Past Blogs

A Reminder

 

A Reminder

 

Respect an animal enough NOT to give them a gift at Christmas time.

 

I have posted this blog before but it bears reposting in this gift-giving season. Puppies. Kittens. Rabbits. Ferrets. Birds. Fish. These are living beings and not toasters, they require care and sometimes special habitat, exercise and diet and a certain amount of thought and pre-thought into how best to accommodate the new family member.

 

I admit though, they seem like the perfect gift, don’t they? One can imagine how happy the receiver will be, and there is nothing quite as uplifting as being the one who brought that joy to someone’s life. But a wise giver of gifts makes sure the recipient is knowledgeable and ready to add a family member.

 

Consider this fact.

 

A large percentage of animals given as gifts at Christmas time end up at the local shelter within a year for various reasons in the case of kittens and  puppies.  Some ‘gifts’, like rabbits, snakes, ferrets and others come to an even uglier end, if there is such a thing, when released into the wild unprepared or just die of neglect. Other issues that can plague the unprepared are activity levels of each species, the time required to train or socialize the companion, proper accommodations and exercise requirements and, of course, the level of interest of the receiver for the LIFETIME of that animal. As a former breeder I have heard dozens of times, ‘I didn’t realize getting a puppy is like bring a baby home…they are just as much work as a child!’ (Well, yes, they are children. Just not yours.)

 

Children are the largest percentage of receivers of living animals during this holiday season. And I like to think a child’s life is better for having an animal companion in it, mine certainly was. But there is a proper age or maturity that is required when an animal’s well-being is at stake and eight or ten years old probably is a bit young for that kind of responsibility. (I am speaking in general terms here.) The enthusiasm is there but like every young living thing, focus is not their long suit and soon someone else, not as enthusiastic, will be taking over the chores.

 

The holiday season itself is not conducive to helping a new family member assimilate into the household. Nothing is normal at Christmas time. So rather than having a displaced animal come into a home that is stable, calm and ready, the new member comes into chaos. There are places to be, leaving puppy or kitten alone for hours in a strange place with odd smells and strange sounds. Time seems to be in short supply with visiting well-wishers, whether hurrying to go somewhere else or welcoming them into the home. There are trees to cause mischief, ribbons to chew on and candy and food left within reach because no one is ready and all these things can do harm to the new family member.

 

If a home is ready to add a new member then what does it matter if it happens after the holiday season when things are calm and there is nothing to distract from welcoming this animal into the home? Buy them a gift that has no feelings to injure, no heart to break when they tire of it; buy a gift a harried receiver can just set it aside or forget when they tire of it. A gift that it will not care.

 

Puppies. Kittens. Rabbits. Ferrets. Birds, Fish and other assorted living creatures. They are gifts, sometimes our most precious gifts.

 

But they are not Christmas presents, they are not things presented with bows and wrapping paper. They are living, loving Beings that give their heart without limits. If bringing in a new member is not well-considered with time and discussion among the entire family, the loving heart will be broken and that is a gift to no one.

 

I Have a Question

 

I read a little snippet from a magazine about some scientists who implanted electrodes in the brains of tiny little zebra finches to discover if they could anticipate the next song the bird would sing, siting it to be used to eventually employ a futuristic ‘text by mind’ paradigm that humans can add to their repertoire of communicative skills. (As we all know this is really important because we certainly want to step away from actually speaking to each other.) The electrodes were interfaced with neuron and blah, blah blah. I say ‘blah, blah’ with no disrespect (OK- sort of) but my topic of conversation is not about how they did it, I am more concerned with the fact that they did the research to begin with. However, if you really want the information on the bells and whistles you can find it at the website of University of California, San Diego and in an article in MIT Technology Review (Sorry, the snippet did not give the date of publication, but I am guessing it is somewhat in line with the date of this post.)

 

My question doesn’t arise from some lack of appreciation for technology. Technology can be used to improve the lives of all animals-and plants for that matter, although one really has to ponder on how wise it would be too just let our thoughts about one another indiscriminately post as a text- TO THAT PERSON! Doesn’t seem like a good idea to me, but what do I know?

