It is exactly midnight as I sit down to type this post. Down the hall, my love lies asleep. One of our cats is curled up beneath the bed on an old L.L. Bean backpack--her favorite nighttime hideout. The other cat is sleeping here in my study on my desk, right next to my typing fingers. He has fallen asleep like this so many times over the years that I believe he must imagine my typing to be a kind of lullaby. It is his way to interpret nearly everything I do as a sort of gift to him. And over time, I realize that I have adjusted my ways more and more until, indeed, much of what I do when I am with him is for him. I say this with a little bemusement as I admit that my cat has trained me to make his waking life a series of mini luxury holidays from the hard work that is sleeping. I also say this with love, because I understand what a gift he has given me. It comes down to a simple truth: the more love one gives the more love one has to give.
People teach me this, too, like my friend Melissa, who sent me this little bird vase the week we moved to Portland. I was grumpily unpacking the umpteenth crate of books when the UPS man arrived with a box from Melissa's beautiful online boutique Reverie-Daydream. Ever since that day, the little bird has lived on my desk with a new plume of flowers each week--sometimes daisies, sometimes tea roses, sometimes Queen Anne's lace from the roadside. When I saw gomphrena at the farmers' market the other day, I knew exactly what the bird would be wearing this week. And each time I glance at the little bird, it reminds me of Melissa. She's one of those people whose love for those around her seems to thrive and grow the more she gives.
I mentioned the gift my cat has given me by expecting me to love him. Mostly love comes easily, but there are times when I don't feel much love at all for anyone, most especially myself. It is in those times when I discover what I am capable of. What I mean is that it is a joy to show love when one feels loving. I am trying, too, to show love when I feel far from loving. Call it behavior modification, call it crazy, but I find that it works. I'm reminded of my friend Aeleen's smile meditation in which she suggests that we smile when we feel least like smiling. I'm also reminded of what Annie Dillard says in The Writing Life: "How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives."
As I type my cat to sleep tonight, I can measure my life in the soft click of the keys and in his even breaths, and I count myself most truly blessed.