Photo Credit: JoAnna George
“MMMEEEOOOWWW! NOO! Not again!"
Why are you packing your duffel bag and backpack? Anxiety envelops me as I start pacing back and forth. I jump on the bed, then on the table and back to the bed, desperately trying to signal to her that I’m not happy with this action.
"This must mean that you’re leaving me for another one of your crazy adventures! I hate change! Why can’t you just stay here with me and remain happy and comfortable?!"
Uh oh! Things have taken a suddenly scary turn. Why is the cat carrier out on the table!?!?
Suddenly, Hannah Half Moon picks me up and tries to shove me into that suffocating prison.
“MMMEEEOOOWW!! Put me down! I’m not going in there!”
I brace for my life, clinging to the perimeter of the opening. I engage all of my muscles in terror!
She then lifts me from that space in the back of my neck, that renders me immobile, and before I know it, everything I know fades from view as I swish side to side in this compact vessel. Step after step we descend down the stairs and into the car.
“MMMEEEOOOWW!! MMMEEEOOOWW!! MMMEEEOOOWW!!”
"I hate riding in the car more than anything! You must stop this nonsense now!"
Maybe if I keep screaming, she will change her mind, turn around and things can go back to normal. Abruptly, we stop for a moment and Hannah Half Moon helps her friend, JoAnna George, load the car with more stuff.
I don’t understand what’s happening.
Abruptly, we start driving again, but this time she opens my cage door and allows me to roam free.
I went straight for her lap, my favorite place in the whole world, filled with warmth, love, and affection.
At least she brought a few of my favorite things: scratching pole, litter box, mouse toys, treats, available food and water, and my soft elephant blanket. This comfort feels nice.
JoAnna is really nice too. I especially like her soothing voice, pleasant aroma, nails, and smile.
We’ve been driving now for longer than I could ever imagine. Where are we going? I’m starting to feel sick!
I crawl down to the car floor and curl up into a ball. I can’t even look out the window anymore. Everything is spinning and I’m so confused. I become numb and unresponsive.
Like the Snow Lion cat in the novel, I was paralyzed by fear.
Fear [is]… an instinct that prevents many from taking actions that they know, deep down inside, would liberate them. Like a bird in a cage whose door has been opened, we are free to go out in search of fulfillment, but fear makes us look for all kinds of reasons not to.”
Many hours later, the car stops and my beloved Hannah Half Moon places a horrendous harness around my neck and belly.
“What do I look like to you? I am no dog! Didn’t you get the memo- Cats don’t wear harnesses!!“
This is terribly uncomfortable and it feels so strange.
She lifts me out of the car and places me on the most filthy surface I have ever experienced! Dirt everywhere!!! Who are all of these random people trying to pet me and say hi!
I go into full alert and danger mode as I lift my ears, widen my eyes, extend my neck and lower my hips and tail. I swiftly scan this area trying to find the darkest, tightest space where I can feel safe again. Mommy has deceived me! How could she put me through such stress!!
I quickly reverse myself out of this harness and start running free! However, I’m so confused that I don’t even know where to go.
Immediately, my owner swipes me up and tries to swaddle me in her arms.
“I don’t want anything to do with you right now! I hate you,” I say with my piercing eyes and rapid strike of fingernails into her flesh.
I guess it worked because now I’m safe once again in the cat carrier. Who knew that I would ever WANT to be hanging out in this confined space!
She sets up a domed structure that they call tents and let me roam free in this space. During the day, I hide and sleep buried in her duffel bag, under her clothes, because it smelled like her. At night I pace the tent, listening to every footstep, tweet, car alarm or snap of a branch.
“What’s happening outside?” I can only imagine. At least mommy is here with me. I cuddle up to her and purr with gratitude in her warm arms.
Over the next few days, I develop a routine here in the tent. Hannah Half Moon notices that I am becoming more comfortable and takes it as a sign to challenge me even further. She attempts to lead me onto the campsite in my harness again, but this is extremely stressful! I don’t recognize these people or these strange forms. There are ants everywhere and pokey branches that I have to avoid stepping on!
“You, of all people should know that I hate getting dirty!” I meow.
