North Coast Journal


Time Walk

by Miv Schaaf

SAY, I THINK I'M NEAR that street that I lost and wanted to find. Yes sir! Up an innocent looking little entrance between two small houses and there you are in a sudden jungley enclave -- small adobe houses hanging onto the canyon hills for dear life.

The hill is all viney and twiney and bosky and dark, plants winding up and down all along the narrow path. Some really astonishingly tall trees, could be Sequoias, rear above the thick natural undergrowth, which is amplified with huge pots of lurching green plants. All completely unexpected.

Also completely illegal, for it is private and spotted with NO TRESPASSING: and even ABSOLUTELY NO TRESPASSING signs. A friend took me here once to see someone who wasn't home. If accosted, it would be helpful if I could remember a name.

Not a sound here. Laughs and shrieks down below. I walk along the path, leaning over the stone embankment; there they are, five girls, climbing about the bottom of the canyon. I was never that young, missed a lot.

I turn from watching them, and a cat has materialized on the stone wall. "Hello, cat." It looks at me, unblinking, not going through that ocular bag of tricks some cats do, opening their green irises and kaleidoscoping them into elliptical slits.

It does not look twitchy. It does not look depressed either. Nor happy; just calm. I have time; slow sunwashed time, and a place in this world, its eyes say.

"You're very handsome. For a cat." It widens its eyes, rounds the lenses and flashes a few shutter-quick light slides just to prove it can.

"Well, good-bye cat." Quick as a dragonfly, its paw darts out to my arm and gives the slightest push -- There is time. Why go?

Why indeed? Once home, I would only sit at the typewriter, dumb as a dishtowel. "All right, cat." I run my finger down its forehead, furred bone. A harlequin patch of black bangs into orange dead center of its nose.

Perhaps because of the aesthetic perfection of that harlequin patch I feel it is a she. I stroke her back; she undulates it in waves as though the spine were made of Vaseline. Hairs from its fur are on my hand. "Do you shed like this all the time or just now and then?" No answer from calico cat. "Well, good-bye."

Once again a lightning paw against my arm. You are here in this instant, in this glade, next to this stone, with my interesting self. Feel it. Feel now, says the paw.

My inner machinery stops, my mind lets go of the pain-past, comes back from the worry-future, holds now.

Cat jumps down to the path, crosses in front of me, stands looking up at the embankment. Not thinking of jumping that high, are you? That's ridiculous. No.

Cat walks down the path to where the embankment rises even higher. It sits, completely relaxed, licks a shoulder, then, without tensing a muscle, like a leaf in an updraft, sails to the stone top. "That's impossible -- that's 10 times your own height!" Cat moves two leaves to the left with a careful paw. Is there a beetle in here?

I walk down the path, turn to look back. Cat has its back to me, absorbed in beetle business. Farther down the path I turn once again. But the moment of now is gone; the cat, as cats seem to have a way of doing, has evaporated.

Miv Schaaf, now a Fieldbrook resident, wrote a column, Things, twice a week for 15 years for the L.A. Times

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