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People cannot live apart from nature…And yet, people cannot live in nature without changing it. What we call nature is, in a sense, the sum of the changes made by all the various creatures and natural forces in their intricate actions and influences upon each other and upon their places. The making of these differences is the making of the world…
And so it can hardly be expected that humans would not change nature. Humans, like all other creatures, must make a difference; otherwise, they cannot live. But unlike other creatures, humans must make a choice as to the kind and scale of the difference they make. If they choose to make too small a difference, they diminish their humanity. If they choose to make too great a difference, they diminish nature, and narrow their subsequent choices; ultimately, they diminish or destroy themselves. Nature, then, is not only our source but also our limit and measure.
— Wendell Berry
How much should we humans “interfere” in Nature?
As Wendell Berry so beautifully pointed out, no species, including man, can live without changing its surrounding environment. It just is impossible. So the real question is not DO we change Nature or not, but HOW do we change Nature?
I have been having this idea come up over and over and yesterday it came up three times in different ways, so I thought I had better write about it.
The first time this came up recently was a couple of months ago.
Larry and I were standing in a parking lot that had a range of hills on one side and a lot of sky above. He had his back to the hills and I was facing the hills talking with him. And then I looked up and suddenly I was no longer aware of the parking lot, I was aware of being in Nature. And I began to see the sky and the birds and the trees and feel the warmth of the sun on my body and the gentle breeze. One minute I was standing in an industrial parking lot and the next I was standing in Nature.
It was just a shift of awareness, but that shift gave me a whole different viewpoint. I could see the backdrop of Nature that is there all the time, but we often aren’t aware even exists.
Last night it was very windy here. Larry and I were lying in bed commenting on how windy it was. We checked a local news show to get the weather report, but they really didn’t give any information about our particular place.
So we turned to the Beauford Wind Scale, which allows you to estimate wind speed by observing the effects of the wind on trees.
There is a magazine called Yes! that has been around for many years. It began in 1996, exploring positive things we can do in our daily lives that help social and environmental issues. They have articles by many writers with various viewpoints. I don’t always agree with everyone about the solutions, but I keep an eye on them as part of keeping informed about what is going on in the world related to what we do.
The Spring 2021 issue is What an Ecological Civilization Looks Like.
They say, “The path toward an ecological civilization moves us from an uncivilized society based on selfish wealth accumulation to one that is community-oriented and life-affirming.”
Hmmm. That sound like just what we are doing with Lifely.
A couple of weeks ago Larry found a film on amazon prime called Intelligent Trees. [This link goes to amazon prime, but I see it is also available elsewhere].
It contains the findings of German forester Peter Wohlleben and Canadian scientist Suzanne Simard , who have been observing and investigating communication between trees for decades. Yes, communication between trees.
They have scientifically observed that trees do not stand alone, but have “friendships” and form “families” in their natural forest habitat. “Mother” trees help “child” trees grow.
And trees of different species help each other as well.
When Larry and I decided to upgrade The Lifely Group websites, one of the first things on the list was to have professional photographs taken. For the most part we were using miscellaneous photographs that were taken with cell phone cameras in different times and places. It was all we had at the time.
But then with covid shutdowns I thought I would not be able to hire a photographer.
I was trying to figure out what to do when I received an email from Groupon, offering photographic services. The services being offered were in Florida, where I used to live, but it gave me the idea that perhaps photographers were available and I could get the photographs I wanted.
So I went online and searched for local photographers and a site came up.
The first listing was for Natural Portraits and Events. After describing what they do there was a little graphic that said
It’s now less than two weeks before Christmas and the other day I asked Larry’s Mom if she wanted a Christmas tree. She said yes.
I thought Larry and I would need to go buy a Christmas tree. But then this morning when I woke up I went outside and there was a potted Christmas tree just sitting there on the front porch.
I told Larry it was there and he said, “It’s our Christmas tree from last year.” I had completely forgotten our whole adventure about this tree!
Here’s what happened…
After our dramatic transformation as a result of spending two whole weeks living in an intact ecosystem near the Pacific Ocean, Larry and I made a decision to spend every Friday at a local beach we like. We’ve been going there off and on over the past few months to be in a different environment and breathe the clean oxygenated air while we work on a book project we’re in the middle of, so it just felt right to schedule every Friday at the beach.
This beach is very different from the one we had been spending time at during those two weeks away. There, the beach was very rugged with crashing waves. Though it is right near the mighty Pacific Ocean, it is in a little bay, protected from the pounding surf to the west by a wall of hills. So we get the very clean air, but quiet water. There’s aa sandy beach with waves lapping at our toes. People bring their boats and kayaks out to fish. Right now it’s crab season, so we see crab cages hoping to catch the prized Dungeness crabs.
We are living amazingly close to a beach that is unlike any beach I have ever experienced.
This is not like “going to the beach” where you pack up your things and drive somewhere to a nice gentle beach where you can take off your shoes and have the waves kiss your toes. Or like the beach we used to go to in Florida where the waters of the Gulf of Mexico were so warm we could easily go play in the shallow water.
First, this beach is with me 24 hours a day…
The Night a Tree Didn’t Fall on Us, the Day a Hurricane Didn’t Hit Our House, and Other Times We Were Safe When the World Around Us Was Not
I was prompted to write this by a conversation I had this morning, with a friend I have known for many years.
