(I want to hear it read)
The cat clan was a large extended family of spotted leopards, black panthers, and even mountain lions who lived in the cavernous caves high up on the rock wall canyon. They were all related. Aunts and uncles, first and second, third and fourth cousins, and then more families. It was a lot of cats.
They were there the night of the flood looking down in shock when the raging waters took away their sister, the kitten's mother. In the morning that followed they learned to their amazement that the little one had somehow survived. The stories began to circulate.
The tree had saved the child.
They realized that the tree and this kitten had formed a bond of friendship. Because the poor child had lost her mother they also decided that it was important to allow her to stay in the arms of the one who had rescued her. For as long as she wished.
But the kitten was never left alone. The father and the cat clan made certain of this. The outer reaches of the tip of the branches, was just a short jump away from the cave wall. So she was always in view. If ever a problem occurred one or two mature cousin cats would jump to her rescue in seconds. Several times each day one of the sisters of her mother would come to sit with her and feed the little furball milk.
As night approached and the light began to fade to a dark blue with a dancers balance her father jumped from the cave wall and into the tree's branches. He walked along the upper bough just above her branch until he stood looking down to where his little one sat. Another sister cat was laying next to his kitten. When he walked up, the other guardian gracefully stepped out while he stepped in. He lay down. His kitten crawled into the nook of his arm and was surrounded by his powerful furry body. There she faded off to sleep.
This is how it was the first cycle of the moon after her birth.
The cat clan made certain that she had plenty of nourishment and water.
When the following morning sun was shining through the edge of the branches and into her opening eyes, her father gathered her up softly in his mouth holding her by the loose skin of her shoulders and slowly shimmied down the long journey to the meadow. When he reached the green-blue field of grass he placed her feet on the ground and allowed her to get the feel of her legs. She looked like a little ball of spotted fur standing on four puffy short legs that caused her to wobble when she moved. His nose pushed her face toward to direction of the water. She started to move one foot in front of the other in a zig-zag, one step forward, one step sideways motion as she wandered to the river in her curving path for a drink.
When she arrived she put her paws very carefully into the edge of the water and leaned her nose into the babbling wet surface to lick up droplets into her mouth. The first few times she fell forward, immersed herself and jumped back with her body soaking wet. Then she tried again. And then fell in, again. After several attempts, she learned how to balance on her legs so that she could get the water into her mouth rather than all over her. When she had her fill, she wandered with wobbly steps back to the grass to watch her dad go fishing.
Cats love to fish. Salmon from the canyon river are their favorite. Just one will feed a small family of cats for a day.
She plopped her bottom on the grass and looked at her father as he advanced with feline precision stepping very slowly into the shallow part of the river. Slow step by even slower steps he went deeper until his chest was almost touching the rippling current flowing under and around him. She could see phantom images of fish through the ripping currents. They were just out of her father’s reach. He was as still as a tree.
She noticed that one of the big fish came close enough for him to…splash! His head shot into the water like an arrow. His face disappeared and then reappeared and an instant later with a wet flopping flipping large shiny fish in his mouth he turned around to face the shore and danced out of the river toward her. It was bigger than she was. She fell over in surprise.
He dropped the fish in front of her. There he stopped the fish's breath with his teeth and it became very still. He said some words to the fish's spirit. And then he looked at her and said, “You hungry?”
For most of that day, like many mornings she spent exploring her legs wandering in circles, chasing butterflies, falling and then getting up and spotting ground lizards, scattering, jumping, missing her target, falling and then getting up. All day long her father or one of her aunts would watch over her as she was learning to walk and run and jump.
At dusk, he nudged her steps toward the tree. She moved with greater control and grace at the end of each day. At the base of the giant, he placed the back of her neck in his mouth and began the long climb back up to her nest.
When they arrived at her home, it was filled with berries and seeds. Gifts left by the large congregation of birds who had made little nest homes all around her.
He sat with her and nibbled the berries as he listened to what these bird friends were saying. He was understanding a little more of the bird chirps each day he listened. This evening a new flock of little birds had arrived. They were so loud he could not even hear his daughters purring. He lifted his head and scanned the branches that fanned out. Many, many, many, new small nests had been built.
One thing was clear. They were all here for one reason; to be near his kitten.
Somehow his little girl had become a bird celebrity. He smiled at this irony.
They were a delightfully noisy bunch. And useful too. If ever his daughter was in trouble, they would be sure to sound the alarm. By the hundreds, it seemed.
This evening he listened as a group of birds were describing who she was to some new arrivals. They were telling them the story of her as a 'goddess.' A cat goddess. And not just a divine being, but they used the bird word, “champion.” They called her their champion. While his understanding of the chirping language was still new, he understood more and more words.
What an interesting thought. Birds worshipping a cat.
In his lifetime he never heard of such a thing. Birds are known to run away from cats, or at least keep their distance. This is because birds, like fish, are a good source of cat nourishment. But thinking of a cat as their good luck charm?
The cats had a council meeting the day before. At this gathering it was decided that because the birds had become her watchful eyes, a new cat law had been agreed upon: Cats don’t eat birds. At least not anymore.
While he was thinking about this, he listened closer. They were telling a story about this tree. In the midst of the flood, they were saying, the tree lowered its branch to the exact spot where the little kitten’s head was bobbing up and down in the water. That part he had heard before.
But what they were saying now was something new. The tree, the birds said, had saved her because he saw that she had a warrior’s destiny. Very courageous is this one, the birds said.
According to the tree, the bird was saying, this little kitty would one day go to battle against terrible creatures from another place. She would become the bird champion.
“The tree,” the birds were chirping, “had saved her because she was the one who would stop a bad thing from happening.”
What bad thing? He thought to himself.
The birds kept chirping. Their story kept getting bigger.
The tree had told them that she ultimately would save not just the birds but all life in the canyon. Even the river and the trees would be protected by this little one.
The tree had asked his bird friends to watch over her and make sure she became strong.
His little girl. The protector of the canyon.
Later when the stars poked through the lattice openings of the interlacing fingers of the branches he thought about this. Under the light of a full moon, he looked down into the sleeping face of his child.
So much weight and responsibility is given to such a small furry little thing.
Her form was so calm. So warm against him. He was filled a sense of awe of her.