I’ve already broken one of my new year’s resolutions, the one in which I vowed to blog every other day. It’s been four days and for the last two, I’ve had the hardest time writing. But I think I’ve figured out why my thoughts are all muddled and confused and cluttered and make no sense in my head. I still feel guilty about something that happened four days ago and hopefully by writing about it, my mind will find a pathway to real thoughts again.
I was driving home from Pittsburgh the other day on a twisty mountainous road when I spied something just at the edge of my driving lane. I swerved to the left to avoid it and as I drove past I noticed it was a cat, huddled up in a ball. It was just looking to its left, watching traffic, his fur blowing in the direction of the car wake. He was white with black and gray markings, I think, and he could’ve been hurt; I couldn’t tell in just that second, but I’m sure he was scared. Hell, how could he not be?
I was driving 55 miles an hour, there were several cars behind me and several making their way, quickly, up the hill on the other side. Stopping there wasn’t an option, nor was turning around safely once I got down the hill. Or was it?
Enter the guilt.
I can tell myself it wouldn’t have been safe to turn around and go back to help him until I’m blue in the face, but the truth is, I was afraid to go back and help him because I was afraid he’d already been hit and killed or worse, badly hurt. I let my fear overrule my instincts and instead left that helpless cat on a mountaintop highway where he was most likely dumped by yet another spineless human.
I really disappoint myself sometimes. But instead of taking out the cilice from its thigh belt, I need to remember that from these mistakes come new opportunities to put love and care into action. I can’t help that cat now, but I can help a cat or a dog or a hamster or some other creature in the future.
I actually helped a turtle once. A big old snapping turtle. He was crossing a busy four-lane in the suburb I was living in outside Minneapolis. I stopped my car, which was in the left lane, just as he was stepping off the median berm and onto the road. I got out and stood in the right lane, stopping the car driving toward me. I then got behind the turtle and walked behind him until he was safely on the other side of the road. Of course it took him awhile and he kept looking back at me all pissed and snappy, but I told him to be grateful he was alive, that saving his life was penance for the time I ran over a small turtle in the middle of a rural highway. I didn’t mean to. I didn’t see him until I felt the crunch under my tires and saw his poor little body flip into the ditch. I felt bad about that until the day the snapping turtle walked out on the road.
In an ideal world I’d never encounter a cat who needed my help to pay back the cat I didn’t help the other day. But some people are more cruel than I am fearful and I’m sure there will be, unfortunately, many cats and dogs and turtles I will encounter who need help. I just hope I have the guts to do it or that I don’t accidentally run over them first.