Sunday, September 13, 2009

Wild Instincts

I'm in a small town with no flying to do today, because my coworker took the plane to the big city for scheduled maintenance. I know she takes full advantage of the city amenities, and there's someone there she wanted to see, so I offered no competition for the flight. It's also a guilt offering on my part for a communication error I made that she felt made her look bad. I think it more made me look bad, or at least made me look like someone who had been sleeping all morning, which I had, but it was still my fault. At any rate, net world happiness is greater with her in the city and me walking in the park alongside the river, so it's all good now.

I know how to behave in the city, watch your valuables, avoid secluded places, don't be alone with strangers, that sort of thing. And I know how to behave in the wilderness: know that animals you can't see are probably watching you, all wild animals can be dangerous if you surprise them, most don't want a confrontation. In both environments you pay attention to your surroundings, know where you are, let people you trust know your plans, and be prepared to abandon your belongings in favour of your personal safety.

The funny thing is that because of frequent transitions between the two environments, I sometimes have moments where I see both sides at once, and laugh. This town has a park along the river, and while it's a nice jungly park with lots of trees and bushes and paths, I seriously doubt it harbours wildlife bigger than a raccoon. You're not going to come around the corner at twilight and be face to face with a wolverine or a grizzly. But today I'm walking along a path between some trees and I spot some movement ahead in the long grass. It's an animal. A bunch of my sensors and subroutines activate. Come to think of it, detecting and reacting correctly to the presence of a non-human animals has driven millennia of human evolution. I can almost feel the primitive brain waking up.

And as soon as it does the part of my brain in charge of logic points out acerbically that it's probably a kitty, and it's perfectly correct. The fierce Felis cattus has seen me coming. It puts the top of its head on the ground and then flops over its own shoulder into belly rubbing mode, with a meow on impact. Mind you, cats themselves seem to be tossed by the same dichotomy, because just after sunset that evening I'm crossing a well-groomed playground park and there's another cat, stalking mice or maybe mosquitoes. It looks towards me and its eyes are two glowing golden spots reflecting streetlights. It's tensed in a fight or flight decision-making pose. I wonder if it understands the poor hand it has been dealt in its attempt to be a wild animal, given that it is a fluffy white cat walking across a green lawn. It's almost dark and I can still see it from across the park. I pretend I don't, so it can think that by holding perfectly still it has fooled me, and I leave it to its fun.

1 comment:

Callsign Echo said...

Nice juxtaposition, Aviatrix. I think I have a good view of both urban and rural jungles, as a country girl with relatives in the archetypal New York City (digression: isn't it telling that native of NYC refer to it as "The City," as if there were only one? I think in their minds, there is), and the most interesting difference to me is the way city dwellers view all wooded areas as even more dangerous than the streets, while one of the most predictable things about a backcountry hick is that when in danger (or on the run from the law) they will run straight for the nearest thicket.