AS PARTICIPANTS IN TONIGHT'S "HOOFIN IT" EVENT WILL HAVE SAVORED THE DESECRATED LIFE OF AN ADOLESCENT WHOSE PERSON WILL HAVE BEEN REDUCED TO A LUMP OF CHARRED BONE AND GREASE, WE WANT THE WORLD TO REMEMBER NOT ONLY WHO THE YOUNG VICTIM WAS—HIS YOUTH, HIS AVID MIND, HIS TRUSTING HEART—BUT THAT THE FORCE THAT, THROUGH THE HEART, DROVE HIM TO FIGHT FOR HIS LIFE TO HIS LAST BREATH, WAS, IS, THE SAME FORCE THAT, THROUGH THE HEART, DRIVES US TO LOVE, DEFEND AND PROTECT OUR LIVES. IT STARTS IN THE HEART BUT IT LEADS US TO JUSTICE.
MEET CHARLOTTE, A FUGITIVE FROM A "GRASS-FED BEEF" RANCH, WHO FOLLOWED THAT IMPERATIVE VISION OF THE HEART ALL THE WAY TO A PEACEFUL WORLD.
It was the dead of night when—frail, frightened, and riddled with cancer—Charlotte summoned the last bit of strength left in her ailing body to break out of the "cull" pen where she had been marked for slaughter, and make a mad, desperate dash across the dark, empty, vacant fields that separated the farm from her destination: a place she had never seen or been to before, but whose presence and call she felt, and understood down to her brittle bones, as a promise of Home.
She ran until she reached the Sanctuary gate. There, she stopped, shaking and trembling all night, gazing steadily at the peaceful world unfolding behind the fence as if she could see it clearly through the impenetrable darkness, as if she knew with a certainty that ran down to her marrow that the world she "saw" on the other side was not only her own safe haven, but the only place on earth where her unborn child would have a life and a future.
Days later, she gave birth to baby Beatrice, a child of impossible perfection, a nub of a child who was now glistening on the ground in a halo of birth fluids, slippery and dark as a tadpole, and shining with all the light and hope of a new life. Charlotte bathed her baby from head to toe, lovingly cleaning every immaculate fold of the infant's body, every soft crease in her skin, breathing the baby's sweet, mossy scent while uttering her special sound for that child—the sound for the child's name— a sound so soft, so low, coming from such a deep place inside her, that is was barely audible by the time it reached the noisy surface of the outside world—pressing its blessing, its wish for life, into the infant's pores with every lick of her raspy tongue.
Standing there by her child, drawn in the gravitational pull of this tiny newborn planet, this bitty black sun that was now throbbing at the center of her universe with a light that was improbable and unaccountable in the bleakness of her existence, she became no longer the battered slave, the hunted animal, the desperate fugitive, not even the refugee whose life was finally free to begin (and end) in peace. She was simply the child's mother.
She cared for her daughter with infinite attention and tenderness, teaching her whatever living skills and strength for living she had managed to scrape in her enslaved existence but mostly the two of them delighted in, and drew strength from, each other's presence—they walked the open fields together, rested together, breathed together, nurtured each other, kissed each other's faces, and once or twice they even played together, although it looked more like the dance of snow cranes, graceful and eerily slow moving, than the usual bovine romp that often involves chasing, kicking up heels, neck wrestling, and gentle head butting.
In their few months together, Beatrice flourished into a quiet and serious child who, like her mother, preferred studying and observing things to the jarring stimulation of participating in the thick of life, who was fascinated by things that, to our eyes, were as dull as dirt and sometimes they were actually made of dirt—a thistle, a stone, a piece of caked mud—but, to her, they were veritable treasures. You could see her studying a thistle with all her senses— her eyes, her nose, her lips, her teeth. Ten, twenty minutes would go by, and she was still in its thorny thrall. Clearly, she saw and sensed far more in that humble object than we did. Charlotte shared her child's quiet fascination with small, quiet things and, together, in the daily exchange of compatible feelings and thoughts, they created a space where newer, richer, stranger feelings and thoughts could grow and flourish as in a secret garden. And they were a secret garden, the two of them, a self sufficient unit, their jet black bodies moving, breathing, and knowing as one.
When the days shortened and the nights lengthened into December, Charlotte and Beatrice started a new activity, a new thing they did together, a new, strange and magical fruit of their secret garden.
They would come to the house window after dark, one large head mirrored precisely by the miniature version next to it, and they'd stare inside, standing side by side and looking in. They never knocked on the window, the way Bumper, or Sherman and others used to do. They never tried to come in, or asked any of us to come out (the way Marcie and Petunia used to do), they never asked for anything. They just stood there silently, two heads swaying from side to side in perfect sync, perfectly concealed in the darkness.
