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I haven’t seen stars like this, in a night sky like this, in nearly 30 years.

Caught by necessity in cities with man-made light, man-made noise, man-made man demanding man-made things from this soft cocoon of stars and sky that is night, I can barely remember what it looks and feels like to see and feel such… space. Even when traveling back and forth across the globe, skimming at the top of the sky where the stars should be brighter if I could look and see, we passengers of this era are reminded to close our window-blinds so that fellow travelers may sleep as we fly into the evanescent line where day and night meet.

I wonder how many of these stars are now ghosts and their light just now being caught in my eye, as in this photo.

When I was a little girl camping with my father in a national park near us, there would be the familiar sweep of the Milky Way across the sky when we looked up. It was magic. We’d just stand there in the meadow and look up, silent together, looking at the sky with the cool air of 8000 feet nipping at my nose. Our family dog seemed to be frightened of the dark when my dad would put on a spooky voice and say: “The deer are watching us..,” for she’d wrap herself between his legs and I’d draw close to his big frame, smiling at his prank but happy for the feel of his arm around me anyway.

It was literally heaven, this sweep of starlight and the dark wrapping night and his navy blue jacketed arm around me.

And he being the one who taught me that this beautiful natural world is both sacred and we in its possession, rather than the other way around.

Is it still there, this sky, I wonder?

He is no longer.

He left for this starry place two years ago, eager to be out of his earth-binding body. The last time I saw him, he was conversing in a clear voice with an unseen presence about a dog he so loved; it was clearly life review but I was not privy to see the unseen presence with whom he conversed. When I touched him lightly to remind him I loved him, I received the famous paternal look I knew so well, that told me I was interrupting, as he turned back to the sky and his task of eternity at hand.

One day a long time ago, I and a photographer friend were covering the plowing under of the Northern Plains north of Roundup, Montana. One day it was native grasses as far as you could see. Literally the next morning, after the huge yellow D-9 scrapers turned over the soil—in order to plant crops that would not grow in that habitat but no matter as it was a ploy by corporations for Federal subsidies not an actual farmer doing the destroying—antelope, sage grouse and hares previously hidden in their brown, grassy habitat, wandered over the stark, dark soil. The animals seemed stunned, looking at the new landscape devoid of their home, their habitat, their food, their grasses.

Ghosts. The sky of stars, the presence of those we love and now miss. Wildlife wandering in search of a shred of grass left behind.

Even Nature itself feels a ghost of itself, tho I know this is not possible. Nature has her ways of shaking off and moving on, letting nothing impede her change and process.

Like the antelope—or my father leaving this earth—I feel a ghost to myself as I reach for something new in a life now changed. Habitat has changed and lights wipe out the midnight blue of sky and stars, and noise of the streets and highway overwhelm my senses.  I pace the night away in my little house, feeling like a ghost to the times that were lived here, a house brimming with memory and habitat full of nurturing, but is no more.

We are neither in possession of the stars in the sky nor the sacred that gives meaning to our time on earth.

We can only try to follow the light that reaches us now.





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Wild ReSolve.

After years of thought and hope, a lot of circles and circling, and a lot of despair over the changes to our habitat I see taking place ever day — you know the habitat we depend on for life? That one — I finally used my breath to blow the seeds of hope and intent into the wind. I’m starting to create the project I call Wild ReSolve.

It is at the moment living on Patreon (link).

Over the course of the next weeks the project will become a virtual space in the “world wide web” where we can connect. It will feature solutions journalism, updates of all the stories I’ve covered or assigned thru my career as an environmental writer and journalist, but also offer things I’ve always wanted to include: multi-media projects, mini-docs, a podcast of interviews with those who have inspired or informed or warned us for decades about the damage we are doing to the only Home we have here on Earth. And most importantly it will be a cultural center for micro-communities and individuals to gather to find information and ideas that are solutions, solutions, solutions to the habitat destruction and climate changes our human lifestyle fuels. It will be a cultural sphere of hope for our wild and beautiful Earthly habitat.

Why “Wild” and why “ReSolve” you can find at the link above.

Here is my heart: I so love this Eden we live in and share as life itself. We are a part of this natural world; it is our only home as I’ve written previously. I am saddened to the point of despair as I see wildlife lose habitat, or fertile lands dry up with drought, soil destruction, and for marine animals to strangle in plastic or for skies to fill with smoke from out-of control-wildfires driven by increasing temperatures due to our fossil fuel use. I even feel concern as I notice the micro-biome of the soil in my little garden bake in temperatures and heat-intense sun previously unexperienced, all due to climate warming too fast for adaptation.

