Thursday, July 9, 2009

Getting in touch with nature, or Sheba among the orchids

It's not a great picture of either Sheba or the orchids. The big orchid is still a graceful arch of perfect bloom, larger than the picture shows. The little one has lost its blooms, so I have moved it to an auspicious place where its sad, naked stem is not prominently in view. You have to love that about potted plants - the fact that you are in charge. Compare that to the ivy in the back yard, firmly situated on seven of the oaks, and trying for number eight. Nature is like that. You can't turn your back for a minute.

Sheba would like to be a phenomenon of the Great Natural World beyond the screened porch. But that's because she doesn't know any better. She doesn't realize she is a very small domestic animal, prey to large dogs that slip their electric fences, diligent hawks, speeding cars, and the naturally scraggly coyote that now graces our ravine. There are also out door cats, and she doesn't like others of her species. Another good reason to stay on the porch.

Then too, out in the natural world Sheba would be sure to be found by fleas, which would ride in to inhabit our civilized world, to leap onto the sofa and the bed Sheba shares with us at night. We like having her there with us. We dislike fleas, which would require us to impose still more civilization in the form of flea poison for her, anti-itch creams for our own tender skins, antihistamines, fogging the bedroom, and so on. Nature leads to complications like that. In fact, it is the very point of civilization - to keep complications out of our houses so we can watch TV in peace.

No, Sheba, like me, does not belong in a world devoid of wireless internet, cellphone towers, yoga pants, and Just Pies. She is an artifact of civilization, bred to diet not on God's beautiful little rosy finches, but on Fancy Feast, which is probably made in part from God's less attractive chickens.

Even now she is on her chair next to me behaving in a thoroughly civilized way, doing a thorough grooming, though she was clean to begin with. There is, in theory, a reason cats do this, but she never studied philosophy. She just does it instinctively, the same way when I was about her age, except in human years, I examined myself closely in the mirror. All these years later that's the one civilized activity I can safely say I'd just as soon avoid.

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