I make my way to my tree shelter and stand amidst the low-hanging branches. I lean my head against one of them and close my eyes. I hear birds, a car, more birds. I feel the wind as it moves over my skin. I sense the water between my toes, as I’ve worn flipflops, which is cooler than the rest of me.

Little raspberry seeds, from berries I picked on my way to this place, are wedged between my teeth and I pry them loose with my tongue and gently crunch them to release their tangy tart sweetness.

The wind shifts and I catch an odor that makes me wonder if I am near the final resting place of my nineteen-year old cat who went missing two weeks ago. I feel something land on my hand and my eyes open. I swat away the mosquito.

I see greens of many shades surrounding me. I see tick foil seeds almost ready to stick to anything that passes by, with their bristly small hairs. I see one bright red leaf on the ground.

I am aware that I can chose my feelings about the mosquito, the smell of death, the cool, smooth bark of the tree branch I lean on. It is clear to me that it’s not objective but more subjective. I am the one to bring my response to these sensory experiences. They themselves are neutral. My interest in a plant or feeling is inherently based on what I bring to the situation. If I fear cats, I will feel fear when I see one, regardless of its intentions.

Speaking of which, I am now typing with my black cat lying here on my desk with me. As soon as I touch him, he begins to purr loudly. In and out with each breath, the sound  changes. It connects us, his rhythmic purring. Why do cats purr? Why do we enjoy it? Ah, but many don’t enjoy it. It reminds them of allergies, experiences of getting scratched or bitten. It is only my positive association with cats and their rumbles echoing through my body that brings the pleasure.

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We are expecting thunderstorms, so I go out to gather peas and raspberries before they arrive. The peas are stubborn. I have to rip some of them from the vine. I am rushing and they don’t cooperate. The sky is getting black and I hear thunder to the west. I give up on the peas and move to the raspberries. I tug and pull and gather, filling my basket. Midway through, as the thunder grows louder and the sky gets blacker, it occurs to me to ask permission of these raspberry canes and be grateful for their yummy fruit. Then, the berries come easily into my hand, almost dropping from the plants and I see the first flash of lightning. Back inside.

The storm gathers, gusts of wind flowing through the open windows and the thunder gets louder. I suddenly see the parallel between the storm and my feelings. Two days ago I lost my nineteen year old cat. My inner clouds were dark then, gathering, tension in the air. How would his transition be, would I have to help, would it be peaceful? The process was slow and uncertain, ugly at times, dark and brew-some: I had left a message for the vet. When I got back outside, Willie was gone. Not in any of this usually hiding places. I searched for the swarm of flies that had been flowing him, listened for his rasping, wheezy breathing and I couldn’t find him. I tried to listen to my heart and decided he had intentionally left, wanting to be alone, to spare me of the actuality of it, the choice, and decisions. But I spent the afternoon in agony, crying, wandering, looking, searching, trying to find peace.

Today, with the storm almost here, I now sit upstairs on my meditation pillow and feel the surges of the storm blowing through the window and recognize it’s like the gusts of uncertainty and angst that have been with me for the past few days.

I see all the parallels, the color, the smell, the sharpness, and hugeness of it all. And I remember that it will all pass and later, the sun will be out. I ask permission of this storm to contain me in it, so I can get through and out the other side. Cleanse myself of guilt and sadness. See it as a metaphor of weathering the storm and ending at peace. For certainly Willie has passed by now. Although I have no true knowing. I haven’t felt it. Two other cats disappeared when sick and I knew. One I had a rainbow and knew it was Tara. The other, I saw a coyote and heard Miss Rose purring when she wasn’t there, even before I knew for sure she was missing. But not with Willie. Nothing.

So I ask permission of the storm. And the loudest, scariest crash of lightening strikes within yards of my house, frightening the bejesus out of me. Is that a yes or no? Good lord, I have no idea. My heart is pounding; I pet my remaining cat to reassure him/me that we are fine.

The rain falls hard, pounding into the dirt, like my tears of yesterday. Pouring, gushing, drowning plants and insects; tearing my heart apart. It is still pitch black, the rolling thunder moving along the valley and echoing with each clap. I hear the call of a blue jay, a special totem for me, meaning I am not alone, and I wait.

I love thunderstorms, I love the volley of rumbles. I can only hope that this is my transition. My cleansing of the air, knowing that Willie has passed and moved on and is at peace and I can be now also. Once the storm is over.

Spring ahead! Just the words bring a quickening of the heart and spirit. But please explain to me how my cats have already adjusted their internal clocks and are yowling at the new 6AM for their breakfast.

Spring, rebirth, growth. I’ve seen crocuses and daffodils, pussy willows, and green shoots. And my friend Barb is tapping her sugar maples. These cold nights and warm days have been perfect for getting the sap running. Buckets are overflowing and the holding vat is brimming.

Now for the boil, boil, boil. Barb sends me home with a taste of the end result. I love maple syrup, always springing for the real stuff. I can’t wait for tomorrow morning’s waffles. I dip my finger into the amber liquid and taste. An exquisite shock runs through my mouth as the intensity of maple registers along all my nerves and synapses to my taste center. I remember maple sugar candies, shaped into leaves that I had as a child. Now, I’m spoiled. Even the real stuff isn’t good enough anymore. Oh, dear. Oh, yay. Life is good. Spring is here.