“We do not remember days, we remember Moments” –Cesare Pavese
On Sarrah’s last morning here, I freed her from the collar that she loathed and placed it on the head of my cement gargoyle that resides on a cedar stump in the backyard.
It remains an Evolving Contrast with a shining chrome chain becoming a halo of rust.
The combined goal was to have a getaway. Our own place to escape from home; gather experiences to build on and collect layers of memories with family, friends (old and new), by ourselves and of course with Sarrah. We felt the need to have a destination to long for, when elsewhere and in need of a daydream. The kind where, when you close your eyes and turn off your ears, magically… you are there. A retreat in our world where time is put in its place; less measured and untracked, removing deadlines and the forces that push them, in order to simply enjoy moments. As well, to be our familial gathering site for holidays, birthdays and for the best event, no special reason at all.
One main requirement was for somewhere that had ‘enough’ so that boredom wouldn’t sneak in, but ‘much less’ than where we live and work. Another priority was for somewhere that other people would be interested in joining us, on occasion. We wanted and needed a better connection with nature and land, perhaps even where land meets water. Near enough for an after work escape and the occasional early morning return “Cannonball Runs” back to reality. A peaceful spot to let human springs unwind and recharge batteries, repair the mind, refresh the body and I suppose nurture the soul.
We frequently reviewed the pros and cons of making this kind of investment. All of the traditional points of retirement planning and age-old wisdom were mulled over. Was this a wise investment? Would there be resale value if the need came? Should the required funds be squirreled away instead for later in life? As living Life reminds us all too often, Death usually arrives uninvited and often earlier than envisioned, erasing long term plans. The constant tricky challenge of maintaining the balance between “Save for a rainy day” and “Seize the moment” will always persist, with only the benefit of time passed to judge.
As we leaned toward the decision to enjoy some of life’s rewards now and along the way, our belief that the dividends from these experiences would payoff for the rest of our lives became clearer. It felt like the right thing for us to do. We chose to enrich our lives and those important to us, Now. Who knows, a working life retreat may become a retirement haven packed with the comfort of fond memories.
After a couple of years of leisurely exploring the quiet coast, small lakes and rural mountains of Washington, we narrowed our focus to the Long Beach Peninsula. The miles of beach, quiet unlit roads and laid back locals enable this area to drip with comfortable solitude. This area is around one hundred fifty miles or more importantly measured with time, around four hours drive, each way from where we reside. This distance is greater than we had initially hoped for, but it also enabled affordability (Seattle/Distance=Price).
Learning when it was “OK” to chase them provided a bit of a twisted pleasure. The first of many times when a one year old cat would ‘takeover her bed’ she’d sadly slink off. I carefully let her know that it was OK to send a thieving cat packing… with a bark or a quick chase.
Mothering instincts kicked in with Sarrah when the siblings fought, mostly protecting Isis from the bullying of Rah. Sarrah grew into a sort of parenting referee role, barking at them and chasing Rah off, then returning to where she’d been with a look of satisfaction. Isis, the significantly smarter of the two, picked up on all of this and bonded with Sarrah. She even occasionally set Rah up by starting a fight, for Sarrah to break up. It was probably also a bit of aged preference for quiet and frustration with frequent noisy youth that motivated her.
Sarrah delighted in sending the male cat, Rah for a run. The two of them seemed to have a bit of an understanding, a few rules with their game and played it often. Rah, around two years old, learned how fast he was and how much head start was required for a good chase without getting caught. He then decided to play with Sarrah’s tail, to start trouble. Most of these neener-neener games happened in the seclusion of the backyard. The game evolved from Sarrah looking at me to see if she would be in trouble and Rah figuring out how many swipes at her tail it took to get in a good run, becoming their regular contest.
One sunny spring day Rah pushed his luck too far, attacking her sleeping tail with full claws and the chase was on. This time he, being a little more cocky than usual, got off to a slower start and Sarrah’s quick snap got a bit of ‘butt fur’, much to the surprise of all! After the chase, she returned with a smug look of satisfaction, spit out the chunk of black fur and resumed her position on her bed in the sun with the trophy. Rah returned after a few moments and all was back to ‘normal’. Sarrah smiled, I laughed and Rah just brushed it off, playing it cool. It was good to witness Sarrah winning one of these challenges; after all only Rah’s pride was hurt, a little.
The addition of the kittens to our family was another gift. Sarrah inadvertently absorbed some of the youthful energy that showed up with them. Thankfully the feline chaos that spiced our daily life actually benefitted all of us, especially my tiring friend.
Eventually Sarrah was a little dismayed with having to tolerate them when it became apparent that they were not leaving. It became her turn to learn to share space and time, with other animals. If you think that animals do not have feelings and emotions, like Jealousy, you have missed something. As the cute kittens grew into crazy brave young cats, they freely terrorized the backyard at home and consumed the atmosphere in the beach house. Sarrah would sulk, sigh, and lay on her bed pouting when I would spend time with a kitten instead of her, (despite the fact that I always spent plenty of time with her first and after to avoid any issues); she simply wanted all of my time.
Luckily she learned to like them, as much as an older dog can adjust to pesky kittens who have invaded the home front.
Like most dogs, Sarrah had a way with cats. I don’t think she would actually hurt one, but these furry creatures intrigued her and she delighted in seeing them run.
Tux and Simon never wanted anything to do with Sarrah. Tux simply disappeared when Sarrah was outside; Simon on the other hand would frequently swipe at her through gaps in the fence and occasionally sit on top of it, to taunt her. They never bonded and never shared the same space at the same time. Though they did share the same house and people, they never really lived together. After they had gone, Sarrah settled into the role as our only pet.
Sarrah’s favorite trick for dealing with cats that crossed paths with her while we were out walking was a quick lunge and two to three quick pepper steps, which usually sent any cat running…. Great fun! She always had a wide smile when watching a cat in flight, and in turn a puzzled look for the rare one tough enough to stay, crouch and Hiss. Through the eyes of a cat, Sarrah was incorrigible.
When Sarrah was about ten years old a coworker of Nissa’s was adopted by a stray cat, and in turn ended up with a batch of genetic soup kittens, born May Twenty Eighth, Two Thousand Eight. After some discussion we adopted two of these at least fifty percent feral, one third crazy, fearless kittens; a black male and a grey female each with faint ghost tiger stripes and a few random white chest spots. Nissa named them after the Egyptian Gods, Rah and Isis. Sarrah was beyond excited and very curious when these little ‘hair balls’ came home, fortunately for them being of wild origin gave them inherent coping skills for excessive sniffing and occasional chasing. Initially Sarrah was amazed with the clumsy little kittens. She acted like she had never seen anything like them before. Sarrah displayed an intense curiosity and fixated on them, under closely guarded supervision. She made no seriously aggressive moves toward the kittens, just a constant intense observation of these mini versions of the enemy.
Sarrah had an insatiable desire to sniff them; it seemed that she drew energy from their essence of new life.