Becoming St. Louis

Meditating quietly in the shadow of all the struggles I’ve gone through this year with my kitten Clark, has been his rather saintly brother, Louis. He’s become a calm port in a sea of storms, the yang to Clark’s yin. He’s grown into a daily fixture of home and hearth, as pets are, reminding me of both the home I have here and one I knew once in a galaxy far, far away.

You’ll have to forgive the Star Wars references. I can’t help it, I just really loved the new movie.

I have three cats, at present. Ella is the oldest, fifteen going on fifty, a crotchety girl. Clark and Louis are six months old now. Things are fairly copacetic between them, everyone knows the rules: She tolerates their existence, and they do their best to fly low and stay under her radar.

Louis has been blessed with a Buddhistic good nature. Patient, kind and seemingly thoughtful of others, he’s unlike any other cat I’ve lived with or known. He’s tries each day to improve diplomatic relations with Ella, jumping at her, chasing her and trying optimistically to engage her and play. She has no idea what he’s doing and swats him away, deeply offended. But he just takes it all in stride.

Unfazed, I imagine him waking up from one of his many cat naps thinking, “this time I’ll finally win her over,” or “do or do not, there is no try.” His repeated failures never seem to darken his rosy outlook.

He’s similarly resilient with my two dogs who are more appreciative of his antics. They are a lot bigger than he is, Goliaths to his tiny David. When he comes bounding at them, trying to play, one swat from either of their paws is enough to send him running for cover. But he still gets back up, emerges from his hidey-hole, and tries again.

With his more clumsy and fragile brother, Louis is careful, gentle even, as if he’s aware that Clark has had his fair share of problems. He doesn’t play too rough. He let’s him win, gives him a good run for his money, but never so much that Clark’s left struggling. He’s the best big brother I could ask for.

I’ve never met a cat that was so mindful. If Yoda was a feline, Louis would be wearing a robe and sporting a light-saber. He’s that awesome.

And my Zen-master cat has a few more tricks up his sleeve. His name and nature ring of another time and place. Every day they take me back to the distant galaxy of my past, a life I used to live, reminding me of all the wormholes I’ve fallen through and roads I’ve traveled to arrive at where I am today.

I would never have thought a cat could be saintly and have superpowers at the same time. I feel like such a lucky girl.

Louis is named in part after St. Louis, Missouri. I was born on the outskirts of the city, and spent the first half of my life there. Though I’ve lived in New York for almost twenty years now, I still think of it as home. I root for the Cardinals during baseball season. A twinge of pride stirs in my chest when I see pictures of the Arch towering over the Mississippi River, or find St. Loius-style ribs offered on an upstate menu.

My old home, my Tattoine. I remember days and days spent outside playing in the grassy deserts, horses running and cows grazing on my father’s farm. I still see the hazy blue sky, feel the wet heat of August and the chilly snowlessness of winter. And I can still smell all of it, I think, if I try.

Somewhere inside, I sense that place is still my point of origin. My compass goes right on pointing there, even though my travels have led me off in a different direction, to a new and far off galaxy.

And now there’s Louis, my own Jedi-master and dimestore saint, sprawled on the couch, reminding me every day of home. The one I live in now, with him and my other pets, and the one I lived in long ago.

Together, I think we make a pretty good a team. I hope the Force will always be with us.

One day I want to visit the National Parks, RV-style, Louis and my other pets in tow. I can already picture him looking out the window, the sun in his face, watching the landscape change as we travel west. Of course, we’ll make a stop in St. Louis. I’ll look over at him and announce that we’re passing into Missouri as we cross the state line, heading to the place he shares his name with for more reasons than one.

Cool as a cucumber, he’ll just look at me, as cats do. But that’s okay. Our conversations are usually one-sided.

I’ll tell him that we’re headed back as much as forward. That I’m carrying parts of my past with me always, keeping my origins close by, handy, in a suitcase of their own. He’s packed in there too, with all my socks and underwear and my own light-saber. Everything’s coming along wherever the road leads, moving into whoever and whatever I become.

He’ll listen, of course, Yoda-like and patient as always, to my theories. Then he’ll probably yawn, stretch and settle in for the ride.