The Flattery of Imitation

In the weeks since Bradford the Cat made his way into the Museum family, we’ve been constantly delighted by his antics. He’s doing everything kittens are supposed to do, including chewing hands and fingers, puffing up and prancing like the tuff guy he is, and chowing down as toddlers in growth mode do. Every day brings out a new development in his personality and skills. He now leaps onto chairs and tables, hurls himself at his toys with great alacrity, and purrs with a volume more consistent with an animal much larger than he.

At home, Bradford has two older half-siblings. Diablo, the female, doesn’t like anyone so there’s no expectation she’ll ever do anything but growl at the tyke. Mr. Bill, though, is increasingly curious and is modifying his hisses down to nose touches and random reaches from behind the scratching post. Billy Boy is a big brown polydactyl tabby, all 16 lean pounds of him, and a friend refers to him as The Throw Rug.

When the two boys are in proximity Little B becomes still, almost reverential, as he watches Big B. It’s as if he’s studying the elder cat’s movements and style and unconsciously letting Alpha male mentor him. When he does become too rambunctious, Mr. Bill delivers a quick hiss and a swat to remind his little ward his manners. It is Feline Flattery at its best.

In April we inducted four giants of mountaineering into the Hall of Mountaineering Excellence. We are surrounded in this mountaineering family by such modern greats and are constantly reminded of the skills, motivation, and philosophies that make people like Edurne Pasaban, Arlene Blum, Oh Eun-Sun, Conrad Anker, Ed Viesturs, and Reinhold Messner great. And while we may feel our accomplishments miniscule by comparison, we maintain the vision of possibility in our own minds by imitating the best qualities of those we admire.

It’s good to have someone good to look up to, in this the Year of Making Dreams Come True, someone who inspires us not only with their mountaineering accomplishments but their sensibility. If we do something careless we imagine an appropriate smack-down. On the contrary, if we make a smart choice or exceed our personal best, we can revel in the mentoring we are humble enough to accept and the behaviors we wisely copy.

It is apparently so, that imitation is the sincerest form of cattery.

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