Feeding the Birds….Refuge, Part 2 by Sara Wright

You can read Part 1 here.

It was a little more than a year ago that I dreamed that my brother, whose ashes were buried below the house, had moved and roamed freely through the forest I had come to love  not just because it was wild, bursting with some 200 year old trees and fertile ground but because it was protected – all 12,000 acres of it. This dream held a ring of unshakable truth for me because Davey and I spent our childhood and adolescence in the woods. Over the past ten years the Powers of this Place (my home) have been fractured. I believe the fragmentation of natural power is due to this small parcel of land being sandwiched in between others that have been heavily and carelessly logged. The perpetual noise created by constant traffic, the whine of man’s machines drowns out the voices of Nurturing Nature Spirits.

  In what I have come to call ‘my forest’ it is blessedly still at least in the spring and fall. During the spring there are so many birds singing at the edge of the river that I slip into an enchanted state unable to do anything but look and listen… The Powers of Place are palpable, all day long. Frequently I experience the amorphous presence of my little brother. I have also found my burial place in Hemlock Hollow among the tangled roots of the Mother Trees sung to by the river.

During the months of silence the Powers of this Place seem to strengthen despite winter fear that comes out of the knowledge that I am too old to be safe here because of the ice. Yet I take joy from the frost carvings etched into my porch windows, gaze lovingly at the overflowing brook, feed birds all day long, and in the late afternoons light the fire and curl up on the couch with my dogs bringing in the night drinking raspberry tea amidst tiny lights, stars appearing on my fading fragrant balsam wreath.

This is when I read, listen to podcasts, or reflect upon the day, and much of the time I feel gratitude flowing as my mind wanders… sometimes I have ideas about the little post I will write the next morning with whatever pictures I might have taken. These posts on FB are my way of beginning each day with an offering to anyone who might need an image of nature’s beauty or someone’s thoughtful questions (most of the time – at other times I complain!). These posts are for the public, available to anyone, my solitary venture into social media.

Last night I was sitting by the fire listening to a podcast by Robin Wall Kimmerer- “Good Medicine…” Kimmerer, a plant scientist and well known author of Braiding Sweetgrass asks  important questions, ones that I ask all the time: How do we de -colonize plant/animal knowledge? What has to shift in peoples minds so that we can attribute Personhood to plants, to animals? To see them as the sentient beings they are? Would making this shift allow us to see plants/animals as our Teachers?

 Kimmerer believes as I do that according Personhood to plants and animals is utterly necessary if we are to make a paradigm shift from nature as resource to be used (timber/ agriculture/ animal slaughter) to plants/animals as Living Beings that need our respect, compassion, love. All are teachers. I am not anthropomorphizing here; I am saying that we need to respect plants and animals for who they are in their right, having their own lives and purposes while acknowledging that they are also our relatives – we cannot do this unless we see them and accord them with intelligence, feelings, beings who also embody ancient knowledge

 We both feel that it is possible to make this shift by developing personal relationships with individuals and the context in which they live but we can’t do this unless we accord each plant or animal with Personhood. Every biome is sentient. Forests like mine are whole communities composed of trees, plants and animals that all interact with each other above and below ground. We will continue to need wood products and foods but it’s the way we use our forests and fields (the ocean etc) that must change. If we believed that plants and animals were our esteemed teachers and relations (after all they are 400 – 300 million years old while humans have been present for only two hundred thousand years) we could no longer “it” them forcing them to become ‘Other.’ Separate, less than human. Oh, the hubris.

Internalizing a sense of wonder about nature is the third key. For me both have developed because I have had relationships with plants and animals ever since I remember – I tend and care for them, grow them, love them, and spend time simply being with them. I do my best to be emotionally present, to listen. I think anyone can learn to see plants and animals as sentient beings. One can begin in the city with something simple as having one houseplant, a terrarium, some fish, a cat. Maybe a small container garden. All we need is an open mind and heart and nature will do the rest…

 Every morning when I open the doors of the terrarium to mist my little forest I peer in inhaling the sweet scent, noting new wild lily of the valley shoots springing up in January (!), the unfurling fern, emerald moss, the crimson partridgeberry always asking the same kinds of questions… How can I stay protected, yet remain open to possibilities? How can I find balance in a culture where extremes dominate? How can I help others see, sense, intuit feel the wonder that is nature? What is the most effective way to reach others through my writing? I could go on here… Entering this forested space I fall into prayer, joyfully, if only for moments. I am happy.

 When I began this project last fall – this is a vivarium in the making (someday frogs will live here) I had no idea this terrarium would become a place to ground my questions, and my need for protection in an earth space that isn’t frozen over, as well as becoming a way to live through the child, to stay connected to moments of joy until this season passes and with it the threat of physical danger and my fear of being separated from earth, my mother, my father, my Beloved.

Blessed Be.

BIO: Sara Wright is a naturalist, ethologist (a person who studies animals in their natural habitats) (former) Jungian Pattern Analyst, and a writer. She publishes her work regularly in a number of different venues and is presently living in Maine.

Author: Sara Wright

I am a writer and naturalist who lives in a little log cabin by a brook with my two dogs and a ring necked dove named Lily B. I write a naturalist column for a local paper and also publish essays, poems and prose in a number of other publications.

2 thoughts on “Feeding the Birds….Refuge, Part 2 by Sara Wright”

  1. I love the sense of calm and peace that pervades this post, even though its message of changing how we view non-human beings is urgent. I especially loved your description of your day, which shows how you put into practice seeing the personhood in all beings. I think this is one really important way to help others integrate the concept of the personhood of all beings into their daily lives – modeling exactly how to do that. It shows people how they can bring the concept into their own lives, wherever they may live, which is always a good first step. Beautiful!

    Liked by 1 person

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