By Stacie Zinn Roberts
Early this morning, our cat, Penny, got herself stuck up high in a tree. My husband, Rob, found her, mewling and crying in loud, pitiful howls. The tree was a tall, young cedar that Rob had limbed up well above our roofline. She’d climbed so high up into the leafy tree canopy, the only indication she was there at all was an orange tail flicking amongst the greenery—that, and of course, the howling.
Rob climbed the tree and tried to grab her but screamed out in a wail that only cats can make, and she hissed at him in fear. He climbed back down.
Already late for work, as he backed his truck out of the garage, he rolled down the window and told me that she’d probably figure out how to get down once dawn broke. And if not, he’d climb back up in a few hours and grab her.
As he drove away, I stood at the base of the tree and looked up. Just below the leaf canopy, a stubby, leafless branch protruded not six inches out perpendicular from the tree trunk. Our fluffy orange and white tabby sat precariously perched on that branch like a perturbed parakeet. I called up to her, “Just come back down the way you went up.”
She jostled and cried again. Then slowly, gingerly, she maneuvered her paws off of the perch. The first step was the most difficult. With a little leap, she flattened herself spread-eagle against the tree trunk and slid a few frightening inches down the bark. Whimpering all the while, she dug her claws into the tree and climbed down, paw by paw, like a reluctant lumberjack. Reaching the base, she jumped down and ran up the hill to our backyard.
I don’t know why she climbed so high up into that tree. Perhaps another cat or coyote chased her, or maybe she was chasing a squirrel. Somehow, to her, it just seemed like a good idea at the time.
Life’s like that, not only for cats, but for us, too.
Sometimes you find yourself stuck up a tree and the only way down is to retrace your steps. Sure you can whine and cry when you realize the predicament you’ve put yourself in, and sometimes a comforting, friendly voice at the base of the tree can coach you into a brave move. But in the end, only you can undo what you’ve done. You can sit on your perch for a morning or for months. But eventually, it’s you who must take that first perilous leap down.
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