I had a dream this morning that involved late 1880's French aristocrats singing about how the rifle was the best invention ever, but the worst part of the dream involved walking by a farmers market on the Baltimore ave side of Clark Park, stopping to look at some beautiful dark green dinosaur kale and noticing that the woman had a skunk on the table. "A skunk!" I said, "May I pet it? It's fur looks so soft.""That's not even the best part," she replied and proceeded to take a knife and slit it's skin from crotch to sternum and peel it's skin off to reveal a wet looking layer of dark brown fur with no stripe underneath. "Usually you can find skunk onions under here," she said, running her fingers through the damp fur and coming across a light beige circle that she gently worked out of the fur and revealed to be a mushroom. "Or mushrooms—they have a wonderful flavor when they grow in the needle fur." Needle fur was apparently the name of the underlayer.She flipped the skunk over and commenced running her fingers through the fur on it's belly, looking for more vegetables. I was marvelling at how things can grow between layers of skin on a skunk as if they were in dirt when the skunk squirmed a little and made an unhappy noise. I was horrified. "It's not dead!" I exclaimed."No, I just knocked it out." she replied in a matter-of-fact tone."You just skinned a live animal!" I protested, loudly."No, it's fine, it can't feel it." she soothed."Yes! It can!" My horror grew with every second. "You have to put it out of it's misery! You skinned it!" I was still arguing with her when I woke up and I can't get the thought of that poor tortured skunk out of my mind.What does it mean?!
Ah...springtime! An epoch of awakenings when we're treated to the return of birds chirping in the treetops and children laughing around the playground. 'Tis the season for planting seeds in the garden for a new crop of vegetables, and for waving hello to our favorite furry friends, freshly arisen from their slumbersome hibernations, prancing and scurrying about while wagging their tails at last after a long winter's nap. And let's not forget those tantalizing springtime smells—aromas banished to dormancy under a blanket of frost for some months, now waft on open air! Fragrant flowers and foodstuffs scatter their scents asunder, as do piles and heaps of dung and rubbish, festering and rotting in the warm, golden sun.
Now Jakey, I'm not too sure what your wakey life has been doing these past two years. We all know "skunk" as a noun, bringing to mind those plucky li'l mammals in all their distinctive don't-fuck-with-me nonchalance; their powerful perfume best smelled from a moving vehicle with roll-uppable windows; and of course the cartoonishly French (!) loverboy accent of Pepe Le Pew—no? As a verb, "skunk" is a cribbage term that's bled over into other card and board games, meaning one player kicked the other's arse by well over umpteen points, which, for the loser, is not unlike being skinned alive. And yeah, as an adjective, "skunk" means a cabbage you may or may not want to smoke and a weed you may or may not want to eat. Oh wait, I got that backwards. Whatever—on with the blog.
Jakey, you haven't been reading Derrick Jensen, have you? He's got this bit in his book A Language Older Than Words where he critiques the philosopher René Descartes (who happens to be—you guessed it—aristocratic and French!) for denying that animals are capable of suffering, simply because they are incapable of speaking or communicating on any recognizable human level. We've learned a lot about this since Descartes' day of circa 1645. Since then we humans have hepped bonobos on talkin' good English, done ASL with gorillas, and figured out how groundhogs alert each other as to what color shirt I've got on. Together we've come so far, and it is so good.
Linguistics aside, the Descartes/Jensen divide is one of ethics: how we treat other creatures defines how we treat our planet, our fellow humans, and yeah, ourselves. Is your little trip down Dream Street to the farmstand pointing at dietary/ethical choices in your awake life? And, by extension, do you query about the process by which said vittles arrive at mouth from merchant, from truck or trains or ocean trawler? And are them eats from farm or factory or some hybrid of the both? And what exactly went on in there—there, where your food sprung up from? Jakey, what are you eating and how did it get to you? Are you connected to that process and do you even want to be?
Perhaps your tale of gross skunk onion woe asks all of the above. Or perhaps it just beckons you to come on down to the farmers market on a nice spring day. There, a lady proffers up a mushroom, freshly picked from the dungheap. You examine it closely, and yes there's something (as many pronounce this next word) fur-miliar to you here. You can freak out and be overwhelmed by all circumstances that bring you and mushroom together in this moment. Or you can take a deep breath and then sigh the words, "It was only a dream."