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Wednesday
Aug292018

What Did Sandy and Heihei See in the Dark ~ I Don’t Really Want to Know

I have been fortunate to welcome in my home two nonhuman guests. I know the “nonhuman” is insulting. It’s like saying “nonwhites” or that women are human beings without penises. Nonetheless, both were female mammals, the first a small dog by the name of Sandy and the second a kitten called Heihei. I have to say both Alexa and Hey Google were somewhat vague on the meaning of the name Heihei and so I had to email Heihei’s owners who are Chinese. Heihei is a Cantonese name, the Chinese character being . The name means “joyjoy.” Fortunately, Alexa and Hey Google were more forthcoming with the name Sandy: originally a diminutive of Alexander and as a feminine name a diminutive of Alexandra or Sandra. Of course, it also refers to a color and in the case of my guest it was very appropriate. Sandy means “protector of humankind.” I have no difficulty seeing Sandy as a protector, in this case of me for a week, and Heihei as joyous. She sure liked to play, or sleep. It was playing or sleeping and not much else. However, I digress.  

I must say, Sandy and Heihei were excellent guest, though I found Heihei more challenging—I did worry sometimes her very sharp claws would meet my favorite brown chair in the snug, which I will get to momentarily. They both were pleasant and enjoyable to have for the week each stayed. They both enjoyed playing and neither did any damage. They both liked to sleep in my lap. They both quickly became loving companions. For the record, they were much better guests than some humans I’ve had, though it’s best not to elaborate. It was sad to say goodbye to Sandy and Heihei when their respective weeks ended. However, there is a “however” coming.

SandyIf you sit on my sofa in the living room, across the room the dining area is directly in front of you and the kitchen to the left of the dining area. At a 45 degree angle to your left in a direct line of sight is a small room my wife and I call “the snug” (we lived in Britain for 30 years). The snug is where Roberta practices her cello and I read, though not at the same time, obviously. It’s a very pleasant room with three bookshelves descending in height from tall to medium to short along one wall. There is a big leather chair and foot rest in the corner next to small and large windows. In the summer I open the large window and luxuriate in a gentle breeze while reading. There are large and small cabinets, a floor lamp next to the chair, and a small table lamp on the small cabinet in the corner opposite the chair and windows. Above the medium bookshelf are two original paintings from Venice and above the small bookshelf an original piece from Shanghai. To the right of the large window, as you look at the window, is a 300 year old map of Scotland (I’m still fascinated that I own a map older than the United States of America). Above the large cabinet is an abstract metal sculpture holding several small candles. And above the small cabinet is a painting by my wife’s father. All in all, it may be the most pleasant room in the house.

On more than a few occasions, as the evening was slipping into night, and night into late, while Sandy and, then months later, Heihei were sitting with me on the couch, they both, independently and in their unique way, suddenly struck a pose of what I can only describe as extreme alertness. Their back feet on the couch seat and their front feet on the arm of the couch, they held their bodies perfectly still and rigidly tense. Their faces were frozen concentration. Though it sounds contradictory, they both looked ready to attack or flee at a moment’s notice. When I turned to them and asked what they saw, neither moved. Neither turned her head towards me. Neither acknowledged my existence. Their eyes remained staring lasers-like into the dark snug.

I’m not a superstitious person, though I must confess I am afraid of the dark, just a little. I assume my fear is simply a species specific genetic inheritance. Such is life. However, I must also confess, seeing first Sandy and then Heihei so suddenly and utterly zoned in on the dark snug did make me to feel more than a little uneasy. As I said, when I questioned them, neither acknowledged my presence when just a moment ago we were pleasantly watching TV together.

HeiheiOf course I assumed they were seeing or sensing something in the snug that I could not see or sense. The fact that two different mammalian species independently and at different times from one another had almost identical reactions to the sung served to confirm that supposition. I also assumed that the “something” either seen or sensed, or both of course, was more ethereal than corporeal. And I chose to believe that whatever Sandy and Heihei were seeing/sensing was benign, if not friendly. I chose to believe this because the snug is such a welcoming and peaceful space.

Do I believe anything I just said? Probably not. Do I believe in ghosts? Probably not. Do I believe animals can see/sense things I can’t? Probably yes. I have come to think that being agnostic about many aspects of reality is probably the more intelligent and reasonable way to be. Am I agnostic about everything? Absolutely not? Am I agnostic about what’s going in on my snug late at not? Probably yes? Do I read in the snug late at night, even without my mammalian friends? Definitely yes. Do I wish I could somehow “speak” with Sandy and Heihei in order to identify what they were experiencing? Probably not. Eventually they both turned their heads to look at me, then back at the snug, and then did an about face and returned to my lap. Neither seemed concerned. In fact, both fell asleep.

Copyright © 2018 Dale Rominger

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