We’re just back from Farm Sanctuary’s annual hoe-down (lots more on that to come). It took just under five hours to get up to the Finger Lake region of New York State from Brooklyn, and I don’t want to tell you how many it took to get home. The drive back was cursed from the very beginning, though, by something that happened 20 minutes after we left the B&B.
Michael was driving down a woodsy road and I was telling him about a speaker at the conference, Jeremy Rifkin (author of The Empathic Civilization). He had said that humans are hardwired for empathy but that if humanity is going to survive, we need to extend our empathy to the planet itself and all the other creatures on it. The window of opportunity is small and we have to rush to get ourselves to this more evolved place.
The idea was hanging optimistically in the air as a squirrel ran right in front of the car. Before we even knew what had happened, we felt the sickening little thud of death.
I covered my face with my hands and screamed two words in my head over and over: I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Michael said fuck very forcefully a couple of times before he pulled onto the shoulder, by which time I was sobbing.
“All it was trying to do was to get from here to there, just like us,” I wailed. “It had a life and it shouldn’t be dead and we can’t take it back.” I stayed on this theme for awhile.
As I calmed down a little I said two other things to Michael, one of which one made perfect sense: “I’m sorry it happened when you were driving.” (The obvious corollary: I’m glad I wasn’t driving.) The other statement was a little less rational: “I’m glad it wasn’t a deer or fox or rabbit. I think I’d be much more upset.”
Michael let me cry for a time and then suggested we do something to mark the squirrel’s death.
He’s a good man. Here’s what he said:
“Squirrel.” He paused for about fifteen seconds. “We’re terribly sorry about what just happened.” Another pause. “We’re sorry you had to live in a world full of unnecessary dangers and that your life was cut short for no good reason. Amen.”
Then we got back on the road.