Archive for March 21st, 2010

By Pattiann Rogers

Some of us like to photograph them.  Some of us like to paint pictures of them.  Some of us like to sculpt them and make statues and carvings of them.  Some of us compose music about them and sing about them.  And some of us like to write about them.

Some of us like to go out and catch them and kill them and eat them.  Some of us like to hunt them and shoot them.  Some of us like to raise them, care for them and eat them.  Some of us just like to eat them.

And some of us name them and name their seasons and name their hours, and some of us, in our curiosity, open them up and study them with our tools and name their parts.  We capture them, mark them and release them, their lives and affect their lives and abandon their lives.  We breed them and manipulate them and alter them.  Some of us experiment upon them.

We put them on tethers and leashes, in shackles and harnesses, in cages and boxes, inside fences and walls.  We put them in yokes and muzzles.  We want them to carry us and pulls us and haul for us.

And we want some of them to be our companions, some of them to ride on our fingers and some to ride sitting on our wrists or on our shoulders and some to ride in our arms, ride clutching our necks.  We want them to walk at our heels.

We want them to trust us and come to us, take our offerings, eat from our hands.  We want to participate in their beauty.  We want to assume their beauty and so possess them.  We want to be kind to them and so possess them with our kindness and so partake of their beauty in that way.

We want them to learn our language.  We try to teach them our language.  We speak to them.  We put our words in their mouths.  We want them to speak.  We want to know what they see when they look at us.

We use their heads and their bladders for balls, their guts and their hides and their bones to make music.  We skin them and wear them for coats, their scalps for hats.  We rob them, their milk and their honey, their feathers and their eggs.  We make money from them.

We construct icons of them.  We make images of them and put their images on our clothes and on our necklaces and rings and on our walls and in our religious places.  We preserve their dead bodies and parts and their dead bodies and display them in our homes and buildings.

We name mountains and rivers and cities and streets and organizations and gangs and causes after them.  We name years and time and constellations of stars after them.  We make mascots of them, naming our athletic teams after them.  Sometimes we name ourselves after them.

We make toys of them and rhymes of them for our children.  We mold them and shape them and distort them to fit our myths and our stories and our dramas.  We like to dress up like them and masquerade as them.  We like to imitate them and try to move as they move and make the sounds they make, hoping, by those means, to enter and become the black mysteries of their being.

Sometimes we dress them in our clothes and teach them tricks and laugh at them and marvel at them.  And we make parades of them and festivals of them.  We want them to entertain us and amaze us and frighten us and reassure us and calm us and rescue us from boredom.

We pit them against one another, and we gamble on them.  We want to compete with them ourselves, challenging them, testing our wits and talents against their wits and talents, in forests and on plains, in the ring.  We want to be able to run like them and leap like them and swim like them and fly like them and fight like them and endure like them.

We want their total absorption in the moment.  We want their unwavering devotion to life.  We want their oblivion.

Some of us give thanks and bless those we kill and eat, ad ask for pardon, and this is beautiful as long as they ones dying and we are the ones eating.

As long as we are not seriously threatened, as long as we and our children aren’t hungry and aren’t cold, we say, with a certain amount of superiority that we are no better than any of them, that any of them deserve to live just as much as we do.

And after we have proclaimed this thought, and by so doing subtly pointed out that we are allowing them to live, we direct them and manage them and herd them and train them and follow them and map them and collect them and make specimens of them and butcher them and move them here and move them there and we place them on lists and we take them off of lists and we stare at them and stare at them.

We track them in our sleep.  They become the form of our sleep.  We dream of them.  We seek them with accusation.  We seek them with supplication.

And in the ultimate imposition, as Thoreau said, we make them bear the burden of our thoughts.  We make them carry the burden of our metaphors and the burden of our desires and our guilt and carry the equal burden our curiosity ad concern.  We make them bear our sins and our prayers and our hopes into the desert, into the sky, into the stars.  We say we kill them for God.

We adore them and we curse them.  We caress them and we ravish them.  We want them to acknowledge us and be with us.  We want them to disappear and be autonomous.  We abhor their viciousness and lack of pity, as we abhor our own viciousness and lack of pity.  We love them and we reproach them, just as we love and reproach ourselves.

We will never, we cannot, leave them alone, even the tiniest one ever, because we know we are the oe with them.  Their blood is our blood.  Their breath is our breath, their beginning our beginning, their fate our fate.

Thus we deny them.  Thus we yearn for them.  They are among us and within us and of us, inextricably woven with the form and manner of our being, with our understanding and our imaginations.  They are the grit and the salt and the lullaby of our language.

We have a need to believe they are there, and always will be, whether we witness them or not. We need to know they are there, a vigorous life maintaining itself without our presence, without our assistance, without our attention.  We need to know, we must know, that we come from such stock so continuously and tenaciously and religiously devoted to life.

We know we are one with them, and we are frantic to understand how to actualize that union.  We attempt to actualize that union in our many stumbling, ignorant and destructive ways, in our many confused and noble and praiseworthy ways.

For how can we possess dignity if we do not allow no dignity?  Who will recognize our beauty if we do not revel in their beauty?  How can we hope to receive honor if we give no honor?  How can we believe in grace if we cannot bestow grace?

We want what we cannot have.  We want to give life at the same moment we are taking it, nurture life as the same moment we light the fire and raise the knife.  We want to live, to provide, and not be instruments of destruction, instruments of death.  We want to reconcile our  “egoistic concerns” with our “universal compassion.”  We want the lion and the lamb to exist in amenity, the lion and the lamb within finally to dwell together, to life down together in peace and praise at last. “

Pattiann Rogers

From Intimate Nature: The Bond Between Women And Animals

Edited by Linda Hogan, Deena Metzger, and Brenda Peterson


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