I was petting a cat this week. She was smiling and arching her back and obviously enjoying being alive. Then she suddenly turned and started licking herself, after which she repositioned her neck back under my hand. I realized then that cats don’t “decide” to clean themselves. How do they keep track of which spot needs cleaning? Now? A cat’s skin must have some distributed chemical mechanism that causes particular areas to itch on some approximate schedule.
Seventeen years ago my new bride and I were exploring the lush gardens in what was once the moat of Fort Hamilton. The sound of one of Bermuda’s famous mopeds echoed against the stone, and I thought there was a bee in my ear. I ran away skelter-legged in panic, leaving my bride behind.
Just now I foamed a wasp nest on our deck stairs. I could feel every molecule of this morning’s coffee, and I was going to explode, but I completed the foaming. I explained to my wife (same bride) that I didn’t think bees got angry. I figure they don’t decide that it’s time to return to the nest and remember where it was. They must have some hardware clock that tells them to crave the smell of home, and they must simply follow a chemical gradient to get there. They buzz around helter-skelter and turn mostly in the direction in which the chemical smell is strongest. The foam was interfering with that, and they were panicked.
Robin looked at me and asked, “Why do you have to understand the behavior of everything? Can you smell the logic?”