I found a spot on in the sun and squatted on my snowshoes, mesmerized by the sound of moving water and the sunlight bouncing around the small stream behind the farm.
Fate had already slipped through the gate and was watching the sheep when I heard her barking. I knew something was in the pasture that wasn’t usually there. Fate doesn’t bark at the sheep.
I made my way to her as quickly as I could and finally got close enough to see the gray shape in the snow. Fate was a few feet away, nose pointed in its direction, barking loudly.
Not again, I thought. From a distance the gray shape was so close to that of the owl Fate let me know was out my studio window last week.
“Leave it”, I yelled a command I use when I want the dogs to back off of whatever they’re doing, as Zinnia bounded through the snow ahead of me.
Both dogs kept their distance. I got there in time to see the eerily still hunched back of the gray cat just before it ran into the frozen Marsh with both dogs chasing him.
It was same cat who came to my studio window and looked my right in the eye a few days before the owl came.
I can’t stop thinking about him.
I thought he was gone, maybe back to his home, when I no longer smelled cat piss in the barn.
He looked confident and well-fed when I first saw him. He sauntered towards the bird feeder on the path in the snow like we had shoveled it just for him. The birds vanished in an instant. Then, looking as if he had just performed a miracle, the cat looked in my studio window, his big green eyes staring brazenly into mine.
I literally turned my back on him.
We don’t need another cat, was the thought that went through my head. If I feed him, show him any attention, he’ll never leave. If Minnie and Flo were outside instead of in the basement for the winter, they’d surely chase him away.
The cat may very well be our neighbor’s cat. I’ve seen footprints in the snow coming from the direction he ran all winter. I’d just never seen him till that day he came to my studio.
But I can’t help thinking the cat was a messenger.
If what happened was a story or a dream, he would have been foreshadowing the arrival of the owl. Gray like the owl, with those big round green eyes, like the owl.
This has happened to me before. Where one animal appears to me then another comes shortly after who has an impact on my life.
It’s how I knew Freida was my dog when I saw her at the SPCA. The week before, I was in Central Park in NYC and was enchanted by a dog I saw there that looked just like her.
Traditionally, Owls are seen as messengers.
I think Jon and I did get a message from the Screech Owl who landed outside my studio window. Today we’ll fill out the papers that will allow us to take the first step in becoming Wildlife Rehabilitators with North Country Wild Care.
But I feel like the gray cat was a messenger too.
I’m still not sure I made the right decision in turning away from the gray cat. But I do know I was more sensitive to trying to help the owl when I saw her out my window.
I don’t know that Jon and I would have driven her to Saratoga as quickly as we did. And if we didn’t she would have died before we had a chance to meet Trish who inspired us to look into becoming Wildlife Rehabilitators.
I don’t know if the gray cat will come back after being chased by the dogs. And I’m still not sure what I’ll do if he does. Although I’d find it hard to turn my back on him again.
After all, I can’t help believing that he did usher in this new direction in our lives.