This image was unabashedly “lifted” from this excellent blog: http://ruralchatter.blogspot.com/2008/08/public-service-announcement-about-feral.html If it is copyrighted I will remove it, or arrange for special permissions. What a classic photo!
I decided to re-post this entry that I made in another (anonymous) blog last year around this time. This year I am living around 3000 miles away from where I was then, but I still find myself among the cats and birds and thermal phenomena of the perennial jungle. I enjoyed reading this one again, and I hope others will too. old swimmer
- This entry was originally written in Newfield,New Jersey, December 22nd, 2008
Coming in from my morning rounds I ripped off my gloves, ran to the kitchen sink, and turned on the cold water. I let it run to get really cold before putting my fingers under it. It felt SO GOOD. Warm. The pain stopped rather quickly and I was back to normal in about a minute’s time.
Flickering through my mind-tapes was a memory of my father showing me how to treat my frostbitten toes many years ago. The pond in our Philadelphia area neighborhood had frozen very solid and I had been skating in my father’s old black, pointy toed, narrow and very floppy ice skates. They were way too narrow and long for my very wide and much smaller feet. The many socks packed into the wrong-shaped skates did little to protect my toes from the cold. Between the single digit temperature outside and the effects of strangulating socks cutting off blood circulation to my toes, and the fact that I skated way too long and then had to walk quite a long way to get home, my poor small feet had turned a deathly white and were — well, frosty!
Dad took one look and hurried me to the bathroom where he ran a tub of cold cold water. It did not look inviting, but he said it was what to do to save my feet from tissue damage! He said I would be happy once I put my feet in. At first I didn’t feel much, and then it felt warm. Then my feet began to ache badly, thawing. Then they began to regain their normal color. Soon I could feel that the water was cold. He ran a small amount of warm water into the mix. And soon my feet felt normal again.
I did some damage that day that I still (some sixty-five years later) deal with sometimes when my circulation is poor or my feet get chilly. My toes turn white and they ache. And get numb. I massage when that begins to happen and it does help. But a little bit of damage really is there and will not change. Only because I didn’t come home soon enough, when my feet were numb and I was having so much fun skating.
I am reminded that life skills are lore that even “Igluk” (our household nickname for the quintessential Cave Man) learned from his father. I don’t remember the Pennsylvania schools having a lesson in frostbite first aid. Surely Alaska will have such a class, but not suburban Philly. These bits of wisdom are taught at parents’ or mentors’ knees, very often in the presence of palpable pain!
My head is full of such vignettes that just rest in place somewhere in my brain’s “operating system” like the knowledge of how to walk, or how to talk. Life-lore events make an indelible impression, like certain odors or fragrances (depending on how you like them) bring back whole environments and events. My father leaning over, explaining. The sight of my white feet. The pain. The questions about “tissue damage” and the contemplation of the answers.
AND I DIGRESS: (as so often happens)
Sitting here, with my mind on parental lessons, my eyes wandered out the window to my neighbor’s driveway where I happened to see the “resident” feral cat catch a meal. I m glad I don’t know what it is, but his companion (who will, I am quite certain, deliver kittens in maybe six or so weeks) came running hopefully over to see if this meal would be shared. No, it will not. The larger cat took his kill to the bushes where he sits now probably relishing the heat from some little recently live high-metabolism body.
So that cat watched his mother, no doubt, do what he just did to stave off the cold, including the business of NOT SHARING, which is why he is alive and his littermates are very likely not. Learning life skills at the “knee of his parent.”
In this desperate economic climate I read that people are arriving in droves at the SPCA and other shelters with their beloved house pets. They find they have come to a place in the budget where there is not enough to take proper care of extra mouths, and pets are, though loved, expendible. The SPCA is euthanizing record numbers of animals as lovely and trusting as my own two scruffy beloved terriers and my fat and spoiled cat. (who himself was rescued as a practically newborn kitten by me from under the shed one spring day.) People come in with broken hearts and leave the pets behind.
I am wondering whether that feral cat across the street will live through the winter. Possibly so. He is large and fat and very good at hunting. He doesn’t share. He may live another year, or maybe he has a lot of parasites that will catch up with him and cut his life short even with good weather. He will certainly live longer than the glossy little fellows at the SPCA whose humans have gone off in tears, leaving them peering out from cages wondering when their owners will return. Who has the better life?
I am reading a book that I’m having trouble staying with: I Am a Cat
, a zenny classic translated from the work of Soseki Natsume.
It is really quite a wonderful book, but reminds me of Watership Down
in that it goes on and on at a cat’s pace, which is not at all quick or particularly efficient. Like the rabbits in Watership Down, the Cat is a creature that does a lot of smelling of the roses on hs way to doing things, and the more so if he happens to have been tucked into a household which leaves food in a dish and has a good place to curl up without predators anywhere around. I guess I will have to slow down and take this at a cat’s pace. Happily it’s got chapters that stand alone, so one need not remember a “plot” but can just pick it up whenever and read a chapter. END OF DIGRESSION
So, if there is a point to this blog, I guess it is that the stuff creatures, human and otherwise, learn by the way, as they are smelling the flowers, that becomes the stuff of survival and one’s MODE and CODE of life. If it’s good stuff, like warming frostbitten fingers in cold water so as not to damage the tissue, you live longer. If you aren’t paying attention, or don’t have a parental teacher, you don’t.
I was one of the lucky ones. I may be nuts, but I’m still alive, aren’t I?
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