This morning, I overheard my daughter reassuring our highly anxious indoor cat. “You have everything you need, Perfect,” she said.
Due to her anxiety, Perfect mostly lives in my bedroom – napping on the bed and birdwatching through the glass of eight large windows. She rarely meows, refuses to sit in a lap, and keeps to herself most days. But she does get quite communicative sometimes, at the beginning or end of the day.
If you happen to be upstairs at such a time, she’ll catch you in the hallway with a wide-mouthed but nearly silent, “eh.” Hardly loud enough to hear, this is her most urgent cry. If you respond by making eye contact, she will lead you down the hallway, looking back frequently, urgently checking to be sure you’re following, until she reaches my bedroom where her water and food bowls sit.
“Eh!” she declares, when you reach her bowls. She looks up to be sure you see what she means and rubs against your legs and the doorframe with her tail on high alert. Most often she already has food and water, plenty.
I don’t know why she leads us there, so urgently, like Lassie leading Timmy’s parents to the well where Timmy has once again fallen in and is in danger of drowning. I often hold extended conversations with Perfect there in the doorway, with her food and water bowl nearby.
“What?” I ask. “What do you need?”
“Eh,” she says in reply. Sometimes she just opens her mouth in the shape of a meow and not a single sound comes out.
This, I know, is what happened with my daughter this morning. Perfect found her in the hallway, getting ready for school, and led her urgently to the bowls, which we already full.
“You have everything you need, Perfect,” my daughter assured her.
The compassion in those words, the reassurance touched me deeply. I was reminded of the well-known Wendell Berry poem, The Wild Geese, in which geese seen flying overhead invite the poet and reader to return to trust; to return to the “ancient faith” in which it is known that “what we need is here.”
I have seen this poem, or excerpts of it, shared so frequently online and at retreats. It offers a reassurance we so often need. It offers an invitation to trust and, somehow, manages to convince us that such trust (as is so often exhibited in the natural world) is not foolhardy.
Those words are a comfort to me, but I wonder how they might sit with those who truly lack basic needs. What if, say, Perfect’s food bowl was empty, her water bowl bone dry?
Wendell’s words don’t hit me, though, as a pat response to urgent need. His words invite us, unmet needs and all, to a trust that runs deeper and wider than our current abundance or lack. Maybe he’s hinting at something like those familiar marriage vows – for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health – offering an affirmation that there is a current of love that runs deeper than any current circumstance.
Maybe that’s something of what I read into my daughter’s words this morning – a comment, not just on the Perfect’s current situation, but on the truth of her life. “You have everything you need, Perfect.”
Everything you need.
May it be so.