When you see an animal lying on the side of the road, killed by a car, it seems to bear a kind of naked indignity. It is the very picture of neglect, its body tossed or squashed at the site of its demise. It never returned to where it started out from and expected to return to, and here it lies.
Some RadJoy members are offering simple acts of beauty and attention to these animals. Three teenagers in Ithaca, New York, Safie (she/her), Malcolm (he/him), and Moss (they/them) have a practice of burying any dead animal they encounter on their walks or bike rides. If the condition of the animal prevents them from burying it, they place flowers, leaves, and boughs over its body. They conclude their ceremony by saying a few words in praise or farewell. “It’s a way of honoring their life,” said Safie, age sixteen.
For our annual Global Earth Exchange in 2019, philosopher and author Glenn Albrecht placed a rose on a dead wallaby that he found in front of his house in New South Wales, Australia. Glenn coined the term solastalgia, the pain one feels when the place where one lives and that one loves is under assault. About the particular wounding of the place where the wallaby died, he wrote:
“She must have hopped into the path of a car last night. Road kill is a huge issue in our part of the world. Here is a wounded ‘place’, or perhaps a ‘dead place’ that once exemplified all that was beautiful and vital about life. I picked a rose from our garden and placed it on her body. Our roses are a favorite treat for the wild wallabies of Wallaby Farm. They prune them all to wallaby height in their quest for tender rose leaves, especially during droughts. The rose on her body is to let the world know that we did not ignore this wallaby death. May all go that bit slower in life to let others simply live.”
It is a simple practice to pay homage to a dead animal. We can bury it, as the three young people do, or lay some beautiful vegetation on its body. Even if we’re shooting past the animal in a car, we can bow our head or offer a “thank you” and “goodbye” to the animal. It is a way of being mindful of a being who lived in the world and was violently killed, and offering a gift for its life.