This battered mother knew, and she taught her child that, at night, their ebony coats made them invisible to human eyes and that's when they could travel freely, unencumbered, farther, without any of the anxious looks and halts and hesitations of their diurnal life. At night, they moved boldly and fluidly. They swam like twin fishes in the liquid darkness. Charlotte, especially, was a different person at night. She moved differently, she felt differently. She was at ease, she was in her element, expanding without fear in the quiet and solitude of the world, a world devoid of people, a world where she was as invisible and as free as the night.
And, in the weeks before she died, this became a nightly ritual. Charlotte would bring her daughter to our window (or was it the other way around?) and they would both gaze deeply through the glass. They stood there, gazing steadily, unflinchingly into the world revealed through that small rectangle of light.
We don't know why they did this,why Charlotte brought her daughter to our lighted window night after night, why they stood there, casting their gentle, steady, unwavering gaze inside the house. They never asked for anything and, if we went outside to greet them or offer treats, they'd walk away and not return until the next evening. But we know that, whatever compelled them to return to that spot night after night, was very important to them. And what we eventually understood in a glimmer of insight, was that the glass pane served as a WINDOW for them as much as it did for us. It was a window in every sense of the word—an opening to another place, another space, another world, another understanding; a seeing, living opening in the impenetrable surface that had previously been just a blind wall, and that now could, perhaps, with enough work, persistence and humility, become a place of illumination.
Whatever they saw as they returned night after night to look at that patch of light flickering beyond the dark surface of things, was clearly significant to them and, it seemed, to Charlotte in particular.
And so it was that, throughout the dark of December, we looked at one another, we encountered one another, we sensed one another through that tiny window in the night.
We looked at one another night after night, fully aware of the discrepancy between their clear vision of us and our inability to see them. The only way we could tell they had even arrived at the house was by learning to distinguish between qualities of darkness, learning to see that the darkness outside the window had changed substance, that it became deeper, more saturated, more intense, more vibrant, more alive. It was a quickening thing, to KNOW that they had arrived, that they were breathing their knowing breath outside our window, that they were lighting the darkness with their minds. It allowed us a window into something we shared, a hope, a promise, a luminous vision, a necessary destination.
But there was something else in that nightly enlivening of the darkness outside the window: a thing we all knew but dreaded to confront. Soon, there would be only one face looking in. And this was also, possibly, the very reason why Charlotte was bringing her daughter to our window every night.
She knew she was dying. She felt it in her cells, they informed her of a different life-flow, a different energy, a dwindling of life, a profound transformation, a final escape. She stood there with her daughter, gazing steadily at the world beyond the glass, in the same way that she stood at the sanctuary gate the night of her escape from slaughter and gazed steadily at the peaceful world breathing beyond the fence.
It was as if, before leaving her daughter, alone in this world of darkness, she was struggling to impart something important to her, something that would sustain her in the sad days ahead, something that would give her strength throughout and her life as an orphan. A certainty of the heart, a vision of what this world could be for beings like them. It was the same vision that had guided her to sanctuary on the night of her escape—the vision of a peaceful world that she may not have been able to name but that she could see clearly even in the dead of the darkest night.
We were looking at the same world, them and us, from different sides of that wintry window. A world "where the wretched of the earth are free to live on their own terms – not ours – and die of their own failings – not ours. It's the world we carry imprinted in our sentient souls. The world we all need, seek, crave, bruise ourselves struggling to build, ache to have and to hold, and without which we wither. The world on the other side of the catastrophically unjust and unbalanced world that our species has created. We call it a vegan world. But it is not a new, separate, or special world. It is not a world apart. It's just the world. This world. Restored."
© Joanna Lucas
Slideshow - "Humane" Cattle Farming
This is a vigil for the billions of individuals whose lives are shattered for the palate pleasure and amusement of consumers whose taste for animal suffering trumps justice and compassion. It is a protest, a rejection of, and a necessary remedy for, the mockery that animal welfare advocates, "conscientious" consumers, and "humane" farmers have made of the word 'respect'. It is a direct response to "RESPECT YOUR DINNER", an HSUS sponsored event where participants are invited to experience the superior taste and texture of "humanely" enslaved, and "respectfully" murdered animals.
As participants will be "Hoofin it" around Denver for four consecutive days, savoring the burned remains of a different animal each day—a bison, a pig, a lamb, a calf—we will stand in solidarity, in sympathy, in outrage, and in deep sorrow with the animals whose lives, hearts, minds, memories, languages, and unique identities will have been obliterated into the ugliness of meat.
Join us in opposing the elitist notion that other animals exist for human use. Join us in celebrating the mind, the heart, the mystery that each sentient being brings to the world. Joins us in restoring the true meaning, practice, and moral significance of word 'Respect'.
Live vegan and educate others about the vegan imperative.
|Learn more about the "humane" farming myth.|