When the snow covers the mud and the muck, I throw everything in the washing machine: the rugs, Kitty’s bed cover, the dog bed covers, the quilts, and the polar fleece throws. Not that I don’t wash them any other time of year, but it’s like shaking out the fall mud season from the house and breathing in fresh air.
This year after I replaced Kitty’s bed cover, she didn’t crawl back in. She slept on the stairs, in her favorite living room chair, or tucked away under a banister in Pete’s office. Each time I walked in the laundry room where her bed sits next to her food, it was empty. I even put her in it one morning to see if she could reconnect. No luck. Then a few days ago, I walked in after my morning coffee and found Kitty asleep in the laundry room sink. I hadn’t recalled ever seeing her sleeping there. I’d watched her from time to time balancing between the two sinks to drink out of the faucet, a few drips and drabs at a time, but I’d never seen her use the sink as a bed.
Kitty did fit perfectly in the stainless steel sink. She was safe there: up away from the dogs and any other traffic through the room and when I approached to take a picture, she barely took notice. Somehow, Kitty was at home. Although, I’ve washed her bed cover before, I wondered what loss she was protesting: the dirt, the matted cat hair, the fleece perfectly contoured to her body, or the very special smells that made her bed deeply familiar.
It was a mystery that reminded me of how profound unannounced change can be. I know some years I wouldn’t invite winter to arrive so soon. But it never asks. It comes without my consent and resets the season, changing the inner and outer landscape of my life. I, like Kitty, bristle and protest the intrusion, but then over time my books open, paperwork unfolds, and chores of a different kind invite me to sort and simplify. I know how unannounced and unplanned for health issues of family members can create a new physical and emotional landscape for each member: each person faced with adjusting and dealing with the unexpected; each faced with accepting the reality of a new place in the family landscape and finding something of comfort within that place.
Kitty never asked me to wash her bed cover. I came unannounced and, for reasons I do not understand, dislocated her, took away the personal and the familiar. I keep hoping she’ll adjust and return to the familiar. I keep hoping her protest will end and she will dare re-enter the comfort of her bed and recreate the scents and smells and the contours that were hers. Then, can she, as we all do when we give up protesting change, transform the untenable into the tenable?