Remembering To Be Gay

I think I love animals because they keep me from being as much of a grouch as I usually am.

I stuck the link to this in a comment on Cheri’s blog because the subject of cougars came up. Then I had to watch it over a couple of times. The cougar playing “drown the stick” in his sanctuary pond is fourteen, declawed, kept for most of his life in an anchor-fence enclosure, and half-starved when he was finally rescued after the death of his owners.

He still has Beginner’s Mind, or perhaps it is Cub Heart, even if he does not have a sure foot.

Thirty-five or forty years ago I clipped this poem, the first of Roethke’s I ever read, from a magazine that had reprinted it:

The Dance
By Theodore Roethke

Is that dance slowing in the mind of man
That made him think the universe could hum?
The great wheel turns its axle when it can;
I need a place to sing, and dancing-room,
And I have made a promise to my ears
I’ll sing and whistle romping with the bears.

For they are all my friends: I saw one slide
Down a steep hillside on a cake of ice, —
Or was that in a book? I think with pride:
A caged bear rarely does the same thing twice
In the same way: O watch his body sway! —
This animal remembering to be gay.

I tried to fling my shadow at the moon,
The while my blood leaped with a wordless song.
Though dancing needs a master, I had none
To teach my toes to listen to my tongue.
But what I learned there, dancing all alone,
Was not the joyless motion of a stone.

I take this cadence from a man named Yeats;
I take it, and I give it back again:
For other tunes and other wanton beats
Have tossed my heart and fiddled through my brain.
Yes, I was dancing-mad, and how
That came to be the bears and Yeats would know.


5 thoughts on “Remembering To Be Gay

  1. I love the other cougar in the background, clearly wanting to come over and do a better job with the whole thing.

    There’s a big cat rescue sanctuary about an hour from where I live, and it’s both the most inspiring and most heartbreaking place imaginable. One of their rescues was three cougars who had been illegally purchased as cubs, and who had spent their whole lives chained in a barn. The cats were several years old when the sanctuary acquired them, and put them into a multi-functional habitat where they could be outside as well as inside. There’s a film clip somewhere, probably on YouTube, of the cougars’ reaction the first time they felt rain…their amazement.

    The keepers who work at this place are very cheerful about the fact that they run the risk, daily, of being killed. All of them have battle scars. They all feel it’s worthwhile.

    • At least Fergie is a little steadier on the stair railing, but I still prefer to keep him off it…

      My Patty Twinkle used to prowl along the edge of the bathtub on the rare occasions I actually immersed myself instead of showering. Dip. Shake. Dip. Shake.

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