Karen Rivers

The Zoo, The Wild, Time.

Karen Rivers

Every night as I'm falling asleep, I have a half-formed idea about zoos.   The crux is that humans have voluntarily signed up for captivity.   We lock ourselves into our houses, each nearly identical to that of our neighbours, and we perform for a public using social media and our words.  This is how we earn our food and pay for our keep.

We don't venture out into the wild.   It's not safe out there, we believe.  It's better in here, with Netflix and wine, soothers against reality.

I listened to a podcast about a man who lived as a badger for two weeks, snuffling in the dirt blindly for food.   I went for a hike in my woods and thought about how familiar all the trails are to me now, four years in here, how each one is as unique as the whorl of a fingerprint.  I couldn't walk them blind though. 

I didn't lie when I said it was half-formed, but there are certainly more of us in captivity than in the wild, which is also true of other animals teetering on the brink of extinction.  I'm thinking of red wolves, in particular.  There are a lot of them in zoos.  The ones in the wild have been reintroduced.  Born in a cage, they must be padding around in the valleys now, eyes wide and alert, wondering where the boundary lies and who will feed them next.   

We aren't going extinct.  We can't stop making more of us, drunk on someone's basement couch when we're young enough to know better or soberly when we're too old to stop the yearning from overtaking us.  

I love the way babies are, the weight of them in my arms.  

I don't want another baby, it's not that.  I just want to get out of captivity, like those red wolves, who were born howling at the zoo light, mistaking it for a low-hanging moon.

When they see a real moon, what must they think?

This web-site is half-broken and needs updating.  I want you to know that I know that, I just haven't done it.  

In my bullet journal, I have written: Fix website.   I write neatly, with a fine black felt-tipped pen.  I like the sound of it on the paper, the way I draw a dot before each entry.  I imagine checking it off with a red pen, also felt tipped, the satisfying swoop of that.  

I have also listed the following, which remain unchecked.  (The red pen gets little use.):  Finish book;  finish other book; weed garden;  find someone to weed garden; deal with the kids' pool;  service the car; teach boy the times tables; deal with girl's anxiety; win lottery.  I wrote "win lottery" just now, stopping typing this post to do so, because I didn't read The Secret but I suspect it said something about visualizing what you want in order to make it true.  

Hang on.

I just crossed out "win lottery".  In its place, I wrote, "sell movie rights or next book for seven figures" because I'd like my windfall to be a result of an effort that extends beyond choosing six numbers correctly. Then it would feel earned, even though there is a randomness to the math that says that hard work plus time = success.  

Oh, just wait a sec.

I put "win lottery" back on the list, because who am I to be so particular about luck and good fortune?  

When I win the lottery, I'm going to buy a big piece of land on an island.  

The land will have open spaces and trees and its own bay.  In this way, I will own the tide, and by extension, also time.  

On this huge space, I will build a tiny house.  I've designed it in my mind.  It won't be so ludicrously tiny that I'm crawling around on ladders to get to bed, but rather it will be too small to house all the things that currently keep me in captivity.  Because my house will be small, it also won't bankrupt me.  Also, the inside will seem less appealing than the outdoors and so I will spend all of my time outside.   I will not be vitamin B deprived any longer, for a start.

When the moon rises over my bay, I will know exactly how to howl at it.  I expect that in return, it will tell me how to correct for all my regrets.  

In this scenario, I will homeschool the kids.  In this scenario, they will also like it.  

One can do whatever one wants when everything is hypothetical.  

We will destroy all of our clocks, carving them out of our appliances, deleting them from our phones.   It's the clocks that keep us captive; it's humanity's decision to measure time that closed our cage doors.  That, and the way we are on our knees, worshipping them.  We are thanking them for keeping us safe from what might have destroyed us in the wild we've forgotten knowing, before time, before money, before we signed on for any of this.