Originally published in the Chesterfield Observer – February 2014
Well, it’s Feb. 5 guys, which means there’s only 8 more days until you need to start thinking about what to get your significant other for Valentine’s Day. Since that might as well be a lifetime away, I won’t attempt to keep anyone’s attention with a Valentine’s Day column this year.
Instead, in keeping with the buzz about Chesterfield’s newest celebrities, the Richmond Metro Zoo cheetah cubs (Huey, Dewey, Louie, Spanky and Stinky), I am going to write about cheetahs.
When I was a kid, my favorite animal was the cheetah, and I thought I ran as fast as a cheetah, or at least fast like a cheetah. I was the cheetah of the kid world. I would run down the sidewalk to the mailbox and back and ask my dad breathlessly, “Did I run really fast?” He’d say yes, seeing no reason to rush the inevitable by answering truthfully.
One day when I was about ten years old I convinced my dad to let me participate in an open kids’ track meet down in the city of Richmond. I remember crouching down at the start line for the 100 yard dash, ready to unleash the cheetah. Then the gun went off and I came up running, and was surprised to see every other kid already 10 yards down the track. I thought, “Did they get a head start?” As I continued unleashing the cheetah, every one of those kids receded into the distance toward the finish line, carrying with them my self-image of being the cheetah of the kid world.
Which brings me to a recent news item out of our nation’s capital that, for once, doesn’t make me want to cross the Rio Grande heading south. A few weeks ago, a white-tailed deer from the woodsy Rock Creek Park, next to the National Zoo, got into the zoo and mistakenly leapt into the cheetah enclosure, at which point the two cheetahs inside proceeded to have the greatest day of their lives.
According to the Associated Press, “a zookeeper heard noises from the cheetah pen shortly before noon.” The zookeeper investigated, and found the two cheetahs slapping high fives over the deer carcass and taunting the lions in the next enclosure over.
A zoo spokeswoman said it was “a normal and expected reaction” by the carnivorous cheetahs. We are living in an interesting cultural time when a zoo feels the need to justify two cheetahs taking the chance to kill a deer.
I was thinking about those cheetahs this morning while I was mixing up my old-man breakfast: Greek yogurt with fruit on the bottom. I don’t mix the fruit evenly throughout the yogurt for the same reason I wouldn’t want the life of a cheetah in the National Zoo. I want inconsistency. I want each spoonful of yogurt to taste a little different from the last.
Those cheetahs have consistent lives. They have safe lives. Each new day is pretty much like the last. I don’t want that life. I don’t want that yogurt.
I want a marbled life: some good, some bad. Not a fast runner, but maybe good at something else. It’s OK.
I don’t know anyone who is always happy. I don’t know any relationship that is always great. People, and relationships, are either good and bad, or always bad.
Embrace the marbled life, and marbled relationships. It’s the best any of us can do, and it’s a much more interesting way to go through life.
Maybe this was a Valentine’s Day column after all.
Chuck Hansen’s books are available at Amazon.com: Nose-Sucker Thingees, Weeds Whacking Back & Cats in the Bathtub (a collection of humor essays) and Build Your Castles in the Air: Thoreau’s Inspiring Advice for Success in Business (and Life) in the 21st Century