Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Bobcat Tree

The bobcat wrote on the trunk of the alder tree as she climbed, a quick exuberant shimmy up and down, claws in soft bark, at dusk. Getting out that almost boundless red energy cats sometimes fill up with. The neater scratch-marks, four alongside each other, are from her back feet pushing her up the tree. The longer slashes, almost desperate, are her front claws, hugging the tree, pulling her upward as she danced along that slightly curved trunk, just the right size to get her arms around. Then she scooted down again, backwards, and carried along her way.

Cats like to play, said one of my tracking teachers (of the Marin Tracking Club). They have quick metabolisms. Sometimes they just need to let off steam at the end or beginning of the day. In the crepuscular hours.
 I put my hands in the places she had etched. They looked a little bit like Ogham letters, those ancient runic marks used to write out the Old Irish alphabet, often on small sticks, in wood. The letters are shaped like branches, but also like a cat’s paw, evenly scraping bark. Maybe early inspiration for the shapes of letters, and the medium for writing them on, grew from the sight of wildcat scrapes and climbs up trees. Their marks of passage, play and hiding.
I put my fingers in the grooves. The alder was starting to heal up the edges, callous them over with silvery bark. I tried to imagine where the bobcat was now, like a teacher told me to do— put your hand in the track, feel it with your fingers, read it with your fingers. Imagine yourself into that mind. Humans have been doing this for hundreds of millions of years. It feels like magic, to let your mind fold and expand in this way.
Maybe she went along her way and fished a chestnut-coated gopher out of his hole. Maybe she cleaned the points of her tapered ears. Maybe listened for the great-horned owl, sniffed at the messy marks left by people, crept through the nettles, keeping to the shadows, staying out of the moonlight, listening for voles in their tunnels of grass. 

Nearby lush patch of nettles. Maybe she hid under these, assuming cats don't get stung like people do.

Adjacent meadow, Bear Valley, full of vole runs. 

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