Carnivorism and the Act of Eating, part I

My sister’s cat caught a chipmunk this morning. As I walked past it twitched, breathing hard in wide-eyed distress, as the cat watched with casual triumph.

I don’t love killing things but when it relieves suffering there is relief for me, too, afterward. No matter how my beliefs of the afterdeath shift, I know it is better to slip gently on – or violently, rock against pavement perhaps – than to suffer on, crushed organs and bleeding arteries within. For a moment, I considered.

Predators prey. The hunt is in their veins, in their genome, the crouch and the sprint and the whisk of paw as natural to them as running my card at the register is natural to me – more natural, perhaps. She worked for this rodent. She probably felt something in her little kitty heart – fear or triumph, sadness or glory – whatever it is that predators feel for their prey.

(Do they pause a moment, while teeth rip into flesh? Do they thank the being that had been, for living, for giving in, for being born? Or do they simply swallow blood and marrow, as easily and as simply as so many of us  cart the groceries home, toss a salad, flip the chicken?)

The cat did what came naturally for her, even as she let it lie there, batting at its limp and terrified limbs as it died slowly. If I took her prey away, smash its skull between rock and brick to give myself relief from watching an animal suffer, I would be interfering with nature.

But the cat is not natural; she doesn’t belong here. She’s been bred by something other than natural selection to be sweet and tame, and kibbles await her inside. Yet does she have a natural home? She is an outdoor cat: sleeps in the shade of the goldenrod, scratches her back in the crispy grasses, and would rather have the soft space between the rows of carrots and chard for her litter box.

And is this chipmunk really natural here? The catamount has been gone for decades, hunted from Vermont hills and pushed to extinction by habitat destruction (though legend wonders if she still slinks through the woods, unseen by most), leaving exploding deer populations in her wake. The fields and forests are forever changed. The forest has also been slaughtered, then regrown, wrecking havoc on the habitat of the eastern red fox, the chipmunk’s primary ground hunter. Raccoons are shot by humans at their trash cans.  I don’t know where the hawks and owls stand, but their lives are far from “natural” now, too, aren’t they? What is the correct ratio of chipmunks to owls and foxes?

Is there a correct ratio of chipmunks to housecats? She belong somewhere, doesn’t she? Somewhere in which the wind can blow through her fur and the ants can tickle her tummy. Where does she belong? Is any landscape, and population, any thing natural anymore?

Is the suffering of prey natural?

In the end, I left the cat to her business, feeling too separate from her reality to interfere. In another instance, years ago, I caught a baby rabbit in my hands, skin torn from half its skull by a kitten I lived with, and tried to keep my eyes open while my partner brought the sledge hammer down in a swift, heartfull motion. Did I approve in this instance because I can see my children clearer in the eyes of a rabbit than in those of a chipmunk? Was it the extent of suffering, the sight of blood more appalling than the sight of pained breathing? Should I have ended the chipmunk’s suffering as well? Should I have swept rabbit and kitten outside to fight their battle of prey and predator on their own?

Can I exist without making these choices?



Writing honest nonfiction is the hardest, truest thing I know to do,” wrote one of my mentors and literary heroines once.

I agree with her, but add that doing so on a regular basis, with continuity and grace, is even tougher – and truer. A printed piece is also so final. I would like to revise and rewrite, coddling my inner perfectionist, indefinitely. Never be through. I would like for everyone who read my piece in The Commons last week to know that the thoughts were but a sliver. That if I were a good, obedient blogger, there would be much more – even contradictions!

Yet what a feeling to have a piece out there that can’t be touched – not in that publication anyway. I have a few published items, articles from my internship and a radio broadcast essay from school. This is the first time an editor has sought out a creative piece and said “I want to publish this, may I?” It’s a new level, even if it was simply an opinion piece in a weekly newspaper.

Continuity has always boggled my abilities. Something decent slips out between the angst and the parched cells, yet with regularity I fall flat. If only there was a Smooth Move solution for the writer’s block, full of fennel and follow-through, ginger and gentleness, cinnamon and compassion and extract of Creativea continuous.

In the fall, I will tackle The Artist’s Way again. ‘Till then, it’s espresso and chainsaws and the occasional spurt of inspiration. I’d like to write about death and veganism soon. It’s a tough topic.

