Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Harvest Moon

in honor of last night's beautiful bountiful harvest moon, i will tell you a story. it's not an easy one, so if you are sensitive, you can skip this one. for my loved ones and i, it turned out to be an extremely moving and heart-expanding experience of a lifetime. it is a kitten story.


three years ago, on the day of the harvest moon in early september, i was driving along a back road in placerville when i saw something strange that made me turn around in my car. the something-strange turned out to be just a rock, but out of the corner of my eye i had thought it was a giant tortoise. (?!) silly me, i thought, turning back around at the edge of another secluded road. just then, i heard a small, loud, insistent meowing. the teensiest little bundle of fur with big green eyes was coming toward me from a shrubby hillside. it was a tiny kitten with the most beautiful face i'd ever seen. she looked matted and filthy, but she came right up to my car door with my motor running and looked up at my eyes through my open window and asked me for help. i opened the door, talked to her a little, and scooped her up into my skirt.


 i went straight to my mom's house which was close by. the little darling was sooo insanely lovable and sweet but we could tell something was wrong. first of all she had no tail. nothing at all, no stump, nothing. secondly, the fur back there was all matted and filthy and there were sticks and leaves and stuff all over her backside. we cleaned her off. we couldn't tell what was going on, her bottom just seemed weird. she seemed so very happy to have people loving her and never once complained as we poked and prodded. we fed her and gave her water and cleaned and cuddled her.


joey and emily had recently moved in with darin and i. they had rescued a little feral orange kitten and named him Bandini and he desperately needed a friend. and they are bleeding-heart animal lovers: like, they have the softest hearts for animals of anyone in the world. i called them up. we all gathered at my mom's oohing and ahing over this little tiny creature with leaves stuck to her butt and basically a huge grin on her face. joey and emily immediately named her Harvest for that big sweet moon.


they took her to the vet the next day. after a short check-up he delivered the shocking news: "she has no anus. this kitten was born without an anus." Harvest was a manx, a "rumpy" which means they have no stump of a tail at all, a condition that, although desirable in the breeding world, is actually very dangerous for cats. (i'm sure you know that genetic issues like these emerge as a result of "puppy mills" and "kitten mills".... among the most despicable ills of society and please never ever purchase an animal from one) someone, probably a manx breeder from a neighboring area, had dropped off this trusting little kitten to die alone in the woods. 



dr. Robinson, our beloved long-time mad scientist veterinarian, was absolutely shocked. he had never seen anything like this in all his years of animal research and service, and he had to act fast. while we waited nervously over the course of one day, he surgically created an anal opening for her so that she could eliminate waste products. meanwhile he discovered that she was actually a hermaphrodite and had both internal male genitalia and a vaginal opening through which some of her waste was slowly seeping out. she was at high risk for deadly infection.  she had probably been intensely uncomfortable but all she had shown to us was sweetness and happiness, purring up a storm and cuddling blissfully. some people may think, why not just have her put to sleep immediately, but her eyes were so full and bright and vivid, her purr so loud and content, her little body so lithe and playful and spirited, that there was no way we (or the vet) could suddenly take that life away. if anyone we met ever made that comment, we just invited them to come meet her.


and so she came home to live with her new family and her new body. joey and emily cared for her every moment of every day. the new bottom worked, but she was incontinent. for a while we just cleaned up after her, but that became difficult because she roamed and played so much all over the house. she had a hoppy happy little bunny rabbit gait that was the most endearing thing on earth. anyway, with dr. robinson's approval, we began to put her in tiny doll diapers. it worked. we changed them a few times a day, just like a baby.



she even graduated to premie and then newborn diapers after a few weeks.





harvest loved people. all people. she completely and utterly trusted that everyone loved her too, even when her diapers weren't keeping her too immaculately clean. she wanted to get right up on every friend that came over, even if it meant climbing their jeans-leg. she would wait on the stereo in the living room for joey to get home. he never let her down, coming in and swooping her up immediately with a kiss and a snuggle and then carrying her to his room to spend hours chilling and recording music with her on his lap just like she loved.


here she is cuddling with our friend martin, a soft-hearted gent who had a big soft spot for harvest. she liked to bury herself in as close as possible and just bask in the warmth.




she absolutely loved being warm and toasty. if the stove had been on earlier and was still a little bit warm, she would gravitate toward it. this worried me a little, so i designated this hot pad as her little blankie and would place it down first. don't worry, the stove was always off. it just happened to be one her favorite hang outs.



we adored her. our hearts were bursting. she would gaze at us with the most serious solemn eyes, like she had a message to pass along to us from another world. it was a message of pure love. 



the month of october was a dream. i remember it was warm and sunny all fall that year. harvest and bandini became fast friends and hung out together day and night. our other cats too. they would run, tumble, race and roll all day long in the long warm autumn sun, then snuggle on each other and any available human at night. darin and i were often their willing compadres.


see her buried down there?! teensy little thing....

