Monday, January 14, 2008

Tabbitha's Lessons

Today I learned an interesting lesson from my cat, Tabbitha.

She's focused, she's determined, she's stealthy and sly, and she will not let Nathaniel or me distract her one bit from the task at hand.

No, she's not writing a dissertation, campaigning for world peace, or even figuring out how to build an automatic self-cleaning poop box (wouldn't that be great!). No, instead she was bird watching.

For Christmas 2006, Nathaniel - my husband who proclaims to "hate that cat" but whose eyes well up at the thought of her, and then calls her a "stupid beast" - got her a very special present: a bird feeder. No, Tabbitha is not allowed on the deck when the birds are out, nor do they (usually) eat when she's out there, lurking behind the deck chairs (we had a bad experience once. Tabbitha was hiding, and a particularly large dove trundled a little too close. From in the living room I heard an angry cooing and the beating of wings. By the time I had run out to the deck, I found Tabbitha, a bird feather stuck to her whiskers and looking sourly disappointed). The dove got away, but waited a week or so to return.

Tabbitha loves the bird feeder. She enjoys sitting inside, next to the stereo, tail twitching, whiskers quivering, and watching the birds circle the feeder, argue, converse, and play. She's intrigued by their flight, and I'm sure if she could, she would like to join them in "play time."

The birds, suffice to say, would probably say otherwise.

A few days ago, Tabbitha seemed particularly intrigued by a rather large dove.
We've got about 5 or 6 doves that visit our deck on a regular basis. They don't use the feeder - they're too massive to fit on the little ledge. Instead, they circle the deck, bob their feathery heads up and down, pecking at birdseed that has fallen by messy little birds who feed daily at the feeder. The smaller birds, cardinals, sparrows, and the occasional finch tend to be a bit picky. They'll nose around the wild bird seed, choosing only the "tastiest" of morsels, and making a mess on the ground.

Nathaniel, loves the doves because they "clean the deck". He teases Tabbitha and calls them "little steaks with wings." Tabbitha just gives him a look. Me, well, I laugh and just give him a look. (Can you tell that he loves that cat, but would never admit it...)

So there you have it - we've got several doves that visit our deck every day. And every time they poke their feathery heads through the grates, Tabbitha with her unique cat-sixth-sens, carefully treads to the window, ears back, tail barely making a twitch, keeping her body low and close to the ground.

She's focused, she's determined, and nothing - not the promise of "treats", of cat nip, of her toy mouse - absolutely nothing can detract her from the task at hand: dove watching.

To Tabbitha, everything in that moment of time, is about the dove. She wants it, she wants to get at it, she know what she has to do, and one day - one day - she knows that she'll be successful. It'll just take a little time. But every time she sees the doves, hears the birds, sees them chattering away and flying, her focus, her determination to do whatever it takes to catch those birds, returns.

Tabbitha's cat instinct at its best.

Occasionally we'll hear a thunk! or thwap! as Tabbitha has launched herself at the French Doors. No, she hasn't busted through, yet. But her determination is admirable. Even though she wasn't successfull at that time, she'll try again later. She won't give up, and is firm in her belief that one day she'll get those birds.

I learned from Tabbitha today. Sometimes a goal at hand isn't immediately achievable: for her there's a pane of glass separating the birds from her (thankfully for them). But she's undeterred. She knows what she wants, and she doesn't give up her quest, even if she crashes (into the window) from time to time. And like Tabbitha, I know what I want: I've thought very carefully about goals for this season and the next few years, thought about where I want to go, and have spent a lot of time looking back at where I've come from. I've had a few crashes myself, a few down times. And even though I was frustrated at the time, I managed to pick myself back up and move forward - always with my end goals in sight.

And I learned a great deal in the process. Like Tabbitha, I changed my approach, learned from my mistakes, and will hopefully carry that knowledge with me into the future. Tabbitha now approaches the window much more carefully, with more stealth. She's quick to observe, to watch - but no loger do we hear her thwack! against the window.

I know that it will take time, and I'm okay with that. My dove is still separated by a thickly paned glass window, if not more. But I know that it's there - I can see it. I just can't make the leap and catch it yet without it flying away. And in all honesty, I'm not ready - not just yet. I've still got a lot more maturing to do, races to experience, good-times, bad-times, learning-times ahead. And I'm okay with that - because that's part of my journey. Just like for Tabbitha, watching the birds, stalking the doves patiently day in, day out is part of her journey.

But I'll still do what I can to make it more tangible, to make my dreams slowly become a reality. And just like Tabbitha, one day I'll get the end result that I'm seeking. Hopefully it won't involve lots of feathers and angry cooing. In the mean time, I'll do what I can to encourage Tabbitha, but keep the birds safe at the same time. Will she ever reach her goal of catching her dove?

All I can say: that's what cat toys are for. But they're not quite the real thing.

My dreams, my goals on the other hand - are within reach. I can see them, I'll patiently move forward each day to make them into my reality, and I won't give up the hope that one day, one day they will come true.

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