Setting Free the Past to Open the Future
by Liz Jansen
I met Abigail twenty-two years ago at an SPCA foster home in rural Ontario. My husband and I were looking for our little Mickey who had disappeared and there she was, a little tortoiseshell kitten sharing a bathroom home with a big orange tabby named Roger. Needless to say, she came home with us and became “my” cat. As was to be his style, Mickey turned up at the door a few weeks later.
When we separated, Abigail choose to stay with her three feline brothers in the home she was accustomed to, but she was never out of my heart. It was only after she left this planet four years ago that she came back to my place, albeit in a little cedar box. Last week I set her free, amongst the trilliums in the nearby forest where I often hike.
The spot is near the end of a 5 km loop so I was able to carry her for a while and introduce her to the woods. Maybe it was my imagination, but there was extra energy, chatter and birdsong that day. It was like new furred and feathered friends were greeting her as she walked by, welcoming her to this special place. Even a toad waited by the side of the path for us to pass.
The trilliums, which form a blazing white carpet every spring, are faded and droopy now, already preparing for winter hibernation. The hardwood canopy is thick, but sunlight does get through, enough to form patches where she can sleep. Fallen trees offer a place to sit and contemplate. To get grounded.
As the departure date for my trip rapidly approaches, there are more endings than I imagined. There’s nothing like an epic event, even though it’s voluntary, to force you to sit back, take stock of what’s important, and make sure your affairs are in order. Thus in the last few weeks, I’ve redone my will, purchased long term out of country health care insurance, purchased emergency evacuation insurance, arranged to have my phone and internet service disconnected, sold my car, and single-handedly restocked the local Paws and Claws Thrift shop.
With such a focus on symbolic and literal endings, it’s easy to become preoccupied with them and get overtaken by a sense of loss. On the other hand, it’s tremendously liberating. There’s no attachment to things to weigh me down and hold me back from walking through doors that open when there’s nothing in their way.
My friend Allan Karl, world traveler and author of FORKS: A Quest for Culture, Cuisine and Connection, likes to point out that at every fork in the road is a new beginning. And without endings, there can be no beginnings.
Perhaps most telling in this natural cycle, is my purchase of a GPS. Loving maps, I’ve always resisted purchasing one, not wanting to dull my intuitive tracking skills. I’ve come to the understanding though, that the additional expertise will expand my scope in uncharted territory. Even as I embrace the magic of the present, the stage is set for new possibilities, new opportunities and a new stretch of road. There will undoubtedly be challenges requiring courage, creativity and ingenuity to manage, and help to stay out of my own way. I’ll need a GPS.
The truth is, we’re always free to fly. It’s up to us to decide if we get weighed down by the past, or learn its lessons to embrace our future.