Photo of Cat
"When she entered the room..."

The Job

Death had put me in that spot. I was watching out for him. But Alice managed to pull me down a couple of inches into the business and bustle of her life. So I began to watch her.

And as I watched Alice, it became obvious that she was doing a better job of living than I was. To her, each day held promise from the moment the clock hit the floor until the last call in the yard and the final closing time of the cat door. Everything she did in between was approached with full energy -- and even the sleeping afterwards had a purposeful intensity to it.

Alice had an intensity about her. There was a thoughtfulness in her actions and demeanour, a confidence and dignity of manner. There was always something on her mind.

She set about her life with seriousness and a surety of purpose. Not without humour, but with concentration and optimism, Alice was actively pursuing her career. And although I had not thought of cats as having a career, in fact, they do. Living is their career.

This may sound self-evident and coy. After all, aren't we all engaged in living? However, I did not know anyone who was content with just "living." Everyone seemed to need something to live for or to make living "worthwhile": the Good Life.

Not so with a cat. Being, as a cat, is their sole occupation and they work hard at perfecting the skills to get the job done right.

I imagined a sort of Feline Finishing School. Each cat sets about with its raw materials to have a life: gathers to itself arms, legs, fur, ears, grows a nose, cultivates a tail, has meetings with other cats, learns a few choice sturdy words (no need for too many), studies Squirrel, makes sleeping into an art, and fine-tunes the mechanism that reaches into the human heart.

Alice reached into mine. When she entered the room, it eased a little. I began to look forward to just being around her. There was a contagion to her optimism; she was a walking advertisement for life. Whatever Alice was doing to figure out the mystery of getting along in the world, it worked.

Perhaps it could work for me as well -- if only I could learn her technique. And so I fell under the influence of Alice's outlook and decided to become her student.

Copyright 1997 by Phillip Schreibman

Photo 1991 by Mary Jane Card

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