An eastern newt in the red eft stage of life seeks shelter in Western Massachusetts. (These soft-bodied creatures dot the paths on warm rainy days, careful steps are necessary.)
“Whatever may be their use in civilized societies, mirrors are essential to all violent and heroic action.”
― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own
I’ve been thinking about the spaces we live in lately.
All around the world people are sheltering in place, locked down. Some in apartments in dense cities, some in rural homes surrounded by nature, some in cages. Some in between. (Some not so lucky to have a shelter at all.) During harrowing times in History, we have hidden people within our homes from those that would do them harm.
We do what we can.
[referring to the people that have been left hanging in the street]
Jojo: What did they do?
Rosie: What they could.
Many of us share our spaces with animals.
They say that the way we live with animals may be to blame for our current hellscape. Our current nightmare.
We are to blame.
Can we hold the mirror up long enough to save ourselves?
We lock them down in cages at meat markets, in barns, in aquariums, in our homes, in our backyards. Some treated like family, some like a product to be used and thrown away. Or made money on. Or consumed. Hunted for sport. Some hardly considered at all.
On my way to our rural post office I pass a row of cages by the road. Lined up outside a garage, high above the ground these rabbits have nothing natural under their feet. A tarp over metal is their protection from the elements of our harsh New England seasons. Kept in wire cages hardly bigger than they are, I fantasize about begging their caretaker into letting me give them a home. A more natural home, with grass and appropriate shelter — and love. Maybe she does love them. Am I allowed to judge? In my world, loving an animal means considering what is best for them. Consideration. Imagining what they experience. Learning and doing better for them. The best that you can manage when you don’t speak the same language and have to make assumptions on what they need, what they want. To thrive.
We are all in this together.
We don’t give much thought to what we put in cages; in crammed stalls where they cannot even turn around, in small clear plastic bags on a shelf at the pet store. How do those fish feel? Their world nothing but a bubble.
Don’t put them together, they fight.
When my husband and I first moved in together, our cats would fight. All claws and hissing, we separated them by moving a door to the bottom of the stairway in our tiny Victorian duplex. After months of this quartered living, we got desperate and contacted a “reality show” that claimed to helped people with cats from Hell. The producers wanted to play up the tension between us…“you guys may break your engagement if the cats can’t get along, right?” they hinted that this would have to be our drama for the show to go on.
No thank you. We can live like this forever. We adapted.
It didn’t take forever, just about a year into this arrangement I decided to be brave and we took the door down. It was ugly at first, but they adjusted.
Now they sleep coiled together on the same chair, yin and yang.
Many years ago into that same tiny duplex my mother and I escaped ~ from a house far too big for us after my father left. To keep us there in that home that I loved, she tried having housemates…another single mother and only child. Not used to sharing, I acted out- stole the boy’s toys and resented them for invading my once happy home. For being where they didn’t belong. Somehow our too big house was too small for all of us.
Change is hard. I couldn’t adapt. We couldn’t stay. So we found a new, smaller and more affordable home. We adjusted.
There in that tiny house I kept a tiny aquarium full of fancy mice until our cats learned how to pry open the top and taught me a hard, painful lesson. I hadn’t protected the lives in my care enough, they suffered because their home wasn’t secure, wasn’t appropriate. I hadn’t given enough thought to what they needed to survive. To thrive.
Thought and change is what we need to do, collectively.
Consider our fellow animals.
(We have the time.)
These animals we keep in meat markets, too close together in factory farms, in horrific fur farms, in tanks of water much too small for them. Unnatural habitats. Their own hellscapes.
All this suffering…to feed us, to clothe us, to entertain us. Some would argue unnecessarily.
We are getting sick.
Our earth is on fire, is flooding, is polluted.
We destroy ancient forests to make grazing land for the cows we eat.
We keep chickens in tiny cages and pump them full of antibiotics because they get sick being trapped so close together.
We keep foxes and chinchillas and rabbits and raccoon dogs and coyotes in cages so we can have fur on our coats, our hats, our pillows.
We clear cut land for gated communities, for grazing livestock, for making new roads and get angry when the wild things try to adapt and thrive despite our encroachment. We trap them, run them down, or don’t notice them at all.
We stack them in cages, full of fear and terror because we think their bodies are ours to use.
They get sick, we get sick.
We cannot free them all, some now rely on us for food and shelter and could never survive in the Wild. But we can consider them. Consider that they may need more than we currently give them. In our homes, in our aquariums, in our zoos. We can leave them off of our plates, off of our backs. Humans are capable of inventing new ways. Kinder ways. It is already happening.
They deserve better, and so do we.
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final. Ranier Marie Rilke
what you can do about it
- STOP EATING ANIMALS & ANIMAL PRODUCTS.
- HELP BAN ANIMAL MARKETS & FACTORY FARMING, SIGN & SHARE PETITIONS.
- READ ARTICLES, WATCH DOCUMENTARIES, SPREAD THE WORD.