Friday, December 31, 2004

Like an animal in 2005 [views]

by RudyG

In a world that at times makes it difficult to remember life is wonderful; that calls political madness, progress; where exploitation daily whacks off another arm and leg, I resolve to make no normal resolutions for 2005. Given 2004's body count, I'm better off resolving to become less a civilized man and more a wild animal.

We don't see animals much in the wilds anymore because we appropriate those wilds, sprawling ourselves, smothering other life. Paved paradise, said JoniM. So Nature's relegated to yearly zoo or animal park visits, occasional drives, vacations to the mountains and elsewhere. Including for me.

I can no longer go to circuses that have elephants--I'd feel like I'm acting a role in an installment of Planet of the Apes, except I'm the civilized ape watching caged humans. And I pity dolphins in "water parks". It reminds me of the disproportionate multitudes of ethnic people locked in prisons--the same systems that stock such "parks", fill those prisons. I try to stay away from both.

Elephants' gray wrinkles remind me of my grandmother, who wasn't as big, except with age, and maybe wisdom. A playful, shiny smooth dolphin reminds me of any bright, eager, young child swimming in a city pool, instead one in an "animal park". More reasons not to visit. Old people and children shouldn't be locked up.

Zoos obviously give me the chance to see the creatures, however unnatural the environment, and I do go there and take notes; it's part of my civilizing. I don't say zoos are all positive. They're just there.

Year-round, I'd go see two jaguars at the Denver Zoo, one black, the other spotted. Most people passed their cages because the cats didn't do much. No complaining, not much activity. They had plenty to complain about, too. They normally roam square miles, not square feet. They're a lot like you, unless you're in prison.

I spent some time when I visited the cats--observing, sketching them, noting their mannerisms--talked to them, being with them as I could. Until they both died. I felt better after that; their spirits returned to something undoubtedly more expansive than cage.

At the moment I believe the zoo only has two projects related to jaguars, both in field work in Mexico. That's fine by me. I won't miss them behind the bars.

I also spend time with the Artic wolves who exist in a much larger cage. They don't pace the fence of their world; they track variations of figure eights through the mid of the habitat, it's called. Maybe just because they're dogs, not cats.

I assume the wolves search for a way out, even though they've already discovered there's none. Even though they're traveled those paths thousands, thousands of times. Maybe they use figure-eight geometry to hold onto sanity. Or onto the little we accept as their intelligence. Maybe it means they've gone crazy. I might.

People tend not to stay long in front of that cage, not even half a minute; the wolves are too far away, not right up front doing animal tricks or something. I tell them where the wolves are in the habitat, their number, describe what I know of them, what they've been doing. People aren't impressed. The wolves might not be either, though they've never said. I don't know enough wolf to guess.

I also spend time with pumas, each of us doing much the same. One of my times there, one puma let loose with an incredible roar that blew me away. In that moment I knew he was puma. I thought I knew too why he'd done it, and when people came running, I gave them my explanation. They were disappointed; puma didn't say anything else in front of them--nada; he was done. No one stayed to give him the opportunity to entertain them, but puma wasn't interested in that.

I have a dream I'll run into puma outside of a cage, on a mountainside, somewhere like that. He may think me no different from a zoo squawker. I might be enemy, nourishment for him. But I know he won't try to cage me.

He'll have claws, teeth; I'll have a knife, no firearm. That's a fair a fight, I think. I like to think I'll win, but he might, instead. At least it would add 1 to the pumas' score.

I never stop for the zoo elephants. Luckily Denver has no dolphins, porpoises, but I don't think I'd visit them, either.

How much intelligence does an animal need to resent other species gaping every day at them eating dinner, taking a scat break or in conjugate relations? Hopefully, not as much as a wolf, or elephant, because that would mean we insult their intelligence. Forget what we do to their self-esteem. I'd probably pace the figure-eight of my home endlessly too, if I was watched so.

I'm an ethnic American. From birth, my chances of winding up in prison were higher than others. My mom kept me out. But I have relatives who are or were and likely will wind up there. If I'm somehow ever in jail, at length, I wouldn't want visits, like the jaguar, wolf get. It would unpleasantly remind me of my confinement, I'd envy their non-confinement.

Letters would be okay, much the same way I think wolf might love to hear another wolf call it from beyond the zoo fence. It might inspire hope that the species isn't doomed to be caged. No Planet of the Apes destiny.

I'll probably keep going to the zoo, still skipping the elephants, in 2005--despite the hospice feel I get from the place. As if wolf might hand you a photo postcard of his habitat that reads "Wish you were here, instead of me." But wolf wouldn't do that to us.

When the Indian Ocean Tsunami human body count is done it may surpass a quarter of a million, but apparently the proportional count of animal bodies will be far lower--possibly a result of their sensitivity to infrasound, which we don't hear as well. They heard catastrophe coming and--moved.

There's a lot we don't hear. Or smell, sense, taste, etc. More than just tsunamis. Elephants can hear each other over ten miles away. We sometimes don't hear someone next to us.

Some things set Man above other animals but also some set him lower. We gave up much when we left the primitive behind. Maybe we need to get back to, not a full state of grace, but at least a semblance of tranquility.

For 2005 I resolve to stay out of cages, to learn to listen better, to try to hear more, like the elephant. To attempt to keep my intelligence playful, like dolphins, no matter my surroundings. To express my outrage, myself, like growling puma. To keep to sanity like I hope the wolves do. To yearn, like jaguars, for the open range. I doubt I'll get as good as any of them, but presumably I'll have 2006 to keep at it.