We humans, every one of us, are driving the change and we are driving too fast.

I want to yell “Do Something!” as I have throughout my long career in writing about environment, but at this point in my age, and in having recently survived yet another year of unexpected illness (this time I’m privileged—lucky? fortunate? yes to all 3—to have survived this novel virus Nature has thrown at us), I feel it is me I am yelling at, not just into the silent void.

So, lets talk about and cheer on rewilding projects. Let’s learn how to foster them in our own communities.

Let’s learn how to connect regional habitats so our fellow wild-living animals have a change to adapt or move to places they can survive in this speeding climate change.

Let’s learn what communities in parts of Africa are doing to use the overflowing ever-present availability of plastic trash to create fuels for lights or cooking. Let’s learn to do it in our own backyard because our communities too too are covered in plastic single-use rubbish.

Let’s also learn how to support those who save, nurture and release orphan elephants to protected areas, work with local villages to foster mutual care for them, and how to support those who die in the service of of protecting the few mountain gorilla left in the national parks of shrinking forests of central Africa.

Let’s learn how indigenous and first nations might have better ideas to steward the land back to health, and how we too can give it a try in our own backyard.

And let’s learn why we need to quit talking about our habitat as if it’s an abstract economic asset. Rather we need to use language that connects us, living-thing to living thing, rather than measuring the value of a place merely by its use or monetary value.

Let’s become inspired rather than overwhelmed. Let’s connect and feel resolve that we can create sweeping change by doing so.

If we all “do something” we will soon find we have assembled a core power of healing action for the only Home, our Earth habitat, sustaining us and life itself. And maybe we will successfully create a culture of care rather than of destruction. With little actions do we express our ever growing love for life itself, in all its amazing beauty.

I hope you love this wild earth, our Eden, too, and will help me to seed a new project!


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2019-02-16 01.23.47


In so many ways, loss shows us what is precious, while love teaches us who we are.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross & David Kessler, Life Lessons


If I were to count the clouds in my photograph above, there would be one for every loss and love I’ve let go of since I wrote my last post on Earth: Sacred/Possession.

Two, no three, cats if I count the stray who briefly brought such joy to my home tho I didn’t know she had come here to pass away in a warm bed on a January night. My beloved remaining dog of my littermate set, at the ancient age of 16 even tho her brother had left us at the good age of 13. I was humbled by her love and her lessons to me. Two parents, divorced over 40 years but passed away within a few months of each other, as if they were still in a race to be first to the best of the finish line. Another dear friend, who healed my broken heart with such care, decided at age 94 he’d had enough and was gone in a poof of letting go in a matter of just a few days. A hope for a new life abroad, two daughters not only through undergraduate education but now nearly finished second masters in vocal performance, the loss of my being an anchor in their lives and now a visitor. A family cabin where I learned to love Nature and wildness and built alters of flowers and rocks to give thanks for the beauty, tho I was only 6 or 7 or 8. It just seemed natural to do that in the setting sun of what seemed huge mountain, but as I drove there daily to care for a mother who barely recognized me through her illness, it was just a small field, while she herself was “losing her mind” as she oft marveled. Yes she was, till she had returned to childhood and then left altogether. The list goes on. And on.

Sooo much leaving.

All this to badly explain such a gap in my writing about Earth whether sacred or possession.

But I realize in doing so finally that what we’ve lost, too, of our Earth habitat in 6 years is truly stunning.

Whether through hurricanes with new measures they are so large, or tornadoes that are  beyond what was previously know, heat that sears us and reaches 135 degrees with alarming regularity, vast clearings of Amazonian forest, or ice caps that seemed they could never disappear, or a lethal virus that is invisible in our air, unseen but Lordy, what an illness —and too often death — it brings to us, these are all signs we’re losing our “temperate” home. And quickly it feels.

We’ve lost our sense of safety.

We’ve lost our sense of belonging perhaps.

And I don’t think it’s just me that is in a state of grief for these things we’ve lost or know we are losing as we hope not to see or feel what our survival instinct alerts us to. For in the loss of a “temperate” nature, we also lose our dreams. Some of us lose our dreams of a cabin on a creek. Our children are losing their dreams of a hospitable quality of life as they experienced the weather. For all of us we are losing a future as we envisioned it.

I’ve been learning a lot about grief these years obviously. It cascades and overwhelms or it pokes at odd times followed by a deep breath and a look at a blue sky. It darkens days and lights up nights with the starbursts of tossing and not often enough the tears to wash it away. Because there is no away. There is only the awareness of what feels lost. And time feels infinite in these moments of realizing what is precious but is no more. For we are bound still in love with it.

