Dear Friends ~
“The antidote to losing love is loving more,” I wrote in a recent post on my personal facebook page. This is as good a place as any to begin. And beginning is what we must do again and again, and then again, again. I speak these words to bring in a new year in the midst of a terrifying political landscape. President-Elect Donald Trump, whose inauguration looms, puts forth horror after horror in proposed appointments to his political cabinet, all the while gathering family members, monopolists, corporate lobbyists and many generals into his inner circle of advisors. The mainstream media is awash in rumors and unsubstantiated accusations of Russian hacking of our electoral system, the Democratic leadership is seemingly incapable of taking responsibility for the mistakes and mis-direction of the campaign that, at least partially through its failures, has given us an autocrat for a President. The liberal establishment makes a pitiful show of resistance.
As I emerge from the cocoon of family and close friends that wrapped me warmly as both Jewish and Christian holy days kept me company all week long, I reconnect with my local progressive organizations and return to regular encounters with the news. I put my hopes, place my money, take my actions in support of those leaders and organizations with the vision, vigor, persistence and passion we need to fight this fight. I call up those qualities in myself, even as I put my faith in the young people who will forge the way. Perhaps a new and powerful political party, a truly democratic one, will emerge from the shambles. I don’t know how this drama will play out, but I can see some of the figures, local and national, young and old, who are moving us forward, and I will follow them. I can feel the righteous indignation that fuels us and the love that guides us. I hope you too see, and feel, these lights.
A Chris-maka Story
Which brings me back to my beginning. I will say it again: the antidote to losing love is loving more. Perhaps I should warn you, this is going to be a schmaltzy Chris-maka story, but it’s the one that must be written now. So shedding all shame and all thoughts of what I ought to be writing about, I will proceed.
In my last post, I wrote about the sudden, wrenching loss of our little black cat Luna, whose heart gave out at five months old under the anesthesia of a spaying operation. I had thought we would live with the grief for a while and when the right cat found us, we would open our hearts again. I didn’t know how soon that opening would come.
Nine days after Luna died, two days before Christmas Eve, I was accompanying my friend Rivkah who was to get hair cut in a shopping center on the outskirts of Philadelphia. After that, we were to take a late afternoon walk together in the nearby Wissahickon woods. Circling into the parking lot of the Center I hadn’t patronized in years, I was struck by the massive PetCo adjacent to the Hair Cuttery. I would not be going in there. Instead, I found a small Napolese restaurant on the opposite side of the lot and happily sipped a Cappuccino in the half hour of waiting time. But when I returned to meet Rivkah, I found her still sitting in the hairdresser’s chair with no sign of being finished soon. What was I to do?
My feet took me into the pet store and wandered me over the expansive floor in search of kittens. After a quick pass through the aisles of fish, hamsters, gerbils, snakes and turtles, I spotted what looked to be a large cage in the way back right corner of the store. “I would just be looking,” I muttered to myself as I went. Maybe I hoped a little dose of kitten, if there were any to be found there, would lift my spirits, loosen my tears, or both. At any rate, it was something to do while I waited.
I did not expect to see what I saw then. Front and center in the cage, enormous eyes fixed on me as I approached, was an ink black kitten, same size, it seemed, as Luna. I inserted a finger through the bars, found her curious, friendly. The papers attached to the cage said she was the most human-centered of the litter, four months old, already spayed, one of four, rescued, with their mother, in Northeast Philadelphia. I was mooning over the Luna look-a-like when I heard my name called in pleasant surprise. I turned to see another friend, Howard, a delightful man who knows me as much from Facebook and my recent kitten posts as any other way.
“Oh, you lost your kitten,” Howard remembered out loud. “I am so sorry.” I teared up. We hugged. I showed him the kitten in the cage. “You want that cat, don’t you?” he said.
I told Howard it was too soon, the grief over Luna too fresh. And besides, we would have a houseful fin the days around Christmas, including an extra cat besides the ornery one who already lives with us. “It would be cat chaos,” I insisted.
“Sure,” Howard said. “You want that cat.”
