Sunday, 23 June
Good Morning Justin…
The other day the dog, Jake, had his long coat of fur shaved very short so he could better endure the heat of summer. He now looks half the size of before. Where he once reminded me of an Eskimo’s dog, the kind that pulls a sled across snow, he now appears as a young coyote, not yet fully grown. It was the same last summer. More than once people have asked me on our walks where the other dog was, thinking I had two to care for. No, this is still just Jake. He is so much happier not having to wear that long, heavy coat in the sweltering heat. Imagine you getting bundled up in a thick winter overcoat before stepping outside to bask in the tropical sun. It might not drive me mad but you best stay clear of me. I would be very irritable. Offering me a tall, cool lemonade would only serve to illustrate the ridiculous nature of my predicament. What’s this – lemonade on ice? I’ve got an idea. Why not relieve me of this horrendous coat? It’s driving me crazy carrying this steam room about.
So Jake is now happier but he still does as before and spends the heat of the day sprawled out beneath the deep shade of a tree. He mostly spends his nights sleeping directly beneath the starry sky. Small, curious stars also fly about the yard during early evening. It’s the fireflies working very hard to stay aloft. They make ungainly fliers with bodies almost too large for their wings. The phosphorous lamp that is their tail is a beacon slowly flashing on and off to announce their availability to the opposite sex. Hey, I’m over here. Why don’t we get together on some leaf and make it happen? The rendezvous is likely to be a simple romance. Your first task is to make sure you’re dealing with the same species and, once that is affirmed, you need only discover your lover’s complementary organ. It’s the single’s dream of carefree, no guilt sex.
As we move up the evolutionary ladder it becomes increasingly challenging to make a couple. Some birds have elaborate dance steps as part of their mating ritual. You frustrate your partner to no end if you can’t get your moves straight. Was it left step, right step, left step then extend my wings before I hold up a piece of nesting material or do I flap my wings after I show her the sprig? Never mind. She’s moved on to someone else.
Imagine the difficulty in being a porcupine. These solitary creatures meet only one day out of the year. It’s like everything happens only on Sadie Hawkins Day. If you lose track of the day you’re plain out of luck. Here I am running around the forest in hormone overdose mode only to find the place is deserted because the big day was yesterday. There’s a beaver stream nearby. I think I will hit on the one with the cute aspen twigs.
Of course, the signals, rituals and charming behavioral cues involved in human courtship can seem complex, contradictory and confusing. People write books on the subject. We all have favorite songs relating the highs and lows of romance. As a ‘for instance,’ here’s a lyric from way back when:
I’m getting married in the morning,
Ding, Dong, the bells are going to chime…
To possibly being followed one day by the Hall and Oates lyric
She’s gone oh I, oh I’d
Better to learn how to face it…
She’s gone – what went wrong?
Of course, these are musty examples from long ago. They've been replaced by contemporary renderings but the emotions expressed are the same – exhilaration and loss. Every one of us carries songs like these within us from a very young age because the feelings and experience they express are universal. We have no problem relating to their basic message. Love is a blend of honey and thorns. I think I was aware of both by the tender age of seven – loved, then dumped for another in the second grade. It’s all love. It may strike you on any given day. A simple trip to the pet store to buy your turtle food may result in a young lady giving you an extra moment of her day. You find it’s just enough to set the phosphorus in your cheeks all aglow.