The Sacredness of Life

It’s been a challenging week.  I’ve been struggling to go at a pace that my body doesn’t like.

Meanwhile, life around me is slowing down.  The leaves are starting to fall, the garden is winding down, and even the weeds seem to have stopped growing.  The days are getting shorter, animals are preparing for winter, and there is less energy all around.   Mother Nature is getting ready for the long winter’s rest ahead.  So why shouldn’t I?

Autumn is perhaps the most poignant season, in my opinion.  These crisp, sweet days remind us of less complicated times, as we try to savor the fleeting burst of color across the landscape.  Things around us are going dormant or dying, leaving behind a quiet and familiar melancholy.

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It’s hard to accept things dying, even when it’s part of nature’s flow.  It’s even harder to accept when it seems that there is no reason for it.

This past week, a deer was brought to the wildlife rehabilitation facility I volunteer at.  It had been hit by a car; its back was broken and one of its legs was broken and bent in an unnatural direction.  It had only been there a short while before I arrived, but already an animal control officer was arriving to take it away and alleviate it’s suffering.

The deer cried piteously as it was carried away in a blanket.   It was loaded into the back of a truck, and there it lay – helpless as it suffered through its last moments of life on earth.

Why should any creature suffer so needlessly?  That is, without a doubt, one of the great mysteries of life.

After the injured deer was carried away, I went to feed the two remaining fawns.  I was so struck by their beauty and fragility as they sucked at the bottles of milk with the golden autumn sunlight flashing in their eyes, on their long, lovely lashes, and on their coarse, tawny hair.

Coming face to face with suffering is very difficult, but it makes the Sacredness of Life all the more evident.  It gives me the urge to  care for my earth-home and cherish my fellow living beings.  The grass, the ferns, the squirrels, the oaks, the rivers, the turkeys, the beetles, the moths, the coyotes, the rabbits, the pines, the soil, the blue jays, the bumblebees, and everything else that is a part of this living, breathing world – I offer my tender gratitude to you.

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Two Minutes of Nature

The work day is over, and I just looked up from my computer and found myself strangely startled by how beautiful it is out.  It’s amazing how detached I can feel from nature while I’m “plugged in”, clicking away at my computer keyboard.  But all it takes is two minutes of observation to bring me back to feeling more centered and connected with reality.  Here’s what I just noticed:

  • The magical, golden evening sunlight streaming through the trees
  • A Daddy Long Legs striding confidently across the patio
  • An inch worm slowly making its way across a stone wall
  • A bumble bee hovering over the miniature forest of creeping thyme
  • The first red tinges of autumn on the maples, glowing fiercely in the sun
  • The warm golds and auburns of the garden mums
  • The soft greens of the ferns
  • The sweet song of evening crickets and one very vocal chipmunk

I especially love observing the small, the overlooked, and what some would consider to be the “commonplace.”  They are all miracles of nature, after all.

What can you observe in two minutes?

The deeper we look into nature, the more we recognize that it is full of life, and the more profoundly we know that all life is a secret and that we are united with all life that is in nature. – Albert Schweitzer

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I Saved a Life Today

I found a shivering, half submerged mouse in my toilet bowl today.  From the look of things, I’m guessing it had been there for an hour or two.  It probably had struggled futilely to scramble out, and then given up, too scared and cold to keep fighting.

I pulled it out with a container and patted it gently with a towel, trying to dry its soaked, matted fur.  I sat with it and tried to comfort it as best as I could.  Then I put the mouse in a small box with my heating pad and some towels.  The mouse curled up with dim eyes, like the life essence was leaving its tiny little body.

About an hour later, I opened the box, and the mouse scurried under the heating pad.  Further investigation revealed that it had dried off and I could see the Light of Life in its eyes once more.  I took the box outside (away from the house!) and the mouse scampered hurriedly away.

I don’t know if the mouse will survive, but I do know that nothing deserves to die alone and cold in a toilet bowl.

An hour or two after the mouse episode, I was watching some wild turkeys in my yard.  They had been there for hours, and a few of them were laying down in some dried leaves by the edge of my yard while the others foraged for food.

The turkeys come through the yard pretty much every day.  There used to be thirteen, but I only counted eleven today.  Furthermore, I noticed that one had sustained an injury and was hopping lamely on one leg.  My guess is that a predator took a couple of the birds, and that the injured one had narrowly escaped.

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Turkeys in the yard

I felt sad watching the injured turkey, because I know that in all likelihood, it won’t survive.  I watched it foraging, and I held a deep love and appreciation for it, its beauty, and the knowledge that it will become sustenance for another living creature.

