The Cat and the Banana Tree

May 5, 2012

Little in the banana tree

My cat, Little, was once an outdoor cat, roaming the yard, chasing bugs and birds and occasionally lying in the cool earth under the asparagus fronds as I worked in the garden. She and Bigger always had the option of coming inside when they wanted, an option they exercised at meal time and during the coldest of the winter months, but basically they were outside cats. Last summer, Bigger disappeared. She was quite old and we never found out whether she wandered off to die, was picked up by animal control, killed by one of the tom cats that occasionally roamed the neighborhood or the skunk that travels back and forth through the yard during the warmer months. Little, of course, couldn’t tell us.

When my son moved away, Little came to live with me. She seemed content to be an inside cat, though now that spring is here, she like to lie in the open windows to see what’s happening outside or hide under the leaves of my house plants, then suddenly spring out to kill her catnip mouse and drag its mangled body to me, mewing with pride. Moreover, she has lately taken to climbing into the big pot of dirt in the plant room that houses the banana tree. She lies in the cool dirt and peers at me through the huge leaves – much as she did the asparagus plants in the garden. It is not outside, of course, but she seems content with this faux outside life she has carved out for herself from the modern-day accoutrements of my upstairs apartment.

On the other hand, I still retain some of my wildness and love for outdoors. This week, during the cooler parts of the day, I managed to get the first half of my garden turned over, amended and planted, to wandered through the new growth on the north side of the house looking for what might be useful, checked for new growth around the rest of the yard and picked several salads from my early garden and the weeds. No faux outside for this old gal. Give me the real thing, sunburn, sweat, sore back and all. Even in the winter, with its very real danger of slipping on the ice and breaking a bone, I find I must occasionally take my walking stick and venture out for a while.

I thought about these things this past week, as the Eurozone continued its downward slide, our own economy showed signs of faltering again and – in a hundred small ways – the Empire continued its slow decay. Yesterday, I read a couple of articles about the state of the Empire as it faces financial and economic failure, environmental degradation, climate change and diminishing energy supplies.

The first article recapped a speech given by Leon Panetta to the Environmental Defense Fund this week. “Climate and environmental change are emerging as national security threats that “weigh heavily” on the Pentagon’s strategies …” the article stated. “… The quest for energy is another area, he said, that continues to shape and reshape the strategic environment …”

Mr. Panetta went on to discuss the Pentagon’s responses to these threats. The Pentagon spent more than $17 billion on fuel last year and the DOD faces a budget shortfall of more than $3 billion due to higher than expected fuel costs this year.

Last March, the DOD introduced a plan to reduce fuel consumption and promote energy efficiency throughout the military. “For its 2013 budget, the Pentagon is requesting more than $1 billion for efficient aircraft and aircraft engines, hybrid electric drives for ships, improved generators and micro-grids for forward-deployed bases and combat vehicle energy efficiency programs.
“Another $1 billion is sought for energy improvements at military installations in the United States.”

Pretty much BAU. I could almost hear the ca-ching, ch-ching of cost overrides around the military-industrial complex as I read, the dying Empire content in the unsustainable, faux reality it has built to bolster its flagging might around the world.

“We are working to be a leader and a bold innovator in environmental stewardship, energy efficiency and energy security,” Panetta was quoted as saying, at the end of the article.

The second article, a five page interview with David Stockman, director of OMB under Ronald Reagan was much more realistic in its assessment of the financial state of the Empire. He discussed “a “paralyzed” Federal Reserve Bank, in its “final days,” held hostage by Wall Street “robots” trading in markets that are “artificially medicated”, went on to talk about how dangerous the situation is, and how, at the end of the year when the debt ceiling limit is reached, the defense budget is sequestered and the Bush tax cuts expire, the entire system could implode.

His plan for addressing the situation also seemed more realistic. The article ended with his being asked by the interviewer what his investment model was. In reply, Mr. Stockman is quoted as saying, “My investing model is ABCD: Anything Bernanke Cannot Destroy: flashlight batteries, canned beans, bottled water, gold, a cabin in the mountains.”

Like the Empire, the banana tree is dying. Its roots, trapped in a pot it has outgrown, have failed to send up new starts for the last two years and, leaf by leaf, the current stalks are withering away. Too large and cumbersome for me to repot and too tropical for me to transplant outside, it will die in its pot in the room just as it would die if I transplanted it outside to face the Ozark winter.

Eventually, the tree will be gone; as winter comes the windows to the outside world will be closed against the cold and the artificial “outdoors” Little has found for herself will be gone.

