One morning recently, I noticed a small dark shape fluttering in the pool. I went over to investigate and saw that it was a large gray moth, desperately and barely clinging to life as water saturated her wings. Her energy was exhausted. I lifted her out and she clung the fabric of my dress. I bent my head and very gently blew down the length of her body, drying her with my breath for perhaps fifteen minutes. And then I raised her up in my hands and blew on the underside of her wings, learning in the process that what looked like two was actually four.Read More
“I would say, if you’ve never seen a horse or touched a horse, just touch it. Because if you touch it, then you’ll feel the soul” (Farrah Akbar, age 8). The quotation is from a New York Times article that I read this morning about human-animal relations, Why Close Encounters With Animals Soothe Us, about urban kids in Los Angeles getting horse-fixed.Read More
Last summer, I spent some days in Kirkby Stephen in northern England, a town whose unlikely mascot is the South American macaw, a type of parrot whose facial feather pattern is unique and identifiable on sight by other macaws. Perhaps macaw faces are easily seen by the humans who love them too, like John Strutt who once owned the nearby Eden Farm, and who endowed his farm as a nature sanctuary and permanent home for feral macaws. Today's macaws roam by day and return freely to their open aviaries at night.Read More
I can see it in the eyes of some people as soon as I take to the podium, the fear that the author of Spirit Unleashed: Reimagining Human-Animal Relations is going to tell them they shouldn’t eat meat. “There goes my hamburger,” they think as they look the other way.
While it is true that I don’t eat meat, it is not true that I don’t like the taste of meat or that I think eating meat is inherently wrong. In fact, I think that if any of us is paying attention, the arguments all fall short. Yes, yes, I have noticed the predator-prey relationship in ecosystems. In fact I have seen more of it with my own eyes than most urban dwellers, and I don’t see that it has much at all to do with human factory farming.Read More
I grew up with pets. In a house with three boys, an aging mother, and no husband, my mother seemed to know instinctively that animals were a way to engage children. She herself had grown up with animals, although not really from a farming family. Living with animals leads to conclusions scientists fear to make. That’s one reason I find Anne Benvenuti’s Spirit Unleashed: Reimagining Human-Animal Relations so important. Not only do animals remind us of who we are, they are who we are.Read More
The approach that I took to writing about human-animal relations is as important to me as the topic itself. I wanted to write a beautiful book, and a book that was what I call “integral.” That means approaching the topic from several academic disciplines, but also with emotion integrated into the thinking process, rather than continuing with the false assumption that feeling clouds rationality. Thinking and feeling are both necessary to correct understanding of the world and ourselves in the world, and so are necessary to living well. I wanted to think clearly and I wanted to feel clearly, and to have these two work together to produce something beautiful.Read More
I use these two words of seemingly mutual contradiction to signify a complex reality, that now we are in not just a “postmodern” era but a post-cultural era, and so the “new” that was once human culture is old and worn, and the archaic that is elemental nature is newly necessary and newly beautiful. Further, I think the challenge for this time of great change is to make a new human culture that incorporates consciously and wholeheartedly the archaic and elemental into the sanctuaries of our lives.Read More
The New Archaic. Elemental Innovations. What’s that got to do with the fall equinox?
It matters to me that today I change the table runner to the one with autumn colors and patterns, I get down the acorn and oak leaf candle holders. I change the bedding to the fall leaves pattern, and to slightly warmer covers. I put away the blues and greens of my summer season for next year, with the quiet questions about next year just out of mind’s reach.Read More
How synchronistic is it that, after posting the very post in which I complained about the limitations imposed upon my mind by watching my feet for three solid weeks while I walked the John Muir Trail last summer, I should fail to watch them one recent winter day and have fallen over backwards, breaking ribs in the process? So I have been derailed by broken ribs, and thus sunk deeply into the quiet season of reflection and rest. My body has been somewhat limited and my mind has been free to roam.
I reflected on the year behind me and the year before me, thinking that my intentions have something to do with what happens in a year of life.Read More
One thing that had the capacity to consistently pierce the veil of rumination was my body, and my body’s constant voice in the production of emotion. The evidence, especially the neuroscientific evidence, is that emotion is primary and body-based, and mostly unconscious by nature. Of course as we develop, our emotions, like almost everything else about us, are formed into habits and associated with stories; unfortunately they tend to remain unconscious, wreaking havoc with our intentions for our lives. My body spoke out there in the wilds, and so did my emotions.Read More
In these pages, as I add to them, you will find evidence of things I am passionate about: scholarship and wonderings about the big ideas and unarticulated assumptions that underlie our everyday thinking and decisions; beauty, the natural world (especially animals), the spiritual realm of human life. . . .Read More