 

My question is this. Why are they picking on these cute little zebra finches anyway?

 

The age old adage of using non-human animals to further our own agendas- i.e. ‘for the betterment of man’ -no longer holds true. Medical science is turning to computer modelling for practical experience for surgical procedures and petri dishes can be used to demonstrate the effects of drugs on cell division to name a few. Forward thinking, responsible teaching and research facilities have implemented these changes because of student outcries of ‘wishing to do no harm’ to another living Being. (See? We, as a society, are making progress.) For some reading this, it is going to seem too much, too ‘over the top’ to be concerned about a little bird when science is improving the lives of people. But it is not.

 

 Many individuals are becoming more aware of the moral conflict of imposing our will on innocent Beings are making decisions based on those ethical and moral concerns. There simply is no longer a need to abuse animals in medical/research labs because science has already proven that technology can simulate the same conditions provided by the nonhuman animals that is actually more accurate.  Inflicting harm is no longer ‘the cost of doing business’. ..and there are other methods to gain volunteers when needed.

 

Take the case of our little zebra finch. I propose using human volunteers. How many ‘subjects’ would show up if a flier was sent out? Maybe they would announce something like, ‘hey, do you want to make $5,000.00 dollars this weekend? We have to shave your head but hey-$5,000.00!’ They would get enough volunteers I think because people like money. That has been apparent for quite some time validated by our response to environmental concerns that may require us spending money to keep Mother Earth healthy. (But I digress. I will save that topic for another day).

 

Paying volunteers for research has the advantage of having a victim- I mean subject- agree to the parameters of the test and therefore release the researcher from the moral conflict of inflicting harm on an innocent victim.  Researchers would have to monitor their patient and provide anesthesia, pain control and explain possible risks of postsurgical complications or even death. Given the legalities and cash outlay, human volunteers could prove to be expensive for research centers and certainly make them more accountable for their actions.

 

  But then, maybe that is just the cost of doing business.

 

When Does Truth Become Fact?

 

Dogs use facial expressions to communicate with their guardians.

 

That is the news from several university research centers, and while many people who send hours with their dogs are likely to say, ‘Well, duh.’ it is interesting in that the scientific community has decided to explore communication between humans and other animals.

 

In one research project it was discovered that dogs use more facial expression when their guardians are looking at them as opposed to when their guardians are turned away from them. Their expressions do not change when given a treat or eating, which led researchers to be believe dogs are trying to communicate with humans by using expressions (a choice) rather than simply creating expressions from emotional stimuli such as be given treats or food. They hypothesize this is a direct result from 30,000 years of domestication.  Another research project determined dogs can also recognize human emotions by reading the combination of human expressions along with vocalizations. Again it seems to many dog guardians an obvious conclusion that perhaps required no scientific validation and, in fact the scientific community admitted that ‘antidotally’ guardians had reported the same.

 

Consider all the attributes we bestow on our dogs as they react to various events or situations in our everyday lives that others, who do not share a home with a favored friend, often smile patiently through our recital as their attention drifts. Contemplate the depth of grief we feel when their lives are over and we are alone or the amount of time we carve out of the day simply because we want to spend more time with them the day allows.

 

In those moments we know there is much more going on behind those eyes than science gives them credit for. It is a known thing to us. It is not questioned.

 

But it is nice to know that science and research is interested enough in the possibility of dogs speaking to us, in whatever form science sees fit to recognize, that they have begun to study the possibilities in earnest.  And the future? Well, we can be sure they will uncover the rest of the mysteries concerning our animal companions that most guardians already know to be fact. But for the non-believer, science makes it true.

 

Rites of Fall

 

The fall season is a busy time for most of my wild animal friends. Squirrels are packing away the seeds and nuts while nuthatches steal seeds to hammer into the crevices of tree bark. The geese are gathering into extended family flocks, making ready to travel to warmer climes in mass. The birds of summer have been absent for a while, finding it unwise to stay for the cold weather. No more strawberries to pick but pumpkins and cranberries are ripening while colorful leaves dance along the ground, the last grace of color before silver dominates the land. Everyone is making ready for whatever will come. Some leave, some harvest. I am in between the two and every fall I indulge in some of the same practices as my wild friends.

