By Kelly Sauvage Angel
When the student is ready, the teacher will come.
A wise one, a young lama of sorts with no robes nor grand lineage to speak of, entered my life recently.
It was a rather nondescript Sunday in July. Nothing auspicious about it really, for at the time I was unaware of the gravity of our acquaintance, much less the impact his presence would have upon my life.
True to unarticulated protocol, our initial meeting proceeded informally albeit with a hint of the requisite fanfare. Amid a heightened sense of anticipation, I first glimpsed him through the grated metal door of the carrier my co-worker Theresa had set down just beyond the time clock upon which I had punched out. With hands trembling slightly, I released the latch on his confines and spoke his name: “Monty.”
After shaking off the grogginess of a mid-afternoon nap, a puff of fine gray fur stretched, achieving full extension, before tottering out upon uncertain limbs. He centered himself on all fours, paused for an eternal moment… and let out something between a squeak and a sneeze.
Having seen pictures of Theresa’s nine-week-old barn kitten, Sarah and Julie had accompanied me for the hand-off. Choruses of “Oooooh, look at him,” and “He’s so sweet,” echoed within the cinderblock vestibule.
With one hand around his midriff and another cradling his rear end, I lifted the kitten and brought him to rest upon my chest. He looked into my eyes and casually yet curiously sniffed my face. Not an ounce of tension resided within his tiny body. He knew nothing but complete and utter trust.
Arriving home, I again unlatched the door to the carrier. Monty tottered out once more, this time, to get a lay of the land. Moments later, Dublin, our 12-year-old, 25-pound orange tabby sauntered from my son’s room. He took one look at the little ragamuffin and promptly about-faced. He, offended and affronted, spent the rest of the afternoon under Hunter’s bed.
In an attempt to diffuse the tension, Hunter went to soothe Dublin while I corralled the little one.
“Come on, Monty. Let’s see mama’s room,” I called out with let’s-make-lemonade enthusiasm.
Though we didn’t necessarily abide by our agreement at the outset, our intention remained to cloister Monty in my bedroom while Dublin kept run of the apartment.
Within minutes, Monty discovered one of Dublin’s neglected toys in the corner nearest the windows. He chewed, kicked and pounced for a good half-hour. When discouraged from gnawing the cord to the phone charger, he turned his attention to an abandoned gum wrapper before seizing the opportunity to dance upon the keys of my laptop, only to nearly tip over my iced coffee.
Then, within the span of a breath, he was out.
While he slept, I quietly made my way to the kitchen to throw together a batch of fresh blueberry muffins, peeking in on him, where he lay atop my comforter, between each step in the process.
From his arrival throughout the coming days, my routine of returning from my day job only to engage in various and sundry projects, literary, culinary and otherwise, took its place on the back burner. Once home, I’d set down my bag, change into comfortable clothes and spend a bit of time connecting with Dublin. Then, I’d head toward my room, lean back into the nest of pillows on my bed and snuggle with Monty.
Each time he’d doze, nestled into the crook of my neck, my mind would drift as my fingertips danced amid the softness of his fur. As heavenly as it felt to physically take it down a notch, my mind continued to gravitate toward its familiar ruminations – worries about finances, disappointment surrounding the recent end to a committed relationship, concerns regarding my mother’s stroke.
However, rather than lose myself in any number of my go-to endeavors intended to distract, I stayed with the sensation of Monty’s fur beneath my fingers and the ever-deepening cadence of his breath. Before long, I myself often surrendered to a brief though satisfying slumber.
Witnessing the way in which Monty was able to throw himself wholeheartedly into play and, in a split-second, stumble upon the deepest sleep imaginable, I began to envy his penchant for living within the moment and contemplated my own capacity for letting go.
Even when we began to integrate the two of them a few days later, Dublin’s reticence jaded Monty not in the slightest.
“Nah, he’s fine. The old man’s just got a few issues to work through. So, can I play with him now? Huh? Can I?” I could almost hear him say.
Just like Dublin, my psyche boasts its own scars. Whereas he’s lost his ears and a good portion of his tail to frostbite, I’ve turned my back on my sensuality, free spirit and willingness to trust. He’s set in his ways, and I’m, well… set in my ways. The passage of time teaches us valuable lessons, the learning of which can, unfortunately, thwart our receptivity, leaving us reluctant to embrace new ways of being with the degree of openness necessary for truly meaningful connection.
It’s still early on. The felines have yet to determined how the hierarchy might play out; however, I have caught Dublin several times now pawing with curiosity at Monty’s door.
As for me, sleep comes a bit more easily now. The mind chatter had quieted. Truth be told, it feels good to have someone to love… and to receive that love in return. Monty’s affection isn’t just a ploy to get me to fill the food dish, I’m confident about that, for, as my little guru has shown me**when we allow ourselves to be unsteady of foot and innocent of heart, those expressions of devotion just seem to flow naturally.
A graduate of Northwestern University with a degree in literature, Kelly Sauvage Angel is the author of Om Namah… (published under Kalyanii), a collection of poetry, two stage plays, dozens of short stories and hundreds of articles. After surrendering to the healing touch of her massage therapist and downing a couple anti-inflammatories after dance class, she most enjoys wiling away her free time manifesting her culinary inspirations and reveling amid the magnificence of nature.