Where does it go, the time. During a Pandemic time goes fast and slow. Nothing is as usual – If your work is recognized as essential, you have likely never worked so hard. And if your work is non essential you have other worries. For both, life is surreal.
As we all reset our expectations and plans – we have the opportunity to give thought to all the news briefs we watch. For me, it’s not only the news briefs about how our people are living, or not. But how the natural world is responding to our lessened impact on the Earth. I not only directly witness these responses, but I imagine what it must seem like to the rest of the living things on the planet. Not imagining in an anthropomorphic way, but based on my previous observations and experiences in environments where wildlife exists. Knowing that the deer don’t move as freely during the day, and birds are more quiet when we are in their woods.
Are the deer and others moving more easily in the daytime? Is there less concern for the song the birds sing when we are not too close for their comfort? What about the wolves and grizzly that have begun to move around more in search of food?
What do the changes in animal behavior say about their perception and experience of our behavior in and near their habitat? What could it mean for all of us if we considered these observable impacts on the other beings on the Earth – as a whole experience?
I live in one of the wildest places that remain in North America. I did not say THE wildest, mind you. Its not Alaska, or the Yaak, or parts of Canada. But this place is Montana. Specifically up a canyon drainage and surrounded by Public Land, not far outside of Bozeman. I have had bears and mountain lion on the roof of my house. So of course they are walking the land around my house. But that does not mean I find their visits common. Nor am I so naive to believe that my 70 pound German Shepherd would be any match for one of these large creatures which is why she is not let out at night alone.
Tonight, just a few minutes before the curtain of night extinguished the remaining bit of light we took a walk around the house. Spring has arrived. Even early this year. But last night about two inches of snow fell on the ground. Nothing dramatic. But this is where it gets good, and where, no matter how many times I see the footprints in the snow around the house that are not hers, I am still impressed. Because the snow is new the tracks in the snow were distinguishable tonight, not the cacophony of prints that criss-crossed the land as the winter snow melted into the ground last week. As Noel followed whatever smells and tracks interested her I looked down to see some large melted spots not far from the entry of the house. The shape of the melt was not exactly recognizable, but it was not shaped like an Elk or Moose. I looked for others that were more distinct. And that is when I found them. There must have been a pair together in the early morning striding across the snow in front of the house. I checked the prints for size compared to Noel’s. My fist fits just nicely inside of hers. But these, these require two of my fists while the back pad of the foot that sits a bit up the leg was also impressed in the snow a good 4-5 inches behind the primary paw print. But the most amazing condition of the set of tracks was that there were four paw prints in a line very close to one another with a space of about four feet between each set of four. Each set of four taking about four feet, too.
If you cannot imagine this in your head, get out your sketch book and draw it. Two animals walking in-line, with one filling the gap between the first set of prints filling in the stride of the first animal for every other stride. The distance between a single stride being four feet, a large jump for me. I looked across the slope of the land where the prints emerged and then the other direction where they walked into Noel’s favorite place to visit when she was outside. Either a pack came across the land at one time, or this pair silently circumnavigated the land around the house making multiple passes and patterns. I will never know, but can only wonder and imagine.
Its dark now. Black outside, and we are inside. Until tomorrow. In the early morning we will again go check what remains of the snow for new stories, new reminders of the wildness I am lucky enough to live with.
A few weeks ago I was slogging through the Florida marsh on a hike. Quite different than my hikes in Montana. But the experience of inspiration is the same. High in a dead trees near the end if the hike was an Osprey’s nest. Twigs and branches assembled together to create a place of protection for a family. In the bright evening light it glowed, magic hanging in the air.
I have recently been reminded of the root of the word courage. From the French corage, which means heart. When we love deeply, we find our courage. Today I am in the place of corage.
The spirit of New Orleans seeps into you if you give it a chance. It’s the reason visitors want to gather T-shirts and coasters and voodoo dolls, trinkets and beads and any other talisman before returning home, where their courage must be weak. New Orleans has a spirit of hopefulness beyond ordinary hope. It is a place where commitment and perseverance shine, where value of place and it’s specificity winds together with people and environ to make something that is not repeatable anywhere else . It is a place where tragedy is worn beside hope, and love next to hate, peace outshines war. It is a place where all that is good in us pushes back against all the potential negatives.
New Orleans shines with our humanness. As a place, it deeply contrasts my home of Montana, Which is why I value any visit here. It reminds me that beauty comes in all forms, that wildness so easily visible in the mountains and rivers and grasslands still survive within us as we stand up for our beliefs of what daily living should be like – and what we should commit to for the long haul.
Being here requires gumption expressed in many ways. Look into Bourbon street and recognize it’s bacchanalian presence. Early in the morning the night before is washed and swept away, and the stain of disregard remains. It only takes a walk to the next block to be deep in the neighborhood of respect and care, where sidewalks may be cracked and old, but are clean and free. In New Orleans a cordiality still remains as people cross paths, walk their dogs, say hello to strangers , contribute to the street with beautiful flowers cascading from baskets and balconies.
The point of all this life, is not to judge in relation to good, to single out, or hope that the bad May disappear. This hope is an unrealistic idealistic condition we should all recognize as impossible when we think about the qualities we hold within. The point of all this life, the place called New Orleans, is the manner in which it exists given the struggle of life . I feel in New Orleans a rise beyond good and bad, a rise of culture that’s potential moves toward the good in spite of the bad. To move beyond our strife toward a belief through courage and commitment to move toward grace.
We can see New Orleans in pictures. We can imagine, we can accept or judge. It may be a place that pushes against our beliefs , our senses, our taste at the tongue. But what I love about New Orleans is that it is real, striding, gathering, grasping, pushing on. Making itself new every morning yet remaining it’s singular self, giving me courage as it seeps Into me.