I have been reading Mark Seal's Wildflower about the life (and death) of Joan Root: Kenyan, once wife of wildlife documentary film-maker Alan Root. Joan is pictured on the cover: devastatingly beautiful, gently touching the nape of a very young elephant who is leaning in, sad-eyed, to nestle in the drape of her skirt. Joan Root: protectress of orphaned, injured, vulnerable wildlife.
How I want to be her! I have always wanted to be her. Age 8-14, I spent enough time at the Singapore Zoological Gardens, the vet's office where I volunteered on weekends, and the Bukit Timah Saddle Club that I knew a lot about otters, spaying cats and horses afraid of snakes, but little about reading or writing (age 10, I couldn't distinguish between "b" and "d." Dyslexia? Nope: ignorance).
So, reading about Joan Root and baby hippos has stirred up some stuff for me, making my own "wildlife" encounters over the last 24 hours oddly, poetically, heightened.
Ahem, well. There have only been two.
First, the baby robin perched on the messy loops of our sprawling garden hose yesterday afternoon. It sat and looked at me, unwavering, with eyes that seemed too big, too black, for its small head. It had the patchy coloration of a tortoiseshell cat. I went to lift it into the bushes, and it ran before I touched it, small wings slightly flapping, into the hedge. I fetched it a bowl of water (it was 95F yesterday). I haven't seen it again. But I think on those eyes, seemingly accusing me of NOT being able to effect a decent rescue.
Second, with the same coloring, the young female cat who adopted Winton, Clara, Hardie and me this morning as we were out for our morning "walk" (actually a dash behind Winton who is always a mere trip and stumble away from falling into the street). She followed us, rubbing up against the kids, puffing her tail out and hissing at Hardie, bouncing into bushes and then suddenly reappearing on the path ahead of us, the whole way home. This despite my efforts to scare her away by yelling "TSSSSTTT!" and clapping. Also in spite of the fact that the last half block involves a very busy street.
Channeling my inner Joanness, I could not leave to take the kids to school with an adolescent tortoiseshell cat playing with the dead leaves on our porch, traffic zooming by. So, we put the dog inside and walked with her all the way back to where she had first joined us. It's in the 90s again today. Cat and children all panting by the time we arrive back . . . well back where she had originally emerged from under a parked car. It became clearer as I thought about it that this cat, despite her friendliness, probably didn't have a home.
I asked a woman sitting on her front porch in her nightie if she knew from whence the cat hailed. Answer: from the vacant lot overrun with trees covered in vines. Crap.
At this point the following happened: Winton took off at a run down the sidewalk, little cat in hot pursuit, the two of them advancing, obliviously, towards a man walking an increasingly excited pitbull on a length of rusty chain, and Clara started to cry.
This is what I did: picked up Clara, ran to Winton and the cat, put Clara down next to her brother, picked up the cat, ran back to the lady in the nightie, passed the cat to her (she looked alarmed: I feel bad about that bit), ran back to the children, picked up Winton, grabbed Clara's hand and RAN with them past the tail-whippingly enthralled pitbull all the way back home.
But what would Joan have done? Tortured by my desire to have little cat (No no no. I can't. We have two cats and a dog already) I have since been back sans children and talked to Miss Nightdress (who had already contacted an animal rescue organization, and had little cat contained on her porch) and brought some tins of catfood by way of apology for passing a small irate animal to her earlier and then running away.
Oh but I want little cat. Damn. Damndiddity.