Paper Chase

Our black cat Shambhala loves paper.

What he gets excited about isn’t cans of juicy wet cat food or the typical catnip that drives most cats wild. He will play with fuzzy, furry toys and will go on the occasional bug safari where he might catch an exotic insect that came in from outside.  But paper gets his tail sticking straight up with excitement.

We learned that Shambala maintains a library of secret papers.

These papers are sort of like the papers of a great author representing his great wisdom, insights and observations.  But in Shambie's case, they don’t actually represent his thoughts and ideas, but rather his random choices that he grabs from our garbage can. Why does he choose one paper out of a choice of dozens? Does it taste good in his mouth? Does the message hold some meaning?

Shambie’s feline folio isn’t politically important documents like the Pentagon Papers or even personally valuable information like a secret recipe for a certain type of brownie from our past. But make no mistake, these papers have hidden meaning that we can’t decipher.

Shambhala is a Paper Tiger
Shambhala is an indoor cat. Most outdoor cats bring their owners dead birds they capture from the backyard. Others will provide the friendly field mouse as an offering of love and affection. Shambhala has always had a thing about paper. He will go into our trash cans all over the house and bite into some crunched up message that could be a grocery list, directions to Chapel Hill or a receipt from Whole Foods.  But the main supply of his paper comes from 'The Paper Game' which is a nightly ritual where Shambie waits at the top of the steps for Ra El to throw scrunched up old printer paper all the way down the stairs. As soon as it hits the floor, he races down the steps to chase after his treasure, after first slamming his little furry body into the wall from running too fast.  He also loves to lay on all the papers on her desk, especially if they are in any way related to spiritual matters.  He will lay on her rocks and crystals, too and fall asleep in her desk drawer on top of whatever books and papers are currently there.  It's as if he is offering his blessing to these things. You've heard of a papal blessing...well, this is a paper blessing.

A simple game of bring me the paper is part of his daily routine most evenings where he runs around like crazy. If you throw a piece of paper high, he will leap which is impressive for a 15 1/2 year old Persian cat. He might try and make a Willie Mays-like catch, but instead of over the shoulder he will just use his teeth. One third dog, one third cat, one third paper catcher.

Shambie’s paper chase got me thinking about my own paper chase. When younger, I was chasing that piece of paper from college and eventually graduate school that gave me certain knowledge, prestige and qualification. When we were elbow deep in brownies, we were chasing paper (but in the form of money) as we built and sold our business. Papers proliferate all over our house with saved birthday cards, the girl’s school projects, files of bills, photographs, and endless examples representing different phases of our life.

For some dumb reason I keep and file stuff as if the receipt for a coffee maker from nine years ago that has already been donated to Goodwill might be needed. I’m trying to learn to let go of this over organizing and minimize what I save since it is so rare that I need it and it’s a huge waste of time. A recent purging of some files gave me great relief.

But my really important papers are the ones in my wallet. I keep little notes from the girls and one that I wrote to myself several years ago. I have a small collection and love to take them out at special dinner from time to time. I would like to share them with you because they hold within them so much love and meaning.

Fanny once wrote a little contract on a piece of paper. It says

Contract for Bubble Gum

“Sarah you promised me if I got you a chocolate milk (which I did) you would buy me a roll of buble tape buble gum in a despencer pack (her youthful spelling not mine). Sign here Sarah Slater_________.”

Another Fannyism…

“Dad I know you said no but Sarah and me wher saying yes it meant so much to me just for this time”

Like the Dead Sea Scrolls important artifacts

Or one from Sarah

Dear Daddy, Thank you for everything you do for me, Fanny  & Mom. We all ♥ you so much and are thankful for you. I ♥ you. Sarah

A love letter

I also keep a note I wrote to myself when for the first time as an adult I was out of a job and uncertain about the future.

Affirmation of what matters

Finally, I have another piece of paper that is a ticket stub from Beacon Hill Summit where I saw Julie and Julia at 1pm on August 10, 2009. I save it because my whole family (Ra El, Sarah and Fanny) were able to go to the movies with my Mom and Dad. Two days later my Dad passed away. Somehow I feel closer to him with this movie stub in my wallet.

The Final Picture Show 

I always wondered what did Shambie do with all of his papers? He doesn’t carry a wallet and has no filing cabinet (or so I thought). One day several years ago, as I was vacuuming around our formal living room where we rarely sit, I pulled back a small love seat and found this:
Shambhala's Library 
It was like the Library of Congress. There must have been over 300 crumpled up pieces of paper that Shambhala found and decided he could not do without. I don’t know how valuable these paper treasures are but I decided to share with you a picture of this collection. I wondered, could I find meaning in what he saved? Could I sort them into categories and glean some cat intelligence?

Ra El and I decided that it was best not to disturb Shambie’s collection. We felt like this is like a work of art that we just don’t understand and we don’t want to paper over his efforts.

The Paper Collection
So Shambie is like an artist/clerk organizing paper and creating this unique collection. And I am so happy to be able to share bits of paper with him. 

What's in your wallet or behind your sofa?

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