MOUNTAINS, WATERS, AND WHAT A CAT SEES WHILE STANDING ON YOUR SHOULDER

For today’s post, the first one in a while, I am going to write a little about one of my favorite things ever written. This bit of writing was originally in Japanese, so there are a couple different translations for the title. The book where I first read it has “Mountains and Waters Sutra” as the title, but I have also found it online as “Mountains and Waters Discourse“.

At any rate, the original title is 山水經, pronounced in English “Sansui kyō,” which literally translates to something along the lines of “Mountain Water Sutra” or “Mountain Water Scripture” or “Mountain Water Classic Work,” so anyways it’s about mountains and waters. It was written by a Zen monk named Dogen some time in the 13th century. According to the source I got this from, this text is part of Dogen’s principal work, “Treasury of the Eye of the True Dharma,” or as it was originally titled, “正法眼蔵(Shōbōgenzō)”.

At any rate, I like this text quite a lot. And I intend to at least attempt to describe why I like it so much, but I am not sure if I will be able to actually do so. A lot of it does not make literal sense, I mean, and furthermore, part of what I like about it is that it doesn’t make literal sense. Ergo any attempt to explain it may result in ruining the experience for another reader.

How can mountains walk? As I am not myself a mountain, I can’t really say.

Subjectivity is the text’s main theme, I would venture, though I am not sure Dogen would agree. At any rate, this is a picture of one of my all-time favorite kitties, Waymus Jaymus.

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Good kitty.

A post shared by Michael Walker (@mnwalke) on

I began writing this article over a month ago. I first got the idea to write it before that.

My original intent was to simply type out the text and add footnotes wherever I felt like it, explaining my interpretation of each paragraph. I had some difficulty with the HTML code necessary for this to work, so I ended up abandoning the project for a while.

When I finally came back to it a little over a month ago, I ended up only having a short amount of time to work on it because of other engagements. But I decided to work in something about how Waymus Jaymus likes to get up on my shoulders with the line about how soaring is always done freely in the mountains…

And anyways she does like to do that a lot, but unfortunately for her (and for me), she can only do that when it’s cold outside, and I’ve got on at least a couple layers of clothing. When I’m just in a t-shirt (as I generally am during warm weather, unless I go shirtless, of course), her claws dig in too much to my shoulders, and I have to make her get down.

I was discussing this with her this past Friday. I mean I know she didn’t really know what I was talking about, but I had her in my lap Friday evening, and I said to her something like “It won’t be long til I’m wearing more clothes, kitty, and you can get up on my shoulders again.” And to repeat, I know she didn’t actually understand what I was saying, but she purred and stuff, and after a few minutes, she hopped out of my lap, and I went inside.

I woke up around 4 am Saturday morning. That’s not all that unusual: I usually get up around 4 am during the week, but I do tend to sleep in until around 7 or 8 on Saturdays.

Anyways, like usual, after I got up, I went outside to feed the kitties… and I immediately noticed that Waymus didn’t come to eat with the other kitties. Which again, not unusual… sometimes she hangs out on her own for a while before she comes in.

But anyways, something told me to go look for her.

It was dark, so I couldn’t see outside of the old horse stall where I feed the cats. I turned on my phone’s flashlight and stepped out into the darkness, and about 8 feet from the entrance/exit to the horse stall, there was Waymus Jaymus, lying on the ground. She was meowing like she was in pain.

I reached down to pet her and discovered that she was mostly paralyzed. She could move around a little, but she couldn’t stand up or walk. And her eyes were wide open, and they appeared to be dilated.

It took me about 2 seconds to deduce that she had most likely been bitten by a snake. As this realization was a bit shocking to me, I had to go sit down and think for a minute.

I did some research with my phone and discovered that antivenin is pretty damn expensive, something like $500 a vial, and that a vet visit for a venomous snake bite could run upwards of $2000.

I also discovered that it takes a while for venom to get into a cat’s (or a dog’s, or a human’s) system, and that a cat might not exhibit any symptoms immediately following a snakebite, but some time later would start to experience paralysis, pain, and so on.

Which meant that Way Jaymus had most likely been bitten at least an hour or so before I ever found her.

Anyways, the optimal treatment in this case would have been immediately rushing her to the vet, paying however much it cost to get her some antivenin… and hoping for the best. Antivenin is not a guaranteed cure in all cases, especially when the venom has had time to get into the animal’s system.

