Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The End of Retreat

Eddie's feather
Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao

The end of retreat is when the real retreat begins. When you go back to your ordinary life of work, family, and friends, this is where true spirituality begins.
This is where the spiritual rubber hits the road.

Whatever you may have realized about the truth of your own being will be called forth in life…in the way that you move through the world…
Adyashanti, the little card that was on our cushions the last time we met for satsang.

I got home later than expected Friday night. Eddie didn’t greet me at the door which didn’t surprise me as cats can be… well, you know.
Though, it was a bit unusual. Arising from his love of Annie, his black cocker compadre, for years Eddie tried to behave something like a dog.

It was not until I read the pet sitter’s note, that I started looking for him.
“Eddie stopped eating this morning and was yowling. If you weren’t coming home today, I would have checked again after midday,”

I found him in the back bedroom. He didn’t move for a long time as I talked to him.
But, he started purring. I tried to clean him up a bit, and the floor, and opened the windows for some fresh air. There had been the multiple disasters of bowel and stomach.
That was when hospice for Eddie began.
After 18 years together, he deserved the best.

I called Becky and left a message.
Eddie was the last surviving member of what was once the Butler-Bralley household.
When I moved to my new house Becky insisted on paying for a cat door. She called it “child support.”
We had found Eddie while canoeing in North Georgia. We’d just gotten our canoe loaded back on top of the car when there was this screeching.
I looked up searching for a hawk. But, the sky was empty. I was confused.
Then I saw this little kitten barreling up the dirt road, small lungs screeching like some great killer bird.
We scooped him up and took him to McDonalds for a hamburger. He ate it all, insisting on the pickle too. From the bit of blood on his hind leg and his fear of the ceiling fan in our kitchen, we invented the story that Eddie was the sole survivor of a litter dumped on the banks of the Etowah River – the rest had been devoured by the hawks.

Saturday morning, I called Mom from the backyard deck of my house.
I wanted to report a safe return and knew she’d love to hear all about the retreat. I was going through that story when I noticed small downy gray feathers falling from the sky. I’d never seen such a thing. They came right out of blue sky like snow.
I watched them drift down for several minutes, but kept on with the telling of my tale. Then, Eddie’s history with hawks came stunningly to mind.
I blurted out to Mom, “Eddie’s dying!”
The snow fall of feathers continued for a good fifteen minutes, until the deck was covered with feathers.

I figured a hawk must be devouring a bird in the oak branches overhead.
But, I didn’t see or hear a thing and I’ve never heard of such behavior in the red tail hawks around here, though I did see one swoop up a squirrel once.
After the phone call, I continued sitting in the silence.
Suddenly, dropping out from the oak, came a huge bird – I thought “great blue heron.” But, the herons around here don’t sit high up in oak trees. So I changed my answer to “must be a hawk.”
And I knew it as a sign.
Then, as the day was finishing there was another startling rupture right before my eyes. Hovering a moment, breast and wings ablaze with the light of the setting sun, was the great red tail hawk.
Then, in a flash he flew past me into the West and was gone.

I wondered, “What is going on? Eddie’s just cat.”

Sunday, the next day as if deliberately flaunting any doubts, feathers of the softest down still fell from time to time, as I sat with Eddie waiting.
Even after he lost his purr, he seemed to want me by his side. So, we did just that.

I watched my aversion and grief arise. And I watched the silence – in me, in Eddie, and in the trees around us.
Twice Eddie disappeared - escaped.
Twice I got a phone call from neighbors down the street and went to bring him home. Later, I realized he had dragged himself down to the house where Oliver, the young black cocker, lived.
I don’t think Eddie knew Oliver. But, you know cats… they never tell you everything.
And Eddie had once adored a black cocker, a long time ago, when the Butler-Bralley household was a family.

And I mulled over how very curious it was that on the morning Becky and I realized that we were no longer meant to be together, a great blue heron had flown right up our driveway. Startled from our analysis and heartbreak, we took it as a sign.
And, as if Creation nodded in agreement, minutes later a red tailed hawk flew in from the West and settled in the tree right outside our door,
his chest a blaze with the glory of the sunrise.

Now, it seemed as if these signs had come round one final time as our final child took his leave. And then, as now, the issue wasn't about love, but rather time. Our time was up.
I find it all so very strange and rather miraculous and beautiful beyond what I could design.

So, Eddie finally passed on Monday afternoon.
He was just a cat.
Just a cat that kind of stirred all of Creation.
Just a cat that came from the Silence and then emerged back into It.

And I am no longer so clear on just where Retreat ended and where it started.


pincushion said...

May the Silence bring Peace in its wake...

Om shanti..shanti..shanti..

Kate said...

I'm sorry that Eddie is gone. I am a cat woman too and lost my two last year. But I couldn't have written about that so eloquently as you.

Pat Bralley said...

Thank you. The house is emptier but there's a sweetness too.

Beth said...

I'm sorry too, Pat. It sounds like you two were lucky to have each other. This was a beautiful post.

Pat Bralley said...

Thanks, Beth. I've thought of you frequently through all of this, and about how grief also offers love along with pain.