Little had a chance, a few days ago, to return to the life of an outside cat. As she often does, she followed me downstairs when I went to work in the garden. Usually I close the inside door so she can’t follow me outside. But, as I opened the screen door, a gust of spring wind caught it and swung the door back against the porch railing. I grabbed for the screen door instead of the inside door and, as I turned back, Little crouched on the door sill, peering around the frame of the door at the world outside. I expected her to lunge for freedom and the great outdoors. Instead, she inched back, turned and fled up the stairs to the safety of her inside haven. The screen door, caught in another gust, slammed shut behind her.

We humans have been very creative in turning ourselves into inside cats, in creating artificial environments that lead us to believe we can have the best of both worlds always, in building an empire that has spanned the globe in its lust for the resources to maintain that faux environment.

But our banana tree is dying, too. Too root bound to maintain itself, too “tropical” to survive the harsh realities of life outside its illusions, the Empire and its subjects are left with only two choices. Will we fight on as indoor cats, with ever more futility, seeking to maintain our illusions by business as usual as the movers and shakers of the Empire seem intent on doing? Or will we dare the unthinkable, make a dash for the door and, despite the dangers that lurk outside, find a way back to a more natural and sustainable life in order to survive? We need to make up our minds. The door to outside is about to slam shut.

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16 Responses to The Cat and the Banana Tree

  1. witsendnj says:

    That Stockman quote is priceless, I’ll have to go read the whole interview.

    One of my barn cats has been missing for a week. What an aching hole and his outdoor companion mews constantly now.

    Richard Manning. who wrote the book Against the Grain, left this video he just made in a comment at Wit’s End – seems we’re all thinking about our cages now, and whether the safety was worth it, or illusory…

    • theozarker says:

      Hey witsend, sorry about your cat and I know his companion misses him. Little was just wild eyed and clingy for several weeks after Bigger disappeared. Thanks for the Manning video. Cages – a good word for it and I, for one, don’t think it’s been worth it. 😦

  2. pamela says:

    Linda this has to be one of your best works yet.
    I think we’re all a bit like Little, i’m sure gonna miss my banana tree one day.

    • theozarker says:

      Hi Pam. Well, I hope I’m up for the changes. Of course, the lower we are on the totem pole, presumably the smaller the distance we have to fall?

  3. kkolchak says:

    Wow, sounds like Stockman has gone full doomer. Who would have think it? I think he’s wrong about the system exploding at the end of this year, though. If the can can be kicked down the road yet again, it will be, no matter how intractable our hopeless political system may appear to be.

    The wife and I adopted three kittens from shelter in the past year. The two girls are perfectly content to remain inside but the little boy has been trying to get out (figures!). We keep hoping our 17-year-old Siamese will tell him about her bad experience the one time she successfully escaped, but I suspect she’d be perfectly happy to open the door for him if she could. 🙂

    • theozarker says:

      He does, doesn’t he? I about fell out of my chair laughing when I read his “plan”. About the end of the year, makes you wonder just how much road there is left to kick that can down. And LOL about your cats (those Siamese cats are sneaky. The kid downstairs has one. They look at you like they’re plotting all the time – heheh.)

      • witsendnj says:

        About Stockman – somebody reminded me it’s an election year. Maybe it’s just calculated doomer talk to scare people into voting Obama out of office.

      • theozarker says:

        Witsend, I don’t think it’s just politics. Stockman has been trying to warn people about the financial system and economy since at least the last part of the Bush 2 administration. He may be wrong on some details, but I don’t think it’s politics with him. I think he just sees the writing on the wall and wants to warn people that it’s not sustainable.

  4. graveday says:

    Leon Panetta, right. Nothing like environmentally conscious, financially efficient war to make one proud of paying taxes. You should send him the dead banana tree and tell him to smoke its hallucinogenic peels. We all might be better off.

  5. Personally i like the aching bones, the torn fingernails and the sense of being honestly wore out that comes with digging in the earth. I doubt i would ever be a happy inside cat. Brilliant essay. Makes me want to come and repot your banana tree for you. Personally…. i think we need more free range people out there.. There are way too many obedient to the system people.

    • theozarker says:

      Oh, me too, Wendy. Makes me know I’m still alive. And at my age, that’s a plus. 😀
      That poor old tree, I even ground up banana peels in the blender and added them to the fertilizer trying to save it. Alas, I’m now just try to keep it as comfortable as I can while I have it.

  6. robindatta says:

    Thank you for a beautiful post.

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