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Archive for October, 2013

“Dwell in the magnitude of the Universe . . .”*

Galaxy Messier 94  Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Galaxy Messier 94
Image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech

To dwell comes from Old English dwellan

— as in to wander, to linger, to tarry —

… thus to take time in

and to inhabit as a home.

Coastal_strand_with_old_growth_forest_on_oswald_west_state_park_in_oregon

Photo courtesy: Patte David, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Whether we dwell in the infinitude of Nature, of Creation, and linger there,

— or dwell on such magnitude that it is, and thus wander in the improbable, unabashed abundance of Nature —

in doing so, we are then able to inhabit the possibility that that which we call Sacred might be around us, enveloping us, within us, and also is our home.

It is then that we might know Nature, and ourselves in it, to be one In matter, in substance,

and in energy that we experience

as life.

"Photo courtesy PDPhoto.org"

Photo courtesy PDPhoto.org

 

*“For those who have always dwelt on limited thoughts,

a good practice is to dwell in the magnitude of the Universe.”

 Ernest Holmes

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It’s often noted that the many who support abstract concepts, like ‘protected wilderness’ and “Nature” as being separate from human life, actually live far away from either protected wilderness or Nature. The many who see Nature as a value often live in places where wilderness or Nature is not, as in large urban corridors and concrete valleys of city and building, surrounded by human construct. Or it is not thought of at all, as inconsequential and exotic as the animals housed in zoos.

Those who are fortunate enough to live, whether by choice or fate, in the midst of Nature have a different relationship to it: For one thing, Nature is not abstract.  For some, it is living in Eden or paradise. But for others, familiarity can breed contempt:  living amid Nature is living in a daily reminder of all that must be done to “survive against the elements”.

So we are left with Nature in the abstract, valued or seemingly inconsequential, or Nature as neighbor, appreciated or something to be battled vaingloriously, proving we are up to the age-old match.

So how, in these possibilities does consumption or care of Nature come in to our human experience? Each are auto-behaviors, auto- in that we often don’t think about how we choose to interact with Nature, local or wilds. Either we see and care, or feel something for the habitat supporting us, or we see and consume., ignoring or even just not even feeling or thinking about what we are doing.

We thrive in community and our survival has taught us how to survive in community and in commune with our habitat, in a perhaps today unnoticed rhythm and pattern of call and response. Nature calls — we see storm clouds or notice the weather — and we respond, knowingly or not. For some of us, we respond with a willingness of heart and exhilaration of being at one with our natural habitat: we enjoy the relationship of the call and feel our way to our response. For many others, we react in age-old ways I doubt such are aware of; I’ve long marveled at the ‘instinct for survival’ I see in my local supermarket, when folk told of snow clouds on the horizon by the weather service and a bite to the air sends people in for piles of toilet paper rolls. Honestly, it’s the one aisle immediately sold out when snow of any depth is forecast in my city.

What we are talking about is, simply, caring. Caring to be in relationship of call and response rather than in our current Culture of Consumption of our natural habitat, whether near or far away and abstract in our thinking from moment to moment.

But I believe care starts wherever we are, and creating a Culture of Care, moving us away from our Culture of Consumption, is what we do best and is when we are at our best as part of the mammal species.

I know, this isn’t anything new.

The most simple and profound changes rarely are lightening-strike new, or a giant leap. They are steps, small and while securely holding onto handrails, whether in space or in the universe of our hearts and psyches.

Humans are good at taking these steps; I wonder if step-taking are what we do best, using our instinct and intuition to lead us, step-by-step to understanding of that which we didn’t a moment before.

The steps to a Culture of Care, using heart and instinct to care in a responsive relationship for that which we may not experience each day — like wild areas, or wildlife, grand vistas and yet unknown species cute or not, and like the imperceptible web that holds our life and lives together in a thriving habitat— begin with the smallest of steps:

Wonder.

In both senses of the word.

I wonder how that pigeon survives here.

I wonder at the realization it survived the storm and finds any food  to eat at all, much less a place to nest  . . .

I wonder how that polar bear will make it to shore, through thousands of miles of water, as the ice melts?

I wonder at the amazing fact she leads her young to the very same spot for food each year.

I wonder how that tree survives in the grate in the sidewalk.

I wonder that, surrounded by cement, it finds enough nutrients and water to grow so tall.

I wonder how the elephant is able to find water in a drought, or senses when danger is near?

I wonder, I marvel, that such an animal finds a way to survive at all . . .

I wonder why the air is so sweet and fresh today?

I wonder that air is breathable at all. . .

If we live in the midst of wonder, in any given moment, we are not in a moment of consumption, of taking for once and for all time for our own gain.

Yes, consumption can suggest taking for nourishment, but there’s a sense of limit and desperation to the whole of the word, whether as an individual consuming what s/he feels is needed (so others don’t get it) or as a society consuming without awareness — or wonder — where it’s all coming from. As in ‘it’s all for me’; just even the thought of consumption suggests “better grab it while you can,” even though we know from all of our childhood fairy tales and teaching stories that those who share end up receiving more.

Interestingly the word consumption, at its root, means ‘taking, e.g. for granted,’ according to my delightful book Partridge’s Origins. The root of sumption, in all its Latin forms, means: to take, and to take by choice.

Add the ‘con’ prefix and, Mr. Partridge explains, the word consumption means “to take completely, to devour, to destroy.”

Used as a name for a disease from which humans frequently died in earlier years, consumption, this makes sense. And it was always tragic.

When we apply it to the Culture of Consumption of the last  two centuries and especially the one in which we live, it’s a chilling, if accurate, revelation. We take, we devour, we destroy Nature.

I don’t know how we ended up in a Culture of Consumption, but I know it was no doubt the result of small steps taken without wonder, and added to with exponential growth in population and possibility for ‘new and improved’ product to consume.