But that would have been the best course of action. There were only two problems: the first problem was that I didn’t have $2000. And the second problem was that it was a little after 4 am on a Saturday morning, and the earliest any vet clinic around here opens on Saturday is 7:30.

So all things considered, I prepared myself for the worst possible outcome: that little Way Jaymus, one of my favorite kitties of all time, was going to die.

For the record, the feeling of impotence right then, that came with knowing that I didn’t have the money to get her optimal treatment, combined with knowing that optimal treatment wouldn’t have been available even if I had the money… well, it wasn’t a pleasant feeling.

I resolved to make her as comfortable as I could. I got a cardboard box out of the recycling pile, put some towels in the bottom of it and draped up the sides, and carefully put the mostly paralyzed kitty in the box. For the time being I left it on the ground next to where I found her.

As a sidenote, the articles I was finding online about cats getting bitten by snakes mentioned seeing blood on or near the cat from the bite wound. I didn’t see any blood on the ground, and feeling around on little Waymus’ fur, I didn’t find any matted blood.

So I felt a little hope, because if she had been bitten by a snake (and I am still about 99% sure that’s what happened), it was either a shallow bite or a bite from a small snake. Make no mistake, small venomous snakes can be deadly, it’s just that I was looking for every ray of hope I could find, and the fact that I didn’t see a big bite wound anywhere on her was a ray of hope, however dim.

So anyways, by about 4:30 or a little after, Waymus Jaymus was in a box stuffed with towels. I mention the time again because to repeat, even if I had had the money for antivenin, it would have been 7:30 before I could get her to a vet. And by then, if the bite was going to be fatal, the antivenin might not work anyway.

At any rate, every article I read said that other than taking her to a vet for antivenin, there was really nothing I could do to help her, other than to put her somewhere comfortable and preferably dark. And it was still dark outside, so I decided to do more research on my phone.

She was meowing a lot, and she was obviously in a lot of pain. For the next couple of hours, all I could do was sit there and hope she didn’t die. She didn’t, but things weren’t looking promising. Around 7 or so, after she had been through the worst part of the pain, from what I could tell, I picked up her box and put it in the hay barn, up off the ground and behind a gate, so no dogs could come along and bother her.

I hung around for a while, but seeing as how there was nothing I could do, and seeing as how I was tired from being stressed, I went back to bed for a couple hours.

When I got back up, probably around noon, I went to check on her. I was a bit upset to see her out of her box, back on the ground in the horse stall. She had mustered up enough energy to get out of the box, but not enough to get completely out of the horse stall.

I carefully put her back in her box (“carefully” because she acted like she might bite or claw me), and thankfully she stayed put that time.

The next morning, Sunday, she was in her box when I got up, and she was acting like she felt a little better, which I was glad about. There was one slight problem: I had her box in the same place I feed the cats, so I had to move it…

And after I moved her box, she sat still and let me pet her a little…

But then she got restless. She got up, got out of the box, and since I was just glad she was walking again (however wobbly), I let her walk around, and after a couple attempts of walking off into the woods (I don’t think she could see where she was going; I hope that isn’t permanent), she walked probably around 20 feet from where her box was sitting and crawled under some t posts that have been laid across a block of wood long enough for grass to grow around them and make them difficult to pick up. Waymus Jaymus crawled under there like she was crawling into a little cave.

And yes, I am aware that snakes like to curl up in little cubbyhole type places like that. At any rate, there weren’t any snakes in this little cubbyhole Waymus found, so I left her alone for the most part. She stayed there most of the day Sunday… it rained a little, but she didn’t get wet. I was hoping that if any water did drip through, she’d drink it… she hadn’t had any food or water in over a day at this point. I left her a little dish of water, and I think she drank some of it, but if she did she didn’t drink much.

She finally came out from under there when I whistled to indicate it was feeding time yesterday evening… but she didn’t eat more than a bite or two.

Same deal this morning, although she seems to be feeling a lot better. She wasn’t in her box when I first went to check on her, she was elsewhere in the shed, I guess roaming around. She was still a little wobbly this morning… here’s hoping she’ll eat more for supper tonight.

I really hope she pulls through. I think she will, but I don’t know for sure.

Here’s hoping, I guess. I will update this later, and maybe even write about what the post is supposed to be about, instead of about the kitty I added a pic of…

She’s a good kitty.

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