Welcome to day 3 of 31 Days of Apocalypse, Now, a month of posts about apocalypse, revelation, uncovering what’s been hidden. Each post will look at these ideas from its own vantage point, which may not obviously connect with the others, and which may only peripherally seem related. I won’t attempt to tie the posts together. They’ll all be listed here, as they are posted.
Sort of a silly post today, about the cat’s litter box. Someone on Reddit a few months ago posted this thought: “Cleaning a cat’s litter box is like a shitty treasure hunt. … all you do is dig for poop.” A comic on The Skeleton Blog from 2010 is similar, calling cleaning the litter box “the saddest treasure hunt ever.” And this “Pickles” cartoon from 2017:
I’ve often remarked to spouse and myself, and cat, if he’s around, that cleaning the cat’s litter box is a treasure hunt — but, and call me crazy, I actually enjoy that aspect of it. “Enjoy” many not be exactly the right word, but something lights up in my neuronal pathway when a morsel or a clump is unearthed, pulled up through the litter with the plastic shovel, and as the loose litter falls through the slots back into the box and the unburied object becomes clearer, more lights flash. I assume this is a similar reaction experienced by geocachers finding a cache, people using metal detectors when they get a hit on the beach, and gold panners spotting a glinting rock. Perhaps especially the latter two; the sensory feeling of the digging tool in the gritty, sandy litter is, for me, important to the tingle of pleasure. Sometimes I just run the shovel back and forth across and through the litter for a minute or two for no good reason.
Someone in 2012 was actually designing an iPhone game based on the litter box treasure hunt (there’s quite a cute picture of the pirate cat and the litter box ‘o treasure at the link): “Captain Jack the dreaded pirate cat has buried his treasure where no one dares to go looking, in the litterbox. Search for his treasure in this new puzzle game. See how much treasure you can find while being careful to avoid the deadly cat poo!” And to think that I have this game already installed in my own home.
We play a variation of a treasure hunt game with the cat, hiding his treats once or twice a day in various places around the house. We started it to help him lose weight, so the places were often elevated, making him jump up to search for and retrieve the treats. Now that he’s at a healthy weight, we continue the game to keep him slim, activate his mind, help him learn, entertain him (and us). I vary the hiding spots and obscure the treats. He seems to like the challenge of digging the treats out of small boxes, prying them from inside a narrow plastic track, under cover of a large sheet of brown paper, and darting into his reuseable bags to capture them.
One activity in a class I took a few autumns ago on “A Sense of Place” was to investigate one small spot on the forest floor, a space of about one square foot. Look at the surface, move leaves and pine needles, dig down and see what’s there. Uncover, unbury, reveal what’s often unseen as we amble by, our eyes 5 or 6 feet above the earth, our minds on other things. If you try this exercise, you’ll probably be surprised how much is going on in so small a space, both on the surface and just an inch or two below it. I found some slug eggs, for one thing, which I’d never noticed before, some fungi, an acorn, leaves, a few other insects whose identifies are lost now to time. (Sorry photo of slug eggs is blurry.) I would consider this treasure: the items found, and the time spent, the exploring and discovery.
One of my favourite places to visit, Jekyll Island, GA, hides 450 “island treasures” on the island in January and February (between 2 and 10 treasures per day). They used to hide actual hollow hand-blown glass balls, or floats, similar to those that fishermen used in the early 1900s to mark their underwater nets; now plastic balls are hidden, which the finder exchanges for a glass float. Generally they are hidden in plain view, not buried under sand, but it still must be fun when one is revealed.
You never really know, though, when you go treasure hunting, whether you will find cat poop (actually, their pee is worse, IMO), gold, a bottle cap, a French military button from the 1700s, a plastic ball, a hand-blown piece of art glass, a sharp nail, slug’s eggs, a dead bird, or a coiled snake in a hollow. If the hunt is exciting enough, maybe it doesn’t matter; and maybe simply looking for treasure reveals something about what we consider valuable.