DillardLivingLikeWeasels

DillardLivingLikeWeasels - Living Like Weasels A Weasel is...

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Unformatted text preview: Living Like Weasels A Weasel is wild. Who knows what he thinks? He sleeps in his underground den, his tail draped over his nose. Sometimes he lives in his den for two days without leaving. Outside, he stalks rabbits, mice, mnskrats, and birds, killing more bodies than he can eat warm, and often dragging the carcasses home. Obe— dient to instinct, he bites his prey at the neck, either splitting the gugular vein at the throat or crunching the brain at the base of the skull, and he does not let go. One naturalist refused to hill a weasel who was socketed into his hand deeply as a rattlesnake. The man could in no way pry the tiny weasel off, and he had to walk half a mile to water, the weasel dangling from his palm, and soak him off like a stubborn labei. And once, says Ernest Thompson Setonwonce, a man shot an eagle out of the sky. lie examined the eagle and found the dry skull of a weasel fixed by the jaws to his throat. The supposition is that the eagle had pounced on the weasel and the weasel swiveled and bit as instinct taught him, tooth to neck, and nearly won. I would like to have seen that eagle from the air a iew weeks or months before he was shot: was the whole weasel still attached to his feathered throat, a fur pendant? Or did the eagle eat what he could reach, gutting the living weasei with his talons before his breast, bending his beak, cleaning the beautiful airborne bones? l have been reading about weasels because l saw one last week. i startled a weasel who startled me, and we exchanged a long glance. Twenty minutes {tom my house, through the woods by the quarry and across the highway, is Rollins E’ond, a remarkable piece oi shallowness, where I like to go at sunset and sit on a tree trunk. Rollins Pond is also called Murray’s ?ond; it covers two acres of bottomland near Tinker Creek with six inches of water and six thousand lily pads. in winter, brown-and—white steers stand in the middle of it, merely dampening their hooves; from the distant shore they look like miracle itself, complete with miracles nonchalance. Now, in summer, the steers are gone. The water lilies have blossomed and spread to a green horizontal plane that is tetra firma to piodding biackbirds, and tremulous ceiling to black leeches, crayd fish, and carp. ' This is, mind you, suburbia. it is a five-minute walk in three directions to rows of houses, though none is visible here. “Ebere’s a 55 mph highway at one end 209 210 A SPECTRUM OF PROFESSIONAL WRITING M of the pond, and a nesting pair of wood ducks at the other. Under every bush is a muskrat hole or a beer can. fhe far end is an alternating series of fields and woods, fields and woods, threaded everywhere with motorcycle trackswiri whose bare clay wild turtles lay eggs. So. I had crossed the highway, stepped over two low barbed—wire fences, and traced the motorcycle path in all gratitude through the wild rose and poison ivy oi the ponds shoreiine up into high grassy fields. Then I cut down through the woods to the mossy fallen tree where I sit. This tree is excellent. It makes a dry, upholstered ‘bench at the upper, marshy end of the pond, a plush jetty raised from the thorny shore between a shallow blue body oi water and a deep blue body of sky. The sun had just set. 1 was relaxed on the tree trunk, ensconced in the iap of lichen, watching the lily pads at my feet tremble and part dreamily over the thrusting path of a carp. A yellow bird appeared to my right and flew behind me. It caught my eye; I swiveied around—wand the next instant, inexplicably, I was looiring down at a weasel, who was looking up at me. Weasel! I’d never seen one wild before. He was ten inches iong, thin as a curve, a muscled ribbon, brown as fruitwood, soft-fumed, alert. His face was fierce, small and pointed as a ltzard’s; he Would have made a good arrowhead. There was just a dot of chin, maybe two brown hairs’ worth, and then the pure white fur began that spread down his underside. He had two black eyes I didn't see, any more than you see a window. The weasel was stunned into stillness as he was emerging from beneath an enormous shaggy wild rose bush four feet away, I was stunned into stillness twisted backward on the tree trunk. Our eyes loched, and someone threw away the key Our look was as if two lovers, or deadiy enemies, met unexpectedly on an overgrown path when each had been thinking of something eise: a clearing hiow to the gut. it was also a bright blow to the brain, or a sudden beating of brains, with all the charge and intimate grate of rubbed balloons. 