weekly challenge: MESSAGES FROM THE WILD

Port Alberni owl

 

guest post by Sherry Marr

The heart that breaks open
can contain the whole universe.

—Joanna Macy

Mother Earth is sending us urgent messages in wildfire, floods, tornadoes, the CO2 index, and record-breaking temperatures. The wild ones, too, are speaking. I think of Tahlequah, the mother orca who carried her dead calf on her nose, in grief, for seventeen days and could not let her go. The Tla-o-quiaht people, here in Clayoquot Sound, teach that every creature is a being, as worthy of life and respect as we are. They tell of an orca who accompanied the boat carrying a dead chief all the way to his island home. They believed the orca was the chief’s brother, come to accompany him on his final passage.

One of our online poets had a three-day visitation from an owl, recently, who chose her yard in which to do her dying. I believed at the time the owl carried a message for her. The poet, sadly, was diagnosed with cancer soon after. It sounds like it has been caught in time, perhaps thanks to the owl, who gazed at her intently, soul to soul, for the days she visited.

Two weeks after my mother died, I was driving towards her farm when, (it felt like in slow motion), an owl flew across my windshield, so close I could see every feather. Her head was turned towards me and our eyes met as she made her passage into the forest, still looking back at me. It felt like time had slowed. Somehow the car was still moving and on the road, yet I can still feel the slow suspension of those moments, our eyes locked. I knew an oracle had been, with a message for me from my mother.

I have a poet friend who is visited often by wild creatures. She has dreams filled with the cries of the wild ones, who bring her messages because she is a seer, a woman of the drum, who can carry their voices to the rest of us.

I worked for many years at a First Nations healing centre where families came to heal from addiction issues. We had a ceremony called the Healing of Memories, where we gathered in circle around an outdoors fire, and people wept as they threw their written messages of pain into the fire, to lessen their burdens. Eagles never failed to show up and circle slowly overhead  till we were finished.

I lived with my own wild one for fourteen years. Pup was a wolf-dog, found at the healing centre, close to death, as a tiny puppy. I took him home and fed him and he grew. He was a wild one, and he led me a merry chase! He did not want to leave me when he died. The next morning, right around the time his body was going into the flames, I woke up feeling his snout on the edge of my mattress, and heard his gentle whuff, the way he had woken me for all those years. He had come one last time to say goodbye. This still makes me cry.

These days I am hearing of rivers being given the status of personhood, to protect their rights. Our opportunity now is to recognize what indigenous people have always known, that everything has consciousness: the sea, rivers, trees, animals. We need to save the wild, not just for ourselves, but for all the wild ones of every kind: animals, birds, sea creatures. All our relations.

We have seen the photos of starving polar bears in the melting north, sometimes only skin and bone by the time they expire. We heard the cries of the burning koalas and kangaroos of Australia. But then another crisis came, and another.  The pangolin and the barbecued monkeys and dogs from the wet markets of Wuhan have brought us a profoundly life-altering message in the corona virus. We did not heed earlier warnings, so the lessons are being repeated more strongly.

For today’s challenge, let’s contemplate messages from the wild.

Have you had an encounter with or a visitation from a wild creature? Do you have a totem animal with whom you identify? Or do you share life with a less-wild creature, and have a story to tell about communicating with another species? For we do communicate with them, and they with us, as any dog or cat or horse-lover understands very well.

Write whatever comes up for you. There is sadness in how the wild ones are suffering. But there is also such wonder and privilege in sharing this world with them; such gifts given us by the animals who honour us with their trust. Since their messages are non-verbal, we have the opportunity to speak for them. You might wish to relate an encounter. Or you might speak as a particular wild creature, as we do in the Council for All Beings, giving voice to what the animals wish and need us to understand.

The animals hold my heart, always, so, whatever you write, I will read your poems with such delight.

weekly challenge: CONNECTING HUMANS, WILDLIFE AND THE CORONA VIRUS

Typical Wet Market in China (Getty Images)

 

By Sherry Marr

As you know, my heart is always with the animals, wild and domestic. Anderson Cooper of CNN recently interviewed Dr. Jane Goodall, who said she hoped the corona virus pandemic would soon be over. Then she added, “I hope and pray that the nightmare will soon be over for the wild animals who are captured and kept in horrible conditions for food. Our too-close relationship with wild animals in the markets, or when we use them for entertainment, has unleashed the terror and misery of new viruses, viruses that live in them without harming them, but mutate into other forms to infect us.