Marriage in a time of Revolution

It must be so hard, Barack. I know you probably crawl into bed next to Michelle, after brushing your lips across your daughters’ foreheads and pulling the covers closer to their sweet chins, and know how lucky you are that your marriage is respected in this country. You wrap your arms around her waist, remembering your wedding day, how lovely she looked, and how gloriously her bursting heart shown through her eyes. How your ancestors and community lifted you up to the world – you are a married couple! – and everything fell into place and fell apart all at once as you tried to make sense of what it meant to be married. You tried to set aside what you thought it meant to be a husband to make room to create what it meant for you to be a husband to Michelle. You had democratic discussions about who would do the dishes and who would fold the laundry. You fell out of lust, struggled together, and fell back between the sheets even happier than you were before.

I know you think these things, because you are a human being – and I can tell by your persona, even on TV, even through the camera lenses and the makeup and the photoshopping and the scripts, that you have a good heart. I think you probably want the best for the world, like most people do. Maybe that’s what I want to believe.

I know you have strings stitched to your lips, tugged by thugs and thieves with agendas that you probably don’t really believe in, if you dare to really think about them. Agendas like reaping the profits of big oil by raping the earth and so many voiceless people. Like keeping women in their place by pretending that God gives a shit about birth control and that domestic rape is a myth and that abortion is a man’s choice to make in a congressional hearing. Agendas like slashing the foodstamp budget and funneling the funds into the military-industrial complex, and pretend that everyone actually has access to healthcare and good wages, that most of us just don’t choose to fulfill those basic human needs.

I know you don’t mean to endorse these evils. I know you spend a few minutes each evening pulling marionette strings out of your body with pliers, like the sinewy stitches from a bad cut: snip, tug; snip, tug. You coil the strings into a little tin on the medicine cabinet, step into the shower, wash the day off your tired body with that aloe-almond body wash your kids gave you for father’s day last year.

You haven’t fooled me, Barack, you can tell those puppeteers that they failed, this time, again. It’s convenient, to endorse gay marriage so close to the election season. You should have done it last year, or waited until after November came and went – I might have had a chance at believing it. Not likely though. You’ve got to tell those guys, the ones who thread those strings back into your skin each morning, that they’ve gotta start to act a little more convincing.

Because, Barack, an endorsement does nothing for me. When I wrap my arms around her waist at night, I can think ahead to our wedding day, imagine how lovely she will look, and how gloriously her bursting heart will shine through her eyes, but I know that in most places in this country, we will be no more than roommates. While my ancestors and community will lift us up to the world – you are a married couple! – my country won’t care. When everything falls into place and apart all at once, and I try to make sense of what it means to be a wife, and what it means to be married to her, and as we fall out of lust and back between the sheets with more fulfilled happiness, as we democratically decide on who will weed the kale and who will take the dog out to pee, the government I voted for four years ago will stand by and laugh. Best of friends! they will say. Roommates. And roommates can’t file taxes together or be assured that if one fell deathly ill, the other would be allowed to sit at her bedside in the hospital and whisper “I love you” until she recovered – or died – because the state we happen to be in at the time doesn’t recognize me as her family. What if I were not to be able to spend the last minutes of her life with her?

And when I will go to kiss my children on their foreheads, Barack, I will have to fight to keep the fear at bay. Will we ever be able to travel out of New England, without constant terror that our family will not be honored? Have you ever felt this way, Barack, this dread that something so wonderful as having children with the one you love could be so terrifying – not because you won’t know how to teach them to love, not because you won’t be able to keep them safe from drugs or bullies, not because you won’t know what to say, but because someone with power over you might look at you and decide that you are not their parent, that your family isn’t real enough for their standards?

I hope you said that you endorse our right to marry because you believe in this right. I hope you yanked the strings out of your knuckles and muscles and just said something real for once. But I won’t believe you didn’t do it just because they told you to, in order to win their election to protect their interests, until I can sign the papers with my wife and your offices will see them as the truth: that we are married to each other.

Don’t worry, you can rest well at night, with your arms around your Michelle: marriage equality will come to pass. In my humble opinion, however, it will not happen with you in the oval office. It won’t happen in your office at all, even. In fact, I don’t think it will happen in the United States government. Because revolution is not just a whisper anymore, Barack. It’s a truth that whistles past your ear when you hang your head out the window like a dog in the summertime. Take in the wind, let it rustle the crisp seams of your well-pressed shirt. Snuggle closer to your wife. I hope you feel you’ve done the best you can, because your time is up. All y’alls time is up. It’s our turn. It’s time to take back the nights, take back the streets and the squares, take back our currency, take back our bedrooms and our uteruses and our families. It’s time.


