Posted: Saturday, June 30, 2012 7:35:32 PM
Earlier this year a cougar was spotted at various locations in my city. The kind with claws and fur not obtained from a nail salon and high end department store. There were countless comical Facebook statuses about cougars roaming downtown, people were warned to keep a sharp eye on their cats and small dogs, children were forbidden to go play ghost in the graveyard in the woods after dark, and every body started to jump every time they saw a shadow move at night.
We have had cougars in this area before. It’s where they have always lived, and if it weren’t for humans, it would be where they stayed. Yet everybody treated the appearances made by this cougar as a novelty; it was unnatural. Except that it wasn’t.
Cougars have been around much longer than subdivisions, highways, cities, or farms. When the cougar started to be spotted, we began to fear that nature was encroaching on us when in reality we have been encroaching on nature for years. That is not to say that nature is gone. It has just become part of the world that we have found safe and acceptable; flowers, trees, squirrels, birds, deer, insect, spiders and even raccoons and skunks share our world with us as we try and share it with them. We don’t think about these things very often, we just accept them and keep living our lives.
The cougar reminds us that the world we think that we replaced with civilization is still there. This large predatory feline shows us that there are still wild things out there (other than scantily clad soccer moms who hit on pool boys) and that we live in a world that was designed to be wild and dangerous. The wilderness in our world has not disappeared at all. It lives around us right under our noses, ignoring our air conditioning and electricity and indoor plumbing as much as we are ignoring it.
Remembering the cougar gives me hope for this world. Humans need to remember that we are not detached and separate from everything else but rather we are as much a part of nature as the cougar. We are the ones who have the greatest power to destroy the wilderness but we are also the ones who have the greatest power to protect it.
Nature is not something to be feared and shied away from. It’s something to be cherished and embraced. We belong with the wilderness and we need to start acting like it.