Hope When It Sucks (a.k.a. It’s Imbolc)

My cat, Felix, is missing.

A house guest that is staying with us for an extended period of time let her out on Tuesday night. Tuesday night/early morning there was an epic thunderstorm–those once a year kind of deals that shake the house and light up the night sky for several hours, like some kind of sick daylight.

Even though Felix is an outdoor/indoor cat (usually indoors, but goes out to go to the bathroom), when she didn’t come home on Wednesday I was immediately worried. So worried in fact, that I despaired. I had no hope. I looked for her around the neighborhood, asked a few neighbors, but mostly I gave up. Just like that.

That’s one of my major flaws. I’m an extreme “realist” to the point of non-action. What’s the point, my thought process goes, lost pets are hardly ever found. She probably ran off. Found a home without a toddler chasing after her. Or she’s dead. Crossed the busy highway two blocks away. Joined a feral cat colony. Gone, gone, gone.

Felix, who we took from my parents’ garage when we had only been married a year. Felix, who comforted me through pregnancy and postpartum depression. My writing companion, lap warmer, co-napper. Felix, beautiful Felix, who was so sweet, so kind.

I kept looking for Felix but didn’t find her.  She didn’t come home. I grew increasingly upset as the days passed. When J and I were talking about our weeks this morning, he asked why I hadn’t put up flyers and asked more neighbors.

“It just seemed kind of pointless,” I said.

He sighed. “There’s my eternal optimist.”

I brooded a bit, but knew he was right. I just gave up. And that sucks. It sucks for Felix, who might be out there, and it’s very, very selfish of me. It’s a way of protecting myself, shielding so that if no news—or bad news—comes, it doesn’t hurt so bad.

But that’s no excuse. And it’s a shitty way to live a life.

So I let myself cry a bit. Then I made up some goddamn flyers, did some spell-work, cried some more, and finally walked around the whole goddamn neighborhood for a few hours. Through the woods, the perimeters of shared fences and apartments, up and down the streets. I noted a few cat colonies. I asked neighbors. Taped up the flyers.

My heart still hurts. I want my cat back. I want to know that she’s safe. It’s hard for me to hope. But there’s a candle burning on my altar next to a little cat sculpture that looks like her. Two cards from the Wildwood Tarot Deck are lying beside it: the Hooded Man, shining his lamplight into the dark, and Six of Vessels, subtitled Reunion.

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Great Horned Owls

At this moment I am listening to several Great Horned Owls hooting to each other in the night. So, in honor of what seems like at least three owls perched somewhere in my nearby environs, my ruminations on the owl:

During Thanksgiving my mother-in-law served as tea, British-style. Meaning that she brewed the tea with boiling water in a tea pot, then strained it over our cups. At the end of each cup I’d surreptitiously swirl the dregs in the bottom then try to read them. Mostly I didn’t see anything, really, except the evening that I clearly saw an owl from multiple vantage points. It’s a bit like cloud gazing, I guess, but it seemed pretty clear.

With the Internet as my only source of knowledge I quickly found out that for tasseography purposes, an owl is a harbinger of ill-fortune, specifically sickness and poverty.

Well. Damn.

Given that I’m not a professional tea-leaf reader, I’ll leave that interpretation up to the guardians of divination. However, hearing the owls’ call this evening brought some things to mind.

I think of owls as wise. Perhaps with a pair of pince-nez perched on their beaks. I don’t know where this interpretation came from, save from Hedwig and other illustrious literary owls. The Oracle tells me that the owl was associated with Athena long ago and perhaps that is where the association with wisdom began.

Cultures from Meso-American to Greek to the Middle East all viewed the owls as a bad omen. That surprised me, but really it shouldn’t have. It makes sense. Think about tribes or homesteaders sitting around a crackling fire, surrounded by darkness and hearing the plaintive hoots or shrill cries of a night-stalking predator. Perhaps even finding your barn cat or other small animals dead in the morning.

Juxtaposed to interpretations of death and suffering are those of fertility, wisdom and reincarnation. According to Animal Speak (thank you, Amazon Preview) the Welsh thought that if an owl was heard hooting near a pregnant woman the labor was to be easy.

To me, when I think of owls I think:

Predators, nocturnal, sharp-eyes, keen senses, lovely, silent. Active at twilight and dusk (liminal spaces). Good hearing.

Those associations lead me to render an animal that can see through the dark and in the shadows. One that is fearless and brave. Wisdom from the ability to extract secrets, to see clearly that which is hidden. With the crying out at night and the excellent hearing I can see why this animal would be considered a herald of death and messenger from the world beyond. Dangerous, too. A creature or spirit that can see our deepest held secrets and extract from what is hidden can make people (us, me) uneasy about their knowledge of what we try to squirrel away. All the more encouragement to bring it to light.

Great Horned Owl

*Written under the influence of Blue Moon’s Winter Abbey Ale. Delicious. And, please forgive any typos. 🙂

**Image is linked to the source.

Summer

Summer is…

Ripe tomatoes.

Pests.

The promise of sweet corn.

Going to the beach. And, if you’re C, eating sand.

Seeing extraordinary things, like a sea turtle release.

Summer is here, no doubt. This Pagan house (as in my literal home) is in a bit of a disarray, but it almost seems normal with the heat of summer descending on us to have an adjustment period. The brief spring is over and the season of (wild)fire has begun.

Litha/Midsummer has been on my mind lately. I’m not sure what to do to celebrate it. Last year, heavily pregnant, I went around town and snapped pictures. This year I’d like to do something a bit more formal.  I think what I have to work out is what summer, heat, fire actually means to me. I much prefer autumn and winter, so this is a bit of a mysterious holiday. I’m taking note of the weather especially, as it’s been odd this year (especially the constant gusty winds!).

What are your plans for the summer? What does Midsummer mean to you?

Wild yarrow growing in my backyard.