It’s amazing what you can learn by sitting on the porch all afternoon, watching the cats.
Like this: cats sleep a lot. What is it — 18, 19 hours a day? I can understand why lions get exhausted, what with the difficulty of running down a zebra or a water buffalo, but lolling around the ceramic food dish picking out golden fishy shapes from animal cracker cows just doesn’t compare.
In frisky moments that have nothing to do with dinner, the scratching order comes into play: for some odd reason, Edward the Thug decides that he’s fed up with Pyscho-Kitty, snoozing 15 feet away, and 20 seconds later with poofs of fur floating through the air, no one’s on the porch anymore.
Later that afternoon Psycho-Kitty and Edward are entwined on the wicker couch.
One of my favorite summer activities is sitting in the sunshine with my knitting, while felines, canines, and chickens wander about. Ruby the Rat Dog chases off everything larger than she is, which is . . . everything; Xena the Bedraggled and Haggard Warrior Princess sits between me and the knitting needles; the Old Cat stares, rheumy-eyed, off into space and thinks of his younger days, when he spent hours gazing at the ground doing about what he’s doing now.
Perhaps this seems like a waste of time, and obviously, I could be inside getting things done — it’s not as if I ran out of stuff to do.
It’s also not that, when I’m not busy, I’m not doing anything. I just look like I’m not doing anything.
For most of us, the brain never turns off. And even when, like the Old Cat, we seemingly stare off into nothingness, we’re tucking away little facts here and there for future use.
Do you know that, even though she is the smallest cat on the farm, Mia The-Me-and-Me-Alone never runs when she is threatened — even by the far larger What-Has -She-Done-Now-Dammit Roxy the Boxer/Lab?
And that Roxy will not stand up to Ruby the Rat Dog? Ruby commandeers the giant dog bed, while Roxy sighs, grunts, and flops down in front of the door.
Ruby, however, won’t fight with a chicken. If the fowl old bat doesn’t run but looks down her beak with that Evil Primeval Eye, Ruby quavers off.
Watching this interplay, I interpolate that even small, weak beings can dominate over brawny big ones: if you hold your ground, keep the fear out of your eyes, and don’t give in — you can keep from being run over.
Sometimes, though, if you’re dealing with a particularly large and aggressive chicken, it’s best to be somewhere else, quickly.
I’m sure that I could have learned about this in a sociology class or at a seminar on bullying or from a psychology textbook, but I didn’t. I picked it up by sitting on the porch, letting my mind idly drift, and gently observing the seething, swarming mass of animal energy pulsating around me.
Which brings me to my point, and I do have one:
It’s Back to School Time, in case you haven’t noticed the ads for crayons and notebooks and clothes and dorm furniture, and there’s the yearly lament about how much math the kids have forgotten over the summer, or how they’ve been throwing rocks in the river or at each other instead of reading Pearl S. Buck’s Good Earth, or how they’ve been staying up and sleeping in too late, and they just haven’t been learning.
But they have, even if it’s nothing more than that while Eddie the Thug is indisputably butt ugly and mean, he snuggles as well.
Ruby the Rat — small, skinny, and shaky — can chase off a deer.
An aggressive goose is more menacing than a Doberman.
These are things that — unlike the purpose of logarithms (is there one?) — you never forget, and they are things that cannot be expressly taught. They are absorbed via mental osmosis during those times in which we are not doing anything particularly useful or educational.
Rather than harangue on about longer school days and more of them, perhaps we adults can think back to when we lolled in the grass, staring at the clouds and perfecting our tan. Was that so very bad?
Would it be so very bad if we did it again sometime?
Like this post? Please pass me on to your friends. There are two ways to grow: by eating too much, which isn’t a good thing, and by word of mouth, which is.