John Muir and Henry David Thoreau: Nature’s Champions

Today, April 21st, is ‘John Muir Day’ (1838-1914). This Scotland born/US immigrant, who came here as a child and fell inmuir love with Nature has had a big impact on the protection and conservation of this land.

His legacy is especially important now as the current administration in Washington moves to gut and cut laws and regulations protecting and managing the environment Muir lived for. It is alarming that after so many decades of educational as well as theological discourse on the connectedness of all living things we are willing to relax and abolish standards that would protect Nature, this sacred Creation, now and for the future.

thoreau2017 is also the bicentennial of Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), who, as well, impacted and personalized our knowledge and relationship with Nature. There are conferences and symposia going on all year in celebration of his life and work.

I want to mark this time in my own way by challenging myself to read and ponder some of Thoreau’s books, essays and poems. As the Boston Globe stated in an article from early January of this year, “Why Thoreau Still Matters,” I hope to assess this for myself. Like John Muir, Annie Dillard, Mary Oliver, Aldo Leopold and so many others for whom Nature is the touchstone of life, does Thoreau still matter for us in the 21st century when that touchstone is slowly obliterated with each passing day? Or will works that ponder, plead, and describe the environment and our bond come to exist only in books because the reality has become meaningless literally going the way of the dodo bird?

This is, for me, a call to arm myself with the foundation of a past that still matters. And maybe for you, too. Can these words move us to what the writers felt that will not only get us outside experiencing our own connections, but to act as they did as protectors and defenders of our beautiful land, rivers and mountains?

And as a crow just flew past my window (really!), I believe the answer is, “Yes!”

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#ILoveCrows!

“…of the company of the archangels.”

My ocean is the sunny Southern California, happy-family-on-an-outing, surfing kind. It does not draw me, except to break the feeling of urban sprawl that surrounds my county. I prefer woods and mountains. I like land, the earth.

It is only during the rare dark winter day that the ocean attracts me. It feels wild then, with its choppy seas and clouds that hide Catalina Island. Tourists mostly stay away on days like that and I can walk and ponder on the almost empty sand.

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Today was one of those dark days at the beach. And I recalled this passage I copied long ago from an L. M. Montgomery novel, Anne’s House of Dreams. Montgomery’s gift of personifying Nature is one of the major reasons I love her work. And in this particular paragraph it is easy to see those rolling foamy waves in a different way:

It was a shore that knew the magic and mystery of storm and star. There is a great solitude about such a shore. The woods are never solitary—they are full of whispering, beckoning, friendly life. But the sea is a mighty soul, forever moaning of some great, unshareable sorrow, which shuts it up into itself for all eternity. We can never pierce its infinite mystery—we may only wander, awed and spell-bound, on the outer fringe of it. The woods call to us with a hundred voices, but the sea has one only—a mighty voice that drowns our souls in its majestic music. The woods are human, but the sea is of the company of the archangels.*

 

* L. M. Montgomery. Anne’s House of Dreams. (New York: Bantam), 1998, p. 54. Originally published in 1922.

Pierced at the ‘Caw’

I love crows. It is a mystery to me as to why they fascinate me, but I love to watch them and observe their lives. I do not fear them or think them evil, and believe a short freestyle poem on this hallowed day is appropriate!

On this night when the veil between this world and that of the Spirit is thin, may you be touched by the lives of your ancestors and may their memories always live in your hearts. Happy Halloween!

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I love my crows.

They are liquid black beauty.

They strut as they walk, confident.
What do they know?

I am pierced at the ‘caw.’
It makes me pause; I turn my heading looking for something.
Something I know? Something I lost? Something I need? Something….

Catching the eye of a crowcrowmoon
is contact with magic, with Merlin or Diana.
It is a gateway to the Dreamtime, to The Deeps, to the Soul.

On the wing, scratching the ground for food, cawing into the wind, they turn my head, thrill my heart
calling me to the Universe they rule,
where I am my true self living in the magic of the Old Ones.

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Who Left the Sun Inside this Book?

Have you ever found something extraordinary or intriguing tucked inside the pages of a book?

I have found grocery lists for elaborate meals and medical appointment cards forgotten as bookmarks in the public library. In the university library I have come across notes taken for classes or lists of books for term papers, which always brings a familiar pain; all that time and research for nothing.

Once I found a tirade detailing the transgressions the letter writer felt someone committed against her. After reading a few embarrassing lines I stuck it back in the book. Yikes!

My greatest find was also a picture stuck between the pages of a book I picked up in a university library:

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Incredible detail and technique! But what was the inspiration? Boredom? Soothing nerves before a midterm? Or just the desire to create? The medium is black ink on a napkin: restaurant, coffee house, bar? And why was it left? Using the napkin as a place-holder while studying and forgetting about it? Or, shoved inside and left on purpose? A frustrating mystery.

But here is the bigger mystery: This is my symbol. I have been collecting, imagining, wearing and enjoying sun and moon images for decades.

Sometimes I like them together:

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And sometimes I like them alone:

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This crescent I wear almost every day:

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I consider myself mostly a moon person, as I love the night and darkness. When the crescent moon appears each month it is a joy to see and acknowledge. The crescent is an expectant symbol of newness, promise and hope.

I found the napkin in 2002 and have moved house several times, each time making sure to take it with me. All this time it has had a prominent place on my altar:

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O Unknown Artist…I thank you!

What have you found stuck in a book?