vendredi, avril 16, 2010

A mother's broken heart

When they get tired of watching ESPN at the place where I get therapy for my shoulders, they switch to Animal Planet.

Today, the joint was humming with the crowd eager to get their stretching and exercise in before they went out and played weekend warrior.

Usually I'm not paying much attention to the television. Frankly, I don't give a hoot what kind of hole Tiger has dug for himself now.

But today, as I stretched a blue band back and forth, I was glued to a show about big cats.

It opened with a scene that the expert said was "heart-rending." And, of course, I agreed. A lioness returns to look for her cubs, several of whom have been taken by a predator.

She grimaces...she walks back and forth on the plain. Then they cut away for a while to what's going on with a cheetah or a leopard as it sits in a tree, waiting to attack an antelope or some other unspecting animal (sorry, I wasn't really paying attention).

I do crunches, back stretches, tell the therapists they should avoid tragedies in the afternoon.

And then the lioness is back. She's found her cubs. One of them is fine. The other lies on the ground, legs stretched out -- a tawny body that will never again run, or jump, or hunt for dinner.

And what does the mother do? We watch her bathe her baby with her big tongue as the commentator asks -- doesn't she know it's hopeless?

And then he says, call it what you want to call it, it looks like affection.

I can't help it -- the tears leap to my eyes as I get on the treadmill, hoping no one will notice. Because really, I seem to be the only one in the room who is quite that sensitive. "It's nature" the therapist says to me.

Yet it is a picture now imprinted on my mind.

If we thought often about how elephants grieve the loss of a member of the herd, of how a cow moans for the loss of her calf, of the social networks dolphins and whales have -- would it change the way we treat them? Or allow them to be treated?

I hope so. But I can't answer the question. The instinct to rationalize is powerful among my species.

"I'm not your mother" I tell my black and white cat, Inky, as he jumps on my lap at night. Stretching out his paw, he kneads my stomach, his green eyes narrowing. As he gazes at me, I reiterate the notion, so that he understands it. " I'm not your mother" I repeat.

As much as I do believe that animals feel aggression and grief and affection for their babies, I don't go for that goo goo gah gah sickly sweet sentimentality some Americans take towards their animals.

Do I?

He purrs and looks up at me before settling down to doze in front of the computer.

"I'm not your mother" I tell him as he falls asleep.

Maybe if I repeat it often enough, he and I will both believe it.

2 commentaires:

Catherine a dit…

Elizabeth you are not alone. I think I have seen that episode, and it does move those of us who have an unusual compassion toward those in loss of a child, animal or human.

Thanks for this. I mean it.

dadshouse a dit…

If you start licking your cat, you're in trouble.

That said, I wouldn't mind getting licked by a lioness next time I lay down to sleep.... Just sayin'...