Gayle Nastasi, Animal Consultant & Writer

Essay: Moon Journey

On the 9th of January, 2008, twelve years after her amazing homecoming, our darling Pree passed away due to a serious complication of intestinal cancer. Our hearts are broken, and our lives will never be the same, but her memory … and her journey … will continue to inspire many.

They say that strange things happen when the moon is full. Many cultures are peppered with legends of werewolves and shape shifters. The word “lunatic” comes from the long-held belief that people, and other creatures, go a little crazy when the moon shows her full face to the earth. I don’t know if there is any hard scientific evidence to this thought, but ask anyone who has ever worked in a hospital emergency room whether things get lively and interesting during this phase of the month.

The moon itself is the subject of magic and myth dating back to the very beginnings of human history. Peoples of all cultures have used her phases as guidance to plant and harvest their crops, and celebrated the seasons in time with the changing of the moon. The silvery light of a full moon stirs the soul of the most skeptical 20th century human; who can stare at her bright face and not feel the touch of mystery?

The night of June 30th, 1996 was not only the night of the full moon–but of a “blue moon”. We’ve all heard the phrase, “Once in a Blue Moon”, but many people don’t realize that the term refers to a second full moon in a calendar month. Some say that the blue moon brings even stranger events, stronger “moontides”, than a regular full moon. Certainly, this particular moon had been growing from new to full with some unusual plans in mind for our little family.

I woke up as usual on the morning of the 29th, the day before the full moon, and prepared to feed my cats. I opened the cat food cabinet, and everyone came running. Except for Pree. Well, she was sleeping soundly, I supposed, and went about putting down food for everyone. I called for her. No answer. I looked in on my daughter’s bed, where I was sure I’d find her snuggled up and sound asleep.

You know that strange feeling you get, when the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, and your stomach ties itself in a knot? When Pree wasn’t in bed with Jess, I knew that something was terribly wrong. It wasn’t till that moment that I returned to the kitchen . . . and saw the hole. There had been a small tear in the kitchen screen, one way too little for a cat to fit through. The night had been warm, so we’d left the window open. The tiny hole now went all the way to the frame at the bottom, and then across to form a cat-sized rip.

Pree was gone.

We live on a mountainside, surrounded by miles and miles of forest. There are a few neighbors on our road, and the two on either side of ours. They all got phone calls, and were put on alert to watch for Pree. None knew her, as she’d never been outdoors before, and I discovered how difficult it is to describe a tortie-point Siamese to someone who’d never seen one. We combed the woods that day, as did several of our neighbors. And the next day, and the next . . . and on and off again periodically after that as the days turned to weeks. Soaked from the rainy summer we’d been having, and tearful, we’d come home with hoarse voices from calling for her. Where could she have gone?

The posters went up all over town. The ads went into the newspaper. All the right people and organizations were called. We traveled the roads nearby, searching under roadside bushes with the hopeful fear of finding a body. Even that, as terrifying as it was, would have been better than not knowing. We talked to neighbors, near and distant, many of whom we’d never met before.

One call came through the following Saturday, from a woman who’d seen our posters. She had seen Pree–tortie points are unique enough that there is no mistaking that description–about a half mile from home. When she opened the door to try and coax the cat into her car, Pree had run off into the woods. That was the only sighting we had.

The month crawled by, leaving a growing void in our lives. The full moon was approaching once again. Our family held to scraps of hope that were getting dimmer with each passing day. Family and friends were divided on whether or not we should keep hoping–or give up and go on with our lives. We’d begun to think the latter group might be right.

And then, the night before July’s full moon, the phone rang. It was Mrs. O’Gorman on East Hill Road, who’d spoken to my husband the day the cat disappeared. She lived about two miles from us as the crow flies, perhaps three if one took the roads. She had been driving to work that morning, running late, and saw a little Siamese cat lying dead on the side of the road. She stopped on the way home . . . but the body was gone. There are very few Siamese in our rural township. The chances were very high that it was our Pree.

