By : Cathy Salter
This final week of April as much of the country continues to be sheltering in, life at Boomerang Creek has settled into a pattern of familiar routines and moments reserved for reflection. Kit and I share life with an aging cat named Fanny, an abundance of songbirds, a multi-generational family of squirrels, a wandering mama possum, a chorus of tree frogs, a white-tailed rabbit, an aloof skunk, a pair of barred owls, and a few box turtles rescued from the road. While isolated from the outside world, we are never alone. Each day, Kit and I take dawn walks, share meals, write, read, and share news. In addition to tending our gardens and orchard, we take time to sit outside and observe the animal life we live amongst. The regularity of their seasonal activities provides a comforting sense of order at this moment when the health of our planet and humanity are terribly out of balance. The keep ours, we breathe in and breathe out. Fanny is the sole surviving cat from our earlier life at Breakfast Creek. She was born sixteen summers ago in a cozy chicken coop used each spring when my annual mail order of day-old ducklings and goslings arrived. Her mother Sherman was a pregnant stray Manx built like a tank. Black and white, with an index-finger-length stumpy tail, she’d chosen me to shelter her during her time of need. Unlike Sherman, Fanny is a rumpy (no tail whatsoever) with powerful hind legs like those of our resident rabbit. Our bright-eyed calico sports a black mask, a white vest, a feather-soft black and rust coat, and white socks that reveal her movements when she explores the nether regions of our gardens. From Day One, Fanny and I have shared a filial connection without the need for a common language. As Kit and I continue to shelter at home during the Covid-19 pandemic, we know that—like us—Fanny is aging. Thinner and lighter, she eats less and sleeps more. On cool gray days, she prefers napping inside to outdoor adventures. But with the arrival of spring, her patterns are changing. While we enjoy our morning coffee on the porch, she joins us for a bracing cold drink from her water bowl, the first of her morning routines. Most involve catnaps—morning naps on her bed in Kit’s closet, and post-lunch naps on our bed. While I read, she stretches out full length with all four paws touching my left leg—as if to say, “Don’t even think of getting up.” Nights are hers to prowl the basement on the chance a field mouse might be munching kibbles at her bowl. Around 5:30 every morning, she jumps up on our bed, touches my nose with a soft paw, and another day begins. Lately, she’s begun joining us on the screened porch at sunset. There we three sit looking out on the woods and creek below, waiting for the evening sounds of woodland animals and owls to begin. Perhaps in such moments of quiet meditation, Fanny reflects on her beginnings at Breakfast Creek. Or perhaps she recalls the thousand-mile journey we shared in 2005—a time of disruption when we moved for seven months to New Mexico. One day when I was in our Albuquerque garden rooted in sand, Fanny led me to the skeleton of a turtle, and I believe she meant to tell me it was a sign. Later, she disappeared over the adobe wall that surrounded our property and was lost to us for several days. Perhaps like me she sensed that life in that dry environment would never seem like home. To regain our balance, we had to return to the green place near a mighty river where we’d earlier put down deep roots. Moved by the turtle in our Albuquerque garden that failed to survive the winter of our discontent, we came home. Last week, I followed Fanny to the embankment above our creek and watched her weave her way 50 feet down a steep slope to the creek bed below. There, she drank deeply and stared at her reflection in the water. Then silently she walked across stone steps to an open woodland filled with emerging daylilies and purple sweet William wildflowers. Following her white socks from above, I worried about her; but most of all, I marveled that her sense of adventure was still keenly alive. Watching Fanny’s solitary meditation, I felt the comforting embrace of the natural world wrap around me. Of course, she was never lost. Ignoring my attempts to induce her to come home, she deftly retraced her steps when she was good and ready. And being a cat, she shared not a whisker of what she’d encountered or thought about while off on her solo adventure. Perhaps like many of us today, Fanny meditates on what our planet could look like if it were allowed to regain its natural rhythm and be healthy once again. She is old, but her sage spirit continues to inspire her to journey on beyond the boundaries of age and time. What more could I hope for?
Cathy Salter is a geographer and columnist who lives with her husband, Kit, in Southern Boone County at a place they call Boomerang Creek.