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Location: Midwest, United States

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Leopard

I was maybe three or four years old. It was a hot, bright summer day, and I was at a zoo. I don’t remember much about that day...hardly any details at all, except: the leopard.

I was struck dumb by the sheen of the black velvet fur. I had never seen anything so rich. Then, as the leopard wheeled and the sun glanced across its flanks, I saw the spots! I was transfixed by the animal with the beautiful magic fur...(It was many years later that I learned that a black leopard is actually a genetic variant of the jaguar. The leopard is every inch a jaguar except for black fur covering black spots. I can’t count the nights I’ve spent pondering the paradox of “shades of black”).

I came closer. The leopard moved with an imperial grace and a fluid rhythm. I had never seen such poetry in motion. I came closer.

What a gorgeous creature! The taut ribs, the musculature, the soft, padded paws with diabolical claws. I came closer still to see its face. The head was sleek and well muscled. The beautiful muzzle barely covered fearsome fangs. There was a cold beauty in the beast. And then I looked into its eyes.

The eyes were dead. The pupils were jet black, but empty. I did not understand. I had never seen eyes like that. I remember feeling confused. I vividly remember wanting to hug the offer consolation (although that would have most certainly...and violently...eliminated any vestige of the naiveté I’ve struggled to maintain my entire life).

I stood there and watched as the leopard paced from one side of its small cage to the other, wheeling, pacing, wheeling. I now saw that its tongue was lolling as he panted with effort. I stood mesmerized and saddened by the “1,000-yard stare” in those lifeless eyes. I remember my parents having to drag me away.

This memory has stayed with me my entire’s my oldest reverie. I’ve gone over the imagery innumerable times, pondered long and hard this parable of the leopard.

My meditations on the leopard have grown deeper and more complex as I’ve aged. On that hot summer day, I had not the vocabulary to translate feelings into words. All I knew is that I had seen beauty and death inside one soul. I had yet to discover the meanings of terms such as insanity, stress, depression and psychosis

Nowadays, I wonder what it was that the leopard needed...what was that unrequited yearning that led to his death in life? Did he hear only screams instead of the songs of the jungle? Was it the confines of the cage that drove him mad? What does a leopard soul need...and want?

I hold the leopard close to me to keep me pondering long and hard about yearnings...and cages...and the consequences thereof.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

...please where can I buy a unicorn?

Tue Nov 24, 05:21:00 PM  

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