Finding Signs from the Universe in a Newfound Cat

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After setting some intentions around creative goals in July, I asked the Universe for a sign that I was on the right track, designating the black cat as the symbol that would indicate Universal approval.  This exercise comes straight from The Universe Has Your Back, the book that I groused about in my last column while suffering from a bad back. I’m still not so high on Gabrielle Bernstein’s book, but the exercise has already borne fruit.

As a sign, the black cat is as cliché as they come, but I had my reasons.  Cats are the familiars, the magical companions, of witches the world over, believed to share their supernatural powers with those shadowy crones.  They’re mediators between the everyday and the spirit realm, known for their divinatory or “second sight.”  Maybe it’s because they’re active at night, when the unconscious holds sway, feeding us through dream images.

On a more personal level, our ancient long-haired black cat Batman had gone missing at age 17.  We assumed he’d gone off to die as animals will.  His reappearance two years later on a wintry mix Christmas eve was nothing short of a pagan miracle   While I’d not been a very good sport about attending him before he disappeared—all those coughed up hairballs and accidents on rugs, I was slavish upon his return.  He lived out his days as a bona fide superhero in our home, finally giving up the ghost at age 21.

Yes, the black cat would be my sign.  I waited.  Two days later an email came from a friend with a link about a couple of Mt. Washington cats in need of a home.  One of them was a black short-hair by the name of Batman.  My friend had even written, “A sign?”  She knew, of course, the legend of my own Batman, but I’d told her not a thing about asking the Universe for a sign.  Wow, I thought, this stuff really works.  Still, I did not want litter boxes and vet visits, scratched upholstery and all that a real cat involves.  Pleased with the sign, I passed on the cat.

A month later, at the tail end of a three-day writer’s retreat, I sat down at breakfast next to a large, middle-aged man with a full beard.  We’d not formally met but had been bumping up against each other for three days—at the bar, the buffet table, jockeying for seats in the room where the readings were held.  He offered his hand and said, brightly, “Are you just getting here?”

The retreat was a relatively intimate gathering of about 30 people. It seems natural to check out everyone in a smallish group, not with libidinous intent, just as a matter of course, particularly if you’re a writer, specifically charged with the job of noticing.  I’d been trending toward invisibility for years, but this encounter was a passport stamp at a lonely border, hard cold proof that I’d crossed over into my crone years.

Crone, I recently learned, comes from the word corona, crown of life.  The wisdom years.  With our loose skin and coarse hair, our creaky joints and overworked livers, we learn to inhabit our authentic feminine power.  This power source is deeply internal and has to do with the soul finally getting down to the business of the heart.

At the writers’ gathering, the young and talented stayed up late drinking by the campfire–singing, reciting poetry, managing their hormones with singular intent.  Freshly humbled, I felt myself not so much a has-been as a never-have-been.  Nor have I ever been able to stay up late at night, even when I was young with the world at my feet.  As usual, I missed some of the networking and bonding opportunities and left feeling not pumped up, as one hopes to feel after such experiences but taken down a few pegs.   On the way home, I wrote in my journal, a cry in the wilderness: “Help me see what I need to do and where I need to go.”  I wasn’t so sure about anything anymore, most of all those creative goals set back in July.

If you find yourself imploring the universe for the answers to these kinds of soul-searching crises, you might say you’re inviting the feminine element into your life.  Masculine consciousness knows where it’s going.  It’s the inner drill sergeant saying Get to work or over to Crossfit, knock this out and here’s how we’re going to do it.  It muscles or thinks its way toward goals.  Feminine consciousness is more instinctive or intuitive; it pads in quietly, as if on cat feet, riding invisible currents.  It’s courted by deep listening, play, and patient receptivity.  When we implore the unknown or unconscious for guidance, we’re invoking the feminine.

If you want to give it a try, do this:  get quiet, listen, make space for something new by saying I don’t know, then wait and see what shows up.

What shows up, the next day, is an email promoting something called Mystery School, a one-year and one-day course of study—thirteen moons–to become an Urban Priestess.

Masculine consciousness says what degree will I get and how will I use it to make money.  Feminine consciousness says I will trust in the mystery and follow my heart, big deal about the degree.  It may come cloaked in a sense of comic inevitability, whispering, You’re already writing a column called Little Magic, for god’s sake, why don’t you just go all in?

Confession:  Most days I draw a single Tarot card just to see what turns up.  I never miss the monthly forecast on Susan Miller’s “Astrologyzone” website.   I almost always know the phase of the moon.  This morning I opened Pixie Lighthorse’s Prayers of Honoring at random and put my finger on this: “Create in us a chain reaction of events that find us centered in the current, headed for our destiny, and able to read the road signs.”

I eat this stuff up.  Underneath the conventional surface beats the heart of a gypsy.  Or maybe an Urban Priestess. “What would it be like to embark on an alchemical journey, that will allow [you] to craft a strong vessel and bridge the gap between the seen and the unseen?  [Are you] ready to experience true, authentic and radical transformation?”

So, I did it, I signed up for Mystery School.

Approaching a STOP sign at the intersection of Smith and Cottonworth the next day, leaving Whole Foods, a strawberry blonde squirrel skittered across the pedestrian crosswalk just in front of my car.  Actually, a kitten.  A woman on the sidewalk was waving her arms frantically. “Do you see it?” she cried. “It’s going to get hit!” I was already standing in the road with the flashers on calling Here kitty kitty.  Abruptly, the little tumbleweed changed course, rolling right toward me and under my car. I knelt down.  One kitty kitty later he made his coy approach. I snatched him up, put him on the passenger’s seat, and made off with the little rascal.

The saved kitten gets ready to leap out of the writer’s car.

This whole rescue/abduction transpired in, like, less than a minute.  At the first turn, he toppled into the footwell.  I drove home with one hand on the wheel, the other groping around on the floor for a mewling.  Crooning like a fairytale witch, I assured him that everything was going to be alright.

At the writer’s retreat, I was wowed by Jack Driscoll’s craft talk: “The eyes report to the brain, the ear reports to the heart.”  That alone was worth the price of admission.  In my experience, kittens, too, report directly to the heart.   I really didn’t want a cat, but how could I refuse a kitten.

Not marmalade, according to my cat-loving friend, but “diluted ginger”–a long-hair with a spiffy white bib and four white socks.  Not even close to black, but close enough to read the sign.  I may need his magical powers in the moons ahead.  He’s tucked in next to me now, purring audibly, knackered from his first week in Mystery School.

Lindsay Fleming

Lindsay Fleming

Lindsay Fleming is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars. Her essays and short fiction have appeared in Scribner’s Best of the Fiction Workshops, Room to Grow and more. She writes Little Magic every fourth Wednesday in the Baltimore Fishbowl.
Lindsay Fleming

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2 COMMENTS

  1. This is so wonderful. As one crone to another. I recently got my first pair of bifocals which I’ve declared are my Super Crone Bifocals, allowing me to see both further and closer.

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