Thursday, October 8, 2009

Kitten Bodhisattva

Kenji the kitten, now five months old, came into our lives as a Bodhisattva, a call for compassion. In June, my partner Sabrina was on her way to work a graveyard shift at the plant, and stopped to buy groceries for dinner. In the parking lot, she heard a kitten mewling. A teen-age boy, skateboard nearby, was sitting on a pile of potting soil bags, near tears, with a kitten in his lap. Sabrina went up to ask what was wrong. In a quavering voice, he said, "Some lady just asked me to hold this kitten, and then she disappeared. I can't bring him home, and I'm afraid he's going to get killed if I leave him here. I don't know what to do."

At that moment, I was driving home from a week at Tassajara, where I had been studying dana paramita, "the perfection of giving." It was my first visit to Tassajara, and I was still blissed out. I had just reached a point in my drive where I had cell phone reception again, and called to check in with Sabrina. "Hi, how was your week?" To which she grumpily replied, "I have a kitten in my truck." Now, Sabrina will never turn down any animal in distress. If she could, she would bring them all home. But, this was unplanned - and we already had four cats, three dogs and a parrot. The house was full. And the animal shelter was closed for the night.

I said, "Bring him to work. We'll figure it out from there." I was feeling generous, magnanimous. Finding some little creature that needed love and tending seemed like the perfect end to a wonderful week. It just felt right. As I neared Santa Rosa, I realized I wasn't that far from the plant in Sebastopol, so I called again. "I'll come by and get him, so you don't have to worry about this all night." So, by 11 p.m., I was driving home with a tiny, precious, squawling five-week-old kitten.

The original plan was to take him to the shelter the next day, or find him some adoptive parents. Of course, after one night of feeding and cuddling, cooing and coddling, there was no way that kitten was ever going to go any place else. He was home.

It seemed fitting that he have a Japanese name, since I was en route from Tassajara when we first met. I named him Kenji, after a little boy who was one of my neighbors in Osaka. Every time I hold him, I am reminded of dana paramita: the spirit of generosity, the heeding of the call to compassion. He is my little Bodhisattva, in feline form. Every ounce of him is a lesson in being present, in awakening, in thereness. We saved him; now he is saving us.

Yesterday I was in the shower, soaping my face. When I opened my eyes, there he was - in the shower, water sprinkling over his head as he blinked up at me. Ah, yes! Laughter and love are good for the soul.

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