Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Skunk Revisited

It was about 10 p.m. last night, and I opened the front door to see if either of my kitties wanted to come into the house for the night. (Yes, my life revolves around letting cats in or out of the house - especially at times like now, when the weather is nice.) (Excuse me for this commercial break - one of the cats is just now meowing to be let in.)

There at the base of the stairs was the baby skunk of a couple weeks ago. So cute! Or so I think - it was dark and my porch light's burnt out. Flower - as we've nicknamed the skunk - looked a little longer than before - apparently growing into its adult oblong shape - and seemed as sweet as ever. Knowing it was as potentially lethal as ever as well, I scolded cat Alex to keep trotting down the sidewalk, scooped up cat Annie to bring her into the house, and then calmly went after Alex (who'd gone across the street) and enticed him into letting me pick him up and bring him into the house as well - just by voice this time - no can of cat food necessary.

I have no idea where Flower went, other than into the bushes at the side of the house. Perhaps he (or she?) was hoping that Alex would come back out to play, and dove into the bush as a way of playing hide and seek? Hmm. The ways of cats and skunks remain a mystery to me. At least I have a can of tomatoes in the cupboard...

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Menagerie

There's no shortage of animals around, these days. In the past week, there was a wild turkey outside my office window, a crow (or raven) that nearly flew into my window there, a multitude of spiders everywhere, a skunk at the house...

Ah, yes. A skunk at the house. That was exciting.

It was a recent Sunday evening, at dusk - not quite night. One cat - Annie - was outside, wanting to come in. The other cat - Alex - was inside, wanting to go out. In sum, it was a typical Sunday evening, where I am servant to cats' needs.

I opened the door to do the Cat Exchange. And there he was. Or she. A skunk. A baby skunk, in fact. A very sweet looking, gentle - but potentially dangerous to the olfactory sense - skunk, in the walkway, just below the flower box on the living room window (where Annie was sitting). I gasped. Alex crouched. The baby skunk perked up. Annie gazed at us all, in Zen-like mode: "Ah yes," she seemed to be saying, as she nodded in the direction of the baby. "Did I fail to mention there's a skunk in our midst?"

Then Alex started his hunter's stalk. I went into action too. "Alex. Alex. No. No. No. No," I said, in an increasingly shrill voice. Alex looked over his shoulder at me, confused by my sudden insistence, annoyed that I was interrupting his plan to pounce. I grabbed my lap top's extension cord - the only thing close enough to a 10-foot-pole that I could see - and got ready to swing it in someone's direction. The baby skunk scurried into the bushes, but not far. Alex trotted down the walkway towards the sidewalk, away from the baby, I'm sure as a way of calming me down (and biding time until I went inside and freed him up to continue his prowl). Annie just watched.

I knew I had precious little time before Alex circled around the back side of the bushes where the baby was. "Hey Annie, Annie," I said to my calmer cat... approached the window box where she sat, and.... swooped her into my arms. Surprisingly, she acquiesced. I tossed her into the house, grabbed a can of wet cat food, and went back out. Yes, yes - do I know my cats or what? - Alex had circled around, and was aiming for that baby skunk from a different angle. "Hey, Alex," I said in what I hoped was my sweetest voice. "Hey Sweetie Pie. Look what I have... oooh.... cat food... mm..."

I clicked open the can. Alex was torn. Oh gosh, he so badly wanted to chase that baby skunk. But, hmm... that cat food did look good... he leaned toward the bushes, but the can won out, and he headed in my direction instead. I think he was trying to concoct a plan where he ate the cat food and chased the skunk. But my plan was to get him into the house. So I sneaked him inside by backing into the front door with the cat food low by his nose, and just out of his reach. He couldn't help himself. He had to follow the can. Suddenly he was inside. And he did get wet food as his reward. But he was "in" for the night too. This did not make him happy. I heard his protests all night long. I didn't care.

When I told a friend about it the next day, she wondered if perhaps the baby skunk had rabies, as they are nocturnal animals and it wasn't quite yet dark. I told her no, I didn't think so - the skunk never got aggressive, never even turned its back to spray... (by that time, I'd read up about skunks - had found out that babies can spray just as lethally as adults). I told her how sweet the skunk was, how round (!) (I didn't know that baby skunks are round, and not long), how it was more likely to start playing with Alex if Alex had been nice. As she listened, she said, "It was Flower." I gasped. "Flower! It was Flower!" We both laughed, having turned eight years old in an instant, each remembering the skunk that Bambi named "Flower" because he had just learned his first word and figured everything went by the same name.

I haven't seen Flower since, though neighbors have had sightings. Alex has been going out at night - how can I keep him inside, without all that meowing? - and has yet to come home stinky. Maybe he and Flower have become friends. I can only hope.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Out of the Whirlwind

"Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades? Can you loosen Orion’s belt? Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons or lead out the Bear with its cubs? Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth?"