As someone who is involved with wildlife rehabilitation, it can be hard to know when to step in, and when to let nature take its course.  Did I have an urge to help that turkey?  Of course.  Why did I help the mouse and not the turkey?  Well, for one thing, I probably couldn’t catch that turkey even if I tried, and it probably would have done more damage than good anyway.

I know I can’t save everything.  I have seen and will continue to see animals suffer and die.  It is painful, especially when it is the result of human activity (e.g., when an animal is hit by a car).  Yet, it is also poignant, and in Nature, nothing ever goes to waste.

It is my Life’s Work to strive to honor and respect all living things.  In a human-centric world, I feel a personal calling to rejoice in the value and sacredness of our fellow living beings.  All living things have significance and play an important role in the great web of life.

I’ve been having a lazy day today, and found myself feeling guilty for not accomplishing more. But then I thought to myself, “I saved a life today.”  Today, I looked into the eyes of another living creature, and saw the gift of life.  Today, I watched butterflies feed on miraculous garden blooms and listened appreciatively to the wind in the trees.  Today, I felt the preciousness of each moment as I watched a flock of turkeys.  Maybe that’s enough.

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Admitting Defeat

Admitting Defeat

I’m sitting overlooking South Pond at Savoy State Forest.  I came for a two-night getaway at one of their CCC-built cabins, but I decided to pack up a day early and head home.  The weather is crappy, I’m not feeling well, and if I’m being totally honest with myself, I’d rather just be home. So, I guess I’m admitting defeat.

I’m disappointed that my trip wasn’t the rejuvenating, nature-filled mini-retreat I had imagined. Instead, it feels difficult and like I’m struggling against things.

Frankly, I’m tired of struggling against things.  I’m tired of being tired, and I feel burdened with a chronically ill body that experiences constant fatigue and pain.

But, what if, rather than feeling like pain and fatigue was a burden, I could see it as a blessing?  What if, rather than admitting defeat, I opened my heart to honor my truth?  And maybe sometimes that truth is being balls-out pissed that I feel shitty.  I’d rather just be honest with myself than struggle through the motions.

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Bog Pond, Savoy State Forest

It’s a constant learning, and if I’m open to it, it can be a blessing.  For instance, I now have a better understanding of how to say no, to push toxic people and situations out of my life, to protect my time and energy, and to detach myself from other people’s drama.

So, my trip didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to, but maybe I got exactly what I needed.

There is a calm in the steady rainfall and in the misty white shroud clinging to the hills.  The wind is blowing across the water, and it doesn’t resist; it simply flows.  The hemlock boughs are heavy with rain drops, and there is a gentle patter and rustle of wind and water through the oaks.

I saw a few newts and frogs hanging out as the pond lapped lazily at the shore. They didn’t seem to be bothered by the inclement weather one bit.  They just continued to do their respective newt and frog thing.

There is always struggle and suffering in nature.  But there is also balance and harmony.  Ecologically speaking, we know what happens when that balance gets disturbed. Often times, we continue to disturb it anyway.  But in disregarding Nature’s Truth, we create a situation that’s unsustainable.

I am a living being, and I am not exempt from this truth. At times, I will struggle and suffer, and if I choose to disregard my own balance, there will be consequences.  So today I choose to listen to my own truth.  And as I listen to the softly falling rain and head home to rest in my own bed, I hear the song of Divine Harmony.

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Rainy day waterfall

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Tannery Falls, Savoy State Forest

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A beaver pond in Savoy State Forest

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Fungus Flowers!

Summer Solstice

I’m finally relaxing after a long, draining day – and wouldn’t you know?  It’s absolutely beautiful out!  Actually, perfect is the word that comes to mind.  The temperature is just right.  A refreshing breeze dances through the treetops.  The sky is heavenly-blue with just the slightest wisp of white lazily drifting by.  The chipmunks are bolding claiming their territory, seemingly popping out of every nook and cranny.  I’ve just picked a bountiful load of peas and strawberries from the garden.  And flowers are bursting into bloom everywhere.

The mountain laurel alone is something to celebrate.  The hillside is positively glowing with the sweet blossoms like delightful pink-white candies.  I feel like a kid in a candy store just looking at it!

I admit, I am sad to see spring go.  After all, it is my favorite season.  But as we enter this sacred season of exuberance and abundance, I offer my heart in gratitude.  Let this soak in.  Let me savor every moment.

