The Most Beautiful Creature

I have a thing for tigers.

People who know me find this out pretty quickly. I have a small tiger tattoo, a ton of tiger books, and a bajillion stuffed tigers hiding in a box because I'm too adult to display them and too attached to let go.

I cried at the tiger feeding at Discovery Kingdom a couple of weeks ago. I am so moved by these animals that I frequently wonder if I should give up my steady job to go work with tigers. Only the knowledge that I would someday want a family kept me from moving to India after college to be with them in the wild.

People often ask me, "Why?"

Many attribute it to the fact that I was involved in sports and that was our team mascot--but I loved tigers long before I even understood that concept.

It's something about the grace and beauty of this amazing animal that still holds such immense strength within itself. I think the tiger is the epitome of what I have always longed to be: a beautiful, graceful, strong, and independent woman.

That, and they're friggin adorably cuddly kitty cats.

Recently I began reading a beautiful book called Tigers in Red Weather, about a woman who discovers the beauty of tigers while searching for something of her own. I say began reading because I had to put it down only a short way into the book. It was so densely packed with things I wanted to read, yet I had little time to fully enjoy it. I did, however, pull out a few quotes that I wanted to share.

You'd love Bhutan. There are tigers on the wall of every house. In their Buddhism, tiger is the ground you start from, where there'snothing to lose. That's where the curiosity, the sniffing-things-out a tiger does, can begin. The tiger is the broken heart.

The tiger IS the wild. If it goes, part of us goes with it: our sense that something out there is stronger, more beautiful; something not us. Outer wildness affets our inner landscape in ways we do not control. The tiger is its epitome: elusive, with its own concerns, nothing to do with us, from its point of view. But for us the extreme image of the wild.

East and West know tigers differently but both try and internalize the tiger's power. Tigers pay a heavy price for their role in human fantasy. They are a casualty of symbolism.

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