Saturday, July 24, 2010

How Would You Live Then?

A Male Northern Cardinal (Member of Family Cardinalidae along with  Grosbeaks)


What if a hundred rose-breasted

blew in circles around your head?  What if

the mockingbird came into the house with you and

became your advisor?  What if

the bees filled your walls with honey and all

you needed to do was ask them and they would fill

the bowl?  What if the brook slid downhill

past your bedroom window so you could listen

to its slow prayers as you fell asleep?  What

the stars began to shout their names, or to run

this way and that way above the clouds?  What

you painted a picture of a tree, and the leaves

began to rustle, and a bird cheerful sang

from its painted branches?  What if you
suddenly saw

that the silver of water was brighter than the

of money?  What if you finally saw

that the sunflowers, turning toward the sun all

and every day -- who knows  how, but they do
it -- were

more precious, more meaningful than gold? - Mary Oliver



this week I had a conversation with someone who asked "What is it you
want?"  I answered:  "I would have that singing cardinal come
down to the screened in porch where we are sitting and ask to be let in. Then
she would come sit on my arm and allow me to touch her."  My friend suggested this would be against the
bird's telos and if a bird did such as this, we would lose his or her's
wildness.  I believe my friend was
arguing that the bird is so very precious just the way she is, if we could but just
see her as such. I believe that I too was arguing the same thing. I just did so
by telling a fantasy story about a bird who desires to be with me, for that is all I
desire - to be with birds, to be birds. To be centered with such heart centered
awareness in every moment, that's how I would live!


How would you live if you could
see the beauty around you in every moment as if it were a fantastical dream, so
very wondrous because it is not a dream, but reality?










Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Fiddling While Rome Burns

“We need an inclusive movement and need to eliminate
anything that stands in the way of that.” 
These were words during the presentation, “Fiddling While Rome Burns,”
given by Shane Mahoney  the plenary
speaker for the International Congress of Conservation Biology.  I couldn’t agree with him more. In fact, my
efforts in conservation in the last decade have been committed to finding ways
to support the human dimensions of conservation so that we can get along, not
just for greater satisfaction and sustainability on conservation teams, but for
the sake of all life.  The earth needs us
now, not some time in the distant future when we might decide to work with others
who are different from us, or who think of wildlife differently. 


A pertinent and timely example of this comes from the
placement of the Lafeber Conservation and Wildlife booth at this
conference.  I am on “Trapper Row.” On my
aisle of the exhibit hall are 3 trapper organizations and one safari
group.  Just to my left are the skins of
lynx, wolf, beaver, and wolverine and examples of many kinds of leg traps.  The most common question I get from people
who pass by is not “what do you do,” or “what is Emeraid,” but “how do you feel
being next to trappers?”  That’s a good
question, I tell the people, and then they proceed to give me their views.  The thought is that trappers don’t have a
place in true compassionate conservation solutions. I have also talked to the trappers
on my row.  They say they love the
animals and their habitats, and want the same things I do – sustainability,
diversity, and abundance.  Yet, our
strategies are so very different.

Though the strategy of trapping brings up pain for me, if I
think that I do not share the same universal needs as the trappers, then I
won’t be able to empathize with them.  If
I can’t empathize with them, then we won’t be able to see each other as
belonging on this planet, belonging at the table, and belonging at the

Shane ended his talk by saying that we are human because of
the different other and that in all of us is some part of God.  Without talking to him about this I can’t be
sure what he means. What he says to me is this. 
Though my heart aches to imagine the suffering and stress of an animal
bound in a leg trap, I will not close my heart to that pain and that
conversation with the different other. For if I close my heart to the pain, I
close my heart to the beauty, the joy, and the possibility of what we might
create together.  I also diminish how I
can be the change I wish to see in the world. For if I settle for blaming the
trapper, the hunter, the cattle rancher, I risk settling for not looking at my
own complicity in harm in the world.  So
dear trappers, thank you for being at this conference so that I might just get
to know your mind, and in the attempt, get to not just know my mind, but change
it to feel interconnection and empathy with all beings. May the traps of the
mind so free me, and all beings.


Monday, July 5, 2010

Why I Wake Early


Why I Wake Early

A Poem by Mary Oliver


Hello, sun in my face.

Hello, you who make the morning

And spread it over the fields

And into the faces of the tulips

And the nodding morning glories,

And into the windows of, even, the

Miserable and the crotchety-

Best preacher that ever was,

Dear star, that just happens

To be where you are in the universe

To keep us from every-darkness,

To ease us with warm touching

To hold us in the great hands of light-

Good morning, good morning, good morning.

 Watch, now, how I start the day

In happiness, in kindness.


Up high in a
skyscraper in down town Edmonton, Alberta I face the window while reading
Mary’s poem.  I too awoke early, which is
easy to do here given how early the sun rises this far north.  The sun emerges out of my vision, but the
rays hit the windows of the office building across the street, and they reflect
mightily into my eyes as I write.  Sun,
do you see my tears of gratitude, which are the tears of so many of us who
struggle with the tension of whether to be crotchety or kind?  How might we come together to choose
kindness?  Isn’t this what religion is
all about?  To address these questions, I
am attending a conference on Conservation Biology and will present a paper,
“Avian Conservation as Lived Religion.” 
I speak of how conservation teams go into the field to save and savor
the world, and how they experience transcendent meaning making moments amongst
them.  I speak of how the emerging nature
religion guides conservationists into choosing to give themselves over to a
better thing as they strive to be kind so that the world may know
happiness.  I am a preacher who has been
gratefully bested by the Sun, life giver, creator of love.  Today. This moment.  Amen.


What helps you be kind?


Downtown Edmonton (photo by Christa Hauke)