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Mountain laurel blossoms that look sweet enough to eat!

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Garden beauties

Raccoon Rescue: Departures and Arrivals

Whew!  What a day!

As some of you know, I volunteer on Tuesdays at a wildlife rehab facility.  Today, we released 3 of the raccoons that we have raised for the past year.   Loaded up in cages in the back of the van, we drove them out to a carefully selected site.  My heart went out to them as I could hear them scratching frantically at the cages, desperate to get out.  Poor babies!

Fortunately, their distress was short lived, and well worth the end result: freedom.  As we opened the cages, my heart soared at seeing these amazing animals being returned to their true home in the wild.  This is where they belong.  Never has anything been more obvious, more naturally beautiful and right.  They were so happy, so free, so wild, so gleeful and excited.  We watched as they explored their new surroundings – climbing trees, scrambling over rocks, drinking from a stream, taking in all the sights, sounds, and scents.  At last, it came time to say goodbye, but it was with full heart, knowing that these friends were finally home.

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The gateway to freedom!

Back in the van, we had one more stop: to the vet with our porcupine friend, Lucille.  Now, I am here to tell you that taking a porcupine to the vet is no easy task.  I carried the cage in and set it down on the table, where we proceeded to throw a blanket over her, lift her out, and hold her down – all while wearing reeeeallly thick gloves.

Lucille was hit and dragged by a plow back in December.  The fur and quills on her back were completely scraped off, and she has appeared to have some issues with her eye sight.  Thankfully, her quills and fur have been growing back quite nicely, but we haven’t been too sure about her eyes.  Unfortunately, the vet confirmed that Lucille is blind.  We are not sure what we can do for her eyes to restore vision, but we will try to help her as best we can.

After our trip to the vet, it was time to feed our new arrivals: 6 baby raccoons.  These are from 2 separate litters.  In one family, the mother was relocated without realizing there were babies. In the other family, the mother was killed by an exterminator (which, unfortunately, is a standard practice).

The babies arrived just a couple weeks old, with their eyes still shut, and grieving for their mother.   Needless to say, they need a lot of love and care (which they are getting)!  Right now, they are only about 6 to 8 inches long, but you wouldn’t believe the racket they can make!  And of course, they are cute beyond words!

Now the day is done, and I’m completely worn out.  I’m out on my patio listening to the song of the whippoorwill and the yapping of coyotes, thinking about the cycle of life and how it goes on and on.   We are born, we get older, and eventually, we all go free.  This is the way of the world, and the Divine Harmony of Life.

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Home at last

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Free and wild

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Going to take a drink!

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The view is great from up here!

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A bouquet of babies

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Time for feeding

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Snuggle time!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birthday Adventure

April 21, 2017

Today, I am honoring myself.  It is my 40th birthday and I am spending it outdoors in the wilderness of Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas.  I can think of no better way to celebrate than by reveling in the wonders of the natural world.  I cannot think of anywhere else that I would feel such a sense of peace and connection with the grand web of life – a connection which particularly bears reflecting on as I look back on my own life these past 40 years.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park is in west Texas, and it appears that most people haven’t heard of it.  As a result, it is less trodden than some of our other national parks, but that certainly is not due to a lack of beauty.

In fact, these mountains are more spectacular than I could have possibly ever imagined,  I’m generally not drawn to desert climates, but I am completely enchanted with the rugged beauty of this landscape.  These mountains rise up out of the desert with such strength and force, and they seem to be alive and breathing with the wisdom of the millennia.

I am also surprised by the incredible diversity of plant life here and the amazing array of textures.  I am enthralled by the tender leaves of the maples and oaks, and I love seeing them juxtaposed against the spiny desert plants.  And the wildflowers are just incredible!  You wouldn’t believe how many different kinds and colors there are!  You simply have to take the time to notice.

I love being exposed to so many different and unfamiliar living things.  I feel as though I am meeting many new friends, all of whom are helping to ring is this new year and new decade.

Here are some pictures from my week long camping trip, including a day excursion to Carlsbad Caverns National Park.  Enjoy!

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Birthday hike! 

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A jackrabbit

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A rattlesnake! (Rob zoomed in with his phone to take this photo.)

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Blooming prickly pear cactus

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Hiking on a chilly day.  Daytime temps were between the 60s and the 80s.

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Sunrise in the Chihuahuan desert

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Draperies in Carlsbad Caverns National Park

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Carlsbad Caverns National Park

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“Mirror Lake”

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These formations reminded me of long slender trees