Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Ghost Kitten

It all began with a dream. 

In the dream, I came home to an apartment where our adult cat let me know that the kitten was behind the couch. (We don’t have a kitten.) I had to lie down on the floor and reach back into the dark depths to find her and pull her out. She was so small I could hold her in one hand as I stroked her soft belly which was plump with kitten food. A little too much food, I thought. 

I woke with that lingering scent of infancy that makes you want to nuzzle a kitten, a puppy, or an infant. And though I don’t usually remember my dreams, this one stayed with me, along with a protective feeling for that kitten in the shadows. 

That day, rain fell in sheets, but cleared up enough for Angel and me to make our evening walk to the park. On our way home we were walking up to the red brick real estate

building and I spotted a little shadow dashing across the steps at the side door. My mind flashed on images of otters, moles, and rats, but resolved into the realization that I had seen a wet, charcoal kitten. It had leaped  away from a bowl of cat food, across the first step, and disappeared into a gap in the handmade steps. I pulled a few good pieces of cat food out of the rain-sodden bowl and placed them where she could easily reach them, but I knew she wasn’t coming out as long as I had the dog with me so we went home. 

The next morning I returned with fresh food and water and waited for the kitten to make another appearance. Eventually she poked her head out, eyeing me cautiously before chomping down on each piece one at a time. Her fur, had dried to a gray ash remarkably similar to our cat, Sasha, who had grown old and died several years ago. It was like she was back for another one of her nine lives.  

I returned later in the day and brought some kitten food. Little Sasha ate it up happily. When I tried to get near her, though, she ducked back under the steps. Not ready to  trust. 

The ladies in the insurance office came out to see their little visitor when I told them about her. They had no idea she was there, and we discussed setting out a safe capture cage. This was when I took the pictures, and Little Sasha allowed me to get much closer. 

Did you know that when you name an animal, you’re five times more likely to want to keep and care for it? Don’t ask me to back that up statistically, just take my word for it. (It’s election season—I’m allowed.)

The next day, Little Sasha was gone. 

The food hadn’t been touched, and it stayed untouched for the next three days. I looked for a little corpse in the road or signs of blood. Nothing. 

I call her my ghost kitten because she showed up in my dreams, was untouchable by day, and haunts me still today, echoing the loss of Sasha Prime and leaving me asking why it happened. (Yes, I just made a Star Trek reference. The new movie is coming out—I’m allowed.)

Why am I so haunted by the Ghost Kitten? Was I supposed to help her? Bring her to safety? Why was I “alerted” by my dream and then unable to follow up? Or was it, as my wife suggests, that my actions alerted someone else who was able to capture her and give her a good home? 

My thoughts turn to Shakespeare: “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.” (I was an English major—I’m allowed.)

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

All You Need Is Love

After one of my first blog posts, a friend asked me to share all of the podcasts I listen to on my walk and though I sent her a reply, I thought I would share individual podcast recommendations as they arise. I’d like to give them their full due. 

I’ve been a fan of SF for many years, subscribing to various short story magazines over the years, like “Galaxy,” “Isaac Asimov’s,” “Fantasy & Science Fiction” and more. So when I learned about the science fiction podcast called “Escape Pod” I was all ears. (See what I did there?)  
This past week I was quite moved by a story called “Joolie and Irdl” (Escape Pod #154 at It’s a story of interracial love between two actual races, not just two human beings. And they have to navigate the prejudices of family and friends as well as each other. (Fair warning: there are references to interracial lovemaking, but nothing obscene.) They become truly devoted to each other, despite all these challenges. 

The podcast was released closely on the heels of the Orlando shooting, and the host of the program, Alasdair Stuart, followed the story with a poignant commentary that’s really worth a listen. He embellished on the theme of “All You Need Is Love” and I found myself repeatedly thinking the line from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony speech “Love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love.” We were thinking in sync because Alasdair eventually added that to his commentary, as well. 

In this current climate of tribalism, of us-against-them, we miss so much by not being open to the thoughts and ideas of others. That openness is love. You can’t both push away and embrace at the same time.  

