Yesterday was full all kinds of love that stretched across my divergent relationships. There was eros in the morning and sprinkled throughout the day, mediated by voice and letters strung across small screens. There was friendship love, too. It felt grounding and made me smile with much gratitude. Primal love of the kind that streams through the spongy marrow in our bones surfaced as well, a source of female knowledge and deep care. Yet what shook me most was feline love, for my orange angel Elliott.
We were enjoying our third outside jaunt, she tethered to a nearby tree and me weeding around the Japanese maple. A few hungry mosquitos made their presence known and we listened quietly as the old man who lived next door rustled around in his shed at the back of his property. I was clearing the earth to make way for the new orangey-red mulch made from recycled tires. I bought a few days ago. The horticulture student at Lowe’s who showed me the product was adamant that it was the way to go: no fading, no need to replenish every year, and infinitely better for the environment. Sold.
Peeking through the narrow fence slats, I saw my neighbour’s white hair and brown shirt. It was that kind of brown that finds its way onto the bodies of old men, a faded chestnut colour that reminds me of vintage stores and my Grandpa Orchard. The woman I bought my house from told me that the man is Czech and lives with his adult son and wife, who suffers from some kind of mental illness. I see them from time to time but never hear them. As I was pulling weeds I thought of Boo Radley, one of my favourite characters in Harper Lee’s 1960 classic To Kill a Mockingbird.
The kids in the novel – Scout, Jem, and the insufferable yet fabulous Dill (modelled after Truman Capote, who was friends with the author)- were drawn to this figure who symbolizes fear of the unknown, ignorance, and the capacity to love. Although they mocked him, they also communicated with Boo through the exchange of gifts left in a tree knot. Boo appears in the film version of the story in childhood gossip, the odd shadow cast on a vacant house, and from behind a door at the movie’s end. He saved Scout from the lecherous Mr. Ewell and she thanked him by saying “Hey, Boo”, two words that are among the most famous in mid-century American literature. Acknowledgement is everything.
One of my trees hangs into my Czech neighbours’ yard and a few days ago I left a card in their mailbox…My tree knot. I introduced myself and asked if they’d like me to remove the overhanging branches. No word. I removed a few smaller branches and decided to just leave it and share the nature that grows between us. I grabbed the bag of mulch and was excited to pour it around the base of my Japanese maple, which glows red in the early evening light. I imagined the plastic material as a kind of crown, which seems fitting given how expensive and fancy these trees are.
Just as I was beginning to open the bag of mulch I saw Elliott jumping and pulling on her lead in the middle of the backyard, about 5 feet away from me. I recoiled and my heart rate shot into the stratosphere- what the fuck was she doing?! It’s like she was on an invisible trampoline, possessed, doing backflips and hissing wildly. I went towards her and she ran away from me, which was confusing and scary. I had no clue what to do and was terrified that she would escape. I ran into the house and got my phone while she continued her frenzied darting to and fro in the yard. Then she burrowed herself in the huge cluster of hydrangeas that are on their last legs of the season. I peered into the flowers and saw that she was out of her chest harness strap and the neck strap was soon to follow.
I called my man, my mom, and my best friend—I felt wild as my emotions pulsed out of control. She finally freed herself and as I saw her take off I thought : FUCK, OMG, I’m never going to get her back, how will I deal with this a few days before my vacation?, this is such typical CAT behaviour to do something just before I leave, FUCK. I let out a huge sigh when she beelined for the backdoor and let me open it for her. I walked around in a sweaty daze WTF? She had likely been bitten or stung by something and I needed to let her collect herself before heading in. I also needed calm down, which I did while updating my people and pouring the mulch, which looked beautiful.
I was nervous heading into the house, but there she was, lying on the floor in the backroom. She began talking and then walked towards me, which was so reassuring. I shook my head and although I felt my nervous system shift into a lower gear, I remained hyper-aware throughout the evening. This traumatic event reminded me of how little control I have over her and how risky it is to love something so deeply. But maybe it’s the kind of love or the way I love that I need to (re)consider. Love as possession is an ugly thing that I bear many scars from and I don’t want it in any of my relationships. We don’t need to own or capture someone to know that they/it/we are something special. I think that love is ultimately about creation, making new connections inside ourselves and forging shared magic with others.
Fabulous, foxy queer writer Eileen Miles wrote one of the most captivating memoirs I have ever come across in my reading history. Afterglow is about and co-written, somehow, by their beloved Pitbull Rosie, whom the author lived with for sixteen years. I read the book during my first trip to Sicily, a beautiful time that was enriched by Miles’s work. They spoke through Rosie and themselves, but also countless other histories, feelings, and imaginings of the world. A truly original act of devotion and love in all its forms. Maybe I’ll write a similar story about Elliott, who occupies a huge chamber of my heart, my heart that beats with animal rhythm.
Everything is wild.