Night was falling last Thursday and we couldn’t find our sweet gray and gold kitten anywhere. Sukha usually comes the minute we call, but this time I had walked the entire perimeter of our house calling in the squeaky pitch I use that matches her voice, with no response.
My husband and I set out with flashlights in hand, I heading up to the woods and he down to the berry patch, her two favorite daytime haunts. But after five more minutes of searching and calling, we still couldn’t find her.
So I set out down our steep driveway, fearing the worst. As I approached the dark country road, I heard a plaintive cry, but no cute face appeared. My mind was racing overtime “Could she be lying by the side of the road, hit by a car? No, her voice sounds too healthy – just scared.”
What next? There is a majestic oak almost 100 feet tall right next to the road and I headed in that direction. I circled around the oak, but her voice seemed to come from a different location every time I moved. The branches were so full of greenery that I could not see well with my meager light beam.
Then – there she was! 25 feet up the tree, her limbs splayed out sideways in an attempt to grab on tight, reaching halfway around the trunk. There was a 15 foot section to descend with no branches, and now that she had my sympathetic ear she began yowling in terror.
After much coaxing and encouragement — “You can do it sweetie!” (should I hang out my shingle as the cat coach now?!) — she navigated a few more feet. Then she took a flying leap, crashed though the lower branches, and made an unceremonious landing in the ivy, every hair on end like a miniature porcupine.
The next day she wanted more than her share of lap time and was quite a spitfire when her brother Minka tried his usual bullying tricks.
“She’s got a new appreciation of life now that she’s used up one of her nine” my husband observed. It felt like her presence grew fuller in some indefinable way.
Over the past few days I’ve been reflecting on the poignant image of Sukha hanging there on the tree trunk. It reminded me of the human condition, where we may initially tackle new challenges with great excitement, but then get lost in the dark. Old survival fears from our animal brain can kick in and cause us to freeze where we are and begin to doubt the decision to move forward at all.
Reaching out into the unknown requires tremendous courage and a specific willingness to be uncomfortable and even afraid. If you are in new territory, you absolutely won’t know where you are going every step of the way.
At times like those it’s important to let yourself just be wherever you are and remember to keep breathing. If we are honest in acknowledging and accepting our vulnerabilities as well as our strengths, the way forward opens up and becomes much less daunting.
Once you’ve made the leap and survived, something bigger and more alive emerges from within.
And then life continues to be the breathtaking journey it was meant to be!