Byrd's Words

"This is not meant to offend or convert anyone.
Take what you want and ignore the rest."
— Byrd

December 3, 2000


by byrd tetzlaff

"You don't like this, Morry, TRUST ME, you really don't."

Morry was sitting on the windowsill, close but not actually on the forbidden kitchen counter top. He looked at me with skeptical eyes. Then he blinked politely and turned back to sniffing the air, just to see if there was something more interesting than spinach and pasta in the bowl I was stirring. I decided that adding the tomatoes & mushrooms would best be done away from him, perhaps on the other side of the sink. This casserole would not be improved by kitty whiskers delicately feeling it.

Morry looked at me, not fooled in the slightest. I swear one eyebrow was lifted. Then he jumped down and walked disdainfully across the floor to his water dish, flicking his tail high in the air, orange fur crackling.

Morry and I have developed an unusual relationship. He came to live with us when he was twelve years old. Not all of our cats were kittens when they came to live with us, but so far, Morry has been the oldest when he arrived here.

We know what happened. The little old lady down the street died, and a few days later, Morry landed on our doorstep. The new owners of the house found Morry and threw him out. A twelve year old cat, almost blind from small cancers on his eyelids, probably never having been outside before in his life. He certainly wasn't street wise. But he wasn't one to feel sorry for himself either.

He moved on to our porch and stayed there for several months (it was summer at the time). He enjoyed watching the birds in our yard and watching Princess do the mighty hunter bit. But he did not move from the porch until it started to get cold, then he decided it was time to move in. He circled the house until he found our cat door. He entered and sat, surveying the room through half blinded eyes, but noble in his bearing. He had been thrown out like garbage, but he knew better. He knew he was not garbage. Then he walked up and jumped into my lap and started purring. He didn't lie down, but sat straight up staring into my eyes informing me that he lived here now.

We took him to the vet and found he was already neutered (thank heavens!) and we got his eyes fixed. Fortunately, the cancers on his eyelids had not yet started to scar his corneas, so he could see just fine after the surgery. When he came back home, he informed a very unhappy Princess that she was no longer Top Cat, and made friends with Tammer and the scared little Skinchy Kitty. He simply ignored the dogs as being beneath his notice.

Now, five years later, he rules the roost quietly, with an iron claw, but with few spats or harsh words. He is much thinner now, his teeth are too bad to let him eat all he wants. But otherwise his health is good. And, for the most part, so is his disposition.

Since Tammer is now gone, he has become the lap-cat of the house. Princess spits at him once in a while, but nothing more serious. Skinch occasionally sleeps with him and he is most gracious about sharing his space with her. And sometimes he lets me make a casserole in peace.

This casserole was for a special dinner with friends -- about fourteen people, crammed into a smallish room, amid several tables and much laughter. Three or four generations gathered together for good food and good fellowship. They let in my casserole because they like me, not my cooking.

As I sat by one of my friends, I told her about Morry and how he helped with the cooking. Then she told me about what was going on in her life. She is an interesting person, who has seen much and is determined to be growthful. She has started reading, late in life, finding that books can be good friends. Her latest book talked about spiritual growth, and it was a topic which was foremost in her mind.

"You know," she said, "This book tells me that when the student is ready, the teacher will come." Then she went on and on about how she was trying to get ready for this person to arrive and teach her wisdom and enlightenment.

I thought about what she said for quite a few days afterwards and finally came to a conclusion: Respectfully, I disagree.

I don't think that when the student is ready, the teacher will suddenly appear out of the blue, breathlessly eager to enlighten and teach. I just don't see it that way at all.

It seems to me that teachers are all around us, all the time. We don't have to wait for them to arrive, we only have to learn to open our eyes and recognize them for who they are.

Morry is a teacher. Brave under terrifying circumstances, he teaches me grace and respect. When others said he was garbage, he merely turned his ears away: no sense to even listen to such talk. He was less than 1/10th my weight and almost blind, yet he knew he had value and expected me to see it as well.

Skinch too, shy, scared, but willing to try to trust the new-comer Morry, she is my teacher. And the bratty Princess, even she is my teacher. The little girl upstairs who smiles when she sees me, the grocery bagger who works long hours for little pay, the squirrels doing tight wire acts on the phone lines, even the dandelion growing bravely in the crack in the sidewalk, all are my teachers.

My job is not to sit and wait for a teacher to arrive, but to learn to recognize them when they are being themselves.

I too, have things to teach. All of us do. We take turns. From moment to moment, each of us is the student and each of us is the teacher.

Morry lies curled up on the couch next to me as I type this last part. He is snoring softly, a soothing sound, full of contentment. Princess is sleeping too, carefully curled away from Morry so that he will not think he has won her over. Skinch is in her cubby hole and the dogs are at my feet. It is a peaceful night with so many teachers surrounding me.

May you recognize your teachers.

So Be It.

Byrd Tetzlaff
© December 2000 All Rights Reserved

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