I held back my tears and called her neighbor, whose house the cat had been seen in front of, but the Hannan family had not seen her. I called the town garage, but none of their workers had cleaned up the body of a Siamese cat that day.

The next day was my husband Joe’s day off, and he searched the roadside fields and woods near where she had been seen. Mrs. O’Gorman came out to help. Joe spoke with the people who lived around the area. No one had seen the body. We came to the conclusion that an animal had probably dragged her off.

We had come so close, so close to bringing her home. Now we would never be 100% certain that the cat seen on East Hill Road was Pree. We’d go through the rest of our lives never knowing for sure. The heartbreak was as intense as the day she’d vanished.

That evening, Jess was invited to the movies with a friend and her mother. Shortly after she left, Joe and our son Devon took the trash to the collection station, and I was left home alone. The phone rang. It was Mr. Hannan.

“Mrs. Nastasi?”

“Yes?”

“My labrador just chased a cat under our front porch, and I think it’s yours. My wife says it’s a Siamese, and it’s got a couple of white toes.”

Adrenalin struck. By the time Joe and Devon returned from the trash drop-off, I was in the driveway waiting, cat carrier and freshly opened tuna in hand. I never even let them get out of the car–we were out of the driveway in a near-panic.

“We’ve got to hurry, we don’t want her to run off again!”

Mr. Hannan and his son, Robbie, were in the yard waiting for us. “She’s still there,” he called.

He didn’t have to. From the car I could see a tuft of mottled tawny fur and I knew without a doubt that it was Pree. And she was alive!

I got onto my knees and looked under the porch. There sat a skeleton of a cat, covered with fur, dehydrated, starving. I still thought she’d been struck by a car, so was terrified that she might have broken bones or internal injuries.

“PreePree?”

“Maaaaa!” Her voice was harsh and raspy, but loud enough to let me know she recognized me at once. She was crying out for help.

I was afraid to touch her, not sure how badly she was hurt. I reached under, and she lay still and let me stroke her, continuing to cry loudly. Was it pain, or desperation, that caused her to meow like that? Would I get bitten if I tried to move her–or worse yet, cause her injuries to be worse?

I had no choice. After stroking and talking to her for a moment, I grasped her firmly by the scruff of the neck and pulled her toward me as gently as I could. Once I could reach her with both hands I was able to support her better, and I eased her into the crate. She never struggled.

We got her home quickly, contacted the vet’s emergency service, and within half an hour were out the door again. Our veterinarian met us at the hospital. Her veins were in such terrible shape that he couldn’t get an IV into her, but gave her subcutaneous fluids, antibiotics, cortisone . . . and food. She ate a little. Miraculously, he could find no broken bones, no sign of injury–he did not think she’d been hit by a car after all. She was just, quite simply, nearly starved to death.

Then he admitted her and told me to call in the morning. She had about a 50% chance of making it through the night. We stayed there for a little while, talking to and petting her, and reluctantly went home without her.

That night I stood out under the full moon, saying a prayer of thanks. The sky was overcast, but the clouds parted right around the moon, giving me a good view of the silvery orb. A bat was flitting around in front of it.

The next morning, when I called the vet, I was greeted with the fact that she was eating and doing much better. Her chance for survival had risen into the 90th percentile.

I cried.

By the time we visited her that afternoon, she’d been given the gold seal of approval, and was allowed to come home with us. She has a long road of recovery to travel . . . but it certainly won’t be as rocky or dangerous as the road she’s been walking the past month. She is eating, little bits at a time and in frequent doses, and drinking. Her water has to be warm, and running, and she prefers home made chicken broth.

Make home made chicken broth just for a cat? No problem. The important fact is that she’s drinking fluids well, and improving just a little bit each day.

She weighs two and a half pounds.

I sit for hours with my little wanderer asleep in my lap, watching her twitch in her dreams. What nightmares are in her mind, to make her slash her tail that way? Where has she been, what has she seen? And most of all, what force possessed her to tear her way through the screen that night a whole moon ago? I wish that she could speak human words, or that I could understand cat. She talks to me constantly, as is her very Siamese habit, but I’m not intelligent enough to decipher her meows. I’m sure she has many stories to tell, many lessons to teach. If only I could understand them.