 

I have packed away patio and garden things. Tank tops and sandals are delegated to boxes for a day now seemingly far away, though unlike Nuthatch, I am more likely to remember where I put them. I’ve gathered my dried flowers and herbs to use on a winter’s day, just as squirrel and chipmunk have made their stores of nuts and seeds. One last barbeque in the yard gathered family together before some left for warmer climates, just like the geese. And though there are no strawberries to pick, but I like pumpkin pie and cranberry things. I enjoy watching the leaves drop from the trees in a colorful dance as Blue Jay screams with a hawk call to clear the feeder of the more timid songbirds.

 

I know some feel a sadness when the light of summer fades the day into a premature evening and I feel that too. But only until I walk home in the dark, then I remember how much I love walking in the dark. I love the quiet of nighttime and the peacefulness that falls with the sun.

 

It is true that we create our own reality. It doesn’t really matter what is out there, it is what we create that matters and how we choose to see it. Fall is a time of harvest and we have the ability to harvest the best of each day. What does not benefit us, we may leave for the wind to spirit away.

 

Little Pieces of Wild

 

There is a little strip of land along the Wisconsin River. It could be considered useless land. From the top perch the steep bank drops 20 feet to the river and travels for four hundred yards, covered with trees, brush, ‘weeds’ and rocks. Squeezed between the river and a blacktop access road behind the buildings of the city, it is forgotten and avoided by all but the wildlife that lives there.

 

I have walked this path twice a day for eight years, mostly because I love the view, but it also allows me to walk in the wild for just a bit, to get lost in the trees and sound of the river. To squint my eyes against the reflected sun as it kisses the waves. To rekindle a life I once knew, to smell the familiar and listen to the song of the birds. It brings an opportunity to watch the ice knit its way across the moving water and sometimes, when the ice has formed in the deepest winter it allows the silence to drop in big flakes and hushes the river until warmer winds release him.

 

This place is important to me. But more important for the wildlife that calls this forgotten bit of embankment home. To the harried who glance at the scrub, a quick look on the way to somewhere more important, this place can appear to be a barren waste land, yet I have witnessed Otter playing on this bank and every once in a while, he lopes through the brush to have a look at me. Rabbit lives there with her many broods, her bunnies hopping along the edge of the asphalt in search of tender greens. Woodchuck sits in the evening sun, undisturbed by my passing. Deer comes to wade in the river on a late afternoon in august, to cool her feet among the shade of the bank.

 

 The other day I was surprised to meet Mink. I had not seen him before but he bounded right up to me in the drizzle and mist of a cool fall day, the precursor to what will come. He said his hellos, and then scampered back through the grass and weeds, back to his home along the water. I have not seen Raccoon, but he leaves his tracks in the mud along the road. Deer Mouse, Vole, and Chipmunk live here too. Ovenbird calls this place home. Catbird raises her chicks in the dogwood brush. Red-wing Blackbird nests here too, and dive-bombs all who challenge his territory. Cedar Waxwing brings the entire extended family to clear the chokecherry of surplus fruits. Blue Heron, Canada Goose, Grebe and Osprey all call this tiny piece of steep bank home. This jumbled of un-manicured wild, growing without our assistance and trying to hang on to its natural self despite our want for order is alive with life.

 

The little pieces of land we think to be useless, an eyesore and in need of ‘restoration’ would be better left to themselves and I am reminded we sometimes forget what true beauty looks like in our man-made world. But a walk along the river reminds me every day.

 

New Home For Kitty

 

Well the little muffin has flown the coop. Feral Kitty, better known as Sweetie, has found his home with a loving family with a potential for a cat friend. I packed up his toys, treats, food and comfort items, which oddly had accumulated to two basket proportions, even though Sweetie was only with me for three weeks.

