Anyone who knows me even a little bit, knows that I am no great Phileos Animalis. In our family, I am the one immovable barrier to my children’s desperate pleas for a domestic canine experience (thank God that Christa is allergic to cats, so we at least don’t have to have that battle). The only compromise I was willing to make was to let them get turtles, who sleep a good 6 months of the year in someone else’s garage. Talk about low maintenance! The only pet I had as a child was the adorable little kitten we got as kids one Christmas and creatively named… Christmas, and who just disappeared one day even before it stopped being a cute little kitten. Then there was the tank of amazing tropical fish my parents were “fish-sitting,” while the real owners were traveling for a few months. Every last fish was dead within the first few weeks. The small white budgerigar I was given when I was 18, whom I named Coca (yes, after that stuff!), survived my care, against all odds, for about three years, but not the care of his “bird sitters,” when I was away in Europe for a year.
The only pets I’ve had since then were the ones we had in PNG. Our dog, Hadley, who died an agonizing death after eating pesticides while we were away in Germany for a couple of months, and our ants, cockroaches and mice, who survived despite our decisive efforts to exterminate them. In fact, the real reason I don’t mind staying in Germany, is because there are no cockroaches here. A couple of days ago, my neighbor friend Louisa invited me in to see her three new kittens. The whole time I was petting them and saying how cute they were, I was thinking, “What kind of crazy people have a house full of cats?” And every morning when another neighbor’s cat wants to be let in for breakfast between 5 and 7 am, yowling like a squeaky violin, I am sure that if I still had a bb-gun from my wild and crazy teen years, I would have long put an end to its miserable little existence (I’m obviously also not a morning person).
So I feel almost hypocritical when I start to listen to my own heart’s response to the oil gushing out into the Gulf of Mexico, and I find there much more compassion and heartbreak than I would have expected. In fact, I started sobbing convulsively on my way to Ikea the other day, as I imagined the violence being inflicted upon this living, pulsating and diverse ecosystem, and wrote this poem when I got back home. Every new article about the failed attempts to cap the leak, every aerial video of the sprawling black pest, and every picture of the birds and sea life who are suffocating and smothered in the fuming, sludgy crude, wrenches from my heart new waves of horror and sorrow, of feeling angry and helpless and… responsible. It’s just not right! It’s just not right!
In stretches such as I’ve had the last few weeks, when melancholy has settled in like a long bout of bad weather, this tragedy seems to have given me that last right hook emotionally and landed me on the mat for the final count of ten. The actual physical crises of the unrelenting oil still intruding into the aqua blue Gulf is daunting enough, but the network of corporate and political corruption, the world wide scale of unsustainable consumption, and my own addictive behavior, which keeps the whole system well lubricated and in ceaseless operation, appear to me to be an unstoppable herd of buffalo stampeding us all off a cliff. Will it ever change? Will I ever change? How do you stop a stampeding herd of anything?