I walk because I can.
Walking was something, I admit, I took for granted, once I learned how. Who gives two hisses about walking?
People who have faced being denied that freedom. I’m one of those people. So, yeah–I celebrate the ability to maintain balance, to walk into each new weekday morning with the same barely-muted joy as that with which I approach my first cup of joe. Mm-hmph. That enthusiastically!
My normal route is about 2 miles, and walking at my rate will take me about 40 minutes, unless the welcome cat is out.
That’s not a typo. Nobody leaves welcome mats out on sidewalks or on park walkways. And if you know cats, you’re aware: nobody leaves cats anywhere. Cats go wherever they want, thanks.
I was walking one morning several weeks ago. The sun was being coy, playing peekaboo behind the scudding clouds of a summer-stormy Kansas morning. Harrison Park has a nice, wide walkway that’s used by many of us who now know each other by sight. We all wave congenially. “G’mornin’.” “Good morning, Sir.” “Hey.” “Goodmorning–” And there’s always the earbud-induced mumbling that both greets and grinches.
It’s odd when there are few or no others on large sections of that walkway, yet this one morning, several weeks ago, I was by myself. I was still mulling over something I’d seen as often as I walk. Public sidewalks along the residential streets in this area are generally made of 5.5- by 4.5-foot stubby rectangles of smooth cement. The only thing marring them is the commercial stamp of the company installing them.
Except for the paw prints on exactly 14 of them, up toward Dillons.
Cat’s paw prints.
Out in the middle, where one can see the audacious meandering of the airheaded feline.
It’s as if the cat rightly timed it so the cement wasn’t totally dry, but enough of the work was done that the guy finishing each section was tired and in no mood to follow a lackadaisical cat around. “Aw, NUTS! Fine. Leave ’em.”
I saw their imprint, morning after morning, meaningless until God began nudging me every time I walked alongside them.
What kind of tracks have you left in the soft hearts of your son and daughters? In the lives of those you’ve counted across the years as ‘friend’? Did you walk straight, not meandering here and there, interrupting and messing up others’ careful work?
You see, each morning as I walk, I use that time to pray around my family, scattered all over the United States as they’ve been throughout my life. There are a limited number of men and women whose hearts beat in tune with mine, who are no blood relation but might as well be. I consider it my privilege to lift and cover them all with my praying as I walk.
I also use that time to ask, “Okay, Lord. Whatcha got for me today? What can I write about? Who needs some encouragement? What’s on Your mind?” Seemed like every day for weeks, now, God’s said, “What about the cat prints?”
Each day I’d go, “D’oh!” and say, “Right-right. Got it. Cat prints.” And each day I’d get back here, head spinning with my own ideas. You know how that happens . . .
As I walked several weeks ago, I was alone with just my thoughts.
And the Welcome Cat.
I first noticed her lying in the partial shade on the north side. She was smoky-dark, long-haired, wearing a collar and the proper green tag along with a personalized little pink one – the feline answer to bling. Indistinct at first, as I closed the distance to where she laid quietly observing me with green eyes, I spoke. “Well, good morning, Kitty.”
I grinned at myself for hearing in my mind, “Good morning yourself, Matt.” One finds amusement where one can.
Upon hearing my greeting, she did that sprawling, s-t-r-e-t-c-h-I-n-g cat thing, sort of turning herself inside-out while giving that half-lidded stare only cats have down: “Well? You gonna rub my belly or what? Ain’t got all day.” Cats don’t smile, but if they did, she would have. I stopped, bent down and rubbed her belly, petting her absentmindedly while looking around me for where she might’ve come from. Knowing cats, it could be anywhere in this zip code.
After finishing my circuit of Harrison Park and waiting for traffic to thin a bit before crossing with the pedestrian light across Webb, I reflected. I’ve never seen that cat before or since. I asked others. They’d never seen her, either.
I think You put that cat there just for me, Lord. I think You were reminding me of those tracks, left by an anonymous feline in those sections of concrete, years ago. Unless those sections are jackhammered apart and hauled off, those tracks will always be right there. I think You’re wanting me to be thinking about the tracks I’ve left on the trail behind me . . .
2nd Cup friend, I pray a Welcome Cat or two into your life. Soon.
I’d be interested to know what lessons God uses the experience to teach you.
It’s later than I usually walk, but I needed to get this written. If you’re on my permanent prayer list and feel a strange little twinge in your spirit about 20 minutes from now? It’s me. Just return the favor. In this world, there’s no greater expression of love than to be praying over each other.
Okay–time to walk. And talk.
From now on, every time I see those tracks, they’ll remind me of my own Welcome Cat.
I sort of hope it’s out today.
© D. Dean Boone, August 2017