ The book concludes, ‘…if a little man appears who laughs, who has golden hair and who refuses to answer questions, you will know who he is. If this should happen, please comfort me. Send me word that he has come back.’” And then I added, “And so, my friends, if you look up sometime and see a fluffy cat with a tail like Cyrano’s white plume and green eyes and a grin on his face, you’ll know that he is Up To Something. That’s my Heisenberg!”
My friend Darcelle drove over from Anaheim to take us to the hospital. Even in the last moments of his life, Heisenberg was still curious. He checked out everything he could get close to. Darcelle cast a magical circle of blessing for us, and then Dr. Ridgeway injected Heisenberg. He died in my arms. And I did get his ashes. They’re golden! Really! To this day, his ashes (and my first Schroedinger’s) rest in the little wooden box (yes, with the jingle toy) on my home altar. When I got home (thanks again, Darcelle), I wrote this to my friends: “I’m a witch and a priestess and a crone, I’ve had hospice training, and I’ve helped several friends get ready to die. Theoretically, I can deal calmly with death. But that doesn’t stop me from crying. Heisenberg was loved and cherished every minute of the fifteen-plus years he lived with me, and everyone who ever met him has admired him and petted him. Who knows? Maybe he’ll come back in another kitty body. I’ve already invited him to come back to me.”
Here’s the good news. You know the funny song, “The Cat Came Back”? It’s true! My first Heisenberg went to Summerland (yes, cats go to heaven) on May 25, 2002. Because Schroedinger was 20 years old, I didn’t want to introduce her to a new cat, but after her death, Heisenberg Too came to live with me. He was found by Maine Coon Adoptions. (Look at the photos on the MCA site and see how beautiful these cats are.) He’s a tabby-Maine coon mix. Within days, he was acting like his predecessor. He also understands English. When I took him to see Dr. Ridgeway for shots, Dr. Ridgeway looked into his eyes. “Yep,” he said. “You’re right. It’s the same cat.” I’m not sure which of his nine lives he’s in now, but the cat came back and he still lives with me and Schroedinger 3. Le renard says to le petit prince, “Apprivoise-moi,” “Tame me.” I have been tamed byMaine coon cats. What a blessing that is! Here is the last photo I took of my first Heisenberg on the day before he died. The next photo is the first one of the new Heisenberg.
Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D. (www.barbaraardinger.com), is a published author and freelance editor. Her newest book is Secret Lives, a novel about grandmothers who do magic. Her earlier nonfiction books include the daybook Pagan Every Day, Finding New Goddesses (a pun-filled parody of goddess encyclopedias), and Goddess Meditations. When she can get away from the computer, she goes to the theater as often as possible—she loves musical theater and movies in which people sing and dance. She is also an active CERT (Community Emergency Rescue Team) volunteer and a member (and occasional secretary pro-tem) of a neighborhood organization that focuses on code enforcement and safety for citizens. She has been an AIDS emotional support volunteer and a literacy volunteer. She is an active member of the neopagan community and is well known for the rituals she creates and leads.