Sunday, June 17, 2007
I knew that the time was coming. I was a year old. Every cat has to do it. We walked up to the rock together, Maurice and Pixie and me, and The Lady Debs, who we were looking after while She was away. The sun was already low in the sky. We sat together for a while and then Maurice and Pixie wished me well, and they walked away. For a while The Lady Debs walked up and down, calling, calling for me. She did not understand. Every cat has to do it. As the light faded more she joined the other two, grey cats now in the twilight, and left.
Alone on the rock. Alone for the first time in my life. A year ago She had come to the farm at St Elvis and taken me from the warm circle of my mother’s love. I remembered the day I moved to my new home.
And so the sun sank into the sea, lighting the water with the glow of fire, then colour drained away from the day and the moon rose.
I heard the moon call. An owl answered, ghost bird on hushed wings. The night came alive with noises. The sharp scream of a fox over the valley, owl and nightjar, the clicking, ticking song of the moth echoed by the winged mice chasing through the sky, following the patterns made in the day by swift and swallow. Now the night sky is ruled by bats. Beneath it all the murmured hush lullaby of the breathing sea.
It grew cold and I shivered as the silvered air stroked my fur. The night began to fill with the ghosts or the echoes of those who had lived on the hill. Not just the people, clothed in skins and smelling of the earth, but the ghosts of the forests, of wolf and of bear, hare and eagle.
I closed my eyes and breathed in the night smells, distant honeysuckle, moth-wing and heather and the sharp cutting scent of fox.
In the deepest and darkest part of the night the ghost wolves sang their song to the bone white cat claw moon, and beneath their song I heard the rumbling purr of the wild cats of old. In the sky the stars turned and added their music to the night.
I felt the brush of wings on my fur before I saw her. She landed by my side, the Queen of the Owls, Blodeuwedd. Her claws curved scimitars, sharper than cat claws, her eyes great pools of darkness. I sat as still as ever I could, not daring to breath as she changed and became beautiful, a woman, hair the colour of a barn owl’s wing, skin as white as a barn owl’s breast. She reached out her hand and stroked my head and her hand was so warm in the cold of that night.
We sat together through the rest of the night and she showed me the patterns of the stars, Epona the horse stars, the Great Bear and the Great Cat. I learnt how to find my ay home by the stars and she told me the story of how she came to be. All the while she held me on her lap and stroked me.
The moon set over the sea, a silver path on the black water and even before the sun came again the balance of the light and the night tipped towards day. At this moment Blodeuwedd again became owl and flew away across the valley, singing her song to the moon.
The sun rose and called out across the land and the wren, small queen of all the birds, answered. Soon the sound of birdsong, praising the rising of a new sun, filled the sky. As the bird song rose the moth song sank back to a night time whisper.
Colour flooded back into the world, blue sky bruised by small grey clouds that made shadows dance across the fields. A late fox loped over the heather a pheasant, still warm, held fast in its bloodied mouth. Beside me I found a small mouse, Blodeuwedd’s gift.
On top of the hill I catnapped and waited. All around me butterflies opened their wings to the growing warmth of the sun. Dragonflies rattled past, rainbows held in their flashing wings. Soon Maurice and Pixie brought the Lady Debs back to find me. She was so pleased to see me.
I had survived the long night on the hill, learned the song of the stars, and just before the moon had dipped her silvered claw into the shining sea I had heard her give me my true cat name, my secret name that held the key to the nine lives of a cat.
Together we walked back down the green lane that leads to the house.