Two days ago was check-up day at the vet for our three cats. Of course, they sensed trouble in advance, so I had to try to outsmart their tiny brains with food. I had three cats, three cat carriers, three soft blankets, and three snacks in a room with its two doors firmly closed. Oh, and some ‘happy spray’, a happy-cat pheromone mimic, applied on the blankets. I packaged up cat #1 and cat #2 uneventfully, but when I turned to pick up cat #3, she had disappeared. The room is very simple, only two sofas and a lot of built-in cabinets with sliding doors, all completely shut. I looked everywhere; over, under, in; no cat. I covered the territory again and then, again. No cat. At that point I started doubting myself; doubting that I had put three cats into the room, doubting that I had had both doors shut, doubting my own ability to see what was in front of my face. Having an appointment to keep, time was not on my side, so I abandoned the effort to find the cat and I carried the other two other animals to the clinic. When I returned home, of course the missing cat was in the closed room, waiting for me to open the door for her. Did Lewis Carroll, author of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, have his facts straight about the Cheshire Cat after all? Can cats really disappear, then reappear at will?
Since the missing cat had missed her appointment, she had to appear yesterday morning instead. I played the same trick I’d used the day before, only with one cat, one cat carrier, one snack, one pheromone-scented blanket, with the two closed doors. I watched as the Cheshire cat slunk behind a clump of unabridged dictionaries and other large reference books. While not invisible, she was certainly not obvious, and I realized that in my blind haste the day before, I had been truly blind to the cat right in front of me. Being an artist whose life is based on looking at things, you would think that I would be immune to poor observation, but that’s not the case. Panic and self-doubt will blind me just as fast as it will anyone else.
How often we don’t see the obvious. We make assumptions about what we are looking at, which blinds us to the reality of what IS. How daring it would be if every school child were taught to draw and sculpt- it can be done- and were taught to see and record what is actually there, instead of what she assumes is there. I wonder if these newly-minted observers would eventually have discussions with each other that were based on reality, rather than based on blind bias? I wonder how this would affect our political life, our social life, our work life, as well as our personal lives? Seeing, really seeing, rather than assuming, is rare and precious. I think I will renew my vow to the world to try to see what is in front of me.
Since my mom is a major fan of poppies, and she grows them abundantly, she enjoyed having me paint her a scene straight from her garden. First, I had to do some close observation. Then I was able to include and exclude details at will, which is all in a day’s work for an artist. What a privilege it is to have choices!