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What Is An Animal


i have been listening to an audiobook of Wild Magic by tamora pierce recently. an excellent writer who gives her characters interesting, likeable personalities while playing within and outside expectations. it's a charming plot about a girl, her horse, her mentor, and animals.

now, i knew one thing going back in: i read this in middle school and loved it, so i needed to be willing to sit with it a while. there must be some compelling reason i liked it so much.

as an adult, i feel like i have a clearer understanding of... well, not just the book itself, though that too, i suppose, since i have no memory of how i understood it before. but it's giving me some clarity.

my middle school years are much of a blur to me. i've said before, but i had a very rough time during those years; puberty gave me a body that alienated me from my peers, and was subject to a lot of harassment, heckling, and general rudeness that i feel the ripples of, even now. i'm a full adult, and i'm still working to process it, even in an adulthood where doctors don't take me seriously for the same reasons.

with that in mind, i want to say that this novel pierced the darkness in my mind's library of memories and, with laser sharp accuracy, pinpointed something very specific.

first, some context, before i tell you the excerpt that caused this epiphany.

in this passage, which i will very loosely quote, the main character, daine, is talking with her mentor's dog, tahoy, with her horse, cloud, standing off to the side. the three of them - girl, dog, and horse - are watching as her mentor and her mentor's friend sit together.

with her mind - as daine has the ability to speak with animals, and comes from a line of hedge witches - she asks tahoy what those two are doing. tahoy respond that "they are doing the Sitting Thing. Onua (the mentor) only does the Sitting Thing with other humans that have The Light." 'the light' refers to what the characters call "the gift", the ability to do certain types of magic.

daine asks her faithful horse cloud: "do i have the light?" and her horse responds with something that caused my ears to start ringing.

"nope. some of the folks back home did, cuz they're human, but you aren't. you're of The People. the folk of claw and fur, wing and scale."

daine says something to argue - her skin is too pink, her "fur" too patchy, and she even walks upright! - and says something like "i'm human! i'm human all over!"

cloud, the horse, simply replies, "on the outside. not inside. inside, you're People."

now, listen, i can't remember a lot of my middle school days. those memories are somewhere in me, but unless i know it's there, i can't see it. i can't remember a lot of things.

but i can still feel that last sentence. i feel its essence. you aren't a human. you may look like it, but you're not. you are an animal just like me.

i can almost imagine a smaller version of me, with his ponytail frizzy and matted from undermaintenance, his body larger than his peers liked. he was failing at being a human, in his own perspective.

but you know what? if you fail at humanity, there must be a reason.

as a child, my family gave me waves of various movies with animals. sure, you get classics like the jungle book, disney's robin hood, aristocats, homeward bound, the lion king... but i got more than that.

i was given things like fern gully, the three lives of thomasina, once upon a forest, gay purr-ee. all these movies with animals either as the lead characters or supporting cast. lots of them with eco-friendly messages. have sympathy for these poor little animals. you know.

these were all just pebbles on the path of life. and brother, this book series, wild magic? that was one big rock.

i felt so alienated from my peers that i was convinced something was wrong with me. and this book stated something that i felt somewhere deep, deep inside me, an ache, the smell of peatmoss and wet creosote, the feeling of dirt, the light in the leaves.

i am... an animal.

i don't know how to describe it in a way that doesn't make me seem unwell. maybe it's a long-running delusion. but it's one that makes me feel safer. perhaps that's what spirituality is.

with this book, i remember so much else that had been locked tightly. it's like a torrent of information passing through and around and under and over me.

as a child, when my sister and i played pretend, i was always the "pet dog". my sister complained that i was the dog more often than she was. i influenced us playing meerkats in the living room with pop-up plastic tents. i larped warrior cats with her and a close friend in mostly vacant cowfields, traveling places most wouldn't go without protection. (we were kids, what can i say?)

as an elementary schooler i got told off by a yard duty for wearing a dog collar to school, saying that it would "give the wrong idea".

are you getting the picture here? i was the poster child for therianthropy. just completely barking mad. i was showing signs of being an animal from when i was toddler, following my dog around like she was babysitting me. i didn't understand people at all. animals were easier for me to read - still are, even - and i just had a hard time making friends in school.

isn't it wonderful that i can find so many people like me - the ones who wear collars, who bark, who growl - on the world wide web today?

the nature of beast and man is intertwined,

forest's signature

playing: stardew valley
feeling: introspective
outside it is: cloudy cloudy