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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Enjoying the Bounty

Bow is curious and interested in all things. He sometimes takes off my glasses and examines them very gently and then returns them to me. He has electronics, including his own computer, and he can use them. But he doesn't have to. If he chooses not to, that choice is respected.

Freedom of choice is the key. This is true of electronics as well as people. It's not what gadgets we have that determine whether we are happy, but our own ability to turn things on and off at will. It would be terrible to have a television set that you could not turn off or a roommate that you could not ask to leave when you needed to be alone. It's the lack of privacy and the absence of choice that characterize a true prison.

Sometimes I just wish I could put a dome over all ten acres of my land, so that Bow could enjoy it freely. Our life is pretty good. We don't need more. We just need a better way to take pleasure in what we already have.

The blackberries are starting to ripen, and the deer and the rabbits are raising their families here. I have been seeing a lot more wildlife on my property than I have in years past. Sometimes I tell myself that I am simply more observant than I was before, but that may not be the whole story. If there is more pressure on the wildlife elsewhere, they may be coming here seeking asylum.

Yesterday I picked blackberries and brought them to Bow in the outer pen to eat.

Usually, when I bring Bow blackberries, he picks them out of my hand one by one and pops them into his mouth.

But this time he was impatient, so instead he brought his mouth to the blackberries.

He put his lips over the bunch of blackberries in my hand and siphoned them gently into his mouth.

It took  very little time.

Before I knew it, the palm of my hand was empty, and Bow's mouth was full of blackberries.

And then Bow leaned back and relaxed and enjoyed a fistful of blackberries swirling around in his mouth all at once.

Someday, I'd like to see Bow free to wander out there among the blackberry bushes, picking the ripe fruit by hand or by mouth, whichever suits him best.

The other animals on my land are currently enjoying free run of the property. There were two rabbits in particular yesterday that I saw all over the place, romping around and hopping from place to place. They were inseparable.

Even when they knew they had been spotted, they stayed stock still and let me snap their picture.

In the evening, at twilight, after I returned from taking the garbage to the dump, a family of deer jumped over my internal road from the pasture to the lawn and from there into the woods. One of them was smaller than the others, and they actually stopped to let it catch up. But I was not able to get a picture, and just then some rabbits hopped in front of my car on the way from the lawn to the pasture. I had to slow down to let them pass. My property is becoming a high traffic area for wildlife.

As I approached the garage I saw those two inseparable rabbits again, and I got out of the car to film them. The dogs, who are not as free as the rabbits, were barking in protest.

I think that my land can appropriately be seen as a wildlife sanctuary, not because any legal action has been taken to label it as such, but because the wildlife see it that way. A sanctuary is a place where one seeks asylum by coming there of one's own free will, and where one is free to leave also, when one wants to. A sanctuary is not a place to which other people have decided you have to go and  from which you cannot escape once you get there. That would be more like a prison.

Children and  owned dogs have less freedom than rabbits. Dogs have to stay in their master's yard, which is the price of being cared for. Sometimes, strays do have more freedom. My eyes were opened to this when I lived in Taiwan. I admired the strays of Tamsui. The price of freedom, of course, is that no one is looking out for you. But the price of being "safe" is that you have no freedom. This is also the difference between a domesticated and a wild rabbit.

Are you domesticated? Or are you free? Which would you rather be? Every individual has a different answer. Each has a different path to tread. We can no more force someone to be free than we can hope to domesticate someone who does not wish to be.

Can Bow decide where he wants to be once he grows up? I would like to think that he will be able to make that decision. But whatever decision he makes, it should not be irrevocable. Human grown ups make mistakes, too. Sometimes they take a job that they do not like. Sometimes they enter a marriage that turns out to be not so viable over the long term. Sometimes they buy a house that they cannot afford. The good thing about being free is that you can quit your job, divorce your spouse, sell your house, and even move to a different country if the regime in your own country becomes too oppressive. Mistakes can be corrected. The rabbits and the deer, the turtles and the snakes are free to come here, but they are also free to go.  Doesn't a chimpanzee deserve the same freedom?


  1. He certainly is enjoying those blackberries. I didn't even know that monkey's liked berries.

    1. Hi, Lesley. Bow does enjoy berries, and I am sure that monkeys do, too. But Bow is a chimpanzee and not a monkey. Chimpanzees, like humans, are great apes, as are gorillas and orangutans. Monkeys are more distantly related to us. One way to tell if it is a monkey is to look for tail. Monkeys have tails. Great Apes don't.

  2. Loved the blackberries! I found a bunch of them this past weekend too and ate them. Some were a bit sour, while others were sweet. The problem is you can't tell which ones will be sweet or sour just by looking at them. Does Bow like both?
    I am domesticated obviously, but the more govt. intrusions we're having lately, it's hard to saw with any amount of certitude that we're truly, "free" anymore.

    1. Hi, Kathy. It is a good year for blackberries, Bow likes them both sweet and sour, or anything in between, as long as they are fresh. He usually judges whether something is good to eat by sense of smell, before he will taste it. His nose can tell him exactly what something will taste like.

      Freedom is not given in advance; we have to fight for it. It gets eroded easily by inaction. That's why we can't rely on yesterday's freedom to still be around today. The boundaries are constantly being tested.

  3. Very cool....I wish my nose could tell me which of the blackberries were sour so I could avoid the unpleasantness!