Sooo in love.

Tonight there were cries outside. A young hawk has been gracing this urban racetrack where I live, stopping briefly in my trees the past few sunsets. These were cries of working to live. A fledger flying and figuring out the hows of life. A few hours later I was brought out into the night by chrrrs — very small owls, perhaps three of them — in the same trees, calling to each other. I had no idea where their mother was but obviously near by and they seeming to reassure each other of nearness in the adventure of this night with their cries.

Crying is not always a bad thing, I’m reminded. It is a sound of being alive.

Nature so wants to live.

The news notes regarding increases in wildlife seeming to live better when we humans took to our hiding places inside these past few months made clear to me what possession really means:

Our temperate world is to be shared and we are too often oblivious of the life getting out of our way. It has no place, we feel, in “our landscape”. Yet what other habitat is there for all the “others” we identify as not being our relations in stardust and life force?

With all the losses I see and feel, experience and intuit, I’m learning very slowly, it truly is only love that remains.

With the grief comes the love, like rain on a hot day, or stars poking out at night.

With losses comes the recognition of what we find precious.

May we see how precious this earth is, and in our grief may we find ways to love it into better sustaining all the lives and places and time(s) we love.


*Please see www.edmontaigne-author.com for information on my new book on learning to communicate from my dogs: “Training Two: Learning the Language of Love …”. There’s a blog there too. It’s also available on Amazon: Training Two: Learning the Language of Love from Two Dogs Who Share One Brain


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I am sitting in the middle of a city in Scotland. It is a marvelous exhibit of what man chooses to design, to build, to construct. Yet all of the materials from which it is made are from Nature in some way. It is hard to remember this in its greyness ’tilll I see the stones and natural materials of a few of the older lovely streets. In the newer ones, Nature is hard to see as the source material, the materials of Nature chewed, fired and flattened out.

In that I cannot see mountains or green hills over these past few days, I’ve looked with longing for that which humans can neither design nor construct, for I need that sense of something bigger than humans and human-hand constructed around me. I need it for my soul.

I need to see and feel that which humans cannot fashion to remind me there is something bigger, larger, grander than ‘just us’ in this world and in this Universe.

And I’ve found a few trees still left standing in patches here and there, a few pigeons which fly at head-level, and a few gulls crying overhead, which are not human-made  I saw a river yesterday, and knew it was not originally made with human hands, though possibly is now re-channeled by human forces. I found a bee stuck in the packaging of my cabbage at the grocery store last night. I didn’t really want cabbage, but I bought it in order to let it fly free out the door when I departed rather than perish in a man-made cooler, and it did fly into the dusk. I hope it found the pots of flowers under the street lamps.

In all this human-construct I’ve wondered:  If humans could design a mountain, would we build one? Would we, if we even could, construct a complete habitat, or even a wilderness, and could we even begin to put together such a complexity with the success and ease of miracle as we witness when green-growing things emerge between the sidewalks and stones of our chiseled, flattened streets?

Would we — could we — ever ‘re’join Nature to fashion that which we seem to not have the power or miracle-ability to create: A mountain, a valley, a habitat in its entirety, a wilderness? Would we choose to, even if we have the power and comprehension if not also wisdom, to do so?

Habitat: We find ourselves trying to ‘re’build it, to ‘re’ construct it from our challenged understanding of its workings. There is so much we don’t know. As John Muir wrote in his journals (and so frequently misquoted; this is the original and accurate version):

“When we try to pick out anything by itself

we find that it is bound fast by a thousand invisible cords that cannot be broken,

to everything in the universe. “


And about Wilderness, something we cannot re*build as then it is no longer ‘wilderness’:  We are learning we humans do best when we let the Nature take over an abandoned area to create itself anew through a power we do not comprehend. That is our hope for ‘best’ when we have already destroyed, in moments and years and centuries of not being at our best, that which we cannot create or re*create.


What we can do to help the process of Nature re-wilding we are yet learning. This week the first report on the possibilities for Rewilding Europe are being presented in London at the Zoological Society, as a pre-event to the 10th World Wilderness Congress in Salamanca, Spain.  I am so very grateful to be in attendance, where we will listen, learn, and wonder:

How best can we humans help to re*store that which we cannot ourselves build, fashion, style, or create?


In God’s wildness lies the hope of the world – the great fresh unblighted, unredeemed wilderness.

The galling harness of civilization drops off, and wounds heal ere we are aware.

John Muir

John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir



Thanks to The Sierra Club for the works and quotes of JM.

