I believe in my cats. Not that I worship them, but that they have qualities I admire and try to emulate. Scrap is eleven years old and has gone from being a playful, nipping kitten to a easygoing heavyweight. Nugget is a seventeen-year-old elusive Tortoiseshell who loves to sleep and hide under the piano and the victrola. Smoke is almost two years old and is a ball of fire who is full of wonder and fun. From them, I have grown to understand more completely about unconditional love. I have learned that some of life’s greatest pleasures are to simply lay down and relax, or to find a soft spot and nap. More specifically, when Scrap was a kitten, he taught me that playing was important because when he played he was active, jumping, chasing and running. As he played, he grew lithe and strong. I learned that without play, I would become weak, lazy and bored. Now, Scrap teaches me that relaxation is an art that must be practiced daily. If I were to be stretched tight and thin every day, I would eventually break. But after a period of being pliable and relaxed, I am refreshed and rejuvenated, ready to roll again. Nugget was an abandoned kitten my wife rescued from a woodpile one stormy October night. Runt of the litter and flea-infested, she was bathed and cleaned up. That night, after coming home from a Rolling Stones concert, my wife told me about the kitten, who she said we would give to the SPCA. I looked at the helpless kitten in a box and decided we would keep her – our fifth cat at that time. In that instant, I learned mercy more strongly than I ever had before. Now, over time, Nugget has taught me that solitude is not a bad thing, and that it is temporary. When she feels like it, she will show her love for you. In this way, I know that if you wait for love, it will come to you. Smoke has taught me one important lesson in less than two years. She has made me a firm believer in unconditional love. She will let me pick her up and hold her, pet her, play with her and then let me know she’s had enough by squirming to be put down. It’s her way of saying, “I love you but I have important things to do”. Her eyes follow me with a look that says, “I know it’s you”. I believe unconditional love also says, “I know it’s you”. It imposes no conditions, no limitations. But it will let you know it can only come to you on its own terms; you cannot summon it. She also has taught me how to enjoy simple pleasures. One morning, my wife was in her bathroom brushing her hair. Smoke stood in the doorway watching. My wife showed Smoke the brush and in she came, looking as though she wanted to have her “hair” brushed. Out came another hairbrush and Smoke took to it like a duck to water. With a big smile on her face (yes, cats do smile), Smoke turned this way and that, lying down on one side, then the other, making sure she was thoroughly brushed, totally luxuriating in this simple pleasure. My wife doesn’t brush me, but I have learned the little pleasures can contain more meaning than the pleasurable events and things that come with a hefty price tag and a blaring announcement of their seeming importance. Just sitting in an Adirondack chair on a summer afternoon and looking how the sunlight plays on the leafy trees in the woods, or just studying one flower’s blossom can have more meaning and give more contentment than the gifts that come from crass commercialism’s glittering periphery. I believe in my cats because they are without pretense as I wish to be, because they simply exist and exist simply as I try to, and because right now, Scrap is lying on his back, feet up in the air, and looking up at me, perfectly content.
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