Wild Hunger (You Remember)

Yesterday I retrieved from the library, and read, As the World Burns: 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Stay in Denial (a graphic novel by Derrick Jensen and Stephanie McMillan). Wow. It’s hilarious. Now I’m wondering about my role as a domesticated animal.

In the book, wild animals lead the charge against the aliens who’ve received permits from the president to eat the planet (earlier on, we learn that wildness is the one thing that can stop the aliens, the one thing they’re afraid of); a few willing-to-be-wild humans – along with trees, rocks, winds, flies – join in. In the final frame, the victorious wild army sweeps down a winding road towards their next battle, this one with the corporations (who’ve objected to the alien invasion only because they’ve been eating the planet, and don’t wish to share their meal).

The wild creatures fight with all they’ve got – sustaining many injuries and casualties – because their lives depend on defeating the world-eaters; the domesticated creatures (human and not), addicted to the so-called comforts of life as they know it, refuse to fight at all.

Just how domesticated am I? Just how caged?

One thing that seems relevant is how much time I spend indoors.

For almost eleven years now, I’ve been walking at least five miles per day, which translates into at least an hour and a quarter outdoors. That’s something – but it’s not much. Even before reading As the World Burns, I’d been playing with the idea of requiring myself to spend more time – three to five hours, maybe – with no barrier between body and sky. Yesterday evening, I chose to bring neither umbrella nor raincoat when I left home with a storm brewing; as the rain soaked me, I savored its smell, and its taste. This morning, after stubbing my toe on concrete, I chewed up plantain leaves and wedged them in next to the wound, in lieu of a band-aid.

In As the World Burns, some wild animals tell some willing-to-be-wild humans that, once upon a time, humans and animals were comrades, friends. They say that’s the way it was meant to be, and could be again. This leads me to wonder whether social nourishment, to be complete, must include an RDA of interaction with creatures beyond my species.

About thirty years ago, in the dining room of my family’s Brooklyn apartment, I reached up to my scalp to find a bug in my hair. I flung it away, with a squawk, alarm coursing through my body; though I knew I wasn’t really in danger, I felt I’d survived a vicious attack. Just the other week, I found another bug in my hair, in our dining room in Beacon. I pulled it out, let it go, felt no alarm at all. It’s taken a while, but I’ve come to accept that insects will approach, scope, touch.

If this can change, what else can change? I am glimpsing the possibility of ease with going barefoot, nesting to sleep in tall grass. What am I missing, world, staying inside?

If you liked this post, you’ll love my memoir, Mating in Captivity, in which my twenty-two-year old self enters a cult with a radical take on sex and relationships. Learn more here.

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