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Observations: Autumn is coming and the kitties are fine

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image A whole highway full of people acted together to save Cypress the kitten. Today he’s just fine and is bringing joy to the life of his new human companion. Mitch Traphagen Photo

While we all have to have something in our wallets to survive, we all must also have something in our hearts to truly live.

By MITCH TRAPHAGEN

With all the bad news today, it’s a wonder that we’re all not clinically depressed. Just the headlines of the local newspapers this past weekend would be enough to push even the cheeriest of us over the edge: Man kills wife with baseball bat in Plant City; Two shot, one dead in Tampa; Gunman kills wife then shoots two pastors in Lakeland. There’s more, unfortunately, but I think the point has been made. Without even touching on the economy, it seems people are nuts and getting nuttier by the day.

But then again, people have always been nuts and once it reaches the point of someone picking up a baseball bat, there’s not much anyone can do about it. The good news is, despite what you may have read or inferred from the headlines, most of us aren’t nuts—at least not that nuts.

A while back, I wrote about two kittens, one of which was found crying in the middle lane on State Road 674 near I-75. All three lanes of traffic stopped and patiently waited for my wife and me to back up our car and scoop up the kitten. His name is Cypress and today he’s doing just fine. All of the people who waited in their cars without trying to kill the kitten or me (without even honking their horns) did a wonderful thing that day. He is a happy kitten that has made life brighter for his human.

“I think he’s going to be a biter,” his human, Dr. Dr. Caran Stouffer, said as he nuzzled her cheek.

The other kitten in the story is currently playing with her new favorite toy: a chunk of dry dog food. The dogs have long since lost interest in the little fur ball. It turns out that she, too, is a biter and none of them particularly enjoy being bit. It’s an odd thing to see a small, gray kitten launch herself at the muzzle of Sam, our 100-pound gentle giant. She is roughly the size of his head. He doesn’t seem to mind the bites, but the kitten still freaks him out. Napping throughout the day isn’t quite as peaceful if you have to wonder about being attacked in your sleep. That said, he is protective of her—when she’s not biting him, of course.

Last week I wrote about three friends I referred to as my grails. Ironically, just as the newspaper was landing on driveways throughout South Hillsborough, I heard from all three of them within an hour’s time. I don’t recall that ever happening before — it wasn’t because of the story, only one had seen it at the time. I believe it was because of some weird but happy synchronicity in life.

I wonder if people who believe in fatalism (where the course of our lives has already been predetermined and all events are inevitable) and those who believe in chaos (where absolutely nothing happens for a reason) may both be correct. More specifically, I wonder if opportunities rather than actual events are predetermined, but it is our choice whether to act upon them. For instance, cutting someone off in traffic to get ahead might get you to work a few seconds earlier, but it also might have cut you off from an opportunity that hinged upon those few seconds later that day. Or maybe the aggressive, stressed-out attitude that drove you to negatively impact the person you cut off in traffic, closed your mind to an opportunity that you might have otherwise seen. In other words, maybe just going with the flow opens up channels that lead away from the rat race.

There are a million ways to slow down and go with the flow: carrying groceries out to an elderly woman’s car, holding open a door for someone else, crouching down to listen to a child’s story, or even waiting patiently for a lunatic who has run out onto a highway to scoop up a kitten. All of those things have the potential to change your life in ways you can’t imagine simply because you gave something of infinite value: a small piece of your time.

The opportunities are there for us (fatalism), but our actions determine whether we take them (chaos). Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think being a jerk is the road to happiness. While jerks may indeed grab opportunities by the handful, I have a feeling those opportunities tend to be fleeting at best. I’ve become convinced that there is a synchronicity in our lives and that we can revel in it, or ignore it and rush past it. More and more, I’m choosing the former—and happily so.

Of course, the pessimists among us will say, “You snooze, you lose” and that waiting for a guy on a highway could mean the door of opportunity will slam shut while you are idling. I don’t believe that, though. As I grow older, I’m becoming more and more aware that the best things in life aren’t the things you have to trample others in a rush to grab. The best things come to you, usually in their own time.

And yes, sometimes they leave you, too.

Moments ago, I received an email from friends telling us their little dog had passed away. We met the couple in the Florida Keys in the early days of our sailboat cruise “out there.” Since we arrived by boat, we didn’t have a car and Michelle and I were lugging too many bags of heavy groceries back to the anchored boat when suddenly an SUV pulled up with a smiling and happy-looking man shouting out for us to jump in. At that moment, we appreciated being relieved of the heavy bags and the glorious air conditioning in the car, but over the years, that paled in comparison to how much we have appreciated the friendship of Steve and Ann. We met up with them later in the Bahamas and have continued to meet up with them over the years since. Throughout it all, Mellie their dog was their constant companion, often peeking out from the bag that Ann carried.

Now, behind their tears, do they wish they had never known Mellie? Of course not. They feel blessed to have had her in their lives for all those years. And for the rest of their lives, they will cherish the memories and share her antics with friends.

Cherish the moment. In this moment or the next, you can make some memories, even those as small as opening a door or carrying some groceries, and fill up your heart. While we all have to have something in our wallets to survive, we all must also have something in our hearts to truly live. Make some memories and cherish this moment.

The headlines aren’t the best, but there is something in the air today. Something is changing; a spirit or energy is emerging. I can’t put my finger on it, but I know that it’s out there. If nothing else, the beautiful weather of autumn is coming to Florida — and the kitties are just fine.

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