Creating Reality

split-rail12The split rail fence that surrounds the house is about three feet tall. When I walk by it, I feel very tall. It’s decorative; too short to keep in an animal. The rails are about a foot apart. So it’s purely decorative.

Or so I thought. Last year the family that lives in the house adopted a Rottweiler, and shortly afterwards, a Rottweiler puppy. Rottweilers are big dogs, an adult male weighs more than 100 pounds. These two dogs were friendly–when I walked ,by they stood on the fence and wagged their tails so hard each  body imagesswayed. When I approached, the larger one put his paws on my shoulders, licked my face and pulled my earphones out of my ears–accidentally. Getting them back was not easy–the big guy thought it was a game and the little one stuck his head under the fence and untied my shoelaces.

Finally untangled, shoes tied, earphones in place, I continued on my walk. Both dogs could easily have ignored the fence and followed me, but neither did. For them, it was the end of their property and the puny split rail fence might as well have been 10-feet tall and made of iron sheets. The owner confirmed that neither dog had ever jumped the fence, no matter how tempting the running cat, the escaped ball, the newsboy on his bike.

OrangesWestMy own yard is surrounded by a block fence six feet tall. The first day Buster (my 10-pound tuxedo cat) encountered it, he thought it marked the end of the known world.

Then he watched a bird fly from the orange tree over the fence.

Without taking a running jump, he hopped up the fence as if it were a sidewalk, making it to the top in two leaps. From there, he could see the rest of the world, and as the fence runs the length of the block, he began to explore.

Buster, the always-curious tuxedo cat.

Buster, the always-curious tuxedo cat.

He’s had many adventures, and a few misadventures from the top of that fence, but he has never treated it as a boundary. As a step, yes; a walkway, sure; a jumping off point, certainly.

It took me two years to train him not to leave the edges of the yard, and he no longer jumps off the fence into anyone else’s yard (largely because one neighbor has a pit bull and the other a Doberman) but I never could master keeping him off the wall altogether. It’s his window seat to the world.

We create our own reality as surely as those dogs and cats do. The dogs refuse to jump over a fence that comes up to their chests;  the cat scales a fence that’s six times his height–without a second thought. To the dogs, the fence is the end of their permitted world; to the cat, the fence is a way to see the world.

If we think we can’t get over something, we surely won’t. If we think of an obstacle as insurmountable, it will be.  If we want to run up a fence to see over the top, we can do that, too. We can have obedient dog mind and stay with the reminder of a few sticks. We can create mischievous cat mind and hurtle ourselves into the unknown. The decision is always yours. You create your own reality.

-Quinn McDonald tries to be an obedient rule-follower, but occasionally, the block wall needs to be hurdled.

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23 responses to “Creating Reality

  1. Hazel informs me that whatever it is you have is definitely no longer a cat. She (ouch) told me to (ow) say that.

  2. Another perspective, sometimes walls are for keeping us safe . . . with reason. We build them for ourselves and sometimes, with love, people build them for us. And if someone isn’t brave enough to venture out alone, take them to look over the top until they feel braver. Build some scaffolding so they can rest at the top before they leap, be the scaffolding and hold their hand. Sometimes people stay put because they simply don’t know the options.

    Holding hands is something I like doing . . . as holder and holdee. I’d put a smiley face Quinn but I know you don’t much like them.

  3. In the time of the ancient Egyptians, cats were considered royalty. Rules do not apply to royalty! Thought you knew, Quinn!!! (from someone who has had cats for over 50 years)…

    • There’s that, too. Aretha is definitely royalty. She was feral when we got her, but now, 14 years later, she has assumed royalty. Tunuki comes from a long line of sumo wrestlers, judging from his body type. A type of royalty, too. But Buster? He’s a frat boy. If he has opposable thumbs, he’d be watching ESPN (using the remote to switch between games) and drinking beer. There is not one idea of trouble that he has not explored–from doing swimmer’s turns down a two-landing stairway in one of our houses to pouncing on us from the highest location in the room–and don’t ask how he got on top of those places. I think he has grappling hooks and lines stowed somewhere.

  4. Constructing a reality is meticulous, exacting work. You can’t rely on your senses; chickens see more colors, dogs are pretty sure we don’t even have noses, and we don’t even possess the magnetic, electrical, and other senses we know to be in use. You can’t rely on untrained visualization; you can do it in 3 dimensions but visualization beyond that takes loads of practice (according to the mathematicians who can do it). And sloppiness — lack of meticulous, dedicated, thoughtful attention — can lead to a false sense of completeness. A certain percentage of the “stuff” in the universe — that percentage being about 95% — is missing. Its effects are known, but what and where it is? Nope. The best part of that is that stuff in the universe is pretty evenly distributed, so that 95% is not just “out there” somewhere. It’s right in front of us right this second. Reality indeed.

  5. Cats are never trained; their interests just happen to coincide with ours.

  6. Yes to wall hurdling! And it’s even more fun if you can manage to get someone to go with you. Of course, following the rules (most of the time) has its reward too. :)

  7. Love the way you tell the story of the dogs, the fence & your (trained, wow!) cat! Thank you, I needed to hear this today!

    • Buster is the most independent cat I’ve owned, and that’s saying a lot. The training took two years, involved a lot of treats, and was done out of fear that one of the large dogs in the neighborhood would snatch him off the fence and kill him for being so annoying. At times, I thought I would if they didn’t! Part of his “training” is age–and he got into several fence-fights with feral cats that may have changed his mind. The vet bills made me determined to keep him in the yard–at some level. Oddly enough, the other two cats we own have never once tried to scale the fence.

      • I’m not so sure you “own” cats. Hazel (the cat) who — simply out of convenience — lives near us most of the time and often samples (purely out of bored curiosity) the food we coincidentally leave out would, I’m sure (if she deigned to talk to us) clarify that you certainly do not.

        • I’ve had cats like that, too. The current set of three, we “own.” One of them follows me around like a dog; won’t drink water out of a bowl, only out of a running faucet; sits and begs at the dinner table; scratches at the closet door and brings me a brush to be brushed with, stands in front of the cat food door and sneezes when he wants catnip, and on cold nights, he sleeps under the covers. Yes, he’s spoiled, and he’s the frat boy of this story, but he’s owned.

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