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“(Tu) as courage . . .”


As I write in my other blog, Here you Begin, I was blessed with these departing words a little under a decade ago by a lovely older woman, a beloved mom of my friend.  She knew a bit about what she spoke to me in French: As courage:  Have courage. She’d done work with the French Resistance as a teen in her native France and she’d raised two girls on her own as a mother who’d been left by a husband and father when her children were still young. She knew what it was to have courage and she said this to me as I was facing the beginning of some challenging times in my own life-time here.


I took the words to heart; the encouragement gave to me a model of grace and fortitude I would attempt as I faced the coming storms buffeting my own home and family at the time. And I knew the phrase to mean both to “take heart” and “to have courage”, especially when used as a phrase when departing, as she intended.


What I didn’t know till this week was how the now-superstar “researcher-storyteller Brené Brown described courage. (TED talk here from a year ago; (yes, I’m behind cultural times still):

In one of its earliest forms, the word courage literally had a very different definition than it does today.


Courage originally meant

“To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” . . .


That is what we do, we who write about the Earth, Nature, the wilds, the wildlife, the environment, the places we love that are larger than our ourselves and our constructed homes, the places we can neither construct nor re-fabricate: the Wilderness of our Earth-home.

We speak our minds by telling all our heart – and we do it because we ourselves are moved at that which we experience in our hearts as being achingly beautiful and achingly forgotten in this busy world. We do so because we can’t keep quiet.

And we do it to move you . . .

 and you and you and you . . .


. . . to care about that which is largely unseen but is the habitat and source of our sustenance: Nature. The Earth, our home and habitat, whether wild or struggling under pavement.  We do it to make the unseen wild Nature of our home visible, potent to the senses, brought to mind and perhaps even share our sense of how vital these places are to our lives and to Life for all of us. We do it to nudge ever so slightly this tumbling world toward a Culture of Care rather than the current Culture of Consumption we have created this last 100 + years.


I have done so for my whole career of — yipes, 35 years — as an environmental journalist and writer about Nature, but also as a teacher and mother.

I do so in the hope that by being moved, finding a place in your heart and soul to see a world of more than humans, to see a world of Nature, you too will be caring enough to participate in caring for Nature. You’ll be moved in your heart, and perhaps even moved to take action, whether in terms of conservation, stewardship, of giving voice and notice to the invisible Natural world through art, protection, engagement, or introduction of your heart’s engagement with Nature to others.


The work of writers, artists, photographers, filmmakers — as conservationists — takes courage to express against the cultural ‘norm’ of the language of economic value, use, utility, consuming, and willful destruction of our Home and Habitat that is Nature.

So thank you for making the connection. Thank you for reading, for considering, for creating the connection between Nature and human life, however you do it.

To those who do this work, thanks for having the courage to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart about our beautiful, and in my way of seeing it, sacred Earth.

In a couple week’s time, the  Tenth World Wilderness Congress will be assembled in Spain. There will be a lot of voices there, all having courage to speak out for Nature. I hope you’ll follow along and take heart if not courage to open yours to the Work we can do together.



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My cat died this week. And this really does have something to do with Nature, or Earth, and the essence of making it relevant to our lives, so keep with me.



As she did the work of breathing to the point of letting go,  I held her, soothed her, encouraged her, and spent hours, days and weeks as we came together to the final gentle moments last Sunday.

She had been sick for a time longer than I knew and when I admitted what I knew to myself (she wasn’t saying a word or showing a symptom; just sleeping a lot in a dreamy way) the tumours seemed to ‘suddenly’ appear, big, black, staining, first one, then another. She was not in pain save when I was cleaning them to prevent painful external infections; she was mostly calm, enjoying the sun and the cat mint, her food and water, until the last couple days. It was an afternoon when I, holding her and enjoying moments with her, admitted to us both the intangible reality: She didn’t need to linger, she could ‘leave’ at any time she chose, this wasn’t going to ‘get better’ nor would her life ‘be saved’ . . . somehow.


One by one the phrases wandered through my mind: life saved or lost; leaving; dying, transitioning, passing, flying away.  No doubt we’ve each used any one if not all of these terms when grappling with the intangible of life and not-life.


We are humans and apes. We do not like death. Our species does not like endings or leavings, death or not-life, or whatever we call it when one we love no longer breathes and whatever intangible it is in them that is no more leaves us with a cooling, stiffening life-less mess of organic materials no longer containing the intangible of our beloved. In her great book, The Other End of the Leash, Patricia B. McConnell  notes that our near-cousin apes carry around their dead young, unable, or unwilling, to acknowledge they are no longer, until the body falls apart and it is dropped.

