I wrote once of being an animal. My connection early after my loss to the wild kingdom. How primal an experience, how “left to the elements” I felt. I longed then to be the careless animal who leaves, at best, or eats, at worst, her dead young. I was instead the opposite. The animal who would have willingly taken his place. Who nudges and and barks at with the persistence of the unbelieving. Who then begins to wail and hollow sounds not of this earth.
I am better know. Minutes ago, I was the animal mother standing over her dead baby. Her herd standing around them both, all mourning, like the elephants and dolphins. I am the mother who moans my animalian voice, my herd beginning to disperse. I remain as the last of them trudge on together. I wait until the last moment, danger in the air, sensing exactly how far away I can be from them, how close I will allow the danger, how desperate I am to stay above him forever. How I have no way to properly care for his body. I know I mustn’t let them get too far but I can’t imagine just leaving him there in the dirt, for the vultures and the sun to dispose of. Minutes ago, I was that mother. And now I am the one who can wait no longer. Who’s life becomes threatened if she does not move on with her herd. In isolation, she will surely perish. Now, I am the mother who knows the danger is too near. That lingering any longer will lead to certain death, to being swallowed up. Now, I am the mama animal who backs away from her dead young, whimpering and wailing, to rejoin my herd. Leaving my baby there because whether human or animal, claws or thumbs, there is no way to properly put to rest your baby’s body. Human or animal, there is no sense to be made.
I am rejoining the herd because I have to. Because I have survived and he has not and that means I must keep going. There is nothing to be done. The animal desire to survive is too great to lay down next to him. The fear of being swallowed up by the predator too intense to entertain. I must give up and surrender and keep going. So, I begin to back away, keeping the distance of the herd and proximity of the danger at the front of my awareness, so that I do not leave a moment before I must. I back away, dust billowing around my feet as I step, drinking in the smell, the sight, the bend of the light. I back away until I must turn around and prepare to run.
Now, nine human months later, just a few, short animal minutes later, I am beginning to turn around.