cats and kittens everywhere
Hundreds of cats
Thousands of cats
Millions and billions and trillions of cats
from Millions of Cats
written and illustrated by Wanda Gág
Puffin Books, 1956
Although I like to paint my world in rainbows and shades of gray, sometimes I think in opposites. Common ones like
and some that are not so usual like
detritus/treasures. (This is my favorite category.)
Some words have more than one opposite like
right/left and right/wrong
fast/slow and fast/temporary
hard/easy and hard/soft.
Some words are contronyms, words with two meanings that contradict one another. They are their own opposite, like
cleave (to hew apart) and cleave (to hold tight)
trim (to add, decorate) and trim (to subtract, cut away)
The obvious one-word opposite of “opposite” is “same,” which sums up our world neatly in black and white (which are only opposites when we consider the color spectrum).
English is a difficult language to learn. It is subtle, complex, and nuanced. The 20-volume second edition set of the Oxford English Dictionary (1989) contains 171,476 entries, but usage, grammar, and clarity are elusive for many of us. We can define a word, but might have trouble with its pronunciation. The opposite is also true. My daughter opined as she was working on a Wordle puzzle a couple of weeks ago, “just because you can pronounce it, doesn’t mean it’s a word.”
Lots of words have opposites, but many of them don’t. Flower? Bird? Song? Brick? Ocean? I was thinking in this vein during a recent walk. Our nearby county fairgrounds was hosting the American Kennel Club’s dog show. I observed. Some dogs are huge, some are tiny. I learned. Some are workers like bloodhounds and sheepdogs. Some, like Pekinese and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are lapdogs. They live to entertain and comfort their owners. I listened. Some barked their poor, fool heads off. Some were quiet as cumulus clouds in the bright blue sky.
It’s true that some people are dog people and some prefer cats. But cats and dogs are not themselves, opposites. Besides the obvious physical characteristics: whiskers or not; tongues (smooth and slobbery or rough and dry-ish); claws (clobbery or click-clacky), dogs and cats provide companionship. They keep us from talking to ourselves, or they let us pretend about that. They don’t judge us. Their love is unconditional, whether they show it with exuberance or a quiet lap-sit. And, with a little patience and attention, we humans can understand the needs, distress, and joy they communicate to us.
I’ve never known a cat to demonstrate unconditional love by slobbering all over me after jumping on me and knocking me down. I had a cat though, who would softly tap my cheek each morning, a gentle reminder to get his breakfast ready.
Then there’s the “let’s go for a walk” difference. With the exception of two different cats who lived many years apart, my cats have been content to stay home. They do their business where they are supposed to (mostly) and I thank them for that. I like a destination when I walk. Most dogs are not welcome in the library, post office, bank, or grocery store. So that part works out well, too. My cat gets to stay home and I get to go where I want to.
My preferences make me a cat person. I recognize and admire independence (albeit limited), a calm, unassuming demeanor, and a penchant for naptime. I would choose golf over football, a sailboat over a power boat, and meaningful ballads over raucous hip-hop.
I like crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, and board games. I like reading to discover something old, something new, or some different perspective. I like quiet over chaos.
I found an interesting graphic that shows the results of a survey done by the scientists at www.NationalToday.com Turns out that when 1,000 people answered the question: Are you a dog person or a cat person, 14.2% answered cat person and 42.8% said dog person. Lots of people claimed to be both, but really? I don’t think so.
And just as dogs are not opposite to cats, dog people are not opposite to cat people, either. Like cats and dogs, people come in different colors, genders, and temperaments. Cats and dogs, just like us, need to be nurtured, accepted, and encouraged.
And loved, unconditionally.
Be curious! (and love unconditionally)