Today when I got home, I walked into my backyard and heard a loud meow.
MEOW. MEOW. MEOW.
I was not expecting this. I don’t own a cat.
I peeked around the side of the house and saw a GIANT, long-haired, charcoal cat. The cat had a blue collar, so I’m going to use male pronouns (but I recognized that female cats may choose blue as well).
I greeted the cat.
I asked him if he would like to follow me through the open garage door to the world outside my fenced backyard.
MEOW. MEOW. MEOW.
“Here, kitty, kitty!” I called in my sweetest cat lady voice. [See–I KNOW cats. Though I will admit I did not want to touch him. He was HUGE.]
“Here, kitty, kitty!” Over and over again until he followed me through the garage and out to the tall grass in my side yard. And the giant cat was gone as mysteriously as he came.
I did not expect that cat.
I was talking to my sister on the phone, relaxing on my new outdoor couch, when I looked down at the deck and saw Rio, sitting with a curious look on his face glancing from my face to the dead rat at his feet.
Now, I am proud of myself because I did NOT scream, which happened the last time he presented me with an entire rat carcass.
But this time, the rat was not completely dead. I could see a little rise and fall in its chest. Rio, seeming to read my mind, attempted to pick it up again. I stopped him. Obviously, I’m the adult here. I need to take action. I grabbed a stick from under the orange tree and returned to the rat. The rise and fall had ceased.
I poked. Nothing.
When R saw the rat, he said, “Now we get to look at rat bones!”
Last week, we dissected owl pellets at our friend’s house. I did not know what an owl pellet was. In case you don’t know, I will describe. When an owl eats a mouse or rat or bird or whatever little creature, it is digested partially in the first stomach. What can’t be digested is held in the first stomach while the digestible material passes into the second stomach. The owl then vomits a tight packet made of the contents of the first stomach (hair and bones). This is what makes an owl pellet.
I knew none of this until Rachel presented me with a paper plate holding three clumps of matted hair. With the kids and me looking on, she pulled apart the pellets to reveal evidence of three rat skeletons. And I knew that her daughter was going to be just fine in online kindergarten this fall.
But back to the undigested rat on my deck.
Because this isn’t my first rodeo, I knowledgeably covered my hand in a poo bag, picked the deceased rat up by the tail and carried him to the trash can. He left a small pool of blood on the decking, which I doused in hydrogen peroxide and then rinsed with water. (I have a large supply of hydrogen peroxide now, after learning that is what’s needed to rid your dog of skunk smell).
My backyard is tiny.
The whole lot is 1/3 of a regular sized lot in my neighborhood.
It is full of surprises.
This afternoon I was talking to my sister.
I’ve been going through another existential crisis following family court and my birthday marking another year. I didn’t really expect it. Not my first family court rodeo. Not my first birthday rodeo. I have been to lots of rodeos—duh!
My sisters are a good audience for my crazy moments. This past week, I made a recommendation that my sister moon her husband in response to a marital dispute. I was meaning to be silly but the more we talked about it, it seemed like the idea had real merit. If you want any free marriage advice, DM me, okay? I’m a secret genius on this stuff. Still waiting to hear if the mooning worked….
So I was talking to my other sister and she gave me the idea to write a blog post about why Fall feels hopeful. She said that was the article she wanted to read.
First I thought about the fall when I trained for the half marathon because my then-husband didn’t want to have a baby yet and I was bored with my career and making dinner and washing dishes. I am not a runner and it felt really cliche because so many people in medicine run out of ways to punish themselves after school ends, so they take up punishing habits like running. But the half marathon was a really good choice in that moment.
I ran three or four times a week under the massive oak trees in our historic Omaha neighborhood. My mom was so delighted with my decision to do this, that I flippantly said, “If you think it’s such good idea, why don’t you do it too?” And she did.
The race was on Thanksgiving day. In Omaha. It was FIFTEEN degrees when we started. It was EIGHTEEN degrees when we finished. The bagels and bananas they provided post-race were frozen solid. We had McDonald’s for Thanksgiving Dinner that year.
But the running put me in a really good place for the winter. Since I left my home on the range in Wyoming (aka—where the skies are not cloudy all day), I’ve struggled with mild depression in the winter—this is part of why I love living in San Diego. And the regular endorphin boost of that exercise made a big difference.
So there’s one idea. If you need a Fall boost—run a half marathon.
But it also seems unfair to ask anyone to train for a half marathon when they are working from home and home schooling kids and worried about the upcoming election and the health of their loved ones. And there’s also racism and terrorism and thieves and rapists and Facebook.
That’s a lot.
So if the half marathon’s not your thing, this is the one other idea I have.
Be open to being surprised.
Liz Gilbert talked about this in such a lovely way on her instagram stories last week. She called it a spiritual practice, to which cynicism is the opposite.
Cynicism is the voice inside that says, I know how this goes. I know who that person is. I know what’s coming. The writing is on the wall. I know. I know. OH—I know.
And we cling to that because we want to feel in control. And knowing feels like control.
But you know what?
I DON’T know.
I don’t know how this going to go.
I don’t know if Trump is going to get another four years. I don’t know if I’m spoiling my son or being too hard on him. I don’t know if the tumor in my neck has grown. I don’t know what that greasy stuff in my patient’s hair was today. I don’t know if I’ll catch any waves. I don’t know how to make sense of the COVID-19 news. I don’t know if I’ll sleep tonight. I don’t know if there will be a goat in my backyard tomorrow. (If there is it will certainly be a distinguished city goat with a neatly trimmed beard!)
i. don’t. know.
Of course I have opinions and fears and anxieties about all of these things. But I’m willing to be surprised.
I’m willing to be wrong.
That’s the equivalent of faith to me. That’s accepting divine will. It’s not, I know how this goes. It’s not that I get what I pray for. It’s not that I have all the answers.
It’s that I don’t! And there’s some energy, some force, some goodness in the universe that is working it out for my specific growth. So let me leave it to said universe.
Notice the cat and the rat and the owl pellets with wonder.
Anything is possible.