People who love animals are not distractable or deterrable. Their passion for animals transcends politics, storms, wars. I remember going to Omaha for a reading the night the recession hit and I was astonished to find a full house in the bookstore much more eager to talk about their dogs and cats than hear about the economy. This morning, as much of the nation reeled from Sandy, my inbox was flooded with messages about Mother, our barn cat who disappeared a week ago. Some people just keep their priorities straight, and cat lovers are one of the most intense and dedicated subcultures in the animal world. I appreciate them for it. Such passion is admirable to me, not annoying or intrusive.
Mother has been gone for nearly a week now and many of the messages I get – from all over the world – urge me to not to give up on Mother or forget her. Many also ask me to consider the idea that she will return to Bedlam Farm. That is not a new idea or suggestion for me, I am aware that some cats do that. We return to the farm regularly and we have a caretaker there, so if Mother returns, we will know about it. We live with barn cats up here, as do our neighbors and we know them well.
As always, and with respect for people's love of Mother – no greater than mine – I want to be honest about how I feel about her leaving. She is almost certainly gone for good. While it is possible she can cross busy roads, fields and rivers and make it 10 to 12 miles to Bedlam, it is not likely, and despite conventional wisdom, it is not all that common. Barn cats disappear all the time, and very few make it back to their former homes. I know it has happened to people, but that does not make it likely or probable.
Secondly, I will never give up on Mother, and it is an odd idea to me. If Mother returns here or to Bedlam Farm or anywhere else I know of, she will always be welcome here. My life is complex, and I am wary of drama, and the perpetual search for a missing barn cat – a hopeless quest if I ever heard one – seems like one of those things that exists apart from the reality of life. The Disney Corporation has made lots of money promoting romantic ideas about animals who cross thousands of miles of terrain to make it home. It is about as likely as a monster Hurricane coming right over my farm and not harming a thing. (Yes, that was yesterday's small miracle.)
My life is filled with responsibilities, happily. I am heavily engaged in life, as someone told me yesterday. I have a blind pony, three donkeys, three dogs, another barn cat and chickens to feed, water, watch over. I spend an hour a day with Simon and Rocky trying to help them acclimate (more about that later). The chickens constantly get into the barn and eat Minnie's food (as does Lenore). My dogs need to be trained, walked. Frieda needs to be restrained from chasing trucks and eating sheep. Red needs to work. Minnie needs attention and calming. Sheep need shearing. I need to write my books, take photos, put up my blog and be a good husband to my wife. Plus we are moving still and have two farms to worry about.
People ask me all the time how I manage my life, and this is one way: I don't engage in perpetual mourning or in perpetual crisis or drama. I resolve them and accept them and move forward. Animals that can't exist here leave. My farm is not a rescue facility or a veterinary clinic. I love the animals here and care for them but Mother will either return or not, and there is not much I can do about it, any more than I can stop a hurricane from barreling up the Hudson River. I would be thrilled if Mother returns, but my own experience and instincts tell me she is gone, and I will never know what happened to her. That is not the Disney story, but it is the common story of the barn cat. It is real life with real animals. So I am letting her go and if she appears in my life, I will love her just as much. I appreciate your messages and they are meaningful to me. But barring something surprising, I won't be writing about Mother again, unless it is in a book.