The Epitome of Beast Mode: Man as Badger
Those first few days taught me a lot. They taught me that, despite my shaggy, anarchic pretensions, I was dismally suburban: I preferred a whitewashed wall to the endless fascination of a real earth one. I preferred my ideas of badgers and the wild to real badgers and real wilderness. They were more obedient and less complex. And they didn’t broadcast my inadequacies so deafeningly.
But I learned to like that burrow. Habit is tremendously powerful. Merely having a place at the end pressed to the shape of my body was enough to change my appetite for underground living. From that low platform, I could jump to more complex forms of appreciation: the shape of the window on the sunlit world that was the tunnel’s end; the exuberant spectrum of smells as I crawled up through a cervix of earth and leaf mold and out, panting from the effort. It was OK to lie in the dark, surrounded by the scratching and humming and thrashing of animals that would one day eat me. Quite a lot of being a badger consisted simply in allowing the wood to do to us what it did to a badger: being there when it rained; keeping badgers’ hours; letting bluebells brush your face instead of your boots.
We bustled and grunted and elbowed and pushed and pressed our noses into the ground. When the rain came, it split the ground open. Scent came spinning out, as if the ground were bursting to tell the story of that summer. Earthworms dripped from the hill like mucus candles from a snotty-nosed child.
Food worried me. I couldn’t duplicate the precariousness of the badger’s life. We did our best: we ate earthworms, both raw and cooked, and any other flotsam tossed up by the valley that we could keep down. We scraped a squirrel off the road and had it with wood sorrel and wild garlic.
An excerpt from “Being a Beast” by Charles Foster; Photo by Felicity McCabe for The Guardian
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