-Job 38:31-33

Job was a whiner. Well, in his defense, a lot had happened to him - his family was dead, his money was gone, his body was full of disease, probably leprosy. And it all had happened after he had led what had always been considered, by everyone, "a good and pious life."

But still, he was a bit of a whiner. Read Job. You'll see.

I'm feeling a little like Job these days.

Which means, I think, that I've been asking questions similar to the ones that Job was asking, way back when. Sort of a "Why me, God? Why are you picking on me???" I had a plan, you know. And I believe we all had agreed to said plan. I know I agreed to it. (And then my home went up for sale, and my workload radically changed, and those last 15 pages of that new screenplay now appear as though they might get written sometime in 2025....)

And so, as I soldier on into my current fortunes, I think I've also been yelling at God. Or whoever. It hasn't been all that organized - maybe I've been yelling on the inside (as I buck up, and pull on those bootstraps...) But I've been, at a minimum, grumpy about the whole evolution of All That Had Been Planned.

The best laid plans... you know how the end of that sentence goes. Or, what's the other one - you know how to make God laugh, don't you? Just explain the plans you've made.... except I thought - I really did think - we were on the same page on these particular plans. I really did. I've been banking on it.

I think a little grumpiness is only fair. In fact, in recent days I've been thinking that Job was less of a whiner and more of a reasonable guy who just wanted a little fairness to come his way. That's the way karma should work, anyway.

So when I happened to read the above-quoted passage from the Bible, it woke me up a bit. Like Job, I needed a reminder: maybe I don't have a perfect handle on how this universe works, after all. And maybe I should give a little credit to the idea that there is an order to this apparently random chaos that will make itself clear, all in good time, regardless of my preferences. And maybe I don't know why - maybe I'll never know why - but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

Job 38 is a fascinating chapter. It's when God's voice comes out of a whirlwind to Job and asks these kinds of questions. When Job asks God why - why? - are you punishing me? God in essence asks, why do you imagine that this is punishment? He asks it not in a one-word sentence but by pointing out to Job all the wonders of the universe that exist, even if they exist beyond human logic or comprehension. God essentially says, why do you have such a narrow view of the universe, that bad things happening to you must necessarily be retribution? Couldn't the world just be a little larger than that?

I love that the voice comes from a whirlwind. And I love the talk about the Pleiades and Orion. Well yes, I imagine those star formations had names back then too - though I don't think I knew they were known by those particular names. There's something ... infinite about God talking to Job about the Pleiades and Orion.

So then I did a little research, and found out that the questions posed by God actually have legitimacy in modern science. When God asks Job, are you the one who figured out how to "bind the chains of the Pleiades" while "loosening Orion's belt," God is actually foreshadowing heavenly circumstances that evolve over time. Apparently scientists predict that the Pleiades (Seven Sisters, actually about 250 stars congregated together) will ultimately stay clustered - or "chained" together, while Orion's Belt (the three stars in perfect alignment with each other) will, over time - lots of time - separate from each other - no longer stay in that alignment. In other words, the Belt will "loosen." So, wow. God says this to Job back before anyone knows that this all will happen in that way. Talk about Big Picture Thinking.

Here is a great article that talks through the comparison of what is said in Job and what is actually happening - it also goes into Arcturus (the Bear - "leading the Bear with its cubs") portion of this quote: http://www.bible411.com/andgodcried/chapter2.htm After explaining the science, that writer states the "lessons" of Job as follows:

Few have suffered the multiple tragedies of Job. How could God reach through the enormity of Job's self-pity? (Job thought God just didn't care.) In these three questions (Job 38:31, 32) God is in reality saying:

Job, you think I am not concerned about your suffering. Well, let Me ask you these questions. Can you loose the bands of Orion? No, you cannot. But My Divine power will—some day Orion will no longer exist. Job, can you bind the 250 stars of the Pleiades together in their symmetry of beauty and not have a single one drift off? Only I have this power and wisdom. Can you prevent the runaways—Arcturus and his sons—from colliding as they go dashing out of the Milky Way? No, only My Divine power and wisdom can.

Job, if I am caring for the details of the universe, do you doubt that I not only care for the details of your life but I have the ability to solve your problems? Trust that there is a good reason I am permitting these tragedies. Remember, Job, I work from the perspective of your eternal welfare.

So, cool.

Don't get me wrong. I'm grateful for my life. No leprosy here! I have a wonderful family, a supportive community, a profession (the law) that gives me the potential for instantaneous livelihood... Like Lou Gehrig, I am aware of and count my blessings, no matter if adversity has also presented itself. Still, this passage from Job helped put me back into perspective.

At the end of God's speech, Job says oops - I didn't think of it that way. Actually, Job says he'll shut up now ("I will lay mine hand upon my mouth," Job 40:4). Wise choice there, friend. Perhaps I'll do the same.

Now, back to work on this sunny Sunday morning...