 

Now a beautiful, hopefully long, love-filled life awaits him and his family. Sweetie went from a terrified kitten that wasn’t sure people were a good thing to a lap-warming, bed-cuddling purr machine who liked being picked up and was often vocal about meals.

 

It was a rewarding experience for me in many ways and I miss him a bit but I am pretty sure I have visitation rights, so not too bad for either of us. I was blessed to watch him bloom into a companion, although he still has a journey ahead of him. Odd noises startle him. Fast movement concerns him, especially when made with the hands. He lost his little mind the day we were sitting on the couch and the mailman put some letters in the box when the screen door happen to be open. He was hiding when people entered, but I understand from the guardians he was not shy of them and wanted to explore his new home right away. But he has been a very sweet kitten, hence the name ‘Sweetie’, given to him by his ‘kidnapper’ as he likes to say, though he has told me maybe it wasn’t so bad because he gets to eat ‘all the time’ (no…just three meals a day) and he likes the cuddling.

 

 I’m glad he thinks it wasn’t so bad. It was a bothersome thing for me to take him from where he had family and convince him he should be with us. I mean, isn’t that how we rationalize keeping wild animals in places they do not belong nor wish to be? So, I do not think I will be doing this again, but I am considering specializing in working with wild, captive animals. Maybe I could be of service to them in that way…certainly something to ponder.

 

Following the Water

 

Imprinting the city waterways to signify that a particular ‘sewer’ system goes directly to the river is a wonderful idea adopted by many communities. It is good for the river certainly, good as a reminder to the community and also gives the impression that the city council is trying to be environmentally forward. But are they embracing the environment as much as it seems? 

 

In my village, the water drains into the Wisconsin River. A big beautiful bold piece of liquid real estate the serves many functions pertinent to the all lives who call his shores home in the way of power, drinking water, food and wildlife. He begins in the North Country and ends at the Gulf of Mexico by way of the Mississippi River. What happens here, in my little town, effects thousands of miles of waterways?

 

I like this little sign; reminds me that we leave a footprint even when we try to walk softly upon the Earth. It is tiny reminder of where the water from a rainstorm goes after it has passed from the clouds to dance over asphalt, roofs, streets, lawns and leaves. It also brings to the forefront the amount of gook that finds its way into the river. To the Gulf and the Atlantic Ocean.

 

Certainly in this neck of the woods winter is a hazard where roads are concerned and those snow and ice covered roads need to become an even playing field by whatever means necessary. Consider the amount of salt that must find its way into the river during the melt. (Once again I admit I am easily distracted.) So then I stood there thinking about all the other things that find their way to the river like chemicals for deicing the roads. Next, I started to consider the amount of salt that must drift to the river in a winter’s season. And what about all the seepage from the asphalt roads that goes to the river through this street access when a summer thundershower blooms. Detergents and what not from washing cars…there is tons of garbage washing into the river!

 

Could these insults be the reason for drops in some species associated with river life? Does an overdose of saline in the spring runoff rupture the frog eggs left in the low brush along the bank? What about Blue Heron who feeds her catch to her young? Whatever the water becomes, so becomes the fish that live in the river. So becomes the animals that eat the fish. So becomes us.

 

But I like that we try. I like that there is a reminder to help protect the Mother Earth from ourselves. Can we do more? Sure. But it is better to ‘begin’ than to stand inert and agree that the problem is too large or complex to correct. Or even that it is someone else’s problem.

 

For every action there is a beginning, a small kindness, which ripples across the water. That little sign can remind us we can do the little things, when big things seem overwhelming.

 

Who's Crying Now?

 

Whaaa waa wa! Well we have all done that…some of us a bit too much. But as an infant, those pitiful, wailing, woeful sobs of discontent serve not only a purpose of alerting moms of something needed but also as an identifier.

