The Phoenix Nest

The Grand Fossil Tour Begins at My Olympia Home

The Grand Fossil Tour Begins at My Olympia Home

With a Story about the Cat and the Rabbit

By Jim Fulton

About This Page

A Message from the Phoenix

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Abstract

I launched the Grand Fossil Tour from what had been my home of 18 years in Olympia, Washington. It seems fitting to treat it as the first stop on the journey. Who knows, you might want to know where I'm coming from.

Page Prerequisites
Page Specifications
Id Flights_GFT_1998
Title The Grand Fossil Tour Begins at My Olympia Home
Subtitle With a Story about the Cat and the Rabbit
Keywords
Author Jim Fulton
Author's URL https://fenixnest/Phoenix/
Copyright 2017
Status Published: 2017/9/09
Last Revised 2018-09-03
Stop My Olympia Home
Arrived 1998
Departed 2017/td>
Mileage on arrival
Map miles from last stop
Actual miles from last stop
Accumulated miles for trip 0
Photos Gallery for Olympia
1999. Thanksgiving Photos.
1999. Thanksgiving Photos.
1999. Thanksgiving Photos.
1999. Thanksgiving Photos.
2002. Mac and I.
2002. Mac and I.
2002. Marilynn and I.
2002. Marilynn and I.
2002. Marilynn and I.
2002. Marilynn and I.
2003. Marilynn.
2003. Marilynn.
2003. Jim.
2003. Me.
2007. Family.
2007. Family.
2010. Trystan.
2010. Trystan.
2011. House Photos.
2011. House Photos.
2011. House Photos.
2011. House Photos.
2011. House Photos.
2011. House Photos.
2011. House Photos.
2011. House Photos.
2011. House Photos.
2011. House Photos.
2011. House Photos.
2011. House Photos.
2011. House Photos.
2011. House Photos.
2011. House Photos.
2011. House Photos.
2011. House Photos.
2011. House Photos.
2011. House Photos.
2011. House Photos.
2011. House Photos.
2011. House Photos.
2011. House Photos.
2011. House Photos.

I launched the Grand Fossil Tour from what had been my home in Olympia, Washington. It seems fitting to treat it as the first "stop" on the journey. Who knows, you might want to know where I'm coming from.

Thurston County

For almost two decades I referred to Olympia, Washington as my home, longer than any other place in my life. Of course, I didn't actually live in Olympia. I lived just outside Lacey, in Thurston County. But during that time I became quite familiar not only with Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater, and the smaller communities that surrounded.

Olympia is economically healthy if not wealthy. Unlike the towns where I grew up in Kansas, the downtown business district is filled with viable shops, not empty store fronts. True, the shops are not magnet stores that will draw patronage to spill over into their neighbors. Like most towns in America, those strong stores have moved away from the downtown to the cheaper edges of the city. But downtown Olympia does all right, and makes the broader community seem healthy.

Olympia is, as you may know, the capital of the State of Washington. Historically, the cities of Seattle and Tacoma, like other large cities, have leaned to the political left, and they were just large enough for their voters to slightly outnumber the voters from the right-leaning rural areas. The result is that state workers, and thus Thurston County as a whole tends to vote Democratic. My governor, senators, Congressional representatives, legislators, county officers, and so on are all Democrats. Which means there's very little I can do locally to affect the absurdities of the current balance of power in Washington, D.C. I can only scream from the sidelines.

"Journey" to Olympia

Since Olympia is the starting point of the tour, this is a null leg of the journey, but at least I can show you where I began.

Story Time

When I set out my itinerary, I promised you a story in these blogs. I said I'd tell you stories not only of my travels and where I'd been and what I'd seen, but about what I been thinking, for this is a journey of the noösphere, not just the geosphere. Since this is the first entry in the series, and it tells not of a new place I've gone, but where I've been for many years, a baseline as it were, it seems appropriate to include a little tale that will serve as a baseline for stories to come. This tale is fiction, but it is not fantasy. As the Kingston Trio warned in their song M.T.A., "This could happen to you."

It's late April. Your front lawn is dappled but not yet warmed by the long light of the early morning sun filtering through the new growth on the bushes and trees surrounding your yard. The scene is chilly, but you're cozy in your easy chair, cuddling a warm mug, wrapped in the afghan your mother crocheted for you, fireplace ablazing, a book opened but unread in your lap, as you watch drowsily through the window. After a long winter, it's nice just to sit and enjoy the promise of spring.