When Rivkah was finished with her hair cut, I took her to see the new black cat. She told me the obvious—this kitten needs a home. I explained about the chaos in my house that would surely ensue if I brought a new kitten into our Chris-maka,. “If this is the right cat for us,” I told her, as if I knew what I was talking about, “she will still be here next week.”
Rivkah and I took our walk in the Wissahickon—it an unusually balmy winter afternoon. On the path, I encountered several more lovely people I don’t often see in my normal travels about town. There was a certain warm glow, I sensed, hovering about each chance meeting. I’m not sure, but I may have told the story of Luna’s loss to the angels I met on the trail that day. Perhaps I mentioned, too, the kitten in the PetCo cage.
Over dinner at home that evening, I told Wendy about her.
Why didn’t you bring her home? My spouse surprised me with her quick insistence, but only a little: This house needs a kitten! Together we decided we could, after all, deal with the offended older cats—we have a big house, with many doors. Wendy immediately called the store, talked to the Adoption Center, then sent me out, the cat carrier in hand, to claim the kitten that evening before the Center closed. Would you believe the young volunteer who processed the transfer was Angela? I cannot seem to get away from angels.
On the way home from the pet store, mewing kitten in the back seat of the car, I thought of the Hebrew letter the fur angel Luna had left behind in her wake of sorrow. When I wrote of the nun in last month’s post, I wrote of faith and prophecy, messengers and angels, how Luna—her brief life and sudden death—was a sign given to me to interpret. I remembered then that nun is also the Aramaic word for fish, signifying fertility and abundance. “There is more love readily available in this world than your little mind can grasp,” I heard the moon kitty whisper with a smile. My feet are wiser than my head, I noticed, not for the first time. I was glad I had followed my footsteps that afternoon and grateful for the people in my life, the ones who reflect back to me not what I expect, but what I need to see.
Kisses of the Heart
Her name, we discovered the next day, is Ruby Kislev. Ruby because she is brilliant, dark and precious. Kislev because she came to us in the Hebrew month of that name, the month of long nights, nights which hold Hanuka, the festival of lights. Lev is heart in Hebrew. Marrying the English and Hebrew can give us “kiss of the heart.” The Hebrew itself, from the root K-S-L (Kaf, Samech. Lamed) connotes “fatness,” as in the choice part of the roast, and figuratively can mean “silliness,” (the irrepressible laughter a kitten brings?) and also “trust,” “confidence,” “hope.” A very similar word from the same root refers to a notable constellation, perhaps Orion, the burly hunter of the winter sky.
And that brings me back to the lights I mentioned above, the ones I hope you are taking in during these dark times. These lights, inner and outer, will lead us through the challenges ahead. Who inspires you? Who gives you confidence and hope? Who lifts your spirits and makes you laugh? Where do you find the kisses of your heart?
I still miss Luna. No two ink black cats are exactly alike. No love replaces any other love. There is only more love. And then again, more.
I expect you may hear again from Ruby Kislev in these pages. For now, let us move forward with awareness of the abundance one little messenger can bring. Keep looking for the signs, dear hearts. Listen for the signals of love.
May your year be fruitful and blessed~
PS: If you would like to write with me this winter and/or spring, please see the Upcoming Events on this page for dates, and contact me to let me know.
- Wissahickon Sample Writing Circles (Weather Permitting): Thursdays, January 19 and February 16, 2:30-4:45 PM. The Cedars House (In the Wissahickon Park, Forbidden Drive and Northwestern Ave, Philadelphia, PA.) Fee: $27 for each session. $50 for both. Register by January 12 for one or both.
- Winter Writing Circle in Susan’s kitchen, Mt. Airy, Philadelphia. 7 Fridays, January 27-Mar 10 (Weather dates: Mar 17,24). $175 ($140 for registration by January 15).
- Spring Wissahickon Writing Circle at The Cedars House 8 Thursdays, March 23-May 18 (NO Apr 20). $216 ($200 for registration by March 16).
Through the Gates
Letters and poems illuminating each of the forty-nine days of the Omer, the ancient Jewish practice marking the days between the spring festival of Passover and the summer festival of Shavuot—for spiritual explorers of all traditions! Read more or purchase….