Wednesday, November 18, 2009

cats' eyes and cabbages

One of the big mysteries to me when I moved to the US was the phenomenon of the Ornamental Cabbage. This is not to say that no one in England grows cabbages as if they were exotic flowers, but I much more readily associate the brassica olaracea with straggly growths in allotments, seen from trains. However, here they are, as seasonal as the flowers that Americans weirdly call "mums" - a word in England reserved for a plural of mothers ("moms" being an unheard-of Americanism). I crept up on this one with, for once, a flashlight, because I could see that there on the table behind it was...

... DandeLion! aka Bitzi, aka Fluffy - our strange, feral, unapproachable, adorably beautiful feral cat - still feral after nearly eighteen months of indoor living, and prone to think that every corner of the house is one great woodpile in which to conceal herself. Those eyes are curiously human (or devil) like - not at all feline. Most cats have eyes that shine white, or bluey-greeny-white, when subjected to the photographic flash - this is because of their tapetum lucidum, the layer of tissue at the back of their retina that reflects visible light back again, increasing the light available to the photoreceptors. This increases their ability to see in the dark - though maybe, in this case, not Bitzi's. Maybe this is the reason why she will let us pet her only at the dead of night, when she'll deign to be on the bed: she can't actually see us very well.

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