When does persistence change to stubbornness? I ponder this as I watch Sweeney, my 18 year old cat, standing at the base of a dogwood tree staring up. He is staring at a small squirrel, clinging to a top branch of the tree. It is hailing out, and the wind is whipping the small branches of the tree. It is one of the first really miserable days before winter really sets in.
Sweeney has arthritis, congenital heart disease, thyroid disease, and his kidneys are starting to fail. He has been cranky all day because it is cold, windy and rainy…and he really likes to go out. He has ventured out two other times today, lasting only fifteen minutes or so. But now he is fascinated by this squirrel and stands at the base of the tree, not moving when the hail starts then turns to rain. I try to call him inside, but he won’t even look at me. His attention is totally focused on this squirrel. I think, he’s too old for this, google how to convert his age into human years. He is 89 years old and still fascinated by this squirrel!
Twenty minutes later, I look back out. He has left the base of the tree, and is huddled against the house, about five feet away from the tree. The squirrel is still in the tree. I try to call him in, but he is intently staring at the tree.
A half hour later, I see that the squirrel is gone, or at least I can’t see it any more. But Sweeney is still huddled against the house. I urge him to come inside, but he just looks at me disdainfully.
And I think, what things in my life are like the squirrel–so intriguing that it blocks out everything around it–the cold, the aching muscles, a beeping cellphone? And how much is made up of all that I think I need to do versus just paying attention to the one irresistible squirrel? Who is smarter? Sweeney sitting in the wind and the hail with his attention focused just as it was when he was a kitten…or me? I need to find a squirrel.
P.S. Forty minutes later, Sweeney came in, meowed in detail about his fabulous hunting experience, ate, and is cuddled on the table behind me.