We are humans and we like happy endings. We like magic. We like our words of passing, and we like the magic of after-life, no matter the place, style, or ritual involved with it. Whether my cat is near me in Spirit, still, watching, and our four-legged co-companions make room for her on the bed still as they do, which is what I feel and observe, or whether it’s my heart-soothing to believe so, gone but not gone, it’s a mystery and mystery is the realm of magic.

After all, what is magic without faith in it, and what is faith without a magic to it? We are dealing in intangibles here, of course.


In holding my cat and soothing her over the last evening, I watched as she tiptoed to the edge of not-breathing, then raise her head (often as I couldn’t muffle a sob) and give me a look of total exasperation. What was my deal? I was not behaving as the other animals on her/our bed, who respectfully turned their backs yet lay close by, and kept energetic-spirit watch with us. There was a unity of energetic sharing in the room, a quiet watching and waiting. But it, too, was intangible. I couldn’t prove it, but rather just feel it. And the magic and faith of it. We all breathed together, waiting.

It was hard work for her, as all of life is, getting that far and resting a bit. Like birth. They are each hard work, each transitions with rhythms and rests, physical expression (so to speak) and a process out of the control of ‘mind’.  I gently stroked her face to soothe her. When my cat took the ‘2-am’ opening to depart— my grandmother who was of an age in which a woman had to know how to care for both the birthing and dying had taught me that these transitions most-likely happen twice a day in accordance with Nature’s cycles, once at sunset and again around 2-3 am — she stretched fully twice, as she used to before being ill, and then with great leaps and loping of legs, and a small mew (she was a quiet cat not given to mewing), she . . . left.

She took off.

She leapt.

She  died . . . transitioned.

Words are hard to choose, for it is a mystery.

She was gone.

Well, her Spirit, her Life-energy was gone. The intangible that was my cat was gone, leaving me with her soft fur, small paws, and all that was physical of her left. But she wasn’t there anymore. Like in every death before this which I’ve kept watch through, whether beloved dogs or cats, or beloved Grandmothers. There is beauty, Nature, spirit, work, sadness, harshness, Life, magic, and tears. Lots of them.

It was beautiful; it was magical; the strength of my cat’s movement brought such wholeness to what otherwise was such a withering illness and for me a witheringly heartbreaking loss of a dear companion who has been with me through the darkest of nights, soothing my angst and tears through these past few tumultuous years by literally stroking my face with her paw.


Nature doesn’t have happy endings — there are tears and sadness, harshness and physical expression involved no matter who one is rooting for, fox or rabbit, owl or mouse, wolf or elk, coyote or cat. Nature is full of mystery, and thus magic, and I think most of us, being apes who won’t let go of the tangible, are nervous around that. So we use ‘terms’ to give soothing explanation to the intangible and hide behind concepts of ‘mercy’ that hide the hard work that is seen and experienced in care for the dying and the birthing.


In reaching for the intangibles of making Nature relevant, I consider now:

Maybe it is Life, and its intangible magic in Spirit, that we are seeking to make ‘relevant’ and valued. Not just Nature’s relevance, as if it were something separate or different, but the magic of Life itself.

Or maybe they are one and the same.

Spirit, Nature, Life.



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“Your visit may be marred by tragedy if you violate park rules. Law enforcement rangers strictly enforce park regulations to protect you and the park. Please help keep our contacts with you pleasant by paying special attention to park regulations and avoiding these problems . . . “

Rules are the invisible barrier between humans and Nature, writ large in the park information given to the nearly 3.5 million visitors each year who visit  Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.

“Yellowstone is a wilderness filled with natural wonders that are also potential hazards. There is no guarantee of your safety. Regulations are strictly enforced to protect you and the park’s resources.”

My teenager is singing Sondheim’s “Everbody Says Don’t” as we drive from Yellowstone into Teton National Park and on the way pass numerous park signs on our attempt at a great but short American car trip; we each can hardly wait to get to the National Forest just a bit south to happily splash barefoot in the cool waters of the Hoback River (and irritating the nearby fly-fishermen, I admit) to get away from the crowds and to ‘engage’ with a Nature that feels accessible if not actually relevant, rather than this ‘do not touch’ experience of Nature protected in the national parks.