“We have amazing brains,” she continued. “We are capable of love and compassion for each other. Let us also show love and compassion for the animals who are with us on this planet.”

Music to my ears. But will humankind listen? Have we learned anything from this? Stay tuned. I have a discouraging answer to that question farther down in this feature.

This virus has made clear as never before how interconnected we all are with the natural world and the other species we share the planet with. We know now, there is a direct connection between the wild animals in the wet markets of Wuhan and the corona virus. The pangolin (scaly anteater) and the civet are said to have played a part in transmitting it. Researchers say it likely originated in the Chinese horseshoe bat.

In wet markets, people buy and eat such things as barbecued bats, monkeys, cats and dogs, all kept in terrible conditions. They look out through the wire in terror, knowing they are about to die a horrible death. They are killed in ways too brutal for me to relate.  We don’t want to know this. It makes us uncomfortable. We prefer to look away.  We can easily imagine the distress of a single human in this world that we have made so difficult to live in. Each individual animal feels the exact same fear, pain and terror that we do. They haunt me.

Some of our North American practices in our factory “farms” are as brutal as anything we cluck about across the sea.

Because I know that animals feel everything we feel, because I have seen their tears and I hear their cries for help all over the world, I can’t turn away. I bear witness. I sing the song of their desperate lives, hoping enough of us will hear and come to their rescue.

We are now paying the price of wildlife trafficking. The bill has come due. The demand for apes, for bush meat and body parts, for elephants, rhinos, big cats, giraffes has brought us to this moment.  The pangolin is one of the most trafficked animals on earth. Who would have thought our fates would intertwine?  These are creatures that belong in the wild, whom we have interfered with terribly. Now seven tigers in captivity at the Bronx Zoo in the U.S.  have the virus, infected by their human handler.

As early as 2007, studies warned “wet markets are a time bomb for a virus outbreak”. And this week both the White House coronavirus expert Anthony Fauci and U.N. Biodiversity Chief Elizabeth Mrema called for a global shutdown of all wild animal markets, “to prevent the next pandemic.”  Oh my goodness.

Here is where my heart sinks. China did order the wet markets closed when the virus broke out. But they re-opened as soon as lockdown regulations were relaxed.

Let that sink in. How discouraging, that we learn nothing from what we live through. How frustrating that profit continues to be the driving force, above survival of the planet, its people, and the other beings whose survival is totally at our mercy. Mea culpa.

As citizens of our global village, the protection of our environment equals the protection of our future, and our grandchildren’s. The laws we create to protect wildlife will also protect human communities. A shift to restoring the earth to balance will create employment, through alternative sustainable livelihoods that do no harm. This will create more successful human communities.

Compliance will be a problem; the wild animal trade is peoples’ livelihoods. We need to develop artisan markets, tourism, wildlife protection and land stewarding jobs instead. The UN chief noted that the risk is of driving the trade underground, making it even more dangerous and less regulated.

In the short window of time remaining before we pass the tipping point (which feels ever nearer, to me), we need to make every effort, personally, nationally and globally, to heal the harm we have done to Mother Earth. We have seen how quickly the natural world responded, when we humans took our feet off the gas pedal and stayed indoors: she began to heal, skies cleared, waters grew cleaner. Mother Earth has been sending us messages in every voice she has, telling us she was in trouble. With this virus, perhaps she has finally gotten our attention. I hope so.

We have seen how governments at every level, faced with the global threat of the virus, have come together. Everything else was set aside to address the problem which threatens our lives. I hope they will do the same for the climate crisis, when the virus subsides, for it threatens us every bit as much. I think of wildfire season, not that far off, with foreboding. Governments and everyday people have shown we can step up with courage, determination, and with full and loving hearts, when the cause is urgent. I have to hope that on the other side of the crisis, we will address climate change, of which this virus, our global appetites, and the voracious maw of capitalism have all played their part.

For your challenge: as always, I keep it wide open. Write about whatever this sparks in you: our connection with the natural world and with the wild, your fear, anger, hope, love of animals, domestic and wild, or your frustration at humanity’s slowness to grasp our shared predicament. Never did we think we would be living through times like this. How is the virus affecting you?

Bring us your words, experiences and feelings about these difficult times we live in. Be assured, we will read them with deep respect.