©2004 R.Ch.Garcia


msedano said...

i have lost several hens and possibly two cats to coyotes. raccoons killed two hens and a dozen big goldfish just this year. squirrels ravage everything they can get their critter hands on especially the chavacanes. what really burns me up is i have no power to stop them, other than cage up the chickens and keep buying new goldfish. this, in densely populated urban pasadena califas. these damn beasts can hold their own. there's a bit of hubris in a human to think we've won because we can spell zoo--you know, every time those chickens look at me, they're wondering if I'd taste good to eat. same with those wolves, que no? yes, roaring feels good. sgt. monge, this drill sergeant from mexico, would shout at us to "roar like a tiger!" and we, the whole platoon of us, sore-armed in the front leaning rest position of the pushup, would roar like tigers and be ready for another twenty.

Manuel Ramos said...

RudyG says: "Some things set Man above other animals but also some set him lower. We gave up much when we left the primitive behind. Maybe we need to get back to, not a full state of grace, but at least a semblance of tranquility."

I'm not sure about this. It seems to me that the world of animals, at least animals in the wild, is anything but tranquil. It's desperate. The environment is "survival of the fittest." It's violent. I wonder how tranquil Michael's hens and cats felt when the coyotes ripped them apart? And as far as regretting that we left the primitive stage: really? It's all relative. Maybe there's a certain kind of beauty attached to a more natural life, but that was a pretty short life, wasn't it? And if you are not talking about going all the way back to the cave, then where do you start? What do you give up? Computers? Which means computer science and all that flows from that including the ability to communicate instantly with our fellow human beings anywhere in the world. I know, you aren't saying all that; in fact, your concluding paragraph lays out fairly modest and admirable goals, except, perhaps, for that one about yearning for the open range. Very romantic.


Anonymous said...

Man's world too is "anything but tranquil". Somalia, Sumatra, Iraq, the tsunami, life in a U.S. barrio, aren't that much different--"desperate, violent, getting ripped apart." The difference I meant was how we view, handle Life/Nature. Better to do it tranquilly, as a fact, like a tsunami fact. This has to include accepting the fact we will die or might die sometimes "prematurely". I'm not suggesting changing Man's world for animal's world, but rather taking their "view."
We (all creatures) want to live long, happy, productive, etc. lives, but civilized Man fixates on the long, and the rest gets 2nd play. Most people might opt to live to be 100, no matter they lose their savings, home and a decent living standard. Civilized society provides us with just that option.
I say (individually) give up things--computers if necessary--if they're part of estranging you. Sure--Email too, if it loses us our ability/willingness to talk face-to-face with others, makes us reclusive nerds eating chips between clicks of never-ending video games. Life's not inside such a screen. Give up the mentality that enslaves us to the computer, etc.
It's not the things, it's our civilized usage of them that dehumanizes, estranges us.
The U.S. version of civilization forces us to give up yearning for open spaces, to accept loft/townhouse neighborhoods of concrete and parking lots as somehow a livable environment. To me it doesn't seem too "romantic" to fight their paving of paradise.

Anonymous said...

The Denver Zoo has a male jaguar, 3 1/2 yrs. old, named Kaloa who's in the feline "house", not something they normally live in.

RaymundoEliRojas said...

Call for Submissions

Pluma Fronteriza is a nationally distributed publication that covers news on Chicana(o) and Latin(o)a writers from the El Paso, TX/Las Cruces, NM/Cd. Juárez, Chihuahua, Mex. tri-state region.

Main Submissions

We are currently accepting submissions of open letters, essays, poetry, and short memories in honor of Abelardo B. Delgado and Ricardo Aguilar, both passed away this year.

Guidelines for writers

Poetry: No more than two 8 ½ x 11 pages on a Microsoft Word or WordPerfect format.

Essays should be no longer than 400-500 words on MS Word or WordPerfect format.

Short memories (remembranzas) should be no longer than 100 words on the formats listed above.

Visual art or photographs. Must be in JPEG format.

We are hoping to dedicate two issues to these great fronterizo writers. Submission deadline for the spring issue is March 15, 2005. Submissions for the winter issue should be postmarked Jan. 3, 2005.

Non-writers on Abelardo Delgado

We will accept letters and 200-word memories from non-writers. By non-writers, we mean individuals who do not write creatively, academically, or journalistically but were somehow influenced by Abelardo Delgado as students, farmworkers, or members of the many organizations he founded and ran.

Special call for current high school students and Denver-area colleges

We are accepting submissions of letters, essays, poetry, or short memories honoring Abelardo Delgado as an educator. If you had Delgado as an instructor in Upward Bound or a Chicano Studies class, we invite you to submit. Note, in this category, submitters must be either current high school or college students. We will accept submissions from high school graduates who have not started college. We ask you write something on how Abelardo Delgado influenced your life or education. Please include the name of your college, university, or high school as well as your age.

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RaymundoEliRojas said...

"Music of the Mill" got pushed back. It was set for Fall 2004, but the date they have now is May 2005.

Anonymous said...

We, my family and I were so inspired by the animal - nature - zoo - tranquil discussion on your blog, we decided to go to the zoo. We haven't been there in over a decade. The first place we went to was the primate house. It's quite remarkable now. As we went down the rows of our 99.99% genetic relatives we talked about the issues that were raised on the blog. We were getting a little philosophical, a little psychological and a lot political. As I came to the end of a dozen or so primates I stared at the last who looked both scared and quite aggressive simultaneously. I took two steps back and instantaneously, he did too. I got closer to him and he approached me. As I stared at his face I noticed his facial hair was grey and his face appeared to be that of an aging primate. We couldn't take our eyes off of each other. It was then I noticed that perhaps a sick zookeeper or maybe some zoo staff on a cruda had dressed this primate in a coat and baseball cap. Once again I thought about your blog. Man's inhumanity to animals and nature. Assimilation gone berserk. I was sad, angry and just plain wanting to leave. I heard my wife's voice shout at me...get away from that mirror and let's go look at the elephants.

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