I also know that the steps to a Culture of Care are equally small, immediate, and begin with something we each can do, and do well: The steps are engaging in a response to a call, taking in a moment of wonder by you, and you, and you, and we’ve begun. A Culture of Care is underway, little step by little step.

Try it. Turn away from your reading and look at something given to you by Nature, whether apple, cat, dog, beloved friend, or tree, insect, flower, or even for the deeply Nature deprived, look at the sky. Or even just try to see the air which envelopes you or marvel at the water in a glass on your table,

What do you wonder about right now? What small observation can you take, in wonder and wondering, that Nature continues to enfold you in all that is needed for life and living? Can you marvel and feel the wonder at what you see or at that which calls you and gives to you from Nature, whether a change in the wind, or a brilliant drop of rain? Or even the knowing that somewhere far away perhaps, a wild habitat simply is, breathing, living, in cacophony and an intricate web of relationship, perhaps sending the cool change of breeze to you where you are now?

The steps to care — and to creating a Culture of Care — are ours to take.

There: if you wondered even for a moment how beautiful is this bit of Nature, abstract, isolated, or abundantly around you, you’ve just begun.

© 2013 elizabeth darby

Wonder

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Re*Wilding II

Re* Wild; Re*Solve; Re*Generate.

This is what Nature can do.

It will do it over us (and our dead bodies, as the saying unfortunately goes) as with earth-events such as earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, floods, and other events not in human control.

It will do it despite us, as any one noticing dandelions growing between sidewalks and in parking lots in any urban human-created landscape. It may not be what we want, but Nature will start somewhere.

It will do it especially with human help, in the form of protections, elimination of poisons and pollutions, over-use and over-demand, and with human help in the form of leaving Nature alone in areas set aside to re*wild, re*generate, and re*solve problems we created in our management of it.

This was the report of the Rewilding Europe initiative.

The European Brown bear is returning; you can go and watch them (what a delight that would be!) on the Finnish/Russian border or in areas of the Carpathians.

A wolf carcass was found in the Netherlands — meaning usually there are others seeking new territories — in the Noord Oost Polder region. It was the first time in 150 years a wolf — anything, living or dead — had been identified in the Netherlands and scientists investigating noted it seemed it had been living in the area for quite some time, before being hit by a car or truck.*

Red Deer populations are increasing; beaver are making a huge comeback with hunting protections. White-tailed eagles and European bison are back from the brink of extinction, as are several bird species.

And the operating force here is, essentially, leaving Nature alone, and offering protection for the habitat and numbers who were left. It is estimated that by 2020, 4 out of 5 European citizens will live in urban areas, leaving areas where Nature can re*wild and re*generate habitat. Even “wilderness’ is on the map again. If…

Ah yes, If.  The famous two words of the Lorax are always near:

IF . . .

If the areas being left and emptied of humans — most marginal farmlands and no-go zones along old Eastern Bloc borders — are not turned into huge forest plantations for the biofuel market and, in other areas, if forests aren’t allowed to overtake natural ‘bush’ areas where wildlife can thrive. And this is best done letting Nature do what Nature does best, with large grazers like elk, deer, wild horse and aurochs allowed to roam, keeping open areas and forested areas dynamic: The way Nature works.

What an opportunity.

Re*Wilding Europe envisions a Europe with “open, broadleaved forests where bison, deer, wild horses and aurochs exist alongside wolves, lynx and bears and where most of the original plants and animals of lowland Europe thrive. Extensive grass steppes and shallow lakes where the ground trembles under the hooves of thousands of horses and aurochs, with a myriad of cranes, waders and other wetland species breeding or resting during migration. Mountain cliffs alive with ibex and chamois…” and eventually the return of “mystical old-growth forests” and “spectacular landscapes with abundant wildlife, which attracts visitors from all sectors of society and from all corners of the world.” It will begin this vision with five wild projects in Western Iberia, Eastern Carpathians, Danube Delta, Southern Carpathians, and Velebit, with more to come  soon.

Sounds like heaven. Or perhaps Eden. Certainly it sounds like the tapestry in which humans first emerged in Europe to live in balance, and some would say harmony, with the Nature of which we are apart and in which we have our lives, livelihoods, and spiritual being. Oh, those words again: balance, harmony, spirit.

As with the best ‘wilderness’ these aren’t areas where humans are kept out but rather Nature where humans are simply reminded to not destroy that which supports us, as our well-being is part of the well-being of our habitat; Nature thrives and humans thrive in one seamless weave.

But to begin, as we know, it takes all of us: To protect from rapacious use; to allow re*generation where possible; or to help with re*introductions and re*solve to re*claim habitat for the native species where not.

It’s an exciting idea, this re*wilding. If you’d like to help, get in touch with Rewilding Europe. As with any effort it will take all of our voices and our re*solve to say this is a world we want. Go and visit; help fund the idea of wildlife and wilds having value with your feet and your tourism currency; become a donor or contribute to the European Wildlife Bank. And don’t stop there; there are similar opportunities near you, in your local habitat as well.

The thing is, it will take our hearts first, as we commit to a balance in living with Nature rather than ‘against’ it as we develop a new Culture of Care. Then it will take our breath away, when we witness the beauty of Nature re*wilded. We will know we have helped re*generate Home.

*Roadkill and wolves; it’s never just the one wolf. Somewhere there is a pack without its designated hunter coming home with food for the young. See my article about the Return of the Wolf in the Rocky Mountain West from the 1990s at my portfolio website. It is when we can see such ‘roadkill’ as part of a system of life, family, and let our hearts be moved by the realization something, somewhere, is waiting for the return of that particular animal to the den, that we will truly assist the process of re*generation of our Wild Home on Earth.

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