THE DIVINE, THE FELINE, AND THE LAKE
The divine encounter I’m about to share had an impact on my life; it was a waking vision. I have told very few people as I’ve been reluctant due to the details and did not want to incur harsh judgment. Nonetheless, it must be shared. I was a young man when this occurred and did not know better. We learn our conduct through the world around us. I was living on the reservation in Northern Alberta when this occurred—my beloved home.
I was barely in my teens when we moved into a log house by the lake. It was a memorable time in my life; I could go swimming at any time in the summer and toboggan down a very steep hill leading down to the lake in the winter. I remember the yard being so large that it would take hours just to mow. My brothers and I were always put to work doing various chores; it was the good old days of labor and reward. But some chores were unnecessary and irritating, such as cleaning up after the dog packs who would knock over our trash bins and spread garbage all over the yard. My brothers and I despised this work. It wasn’t our fault; it shouldn’t have even happened.
There were numerous dog packs roaming around the reservation. Most were made up of strays, some were people’s pets. The danger was shown when they would turn aggressive and attack children or a random person walking down the road. There have even been reports of dog packs killing children. As a result, animal control was employed to patrol and manage dog packs; sometimes eradicating them if they were not tagged. This included feral felines who would also roam the reservation and tear up people’s garbage and kill domesticated cats; an action which roused resentment. Some homeowners took matters into their own hands, killing strays and even animals they knew were neighbors’ domesticated pets—an action which instigated many family feuds and revenge wars.
Nonetheless, you can imagine what happened when I caught the feline who was responsible for repeatedly rummaging through our garbage bins. We spent many hours cleaning up after her destruction, which resulted in our bias towards strays. We developed a shoot on sight mentality. So naturally, after capturing this perpetrator, I set out to destroy this menace and eliminate her completely. Yes, it was a female cat. I caught her inside our front porch; she was in mid-meal when I locked her inside, caught her, and placed her inside a burlap sack. I promptly set out for the lake to drown her; this was the way we dealt with such matters in the absence of a bullet. As I mentioned, I did not know better, or any other way.
I felt the cat squirming inside the burlap sack, desperate to escape; I would try also. I walked down the steep hill, down the trail, as I headed towards the beautiful lake; its waves gently lapping against the rocky shore—now my murder weapon. I took off my shoes upon reaching the shoreline and slowly waded out into its cold deep waters. Some areas of the lake contained sandbars, allowing you to walk far out without encountering waters deeper than your waist. I must’ve waded out onto a sandbar, as I had to travel out far before reaching waist-deep depths.
The burlap sack was flung over my shoulder, cat in tow, its movements were noticeably restrained; it must’ve sensed its impending fate. I was about 50 feet or so out onto the lake, the water was cold, and its waves were minimal. I looked back out at the shore and tree line; I could tell I was out a far distance as the trees looked very short; with the expansive blue skies hovering above them. I lifted the burlap sack and bid adieu to the feline inside. I did not realize the gravity of my actions, nor consider the value of the precious life form I was about to extinguish. I would never harm such a creature today, let alone even consider it—not an option!
I plunged the burlap sack beneath the waters; cat imprisoned inside. I felt its movements of desperation as it fought for every breath; immersed below the lake’s icy waters. I did not feel for this feline; I felt as if I were doing the right thing. This was how I was taught to deal with strays. Was this not what I was supposed to do? It did not have a home. It had no rightful owner. Wasn’t its existence miserable? The cat’s movements became erratic as it fought tooth and claw to escape. I looked to the shore to see if anyone was watching. Was I doing the right thing?
Then suddenly, the world appeared to slow down. The trees stood still and silent, their leaves motionless as the winds faded. The lake grew calm, and its waves vanished, revealing a massive mirror, reflecting every cloud in the sky. The Earth was so quiet you could hear the echoes of sounds seemingly made hundreds of miles away. There were sounds like that of giant trumpets blowing, or giant machines screeching to a sudden stop. Then I heard it, a loud voice speaking to me from the heavens; I realized that it emanated from the sun, which was partially covered behind the clouds. It pulsated brightly with each word it spoke.
The voice was gentle. It said, “My Son, why are you harming this creature? What has it done to you?” I felt ashamed. I had no answer. Then suddenly, I was immersed under water, suffocating, looking up at myself from beneath the waters; I was the cat! I felt desperation and fear. I heard its thoughts. Why are you doing this to me? What did I do wrong? What did I do? I suddenly felt compassion and empathy for this creature. I felt shame and regret. I looked up at myself through the waters, I saw every ripple. Suddenly I was back in my own body.
The voice spoke again, “You will take care of this creature and it will take care of you. Until the end of its days.” The tabby cat then calmly climbed out of the sack and curled up into my arms. This isn’t natural, I thought. I expected it to scramble out wildly, clawing me as it climbed the highest ground it could find. Instead, it lovingly, and with great trust, lay in my arms. I felt as if I could cry. I was in love with this cat and ashamed of myself. The Earth returned to normal. The sun halted its speech. The winds breezed, as the trees swayed, and leaves rustled. The Earth was no longer silent, as the ambient sounds grew loud—waves, leaves, wind, and life. The waves oscillated past my waist, eventually crashing onto the distant rocky shore. Meanwhile, the cat continued to rest in my arms. I watched the burlap sack disappear beneath the waves. I turned around, heading for the shore, taking my new companion to her new home.
This cat became my beloved friend until the day she passed away. She protected me from many evil spirits and ghosts. She slept on my bed every evening. She caught mice and birds, playing with them, often gifting me with their exhausted bodies; some dead, some alive. I would spend many days looking for work in the community just to buy cat food for my gentle companion. I took care of her beautiful kittens, loving and caring for them as my own grandchildren. I loved this feline gift from the Father Creator and will never forget her. Every life is precious, it contains the ruach, the breath of life; as do we.