Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Through a Glass, Darkly

Maybe that's what life is... a wink of the eye and winking stars.
- Jack Kerouac

Let children walk with Nature, let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life.
- John Muir

This evening in the garden, I was disappointed by what I found, but not surprised.

The sparrows’ nest was empty.

Of course, the animals can do without my artificial judgments. I recognize that I am the interloper here. What I call my home encroaches on their home. If I actually strive to respect the great circle of life, then I have to see my own sentimentality for what it is. Indeed, why am I not happy for the black snake, or the crow, or whatever animal found the baby sparrows today?

Live as sibling to the beasts and flowers? I would like to think so. I wonder, though, how they perceive me. Is my presence in their world a minor disruption…a cause for alarm…a matter of curiosity? How can I relate to them without presumption, even if it appears to be a more benign form than the presumptions that have inflicted such injury on them?

"Oneness with the natural world" is an appealing idea. But sometimes, even when I am in the midst of it, nature seems to be on the other side of a great chasm surrounding me.

It would appear that the common conception of evolution is that of competing species running a sort of race through time on planet earth, all on the same running field, some dropping out, some flagging, some victoriously in front. If the background and foreground are reversed, and we look at it from the side of the 'conditions' and their creative possibilities, we can see these multitudes of interactions through hundreds of other eyes. We could say a food brings a form into existence.

Huckleberries and salmon call for bears, the clouds of plankton of the North Pacific call for salmon, and salmon call for seals and thus orcas. The Sperm Whale is sucked into existence by the pulsing, fluctuating pastures of squid, and the open niches of the Galapagos Islands sucked a diversity of bird forms and function out of one line of finch.
-Gary Snyder, The Practice of the Wild


Betty Cloer Wallace said...

Gulahiyi, thank you for sharing all this, including the marvelous photographs. Your observations and insights combined with those of Muir and Snyder have given me a lot to think about today!

Anonymous said...

I was trained as an evolutionary biologist by evolutionary biologists, and I can say that virtually no one understands evolutionary biology, even (and sometimes especially) those of us trained in the field. In addition, it is incredibly difficult to write clearly about it (try on Steven Gould's herculean effort Ontogeny and Phylogeny) because we lapse into shortcuts of language that imply inaccuracies about the processes.