Gratefully found and borrowed from Yellowstonegate http://www.yellowstonegate.com/2011/10/no-boiling-live-fish/

We are passing families breaking the rules, going off the trail to have their kids pose behind the Welcome to Yellowstone NP sign for the family photo op. They are clearly seeking the happy memory souvenir of their own childhood car trip images, but I notice these kids aren’t necessarily grinning on cue. It’s a rebellious lot, this generation, unwilling to preserve the image of a family car trip as my generation did with the requisite wave and grin. I ask my daughter if she, too, wants the photo op to memorialize our trip and she responds wryly that she could have seen Old Faithful on the cam web of the park website rather than watching people line up 6-deep on the boardwalk to watch the sploshes.

“And the hype!!,” she says with exasperation. She leaves the thought there as I wondered if it had been my hype or the park’s, or a larger, American hype of fondness over the car-trip to Nature in Yellowstone National Park to which she was referring.

Ah, Yellowtone. Hyped since 1872 to tourists, I note, remembering that this is Nature with tourism. Hyped to keep people not living near it valuing it in order that it be protected from private development by people, decade after decade; the road-access areas of the parks are a way in, an Ambassador of Nature to the public, for the millions of acres set aside that the public doesn’t normally see and therefore might not find relevant to their lives.  Hyped to keep it — Nature — in the game of the American mind or at least a relevant part of the discussion of ‘what is great about America’. Without the ambassador Nature become invisible; with the tourism, Nature stays in the picture, so to speak. Full circle.

The rules are necessary because we don’t know how to behave in Nature, from feeding animals truly wild (yes, it happened a day we were there, a preschooler pushed into the picture with the bison by goading parents wanting another photo op. It turned out okay, thanks to a park bus driver who yelled a warning) to taking a bath in the hot springs (a warning in the tourist information but thankfully no takers, so far this summer.)

We had sat on the veranda of the gracious old Old Faithful Inn, feeling the ghosts of turn-of-the-century tourists strolling about in hats and large skirts, as we waited the 88 min for Old Faithful geyser to blow. I was eying the out-the-door line for ice cream while my daughter wondered why it felt like Stonehenge where crowds of hundreds also stood 6-deep, all gazing with expectation and cameras at the ready, to one central spot. We wondered in retrospect what they were waiting for at Stonehenge; at least here was an action shot provided by Nature.

A woman from New York conversed with us on the porch, having spent 3-days-so-far on a bus from South Dakota, taking her elderly mother to see Yellowstone for once in her long life, we were told. “She could care less if she sees another geyser at this point,” the woman laughs with us. Indeed, the mother was inside eating lunch ignoring the ticking minutes to The Moment, and the daughter quipped the atmosphere around us felt like New Year’s Eve in Times Square, with the crowds and the waiting and then with pictures taken, the shuffle back home. “You always think, ‘I could have watched it on TV,'” she muses. But then anticipation rises in the gathering crowd with a small splosh from Old Faithful. “Do they at least sound a horn or something before it goes, so we know when to start taking pictures?” It was funny. Really funny. And it was so far from relevant to our daily lives; it was a good-time.

The magic and mystery of Nature that the 1800s tourists might have felt in this far-away-from-civilization wilderness seemed gone. Knowing now Old Faithful  is part of a system of a giant underground caldera that is predicted to, someday any day now, make my home of the Rocky Mountains West a geologic memory, the watching of it suddenly felt a bit like knowing too much. It felt suddenly akin to what the required sex ed class does to the romantic notion of “bff love” in middle school, at once fascinating and vaguely unsettling.

Is magic and mystery needed to make Nature more relevant to us?

I wanted to make a last effort to engage daughter with the Nature behind the zoo-i-ness of the park before we left the boundary, the Nature that is just behind the signs and the rules, the Nature that is at once protected but also wilderness and a very wild home of grizzly bear, moose, elk, wolves, is out of man’s control, and is the last, the largest intact ecosystem in the lower 48 states. But these are just facts and facts don’t engage the soul or the senses.

I asked her to ‘just for fun’ connect to what it would feel like if she saw the beauty of the wilds in the park as what some call “God’s handiwork” or “the face of God”, or as with Native American culture, for her to try out seeing God(s) in the many facets of Nature that are around every curve in this beautiful, protected wild area. I asked her to use her imagination . . . and her heart.

She was quiet for a time.

I wondered for a moment where such a crazy idea came from in me, and then I heard the voice of my own father saying in the tone of voice he reserved for reading great stories as we stood looking at the park when I was a little girl: “Man is just a visitor here . . .” he said mysteriously, as if the mountains were Val Halla, the land of the Gods, and we mere mortals had to be Heros to last in the wilds where God or Gods roamed.