I may never know just where she had been during her moon-to-moon journey. But I know where she is now, and that is what is most important.

Pree is home.

Pree after she came home

Pree after she came home

The Followup:

06 February 04: Talking with Pree
Pree came to me this morning, as I was in the kitchen and about to head in to do a session with a client’s kitty (who is also currently “gone walkabout”). She jumped to my lap and said she was aware that I wanted to talk about her journey, and she was ready to do so. I let her know that as soon as I was done with my scheduled session, we’d talk. She was pleased. After my session was done, I came out to the living room and sat on the sofa, and had no sooner settled than Pree rounded the corner and hopped into my lap.

I asked what she could remember about her journey.

She said she remembers that the moon was out there, bright, beckoning. She thought she saw creatures of moonlight in the woods … She showed me an image of a unicorn. Surprised, I asked if she’d actually seen a unicorn, and she said no, she didn’t think so, but that is how it felt. The shapes and images the moon was creating felt that magical, and she knew that the moon was calling to her, to teach her something important. So she tore through the screen and followed.

Once out in the wild, though, most of the time her thoughts were taken up by survival. One of the first things that happened was that she was chased by — or at least thought it was chasing her — a large owl. The storm that came the following day was terrifying, she wanted to go back, but couldn’t. She was hopelessly lost, turned about, and had no idea which direction was home; the storm had washed away any lingering traces of the path she had taken. She also somehow knew there was more “out there” that she needed to see, do, and experience.

I reminded her of how the one lady had been so sure she was dead on the road, and asked her if she thinks she had actually died.

She told me she wasn’t sure specifically about “death”, but does remember a sense of being “separated” from herself, of drifting out of conscious thought the awareness of a great, vast sense of being. She said she thought there was an eagle watching her, high, high above her, too high to approach. Her sense is that the eagle was keeping her from wandering too far from her body, but she could never get close enough to really see or talk to the eagle.

She remembers the dog that was there to chase her under the porch, and how he agreed to draw as much attention to her as he could. Once her body woke up, she knew it was time to get back home, and that was all she could think of. She wanted her Mom. The dog helped, he did a good job, and together they made sure her Mom came to get her.

I asked her what she learned while she was out wandering, what she thought the purpose of the journey was.

Her first response, with a chuckle: “That there’s no place like home.” (We laughed together.)

She said, though, that that really was part of it, and it’s why she’s never so much as looked at an open door or been tempted to go through the window again since. Some animals come into this world to fully and entirely experience the bond with other species’. Wild creatures, those who struggle daily to survive, move in celebration of their own species bonds, and those arrangements and love relationships they make with the predators and prey that interact with them. Other animals come to be farm animals or service animals and explore those specific incredible bonds with humanity as a part of their earthly walk. And some come to be household companions, friends, teachers, and spiritual guides for the people they are destined to love. Since she has come home, the depth of that relationship with the humans and other species within her household has grown to incredible depths and heights, and she believes that she needed to wander, experience danger, and starve to the doorstep of depth (“Bugs don’t taste very good! I’m not a very good hunter — [laughing] — so much for the myth that all cats are the ultimate predator!”) to fully understand and experience that bond. She has become a better teacher, better friend, better healer…. She has been privileged to work with me, as well as with other humans, in helping people and animals to strengthen the bond and understanding between them. She has done healing work and been an anchor and support for me, as well as doing much work on her own, in a way that she doesn’t think would have been possible without having experienced her journey.

I ask if she thinks that part of the reason for her journey was to help me along on my path as an animal communicator.

She says, “Of course. We all come together to help one another along our paths. Some of us just do it more dramatically than others.” [laughing] As far as how her journey affected me, Pree believes that perhaps, in part, I needed a true, inarguable miracle in my life at that moment to prove beyond doubt those things my heart hoped and tried very hard to trust were true.

Pree is and shall always be my true, inarguable miracle.

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