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Harlequin: An Obituary

On Saturday, February 26, 2005, Harelquin the rat died.

He had been in decline for some time, his back legs slowly giving up. On Thursday evening he had stopped eating altogether which caused great concern. However on Friday evening the presentation of some oat and apple baby food was graciously accepted.

For the next twelve hours it was like he had a new lease of life. He visited all his favourite locations in the flat, waddling from place to place. He spent most of the night on the foot of the bed with his human providers.

On Saturday morning he came in from the couch (a favourite haunt) for a visit. His breathing was laboured and he seemed a little tired.

Suddenly, he gasped for air and died. His body, warm, his eyes open, but with no will, no spirit. Soon afterwards his extremities went cold and then, within a hour, rigor mortis started to set in.

Harlequin lived a very happy life, albeit a short one (2 years, 5 months). His demeanor was peaceful, contemplative and very affectionate, and he was never excitable - an unusual characteristic for a rat. If he had a weakness, it was that he was overfond of food. It was little wonder he was nicknamed "The Buddha".

Some of the more endearing memories include him being in repose after eating just a little too much sweet potato pancake; stealing a Balinese chess piece, taking it to his hammock; a confused young woman who thought he was a baby possum; joyously hopping through the long grass near the St. Kilda foreshore; swimming in Port Phillip bay, much to the amusement of onlookers.

What do we learn from this?

That a life worth living is precious, beautiful and - this is the profoundly unjust part - temporal.

The sadness felt, is not the anger that rises from those who prevent others from having a life worth living, nor the pity that is felt for those whose lives are trivial by self-affliction. It is a sadness that a life worth living had ended.

I shed few tears for you Harlequin, for they shall not end the loss. The practical task is ahead: "We will bury you" - an affectionate and loving Russian proverb which has been so terribly misunderstood in the past.

After that, there is an even another practical task. To ensure that all creatures, great and small, have a life worth living and that perhaps, in the future, we can discover the circumstances so that those lives worth living are freed from the temporal tyranny of nature.

Vale, Harlequin.


The Chameleons, Second Skin

One cold damp evening
The world stood still
I watched as I held my breath
A silhouette I thought I knew
Came through
And someone spoke to me
Whispered in my ear
This fantasy's for you
Fantasies are "in" this year

My whole life passed before my eyes
I thought
"What they say is true"
I shed my skin and my disguise
And cold, numb and naked
I emerged from my cocoon
And a half remembered tune
Played softly in my head

Then he turned smiling
And said
"I realise a miracle is due
I dedicate this melody to you"
But is this the stuff dreams are made of?
If this is the stuff dreams are made of
No wonder I feel like I'm floating on air
Everywhere
It feels like I'm everywhere

It's like you fail to make the connection
You know how vital it is
Or when something slips through your fingers
You know how precious it is
Well you reach the point where you know
It's only your second skin

Someone's banging on my door