 

 In a recent study, science tells a tale of the obvious; mothers respond to their infant crying. (The study included moms from all different species, us among them.) But what was a bit interesting is how important that crying is to survival. Mothers, who were not allowed to hear their child’s cry through the test’s design, soon lost interest (or something close to that) to the point of causing failure to thrive in the infant. Not only did the crying stimulate a nurturing response, it also helped mothers identify their children.  

 

Pinnipeds which include seals, walruses and sea lions, are quite famous for identifying their young by the sound of their cries within colonies of hundreds of other crying babies. Penguins, along with other colony nesting birds, come back to the nest after fishing to the cacophony of thousands of squawking babies, all hungry, all begging any adult bird that strolls by for food. So mom has to be able to deliver her hard won prize to his or her own child and they do that by the sound of their child’s voice and that voice alone.  Mother alligators can identify the cries of their own nest among the numerous others by the peeping of babies just breaking out of the shell still laying their earthen lair.

 

Consider this. Science created a test to determine if mothers could identify their child’s cry from others and if that crying was the mechanism for nurturing. Maybe I am in the minority but really…Duh!

 

I’m not quite sure what they were validating when they just had to ask some mom’s if they could ID their baby by sound. (In this case I mean human moms.)

 

However I was encouraged that the world of science gathered a variety of animals for their test subjects, including us, and those findings were spread across the board. In other words, moms and children are moms and children- no matter what form they take. Another small link in the realization that we are all part of The One and there not need be boundaries in how we treat each other, whether we have two legs, four legs, fur, fin or feather. We are all part of the Circle.

 

Saint or Sinner?

 

There is no blog today. That’s right. Why? Because...

 

I am taking care of the cutest little kitten! He is Feral Kitty who was trapped by a friend of mine and is part of a local trap, neuter and release program. He has a sibling out there in the urban wilds which said friend is trying to trap so the little kitty sitting in my house isn’t so very lonely.

 

Sweetie, as we call him for his ‘softness’, is totally sucking up all my time, which he probably does not have to but I am having a bit of a crisis in what to do. I originally wanted to rehab him and find him a nice home…but as I said, he is so very lonely for the life and family unit he knows. This is where it becomes difficult when one actually listens to the kitty. He doesn’t know people, houses, safety. He knows freedom, playing with his sibling and chasing whatever captures his interest. And he wants that back. My logical head, which friends and family alike will tell you I hardly ever use and they are right, tells me get him in a safe place if possible, nice loving family etc. But my intuitive side has to ask the question, ‘Where do I get the arrogance to change his whole world around?’ That is the harder question to answer.

 

Unfortunately, I KNOW the answer to that (I do not have that right ethically or morally) and that’s the conundrum. So hopefully, his sibling will decide to go in the trap – although one wonders why he would go into a contraption that swallowed his brother whole and stole him away, like kidnapping with no ransom note. Maybe the idea of sardines in his/her tummy will over power his fear. Either way, if I am to release Sweetie, it does have to be soon so he can get back into his colony. So time is of the essence.  If sibling does not choose sardines I will have to sell a life different from what Sweetie has known, a good life but different.

 

See? It should be easy and it’s not. Very vexing. A decision has to be made in the next day or so which is why there is no blog today.

 

And now I shall stop writing and try and convince Sweetie I am not the kidnapper….

 

Instinct or Mother's Love?

 

After concerns earlier in the year, Osprey did nest in her usual spot and produced, I think, one baby. Fall is fast approaching and mom has been stepping up baby’s hunting lessons, much to the displeasure of her child. It is after all much easier to be fed than to hunt.

 

 I was considering how hard it must be to be baby Osprey. Young Sparrow merely has to wrestle a seed off an inert stalk to get a meal whereas Osprey has to locate a surface dwelling target, chase it down, calculate an equation to capture it – and the prey is IN THE WATER – sometimes at a depth of 3 feet! And baby Osprey is in the air around 100 to 130 feet from the lake surface! No small task. (Did you know that the average time it takes an Osprey to begin a hunt and capture a fish is 12 minutes? Makes my fishing look a bit inept.) So it is no wonder baby Osprey can be found in his nest, begging mom in loud squawks when she returns with a fish and calmly eats it herself despite her child’s temper tantrum. Occasionally, she gives him a tidbit.

