Saturday, March 05, 2005


What we did Thursday was slaughtering. What we did yesterday was butchering. What we did last night was eat slow cooked barbeque ribs with slaw and fries. Mmmmm.

Which got me to thinking, what would I compare that meal to? The bought out meal? How much do decent ribs cost in the store? How about factoryfarm-free ribs at the healthier-than-thou store? None of those really compare, not really.

They certainly do not compare in more than one or two aspects at most, and there are literally thousands of aspects to it all. Sort of like phytochemicals in broccoli. Like simple organisms in healthy, more organic than organic, alive soil – understand as much of it as can be understood and it is but a fraction of what is really going on there.

So then I was milking the cow and I was wondering if she is pregnant or not. It is ridiculous not to know now just six weeks or so before she is due, but I have no other cows to compare her to. I think she looks pregnant. I remember that it seemed obvious when we bought her that she was pregnant and we bought her about a month before she calved. But now I see her every day, I tuck myself in behind her abdomen, head resting on her flank to milk, twice a day, every day. And once, when I was a little girl, I got a pony and we fed her too much and she got so fat we thought she was pregnant. There is a photograph of me in little red rubber boots kneeling in the snow trying to listen for a second heartbeat of a foal with a stethoscope – the family’s best friend was a doctor and she had listened before me. I must have been four. Maybe five. Probably four. She wasn’t pregnant, just fat.

Anyway, I don’t have anything to compare that cow to. So I doubt and wonder and question even as I think, yeah, I’m pretty sure she’s pregnant.

While we were scraping that pig, I looked at my hands. The fingers were bright red and swollen from the hot water and cold wind and work of pulling out the bristles. And I thought of my mother’s hands, and I thought about what it is that we consider beautiful. And why. It isn’t red, swollen, winter-cracked, strong, broken-nailed hands, that’s for sure. No one dreams of those hands caressing them, although those hands dream of a lot of different things. No, the societal image of beauty, especially for women, is almost always of something useless, without use, that is possible only because someone else is enslaved doing the work of the world that results in food and cracked hands. My grandmother always wore a bonnet outside, a grand contraption that every woman of her era wore, so she wouldn’t get sun on her face because in her day sun darkened skin was a sign of someone who had to work in the sun and it was prestigious to not have to do that work so even people who did do that work tried to pretend that they did not. Then my mother would lay in the sun to darken her skin because by her time it was prestigious to have the leisure time free to get out in the sun and bake. Long nails are that kind of symbol to me, a symbol of no real work to do.

And what does doing no real work mean? That someone else is doing it. Someone else is slaughtering the pig, growing the carrot, caring for the baby, sweeping the floor, building the floor, whatever. The whole movement toward what is euphemistically called “social justice” has been only a movement toward enslaving someone ELSE. Women who don’t want to fetch coffee for some man only want someone else to be fetching their coffee for them, not for no one to be fetching anyone’s coffee. I don’t mind washing my dishes because I am not wanting someone else to have to be washing them. However, I do sometimes observe that I am the only person in the household capable of picking up towels after a bath and this fact does baffle me and sometimes irritates me but I’m not wanting them to pick up my towels.

I remembered vaguely back to a sociology class, and while I don’t remember the language used to describe it, I remember the concept that a people can be very poor but content so long as they are comparing themselves only to themselves. When other societies, or another society’s money, comes in, even when the people in question technically have more than before, they see themselves as worse off, way worse off than what/who they are comparing themselves to, and this can lead to revolution, unrest, all that jazz. So what we compare ourselves to is important. If we all lived today like the wealthy did in 1950, well, you can do that on very little money. People on food stamps wouldn’t demand steak and frozen pizza. Health insurance wouldn’t cover hangnails. Etc.

So I try to compare myself only with my own ideals. Is the work I am doing “important”? Am I “beautiful”? Is the life I am living worthwile, what John Holt called A Life Worth Living? Is it a life with something to pass on to my children and their children’s children?

I think so, to most those things. And to the other, I try to think so.

No comments: