Someone else’s cat lies on my desk while I’m working, if you can call what I am doing – admiring a calico cat – work. Her chest moves up and down, drawing in oxygen and pushing out carbon dioxide. At one end, her eyes peer out of almost closed slits. At the other, eight inches of soft furry tail wave slowly, its tip articulating like bait, though I have no idea what she wants to attract. Maybe she’s flirting with the human.
She comes to me, sometimes, and walks back and forth against my leg, and nuzzles her head against my hand. I was slow to learn the response, but I must eventually have got it right. I place my hand on top of her head, fingers curled as though to scratch her gently, and she walks away, dragging my fingertips to her tail, which I grab gently and let her pull through my then clenched hand.
She keeps walking, pulling her tail from my grasp, then turns around for another pass in the opposite direction; sometimes a dozen iterations.
But she doesn’t want to be picked up. A little attention is her wish, enough to maintain the connection, but she is firm about who makes the rules, like a beautiful young woman I met in passing out on Interstate 70 one day when I also was young. She came up from my rear in a white Stingray with gold lettering. The top was down, and her hair streamed in the wind like a party flag. Her license plate, I noticed in the brief glance she allowed as she disappeared from my windshield, proclaimed:
“IN UR DRMS”
If I knew where to find her, I’d call her and tell her I found her cat.
The other evening, Daisy the feline walked by my chair, just out of reach, and stepped gracefully over a power cord for one of our computers. First one front foot, then the other, carefully moved through the air above the wire. Then, the movement that for some silly reason attracted my attention, her rear feet performed a similar dance as one, then the other lifted over the wire. She didn’t look back to see where the wire was; her foot knew, as though its toes were equipped with radar.
How do we do that? Most critters, even human ones, have the ability to seemingly just do things, without thinking through each step.
I watched a group of deer one day come upon a fence about six feet high. They milled around a few minutes, discussing whether to go over or find a place to go around. Finally, the decision was made. One at a time, they backed up for a running start, angled their bodies slightly upward, tucked their front legs and pushed off with the rear. On the other side, still airborne, they moved their landing gear into forward position to absorb the load as gravity declared any appearance of having been overpowered was, indeed, a temporary illusion.
The mental processes we unconsciously accomplish – we humans, cats, Whitetail deer and myriad other creatures – keeps me thoroughly amazed, like watching a magic show in which great feats are accomplished seemingly without effort or thought.
Sometimes, when I cut my mind loose to wander, I wonder at the wonder that is us, riding together this spinning glob of mud, fire and rock, like walking on a merry-go-round as it spins on its own axis, hurtling through the void, destination unknown.