 

Yesterday afternoon I saw the pair circling over the river. Mom and baby were hunting. A few minutes later baby must have found a target because he dove into the water with gusto, mom watching proudly from the air currents above.  But baby missed his chance and came up empty- but right behind him was mom and she captured that sizable fish. (It was amazing how fast it happened! The stuff I would miss if I didn’t watch nature!)  Mom flew to her usual place in a cottonwood tree, followed by the inexperienced hunter and gave the fish to her baby.  

 

Did mom give her child the fish because he was getting really hungry? Or to encourage him, telling him he had made a good try. Or was it, as so many want to refer to it, as instinct?

 

Instinct in the animal world is very prevalent and we need only look to our own species as proof. Surviving is primal. Protecting a child is instinctive. Fleeing from a fear is a learned instinct. There are all sorts of instincts, but it does not follow that everything we do is instinctual and so that line of thinking extend into the rest of the animal world, by logic if nothing else.

 

As Human Beings, we seldom endow the rest of the animal world with the characters, emotions, thinking, and desires we ourselves possess even when we can see it. We would rather downplay these observations as an anthropomorphize rationalization led by the heart. But they are real. Someday science will prove it and it will change our worldview, though proof isn’t truly required.

 

We only need to watch mama Osprey helping her son with his first catch to know there is a lot more going on there than instinct.

 

Invaded

 

I am about to commit mass murder. (Ok, that might flag this blog, but before the powers that be knock on my door I think I can clarify things.) It does go against my nature, but someone has been eating my plants while I was on vacation and I did warn them before I left but they paid no heed, so now it is their own undoing, even though I am conflicted about the sentence.

 

Someone, and I know who they are, has committed atrocities against my hazelnut bushes, hostas, ferns, coralberry bushes, violets and all manner of ground cover. I come home to find very sad plants, devoid of the normal green and reduced to skeletons of veins turned brown by voracious consumption.   Who did this terrible thing? Those dad gum Japanese beetles!

 

On my little piece of Mother Earth here in Central Wisconsin the Japanese beetle has been wreaking havoc on local plants and now the people are up in arms and I, unfortunately, must join the ranks of the infuriated. How to proceed is the question. I don’t use pesticides in my yard because of all the wildlife that visits and lives here, so I have been thinking of ‘milky spore’ as a resolution. Milky Sore is a ‘bio-pesticide’ harmful only to its target host, beetle eggs and grubs. It works by releasing a specific bacterium into the lawn, which is then gathered in the roots of the lawn grass and when the grubs start eating the sod’s roots they become infected with ‘milky spore disease’. Once the grub has ingested the spore it dies and the spore multiplies to infect eggs as well. It does have the benefit of working continuously for years to come although it is recommended to treat the lawn two years in a row to break the cycle.

 

Milky spore is not 100% effective but it is a great alternative to traditional pesticides that are non-discriminate, taking a dramatic toll on our pollinators and other beneficial insects. The spore is not harmful to animals, including us.

 

I’ve reconciled with the product, but that still doesn’t reconcile my murderous rage against a fairly innocent animal. I know. There should be some line concerning what we consider worthy and what is not, but there isn’t.

 

So, in order to save the plants and the rest of the animals that use the plants in the yard, I have decided to commit mass murder upon the Japanese beetle, innocent – or not!

 

Oh, oh….there’s a knock at the door….

 

A Walk-about

 

I’m back from my walk-about in Spain and Portugal which was really a bus-about I suppose. There is always something to be learned when we step outside our little village and explore the views and lives of others. It gives us a new perspective on many different levels such as what other people think and why they think it, why they eat what they eat and what is important in their lives. In Lisbon, Portugal I was taught the proper way to eat a sardine…which you wouldn’t think would be necessary but it is. The sardines are not the little ones in the can, but the big ones (seven to eight inches) that come to your plate with scales, fins, eyes and innards, so I needed a quick course in how to eat one. You place the tine of your fork along the belly and roll the skin up to expose the meat, then you eat the liver and heart (didn’t go that native on the dish) and THEN you eat the meat. It was very good though. Interesting too.  I also learned that siesta time is a serious thing in Spain where almost everything closes at 1:00 in the afternoon. There is hardly anyone on the streets until 5pm or 6pm when the night comes alive for the duration.  I found Portugal to be a very varied and open country in comparison to Spain, and I enjoyed it a bit more probably for that reason or maybe it was because their siesta is only an hour or so long.

