God looks out upon the world from all the eyes
of all the creatures therein. To see as God sees,
regard every creature as the body of God.

~Tame Bear

Duncan - Fearless Warrior

Our dear cat Duncan died several months ago, on May 26, 2011. His ashes still sit on the side table in the living room, waiting to be buried, and I have not been able to bring myself to write about him until now. Duncan came to us as a kitten, or should I say he was foisted upon us? We were in the process of adopting another kitten (Macallan), and were persuaded to take Duncan too. Duncan was found in the wild with several other kittens, near an abandoned house on Vashon Island, Washington, where we were living at the time. Gosh, that was 15 years ago. He was in foster care with Dr. Don, and had pneumonia when we received him — we were certain he would die on us; and we had just buried little Emma only a couple weeks before. The Oakley Hospice for Dying Kittens, we thought.

Well, he got over the pneumonia, but was always a very timid cat. We named him Duncan which means “fearless warrior,” in hopes that he would become less fearful with time. Can’t say he ever did, but he was always one of the sweetest gentlest cat we’ve ever known. We brought him, along with Camille and Macallan, when we moved in 1998 from Washington to Indiana.

–  –  –  –  –  –

I’m awake late… or is it early? It’s 3:48am and I can’t stop thinking about my sick cat, Duncan. I got a couple hours sleep earlier, so I’ll be fine today. Maybe take a nap in the afternoon if I need it.

I’ve said in the past that we live our lives in a single take, each moment a single frame, the complete sequence a movie of a life. From the original action of birth, light streams in through the lens of our eyes, capturing each moment until the final cut.

But I realize now that as we lay down to sleep each night, there is a sort of fade-to-black and a good chunk of time goes missing.

Where does consciousness go when we are asleep but not dreaming? Has director, actors and crew broken set and gone to lunch? So I realize — no, life is not a single take from end to end, but a series of shots, each with a beginning and end – the days of our lives. And in between those shots, consciousness takes a break and goes cavorting in other realms, of which we get thin disjointed glimpses.


Brief disjunct slices of other lives we inhabit as we sleep; vignettes not whole stories yet imbued with deep memories and emotions. There is a sense that the lives we inhabit in dreaming have their own continuity with past and future as well as this present experience. But a dream is always just a chunk out of time, a small portion of a larger life we are not permitted to explore fully from end to end. Like someone picked up a random strip of film from the cutting room floor and spliced it in between two shots of our feature-film life.

But the dreams we have each night are not enough to fill the hours of sleep. The rest of that time is composed of inky blackness… devoid of awareness. Where has consciousness gone during those wee hours? Where is it off to and what is it doing? These little deaths we pass between dreaming and waking, are they of the same stuff that follows the final “Cut! That’s a wrap.”   ?

Because in the theater, after all the credits have rolled, there is just the briefest darkness and then the lights come up… and we realize what we knew before the movie started, that this feature-film life is but an evening out within a much larger spectacle.

I think of my cat Duncan who hesitates here at his own final cut. Will the lights come up in his theater after the last of the credits roll?

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