Thursday, March 26, 2009

Turning 50

Schuyler, Virginia
27-28 February, 2009

On the eve of my 50th birthday, which arrives in 65 minutes, we have come to The White Pig, a vegan B&B in rural Virginia. It’s our 3rd year running and the 2nd year we’ve brought Emily and her friend Haley Warren (daughter of Frank, whose Post Secret books are best-sellers). Our arrival at dusk was heralded by a cluster of wild turkeys moseying near the border of a field and woodland. Half an hour later, a Big brown bat flapped overhead as Marilyn and I wandered the property in the last wisps of light.

I’ve been reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriett Beecher Stowe’s famous novel of 1852 which is credited with helping to fuel the end of American slavery. Bringing about measurable social change must be the highest achievement in writing. How desperate I sometimes feel to end the suffering of so many animals caught up every moment in factory farms, fur farms, research laboratories, abattoirs and fishing nets. The magnitude of human abuse of acutely sentient animals makes the hope of their eventual emancipation seem remote and unattainable. But there are so many little victories to be won, and in any case what is to be done during one’s time on Earth but to strive onward? The animals’ cause which consumes my heart and soul makes it oftentimes hard to locate peace within. But I also draw immense pleasure and inspiration from animals’ presence, be it a covey of wild turkeys melting into the undergrowth, a kettle of vultures wheeling high overhead on a thermal air column, or the ladybird beetles buzzing, bouncing and crawling about the lamp at my bedside. Tonight, as I stood on the dried grass lawn in front of the guest-house here, watching the last traces of light disappear behind wind-blown cloud patches, and a crescent moon brightening in the night sky, I felt peace and tranquility. As I get older and the planet grows more crowded, my appreciation and adoration of nature grows richer. Nature reminds me that the best things in life cannot be bought or sold. They are timeless things unfettered by the clamor of our false civilizations. I know just what Whitman meant when he marveled at the pismire (ant) that could stagger sextillions of infidels. Tomorrow the sun shall rise and I shall awake healthy and grateful for another day. Birds will sing again. Earthworms will till the soil. Humble mosses will lie soft and cool on the rocks. I will live.

Midnight fell as I wrote that last sentence. The next half century of my life’s journey begins. The ladybugs, oblivious to my thoughts, continue their own explorations. I will turn out the light that they too may rest.