1t emptied our lungs. it felled the forest, moved the fields, and drained the pond; the world dismantled and tumbled into that black hole of eyes. If you and I looked at each other that way, our skulls would split and drop to our shoniders. But we don’t. We keep our situlis. 50. He disappeared. This was only last week, and alreadyl don’t remember what shattered the enchantment. I think I blinked, I think 1 retrieved my brain from the weasel’s brain, and tried to memorize what i was seeing, and the weasel felt the yank of separation, the careening splashdowu into reai life and the urgent current of instinct. He vanished tinder the wild rose. i waited motionless, my mind sud— denly full of data and my spirit with pleadings, but he didn’t return. Piease do not tell me about “approach—avoidance conflicts." I tell you I’ve been in that weasei’s brain for sixty seconds, and he was in mine. Brains are pris vate places, muttering through unique and secret tapesmbut the weasel and l l i ANNIE Dunno: LIVING Lute Warsaw 2.11 both plugged into another tape simultaneously, for a sweet and shocking time. Can 1 help it if it was a blank? What goes on in his brain the rest of the time? What does a weasel think about? He won‘t say. His journal is tracks in clay, a spray of feathers, mouse blood and bone: uncollected, unconnected, loose-leaf, and blown. I would like to learn, or remember, how to live. i come to Rollins Pond not so much to learn how to live as, frankly, to forget about it. {hat is, I don‘t think i can learn from a wild animal how to live in particularw-shall I suck warrn blood, hold my tail high, walk with my lootprints precisely over the prints of my hands?_——butl might learn something of mindlessness, something of the purity 0? living in the physical senses and the dignity of living without bias or motive. The weasel lives in necessity and we live in choice, hating necessity and dying at the last ignobly in its talons. 1 would like to live as 1 should, as the Weasel lives as he should. And I suspect that for me the way is like the weasel’s: open to time and death painlessly, noticing everything, remembering nothing, choosing the given with a fierce and pointed will. i missed my chance. I should have gone for the throat. I should have lunged for that streak of white under the weasel‘s chin and held on, held on through mud and into the wild rose, held on for a dearer life. We could live under the wild rose wild as weasels, mute and uncomprehending. 1 could very calmly go wild. i could live two days in the den, curled, leaning on mouse fur, sniffing bird bones, blink- ing, licking, breathing musk, my hair tangled in the roots of grasses. Down is a good place to go, where the mind is single. Down is out, out of your evenlovirig mind and back to your careless senses. I remember muteness as a prolonged and giddy fast, where every moment is a feast of utterance received. Time and events are merely poured, unremarked, and ingested directly, like blood pulsed into my gut through a jugular vein. Could two live that way? Could two live under the wild rose, and explore by the pond, so that the smooth mind of each is as every— where present to the other, and as received and as unchallenged, as falling snow? We could, you know. We can live any way we want. People take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience—even of silence—why choice. The thing is to stalk your calling in a certain skilled and supple way, to locate the most tender and live spot and plug into that pulse. This is yielding, not fighting. A weasel doesn‘t “attack” anything; a weasel lives as he’s meant to, yielding at every moment to the perfect freedom of single necessity i think it would be well, and proper, and obedient, and pure, to grasp your one necessity and not let it go, to dangle from it limp wherever it takes you. Then even death, where you’re going no matter how you live, cannot you part. Seize it and let it seize you up aloft even, till your eyes burn out and drop; let your musky flesh [all oil in shreds, and let your very bones unhinge and scatter, loosened over fields, over fields and woods, lightly, thoughtless, from any height at all, lrotn as high as eagles. ...
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This note was uploaded on 03/25/2011 for the course WRITING 102 taught by Professor Khurana during the Spring '11 term at NYU.

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DillardLivingLikeWeasels - Living Like Weasels A Weasel is...

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