She remembered something I had written years ago when I was living in Florida, about redirecting hurricanes. Which Larry and I did. During one of the hurricanes we experienced while living there, a powerful hurricane was forecast to hit us directly. We were ordered to evacuate but decided the best place for us was right in our own home. Many other local residents evacuated to a county to the east. We sat and watched the hurricane approach on TV, and just at the last minute it veered east and hit all our neighbors who had evacuated.
She asked me about rerouting other natural disasters and specifically, could I reroute an earthquake, which was her greatest concern since she lives in San Francisco and a once-every-100-years magnitude earthquake was now 15 years overdue.
For some weeks now there have been various reports of how the widespread stay-at-home has been benefitting the environment.
This week two articles came to me on this subject that I want to share with you in particular.
These articles shows the importance of creating a lifely lifestyle.
For the past week or so, something extraordinary has been happening. Well, extraordinary for me.
As someone who has had a lot of problems with sleep at different times throughout my life, I have suddenly been sleeping through the night, night after night. Quiet, peaceful sleep.
And not only that, I am waking up with the birds.
This morning there was an interesting announcement about a po from the Sierra Club in my inbox about the comet Atlas.
At the end of February, just as the coronavirus pandemic began to grip Europe, a comet known as C/2019 Y4 blazed into view. The previously nondescript object, also known as Atlas, had been discovered two months earlier in a patch of sky near the Big Dipper. Now it was behaving strangely, increasing in brightness by roughly 4,000 times in a matter of days.
Hmmmm. Sounds strangely like what has been happening here on Earth with our coronavirus pandemic.
Just a couple days ago I saw an example of a spring cleaning that really impressed me.
It was not on TV or on my computer or my phone.
It was in our yard under a beautiful pink flowering crabapple tree.
Under this beautiful tree we have a concrete birdbath set up on a pedestal. It has been raining off and on for several days, so the birdbath was full of fresh pure rainwater. The rains had also knocked down a great many gorgeous pink flower petals some of which were floating in the water of the birdbath.
On Sunday afternoon it just got to be too much for me to stay in the house most of the time, or even to stay on our property outdoors. We had just heard on the news that our shelter-in-place was being extended through the entire month of April, and that was a little too much for me.
So Larry and I figured out we could go for a drive and stay sheltered-in-car. We figured that as long as we staying in our car, we would be achieving the required social distance, so we got in our Prius and set out for a Sunday drive.
Since fire has made a big impact on the lives of everyone in our local communities last week, I just wanted to write a little something about the purpose of fire in nature—it’s characteristics, what it does, and how it contributes to Life. In ancient times fire was considered to be one of the four elements of life—earth, air, fire, water.
Today we consider fire to be destructive to our industrial lifestyle, but in times past, when we humans had more contact and experience with fire as part of life, fire was viewed in a very different way.
Remember to look up at the stars and now down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious.
– Stephen Hawking
For reasons irrelevant to this story, two nights ago Larry and I could not sleep in our bedroom. So we spent the night sleeping under the stars, on the deck, just outside the sliding door.
The house we currently live in is built on hillside, so when you walk in the front door the house is level to the ground, but by the time you get to the far left side of the house where our bedroom is, the deck is just hanging on the side of the house with a lot of space under it. Standing on the deck, we look at out at the tops of trees, not the trunks.
Since the world is watching monster hurricane Dorian today, and waiting to see if it will make landfall on the east coast of the USA, I thought I would post a piece I wrote about hurricanes that I wrote some years ago when I was living in Florida and experiencing hurricanes for the first time.
Popularity of Hallmark TV Movies are a Good Indicator that Viewers are Interested in Love and Nature
We love them so much because they created stories around messages that are important to us. Characters demonstrate caring relationships, family, community, creativity, thinking for oneself, being authentic, and occasionally even connection with Nature. All in the context of industrial consumer life of course, but occasionally a character will give up city life for love and move to the country.
Larry and I live on the edge of a rural area, a kind of borderland between suburbia and rural Sonoma county where all the farms and open spaces are. And so even though it is built with houses and a little town, there is still some habitat with native plants and animals around.
At this time of year, the big harvest in the natural habitat is blackberries. There are many stands of well-established wild blackberries, some of which are so tall and dense that a human cannot reach many of the berries. They are just magnificent.
I wrote the following so many years ago I don’t remember when or why.
I’m posting it here today because I had an experience of seeing nature in a new way on Sunday as Larry and I were driving along the Sonoma County coast here in California. I’ve added my new experience at the end.
A bird…sings because it has a song.
— Chinese proverb
I love to sing. Well, more accurately, I should say, I can remember when I was a child how I loved to sing, dancing around the house singing along with my mother’s opera records at the top of my lungs, just loving the feel of the music in my body and the joyful expression as a spirit. I still want to love to sing, but years of training and criticism and competition made it not such a joy, and indeed, had silenced my singing voice almost completely.
Some years ago, while Larry and I were driving to Miami to the International Mango Festival, I was reminded of a trip we took a few years earlier to the Florida Keys, for we traveled the same route. We were living in Florida at the time and very much enjoyed exploring that tropical environment.
In Key Largo, we stayed in a cottage on a private beach, with a little cove of shallow water, The water was as warm as a bathtub and perfectly calm.