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  • Pamela Beason

Celebrating the Non-Human

My life has been particularly chaotic in the last week. June 24-26 was the Chanticleer Authors Conference here in Bellingham, which was held both in person and via Zoom this year for the first time in three years. I normally teach one or two sessions or appear on one or two panels during the three days, but this year, due to travel disruptions and unexpected positive COVID tests, several guests failed to arrive, so at the last minute those of us who were capable of sharing anything beneficial to authors were recruited to fill in the gaps.

Many might not believe it after seeing me “on stage” so often, but I am an introvert at heart and after three days, I was definitely ready to be alone. That said, it was wonderful to see old friends and meet new ones in person; after the COVID lockdown, I can never take face-to-face communication for granted again. And all of us authors learned so much from each other, because this conference focuses on the skills and knowledge you need to be a professional author.

On top of my human interaction overload were all the political machinations going on in the other Washington (D.C.). I fear for our democracy; I really do. Every day the US seems to become more like Gilead, the horrific ultra-restrictive, anti-woman nation originally created by Margaret Atwood in The Handmaid’s Tale, and brought chillingly and skillfully to the television screen in four seasons.

I could go on about politics and life forever, but that’s not the point of this blog post. As I was driving across town, feeling tired of being a human, I spied a lone seagull flying way up in the sky. And I thought, how wonderful and restful that there are nonhumans in the world. I wanted to be that seagull, soaring above the human world.

In high school, my creative writing teacher told us to find “a friend” in nature—a stick, stone, or leaf, to keep it with us for a week and write about everything “our friend” told us. We were supposed to bring “our friend” to class every day and talk about what we had learned from that friendship. Not being a particularly cooperative girl, I had a different “friend” every day, because I would forget what I had picked up the day before and have to grab something new before class. While other students told elaborate stories about what their “friends” had told them, every day I said that my friend had not spoken to me at all. And I said that was the beauty of sticks and rocks and birds and animals; they did not speak our language, they did not think our thoughts, they were amazing and incredible in their non-humanness, and should be valued as such.

We are lucky to share our planet with so many other species, and with amazing landscapes. I will always celebrate the nonhumans that add variety and tranquility to my world.

P.S. – The creative writing teacher asked me to do assignments over and over again, in hopes that I would produce exactly what he wanted, but how creative is it to force all students into one mold? He wanted to give me a D. But he knew I was capable of creatively writing to the principal, so I believe he settled for a B.

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