The best vacations never leave you. The sights, the sounds, and the emotions stay with you forever, laying dormant in your mind until they rise to the surface with even the slightest of urgings. From glancing at a photograph or hearing a penguin honk on t.v. or listening to a song, it can take only a second for unbidden memories to rise. In the most unlikely of places, even the deserts of New Mexico, Antarctica can live again.
It was just after dawn, and I had slipped into the steaming hot pool on the patio of my room at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa. Not wanting to disturb any other guests who might also be enjoying the cool morning air, I turned on my trusty 3rd generation iPod Nano – which has now been to five continents with me – and let it shuffle through songs at a low volume. But after a few minutes, the tunes weren’t fitting my mood. So I scrolled through the playlists, not looking for anything in particular, until I came upon Franti’s song again.
I leaned my head back and, yes, turned up the volume a bit, tapping out the beat with my feet on the opposite wall of the small pool. It wasn’t dancing, not really, but close enough. As the ripples in the water, caused by my movements, washed over my legs, I imagined myself back aboard ship, listening to the faint slap of the waves against Explorer’s hull. And I remembered the emotional turmoil, the tug-of-war I had felt between despair and hope.
Not all the lyrics in “Hey, Hey, Hey” speak of hope. They question death, guns, Wall Street greed. As the song reached the line “Until the morning comes again, I will remain with you my friend, and we will ride into the sun…” my thoughts naturally drifted back to Turtle. It’s been seven months since I lost her, but I still miss the feisty feline. Being winter when she died, around 6 am, we didn’t quite make it until dawn, but I did stay with my friend, and even if she did not see the sun again, I did. I held her there, on my chest, her now motionless head under my chin, until after dawn before taking her on her final journey.
With the sun rising higher in the New Mexico sky, I knew it would soon be time to go home to California. My next dawn would find me awakening to the plaintive meows of my other three cats. As much as my heart aches for Turtle, and for other cats lost before her, it is now my duty to take care of those cats still here. My job, my pleasure, to love them, cuddle them, give belly rubs, rest my cheek against them while listening to purrs, and clapping my hands and saying “no, no, bad cat”….. And, yes, to dance with them when I’m in a silly mood, even if it annoys the hell out of them.