Here’s what I know for sure: water is life, life is fragile, and we are lucky ducks to live on this little frickin’ miracle of existence — the SS Earth.
I had a dream recently where I was traveling across the ocean on a steamer when I realized that I was tied to a horse who was about to fall off the ship. As the horse’s footing failed, he jumped into the cold water and I was yanked through the air, yelling, “Cut the line! Cut the line!” to anyone and no one in particular. I was dragged through the dark, choppy water, trying to get my head up for a breath of air, until we finally landed on the shore.
“Phew,” I thought, as I lay on the packed sand, waterlogged and coughing. Then I realized the horse was about to start running and I would be dragged on the ground, which would be way worse than through the water. I started yelling again, “Cut the line! Cut the line!” Then I woke up.
I chalk up dreams like this to the family in which I was born. Samuel Perry, by all accounts, was a very capable man who did not suffer fools, and he would not have had much patience with a great-great-granddaughter who almost drowned while tied to a horse in the Atlantic. Sam was likely the kind of guy who could climb the rope underwater and ride the horse onto shore like The Man from Snowy River.
Sam Perry moved to Denver in 1887 and became heavily involved in railroads and the mining industry. He was an avid horseman and hunter, but I don’t know if he ever experienced the magic that this planet hosts. He was a land-penetrating bear hunter, so who knows if he had a mystical belief in his bones…
Generational karma is absolutely a thing, and while I appreciate coming from such sturdy stock, I’m more of a tread-lightly-so-that-others-may-tread-at-all type. I still rescue bugs from the empty fate of the bathtub, for Pete’s sake, and every time I find myself in a cosmic jam, I sarcastically thank Sam for leaving his karmic tab unpaid. Personally, I would rather pay it forward. I honestly believe we can still pull it together, and eliminate our greedy corruption, so that there’s enough food, water, and shelter for all — including the animals.
I became a vegetarian in college because of my Philosophy 101 professor who simply asked, what is the philosophical difference between man and animal? An added bonus was the shock value this created with my cattle-ranching grandparents, because as a teenager it is your job to disrupt familial norms. My vegetarianism morphed over the decades of my life and became more about the treatment of the animal I was to eat.
The best example of this shift in my perception was at my sister’s wedding in Senegal. I worked for the airline then, so I flew non-rev to represent the family, and while staying with her future in-laws, I would go up to the roof for smoke breaks. There was a goat tied up there and we bonded over a few sunsets and too many Camel lights. When I realized he was the main course on the Big Day, I felt saddened at first but then appreciative of the ultimate sacrifice for my sister’s future health and prosperity.
It’s not that we humans shouldn’t eat meat, it’s the way we do it that is causing real damage — both to ourselves and our planet. We’ve lost our cosmic map to navigate this world. We don’t grow/raise our food sustainably or seasonally, and we don’t appreciate the food as nourishment, hence we don’t feel full or connected to any other thing, including the source. We just eat our fast food while driving as fast as we can to the next stop. We are oh-so busy and yet, instead of investing in our own home, we treat the Earth like an Airbnb, and our animal neighbors are paying the price. As we all travel through this crazy crowded world, let’s stay connected and pay it forward for those who are still hoping to catch a ride.