Sunday, July 12, 2009


I’ve been obsessed with roadkill this weekend—and not for the first time, as you can see from this old citynoise post.

Why now? It may have something to do with working my way through Osamu Tezuka’s remarkable six-volume graphic tale of the life of Buddha.

Much to my surprise, one of the strongest messages of Volume One is: “In nature, humans and beasts, even snakes, are all kin. Helping each other is the law of the living.”

Master Asita cries to his disciple Naradatta, “You believe that human lives are sacrosanct while animal lives are worthless?!...You must be punished for this.”

If you stop to consider how many dead animals you can find on a brief stretch of highway, you can see far we’ve come from this point of view.

Birds die when they fly low or slow, turtles die as they look for higher ground to lay their eggs, slugs and frogs die when they come out in the rain.

The kind of gruesome suffering so evident in the Buddha’s day, as well as now in many parts of the world, is often hidden from those of us living our lucky lives with weekend homes.

Riding my bike, wandering with my camera, I can see the beauty and the horror both in the dead animals in the road.

The skins and shells of crushed reptiles (snakes, turtles) often become stunning mosaics; mammals are messier. But vulnerability and fragility are everywhere.

Over and over lately I’ve seen groundhogs that seem to have died on their backs, their bodies bloated, legs in the air like a dog waiting to have its belly rubbed.

Opossums tend to end up in a pile of skin and bones that reminds me of the relics in an Eastern European ossuary. I saw three of them in a short stretch of road this weekend, their remains painted right over with a white stripe by the road crews.

I find all of this deeply moving. I feel as if someone could make a whole book of such images.


ccc said...

Though I agree we humans are not part of the whole balance of nature thing and I wish we weren't actually the cause of the imbalance of nature, however, I do think that it's a little unrealistic to say that all the other animals help each other to the survive while humans are responsible for all the killing. Many animals kill other animals on a regular basis and not just for food. Our problem is the scale with which we kill other animals. If only we could do everything in moderation as the rest of the animal kingdom seems to.

Joan said...

I always brace myself for late spring/early summer because that's when the baby bird attrition starts...dead babies who fell out of trees or got nabbed by cats/squirrels all over the Slope sidewalks. I also wind up rescuing at least one or trying to. I'm only 1 for 3 there and not even sure about the was hopping around stunned after a thunderstorm, I put it into an open tomato container lined with leaves & pine needles and tacked it high up on a nearby tree, and it was gone the next day. Undisturbed 'nest', no body or remains. It wasn't overly young, so I like to hope it made it...