In Hawaii, wild pigs are considered a nuisance more often than not, especially when they dig up farmland, looking for food, and eat mac nuts and fruits from the trees on peoples’ land. The pigs were not in on the land deals, so they don’t know they are trespassing. But they probably wouldn’t have cared anyway, because once pigs establish a walking path, they defend it as their territory. They are known to be vicious, and can be, but so can humans. Perhaps they’ve heard the worst about us and are responding to our stereotype in kind.
My fiancee Carol and I bumped into my old landlord, Gus, in a restaurant in Kona a few months back. He had moved to the other side of the island, the Hilo side, because his uncle died and left his family the farm. I asked Gus about the chickens and he said they were doing well. When he was my landlord, I lived in the Ohana, a small apartment traditionally reserved for family, attached to his house. Our yard was like one big chicken coop. There were forty-something giant, nervous birds jumping on the roof, sleeping in trees, bgawk!-ing at all hours of the day.
The chickens were wild, not bought, and they loved Gus. He fed them every morning and evening. If one of them got hurt he would put them in a large cage on the ground so that they were separated out and safe, but still with their friends and family, who would sit with them, clucking softly outside the cage. They returned the favor with eggs. You might suppose they laid eggs around the yard willy-nilly, but I know they sacrificed some out of kindness. I know this because starting the morning after I lost my job, eggs began showing up on my doorstep. I thought Gus’s wife was leaving them for me, but it turned out no one was. No human was, anyway.
The eggs came from a kindly hen I had taken a particular liking to because she seemed to be shunned by her community of cluckers. I don’t know what she did to become the outcast, but she started sleeping behind my bike and I would tiptoe around her, so as not to startle her, pretty much every day. When it came time to move, I was sad to say goodbye to her and to see them all go. Gus rounded them up and moved them to Hilo. And now, Gus informed me, they had friends: the much-maligned wild pig.
Pigs started coming into his yard early on. Rather than see them as a nuisance, he began feeding them. And their numbers grew as more pigs heard through… I don’t know what… the piggy grapevine that they would be safe there. Gus spoke with pride and a hint of astonishment that not only did the adults let him pet them, they trusted him with their piglets, too. He never thought it possible to live in harmony with wild pigs like this.
It’s easier to go through life killing and eating animals when we see them through the prejudice of their worst or scariest attributes. When it comes to other human cultures we’ve historically been racist toward, we’ve softened up by learning that we all want the same basic things in life. What happens when we acknowledge this in animals? In all life? All life wants to live and deserves freedom and room to express that which brings them into existence in the first place.
Carol and I have a neighbor who talks about all the animals that mosey through his property. Some stay for a while; some stay forever. The chickens seem to like it there. He calls them, “volunteer chickens.” This is the first time either of us had heard about volunteer animals. What he meant was, they are free to come and go at will. Usually they leave him egg gifts and he is thankful. But he would never trap them and pen them in for eggs. They give him just enough. They trade. They and he live in thankfulness and in peace.
Perhaps when we see animals as nations and as family, we don’t need to round them up. Perhaps they feel safer with us as we feel safer with them and understand their equality as living beings. I know you folks living in heart cultures reading this right now are saying, “Yeah, duh.” But this is where we brainiacs are. This simple, obvious notion is a mighty revelation to us. That which you’ve known all along, that which we tried to destroy… is that which we are finally coming to.
Thank you for your patience, people, plants, animals, insects. (Mmm… Maybe not insects. Baby steps.) Thank you, Earth and her cultures who don’t want the psychotic slaughterers of everything to die the way we want them to when it suits us.
Can anyone from the oppressor culture imagine being the oppressed, the enslaved, the murdered, and not wanting revenge? Wanting the oppressor to wake up, not die? Can you imagine equality existing not because words on a piece of paper make it so, but because the concept of “lesser than” people and creatures never came to mind in the first place?
Quick story: Carol was driving to work the other day when a truck pulled out in front of her and drove slowly, because it was being chased by an animal. Was it a dog? It was darting back and forth across the two-lane road, playfully keeping pace behind the truck. The truck driver cautiously picked up speed until the creature could no longer keep up. The animal stood in the middle of the road waiting for Carol, staring at her mischievously with its head down. Slowly, she drove closer and saw that it was a pig. A wild razorback, tall and lean.
The razorback began playing with her in the same way. She’s a nervous driver and didn’t want to accidentally hit the pig, so she stopped the car and yelled, “Don’t do this!” At that, the pig trotted away in a happy, bouncy manner she described as being like our cat, Gracie, when she is feeling good and satisfied. The pig looked for an opening in the fence line at the shoulder of the road, and when it found one, disappeared into the woods.
Carol went to work. The pig went to play.