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Jinny has been very ill and is currently undergoing rehabilitation so she will not be writing her article for awhile. She is making excellent progress and hopes to be able to return to writing her column in the near future... Adele.
I read a biography of Charles Darwin once where he talked about what made him want to become a naturalist. His grandfather was a naturalist, which might have had something to do with it. When he told his grandfather what he wanted to be when he grew up, the venerable gentleman had only one piece of good advice for him, he said, “If you want to study nature, my boy, you had better learn to accept one thing; nature is a slaughterhouse”. When Darwin began to seriously study nature, he discovered that his grandfather's assessment was absolutely spot on. Nature is a dangerous game.
My poor mother, the ultimate animal lover, found this a difficult and bitter pill to swallow. She would get all excited about watching some documentary on some animal she adored only to be treated to the dreadful cruelty of the food chain or the ruthlessness of the survival instinct. I remember watching a documentary on lions with her one time, (my mother loves cats of all shapes and sizes), which ended up putting her in tears. The narrator was explaining that when a male lion takes over a pride by pounding the stuffing out of the current male top gun, the first thing he does is slaughter all the cubs that are in the pride. This little bit of business was accompanied by film, of course, which made it all the more nasty. This is how nature works, the entire point is to ensure your survival, both literally and genetically, so when a lion finds himself with a nice harem of ladies with whom to breed, it is first incumbent upon him to eliminate his rival's gene pool. This little bit of knowledge so upset my poor mother that she started to cry and proclaimed that from that moment on, she would hate all lions. At least the male ones anyway.
“Let me get this straight.” I said to her. “You, the president of the big kitty fan club, now hate lions because they do what nature intends for them to do and what millions of years of evolution has dictated they must do.”
“Yes.” she stated stoutly, “I hate lions and I hate nature.”
Her response, of course, was purely emotional and based upon just witnessing several minutes of lion cub slaughter in the wild. I was willing to cut her some slack. I shook my head.
“Mom, of all the things in the universe that it is a total waste of time to hate, nature is the biggest one. You can't hate nature, or lions for that matter, it and they are neither good nor evil, they are just what they are.”
I wasn't surprised by her horror and anger. When we were young my mother rescued numerous cats and raised plenty from the day they were born on bottles, and no matter how many she had, she never could stand it when they murdered mice or squirrels or birds and proudly brought them home to show her. She would shriek at the poor cat and swat them with a rolled newspaper or chase them off with a tongue lashing. My mother wanted the peaceable kingdom, darn it, and she was going to have it one way or the other. Her anger never ceased to astound the poor cats, who were just doing what cats do, whether they are a tabby or a tiger, and doing it with all the efficiency innate in any feline. They are arguably the most perfect of predators, fast, quiet, patient, and fierce. They are designed by nature to hunt and kill, not sit around knitting attractive sweater sets.
My brothers and I never suffered from the desire to turn animals into humans or imbue them with human traits. They are animals, not human toddlers, and even the most domesticated of them still have the instincts of their ancestors. It has always struck me as kind of arrogant to deny them what makes them what they are. I was never crazy about my cat killing chipmunks, but I didn't see much point to getting all worked up about it. Having a stern talk with my kitty wasn't likely to make him stop. What was I going to do, ground him? He wasn't hungry, he never ate the little darlings he murdered, and he often looked fairly confused about what exactly he was supposed to do with his prey, which was kind of sad in its own way. Deep inside him was the instinct, the drive to do the thing that nature had designed him for and he was sometimes helpless to resist it. The poor guy probably had some psychological issues. He was almost 30 pounds, lazy as a lord, and adored by us all, but when he decided to be a cat he was sleek, fast, agile, infinitely patient, and amazing to watch. He was what nature had made him. And if you were a chipmunk who wasn't paying enough attention, you found that out the hard way.
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