I am not a conventionally religious person, but what I am certain of is that all living creatures have a soul. Throughout your life, you have experiences with living beings (human and/or animal), and events happen, some of which you have control over, and some of which you do not. I think that some of these experiences cause your soul to soar and grow, while others, unfortunately, take pieces of your soul and destroy them, sometimes permanently. This is the story of a furry, hissy, little soul who made my soul grow and soar to the boundaries of the universe.
She is in heaven now, but as you will see, her spirit is always with me, and every day, she MAKES ME SMILE.
Today began with the ritual of checking my etsy store. No sales. Oh well. I then began scrolling around some of my favorite shops, including The Night Jar. California artist Tarra Lyons is a very talented woman who paints absolutely adorable, whimsical birds which she sells in her shop. Today I happened to notice that she had her blog site listed and I checked it out.
I was absolutely stunned when I saw her post of a precious gray tabby cat laying under her Christmas tree and her post said that her name was Sweet Pea! What were the odds that someone else had an identical cat named Sweet Pea? I emailed Tarra and told her about my Sweet Pea, and I promised to share some photos of my Sweet Pea and to tell her the story of my precious little girl. Here are the links for the Night Jar's etsy store and blog. http://www.TheNightjar.etsy.com and http://www.nightjarnightjar.blogspot.com/
So for Tarra and the one and one-half other people out there who read this blog (ha ha), this is the story of my Sweet Pea.
It was a sweltering evening in late July 1996 and my parents were visiting me from out of town. We were lounging on the deck in the backyard when my next door neighbor Debbie came over with 3 kittens in tow. She was a cat lover and she already had several cats in the house. She explained that a friend of hers was a rural mail carrier and had found these three amigos along the side of the road. Two of them appeared to be older than the third one who was the tiny gray female tabby. I was immediately drawn to the little one, but Debbie cautioned me, saying, you might not want to do that, she doesn't like anyone, she's a little hissypot! Disregarding Debbie's warning, I picked her up anyway. She was nothing but a ball of gray and white fur, she was so tiny. The poor thing was besieged with fleas. I laid her on her back in the palm of my hand and began to rub her belly. She purred so loudly, we all began to laugh. Debbie said that she could not believe it. She said -- She hasn't let anyone else touch her -- You were meant for each other! I knew immediately what I would name her. It was more of a term of endearment than a name. Sweet Pea. And so, after a flea bath and a visit to the vet, our lifelong journey as soul mates began.
I had never had a cat before and I did not know what to expect. I originally wanted to make my little ball of fir an indoor cat, but she quickly made it clear that she was a child of the outdoors, and she would be a semi-outdoor cat for brief periods of time when I was home to keep an eye on her. Not knowing any better, I set about teaching her the boundaries of my very large yard, and, surprisingly, she quickly learned to stay in my yard. My cat loving friends gasped in disbelief when I told them that she stayed in the yard, and my vet just stared at me in dismay. I did not know that this was such an extraordinary event, I just knew that, for the rest of her life, except for the occasional jaunt into my next door neighbor's yard, Sweet Pea happily lived out her adventures in my yard.
My first heart attack came when she promptly scaled the trellis on the deck and bounded up on the roof of the house and ran around, fearless, surveying the property from a bird's eye view. She was only two pounds strong, but she was mighty, and she was unstoppable.
She loved to be outside, and as you can see, she was happy to have a sip of water from the birdbath during a hot summer day. We spent many a warm summer evening in the garden behind the house sitting in a chair near the trumpet vines. She sat on my lap while we watched the hummingbirds dart to and fro between the beautiful orange trumpet flowers. As we listened to their symphony of humming and chirping sounds that filled the night air we were both mesmerized. Her head darted quickly in every direction, trying to take it all in. Somehow she knew that she could never catch them - she was content just to watch and listen in the comfort of my lap. In fact, she was never a hunter of anything, the most she ever did was catch little ground moles and play with them, only to release them unharmed.
Some of my favorite memories of Sweet Pea were in the spring and summer of each year when the many deer in our neighborhood brought their new fawns out in the yards. We have a love/hate relationship with the deer in our community. They have destroyed all of my beautiful perennial gardens that I have worked so hard to develop through the years. It is almost impossible to grow anything in our yards. But, there is no doubt that they are beautiful animals, especially the fawns. Sweet Pea loved to play with the fawns. I regret that I have been unable to find the photo of her with the fawns that I have, but I know it will turn up eventually. In the evening, again, when their Mothers would bring them into the yard, she loved to play tag with them and chase them around the large tree in my back yard. Their long legs were so spindly, it looked so funny. Sometimes she would jump up and try to touch their fluffy white tails. Occasionally, their Mothers would think that she was getting a little too friendly with their fawns, and they would let out a warning snort or make some other threatening gesture to let Sweet Pea know that she needed to back off.
When fall came she loved to play in the leaves. This is one of my favorite pictures of her.
Her love of the outdoors continued in the wintertime. She loved the snow, as you can see from the photo below.
She loved birthdays and Christmas time, since Grammy and Grampy, Aunt Jenny, and her many friends always showered her with gifts. She was such a good girl, she never bothered my very intricate Snow Village display below my Christmas tree.
We were together for 12 happy years. During those years, there were many, many weeks and months that I was seriously ill and could only lay in bed. Day and night, night and day, faithfully, she laid by my side. She was undaunted by the despair of unending pain and sickness. She only knew that I needed her, and she was there. If you were looking for unconditional love, all you needed to do was look into her face.
As with everything in life there must be a beginning and an end. In May 2008, Sweet Pea became ill and died. As I buried her in my backyard that day, I buried a piece of my soul with her. Although I will have other cats throughout my life, I do not think that there will be another furry "soul" that will occupy anywhere close to the same place in my heart and soul as Sweet Pea did. The photograph below is also one of my favorites. In a way it reminds me of her looking into the "afterlife".
I am reminded of a poem I found about death that I like and I will share it with you --
DEATH IS A DOOR
Death is only an old door
Set in a garden wall
On quiet hinges it gives at dusk
When the thrushes call.
Beyond the light lies still,
Very weary and willing feet
Go over that sill.
There is nothing to trouble any heart,
Nothing to hurt at all.
Death is only an old door
In a garden wall.
Nancy Byrd Turner
I know that Sweet Pea is happy beyond the door in the garden wall, and that she is at peace. I miss her every day. Every day I think of her, and SHE MAKES ME SMILE!
Be Well and Happy -- Until Next Time -- For all the Sweet Peas out there -- Give them a hug for me!