I once had a dead cat tell me I need to be more in touch with my feral side. That cat has been haunting me ever since. Ghosts, they’re real, stop denying it. Everyone has something from their past that haunts them. Mine is a dead cat. It’s also a break up in high school. That ghost is the ghost of guilt and regret. Another ghost is a man who I spent six months with on a bird colony island sanctuary for six months with 7 others. Thats the ghost of shame.
There’s probably other ghosts in my life too, one for each fault, for each buried issue. But that cat, man, that cat just keeps going on haunting me.
Feral. Ferus. Wild animal. Untamed, escaped from captivity. Free from domestication. Feral is the hero that leaves home and never looks back. Feral is the Sheep herder in southern Spain who sells all his sheep, his only measurement of security, and crosses the great desert of Africa and transforms into the wind. Feral is the freedom and liberty we all value so much but fear even greater. It’s the human nature we left to die and turn into a ghost, that haunts us every day, every time we strap on our shoes and walk across concrete and feel absolutely sheepish in the wild.
That ghost haunts you every moment you start functioning more like a complex design of parts acting in expected, mechanized, two dimensional ways. It haunts you every time you encourage your baby to stand up and walk for the first time like that’s some sign of it’s progress, like you’ve got some agenda you know is best, like crawling is some primitive savage way of moving that only beasts of the wild do and we don’t want to have anything to do with them. Like speeding up the crawling phase somehow makes your kid smarter when in fact it is those essential exploratory kinetic lateral movements that allow the two sides of the brain to get to know each other intimately, married in holy matrimony. We’re creatures of the wild, we always will be, and until we we accept that, we are going to continue to be haunted by the ghosts of the dead oceans and forests and buffalo and birds and kitty cats who tell us to get in touch with our feral side.
It’s dark out, but the birds are awake and the Coqui frogs turn to slumber. The time between night and day is an exhilarating transition. It’s when the Mountain Lion hunts, it’s when life is most vulnerable and death is most vibrant. I’m laying in bed but am surprisingly awake. I wonder what’s woken me. I feel around and sure enough the bottom half of my body is naked. That’s usual for me. I didn’t go to bed that way. Standard feral procedure. As soon as my conscious drifts into sleep, by wild body does its very best to remove any signs of civilized attire. I’d like to think it’s my feral side, compliant by day, rebellious by night. It hasn’t quite figured out how to take the top half off.
But that’s not what woke me. I’m having a particularly hard time raising my head. In fact, I can’t do it at all. There’s a numbing pain coming from my right shoulder and neck. Woah. That hurts. I roll over and try to lift myself onto my side. I grunt. A sharp pain slices up my spine like a spray of hot grease. I’m definitely awake now. No chance of falling back asleep. I guess it’s a good a time as any to start my day, but I can’t seem to get out of bed. Usually it’s mental. You know, like those online questionnaires to measure your depression symptoms, “do you struggle getting out of bed each day?” But this is physical.
I manage to swing my legs around to the edge of the bed. I forget my mosquito net is there, and my feet get caught in an already large gap in the screen. It’s dark out. Now I’ve trapped myself in my own protective screen and the left side of my back is out of commission. Maybe I’m not supposed to experience today.
Then I remember I’m supposed to meet Rich the prospective bike buyer in town in an hour. I do a little fish out of water maneuver to loosen my feet, grit my teeth and slip down on the floor. My feet make contact with the rug. I’m standing. The rug feels particularly damp. I smell rat piss. I’ll deal with that later. For now, back to the basics. Gotta make it to my yoga mat. Gotta get down in child’s pose. Gotta sell this bike.
I stretch a little bit, breathe into the tight muscles surrounding my shoulder blade and rib cage, trying to explore my body, discover what’s acting up. What went wrong? The theories start whirling. Probably when I tried to make a weightlifting workout carrying two, five gallon water jugs down from car port. That on top of carrying 5 gallon buckets of water to water the new beds of Taro. Probably all the pounding from the increase of running mileage. Probably the hunched over posture biking up the hill.
No time to waste sulking in where I might have neglected my body. Gotta hunch down on that monster frame bike and zoom down the hill. T-minus 20 minutes.
I throw on my rain coat. A a coqui frog throws itself out of the sleeve. Territorial bastards. I fly down the road, dropping into the cloud cover over the bay, feeling the cool drizzling particles kiss my face a million times. I hit the base of the hill, swoop through a couple intersections and coast into the coffee shop. I get in line, looking for the cheapest thing on the menu, small drip by the looks of it, when lanky Rich stands up from his lookout spot behind me and lingers in his American Apparel hoody and the latest trendy framed glasses.
“Hey, are you Jon -” He hesitates, “Erik?”
I’m a sensitive guy, I get intimidated easily. But his hesitancy is reassuring. This guy is approachable. Reminds me of Portland. There’s a lot of that in Hilo. I like it. I show him my bike, he’s pretty sure his friend used to own it, typical small town symptom. I show him the works, and being my too-honest-for-my-own-good self start pointing out the kinks. Dammit, I’m thinking, The guy’s not gonna want to buy my bike at this rate. Gotta switch my game up. Don’t have to lie to do it. Gotta be business like.
“…But it rides real smooth. Solid bike for sure. All tuned up and everything. Got some new tires, derailleur is in good shape. .”
Rich seems nice, he’s eyeing it over. I think he likes it, aesthetically. I tell him to ride around the block, warning him the frame is deceptive in size. He hops on and circles around, dismounts and says he thinks it can work. He slaps some bills in my hand, I shake his – and boom – I just tripled my finances. I’m gonna treat myself to a mocha today. No small drip for this guy.
My feral side starts acting up. Woah, feeling social all of a sudden. Next thing I know I strike up a comfortable conversation with Rich. We talk about his punk band, scavenger hunt bike rides, an ’83 Raleigh, how much we like Portland. I like the guy, and I think there’s more to him. Turns out he works for the Forest Service. I let him know a little about myself; from Seattle, currently unemployed… I drop the and I’m looking for work seed and he says, “well hey I’ve got a lot of scientist friends involved in the rapid Ohia death project, they’re about to get massive State funds and will be needing some technicians. Send me an email and I’ll get you in touch.” Germination station. This seed might bear fruit.
Bonus. Nothing like a profitable transaction followed by a job opportunity. Maybe I’ll treat myself to a bagel and cream cheese with that Mocha. I feel rich, a business man. Roots in the community. Santiago. Siddhartha.No ghosts are gonna get me down today. No shoulder ache is gonna keep me in bed. Today I’m known. Today I’m somebody. A hui ho Bitcin’ Blue Bianchi. So long. Here’s to dead cats.