A few days ago, a storm galloped in from the sea. Sand gusted across the beach in lacy currents. Trees leaned to the side then whipped upward again. Our whole house howled.
Not literally, though. Throughout it, all the animals were chill. This was just a winter storm, after all. We get dozens a year.
But one moment, as my husband and I stood in the kitchen, we heard a high and persistent meowing from outside.
I opened the door and there sat Shnoodle, protected by the porch roof. She stared up at me.
“Do you want to come in?” I asked.
She sent me a silent message through intuition: No.
To back up her message, she stayed still, not making a move for the door.
“All right,” I said, “have fun meowing.” I went to close the door, when suddenly I felt it, like a tap on my inner senses. Shnoodle said:
I want you to come out here with me.
I blinked, but then I remembered. We’d done this before. It had been years, but we’d done it.
I slipped outdoors, slid my back down the side of the house and rested on the dry porch floor. Shnoodle let out a tiny mew, her face flush with pleasure. She leaned against me, tail sailing high. Her purr rattled.
As I scratched her head, I stared out at the rain. It fell with resolve, the downpour so heavy that I could barely see our spruce tree waving in the wind. It was white-out rain, the kind of rain that makes you glad you’re not on the road.
“Mew?” Shnoodle said aloud, startling me.
I turned back to her. As soon as our eyes met, she squeezed hers closed and rubbed against my hip. She lifted one paw to my lap, and then another, climbing up inch by inch until she was cradled between my chest and my folded legs.
When she does this, it’s like she climbs into my womb. I held her close, rocking her like a kitten. She dove her head against my hands. Her needle claws flashed in moments of cat ecstasy.
I stroked her, the rain fell, and I felt it again: the blurring, white-out sense of oneness, the liminal zone where I was not separate from Shnoodle, nor from the storm, nor the dancing trees, but part of it all.
“Meow,” I said quietly, my voice pitched to match Shnoodle’s.
She raised her ears, eyes wide in surprise. “Mew!” she said in response.
I grinned. Lifting my chin, raising my voice above the rain, I meowed again. Shnoodle responded. We sang together on that porch, through that white-out rain, through the torrent of water that washed away all edges, where nothing was distinct any longer. Dry and calm, we sang out to the rain, sang out to the storm, and Shnoodle rolled in my lap in clear and windswept joy.
A Storm of Elation
Today, the storm has calmed. Sunshine cascades from the trees. In my art-making space, I opened a wild indulgence: bottles of expensive acrylic paints in all their name-brand glory.
I don’t yet know how these paints work. But there is a storm of elation inside me for their color and brightness and texture, for their downpour of saturated joy.
I don’t think I know how to use these paints, but in that storm, in that rush of wind-whipped wonder, I do. I do know how.
Shnoodle gave me an intimate moment the other day as we sang to the storm. To me, this is the greatest gift I’ve experienced in learning to talk with animals: Intimacy with the present, with the experience. No matter the tempest, calm is always here, and humor is not far behind.
In my studio, I mixed a few drops of paint on a palette, added some medium, and brushed and rolled it onto my gessoed journal pages.
The result is a beginning. It’s not perfect, and it is perfect; it’s both, and it’s wonderful.
I sing to it, as Shnoodle taught me. I love it the way I love that rainstorm, the way I love the cat who rolls in the cradle of my lap.
In this expanded love, the cat is my child, the rainstorm my child, the painting, no matter how new and unformed, my child. We all are one together, meowing on the great porch of life, awash in paint and rain and laughter and beauty.
I am so grateful for the storms, for the art and the quiet, for Shnoodle, and for my whole life.
After I wrote the first draft of this post, Shnoodle sauntered into my office. I lifted her onto my lap. As I read the post aloud, she purred heartily — until the moment the essay stopped being about her. Then she leapt away. The lesson? She said:
I like things when they’re about me.
So do I, Shnoodle. So do I.