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I feel I’m dissembling a bit, passing myself off as a “cat person.” I’m not really partial to them, having a natural affection for all creatures of the air, land and water. When I act recalcitrant at the prospect of ever marrying again, though, Cedric likes to tease that I’ll wind up alone with 16 cats. In meditating on my brief experience with cats, I’ve come to recognize that they are so much more than silky eye candy. Indeed, they are purveyors of beauty, magic and love.

In the ’80s I was married to a manic-depressive genius named Jamie. He was allergic to grass and cats. The latter caused me some consternation, as I felt naturally drawn to cats. Rescue came unexpectedly one evening as my Cherokee friend, Lorrie, entered the front door saying, “I have a surprise — close your eyes.” She handed over a soft, silken bundle as Jamie looked on, admiringly. He beamed as I opened my eyes and questioned, “But I thought –”

“– It’s a Siamese cat,” he quickly interjected. “The hair’s short, so there’s no problem with dander.” Indeed, there was Jamie, sans sniffles or sneezes. Whatever placebo effect Lorrie had launched with her strong, telepathic mind, it had worked. We welcomed a fixed male cat with inscrutable, angelite eyes and a tiny, Marilyn Monroe dot in the white clearing beside his nose. The cat curled comfortably in a chair, purring its rhythmic motor sound. He was a Siamese cross with a silver body and black-tipped ears — a gorgeous and mysterious creature.

Three years into my law career, I left the firm to travel north in pursuit of a simpler life. Lorrie had heard our plan and asked to ride with us to Humboldt County, CA. Lorrie, Jamie, the new cat and I traveled in my SUV toward a magical new life. Within days of arrival, a local furniture store merchant insisted we borrow his canoe. We crossed a bay north of Arcata to an island of soft sand, tall grasses and variegated driftwood. I felt inspired to make mobiles. We would have relaxed on the island, but the sky was quickly darkening.

Adrift again on the water in our canoe, I panicked while surveying the farther shore. There seemed a paucity of cues that might help distinguish the precise location of my parked car. The shoreline looked uniformly dark and tree-lined. It was fairly obvious I was quite the novice at the natural way of life.

Fortunately, the moon was full that night. Its light rippled and rode the cold blue-white waves above the darkening water. The scene was serene and beautiful, which for some reason, made me miss the new cat.

“Which way should we go?”

Jamie and Lorrie did not answer. Inside, I heard guidance and attuned to it, uttering aloud, “There’s moonglow on the water. Follow the moonpath!” Its light made a bright, stippled, yet discernible path out of the swiftly rocking wavelets. We used our paddles to turn the nose of the canoe in that direction.

We returned, gratefully, in the darkness. Later that same night, as I held the cat again, I heard him purring his new name: “Moonglow. Moonglow.” There was something mystical about this cat who, by his thoughts and voice, had suggested his own spirit name as well as chartered our way safely over dark, unfamiliar waters.

In the months that followed, three more cats would find their way to us. One was a sleepy, soft grey and black cat with wispy jowls named “Dreamstar.” Another was a sweet, short-haired, dandelion yellow cat with piercing green eyes and a striped tail named “Sunlion.” The last was an orphaned black kitten with four white socks I named “Whitefoot.”

No wonder the wise Egyptians cherished cats: they’re atmosphere lifters and mood elevators. Cats intuitively understand unconditional affection. Moonglow still comes to me in dreams. Cedric taught us that when people are close to their pets, those animals often stay with their owners — even after death. That makes immanent sense to me now: because in the brief period of time I spent with them, cats have left their inimitable paw prints upon my soul.

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Janet Michele Red Feather
Janet Michele Red Feather, J.D., M.A., has taught literature and composition for 18 years at the university, state, tribal and community college levels. She is currently a tenured English Faculty member at Normandale Community College. Janet enjoys her role as Ceremonial Singer for Native American ceremonies, singing traditional songs in Mandan and Lakota. She made a career shift into teaching after serving nearly eight years as a defense litigator in California. Her life changed significantly after she traveled to North Dakota in 1993 to fast and pray for a way of life. She welcomes correspondence at JanetRedFeather77@gmail.com.

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