The other morning, I was watching Kiva, our cat, out in the back yard. Her focus was unwavering as she jumped from some blade of grass that was stirring in the breeze to a flying thing in the air that I couldn’t see, but which she pounced on, or tried to. After a while, she headed to a patch of dirt under the branches of our Mulberry tree, where pods of pollen have begun to appear in their ancient and faithful ritual of spring. Kiva then moved on to her practice of cat-yoga and began to roll around in the dirt, with a range of movement beyond anything available to mere humanity.
Then Bailley, our chihuahua-mix, came out into the backyard through the dog-door. For a moment, I am shocked to see that he is stark naked. The coat that Nature gave Bailley is shorter than my head of hair is today, after my second buzz-cut of the year; and I realize that Bailley wearing no cloths must be a sign of the imminent arrival of summer.
I wonder how Bailley feels about moth-balling his extensive wardrobe, of which he is exceedingly fond. Our other dog, Red, and also Kiva, might have lasted a day or two in the previous Ice Age, but Bailley is so dependent on his sweaters and jackets to withstand the mild New Mexico winters that he is ecstatic when my wife holds up one and asks if he wants to put it on.
Forget about the reputed color-blindness of dogs: there are some days when the forest green hunting jacket is right and others when a red Icelandic sweater calls out to him.
How extensive is Bailley’s wardrobe? Well, let me put it this way: if he were to win the lottery and shop for his own house, a walk-in closet would be a non-negotiable item. Clearly what began as a matter of comfort has become a love of style.
I seem to have lost my train-of-thoughts, or perhaps I got off at the wrong station. So, what was I saying before I started wandering in this stream of consciousness?
Actually, since you bring it up, I don’t think that I am actually the one who is wandering; I am more like a raft floating on a meandering stream of thinking, as it bubbles forth from some unknown spring in far off mountains; I’m just a passive passenger bobbing along wherever the stream decides to take me.
It occurs to me that if Bailley has imported a sense of style into the practical issue of staying warm, that is nothing compared to how I have woven a spider’s web around my own perceptions and thoughts, while leaving entirely unexamined whatever practical considerations set up their tents in the distant past. In my conditioned mind, castles of contingency tower above whatever practical interests engendered them. But–oh, yes–I was talking about my cat’s concentration, wasn’t I?
If Kiva lived in an Ashram in India or a temple in a Buddhist country, they might adopt the phrase “Kiva-mind” in place of the phrase “monkey mind” to indicate our mind’s tendency to jump from thought-to-thought and reaction-to-reaction. But it also seems true that Kiva has a capacity for concentrated focus that far exceeds my own, if only for a few moments at a time. I would like to have a bit of that for myself. Then I could apply it while I’m drifting along on the stream of consciousness with no paddle. And when a monkey reaches down from an overhanging branch and tries to steal my lunchbox, I would hold on tight, while I’m pulled out of my canoe of comfortable inertia; then I might experience what it feels like to live in the trees, from whose branches I’ve heard it said that my kind recently descended.