The past year and a month has been a whole new level of coming and going. When we had cats they would play what we called, “innies and outies”. Meow to get out. Open the door, cat leaves, wait, second cat come by, stops, considers outside and gingerly steps on the back steps flicking her tail. Close the door, walk 10 feet away and “meow, meow” cries the one that went out because the other one did.
She enters and gives me a glare. Being a senior, blue eyed, black coated Siamese cat she is a woman with an opinion. I gestured to the door and cocked my head at Juniper.
“But don’t you see, I did not really want to go outside, I really just wanted to see what that other cat of your, Zonker, was looking for.” I looked down at the cat and groan. I don’t know if it is worse that I am talking to a cat or that I understand what the cat is saying. I press on thinking that I must have mixed the catnip with my decaffeinated mint tea and that it would wear off soon.
“So you really did not want to go out?”
“Of course not. Did you see me flick my tail? I just want to take a nap but Zonker went outside so I had to go too.”
“But you were taking a nap and you got up because Zonker wanted to go outside. I don’t understand. You absconded with the best spot on the couch–again–and you were sleeping in the sun. You were a contented cat.”
“Of course I was contented but I had to see what Zonker was doing so I had to leave behind my contentment for curiosity.”
In a way, recovering from the fire is leaving behind contentedness for curiosity. Don’t get me wrong, neither was a conscious act, it was no decision made in the service of some sort of post-traumatic growth. Sometimes it felt like the stuff we found in the kitty box.
This year we have learned what contentedness we left behind. We learned that contentment could be found even amid the feelings of stress and worry about global, national and personal issues. About the economy. About the price of gas. About the economic and food sufficiency impact when acres under till for food are given over to crops for biofuels instead. Of course, growing crops for biofuels pays more than growing vegetables but when everyone has grown biofuel crops and everyone has more money to pay for food but no food was grown because of the biofuel crops were grown. It can be a sticky problem that puts the issue squarely in our garage and on our dinner table.
Situated in the uneasiness of a consumer economy, unequal resource distribution, being a country at war in under-resourced communities, we did not understand contentment quite as it is warranted understanding.
We learned in retrospect that we were contented in our home. We had settled into it and had become one with the place. Stuff knew where it went before we put it down. Sometimes when I put away the laundry the towels would leap out of my arms all over the bathroom floor as I stumbled on the threshold and danced around the poorly designed door. The towels knew the belonged in the bathroom.
Sophie the dog’s toys belonged upstairs in the office in a great big wicker basket. When she a curious young dog she would poke her head in the basked, sniff around, toss out a few toys and triumphantly arise with the correct toy. I watched her intently many times and never did figure out the process she was enacting to get to that one, special toy for today. If it was always the same toy I could have understood. She was looking for a specific toy but I could never guess which one it was until she arose triumphant. I have seen her dump every toy out of the basket in an effort to find the right toy.
When we arrived home from trips when Sophie had been required to be on her best behavior, never barking or dashing about, she would run from the car, up the stairs from the basement-garage to her water bowl (we always tried to get before she so it would be full) take a few loud laps and then race off up the next flight of stairs. In a blur activity she did laps at high speed between the bedroom and the office, barking her head off and tossing toys about. By the time we got upstairs with the luggage the place was a wreck. Toys everywhere, rugs a kilter and the bed akimbo where she had used it as a hurdle in her excitement. There she sat, panting, looking for all the world like a smiling sphinx.
When we started to unpack, she would ask permission and when given it, hop into the middle of the bed and make a huge contented sigh. All was right with the world.
We were no different than the dog. Unpack the cloths, turn down the bed, ease in and sigh a big sigh. Home. My bed. My sheets, my pillows, my covers. None of them were all that great, really, A lot of hotels have better beds and bed linens than we, but these ours.
So we learned when we did not have that bed to drop into contentedly after a long flight home we learned that before the fire we had been content.
We have puddles of contentedness in our lives again. Probably a lot more curiosity since nearly everything is still new but there are things that fit like an old shoe. We do think about the nice feeling sheets on our bed with our own pillows when we come home from trips. We spend hours at our computers working, doing chores, reading, writing on this blog and participating in forums. We were content doing that before the fire and we are content now doing that after the fire.
In these coming days, as we wait for moving day, we are leaving behind the old contentment that was consigned to the ashes. We will trade, for a while, contentment for curiosity and play “innies and outies” as we learn about our new world. When we come in, like Juniper, we will know that contentment is waiting for us like taking a nap in the sun.