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August 8, 2008
What are you doing out here? Ben is supposed to be an indoor cat in Italy, but he must have gotten out through the ancient iron window bars. He's done that twice so far.

Ben gives me a slight quack in reply and keeps walking toward the garden in back. He knows that Stitch the Sacristan's Cat is back there. The two of them stalk each other around the gravel paths for a while, peering around the lavender bushes and tunneling through the salvia, hoping to achieve enough cover to stage at least one dramatic pounce. This does not happen, and soon Ben gets bored and asks to go back inside.

Inside, there is plenty to do. A hot cat can stretch out on the cool tile floor with his back against a cool stone wall very comfortably for hours at a time. There are many beds and couches upon which to curl up, and a tiny central courtyard, accessible by a modest feline leap from a kitchen window. There is a new blue feeding dish and matching litter box, purchased just for Ben, and the litter box contains glamorous pure white organic litter, which makes lots of interesting noise when it is being used. And his cans of food are labeled "gourmet;" even for a cat, it is impossible to get a bad meal in italy.

All our worrying over how Ben would handle the plane trip, like all worry, turned out to be unnecessary. He was silent as a tomb the entire voyage. When we opened the top of the carrier to see if he was still alive, he'd stick his head out and look around; then, seeing that we were still on the plane, he'd sigh and go back into suspended animation. He did not resume quacking until we were safely on Italian soil.

His human companions have not yet begun to quack. The duties here at St. James have been light so far, as befits a church in August -- a wedding in a tiny church at the end of a spectacularly rutted road to the top of a remote Chianti hill, some phone calls, a Sunday bulletin, an exploratory visit from a needy family and, somewhere, a sermon to prepare -- so we have some space in which to adjust our biological clocks.

For now, for us, there are many more unknowns than there are certainties. That is actually the way life always is, no matter where you are or who you are: ordinarily, we cushion ourselves with habit and familiar surroundings from the enormity of this fact. The truth is, nobody ever knows for sure what is going to happen. Your life can change forever in a matter of seconds. Going somewhere else for a while reminds you that that's really the way it always is.
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