I love big, exotic cats, which is probably why these guys rule the roost in our house:
My love of all things “big cat” is probably also why, when I realized a bobcat was walking under our breezeway, I ran toward it (with camera in tow), instead of away from it.
So – let’s back up to how this ‘big cat’ obsession grew legs (so to speak). My feline love affair came to life when my five-year-old fingers stroked the underside of a stray tuxedo cat’s reverberating chin. That was Bubbles, who was followed over the years by Underdog, Tabby, Putt Putt, Obie, Fatty Boy and Chloe. But as I began to grow, my cat-fatuation also grew from a purr to a roar, and I began to love all things tiger. My first apartment was adorned with images of White, Bengal and Siberian tigers, then lynxes, snow leopards, jaguars and cheetahs.
So when I moved to rural Arizona, you can bet I was enthralled to think that mountain lions – our biggest cat in North America – roamed the desert countryside near my home. And you can imagine I also was a bit heartbroken when one was struck by a car a quarter mile from our house.
This year, we’ve heard all kinds of reports of additional mountain lion sightings very close to our home: another, tragically, killed in the same spot near the highway; one spotted right behind the train trestle by our house; and another across the road behind our neighbors’ home.
My dream come true, right? Yes. And no.
I love these big cats and can’t fully explain my excitement at knowing that we share the land with them. BUT as many of you know, I’ve also grown to love desert trail running and for two years have set off nearly every day on remote trails up and down the very wash where big cats have been seen of late (I’ve learned this area is likely a corridor frequented as they move from mountain range to mountain range in search of mates).
As my running shoes have pounded the dust over the past few years, I have been armed only with … well, my legs and a cell phone.
With the emergence of these cat sightings, I started to wonder whether the “ignorance is bliss” idiom held more meaning than I cared to consider. Did I really need to step back and reassess my running habits (beyond the collapsible billy club I soon began carrying like a track baton. Can anyone say “false sense of security?”)?
This How to Handle a Cougar Encounter article gave me my answer:
“Jogging in cougar country is verboten: Mountain lions do not actively engage in human hunting, but cats live for the thrill of the chase. Act like a cougar’s prey and you risk discovering the mountain lion’s predatory instincts.“
Yep. Time for a new game plan. I shared my cat tales of woe with anyone who would listen (I seriously was depressed at the thought of not running outdoors because I have never been a fan of treadmill running). I happily learned that neighbor and friend, Kathy, was interested in running as well. Score – because the buddy system is one of the recommendations for jogging in mountain lion country (safety in numbers).
So, we’ve been running together on some remote roads – plus, we discovered a few alternatives:
I’ve never been a fan of running in circles, but these track-running adaptations have made room for a new discovery that feeds another of my passions – reading. Come again, you say?
Audiobooks! Yes, glorious audiobooks. Because the tracks are fenced, I can run with earbuds (This was something I NEVER did during solitary remote runs. It was always far more important to ‘hear’ any animals I might have startled. I have come upon many a javelina and her offspring, coyotes, rattlers and even stray dogs).
Want to know the other wonderful discovery resulting from this cautionary cat tale? A renewed appreciation for the treadmill. Yes, you can crank up the text size on your Kindle, allowing for simultaneous reading and running. I might never have discovered this kill-two-birds-with-one-stone solution if not for Twitter friend and author Kelly Hitchcock’s article about the benefits of doubling up on reading and exercise. Audiobooks were her idea, too (she has lots of other suggestions in her article).
For Writers, Readers: My big cat conundrum taught me a great deal about problem solving – and that, sometimes, when you’re aiming for one solution, you can be blessed by two. Hooray outdoor exercise. Hooray safety. Hooray reading. (I guess that’s three).
Writers- Often we have to change course, come up with a new plan – be more adaptable overall – and find new solutions to plot, character, and pacing problems in our work (similar to my running complication). How has your adaptability benefitted you, your story, your success as an author?
Readers – Have you ever tried the reading-exercise combo? Does it work for you? What other workout equipment is conducive to simultaneous reading? What other ways do you squeeze in reading time?