The Mark of the Bewildered Wild

10,000 Foxes in London (National Geographic)Now that I live with a mini forest in my backyard, I am seeing an odd sort of wildlife bewilderment reveal itself that I always felt nearby.

In London, it was the foxes. Whilst the debate raged in the countryside and in Parliament about the cruelty of hunting foxes with dogs, the foxes themselves (clever as we know they are), got smart and got urban. Up sticks and moved, you see, to the city, where, although green space is at a premium, morsels of heavenly garbage are not. And neither will you find packs of slathering hunting dogs sent out ahead of strainingly pure-bred hoity-toits on horseback, thundering after their prize howlers, in hot pursuit before the tea bell rings.

Animals are weird to us. For most of us, we seem to see them but look through them, as if instead of living things, they existed more like garden statuary.

I was speeding down the luxuriously treed Interstate 95 Coastal highway to work a few weeks ago and caught sight of a deer, in broad daylight, his head poking through the thick trees. And although I’ve been told by many intelligent folks that it isn’t right to assign human qualities to animals, all I could assume that deer was thinking was “hmmm, I was in the forest and hey, what the hell?”

A gopher, similarly, popped his head up one day along the interstate and I could only imagine his “wrong turn at Albuquerque” moment. He looked right and left and right and disappeared down his hole, in a flash as a passed.

 What do we want from our lives, I wonder? Isn’t it odd that we can go for weeks, following a routine of work and family and chores and buying things, just day to day, without considering the bigger picture? Without thinking the critical questions like:

  • What was here before me? On this land, in the years past?
  • What damage am I doing? Does it matter if one person works to change that?
  • Am I making my mark? Is my mark a gouge or a scar, a corner of a landfill or a roadkilled raccoon on the way home from the office?

The mark of a deerThe fox and the deer and gopher don’t consider their mark. Naturally. They aren’t expected to. Their lives are part of a natural cycle of the animal kingdom and they evolve according to the needs of nature. But us? What happens to us when we make choices?  How do the choices we make change or even corrupt the needs of Nature? I wonder if we are natural at all anymore.

The fox and the deer and the gopher remind me that my choices — the gadgets and the polymer and toys I buy, all the bits of the world created for my luxury — are contained in my mark. The more there is, the deeper the scar.

So I am thinking about it. And I am trying.

Elizabeth Howard

Elizabeth writes literary non-fiction, haiku, cultural rants, and Demand Poetry in order to forward the cause of beautiful writing. She teaches and speaks about the rhetorical impact of beautiful writing. A recent transplant to Connecticut, she calls London, Kansas City, and Iowa home.