 

When I visit another country I enjoy all these differences in varying degrees but I pay particular attention to the people’s view of animals. Though one does not need proof, science has shown that how one treats an animal is very telling in how the individual will treat another Human Being.

 

That became clearer when in Salamanca, Spain which is the center of the classic fighting bull used in the archaic and, to my mind cruel, tradition of bullfighting. The area is known for its 241 breeds of fighting bulls. In the last referendum in Spain, bullfighting was put on notice when half the country asked for an end to the cruel practice and even though it failed by a small margin the loss spoke to the desire of a new generation that is searching for a gentler, kinder way of living with the world and how they view this tradition is a good indicator of the direction in which they wish to move.

 

While in Spain there was yet another terrorist attack, but even as these events occur, more and more people are planting the seeds of change. It is the little things we change in a slow, methodical way that eventually create the world we want. Patience and persistence is required.

 

Squirrel? Rabbit? Beaver? Chipmunk?

 

I have decided I am not squirrel-like. It’s quite a revelation. Most of my readers know I try to learn things from nature, from trees, bears, nuthatches, flowers and herons (this is what led me to believe I am not squirrel-like) and I think I can learn something from that. There is a lesson to be had in my ‘uunsquirreliness’ . I even made up a word because of this discovery!

 

Squirrel is a very industrial Being. He seems to always be working non-stop to gathering seeds, nuts, and fruits in order to have something for a rainy day, which is a very good thing but it is not something I do. Don’t know why, just don’t. I want to be one of those go-getters who strive to attain a certain success by being industrious and busy laying plans for the world of ‘what if?’ and by saving a certain ‘store of nuts’ for another day called retirement and using my spare time to a better end. You know, like Squirrel. But try as I might I do not spend very much time on ‘tomorrow’. I should. After all, I’m going to need nuts tomorrow and probably the next day. But I do so like to eat my nuts today! (A questionable way to lead a lifestyle in some circles, including mine some days.)

 

Most of my siblings are squirrels. They are very successful in their chosen fields, they work really hard to be where they are and they have lots of nuts stored. They are even like Beaver and Chipmunk. Those two are so busy ALL the time it’s a wonder there are any baby Beavers or Chipmunks. These are admirable qualities. So I learned to put a few nuts away here and there because my siblings make a good point. But I guess I am more like Rabbit.

 

Rabbit rests in the shade, stretched out with his tummy pressed against the cool fresh mowed lawn to lollygag away a sticky August afternoon. Rabbit can be found in the moon light chasing others in playful delirium. He doesn’t think too much about tomorrow. Maybe there will be nuts to eat, maybe not.

 

The interesting thing is Rabbit and Squirrel make the woods a complete environment so to speak; they are both needed in the community. All the animals, each with different qualities, are needed to make a total working world for everyone.

 

As much as I would like to be Squirrel, I suppose I will have to embrace Rabbit in me, and that is okay. I will eat some nuts today, store a few and rest in the grass on a hot afternoon without the concern that I should be doing something when ‘nothing’ is so pleasant.

 

I will endeavor to put a few nuts away in the meantime. Of course there is a little Squirrel in me- I do sometimes forget where I ‘bury’ my nuts, i.e. ‘Where did I put my glasses?’ ‘I just had those keys…’ ‘Didn’t I park on level four?’ That is definitely something I can do without.

 

Where Are the Flying Flowers?

