Atop this garbage dump, settled in our trailer, overlooking a heavily forested community, surrounded by muddy roads, surprisingly found me up to my neck in animals. I am not clear in my memories around the role of animals in my life or even when they were first introduced but it seems in this place there were a lot of them, coming and going, simply long enough to teach me something I was supposed to pay attention to as a life lesson before they were gone again.
I have memories of a bird, fish, cats, and dogs, oh, and some bees. My curiosity around animals awoke in this place. I wanted to explore all types of animals and bugs, finding out what made them tick, how they related to each other, how they felt when I squished the bugs, or chased the other animals. The bees played a role when my brother and I discovered a wasp’s nest hanging from the back roof line of our neighbour’s trailer. Then we found a long stick. The two seemed to be a natural fit, however we also found out just how painful wasp’s stings are – my brother more than me but in his defence, I was two years older and could out-run him – or in this instance – the bees.
Oddly enough I don’t recall animals following us when our gypsy family uprooted once again and hit the highway. Some of that was circumstance perhaps, meaning the last of the fish were flushed down the toilet, but I do have a vague memory of having to give up a dog or two as one of our last steps before leaving that town for the next one. I am not sure why the rhythm of life went that way – why my parents opted for that methodology, but it is sad to me to think back and remember this as being standard moving practice for our family.
In this place, for instance, there were memories of a very cute small brown and fluffy dog. Its name eludes me but I loved it nonetheless. I remember it had run away and was gone for a considerable amount of time. I want to believe it came back and I was able to enjoy its company for a few more months before we left and gave it away but I am not too clear on what might of happened. Then there was our bird who was incredibly friendly and would fly around the house and sit on your head or your shoulders. It would great you with a hello and other cute phrases. This bird either flew away or it died but either way it didn’t make the trip to the next town either.
Then there was our cat. I have one distinct memory of that cat. It didn’t make it to the next town as well but its fate is less clear to me. My memory is going to bed one evening and being woken up very early the next morning by the sound of many tiny squeaks. I woke up to blood and goop all around me. I instinctively rolled over to reveal that I had almost suffocated a tiny newborn kitten. I sat up straight in my bed, traumatized by my surroundings. During the course of the night hours our cat had decided to give birth to nine kittens on my bed, all around me. I didn’t even know the cat was pregnant. I didn’t even understand pregnancy and birth come to think of it. But I did understand horror and I could not move.
I don’t know what happened to the cat or the kittens. I probably pushed it out of my mind. My relationship with cats would not improve over the years, although I believe I gave it an honest effort. I did learn a lot about life though. I learned that sometimes when people leave they don’t come back. I learned that life and life’s circumstances can sometimes be quite messy. I learned that it only takes the smallest of things to make truly intimate connections and I learned that over feeding is not always a loving thing to do because sometimes you just end up belly up, only to be flushed down a toilet in a very unceremonious ending to your short existence. But, most importantly, I was learning how to connect to the natural beauty around me, to be curious about it and to engage with it. I wanted more of that as a little boy. I heard the call of the wild calling my name!
So why the hell is it that I can’t stand being outdoors today? Even the concept of walking to my car from my house bothers me. What happened that nature and I decided to part company? As I sit here and try to remember I have some memories coming to light but that is still a couple communities away…