Your eyes are following their random saccade around the yard, when you notice a rabbit in a shaded corner, contentedly munching what looks to be new clover. You smile at his blissful ignorance of your scrutiny.

Suddenly from behind a tree on the opposite side of the yard, steps a cat, prancing proudly after his nightly mischief (you don't want to know), and wondering where he can steal a breakfast.

For a moment the two are blithely unaware of one another. Then, almost simultaneously: the rabbit ceases his relaxed nibbling; ears laid back, his posture radiating tension. The cat crouches down, almost motionless, except for tiny movements of his feet as he sets himself, his eyes and ears tightly focused in the direction of the rabbit.

Briefly the scene is frozen, like horses in the starting gate. Then … they're off! Who moved first, you can't be sure, but in an instant they're both running pell-mell around the yard, the rabbit bounding this way and that, the cat in hot pursuit. Suddenly they're through the bushes and gone, and neither your eye nor this tale reveal whether the rabbit escaped, or was carried home for dinner (your back door if it's your cat), or conned the cat, like Br'er Rabbit did to Br'er Fox, into throwing him into the briar patch. [Apologies to Joel Chandler Harris, Uncle Remus, and "The Tar-baby".]

Afterword

The scene above is primal. It illustrates an archetype that's been repeated gazillions of times, over and over, since animals first started eating one another half a billion years ago. The details and the players vary. Instead of the cat and the rabbit, it might have been a cheetah preying on a gazelle (today), or a smilodon preying on a bison (20 thousand years ago), or a tyrannosaur preying on a tricerotops (80 million years ago), or an anomalocaris preying on a trilobite (400 million years ago). Sometimes the prey escapes; sometimes not.

What is common to all of these scenes is that a predator notices and attacks a prey. More precisely, I suggest that were you actually to witness the scene described above, you might be inclined to say all of the following about the cat:

  1. The cat sensed the rabbit. The cat's eyes, ears, nose and other senses detected the rabbit.
  2. The cat recognized the rabbit. The cat notices the rabbit first as a thing distinct from the background, and then as a rabbit, a prey, though neither you nor I would be justified in making claims about the conceptual framework applied by the cat to the situation.
  3. The cat chose to catch the rabbit. The cat might have chosen to just ignore the rabbit, and seek a breakfast requiring less energy. Instead he decided to put off going home to Mama Cat until he could catch a rabbit to take her (or you).
  4. The cat pursued the rabbit. The cat chased after the elusive rabbit, applying the skills a lifetime has taught him.

(Of course similar things might be said about the rabbit. In some cases, as in our tale above, the prey sees the predator and acts, sometimes skillfully, to elude it. But often the prey is naively unaware until the killing thrust, so the focus here is on the predator.)

Now here's the question to think about: I suggest that not only are all four statements true, the last three of them say something about the cat's mind, about what he is thinking, about what he is doing intentionally. Even the verb 'pursued', as I use it here, means to intentionally control behavior in order to catch the prey.

Now you may have serious doubts about the minds of animals other than humans (and maybe about them as well). Maybe you think those statements are mere anthropomorphic story-telling. Of course, that is precisely what I want to talk about, and I offer this example as a way of exploring the relationship between the mind and the body. That's the principle purpose of the Phoenix Nest.

As a preliminary, let me ask: if you don't think that the last three statements are true, do you therefore think the following are?

  1. The cat does not recognize the rabbit (as a prey).
  2. The cat does not choose to catch the rabbit.
  3. The cat does not intentionally pursue the rabbit.

If the cat does not do these things — if he does not recognize that the rabbit is a potential prey, if he does not choose to chase him, if he does not intentionally chase him — how do you explain his behavior in our story? More generally, how do you explain the behavior of the predator in all the many real occasions of this primal scene? Are you saying that it's all just mindless instinct? What does that mean?

Of course, those challenges are unfair. These are not simple yes-or-no questions. But they are no more unfair than blithely assuming that cats and other animals are unthinking, unfeeling beings that we can kick or kill without really causing them fear or pain! There are ethical issues involved here, but let's set them aside for the time being, while we examine more closely what's going on in the body and mind of a predator.

But that's enough for today. I'll pick up one of the frayed threads next time.

Onward

My next stop after leaving My Olympia Home will be the Riverbend Campground near Nisqually, a few miles east of Olympia.

Comments and Conversation

What follows are comments and conversations I have had with people about this page of The Phoenix Nest.

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