Thin white clouds are pulled and stretched like spun cotton across the hard blue sky. A distant sun shines. The sun light is not the deep golden beams of autumn or the brittle light of spring, nor is it the egg yolk of summer, but a buttery yellow that caresses rather than burns. Shafts stream on to the patio now in readiness for the coming winter and recently stripped bare of all but two metal chairs
In one corner lays The Cat, her black and white fur stretching toward the warmth of the sun. She is sprawled in what looks like a most comfortable position, white legs criss-crossed so that only a bit of the black patches are visible. The pupils of her yellow eyes are dark vertical slits and her small mouth is slightly open, a bit of pink tongue tipping out as if to taste the air.
She moves suddenly, sits up and decisively licks a sunbeam from her shoulder. This activity is immediately followed by a complete toilette – a sun bath in its truest sense. Back, sides, stomach, legs, paws and finally, face and ears are licked and smoothed and nibbled until her fur is shining like fat black patent leather slipper. With a huge sigh she sinks down and blinks, once, twice, thrice into an afternoon nap.
The sun has not provoked such a lavatory response in me so I remain sitting on the wrought iron chair, listening to the conversations of the birds babbling in the trees. My mind wanders back to earlier in the day when I crossed the parking lot at the grocery store and stopped mid-step. The realization had suddenly hit me that I was fully contented like the cat lying in the sun.
I like that my movements are slower now and more thoughtful, that I use a cane to take some of the pressure from the knee that enjoys complaining. I like that I don’t bother to wear make-up or uncomfortable clothes; that my body is fuller and heavier and no longer fights gravity but sinks into it. I like that my stomach is bigger and my lap smaller yet just the right size for a sleepy cat or small child.
Perhaps this ability to be content is one of the rewards of growing old for it arrives at a time when it seems so many other things are taken away. In years past it seemed that no matter how hard I worked or how much money was made, it was never enough. Now my desires are simpler and I want for nothing.
Each day now flows smoothly into another and deadlines are a thing of the past. Time is unimportant and with its absence each moment has become sweeter and deeper, larger enough to hold a universe and small enough to contain a whisper.
There is a quiet joy in the everyday. When I was younger I had to be satisfied with intermittent happiness and since that happiness always had cause, it eventually dissipated leaving an emptiness behind that had no bottom. Joy, on the other hand, has no cause and is a state of being. It is ever present and ever full. Since time is suspended and there is no tomorrow and the virtues of patience, hope and faith are no longer required.
I am surprised at how easy it can be just to live one day, one moment at a time and I am astonished at how long it took me to realize this simplicity. Then I see the grasping mind plotting how to capture and maintain this peacefulness. But knowing the wily and impersonal nature of thought, I return to contemplating the sleeping cat.