Winter is decidedly over and I can’t slump against February any longer. The replacement laptop has arrived and I am no longer pressed for moments with the library’s internet. The sweet wind through open windows swept out the dust that had been coating all surfaces since the ground started warming, I spent Sunday forking the early greens plot to an airy delight, and dawn feels much too early.

The last month and a half were long and weary and I am truly ready for this unusual warmth. I had lost momentum in writing, and surely, it will take a while to regain ground, but I am ready to dig myself out of winter and into summer: building, planting, marrying, dreaming, planning, doing. I am so ready to do.

Three weeks into an experimental gluten-free month: besides the narrow-eyed awkwardness around my mom’s traditional birthday baking for my 25th, and an extreme pasta deficiency, I feel wonderful. Though with mercury in retrograde, I’m not sure I could say for sure I feel “clearer,” and “lighter” in my brain. But I do believe it’s done me good so far, and when I am through with March I will be incorporating more intentional wheat back into my diet, namely, sprouted and ancient wheat.

There. A jump-start post just in time for the spring equinox. Just in time for the American Spring. And just in time to spring into action building my dream house and marrying my dream wife all in one summer. What better time to squeeze words out of my little toothpaste tube writer self?


-4 Before Windchill

It is damn cold out. On Friday, the cold motivated me. Today, I’m dragging, dragging, dragging. We put some more work into the goat house – patched holes where the wind snuck through the slats, made room for the flock of birds, and installed nest boxes. I did some trim work between the panes of plexiglass to keep some of the cold out and the warmth in. She raised the goats’ sleeping platform so the chickens could shelter underneath, and their feed could be tucked out of the goats’ reach.

And I shredded my knuckle with the bow saw.

The most satisfying thing is that this whole set-up cost us nothing, except for some screws and a lot of frustration and successes. The basic shed was thrown in with the goats at purchase time, the lumber for renovation came from freecycle, the plexiglass and scraps of plywood salvaged from my dad, and several dozen pallets from the local bread company warehouse. And it’s turning into quite the palace for the little ones; five New Hampshire Reds, three Buff Orpingtons, and two beautiful French Alpine goats.

I fell dead asleep when we came in from outside, so much energy the cold pulled out of me. I still haven’t completely woken up. I’m not sure I ever really woke up today, actually. I just pray the animals are warm enough tonight, as well as my friend without oil and those seeking shelter in a place they cannot call home. And I am heartbroken for those who knew the teen who was struck by a train this evening. And I’m really praying for the bees.


Wintery Mix

Everything soggy cold, freezing then thawing then freezing again. Got the car stuck off the side of the drive. Can’t wait to use the brand new winch we got for Christmas tomorrow!! Shoveling tires out of sleet ruts, wrapping webbing around tree stems, tugging at the winch lever…sounds like a fabulous Saturday morning to me. (Actually, I’m not being sarcastic.) Lamb and lentils on the menu. Contemplating this Mother Jones article and also this blog by a coworker – both pieces on food, money, and creating challenges. The wind is whipping past my curtains; my nose tickles because the snot is solidifying. But the light is soft and the roof above is sound. I really am so lucky and rarely allow myself to know it.

Slowing Down with the Snow

I don’t take much time to slow down these days. Actually, I haven’t ever in my whole life; this is the first time in my life that I’m considering the lengthening of time by sitting still a priority. I’m still too scattered for meditation, and I’m just not yet on to yoga either.

Yet: took time up my drive; sought footprints from hours back; car nestled between snowbanks at the road’s edge; the soft light from my homestead; the stillness and the clear, clear air.

Paths from cabin to chicken house to goat shed greeted me home from work, and the wood stove feels useful again. Kindling in a basket. She has made this place wintercozy, and I brought home the bacon and made the short stroll from car to house count.

Y’all got snow? Bets on how long it’ll last?

January Seeds

Packets spread in piles on the bed, layers of seeds in paper pockets awaiting the first buzz of springtime. It just doesn’t feel the same this year. The temps are still wavering, the ground still bare; I could scatter some brassicas with a flick of the wrist and they might grow. I love the brassicas. This morning I was drooling over the kale, the vitamin green, the broccoli rabe. And arugula. So many packets of mouth-watering arugula.