 

Sources:

https://www.facebook.com/AndersonCooperFullCircle/posts/1366604073527280

https://slate.com/technology/2020/04/jane-goodall-coronavirus-species.html?fbclid=IwAR0mUUBrGRcO0BhxjLqJF4rI_QBGmjeLhgHGQjWEOxsUbhwttnqzCjsHnYU

https://www.ccn.com/shockingly-chinas-wet-markets-are-reopening-will-we-ever-learn/

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-52177586

https://www.newindianexpress.com/world/2020/apr/08/wet-markets-important-risk-factor-for-coronavirus-spread-un-biodiversity-chief-2127349.html

weekly challenge: THE ANIMALS OF CLIMATE CHANGE

By Sherry Marr

It has been a hard month, with kangaroos and koalas burning, suffering and dying in the Australian wildfires. Due to drought (and unregulated corporations buying up fresh water sources), rivers are drying up. Thousands of platypus have perished, among the billion beings lost.  I nearly lost it when someone proposed shooting 10,000 camels “because they drink too much water.” Typical human thinking: as if we are the only species that matters.

The exhaustion and gratitude in this orphaned baby joey’s face pierces my soul. The wild creatures lived in harmony with the natural laws of Mother Earth until the last couple of hundred years, when the dominant species began extracting more than our share of resources. Humankind is too slow to recognize that we are all interconnected. What the wild things are experiencing now, we will experience too, likely sooner than we expected. In fact, many of us are already climate refugees, as the cascade effect accelerates.

Governments are too slow to act. “Economic interests” still come first, as global systems falter and wreak havoc.

The animals are suffering all over the world: remember Tahlequah in 2018, carrying her dead calf on her nose for seventeen days of grief we shared. Near me, on the West Coast of Canada, wild salmon stocks, infected by fish farm pollution, are dying; the result is starving whales and bears, and collapsing ecosystems. Grey whales are washing up with stomachs full of plastic; dolphins are trapped in driftnets. A million seabirds were killed in the hot waters of the Pacific Blob.

The numbers of creatures suffering and dying is too vast for comprehension.

Up north, polar bears are dying excruciatingly slowly of starvation; photos show only their empty skin left behind in the spots where they finally mercifully perished. Habitat and food sources are running out for the wild ones. Last fall, a mother bear and her three cubs searching for food  in a city suburb near me were shot as they tried to flee back into the forest. Bees, that pollinate our crops, are disappearing.

Did you see the recent photo of the orangutan trying to physically fight the bulldozer that was destroying his habitat to grow palm oil? He reminded me of the lone young man facing the tank in Tiananmen Square in 1989. Courage born of desperation.

We now know that the lives of animals in factory farms are horrendous. We need a movement just to liberate them, and return to small sustainable farming. Without pesticides. Animal agriculture is one of the biggest sources of CO2.

This listing could push us right into despair, and heaven knows my heart breaks every day for the animals. But we need to feel there is hope, and my heart lifts at the people rising up to care for the injured animals in Australia, and the many raising funds to help them heal. The best in human nature is always evident during times of crisis, clear evidence that we humans can – and must – find a better way to co-exist with the other beings on this planet.

There is much we can do, individually and collectively, to help the animals of climate change. We can donate, we can care, we can push for legislation to protect the wild ones. We can choose a more plant-based diet. We can write poems.

Today let’s speak for the animals. We can look at the big picture, which is devastating, and requires human action, human change. Or we can take whatever creature speaks to us, whatever struggle has captured our hearts in these past weeks, and write about that. The animals are crying out to us for help.  Big blessings to those humans on the ground who are helping the helpless, terrified creatures of climate change.

(In future prompts, I will look for good things happening to reverse climate change, as well. Stay tuned. I won’t always be depressing. But the animals are always first in my heart in perilous times, because they have no voice, and they are suffering because of us.)

In hope, and love for the animals,

Sherry

Sherry Marr posts from Tofino on Vancover Island, off British Columbia and the west coast of Canada. She is the first to submit a guest weekly challenge and will be back. The earthweal weekly challenge runs from Monday through Friday afternoon; then at 4 PM EST an open link weekend kicks off.  Feel free to contribute multiple times if helps scale the theme.Include your posting location on Earth, include a link back to this challenge somewhere in your post and be sure to read and comment on your fellows’ posts. We carry this work together.