The Story Tree

A Worthy Theory of Change:

There is an old pain at least as old as the trees. A pain so deep it is now felt by the whole of earth, the wounds of which ooze with the stench and sheen of pollution. No one remembers, any longer, exactly how it happened, but a panic gripped the people and laid bare a fear of utter worthlessness. To numb the fear, some people began to spin grand stories. Stories that they were worth more than everything and everyone else on the whole earth. 

To keep the story of supremacy alive they had to persuade others to tell it too. When that didn’t work, they used physical and psychological force. They rewarded people who believed the story, and believers lived quite comfortably. But the pain fed on itself and grew and grew. All kinds of short-term fixes were applied to stop the pain, but manufacturing bandaids led to pollution. The pollution spread all the way to the North and South Poles.

There, under the elements, the story began to show cracks. In the cracks, earth pushed through. First, a green sprout. A child saw the beauty of the sprout and gave it water. The plant became a tree, the child became a grown-up, and they grew into friends. They cared for one another. The human picked the tree’s fruit every year so the weight didn’t break its branches, and the fruit fed the human and many others. The human being grew to understand their worth to the tree and the tree’s worth to them. The tree gave the human paper and together they wrote a new story. Person by person, began to heal the pain, stop the pollution and re-story their worth to the earth.

Between you and me…

The truth is, between you and me. 

It’s there in the air that connects us. 

And in the touch, a glance, whiff or word.  

 

The truth is we have never been alone.

The earth is always under our bodies, 

air surrounds us and water inside. 

 

Those who narrow their experience of the world, 

who yield to the lie of supremacy, live as if they are alone. 

Other bodies, nonhuman bodies with earth below, air around and water inside, 

that also live, love and die, are always within reach. 

 

Waiting, sometimes warily at first, to be recognized. 

Nature Basking

Nature basking (nā-chər ˈbask-ing), not to be confused with nature bathing, is the unabashed connection of body to earth. Basking is to lie in nature, generally under warm rays of sunshine.

While nature bathing, or the washing and soaking of the body in nature, is best done lightly clad, basking is preferably done clothed and in a hooded sweatshirt to protect one’s hair. First, let your instincts guide you to a place out of doors that you take pleasure in or derive enjoyment from. Find a comfortable place to lie down, and take care to look up and ensure nothing dangerous may fall from above like a dead branch or bird turd.

Certified Nature Basker, Rachael Pecore-Valdez, demonstrates proper basking technique.

Bend your knees and let yourself slowly sink to the ground. Lie on your back with knees bent (at first) with the base of your head firmly rooted to the ground. Eyes may be closed or open. Ears tuned to the four directions and your breath. Lie for as long as is comfortable, or until a sense of calm or humor develops.

To become a certified practitioner of Nature Basking, keep a log of time spent grounded to the earth. A minimum of 20 hours over the course of a year is required. Advanced practitioners may use a full frontal breast to earth connection.

Be sure and notify a responsible person where you are going when nature basking, in case you fall asleep and need reminders of important appointments.

“How to Read Water” by Tristan Gooley

Try scanning your eyes slowly from one riverbank to the other to see if you can find the area where the shift takes place from looking at only reflections – the far bank – to being able to see into the water…”  – Tristan Gooley

I’ve looked at many a river without once pondering what color it was and why. After picking up the book “How to Read Water” and opening it up at random to an entire chapter on the color of water, I now see the blues, grays and browns in every puddle, river or sea. That is the beauty of Tristan Gooley’s books on reading nature. Read just a paragraph, or the whole book, and find yourself surrounded by fun clues on how to navigate, be a better mariner and forecast weather. This book is a gem for nature nerds.

Conservation Canines

Sampson can’t read the alphabet but he is trained as a conservation canine to locate the scat of endangered species by smell. Dogs have a remarkable ability to detect specific scents and Sampson’s nose helps the Center of Conservation Biology at University of Washington to identify wildlife scat that can then be tested to determine an animal’s genetics, sex, stress hormone levels and toxic loads as indicators of overall health.

