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Poetic Essay: “Animal Days”

Sometimes you get surprisingly good stuff from stream of consciousness writing. This was easily tweaked into something I really wanted to share. Read on below.

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In my life I have been a chameleon. I have clung to the rafters, to the walls, to corners and to couches. Silently I have observed all that happened around me, I listened in on conversations and I kept a sharp look out for anything out of the ordinary. Everything I took in I filed away in my brain, I put the proper label on them for later use and future situations. I memorized conversation patterns and body language. And I made a note of the topics of any conversation I listened in on.

I learned, I adapted and when I felt ready, when I felt that the situation was safe enough I acted. Only when the time was right I added my own voice to discussions, always using what I had learned to contribute to the current conversation. And with time my confidence in my adaptation skills grew. My mimicry became near perfect at times.

In my life I have been a cat. I have kept myself intentionally separate from everyone else; I curled myself up in a corner with a good book or in front of the computer, satisfied with my own company. I remained indoors on murky days, wrapped up in blankets near the radiator. I would gaze out at the people milling about below me and question their motives. Like a stray cat I would be distrustful and take great care before I dared to accept a kind offering from someone, anyone. I would hold my own opinion above that of all others, as trusting the opinion of others had at times led me astray. Yet, I would not suffer in my solitude. I would find no fault in my lazy days, my days indoors, in the treks outside when I saw no one and spoke to no one. When the content of my own head was its own adventure and enough amusement to keep me entertained.

I would climb the low, sturdy branches of trees to see more of the world, but not too high, always keeping the ground within safe view. I would feel pride in my lonely strength and when the sun set I would wrap myself in the blanket of the night and bask in the light of the stars.

In my life I have been wolf. Pardon me if I must correct you, but the idea of the lone wolf is a bit false. A wolf is happiest in a pack, when he can run with those of his own kind. Though he might be part of a strict pecking order, he can find a kind of contentment in knowing his place, his part of a whole.

I have run with a pack in my days. I have wandered up and down in the hierarchy, but rarely felt any dissatisfaction with my place. I have basked in that feeling of belonging, of having a group where I never had to question who I was. All that mattered was that I was me, uniquely me. I ran with the pack and I played with the pack, I searched them out even when they were far away. I made alliances and close bonds, some which lasted only a summer and others who remain strong to this day. I might never have been a true Alpha, or even a Beta, but that never mattered. What mattered was the freedom and peace of mind that came with belonging somewhere.

I have misbehaved as part of my pack, but I have also done things I have taken great pride in. And there is only one true regret I have ever felt about those wolf days of mine…That they eventually came to an end.

In my life I have also been human. I have my human faults and my human strengths. As it turns out, human strengths and human faults are not so dissimilar to the characteristics of an animal.

A human can adapt like a chameleon, a human can observe and think that he has learned something when he is just mimicking something observed in other humans. It is a way to get by, to be sure, but whether this perceived lesson learned is a good one will depend entirely on his company at the time.

A human can be solitary like a cat; he can find pride in remaining apart and separate. He can find a kind of comfort in trusting only his own opinion on things. He can keep other people at a safe distance, to ensure he does not get hurt again. And there is nothing wrong with being a loner or an introvert, as long as it is not a complete isolation from the rest of the world.

A human can be a pack animal like a wolf. It’s written there in our genes if you look at our closest relatives the great apes, most of which live in a group hierarchy of some kind. There is always a safety in numbers, in belonging and feeling like a part of something greater. The human society offers many variants and versions of the group and the only danger that exists there is what kind of group you devote all of your loyalty to.

So I take the lessons I have learned from the chameleon days, the cat days and my wolf days. I take them all inside myself and turn them this way and that. I look at what they gave me and I look at the hidden traps and pitfalls that lurked inside that way of thinking. I take it all with me, neatly folded up in that baggage I will always carry with me.

And I learn.

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