Domesticity: Let Us Share Our Struggles with One Another.
Wild chickens (when they were wild) would produce only one or two clutches of eggs per year. About a dozen eggs per year.
Now, we’ve bred them to produce one egg per day. This lasts only a few years until they’re “no good” and start producing less frequently.
I sit under a roof, between four walls each day, bored and sad. The food, which makes me tired and fat, is the only positive chemical release, unless I get myself out to walk or run a few miles, and even that is a challenge. I want to stay in my bed. I can waste my free time on booze, which I do on occasion, just trying to feel something different.
And I am ungrateful. Privileged and pointless because I’m aware of this cage. The bullshit story of meritocracy and free market systems. Of if you just try hard enough you will achieve your dream. But it just feels like scrambling up a steep and muddy slope.
Do we stay or do we go? The path is forged — into adulthood, into settlement. The children and the house. The office and the commute. And we could have it, and we’re lucky for the opportunity that others don’t have. And the panic in me is saying go towards that because that’s where money comes from. That’s where security lies. But the thought nags at me: is it actually safe?
Does the bison who takes a sharp turn away from the herd feel anxious as she awaits the others? There’s something strong pulling her from the course she’s been on… is that a cliff at the edge of their stampede? Maybe she knows it. She’s had a premonition.
Intuition isn’t quantifiable. And in the age of science, intuition is the same as belief, same as non-fact, same as false-until-proven-right. Do I spend my life proving that we’re a stampede heading toward a cliff, toward disaster? There is little time for that now.
I sit with women who wonder how and why their courage is something they have to dig so deep for. Where did it go? When as youthful girls, the limitless was possible. And I want to scream aloud this has been bred into us! This lack of confidence and politeness that blooms at pubescence has been taught and imbibed generation after generation.
Seeing the rape and pillage after rape and pillage of our world, we listen to the storyline that this is the way it’s always been repeat over and over. Until we can recite it perfectly ourselves. Until we can impress it upon one another in secret circles. From mother to daughter. Friend to friend. Until sure!
His work, my work, is contributing to the oppression and slavery of millions, and the ‘investments’ are just new and ingenious ways to further plunder. But you know, the house is nice, and the kids are cute, and yeah, maybe I’m lonely and have been sucked dry of any meaningful, fulfilling creative expression of my own, but isn’t this The American Dream?
And in those quiet moments when we just don’t give a fuck any more, when we think no one is listening, we say how we actually feel. That this is bullshit. This story of raping and pillaging is not the story that is our birthright, cooperation and tenderness are within us.
We no longer have to bear witness to the psychopathy. We do not have to dignify the story. We can walk away.
Take the sharp turn, dear one. Let the fear of being outside the pack penetrate you. And when you awake from the shock, you will see that you were right. There is a cliff just beyond. But now — now you must watch the majority of your species, those from whom you were born, with whom you followed for thousands of miles — they are about to plunge to the very depths.
Cry out, dear one, as loud as you can! They will call you crazy: Look at that one over there who thinks she knows where we’re going. She knows nothing. Too young, too inexperienced. She will see this is how it’s always been. But you might save one who felt alone, maybe two who needed to hear your call.
Domesticity is not something we can talk about a) because it is not commonly accepted that humans are animals, and as such b) we cannot consider the full scope of the psychological ramifications of domesticity on those animals we know — dogs, cats, pigs, cows, etc. — because then we would actually be granting their sentience.
But consider: what might it feel like to lose wildness? What would it feel like to have fences built around you — limited where you once were vast? Were the babies born in captivity ignorant of the world outside their cage? Did their mothers not tell them stories?
Once, dear child, we ran for miles and nothing blocked our path. When we needed nourishment — physically, emotionally, spiritually — we went searching for it. We needed one another to make it that far, dear one. Sometimes we went too far and some did not survive. But other times we found it — the water, crystal clear and full of hope.
I walked the full stretch of 2,189 miles on the Appalachian Trail that felt as if it had no end. Days upon days without walls to contain it — the hurt and the dread, the thrill, the triumph. The empty space between my ears rang out as far as it needed and I expanded. So so big, so so deep. I grew endless.
I walk the paths of my hometown now — the loops, and the roads leading to all the places I already know. The people leading lives I’ve seen a thousand times before — I want to tell them…
Do you know, dear one, of the story? When we had no walls? When the air and our breath were of the same source, the same temperature and rhythm? We walked on earth and our feet knew it, recognized it. Embedded in communities, moving in accord with one another and with the wild that surrounded us and was within us. Dear one, it was not so long ago!
This is not about financial reality, this is about wealth of spirit and soul. Of mind and body into eternity. So far-reaching, the cosmic space of it would take our breath away. Yet here… the food is always within reach, like the trough. And these walls are fences, cages. And we are easy to control.
In the structure of night into day into night, we do nothing to embrace the dark. We fear any who do not look like us, talk like us, think like us. We fear the woods and predators we massacred long ago as an intimate part of our Great Progress.
The animals in the woods were once family. They miss us. Our stories and our songs. Our fire circles and our dances
They used to play alongside us in the great game of life. The never-ending ebb and flow. When control was a murderous grasping around the throat, choking out the true nature of things. The chaotic messiness that the priests and bureaucrats dangle before us to scare us back into our pens: So what, you would have anarchy then? What would keep someone from raping and murdering without law and order?
I look around, dear one, and all I can see is annihilation — the murder and decay of all life for the sake of control — 2/3 of wildlife gone by 2020. This is the reality, dear one, we soon will be the only ones left.
And will we be safe then? From the woods? From the darkness? I fear not, for the darkness within our souls will continue to lash out, ignored and untended for generations. And we will find that the danger was not outside, but within.
Listen, my dear — supple and strange, voluptuous and desperate — you still have your body. You still have your heart, your eyes.
Hold the truth now in the secret place. Keep it safe and flash your eyes at all you see — show them the fire of it — that you are still alive and you will not go down without a fight. A fight for what is essential — the water and air, the earth and fire. We know that we must protect and stay close to these things, or else we will fall.
And it will not make sense in a scientific report, and it will not make sense as a brief on the evening news.
It will make sense when you see the woman across from you clutching her heart, with tears in her eyes because she has seen too much violence within this system of too much control. That is when you must, you must! Look at her and say, Dear one, I know your struggle, for it is mine too, and it will be our children’s if we do not share this with one another.
There exists a latch on the cage that holds us here. There exists a part of the fence, dilapidated somewhere in the dark. You know where it is — feel for it. Go toward it. We will meet there. And we will break free.
Be brave, dear one, be brave. For once we are free of these walls, we will not stop running. We will change the direction of this course. You and I who tend to the tenderhearted, all of us who make sacred the fecundity of this deep and precious world — we will tell our daughters the story of when we stood side by side. The story of when we raised our voices and finally cried out, “Enough!”
Julie Shayka is eco-feminist hiker, environmental educator, writer and witch. She is constantly renegotiating her role in cultured life after seven months on the Appalachian Trail in 2016, where she plunged into the depths of the wild world she holds dear. She now works in Northern Virginia as an environmental educator and as a Producer & Director of Communications for The Leavers — the documentary production of her AT thru-hike where she and her partner explore the idea of how to create a vibrant and just world for those who will follow after. Connect with her via email or on The Leavers documentary website.