My last blog about meeting Abu-Sheik and the simple joy of learning about another person with a different background is a simple example of this. We didn’t change the world by walking and talking together, but he expressed his relief at meeting a friendly face in a foreign county. Anybody out there need some relief? I know I do. 

In your walk through life, can you bring some relief to another being? Can you hold love in your heart and be open to the feelings and perspectives of someone else? It’s a muscle that needs to be exercised regularly like the calves or the quads, to bring it back to walking. 

And will the other person leave the door open for you? You can’t control that, but you can set the standard for such behavior. Let’s not build walls, physical or psychological. Let’s open doors.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

My Walk With Abu-Sheik

A friendly smile can start the most interesting conversations. Like my walk with Abu-sheik. (I hope I didn't mangle the spelling, it’s my best guess.)

Angel and I were walking through Happy Hollow Park over the July Fourth weekend when a young man slowly pedaling his bicycle into the park stopped and asked me if there was some place to lock his bike. I directed him to the playground and picnic shelters over my shoulder and he thanked me, saying he had never been there before. 

Angel and I got to the end of the park and, heading back through again, we caught up with Abu-sheik on foot as we headed up through the woods. 

“Did you find a place for your bike?” I asked as we came up behind him. 

“Yes,” he said. “Thank you. And I was looking for a place to go running. This looks great.”

I agreed and told him how I had grown up in the area and walked these paths as a boy before they were paved. In some places the brush grew up so high that you had to turn sideways on the narrow footpath just to get through. Not like you see it in the picture today.

His accent reminded me of Raj on “The Big Bang Theory” and, he told me he was from New Delhi. He is an I.T. student at Purdue, and still nervous about being far from home and meeting new people. I told him that I had a similar experience, living in Germany twice as a boy and once in England. When I added how important it was for everyone to be a global citizen he brightened and looked relieved. 

“I am so glad to hear you use those words,” he said.

“Well, when I returned to school in the U.S. I was surprised how I already had a different world view even in elementary school. My teacher asked the class to name the barriers to creating a United Europe, and someone said the different languages would get in the way. ‘Nonsense,’ she answered, ‘they can all speak English!’ I couldn’t believe she would say that, and I realized that I understood something that she didn’t.” 

Abu-sheik told me that many people in India speak English but that there are sixteen different languages spoken in his country. When he visited the south of India he couldn’t understand anyone and was completely unable to talk to them. His native language is Hindi. 

“Don’t the languages have the same roots?” 

“No, theirs was from Sanskrit and completely different from Hindi.” Even in their own country there are barriers to understanding as basic as language. 

“Have you seen the new movie, Independence Day: Resurgence?” I asked him. 

“I’ve heard of the first one, but I’ve never seen it.” 

“Well, there’s lots of action and fighting the aliens, but I really liked how this movie made the effort to show everyone on Earth as members of the same race. The Human Race.” 

“Yes,” he agreed readily, “we are all one race, even though we speak different languages and come from different countries.” 

When I lived in Los Angeles I met a woman from India who talked a lot about how crowded it was there. When I asked Abu-sheik if Indiana felt very different. He agreed that New Delhi was also very crowded, but that he found places outside of the city to go running, just as he had done today. 

“You may not be able to run here in the winter, though. It’s hot and humid now, but it’ll get a lot colder.” 

“It gets cold in India, too. It can be a lot like this, but it can also get down to zero in the winter. That’s Celsius.” 

“Well that’s 32 Fahrenheit, so that’s pretty close. Depending on the the year, though, we can get lots of snow.”  

We were at the end of the path and we climbed the slope up to the street. He asked where we were and I said that it was Indian Trail Drive. I felt the need to explain that all the streets connected to it were named after Native American Indian Tribes. 

“Are you walking back?” He asked hopefully. 

“No, we need to go down this street to get home. But if you follow the path straight back to the park you’ll find your bike.” 

“I’ve met two people now who have been very friendly to me and I feel better about being here.” 

“I’m so glad. I hope you enjoy your stay.” 

We shook hands and introduced ourselves before going our separate ways. 

Welcome to the USA, Abu-sheik. I hope we’re good hosts and that your visit is full of friends and interesting places.