Wolos knocked my planter of swiss chard and snap dragons off the balcony railing again today. A spray of brown dirt around a mass of damp black earth, green bits poking out as if to say Hey! I’m still alive! Don’t bury me!
Wolos is the nickname we’ve taken to calling stella bella, our one-year-old cat who has taken to hanging out on our back porch staring at the array of small- and medium-sized birds that flit onto the nearby telephone wires.
As she gawks at them, her lower lip chatters and some instinctive screech she doesn’t ever make in any other situation flutters from her throat. Sometimes I catch her sitting on the balcony railing, poised as if she’s about to jump onto one of the flimsy hedge trees in an attempt to reach the birds.
Down,Wolos, down, I say in a calm-but-stern tone. Usually she jumps down. Or she erupts in that strange chatter as if to say But I can’t help it, please, let me catch one before I carefully lift her off, deposit her on the ground, and say, Down Wolos, good girl Wolos.
I’ve become one of those people who seems to always be talking about their cat.
Or about Norky, a rescued pug we recently acquired whose real name is Penelope.
I’ve also become one of those people who “we”s.
As I write this, Wolos is sprawled out next to me. She sleeps silently but for a Mew she lets out, without moving or even opening her eyes, when I reach over to play with her extremely soft pooch of a belly.
Norky is on the floor, face-down and snoring like a bear.
Jaz is in the next room, “the office,” sighing as he works on wrapping up his day.
Our bay window looks out onto greenery and the top floor of the character home across the street. Our back porch faces a blue-red-and-yellow auto shop, and above that, the North Shore Mountains.
From the corner two houses down you can see the ocean, Hastings Street, the first synagogue ever built in Vancouver, a church spire, a tower with the Scotia Bank logo, the edge of McLean Park, and, sometimes, women selling sex.
This evening I re-potted the swiss chard and the snapdragons for the second time. As I plucked each plant from the spilled soil, careful not to harm their roots, I marveled how, other than a film of brown powder, the plants and flowers remained in tact despite their (second) fall.
I looked down at my palms, dusted with earth, and wondered how the hell I got here.
Now, writing, I reach over to give Wolos another pat but she’s not there anymore. Norky’s gone too — out for a walk with Jaz. The house is quiet, the room lit by a lamp. In the stillness I can finally let go of the to-do-lists, anxiety, and go-go-go of my day. The chaos that is my life sits as starkly as the overturned flowerpot. My sense of self, though poking through in a few places, is almost completely hidden beneath dirt.
I can’t see them now, but somehow I know the roots are still in tact. Hey! I’m still alive! Don’t bury me!