Tuesday, January 12, 2010

January 12: Roadkill

Haiku are often Zen-like in that they capture the ephemerality of life, those moments that are here and then gone. The undercurrent of that train of thought is that we are all mortal, that our time on the planet is brief and should therefore be appreciated, even savored. I was reminded of this today as I swerved around a freshly-killed squirrel in the road. One minute that squirrel was a living creature, waving the fluffy plume of its tail, thinking about an oak tree across the road. The next, it was a grey body on the asphalt. To make matters worse, a little further down the road another animal lay dead on the center lines, a long, dark creature that may have been a mink. I think I've seen more minks dead than alive.

Road-killed animals always make me wince, and then I often say a short prayer for the soul of the animal. It seems only proper to pay this small respect to another living being whose life was cut short by something beyond its control and of which it had no real comprehension. Our roads and cars are intrusions on the natural space of the planet, causing millions of these small deaths every day. And I'm not trying to sound self-righteous--I drive around just as much as the next person--but to simply state a fact. A fact that not only makes the lives of these animals more precious, but also our own lives. We share this mortality. And it could happen just like that. So when I pass roadkill, besides giving a little thought to the creature lying there, dying there, in such an undignified way, I also can't help thinking about myself, taking a moment to inwardly rejoice that I am alive. And hopefully, the dead animal will become food for another animal, a scavenging crow or an opportunistic fox, thereby perpetuating the chain of life.

Road-killed squirrel, may
you end up in the black urn
of a crow's sleek throat.

Poetic note: I'm not happy with this haiku stylistically, because the lines are enjambed, and there is no kigo, or seasonal marker. But the sentiment is exactly what I wanted to express. Sometimes we have to sacrifice form for function--or in this case, take some poetic license.

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