November 27, 2008
Beluga sleeps beside me at night, with my arm around him so I will know instantly if he has a seizure. He usually has them on the Dark Moon and Full Moon, and last night was no exception. We were half awake anyway, listening to the rain, when he started twitching. I keep a towel and an extra pillow beside the bed, so I quickly wrapped up and cushioned him while he thrashed and hissed for a couple of minutes. After he calmed down, we went back to sleep. He’s very quiet today, but the cool, cloudy weather makes all the cats sleepy. On some nights I am able to follow his dreams, which always lead down into earthy places, mysterious dark passages, and eventually towards a twilight landscape that shares aspects of my own inner world and his unique feline perspective. He is a master of the Underworld journey. This place appears often in my dreams at this time of year - a compelling and intensely familiar place to disappear from the world, half forbidden and accessible only with “permission”, both a refuge and a trap, comforting and frightening, filled with inviting visions, yet bearing the dusty finality of the grave. It is a shaman’s view, a long way from the typical (and to me, alien) religious ideal of celestial light and detachment that is celebrated in major religions and New Age thought. The Upper World is cold, crystalline, spacious, and terrifyingly empty – a place of awesome power, to journey occasionally for specific reasons, but not anywhere to live or leave one’s mind for long, and certainly not an ultimate destination. The Underworld draws its warmth and complexity from the secret patterns of life, including one’s own body, which is why it feels like Home.
I am fortunate to have found a true Teacher in a tiny black cat whose life is a miracle. I recently bought several CDs of Medieval pilgrim songs and dances, mostly written in the 1400s in honor of the Black Virgin at the Spanish monastery of Montserrat. Beluga likes them and listens very carefully to the rhythms…and he “walks time” very quickly around the outer edge of the maze, sometimes following the square edges, and other times in a circle. Odd to watch him placing his little paws very deliberately, almost running as he follows the drumbeat with steps as precise as a windup toy, pausing to find his walking step again when the song ends.
A few months ago I bought a moleskine sketchbook. I had thought them simply a pretentious fad item until I actually saw one. I realized that this is the kind of drawing book that I had been wanting since I was in middle school and first became seriously interested in scientific illustration. The smooth, cream-colored paper takes ink lines without tearing or bleeding, which is essential for ink drawing but nearly impossible to find even in “professional” drawing paper (it was no longer an issue once I switched to scratchboard). The whole notebook has a 19th century air – a combination of simplicity and “ivory tower” refinement that I found irresistible. So I bought a couple of them, and am filling one with cat sketches, like this one of Beluga circling: