This summer, returning from one of my rambles in the fields, I met our orange and white cat out in the weeds by the old barn. Understand that this cat climbs into my lap to take naps, that he demands to be picked up and nibbles on my neck with some regularity; we are very good friends. On this occasion, though, he nearly leapt out of his skin. Wild-eyed, his tail bottle-brushed to twice its size, he humped his back, then dashed for the cover of a brush pile to keep an eye on me until he could be sure of who I really was. Sometimes I wish people had as much sense.
Not to say we should run and hide when we meet someone out of the context in which we know them, but all too often we assume we know the whole of a person, effectively putting them in a conveniently labeled box and attributing any behavior outside that box as deviant, when actually it may be key to a deeper comprehension of who that person really is, the whole of their identity which we, to date, have only seen in a limited context. My cat had known me as an indoor being who could occasionally be found outside near the house. Meeting me at the edge of the field rocked his furry little world. His response? To give me room to be what I was going to be outside the context in which he knew me, even if it didn’t fit the box.
(Disclaimer: Whatever reason this cat might have had to assume that an unfamiliar factor in my character might prove in any way dangerous to himself or his dignity is entirely coincidental. Totally unfounded. Utterly speculative. Pure chance. You’ll never prove anything.)