Sunday, December 7, 2008

In which a Torpid, Cartoon Sodden GenXer Encounters Her Spirit Animal

Many cultures believe that we share a cosmic affinity with a totem or spirit animal. In some communities, the coming of age ritual involved a journey into the wilderness to await some vision of their spirit animal. I always imagined mine would be something noble or beautiful, like a lion or a deer.

My majestic spirit animal finally did come to me in one of my direst moments on the ledge of a cliff. You might be asking yourself how it was that I found myself on a cliff in the first place. Well, over the course of my impetuous youth, one of my activities of choice was rock climbing. In all honesty, it started out as a way to impress my esteemed and nearly un-impressible older sibling who was an avid climber. But I grew to enjoy the feel of the rock and how my fingers thought their way over its surface, the fatigue and exhilaration I felt at achieving something I thought I couldn't and, of course...the view from the top.

One year my brother and I travelled to Tahoe to visit my friends and do some rock climbing. This is an image of the cliff. It's called Lover's leap. I have no memory of which route it was (Pop Bottle?) on the cliff. Below is a picture of Blicky climbing there. See those tiny things that appear if you really, really squint. Yes, waaayyy down there at the bottom? Those are trees. Tall ones. At this altitude the wind blows pretty hard and it's hard to hear your older brother/climbing sensei guiding you up the face of the cliff. 
We were on our last pitch and my brother was at the summit belaying me. There was a slight overhang on the first part of the climb that was beyond my pathetic skill level and I just couldn't start up. My legs were shaking from a combination of fatigue and fear that I think some refer to as "the sewing machine effect." Did I mention how far down the treetops were?See?? I think falls from this height have been scientifically shown to make the Coyote and Roadrunner whistling plummet noise, followed by a thump and a cloud of dust at the bottom. I kept shouting up to my brother that I couldn't do the move but most of his responses were inaudible. I'm not quite sure what my options would have been if I hadn't made it. Maybe I would've just stayed there and subsisted on rattlesnake and cliff bars stolen from hapless climbers. I think my brother would've figured something out, but then I would've had to endure the shame of having been hefted up that last pitch and the resulting ignominy. 

At some point we resolved that I would just have to try my hardest while he tried to pull me over that first ledge. I was completely paralyzed by fear. But all of a sudden my fear washed away and my spirit animal appeared to me -- that noble creature that best represents my inherent dignity and stately sense of gravitas.
Yep and here he is (he stopped in to help us string some lights this afternoon). That day on the ledge, all I could picture was the MetLife commercial where Snoopy struggles up a cliff, making these cute little grunts of exertion. Ultimately, there was nothing impressive about the move; my sorry, sorry arse had to be mostly hauled through it, and it's not like it was a super difficult climb (5.6, 5.7). But after I thought of Snoopy my fear literally vanished. These days I no longer climb and I do not permit kittens of mine to scale anything bigger than a breadbox. Maybe this will prevent them from ever encountering their own animal totems. But you know what? The cartoons they watch would just make matters worse. SpongeBob (OK they're not really allowed to watch at home) would just cry until his eyeballs bulged out and My Little Ponies (again, not really allowed) would just sing a song and encourage them to apply sparkly fruit flavored lip gloss.


Poetikat said...

So, you won't be trying out for "The Amazing Race" anytime soon then?

I went indoor rock-climbing once with my niece (2 years ago). I even have the pictures to prove it. It was fun. Especially when I got out of the slingy-thing and put my feet back on terra firma.

Cliff bars are yummy, but I prefer Luna bars.


MuseSwings said...

Blick! I was paralized with fear just thinking about climbing up that cliff. Imagine what it would do to my manicure! I'm glad it turned out well for you, Snoopy, and that you are shielding your kittens from this alternative death defying "sport". I found my spirit animal when I had the boss from hell who was doing everything in his wretched evil power to extract me from my job: Foghorn Leghorn. His little nephew would blow him up every once in a while and leave him naked to the world. He said, as he was pasting each feather back on: Ah keeps mah feathahs numbuhed for just such an occasion. Ah keeps mah feathers numbuhed too!

Poetikat said...

I've had a think about it, and I've just reckoned that I found mah spirit animal: Michigan J. Frog! I only performs my routines for folk in private - never on demand and never for strangers (lessin, it's my poems they wants ta hear, but certainly NO piana-playin' EVER!

Kat (I have noah ideea wha I'm talkin' like Scarlett O'Hara - or her maid!)

LarryG said...

i love snoop dog :)

Blicky Kitty said...

No Kat :) I don't think the Amazing Race is in the cards at present unless "amazing" refers to how slow you are and race is to grab the last Luna bar. I love how Michigan J. Frog looks really moros until he steps into a dance number. :)

Yeah Cynthia it wreaks havoc on both manicures and pedicures and I couldn't face the fear now. Of course having kittens changes your perspective on all things. Foghorn Leghorn is the best. I always wondered why he talked with a southern accent if he was a Rhode Island, I say, Rhode Island Red. I like the analogy with the boss because FL could have taken him out with one lousy peck if he so chose. :)

I agree Larry. Thee original one that is! :)

Nanny Goats In Panties said...

Oh my Gawd, poor Blicky Kitty! What a harrowing experience. I was right there with you. You poor thing. And I see that rock climbing is no good for Blicky as it stretches one arm longer than the other. And there is something ironic (or just odd) about a cat that has a dog as a spirit animal. Although if you had to conjure up anything, Snoopy is the bomb. I collected Snoopy crap (not Peanuts crap, just Snoopy crap) my entire childhood and then some.

P.S. Are you really a taxidermist?

Nanny Goats In Panties said...

This is a dummy comment to subscribe to the comments department.

Debby said...

I'm afraid of heights, so you maybe should just delete my thoughts on the matter, but here goes: "WHAT???? DID YOU LOSE YOUR FREAKING MIND???!!!!!"


PS Cats climb trees. They do not rock climb.

Debby said...

PPS Thank goodness you did not discover your totem was Wile E. Coyote. He fell off a lot of cliffs on a fair regular basis, but always had cute signs and a tragic wave before he dropped.