A Profound Disconnect

Written September 9th, 2008.

Yesterday, my best friend and I took his mom up to Pike's Peak for the first time. We meandered through Garden of the Gods and walked two mini-trails, wandered the shore of Crystal Reservoir, and took our time going up the mountain. The sun was setting by the time we headed back to Denver.

It was a good day, but it served to highlight a profound disconnect that I've been experiencing, both between my body and my felinity, and me and the postcard-beauty of the Colorado wilderness.

I explained the difference between Colorado - where I live now - and West Virginia - where I grew up - to my mate. Colorado is sweeping and majestic. The mountains are carved from the earth, and the sky is endless. West Virginia is close and cozy, its mountains rolling and tree-swathed, cut with rivers instead of canyons. In Colorado, you stand back and gape in awe at the breath-taking vistas stretching out before you; in West Virginia, your body is grown from the soil and kept under the eaves of trees, close to the heart of the earth. Close enough not only to hear its heartbeat, but to be a part of that rhythm.

I belong to West Virginia. The Appalachians birthed me and grew me and nourished me. I find Colorado to be unfathomably beautiful and impressive, but it is not Home like the Appalachians are Home. And so, whereas in West Virginia I can place my heart in the earth and feel it beating, Colorado is still a stranger to me. I can communicate with it, but it's the difference between talking aloud and just feeling an emotional and mental connection that goes beyond and without words. Going to these beautiful places feels less like going deeper and more like being smaller.

Combine that with the severe body dysphoria that accompanies my being physically active outside the human trappings of a city, and you have the makings of a bad day.

I like my body. I swear to gods, I truly enjoy this human skin in which I find myself. It may not be me, but it's mine, and it's pretty damn cool, all things considered. I like how it can move. I like its silly furless legs-too-long clawless flat-faced approximation of felinity. I love my hands, my eyes, my hair, my lips, my legs, my hips, the muscles in my thighs and arms. I like how I can move, as a human and as a cat and as both and neither.

But when I'm outside, this body suddenly fits very poorly. I need paws, not hands and feet. I need feline limbs, not primate ones. I need a sloping back and flicking tail and a long, supple body slung low. This jarring should-not-be puts a slow tightness into my human muscles, locks me into a forced gait of this-is-human-and-how-I-must-move. I can't roll my steps enough, even with my hips, to make it a cat's walk, because my back won't curve right and I'm on two legs and that's wrong. I can't walk, shoulders squared and back straight and eyes level and feet roll-stepping smoothly, as a human because I'm not an outside human, I'm an outside cat and human feels wrong when I've got rocks and trees and sky all around.

Yesterday, I bounded up the slope at my favorite pull-off on the way up Pike's Peak, winded myself in under a minute in the oxygen-scarce chill, and clambered to the top of the ridge and then just barely to the other side to peer so far down the slope. I sat, perched, on a rock before I allowed myself to lie down on it, and my arms (forelegs) fit perfectly into the groove of the rock, and my legs (haunches) curled just right, and I could rest my chin (muzzle) on my wrists (paws) and look down. Suddenly, everything felt right. My heart was part of this, beating with the inaudible drums of the earth, and I could close my eyes and feel the wind through my hair, the sun at my back, the rock perfectly matched to my body, and it was Home.

For a brief stretch of uncounted minutes, Colorado was Home.

Content © Being Lion, 2005-2014. Header photo © Jonathan Danker. Design courtesy of Selfwright Designs.