Shades of Gray

It’s very hard to craft a *place* entry when my place for the last week or so has mostly been my house, more particularly, my living room, where I can still be found coughing uncontrollably and existing on a diet of soup and popsicles. I wonder why it is that whatever illness Z brings home from school always seems to hit me hardest (well me and now her baby sister). So I have no choice but to write a place-by-proxy entry…

One of my only excursions into the outdoors this week, an early morning walk with Pepper, rushed because it was cold, because we were running late and because there were, as always, things to do and places to be. On the return home, in a yard, there was the briefest flash of white and black very nearby. Instinctively, my mind immediately went back to the last time. As such is the nature of The Peppy, she barked and lunged. And I couldn’t help but immediately panic. And how sorry I felt for that poor hapless black and white kitty on the receiving end of such an unwelcome morning greeting. I guess some things will never change, some instincts are just that, instincts, overwhelming and hard-wired.

But the encounter got me thinking more about these creatures – not the kitties, though the whole indoor vs. outdoor cat issue is definitely post-worthy – who are such a ubiquitous part of this place. Until coming here, I’m not sure I ever saw a skunk in real life, had only experienced their presence left behind. I think about my English friend, smelling one for the first time in California, since there are no skunks where he comes from (a place where there are also no fireflies, sadly). And I realize that although I have always known of them, like my friend, I really don’t know them at all. But I am learning. Just last week I watched the PBS episode of “Nature” “Is That Skunk?”. Fascinating stuff. I am most compelled by the idea that skunks are marginal animals – literally and figuratively – that live on, in, around the borders between natural and unnatural spaces; they make their homes in the artificial borders that we humans have created. I think of my UK student Johnny, and his interest in these borderland areas. And wonder whether there is an English animal counterpart, some animal there that makes its home primarily in these blurry places.

That show, and my recent skunk encounters, serve as good introductions to what will probably be more research, more of my own learning about this place where I live (and where I shall probably live for quite a while longer).


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