 


on december 3 she was acting pretty normal during the day. we had had little scares over the couple of months we knew her, but by this time we had begun to trust that she might make it through the dangerous first four months. most manx kittens with birth defects die before 4 months old and she had just barely made it to that mark, but she had never really grown any bigger. i remember i was always awed by the bird-like delicacy of her small skull. but she was full of energy and fun, had an appetite, drank water, played, purred. her death came suddenly. she had lost energy rapidly during the evening. i got home from a night class to find her on the floor, unable to jump up on her favorite chair. emily was down in berkeley visiting her cousin. maybe that made it easier for little Harvest to let go. joey took her to bed and held her in his arms with bandini snuggled up to both of them and around two a.m. she died in his arms. 



it may seem a small thing to love a cat. and it is indeed a small thing in this universe to love a cat. these are the kinds of very small things, acts of love, heart-expanding energies, that turn our earth in wide bright spins around the sun.  

this harvest moon, i remember a tiny light from three years ago and how huge it became in our lives. mythologically, harvest time is the time for growing, ripening, becoming full and rich with wisdom. it is the season of bounty and blessings. this creature was a blessing of unheralded worth, a different kind of blessing we could not have imagined. working and growing with her, caring so much, we stretched our seams as human beings. she was a voice, a lesson, a joy, a story, a loss. part of our jobs as humans is to learn to love as fully as possible. i hope this story did not make anyone sad; i hope it reminds you to love BIG, for all its worth: playful and fierce and strong and undaunted.

15 comments:

Teeny said...

oh man Heather, how can you hope for me not to be sad after such a sweet story. Little Harvest, such a cutie. But you are indeed right, we have such capacity for love and loving all things, we should do so more often. I have loved recklessly in my life and I'm so glad I did. Passion for anything is rewarding just for the experiencing of Caring So Hard. Effing awesome writing my friend.
xxx love to you.

Sara said...

To love deeply and wholly is a very *big* thing, Heather, even if it's for a tiny creature like Harvest. I am crying, not because I am sad, but because I'm overwhelmed with love for all the ones I hold dear, present and past, living and departed.

This morning, I watched my turkey girls and their new boy Zeb walk around the yard bubbling and beeping, and tears came to my eyes. I thought it was a little ridiculous at first, but then I realized that I love them so deeply that seeing them happy and whole brings me such joy I can hardly handle it.

Our capacity for love is the greatest gift we've been given as humans. To NOT love with your whole heart and spirit is a cardinal sin.

Awing me all the time, darlin', with your sonorously soulful ramblings.

xoxo

Celynne said...

Well, I have to admit this brought tears to my eyes. But I'm happy too, that this sweet little cat had you and yours to care for and love her during her time on this earth. Loss is heartwrenching, but we need to know it's possible, so we can enjoy every moment we DO have with those we love.

lorlore said...

Sucha sweet story, you told it so well!!!!

Amy Beatty said...

tears it is!!! that baby girl was so full of life and love it is overwhelming on my heart and soul. beautiful xoxo

dolly, teddy, and tyler, naturally said...

I wish I had met this kitten. All of you are amazing souls for giving her such a good life. Sweet little Harvest. Xoxo

theequinebovine said...

ugh! I am to emotional to read this today..But instead I enjoyed the pictures..still cried..

ashley said...

Ohhh you always know how to draw these tears from their ducts! She was such a sweet darling, and so blessed that she ran up to the best possible person to find a kitten in need! A huge part of why I love you and your family so much is all of your endless compassion for people and animals, and this time and tale is such a perfect example of that. I take comfort in knowing she lived the best life possible, and that she and Bandini are romping through the warm autumn sun still, someplace else, even if that place is only in our hearts and minds.

AdieSpringB said...

Oh honey. Tears are flowing. I don't know if you included that Dr. Robinson did all of her treatments pro bono? It was so awesome of him to help out with her. That sweet little soul. Art and I were talking last night about how the hell science can explain that PHYSICAL thrust of pain in your heart when you see an animal in pain or hurt? When we saw that buck last night my heart physically hurt for a while, the way it does when I see any animal killed on the side of the road. Someone please explain that to me.

I called Sierra Wildlife, but it was too late at night to get through. Because I didn't know for sure HOW hurt that buck was, we let the sitch be. But I think about that 3 legged deer that used to wander through pop's yard, and my heart pangs again inside. Thank you for having the talent with words to get this kind of beauty across. It is the reason I don't eat cows, pigs, chickens, etc. Because of your writing for you Masters. I think I am going to have to start an animal sanctuary with Em and Joe one day and that will take the place of kids in my life. I love them so very dearly.

Sweet Harvest. It was destiny that night you found her.

Joseph Beatty said...

thanks for writing this heather, its always such an honor to remember her so vividly. i miss my giirl.

Celia said...

What an absolutely beautiful story of love, joy and blessings....even in loss we can find all of those things.

AlphaBetsy said...

While this hurt my heart a little and brought tears to my eyes I can also appreciate how amazing this story is. The number of courageous, loving and kind-hearted people who touched the life of one tiny kitty, and made her life full of beauty love and affection is awesome to me. Blessings to everyone who loved and was loved by the little darling.

Milla said...

Such a beautiful creature and an amazing lesson. Your family's love and kindness towards animals knows no bounds. It's so uplifting. I'm sure Harvest would not have chosen any other people to share her short, amazing life with. You guys have so much love to give.

Tina Dawn said...

Oh I am so glad you found her. I needed a good cry. She was so sweet and needed you to be in her short life. Love T

lightwood said...

Heather!
On my return to blogland, yours was the first blog I went to, and now I'm reminded why. Just cried my eyes out, what a beautiful little soul she must have been. I only wish there were more people like you guys in this world...