Why did you go out this morning? When you know you're not supposed to? Ben buries his head in the crook of my arm and makes no reply. This was the second time in a week that he has taken advantage of a delivery at the door to sneak out of the house.
What's out there that's so irresistible? Shallow, half-frozen puddles of water. Gravel in the driveway. Drifts of brown leaves. Squirrels chasing each other up and down leafless trees.
Ben's had a good year, so far. Kitten had an operation and he didn't. Kitten also got sprayed with water three times in one day for misbehaving, and he didn't. The girl cats got booster shots and he didn't. He sneaked outside twice, and the rest of the time he lay on the bed, listening to NPR. A perfect January, so far.
Of course, things can change in a moment. Ben does not brood about this possibility: he spends no time worrying about what might happen tomorrow, or even later this afternoon, as we do. If life is good, it's good. If somebody steps on your tail by mistake, it's bad. If she moves her foot, it's good again. If she doesn't, just keep yowling until she does; the cat always wins that one.
Human beings have purchased our ability to imagine the future with our peace of mind. To grow spiritually, we have to learn all over again what the animals already know, what we knew when we were little children: how to live in each moment as if it were our first and our last. How to see everything, without the filter of judgment with which civilization insists on editing what we see. How to notice what a pure thing the smallest of pleasures really is. The greatest pain is all too pure, too; there are times when the only possible course is to yowl at the top of one's lungs.
And then to curl up for a nap.