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Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Banging the Plate
When our cat wanders off we go outside and bang the plate. Like ringing a dinner triangle, he generally pops out from a neighbor's yard and cruises home.
So banging the plate calls back lost things. Boomerangs a cat with wanderlust. For me, it has become a bell of mindfulness inviting me back home as well.
Up until Sunday/Saturday, banging the plate has generally worked. It can take a little time and it might be towards midnight, but he would appear out of the chilled dark ready to come in.
Saturday night/Sunday morning, nothing. The cold is kicking, rain is imminent, it is 12:30am. I'm beat and need to sleep, no cat. So he's out for the night.
Cats being stubborn, free-spirited, strong-minded, "in-de-pen-dent" (it is Christmas/Rudolph time, after all), a cat could quite easily play the role of Muse. The artist/writer has to invite the muse back, bang the plate to get it to come home to the house he or she has built for creating their particular art. And we've all got those plate-banging activities that we use to call them. Writing in a particular kind of notebook, particular time of day, specific kind of pen, or place in the house. We bang the plate to get the Muse to come sit with us. We hope that it works. And when we find something that works with success, we stick to it. In some cases, we may hang on like crazy even at the risk of choking it. Note: don't choke the Muse!
Sunday morning, I'm banging the plate in the rain. I'm wandering the cul-de-sacs of our neighborhood. I'm up and down the streets and sidewalks of the cat's normal haunts. Nothing. Occasionally I think I hear a faint meow, but birds and rain and sounds are having their way with my imagination. False cats.
We're on towards 11am. It is obvious I need a new approach. Other than a raincoat, I'm not dressed for mucking, but I walk up through one of the cul-de-sacs near Rails-to-Trails that leads up a flooded, grassy path. This isn't where he goes, but nothing has worked so far. I bang the plate.
There is a faint trailhead, off more toward the field and back toward our side of the neighborhood. More flooded, but it gets me back closer to home anyway. I bang the plate. I come out in the field nearer to our house. Boots and jeans soaked through, but not cold. Nothing to lose. A hunch coming from the gut.
I cruise through ankle-deep water and mud of a flooded field and walk up a wooded path behind the houses across the street from us, between our neighborhood and Route 50. This is his stomping grounds. Where he likes to hang. But there is a lot of ground to cover and he's one cat.
At this point, I'm not really driving with my head. It's more intuition, and I've been putting myself in his eyes, where he'd likely go, what he'd do. It's new territory. Off the paved streets and sidewalks, into the muck of fields and woods during a soaking rain. I bang the plate.
After playing hunches and letting the gut drive, I wander next to the woods for maybe a minute, banging the plate, when I hear a high pitched meow (he was neutered early) and see his familiar gray and white prance pop up over brush and out of the trees. Ankle-deep flooded fields, are not a cat's idea of a way home. I scoop him up and cruise back to the house.
My old notion of banging the plate didn't cut it. I couldn't just go through the motions to bring him home. But Sunday's experience opened up a whole new level of following the gut, intuition. I was sort of following blindly and trusting, but at the same time, intensely aware and alert. The process led me right to him. And thinking on it, he was likely lost and not willing to walk through the deep water necessary to get himself to familiar turf. Going to him was likely the only thing that would have found him.
So I think about the new version of banging the plate. And I think about it in terms of the Muse. And how to invite it back, but also to trust and follow the gut as to where and how to seek it out, when it takes more than just showing up. When the process deepens.