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MARTHA SEZ: Hello, darkness, my old friend
November 10, 2017

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November. It is so dark!

Fall was bright and beautiful this year, and Indian summer just went happily on and on. People seem to think it was better than we deserved, and that now we will have to pay for it with a particularly severe winter. In my opinion, divine retribution has nothing to do with the weather. No matter how we behave, no matter what good or evil lurks in our heart, November will be November. As my friend Pam remarked, this is a month that doesn't have much going for it.

Well, there is Thanksgiving. In the midst of November's gloom and chill, it is cheering to remember what we are grateful for in our lives. It is also cheering to drink heavily and eat a lot of comfort food, while only dimly thinking of the New Year's resolution we will be making, once again, to lose weight.

For animals, as well as for people, the coming of winter heralds change. Bears either hibernate or enter into a state of torpor, depending on who you talk to.

"Bears," some people will tell you, "contrary to popular opinion, are not true hibernators."

To which I reply, "Have you tried these mashed potatoes?"

I feel sorry for deer and other animals that live outside in the cold all winter. Why don't they try to come in, the way mice do?

True, deer are afraid of humans, but that doesn't prevent them from plundering our gardens, or, worse, from waiting by the side of the road in order to dart out into oncoming traffic, often running slapdab into a speeding vehicle. I wonder if the cars whizzing by are making the deer anxious and disoriented, or if the deer are purposely committing suicide.

I understand that deer could get depressed, due to the prospect of standing around under trees in the sleet and snow for roughly six months of the year-should they survive hunting season-all the while keeping a sharp lookout for packs of ravening coyotes.

Perhaps deer leave their forest home and go to the highway in order to end it all, just as many Japanese leave their homes to travel to the suicide forest near Mount Fuji: Aokigahara, "the Sea of Trees." It is said that about 100 people kill themselves in this forest every year because "suicide is not traditionally stigmatized in Japan." Still, one doesn't like to think suicide would be that popular, with or without the stigma.

Wild animals get very hungry during the winter months. I tell this to my black and white cat, Jupiter, when he yowls at the window to go out into the darkness.

"Coyote is always out there waiting, and coyote is always hungry," I tell him.

Coyotes, like cats, are by nature nocturnal predators.

Jupiter doesn't care to listen. He yowls some more.

There is another reason I don't let Jupe out at night: I have learned that he likes to head on over across the street under the cover of darkness to harass a gray cat and its entire household.

Jupiter used to sit on the porch with my neighbor Frank, enjoying the twilight. Then, Frank said, as soon as darkness fell, Jupe would strike off across the street as if he was on a mission.

Sometimes Jupiter dragged home with fur missing from his shoulder or a scratched-up nose. I learned from Maggie, the gray cat's owner, that he was going over there to start fights. If the gray cat didn't come out, Jupiter would stalk back and forth along the outside sill of the picture window, yowling.

"My husband and I let the dog out, and he barks and chases Jupiter away," Maggie said.

"Jupiter probably likes it when that happens," my daughter, Molly, said when i told her about it.

Molly rescued Jupiter when he was a feral kitten, and knows his ways.

Yes, Jupe is a terrorist, but Orangy, my other formerly feral cat, is not. While Jupiter is lean and springy, Orangy has the approximate shape and activity level of an ottoman. Molly says Orange chose to retire early.

Molly and her family live in California with their cat, Ritz, who, while he may be out there waiting, is neither particularly hungry nor predacious. He likes to lie peacefully on the patio and watch the possums cavort in the avocado tree. November is not the same in California as it is in Upstate New York.

Have a good week.

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