“If you can’t create it, don’t destroy it,” he added often as we’d head to the Ranger talks under a sky full of stars.  This from a not obviously religious man who loved Nature and is a self-described “recovering Christian” as the result of a too-strict church-going childhood. When I was a child, he gave me the every-Sunday-morning choice (choose one) of driving through the beautiful mountains here in Colorado or going to church, as to him they were a similar destination: a place to connect with what man can’t create.

But the mystery, the engagement of the imagination, the teaching of the intangible, how is that communicated? From a sense of mystery about something so ineffable? From an expression of ‘value’ by a parent? Or equally the time spent splashing in creeks as we did, too, when I was a child; it was the ‘treat’ at the end of the day of driving or short hike. Or isn’t the transmission of ‘importance to me’ from parent to child also often grounds for rebellion rather than a kind-of-inherited reverence for that which is valued? What is it that provides the relevance and the connection?

I wondered if the woman from New York would take her wry humor, joy, laughter, endurance, and pictures, and in the power of telling the Story of her trip, suddenly feel the value of Nature, the relevance of the experience of Nature, to her New York life? And what of the tourists we saw from India, Asia and Europe — what connection did they take home with their pictures and their stories?

Whether my daughter was humoring her crazy mom with her moments of silent reflection, or connecting ‘for fun’ with a different view of Nature as sacred (or both), I’ll never know but I do know she’s a good, good kid willing to expand her heart and soul and give such nutty requests a faithful try. She knows the importance of imagination; it’s what makes life interesting and creative, magical, and yes, engaging.

“Yes,” she finally said quietly. “It is different. It’s so … really beautiful.”

And then with a turn of the bend of the Snake River, we were out of the park with the forested Hoback River waiting just 20 min beyond the human circus of Jackson’s Hole.

With wet legs and sighs of relief, we engaged for a time in a now very relevant Nature. Who cannot connect with clear cold mountain waters, the shade of spruce trees, and the fresh air of forest on an 85-degree day and hours of traffic and driving behind us?

Magic, mystery, reverence, imagination, and clear, cold water. Nature was returned to relevance from behind its protecting rules for a lovely hour or so. Now how to carry it home without pictures, if not in our souls? And a story to tell in the future.


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© elizabethdarby 2012

Each morning, in my middle-of-city existence, I hear blue jays coming to check out my back-yard banquet (to them) table where nuts and fruits and seed are placed throughout the year. It is a daily ritual and they often arrive, blue-white sirens which awaken the world, at the banquet table,

um, before I do.  


I hear them.

They arrive at first with excited calls — the day is dawning, I muse — and they’re heading over from wherever they nest at night to a feast.


Then, upon arrival, the pitched cry goes a bit shrill when there is no seed waiting, and the calling grows louder and faster and a bit sharp and edgy. It feels a bit pushy, but truly I have no idea why; it’s just the frequency of the sound of the call and the rest is imagination. Nonetheless, I feel I understand them as I listen, for the call changes with my arrival with seed. Then there is a bit of silence and after a few moments, the excited call, again, as they head off to the next feeding station on the other side of a street somewhere beyond. If there is seed, then the excited call continues for a bit before they wander off to the other potential somewhere nearby regardless of my offerings. The jays always circle back around to my table throughout the day; if it was empty earlier, they’re back in a couple hours, with the same calls, the same pattern, and the same excitement. 

When I hear them on their way, I often find myself saying quietly, “Yes, yes I’m coming. Hang on. . . .” whether willing exhausted eyes to open or stopping in daily work to make sure I respond — bringing seed out and aware of the flicker of wing and blue as the jays hide briefly while I come out the door.



It is a conversation.


At least it feels so to me, for they don’t ‘hear’ me respond, but I know the calls so well, I can hear the changes in sound based on my opening the door. I can feel their darted-looks as they sense or hear (not sure which) my digging at the seed on my back porch to bring it out, as they wait with all the other birds and squirrels assembling for the banquet to appear. And I can hear the calls change when I don’t respond, when I don’t take action with seed in hand.


It is a conversation, whether of sound or sense or dance of movement between us.

It is a “conversation” because we are aware of each other, and one of us (at least) I know is listening and responding to the other, for it is me who is responding — usually with joy, delight, and care and wonder — to the call.


It’s an ancient one, this call and response, and like any sacred ceremony based on call and response in any culture; it’s a call to connection with each other and with that unseen but tangible to the feel web that connects us. 


As I begin the work of imagining what a paradigm shift to a Culture of Care for Nature looks like and feels like — and how to nurture it —  I’ve wondered where such a Culture of Care begins. Maybe even — no, especially — I’ve wondered how it begins.


And then I heard my “response” to a conversation from Nature.


