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May 20, 2008
You have fur, you know, I tell Ben. Ben has a meow that sounds like the quacking of a duck, and he has not ceased quacking since he came back in this morning, after having spent a chilly night out on the porch. Besides, whose idea was it for you to go out there? It certainly wasn't mine.

He settles down a bit, and both he and Kitten begin tucking into their breakfast. Ben takes a few bites and then walks off, as he does every morning, leaving Kitten to finish both bowls. Kitten is becoming huge, with all this good food, but not fat: he works off all his calories by growing and by chasing Ben around the house. He is good for Ben, in my view. Keeps him active.

We are working on how best to take Ben to Italy. I want to do this because I would miss him terribly for an entire year, but also because of his quacking -- our college student house sitter probably won't want to sit and stroke Ben's chin for hours on end, but that's what you have to do if you want him to stop quacking. And yet the same thing that necessitates taking him along will also make it very difficult to keep him with me in coach - his quacking. New York to Pisa is about eight hours. There would be a passenger revolt. I'm afraid they'd toss us both out over Greenland.

You can drug a cat, of course, but I have read that you shouldn't, not on a plane. You can ship him in the hold, as cargo -- but I think of him quacking away down there, wondering where I am and what the hell's going on, and it makes me sad. I don't think Ben thinks of himself as cargo.

While I adore Ben, Q can take him or leave him. Preferably leave him, I think: the endless quacking gets to him. He himself is partial to Kitten. Maybe we should take both of them. The girl cats are definitely staying home -- they couldn't care less whether we're here or not, as long as the food keeps coming. But maybe Kitten should come; maybe the two of them should crouch in regulation soft-sided cat carriers especially designed to fit under airline seats, all the way across the sea from New York to Pisa. Learn to meow in Italian. Meet Italian cats.

Or maybe I should leave Ben behind. I hate to think of it.

So many things to leave behind. So many things can change in a year. A year may be a short time, but once it is over, you never get it back again. I will miss things. I will change and here will change, and when I come back here, it won't be here anymore. Not exactly. And I won't be exactly me any more. Not exactly.

This is why people don't try new things: they know that changing something will change everything, a little. A lot, sometimes. We ache with nostalgia for the sweet things in life even before they are gone, because we know they will go. We treasure small things, because we know that it is in the small things that we savor the essence of life on the earth. So we cling to them, and that doesn't work, either, because then we don't taste the fullness of all that is here for us. Living ends up taking a lot more courage than we think it will at first.

Most of life is a journey into the unknown. I don't know what we will do about Ben and Kitten, but we will have done it by August 4th, whatever it is. I don't know a lot of things, but that's no reason not to walk into the future.
I do know where I will be this Sunday: Preaching and celebrating at the Church of the Ascension in Staten Island, Services are at 8 and 10am, with a potluck lunch after the later one, and the church is at 1 Kingsley Avenue, Staten Island, NY 10314. Telephone 1-718-442-4187
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