Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Porcupines and Shadow Souls

The words conservation and ecology, as we use them in the Western sense, don't exactly fit what Indian people did or do with the land. It was their livelihood, which depended on reciprocity. Thus, the trees were not seen as trees, they were also seen as relatives. The trees are relatives and other species are relatives and they watched you all the time. It was a forest that looked at you to see how you were handling the remains of plants and animals."

"An animals shadow soul is alive for a long time after an animal is killed, and it watches how you treat the remains.
Dennis Martinez, pg. 93 Original Instructions

Ever since reading A Language Older Than Words I have moved close to fifty dead animals off from the roads near my house. The other day was no exception. This time it was the biggest porcupine I had ever seen.

Cory (My sister's husband),Tyler (My nephew) approached it. As we did Cory said, "Oh, that has been lying their since I went to work this morning." Cory has to leave for work well before the sun rises. As we stood there the sun was starting to set.

Looking at it I could see that it's quills were spread down the road roughly 25 feet. One side of its body was scraped clean from being drug underneath a car. It was severely bloated. Flies were swarming around it.

It was going about its day and got in the way of a car and lost its life.

I scooped it up and moved it out of the way of progress. I layed it to rest in a hazelnut thicket and faced it west. Its body will be able to decay and return to the earth with dignity. When the time comes I hope my body is treated the same way.


It's been months since I wrote that above. Looking back at what I wrote and the experience of moving the porcupine off the road reminds me of something Derrick Jensen said over at his discussion list. He said that in a documentary he was watching about serial killers there was a FBI agent describing that a serial killer has as much consideration for their victims as we do a piece of tissue paper.


Filip T. said...

I can relate to this quite a bit. I have made a habit of saying a prayer for every roadkill I pass on the road. It costs me next to nothing, but if nothing else it helps to encourage me to be in touch with the cost of living life the way we do instead of ignoring it.

My prayer generally goes something like this (and I usually say it in my head): "Blessing on your journey beyond the body. I pray that your death found you swiftly and that you find peace traveling beyond this realm."

I am not sure I know where "beyond this realm is" but in my heart it feels right. Sometimes, I feel the awareness of what I interpret as those same animals watching me, too.

Hope you don't find this too weird.

Curt said...

I don't think it's wierd at all. Yesterday evening, I said something similar in my head (This was after I read your response here) as we passed the corpse of a black bear that had been hit a few minutes before by a semi-truck. We just don't talk enough about how unhealthy car culture is to nonhumans and ourselves.