A Cat Among Raccoons
I once had a cat named Michaelangelo ; a foursquare, sturdy, long haired tiger cat I met as a kitten when he came walking along my backyard fence, yowling at me and looking quite distressed. He had no ma, he said ; so I picked him up, and that was all that needed to be said between Michaelangelo and me.
I called the little cat Michaelangelo for his sturdy build and posture, and once he had had some milk, the generally noble pose he struck in the world. He had a bearing as if he could have been painted by the artist Michaelangelo. When I thought of Michaelangelo’s “ Last Judgement “ on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, I imagined him walking at the feet of the great heroic kings and prophets, wholly in the spirit of it, and looking quite at home.
Where I lived in San Francisco at that time, I had a basement room looking out to the garden, with an upstairs porch room built on pillars just above and outside my window.
One cold winter night I woke up to quite a lot of strange grunting and purring-cooing sounds in the garden ; loud and mysterious enough that I got out of bed to look. As I peered out between the curtains, I saw the garden flooded in moonlight ; and not just with eerie light, but with busily moving forms. Not at all small ones.
Close by on the patio I saw Michaelangelo, sitting bolt upright, back to a pillar, thick tail wreathed tightly round him ; and on every side raccoons - many raccoons, not less than nine ; a full family, exploring, sniffing, boldly foraging the garden, their grunting and purring magnified in the cold night air. And there sat Michaelangelo in his dignity : very still, eyes enormous ; looking left, right, left, right, tracking raccoons in every quadrant around him. Circumspect and alert to the end of his last tail hair.
After some time surveying these proceedings, Michaelangelo seemed to come to a decision ; and rising, made his way slowly, in his full dignity to the middle of the patio, and sat. And there, watchful, alert, thick tail around him, raccoons walking by on all sides in the cold moonlight, he remained.
Raccoons are fierce, and can be aggressive - they have been known to kill dogs. But Michaelangelo stood his ground - discretely - and lived to tell the tale.
This moment reminded me that for me, too, there are people and situations which are dangerous to me at certain moments in my life. For us human beings it can be most valuable, even life saving at such times, to have it among our options to be “ a cat among raccoons “. For me, there have indeed been moments over the years when Michaelangelo's example has served me well !
Jeff Smith RN
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