Episode Forty Three: Responsibilities


So, it’s summer time.  Apparently there was a spring, but neither Virtute nor I seem to recall when that happened.  But that’s ok, because summer time is the best time of the year for Virtute. It’s a time he spends crawling in the grass and hiding underneath stoops in our backyard as we work the garden.  Most of all, though, Virtute spends many summer mornings having breakfast out in the front lawn with Jenny.  It’s a ritual that sometimes Gumption and I participate in, though for Gumption always carefully at the threshold of the door, lest there be another possible escape.

About a week ago, I made somewhat of a spring/summer mistake.  Our octogenarian neighbour, Stefano, gets anxious about our lawn becoming overgrown.  He prefers the old school style of a carefully manicured lawn. It is so important to him that 20-30 years ago he covered his front yard with stone so that his lawn would never be overgrown, so that it would present nice.  Though our house tends to think about the lawn in a more fluid and organic way and would like to let it grow, since last summer I’ve tried to be conscious of keeping it trimmed in order to maintain a good relationship with our neighbour.  Anyhow, I cut the lawn last week and Jenny was upset.

I didn’t quite get why. I felt like we had all decided to try to maintain a good relationship with Stefano and I couldn’t understand her frustration. So I asked Virtute what he thought.  Lying in a pile of freshly cut grass, he took a moment to chew up some green tips before responding, “She’s upset because you failed to remember that relationships aren’t linear, they are always intersecting.” I wasn’t following, so I asked for clarification. Virtute sat upright and explained, “Well, we exist in webs of relationships. We certainly have a relationship with Stefano that we need to honour, but we also have relationships with the grass and flowers.  The lawn needs to be cut when it is cool and when it is going to rain so that it can survive the hot summer.  The grass and flowers also have a relationship with the pollinators that we need to honour so cutting them too early makes it harder for pollinators to get food since most things aren’t yet in bloom.  And you also have a relationship with Jenny and the rest of the house in terms of ensuring that our actions are collective and done with care.”

Humbled a little, I sat back and thought about the lesson Virtute was trying to get across. It started to rain, so we took the conversation inside. Finally I asked Virtute how to balance all of these relationships.  He rolled over on Jenny’s bed and then said, “Care, communication, and learning from your mistakes. We don’t really have roadmaps or models to follow, but we have principles of interrelatedness that help us find a good path.” He paused, thought some more, and said, “Remember too, tall grass is good hiding for an anxious cat like me. That’s how I become a cool cat.”

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