Django trots down the trail in front of me. To him, it’s a smellscape, and something deep in his dog brain compels him to contribute. I can see that he’s out of ammunition. The leg goes up, nothing comes out, but he’s persistent. The urge to leave his mark overrides reality.
I sometimes get frustrated with him. All the stop and go. His mission different than mine.
I wonder, really, what he’s doing. Back home, in the yard, I understand. He marks his borders, lets all the other creatures know where his land starts, or more importantly, where theirs ends. These are territorial pissings. But what is he doing in the woods? Is it still territorial? Is he sailing up on a foreign shore, likely already occupied, and planting a flag in the name of all the mutts? Or is every leaf on every shrub a message board, a scratch-n-sniff for lonely hearts?
I suspect it’s something closer to cogito ergo sum, or better, fetero ergo sum, I stink therefore I am.
Isn’t this what sentient beings do? Born into a vast and complex world, we reach out and make our mark to convince ourselves we’re really here, maybe even to convince others. If I’m not changing the world I live in, am I even living in it?
Humans are worse than dogs. A few drops of urine soak into the soil, transfer some potassium and phosphorus, fade away. Humans insist on remaking everything in front of them. We’ve never seen a plot of flat ground we didn’t consider building a house on. We’ve dug up and paved and cut down and rearranged everything in our power to rearrange. By manifest destiny we swept across the land and remade it in our image. Only later did some of us figure out that we might have overdone it, but not until the Earth’s ambient temperature began to rise precipitously.
A pile of stones, in the woods, is no great sin against the natural world, but it does seem symbolic of the root problem, that we can’t help but lift our legs and mark everything we see. We can’t leave well enough alone.
I am not without sin in this regard. I have left a trace where I shouldn’t have. This is not a rant against humanity. It’s an attempt to understand what it is we’re doing when we go into the woods, and possibly to change what I do when I’m there, to resist the urge to make my mark, and maybe even to disappear entirely.