Saturday, October 25, 2008

You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.

You are beautiful, but you are empty. One could not die for you. To be sure, an ordinary passerby would think that my rose looked just like you--the rose that belongs to me. But in herself alone she is more important than all the hundreds of you other roses: because it is she that I have watered, because it is she that I have put under the glass globe; because it is she that I have sheltered behind the screen; because it is for her that I have killed the caterpillars (except the two or three that we saved to become butterflies); because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled, or boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing. Because she is my rose.
- Antione de Saint-Exupery.

I first read Le Petit Prince in french class in high school.  I'm really glad my first reading was in it's native language because even though now I can barely follow the french version (and that mostly from memory) there is a depth there that can't quite be caught in English.  That being said, even translated the book is beautiful.   That man was a genius.

I particularly love the above quote - that whole chapter in fact.  It's all about 'taming' - what it really is about is 'bonding'.

To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys.  And I have no need of you.  And you on your part, have no need of me.  To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes.  But if you tame me, then we shall need each other.  To me, you will be unique in all the world.  To you, I shall be unique in all the world…
Wheat is of no use to me.  The wheat fields have nothing to say to me.  And that is sad.  But you have hair that is the color of gold.  Think how wonderful that will be when you have tamed me!  The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you.  And I shall love to listen to the wind in the wheat…  

Why do I love pet portraits?  How can we reconcile the difference we face in veterinary medicine between a stray cat who is euthanized and one who's brought in by new adoptive owners that will have a long, happy life?  

It is because a cat or dog (or person for that matter) is just like a hundred thousand others on this earth - and for the most part meaningless to us as we go about our everyday lives.   That changes the moment we care - when we give the stray cat some fresh water, pat a loose dog and toss a stick for him, engage our neighbor in conversation - we start to forge a bond.  The more we interact, the more we give, the stronger the bond.  Is it any wonder we are so bonded to our children and pets?  And it's beautiful to observe, isn't it?  I don't have to know the old lady in the park with her little terrier on a leash, but seeing them interact can bring me, a complete stranger, joy.

But you can't have joy without sorrow to balance it.  
So the little prince tamed the fox. And when the hour of his departure drew near
"Ah," said the fox, "I shall cry."
"It is your own fault," said the little prince. "I never wished you any sort of harm; but you wanted me to tame you..."
"Yes, that is so," said the fox.
"But now you are going to cry!" said the little prince.
"Yes, that is so," said the fox.
"Then it has done you no good at all!"
"It has done me good," said the fox, "because of the color of the wheat fields."

I have experienced the loss of a loved one.  I have been present during many, many, many other partings.  When someone loses a pet through euthanasia or natural death it can be devastating.  When someone loses a pet or person they've been caring for, maybe nursing them through a bad illness, the loss is compounded by the sudden removal of that 'need'.  There is no-one to water anymore, no-one to put a globe over, or a windscreen around.  What do you do?  

Well - you move on.  And like the fox you cry.  And you see things in the world a little differently for having known and loved.  And whether you have a picture to look at, or you see it more clearly in the color of the wheat fields, if you take the time to look with your heart open you will see that they are always here with you.

1 comment:

Harold said...

Your work is now clear. Very moving way to explain your motivations, Pam. I'm really impressed.

A copy of that post would probably make a lot of pet owners very happy, and offer a lot of solace to those leaving pets behind.