I headed out tonight to feed Gillian in Ithaca, with some errands in mind, and a personal experiment that involved a diary and a dark restaurant. For some reason I thought it would be enlightening. In a way it was. But I don't much care anymore.
It was nowhere near as enlightening as the drive home. When I came down a dark straight stretch of Crumtown Road, there was a small yellow kitten in my headlights. Maybe seven weeks old.
This was nothing that hasn't happened a few score times before. I pulled over and could hear him mewing plaintively in the weeds. Good sign! Tame kitten! Probably dumped only that evening by some jerk. I stepped out and mewed. He mewed back, but farther away. I turned back to the truck.
And realized I had nothing. No net, no cat food, no pillowcase, and not even a damned flashlight for God's sake!
WHEN DID I STOP CARRYING RESCUE EQUIPMENT? WHAT THE FREAKING HELL HAD HAPPENED TO ME?
The kitten and I played a tormenting dance of echoing mews in the darkness until finally for the first time in my life I was forced to leave a kitten behind. With a flashlight, a can of tuna, and a net, catching that kitten would have been no big deal. You just locate the kitten, toss some tuna into his flight path, wait until he starts gnawing away, and net him.
But somewhere along the line, my own problems, my job, and lately my self-absorption over Christopher Robin's "walk-away" eclipsed something that has been core for me for 30 years. Not only was I without those basics, but I had driven around that way all summer! This wasn't one day's lapse. This was some huge hole I had let develop, and now there was a little mew in the darkness paying the price. I could keep chasing him in vain, and if he possibly had a momcat around, I would be chasing him farther away from her. Normally I would have flashlight and could cast around to find a glimmer of eyes.
But I had no flashlight. Not even a flashlight!
So I left him behind. There wasn't enough gas in the truck to get home and return, and the gas station in Spencer only takes credit cards at night. It was going to be morning before I could return, and I can only hope he uses typical dumped-kitten defense and just stays put. Luckily it is warm and not raining, and he was right near a house (no one home; I left a note). I don't even have all my friend's phone numbers programmed into my cell phone so that I could call for help. Another thing I've just neglected to do.
Driving home I was in shock, thinking about all the other holes I was letting grow larger and larger, eating up what used to be "me." I began making mental lists of what I need to do this weekend and early next week to stop this backslide.
I have been doing a lot to keep things in order. And that's important. And I've been happy with the progress--and still am. But what is "order" if you forget what you were doing all of this for? I've created this bunker mentality. That's got to go.
I have people coming to look at cats this weekend. I've also been putting off putting some of the really shy guys into foster homes (because if are unhappy in a foster home, it means some really tough decisions to be made).
Wildrun was so named because that's what I used to do: run around and catch wild critters--including wild cats. Such a simple thing. Yet all these other things developed over time: the spay/neuter movement, the cat facility, the public outreach, off-site adoptions, open houses, etc. Not to mention work, as well as just the day-to-day of life. And somewhere along the line, I took the cat crate out of the truck so I would have the space to haul some mundane thing (probably trash), and never put it back.
This isn't a matter of TIME. This is a matter of PRIORITY.
No comments on this post, please. This is something I just need to work out this weekend. I'm sure you've all had your own "oh shit" moments in your life. I just had one of mine.