The wild others
Out walking with the dogs, along the road and down the path, past the four black horses who, every Sunday go out for a stroll with the coach and four. One of them paws the earth and kicks up the soil when he sees the dogs. The same one who rolled in the mud of spring yesterday the wet earth thawing from the night-time frost.
The cranes fly overhead, calling as they turn, flowing in a line in the upper airs. Below them, three buzzards or red kites, I’m not sure which shape their tails have as I look into the sun, circle above the field. In the clear spring blue sky, the moon looks like a pregnant woman’s belly or a ball stuck half in - half out from between the worlds, or a child crowning so close and so far that I wouldn't be able to catch them and wonder which great midwife might birth the moon each cycle. I think of my friend who was in labor last night and wonder if the baby has arrived and send a silent prayer.
Image: K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash
As I continue my walk, I think about how a friend asked recently, after I posted on Facebook about Death as the invisible heart of renewal and speaking of Death as a "them," why I used a pronoun, rather than saying "it". She asked me if I was anthropomorphising the other-than-humans, and the unseen energies that uphold the universe. I tried to explain about indigeneity, and how each of us have ancestors who were in deep relationship with their homeplace, in continual reciprocal conversation with the wild creatures as Kith and kin, you or thou. I shared how I speak to the creatures directly, and when about them with he, she or they, not as “its” because the word "it" for me, connotes a dead, mostly invisible unless usable, thing that happens to be in the backdrop of me living my life. I didn’t grow up learning this way, although the sensibility has always been within me. Now it’s become so much a part of how I move through and within and as part of the world, that I don’t even notice anymore that my entire perspective is completely different than the modern paradigm until my friend asked me. In english, our normal way of thinking and speaking about anything that is not a human is to call it, “it”; the dog is an "it", the tree is an "it", the earth is an "it". Ah. I feel actual pain when I speak those words out loud just now, it physically hurts my heart.
The wild others are, in my experience, beings with their own lives, their own interiority, their own dreams, their own ways of being in relationship with the world. The way a fox knows their place and every mouse and vole and mole within 2 sq. miles. The way deer move in their home place of 2 km² bedding down for the night somewhere differently, taking it in turns. I think of the three deer that share this meadow with us and come every morning to eat along the ditches and streams. The raven calls. The woodpecker announces themselves. The Great Tit sings their longing or warning. Crane, woodpecker, buzzard, moon, willow, geese, birch trees – I find myself amongst friends and relatives, walking amongst creatures, who are in their own dreaming, their own living, their own eating and dying. All beings of agency with their own lives. When I walk in the meadow and forest or along the stream, I greet them as I enter their home, our shared ecology. These are my neighbors, my community, the beings with which I share this ecosystem, as much as the humans who live in the village.
Suddenly, the sound of swan wings beats through the air, singing, whistling as their heavy bodies take flight, interrupting my thoughts. As I look up, I see the kites were the ones circling above the field! They have returned from Southern Europe for the growing season and I joyfully greet them as returning friends. Kite flies directly over my head just a few meters above me, their feathers red white and black, glisten in the sunlight life, death, rebirth the holy colors of my ancestors. Thank you! Claiming my belonging, circling me in call and response to my naming them as neighbor. Masters of the sky, changing direction with only a slight turn of the tail, Kites love storm force winds, spreading their fingers and hugging, holding the wind as if it had substance, surfing currents of air. For now, it is a gentle sunny day, with little wind and Kite glides on over the trees. I walk along towards the lake, praising the world. Sometimes, I walk around just shouting “I love you” or whispering, or silently beaming “I love you” from my heart, like I just did with the red kite.
Image: Jack Lucas Smith on Unsplash
It fills me with such joy and gladness to hear the wild voices, to hear the foxes calling out their longing, the geese their warning, all of the creatures calling out their belonging. This is earth singing to itself through millions of voices, seeing itself with millions of eyes, dancing with itself with uncountable feet and wings. And we humans are a part of this community. When we refer to the Earth’s creatures as “it”, we separate ourselves from the community of life. And then we wonder why we are so lonely. Or distracted, or hungry, or bored, or lost, or hopeless. To speak to and not about the wild ones is to remember that we are a part of earth community in relationship with all of the winged ones and rooted ones and furred ones, to re-member ourselves into the web of life. We two legged’s are another miracle in the web, but we are not the greatest miracle. And we are also not the worst, which some are thinking or speaking in these times. It’s true, we have had a great impact, but when I look at this field that has been overturned by wild boar, and molehills, I see the same impulse as the farmer tilling the rows.
A radical thought arises, as I stand here amongst the upturned Earth, which I keep hearing from Earth themselves: What if we are a part of climate change but not the cause of it? What if we, as part of earth community were as involved and implicated as all others, of Earth changing, as they have done many times already? And yet, and yet, there is something about the particular consciousness that can call a living being an “it”, the forgetting-ness of your place in the family of beings. What is that consciousness? Another uncomfortable question moves through me like the swan’s wings; might this consciousnesses of forgetting, it’s suffering, it’s horrors and pains, be also part of how we are Earth? I don’t know. Mostly I don’t know a lot these days. But I do know, that each being in the web of life is a being and not an “it”. You might join me, if you wish, in sharing consciousness with a Kite or swans as they fly by or with the alder trees moving in the wind that grow on the side of the stream or the moon birthing herself/himself in the sky or the waters that flow on along to lake or sea. You might greet the trees and creatures you hear and see on your next walk as you would human beings. You might even, when the fox’s musky smell enters your nostrils as you walk along the fields, slip into Fox consciousness, fox paws, fox fur, forget for a little while to be a separate individual human.