 

It used to be that the puppies I raised could spend a summer afternoon chasing butterflies and considering the merits of barking at honeybees, but times have changed. Over the last several years I have noticed the lack of ‘flying flowers’ that once graced my yard (I have 90% native flowers and plants) but none so more than this year. To date, the middle of July, I have seen exactly one butterfly- a White Cabbage Butterfly. Where are the Admirals? The Monarchs? The Swallowtails? Those yellow butterflies I don’t know the name of? Where are our moths?  Sometimes I have left the back yard light on at night and gotten up at three in the morning to see what moths have gathered in the beacon, but they are also missing. Granted, I saw more moths at night when I lived in the country where a light at night brought droves of beauties to my front porch. Then again that was over ten years ago.

 

Most of the public has been appraised of the decline of honeybees, another pollinator missing from the airwaves of late and though this has been widely voiced throughout various venues, an alarming fact according to Beekeepers Association is that currently over 60% of the hives are at critical, unrecoverable numbers.  (Losses in hives over 18% are viewed as a non-recoverable number, meaning there are not enough breeding bees, workers, and young to continue the hive. Of the above number, 45% of hives are at 32%-46% losses. That is a very concerning number.)

 

The loss of pollinators may not be due only to pesticides. (Butterflies are also pollinators along with moths.) Loss of habitat (in the case of butterflies) and weather conditions have led to a drastic drop, along with natural occurring diseases, but it is the added pressure brought by the use of pesticides that has pushed their numbers of the cliff.

 

These insects are the foundation of our world; the food chain gets its start here, at the bottom. We will lose other members of the Circle if our view of the world does not include some respect for the others we share this space with. I know bees in your backyard causes cans of ‘wasp and bee killer’ to come out of the cupboard- but it is just not a responsible thing to do any longer. Please call your local extension office to help remove an unwanted hive, they will either relocate the hive to an unpopulated area or give you the number of some entity that is very happy to do so.

 

Right now EVERY hive of bees is important. Every butterfly is important. Please be kind to our pollinators and Flying Flowers.

 

Wildflowers Don't Belong in Jars

 

When I was a child living in a wild place I picked my mom a beautiful bouquet of wild flowers. There were Indian Paintbrush, tiny yellow flowers and Woodland Violets among others and I put them in a jelly jar with water, but they did not keep their beauty. They grew sad. Lonely. By end of day they had lost their petals, their beauty and their life.

 

I was greatly saddened by their passing and told my mom I was sorry, not because they died, but because wild things don’t belong in jars. These are the words I heard though I do not know who said them but I repeated them to her and she agreed pointing out how they were much happier they seemed to be living where they were in the wild rather than with us.

 

When I was driving across country during my days of hawking my watercolors at various expos, I met other wildlife artist and I realized most had a ‘pet’ at home which consisted of some wild animal (Otter, Bobcat, and Raven) that had been abandoned as a baby or found in the wild. It was something that always bothered me and left me confused. I was raised in the woods, spent the majority of life in the company of trees and loons and wild things and I was perplexed that all these people could find so many abandoned animals when I could not.  And at one point in my career I really truly tried to find abandoned animals because I foolishly thought I was missing out on some fundamental prerequisite of being a wildlife artist by not having some wild thing hanging about my home. I wanted to be like everyone else in that community. But quietly those words echoed in my head, ‘Wild flowers don’t belong in jars’.

 

Now, I make it a point not to touch a wild animal unless it is required, because every time we touch one, we steal a little of the wildness from them and it is not ours to claim. The crows I feed in my yard would eat from my hand and there is an excitement there that I would have I wild thing land in my hand, but that would benefit me and not them. It is merely my ego wanting to claim a bit of power, a bit of notoriety, nothing more.

 

 As Human Beings, we claim so many things that are not ours. We try to possess animals, people and land when in fact these are all individual things with a place in the world of which we are only part. We hold a piece of paper that entitles us to possession when in fact they are not ours to claim.

 

Wildflowers do not belong in jars. Wild things do not belong in boxes and cages and fences. They do not need to be possessions that belong to us, but for us to recognize that we are only a part of The One and not the only one.