A woman, dead for nearly eight years, is still teaching me appreciation for her life of seclusion surrounded by animals. Over a lifetime caring for patients, my mother may have found comfort in her animals and away from people. Not that she really disliked people, but she was drawn to “overcomers” instead. Many were like a rancher and his invalid wife of fifty years. Or the Holocaust survivor who was very involved in her community though a paraplegic. Or an immigrant college student (my mother taught introductory grammar during a second career) who single-minded mastered written and spoken English though many native speakers put little effort forth.
Pets were her constant companions. At the age of sixty, she moved to a desert valley southeast of Tucson. A couple artists, at least one bobcat, and a Gila Monster were her only neighbors. She soon had rescued greyhounds, blind cats, two horses and a burro to care and exercise. In the last decades of her life, she put animal needs ahead of her own.
I am grateful, now that I have turned sixty, I have little desire to withdraw into the wilderness (except for an annual trip friends and I take to Yosemite!). But I do have one rescued dog, Comet, and Dexter as part of the family. With children and a grandchild nearby to visit, I have reason to remain involved and a doting grandparent. Possibly, I may still rescue or tend to a animal, temporarily, that might wander into my path.
Instead of being surrounded by burros and bobcats, at sixty, I read animal rescue stories, such as found on the Dodo website, to encourage sentiments I have inherited. Perhaps the website seeks to show people being kind to animals as a form of amends. As some may know, the Dodo was an island bird with no fear of the mariners who caught it for food – causing it to become extinct.
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/people
― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
Seclusion might be a life-saving choice the dodo never made. I made different choices. After several decades, I see life as more akin to a quote attributed to Dr Kubler-Ross, than philosopher Thoreau’s “quiet desperation”. I have far too many friends, family ties and a loving wife, to dare suggest that we retreat to a mountain or canyon hideaway. And remaining actively involved with people interests me.
And it will delay my going extinct.