Sampson is a 13 year old black lab whose obsession for chasing balls made him a challenging house dog and an amazing conservation canine. His human sidekick, Julianne, shows him which species of scat to locate and then he’s off with his tail wagging. Julianne watches Sampson closely, factoring in landscape features and the wind and when Sampson stops at a scat she steps in to take a look. If it’s on target she collects the sample and rewards Sampson with his cherished ball. They spend days and weeks on the road gathering data with far more efficiency as a team than either could do alone.

Sampson’s CK-9 mates include Max who can detect the fresh scat of Orca whales by boat!

Thanks to Columbia Land Trust for organizing a field trip on Mt. St. Helen’s with my conservation heroes Sampson and Julianne!

Your Nature

What was nature to you as a child? Was nature a park, backyard, outdoor school, summer camp or somewhere in a forest far away?

Looking back, nature to me was where I hid for solitude, peace and relief from the chatter of humans. Growing up I shared a big bedroom with my two sisters. My family belonged to a close-knit community village and from sunup to sundown my days were spent with a cohort of kids. I was rarely alone. As an introvert, I found every private nook and cranny in our attic, basement, backyard and the woods beyond. In each place I built small forts where I could sit alone and just be. Little did I know that I was forging a lifetime practice of sit spots and connections to the bigger than human world. Connections that continue to bring me respite and great joy. As much as I love my human community, I also appreciate the quieter company of all the birds, squirrels, racoons and skunks that scurry around and about my sit spots.

 

 

Sun-wise

Tis the first day of fall in the North. As it happens it is also the first day since spring that I do not have strict plans to uphold. I tend to my beehive, slipping sugar water into a hive feeder, watching sun-striped bees hum with preparations for winter.

Slowly, slowly I move in bee time. Thankful for the ebb of the summer buzz. My biological clock in tune with the bees, both in turn with the sun. Lowering on the horizon by minutes each day, the air fresh with cooler, shorter spans of light. How right it feels to move sun-wise, to heed the natural shifts in temperature and set aside the busy summer to rest. If I move too fast, out of sync the bees tell me with a distinct buzz, bee slow please.

Homing to the Group

Do you pull dandelions in your yard because you dislike their bright, yellow flowers or because you’d rather not be judged by your neighbors? If you knew dandelions were a food source for pollinators, especially in urban areas, would that change your behavior? Our human tendency to orient to the herd may make us strangely similar to the pine processionary caterpillar.

Pine processionary caterpillars follow silk trails between their communal home where they shelter and their feeding areas out in the branches of trees. They normally travel out in the morning and back at night, but French naturalist J. Henri Fabre once observed a group that got caught on a rim where they circled for seven days straight. “None abandoned their evolved behavior pattern, where the others, and not the biologically relevant environment, had become the reference (Heinrich, 2014).” Homing to the group, rather than the surrounding environment meant the end for the Rocky Mountain grasshopper, passenger pigeon, the Eskimo curlew and the Carolina parakeet. All aggregated to an extreme extent where their behavior was informed by each other rather than by a place.

Humans are also social creatures where banding together has allowed us to prosper and become the dominant feature of the landscape, even in places ill suited to meet human needs. When our connection to each other becomes more important than our connection to the environment we risk missing important signs of environmental stress that could signal a change in behavior is needed. Learning to read, respond and vary our reference points may increase the odds that someone will survive the circular death march of group think

Inspired by a chapter of the book, “The Homing Instinct” by Bernd Heinrich, 2014 (p 285).

Salmon Season

Columbia Coho, 5.27.2018

You are the hands of my father filleting steaks,

smell of alder in the smokehouse,

roar of a diesel engine chugging upriver,

ocean salt melting in my mouth.

Where the salmon run,

I am home.