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Published: June 10th 2017
Geo: 44.9653, -69.1086
How quickly I have slid into the rhythms of being home! I have been back in the US for five days now, and sometimes it feels as if I had never left. Everything here is the same, except for three things: our house is a lot dustier, we are encased in and surrounded by several feet of snow, and now we have only six cats, as dear Ursa died in January. We'll ignore the first one, as it is self-explanatory, but I will focus on the next two, one at a time.
Of course I had heard of the hard winter northern New England was having; other parts of the US were hit hard too, but where we live the amounts of snow and cold temperatures were unprecedented, record breaking. In our part of central Maine we usually receive around 100" of snow each winter; this year we are well beyond double that, and more is still predicted and can be expected, at least into April and maybe even beyond. (I hope not.) Except for the intense, brilliantly deep blue of the skies (when it is not snowing), and the dark green of the cedars we planted decades ago, I am living in a white wasteland; only my interior thoughts and memories are multi-colored and vibrant. When I got home, I found a very narrow walkway up to the porch, cut between enormous piles of snow; the height of those snowbanks was almost at eye level. It wasn't until the next day that I attempted to find my car, to try to dig it out so I wouldn't be a prisoner in my own house. I shovelled in the general direction of where I had last seen it, and found it still there, but buried under feet and feet of snow. The snowbanks were so high that I was digging down to get to the roof of my car; I was standing above the height of the car's roof! Crazy amounts of snow! That first day I found the roof of my car, and dug out enough to see the front part; then I gave up. I dug more out each of the next few days, until yesterday, before yet another storm hit, I got my car freed, at least down to the top of its tires. But it was still imprisoned by all the snow holding it fast all around it; where could I shovel all this snow? You can only throw shovelfuls of snow to a certain height; it becomes impossible to throw it any higher. So I dug out the mailbox instead so our carrier could finally again deliver our mail. That was a good day's work; shovelling snow is definitely good exercise.
When Bill got home he picked up where I had left off, and cleared off more of the snow enshrouding my car; but I still can't drive anywhere yet until some of the feet of the snow in the driveway melts so we can dig out everything else frozen around my car. What a lot of energy --and expense-- we northerners waste each year, just trying to stay warm and allowing us freedom of movement. Unless we wear crampons we can't even take a good long walk, the roads are so icy and rutted. This all reminds me of trying to walk on slippery slopes in Antarctica, but there that is expected, its being the frozen continent. Here I am just tired of fighting the cold, the snow, trying to stay warm (and alive), and even building fires in our woodstove. All that takes so much time and energy it becomes what we do during our days. Is that enough for a fulfilling life? But even though this might not be where I'd like to be living anymore, I know that my life is easy compared with the lives of poverty I have seen in Cambodia and India and other places around the world. My discomfort is superficial in comparison with those who have no money, no homes, no clothing, no food. I am wealthy beyond belief in their eyes.
More wealth: one of my greatest pleasures at home, now that the children have all fledged, is being with our cats. Growing up we never had pets at home; my mother said having five children was enough for her to handle. We had goldfish, but that is another story. It wasn't until I met Bill that we brought our first cat home; I didn't even know how to handle a cat; I didn't even know what a purr sounded like! Here I am surrounded by purring felines; our kitties are more like puppies, they are so playful and responsive and loving. If I ever choose to sit down on the couch during the day (a rare occurrence) all of a sudden I have purring cats all over me: Charcoal sits right on my lap, TC sits lower on my legs, Promise sits on the top of the couch at my head (chewing on my hair), Harley sits between my legs and the couch back, Comet sits further down near my ankles, and Friendly squeezes right beside my hip. Ursa used to sit at my feet, but she died suddenly on January 16, when I was just entering the continent of Australia; Bill didn't tell me then because he didn't want to spoil my trip. But I wish he had.
He finally told me in an email two months later, as I was preparing to come home; how could I just come back and find Ursa gone? But I was so sad. I cried, and could not sleep that night, picturing poor Ursa dying alone. Had I been there at least I could have been with her, petting her and surrounding her with white light, trying to help her in the transition. And giving her homeopathic remedies, of course; I have saved many animals from dying by treating them homeopathically. But two months later there was nothing I could do, except remember her funny crossed blue eyes, her bulky grey-white body that shook when she ran, but I blessed her anyway, and talked to her as if she were still alive. I told her I loved her, and hoped that she had had a good, happy life with us. That helped, somewhat, and when Bill said when he found her she was surrounded by all the other cats, sitting in a semi-circle around her, I felt better. Ursa had not died alone. For anyone who does not have a companion animal you may not understand the intense connections that can be made between human and animal, but for those of you who do, you realize that they are part of the family. And you grieve when they die, as they would grieve if you did. I do not doubt that our kitties grieved when I left for so long, but they are very zen, and accepted me back, immediately. For them the past is forgotten; there is only the present, what is right now. So I'll think of sweet Ursa, and try to remember to feed only six cats instead of seven. And also try to enjoy life the way it is right now, even though it's late March and I'm snowbound. Luckily I have snowshoes and can still walk in the woods. And shovel more snow.
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