Friday, October 30, 2009

Coming home

Every night it’s the same. I turn down the road and see a couple of white dots in the distance, dancing along the horizon, getting larger as I approach. As my truck nears the driveway the dots take shape and Ginger and Cosmo, the guard dogs, wag their tails and pant and walk slowly to greet me. Sadie is not so patient. She races past them, coming from wherever she is on the farm as soon as she hears the truck. I pull in the driveway, put on the brake, and turn off the engine, and hear a thud on the driver’s side door. Sadie jumps up to look in the window. I’m home.

I’m a member of the pack, part of the herd, one of the clowder. I belong to the brood. If I’ve forgotten that in my workday world, I’m reminded as soon as I round that corner. Goats turn to look and bleat. Dogs run to meet me. Chickens cackle. And cats…well, cats raise their heads and appear annoyed.

It’s just like a human to see herself as the center of attention when she arrives on the scene. Make no mistake. I know for many, my return home means it’s time to eat. I’m at least a reminder of dinner time, at most a means to an end…the hand that reaches into the barrel with the grain or scratch or other food or to pat a waiting head. It’s not an indication of my self importance, but in some small way it is one of the most assuring things I encounter everyday. I know I belong.

On a cloudy, windy evening after the sun was well on its way to setting, I rounded the corner to the side porch, briefcase in hand. The cats were waiting near their bowls when I stepped up on the porch. I reached for their food as I passed and filled each bowl. I noticed one of the four cats I knew should be around wasn’t there. I hadn’t seen him in the morning either. So I started calling him and caught sight of a small white creature moving quickly toward the house from out by the pond. At first, I assumed it was Ruben and started to head in to the house, but in a moment realized it wasn’t him. It was Buttons, a cat who’d run away the first night she was at the new farm, five or six weeks ago.

I yelled in the house for Lisa to let her know Buttons was home. Then, stood and watched. Buttons ran, but slowed as she got closer. She crouched low and slunk up to me, rubbing up against my leg. I picked her up. She didn’t like that and jumped down. Sadie ran to her, so she took off back toward a wooded area across the street. I grabbed a bowl of food and called to her. She stopped. I walked slowly toward her and put the food down, under the fence that separated us. She turned and came back to the food. Ginger and Cosmo saw her and jogged toward her. I called them off and they turned away. They NEVER listen to me. I was shocked.

The other cats, including Ruben who had appeared from somewhere, grew curious and started towards her. Bella, the ginger manx cat, everyone’s favorite, got the closest. She approached slowly, but confidently, and stopped near Buttons. Bella waited a few minutes while Buttons ate a little, then lowered her head and cautiously started grooming her, lightly touching Buttons’ coat, gently licking it. After awhile, Bella groomed in earnest.

There we were. Two white dogs a safe distance away. Lisa and I back near the porch. The cats scattered around the yard between the porch and the fence where Buttons sat eating. And Bella right beside her, licking Buttons' white and grey fur.