Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Agreeable Cat and the Appropriate Dog

Some baseball players are known for their batting averages, others for won-loss records, others still for their fielding (innings played without committing error).  Many actors are known for their diversity of performances, others for their signature role, against which all other performances, fairly or not, are measured.

Some doctors are known for their specialties.  The surgeon who removed cancerous tissues from you was recently ranked in a national magazine.  One of your dearest friends and you were strolling across San Ysidro Road in upper village Montecito when your progress was arrested by an intense voice, bellowing your friend's name.  "Barnaby,"  he said.  "Barnaby.  Wait."  Indeed, the three of you met in the middle of the street, Barnaby Conrad observing his gentlemanly courtesy by introducing you to the doctor, who was not in the slightest way interested in you.  "Are you all right?"  he asked Conrad.  Still in his gentleman mode, Conrad assured the doctor he was.

"This is a small town,"  the doctor observed.

"Yes,"  Conrad said, "it is."

"Everyone knows I performed the replacement surgery on your knee."

Conrad suggested that while many people knew, including you, there were still a great many who did not know, and why stop us here in the middle of the street?

"Because,"  the doctor said.  "Because you were limping."

"I limp because of sciatica,"  Conrad said. "Not from the knee."

"Would someone seeing you walk know that?"  the doctor said.

Some doctors are known for their specialties.

You, for instance have a Gainor hip, an Avolese dental bridge, a Katsev lens and soon to have yet another from that gifted opthamologist.  You are enhanced by their expertise.  You would not be where you are without some internal tweaking by Koper.

Writers have specialties, often genera such as horror (Stephen King), wild-ass thriller (Elmore Leonard), and deep-tissue mystery/suspense (Kate Atkinson).  Writers have other specialties.  Consider characters (See Dickens.  Indeed, the Merriam-Webster New Collegiate lists quite a few of his creations.), scenes, dialogue, themes, and settings.

Writers have abilities to describe and define, as well to evoke or cause to resonate and perhaps reverberate within the sensitivity receptors of the reader.  Writers such as Robert Heinlein and Theodore Sturgeon have the ability to make inanimate things appear lifelike and to cause us to feel a sense of concern for things and places and conditions as though they were actual.

In some realistic senses, each of us, you included, forage about as though an early hunter-and-gatherer, attempting to wrest physical and emotional security from our surroundings while dealing with those beings who at first blush do not appear to be like us (or you).  The probability is, they are more alike than not, a few cultural differences and attitudes to the contrary.  Some of these cultural differences seem irreparable but in the hands of writers, they represent dramatic opportunities to force individuals into kinds of negotiation that we have seen fit to think of as evolution of a significant sort.

Another significant form of accommodation and negotiation presents itself in the midst of our foraging for physical and emotional connections with our surroundings.  Human-animal connections are often fraught with associations and individualized relationships.  The odds appear to be stacked in favor of the human, suggesting in some cases nothing more than a more attenuated form of slavery.  You look at some of the ones you see about you, shaking your head in what comes forth as wonderment most of the time.

You've had some form of animal presence in your life ever since your encounters during your late twenties to a short-haired domestic cat named Sam.  The relative differences in species lifespan has left you from time to time "between animals,"  aware of your foraging nature, aware of how much of your behavior is based on your observation of animal behavior, and how animals appear better able to get along after loss or parting.

You cannot explain in any objective or even accurate way the fact of most of your friends and acquaintances having similar relationships with animals.  Conrad had his share of birds, dogs, cats, at least one fox.  To you knowledge, Wolfe hadn't owned a cat outright but was perpetually suborning cats of neighbors, luring them for visits with choice morsels.  Fagan has a house filled with cats and a yard filled with rescue rabbits.  The Kapuy's have cats and birds; at one point, he had a monitor lizard.  Your literary agent lives in a five-dog atmosphere.

Your email and written mail have borne a flood of notes expressing sorrow at your current "between-animals" condition.  Five days without an animal--without a particular animal, the one described in the letters and notes--seems a wrench, reminding you not only of your loss but of a sense of constant incompleteness.

No question in your mind that you will restore the balance.  The loss of this balance is an entirely different form of vertigo than the loss of a relative, a close partner or friend.  You are far enough along a path of awareness to know you must not attempt to replace a relative, close partner, or friend, because even the attempt is futile, a vector of disaster, but also a way of undercutting your original relationship.  Thus you hunt and forage to fill in gaps and necessities from other sources.

You are thinking to start with an agreeable cat while looking for the appropriate dog.

A cat gives you the expectations of surprise and a sensate presence moving about you.  The surprise cannot be articulated; it is what you will discover at some time.  "The appropriate dog" is an animal of stature in whose presence you may be able to discover what those qualities are you so cherish and seek to keep in you life.  And of course what you have to do to keep them there.


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