I try to break free again but this time, she grabs the cat carrier and I gladly go back inside. I listen to their conversations as I try to catch my breath and calm my heartbeat.
On the last night, a group of dogs start suddenly bark at 3:30am. Mommy sits up, opens her eyes, and takes out her ear plugs. I could hear her heart racing. Even though dogs barking is one of my most hated sounds, I wonder why she is bothered by it. Did I just hear a deep growl? Maybe its one of those black bears that everyone is talking about here in Yosemite, California.
Another branch cracks…She closes her eyes to listen for something else and starts breathing slowly. I’ve seen her do this before in the mornings while chiming her Tibetan Singing Bowl. I’ve heard her call this posture sukhasana, easy sitting pose, for meditation. I wonder what’s going on in her mind. I’m attracted to her calm demeaner as she lengthens her exhales. I crawl into her lap as this zen is comforting. I try it too. This special breathing really is calming. Maybe I should try this next time that I’m scared. After about 30 minutes, she lays back down and falls asleep.
I remember hearing on the audiobook in the car, “The purpose of Buddhism is not to convert people. It is to give them tools so they can create greater happiness. So they can be happier Catholics, happier atheists, happier Buddhists.”
The next day, I watch her do yoga with the sun shining through these tall and strange pointed trees. I stretched my arms long and lifted my hips. I love a good stretch as well. At home, Hannah Half Moon and I often stretch together on the mat, but I’m grateful for her decision to leave in the carrier and just let me watch from a short distance this time, as I don’t want to get dirty or deal with those annoying tribes of ants.
Similar to the quote from the novel, The Dalai Lama’s Cat, “Even though cats spend most of the day dozing comfortably, we like our humans to keep busy. Not in a noisy or intrusive way—just active enough to entertain us during those periods when we choose to remain awake. Why else do you think most cats have a favorite theater seat—a preferred spot on a windowsill, porch, gatepost, or cupboard top? Don't you realize, dear reader, that you are our entertainment?”
After 5 days and the longest and most dreadful car ride, I thought I was going to die.
We continued listening to the Dalai Lama’s Cat through the Audible App. This Himalayan pure bred actually has a lot in common with me. I can relate to the name HHC, His Holinesses Cat. My given name, Kiki, doesn’t quite live up to my status. That name represents my past. From now on I want to be called Hannah Half Moon’s Cat, HHMC.
Although I experienced much panic and anxiety as I resisted the unknown of my future and longed for my past of home comfort for most of this camping experience, I now know that I can handle much more than I thought in the beginning. I am stronger for each struggle that I’ve overcame. Through this experience, I also learned that if I pause and find gratitude and strength with each breath, I have nothing to fear and I can calm down.
Although I experienced much panic and anxiety as I resisted the unknown of my future and longed for my past of home comfort for most of this camping experience, I now know that I can handle much more than I thought in the beginning. Like HHC learned, “They are never asked for, but how we deal with [problems] defines our future happiness or unhappiness.”
I am stronger for each struggle that I’ve overcame. Through this experience, I also learned that if I pause and find gratitude and strength with each breath, I have nothing to fear and I can calm down.
“Most [beings] think that their only option is to change their circumstances. But these are not the true causes of their unhappiness. It has more to do with the way they think about their circumstances.” ― David Michie, The Dalai Lama's Cat
Finally, Hannah Half Moon opened the door and I urgently stumbled back into paradise! Home sweet home! I’ve never been so grateful for this space where I have freedom to roam around, climb, jump, bathe, eat, sleep, drink, socialize, listen, etc. Hannah Half Moon’s bed is so soft and comfortable. I now have a greater appreciation for all of my blessings!
I wrote this blog because the novel teaches, “It is most useful…to share one’s knowledge with others. Otherwise, what is the point in having it?”
Next time, I will trust, cultivating these thoughts of gratitude and peace instead of giving into my fears. I just want to leave you with one more bit of advice from my adventure and from the HHC herself, “Thought manifests as the word; the word manifests as the deed; the deed develops into habit; and habit hardens into character. So, watch the thought and its ways with care, and let it spring from love born out of concern for all beings … as we think, so we become.”
Hannah seeks to find relationships between nature, cultures, yoga, and art through her writing.
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