If we are actively caring for someone, whether someone we love or someone with whom we care enough to be in relation, we listen to him/her/them, don’t we?


We witness his/her/their lives and their perceptions of reality; we make ourselves aware of their habits and challenges, joys and urgencies.


We create a connection of care by responding to what we hear and see from them and in them.


We are actively connecting in conversation and it is experienced, by at least one of us, as care.

In active connection we respond, “I care what is happening; I care what you say; I care what you think and feel, if not also care about what you yearn for and for your health and well-being.”


If you listen to Nature as a conversation, wherever you are in this moment, what would you hear?


Is there a pattern you’ve noticed but disregarded?


Is there an urging to action that you’ve felt, but set aside to later?


Have you responded to the conversation calling to you from all around, whatever beloved you are hearing at this moment, whether Spirit, beloved Companion, or a fellow in Nature?


By entering into conversation, we witness, we connect, and thus we begin to care.


What do you hear?


Do you respond?

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How do we connect our children with the sacred?

Especially the sacred found in that which is around us, upon which we rely with our every breath, but which is so ‘common’ it remains invisible?

Of course I’m talking here about our habitat — air with oxygen in it, water flowing freely whether from tap or sky, yummy foods that magically grow out of the earth, wild creatures tiny as ants or towering over us as bears, elk, or the owl in a tree, and a sense of infinitude found in a sky filling with clouds — but I could be also talking about a sense of power greater than any mere mammal including humans and connecting our children with the Light of Life.

As I strolled in our nearby park at sunset with my ancient dog (one step, two steps, stop, sniff, breathe, repeat)  last week, I watched a father gently put his small crawling babe on the grasses and mud of our nearby park. What delighted me was watching the delight of the child, crawling away and in her small POV, off adventuring with a sense of space, ground, earth, smells, tactile delights and so much to see at ground level. What amazed me was that this was the first time I’d seen this at the park in all the years of walking daily.

After what felt a curious eternity of exploring a bit of mud at the edge of the path, the child was gently raised to human eye level in the father’s arms and they went off to see a new sight: goslings at the edge of the creek, guarded aggressively by three adult geese marshalling their local goose daycare. In the fading rosy light, I watched this tender couple, father whispering to curious babe in arms as they watched the goslings from a respectful distance, thus avoiding threatening the ferocious geese and instead enjoying a few moments of quiet beauty of watching a young child awaken to the magic of the natural world.

A moment of sharing wonder is perhaps all it takes.

A moment of care for the Earth within ourselves, the child sensing that quiet and awe within a parent as s/he absorbs the spirit of the intangible, whether through air made visible in sparkling bubbles blown from a simple wand creating magic, or a conscious listening not only to bird song but to the rhythm and tone of the song. Connection within ourselves. And thus the child too quiets and listens, sees, feels and shares in the delight made tangible.

A moment of sharing wonder.

And seeing the sacred in all of the Earth around us.






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What kinds of writing should be in a reader — or class discussion —which will inform and teach ourselves and our next generation about our engagement with Nature, with Earth, as sacred, as possession, as home, as habitat, as source of life for all time?

I opened at random a favorite book . . . and here is a good bit of a beginning from a colleague I’ve long warmly admired:


The possibility has yet to be realized of a synthesis between the benevolent wolf of many native American stories and the malcontented wolf of most European fairy tales. . . . Were we to perceive such a synthesis, it would signal a radical change in man. For it would mean that he had finally quit his preoccupation with himself and begun to contemplate a universe in which he was not central. The terror inherent in such a prospect is of course, greater than that in any wolf he has ever written about. But equally vast is the possibility for heroism, humility, tragedy, and the other virtues of literature.

Barry Lopez, Of Wolves and Men, 1978


With my own writing on the Wolf and its return to the Western U.S. (Buzzworm, see a bit at my portfolio and the article here, I learned the animal was everything but simply a mammal and co-inhabitor of our habitat. So did the Fish and Wildlife Service employees trying to help it to return to our habitat.

How do we see the wolf now? Is it different than in 1978 when Barry wrote, or in 1991, when I did? What does Wolf mean to you? To your child or teenager?

Now there’s a good dinnertime conversation!

More importantly, the threshold noted in Barry Lopez’ eloquent thought — that man had finally quit his preoccupation with himself and begun to contemplate a universe in which he was not central — that is the threshold I hope we can achieve by creating a culture of care for our Home.

It starts with a conversation between hearts at the table.

Gray Wolf. Credit: Tracy Brooks/Mission Wolf / USFWS

Gray Wolf. Credit: Tracy Brooks/Mission Wolf / USFWS



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