I’m walking down the street in my neighborhood and find a dead squirrel who was recently hit by a car, followed by the decomposed corpse of a fledgling (a robin from the look of his orange breast) and another dead squirrel who is beginning to smell. I pause for each deceased and offer a prayer into wind. Afterward, I continue walking toward my destination, but I don’t forget the images of their bodies.
As I’m walking, I realize I don’t feel as broken as I used to when I encountered the dead. Ever since my partner and I started acquiring dead chicken bodies from markets and restaurants to feed Shelly, I’ve noticed a shift in my reactions toward death. Before we started feeding Shelly real animal tissue and organs, I felt extremely sensitive whenever I came in contact with animals and plants. When I came in contact with a dead animal, I would feel sharp pains vibrating from my throat into my womb. Pain would surge especially if I touched the body to relocate into a place of cover where it could rejoin the system faster; this happened a lot with insects. Even with whole plant bodies, I would feel a painful sadness when I touched them. This was more so the case in foraging and walking past woodlands being cleared.
Now, despite living as vegan, I’m not far removed from scavenging recently deceased squirrels and birds hit by cars to feed Shelly cat. The trembling toward making contact with the dead body isn’t as severe as it used to be. In fact, the pain is becoming more and more difficult to detect, leaving me concerned. I don’t feel the sharp pain associated with perceiving dead bodies, nor is the pain as long lasting. I can’t help but wonder what’s happening to me. Has a part of me become numb to the pain of death? Will this shift in perception affect my ability to cultivate empathy? I imagine if I lived as a hunter. What would my perception be like of the dead animal I knowingly killed and touched in death? Would each touch and kill leave me feeling more numb with time? Would adrenaline and excitement distract me from a part of myself dying over and over again?