jeudi 20 mai 2010

The huntress and the hunted


Instinct. Genetic memory. Wisp has found her own private savannah, contested only by the only other feline in residence, Shadow, although the dogs think it makes a great hiding place for for the cats for Hide and Seek, rather subverting the purpose of a savannah, if you ask the cats.

I was looking for an excuse not to do something, drawn for the millionth time to the French doors to watch the sunshine in the garden, the frogs sunbathing on the edge of the basin, the fish milling around the lily pads and Japanese Horsetail, the peonies bursting into flower as the wisteria fades into fuller leaf and the rose bushes prepare their appearance next on stage. The dogs lazed about, and then -- movement and chaos in a split second.

The body of Wisp appeared above the ledge of the basin on the far side, twisting like a skateboarder high above the lip of a bowl, her paws came together around a small dark object that had darted over the garden and swooped too close to her hiding place, screened in the Angel Hair grass in the warm sun. She fell back as the dogs raced me to her, shouting her name.

She was lying in a crouch, the small dark object motionless between her paws. I grabbed her haunches, surprising her enough to make her let go. The bird flew away instantly, up through the grass, alongside the linden tree and away over the neighbor's garden.

She didn't even look at me.

"Bad cat. Bad, bad, bad cat."

The dogs looked at us and headed off to lie back down in the patches of clover rapidly filling in for the missing lawn. I considered anew the fate of the baby bird I thought had maybe fallen out of the linden tree, the one I found surrounded by Wisp and the two dogs the other day, and who died a short while later in my hand.

And who I forgot is still in one of the bird nests of our collection from the garden, sitting on the wainscoting in the living room.

I had a new appreciation for Wisp's previously unseen hunting skills and a far better idea how she had survived at all those months she was alone in the sand quarry and the forest in the middle of the boucle de la Seine. She is, after all, a lithe and skilled huntress of birds.


Chouette. Just chouette. Do I have to keep her inside, or an eye on her all the time until all the baby birds have had a fair chance to learn to fly and beware?

This evening, I stuck my other pink running hat on my head and headed out the gate, seriously considering going really easy on myself.

"Baby," I told myself.

What? C'mon, I already ran again yesterday, and it was almost as hot out there in the sun all covered up from head to toe, and I did it, and today we could barely walk. It was true. We'd had to go down the stairs placing both feet on each step, crabwise, to get to the bottom. Can't we do the shorter run?

Myself definitely should have kept the question to herself. I turned right at the top of the hill and headed to the Transamazonienne, thinking how very slow I am; how very much I really had lost since Easter. At least it was evening, and cooler, a breeze skimming my cheek, and I had on shorts, and not leggings. I turned onto the Transamazonienne and headed up the gentle rise back to the top of the ridge, and there on the bike lane in front of me was a small body. I stopped in front of it. A bird, exactly like the one that had died in my hand the other day, only bigger. A parent.

It was warm in the palm of my hand, its eyes black and shiny still, but its head rolled faster than its body, and my heart beating fast still from the rise, I only felt one heartbeat: my own. We stood there for a moment, and I took it over and laid its warm body by the fence, in the shade, where no car or bicycle could do it further harm, where nothing could do it any more injury. I laid it down and stepped back to the bike lane as a car sped on up the rise, traveling the same way I headed back out again.

"Be careful," I wanted to tell everyone barreling up and down the Transamazonienne, racing to make it to the supermarket before it closed or home from work, heedless of the small animals that have no choice. "Faites attention."

I forgot to think about how much better about myself this run would make me feel about myself. I ran on, the fields opening on my left, the forest on my right. I forgot to think about how much better my jeans will fit and the compliments in which I soak when I hold my feet to the fire and run. I ran on, the forest returning on my left, the traffic circle approaching below. 3 kilometers past; 4.5 to go. I forgot to think about the blog entry I write in my head as I go, rather than listening to music. I ran on, repeating "light and easy, light and easy" with my breathing, laboring. I thought about the bird. I slowed, and I walked, the fields now on both sides again, the evening sun low over the grasses waving in the breeze, lighting their feathery tips.

A car approached, driving lazily, unlike the others, the Audis and the four wheel drives, who rushed past in a blur and a burst of modernity, puissance. An old white Peugeot, timeless, made merely to move. There were two people in it. I imagined them relaxed, content. I saw the tufts of grass at the edge of the road alongside my feet, and I thought, It could be so long ago. It could be anytime. Except my New Balance sneakers, of course.

They kind of wreck it.

I thought, I could be gone tomorrow (I must have been thinking of the bird), and it would be alright for this evening.

I looked up at the wind turbines just past the crest of the ridge up on the other side of the Seine, the rolling hills covered in fields and patches of forest, the lines of houses showing where the villages went and finally ended above the road over there along the Seine.

We have wind turbines here.

I arrived at the posts of the road across the field, alongside the little orchard, back to the road home, and began to run again. I felt terrible. Terribly thirsty, and tired. I wanted to stop.

"No. You won't."


"No. This is about the mind. This is about choices, and I am the one deciding. Go. At least to the bend, like yesterday, and then we'll see."


I made it home in 5 minutes less than yesterday's and the day before's time. A full 5 minutes off 4.66 miles.

"Thank you," I told myself.

But, there was only panting, and a faint urge to be sick on the sidewalk, but I have my appearance to keep.

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