When we had a farm in North Carolina in 2010, we ordered a lot of hybrid vegetable varieties, because we needed production. Now, our focus is resilience and we want to start saving seed this year. What to do with aging hybrid seed? Sprout them in lonely winter months, when you could die for a fresh kohlrabi or kale salad. Can’t wait.

Tomorrow: clean house and yard, and get the next step of the water system completed. She says it has something to do with caulking something or another, but I’m just the manual labor. I would love to have time to split some wood this weekend. And mend my leather bag. I wonder where I might find my thick thread and leather needle…

“Storm Clouds Gathering”

This is the discovery of the day. I’ve been following his videos for a while, but this one is very summing. Terrifying. Keeping me up at night and haunting my dreams. Yet a call to action.

I know many will watch this and wonder if I’m a little loony. At the very least, extreme. An anarchist. Someone who latches onto ideas that crazy people create to be sensational.

I really do believe this, though, and I’m choosy about what I delve into with a whole heart. I play devil’s advocate as much as possible, and tend to doubt stories of impending doom. And I’m kind of a normal person. I have a college education. I work a day job, spend too much money on cosmetics and too much time on facebook, and love sunflowers blooming in the garden. I’m really into family. I hope to get a tattoo someday.

But this is with a whole heart.

And I’d love to hear your feedback, whatever it is.


Meg Mott, in her latest post about this year’s presidential race, climate change, and the current American mindset, writes about a world view I’ve been embracing recently – if not in practice, then in theory and fantasy. “This new world of melting glaciers and rising sea levels requires a different sort of faith,” she says. “One that stresses adaptation and response instead of the imposition of will.”

To me, right now, adaptation is literal. The recent rainy season left my emotions soggy and my body weary; my floor still wears the weeks of dried mud tracked in and deposited as if my home were a riverbed. Every pair of shoes is caked in what used to be my front yard. I can’t get rid of the dust.

Now, the cold comes in bursts like thunder: two days of temps in the teens pushed us to patch the goat shed and bring the chicken water into our house to defrost overnight. This weekend, with whispers of fifty degrees Fahrenheit, I anticipate more mud, and fear my plans for hauling out the mop bucket tomorrow morning may be in vain. Will the bulbs start growing, thinking it’s already spring, just to freeze mid-shoot? Will the scraped hillside erode before we have enough warm weather for rye grass to take root? Will my Subi make it down our driveway before we can afford a load of gravel? And when will the snow come – in March or May, when I am planting my wedding flowers? When I am setting the foundation for my new bedroom and writing studio-nook?

Needless to say, I – like most other Americans – am not adapting well to the weather.

And all these nuisance crises. I seem to pull them towards me, like little shards of steel from a grinding machine to an ordinary kitchen magnet. These constant sinus bugs, these pulled muscles and financial collapses and workplace shootings and dog fights and dying mother-inlaws and fickle family disgruntlements. These stuck cars and loose goats and cracked wood stoves and eight crowing roosters at three in the morning. Okay, that last one was entirely preventable.

Needless to say, I – like so many others – am quick to find disaster everywhere, and to brew in it. Finding the peace and the joy and the rest is so much more difficult.

How does one learn to adapt?

I think we will learn. As food becomes more and more expensive, and our paychecks become more and more obsolete, we will learn to grow our own vegetables, fruits, bees, mushrooms, worms, grains, cows, sheep, goats, chickens and ducks. As transportation becomes more and more expensive as oil reserves continue to dwindle, we will understand the importance of community more wholeheartedly. We will learn the importance of family again, and the nuclear family will expand to contain those who used to live nearby – grandmothers and grandfathers and grown children and godparents and various adopted humans that make a family truly whole.

But what about me, just me? My brain isn’t adapting to the lack of sunshine this time of year; despite my reduction in coffee consumption, my increase in sleeptime, and my focus on that which is important to me, I am having trouble finding energy anywhere. I slug to work. I slump against my stool. I stagger home and stare at facebook for a while. I argue with my significant other for a while after that. I groan when the dog needs to pee. I fall into bed and pray for energy in the morning.

I am focusing on creating myself (as opposed to finding myself) and a goal is adaptation, but how do I do this? What concrete steps do I take to be a human being who remains alight in the face of change…and turmoil? Any lessons, anyone?