.I found a cat -- a beautiful thing, black with white boots -- lying dead in the driveway this morning. Probably it was struck by a car and had been looking for sanctuary when its heart gave way.
By the condition of its fur, the cat was well cared for, and I'm sure its owners are desperately looking for it. If they put out signs, I'll call them with the sad news, so they'll know. In the meantime, we buried this stranger in the back yard.
Our yard is very small and we've had several cats over the years. When I dug the hole for the grave, I turned up the skull of Miss Hope's predecessor, Shadowfax. His fate was very different from the stranger's... He died of old age, resting in Marianne's lap. In his day, Shadowfax claimed the entire neighborhood for his own, patrolling it daily, fighting all comers to preserve his territory, occasionally leaving a dead mouse or (in five memorable cases) an eviscerated opossum on the back porch. So he had as good a life as a domestic cat can have.
We let these small creatures into our lives and give our hearts to them. They, in turn, share some fraction of their existence with us and keep the rest hidden away where we will never see it. And in the end, they return from whence they came, into darkness and mystery and the earth.