Saturday, December 4, 2010

Animal Rights

Well, I've been gone for a long time, swept up in Brian May's Save Me campaign, and also swept up into the animal rights movement. I've come to a point where I need to reset my course, after feeling emotionally beat-up over things that are overwhelmingly beyond my control. I live in mid-America. Farm country. Among farmers and hunters and people who came from that background. Animal rights is not a popular topic. There is a big disconnect between "pet" animals and "food" animals. I won't belabor the topic.

I tried being vegan, and have decided after several months that, living with a man who has no intention of giving up meat, much less eggs, cheese and the like, is self abusive to someone who doesn't particularly wish to spend lots of extra time and effort on cooking, which takes away from art project time. It also creates a lot of other difficulties that have just gotten me down. I'm not happy giving up, but unable to continue.

Anyway, I'm back to reconnect with bioregional animism and art. The Sacred Web of Life, which encompasses respect for the living earth and all it's creatures. I still support animals in this context, but not exclusively. I think a time will come when it is no longer feasible to spend so much in resources to keep using animal products, but it will not come easily or soon.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Part of the solution or part of the problem?

A couple of months ago I joined Facebook, following Brian May there from his Soapbox website to join his Save Me campaign to keep blood sports from being re legalized in Britain. Being a Queen fan, it was a double allegiance. It was like suddenly being catapulted forward at warp speed. I have loved and hated it. Brian closed Save Me, Facebook down last Wednesday because the politics surrounding animal welfare and animal rights in the way of trolls at the site and personal attacks upon himself by the British press had gotten so vicious as to compromise the whole objective of the campaign. It looks like the Save Me website will be rebuilt to serve the campaign in a similar fashion.

I am greatly relieved, actually, because between working on a project and keeping up with Save Me, nothing else was getting done. My house looks like bikers have been partying in here for the last month or two. Don't get me wrong - it has not been a waste of time. I met a great many similar minded people, and a nucleus of us watched some of the most wretched footage of what is wrong with this world's treatment of animals that you could ever imagine, and we all cried together, online, at the horrific abuse of living creatures that takes place daily in this world and wondered how it has come to this. How can the human race be so cruel and unfeeling?

Every day left me emotionally strung out. But I think what bothers me most of all is that being involved in something like this is like beating your head on a wall. It isn't just the trolls that show up to tell you to go live in the "real world" (and much worse!), but the thought that most people do not even consider the exploitation and treatment of animals to be a problem. It is just business as usual. Some genuinely don't know. Some know, but don't want to think about, or don't want their boat rocked. Some don't see a problem - after all these are food animals. That was what I was told when I objected to the horror of unwanted baby male chicks being ground up alive at commercial hatcheries, supplying the commercial egg producers with hen chicks. The worst part of this is that maybe those male chicks are the lucky ones, when you consider what happens to the hens that go on to be raised in crowded dirty conditions, and stuffed into little cages as layers so that they never have a life and must stand on wire cage bottoms for what time they have, then being rewarded with a gruesome death of some sort.

You get to a point where more than anything you don't want to be part of the problem yourself, because you really can't control any more of it than that. Go vegetarian? Well I probably could because I don't care that much about meat, though even I wouldn't want to be strictly vegetarian, and my husband doesn't want to give up meat at all. The only conclusion I can come to is to only buy from ethical producers, which pretty much rules out the big commercial outfits. So that is to shop at the local food coop, which I would love to do, but it will mean spending a lot more on food, and/or spending probably more time preparing food, which cuts into my time for other things, including artwork.

Oh it isn't just meat, it is the whole giant system of corporate agriculture, the big chain stores that have driven our local store owners out of business, or they just scrape by on the periphery by having items that the chains don't carry. The cheap chain goods have caused our jobs to be shipped out of the country to keep up, and the money we spend there goes somewhere else too. All of this cheap food and cheap goods are produced by the exploitation of animals everywhere and the people in developing countries, or by exploiting illegal people in this country. How can we feel good about that? How long can it go on like this? I don't want to keep rewarding this system! I want to reward the people who are doing it right. Bring back local businesses and small producers who care about the welfare of their animals and the quality of their products. Who don't produce the toxic meat and nutritionally barren crops resulting from accepted modern chemical farming practices. Who see a partnership with animals to produce things like eggs and milk, instead of just a power relationship and the bottom line.

Native Americans lived here in the "New World" for 10,000 years without destroying the integrity of the natural world. Western civilization has made a shambles of most of it in 500 years. There is something inherently wrong with the attitude of western civilization, and it is the fact that we assumed we were awarded dominion over the earth, and when the ties with the natural world were eventually broken then it just became a place to exploit for the benefit of humans. Now it is estimated that if the whole world's population is to live to the standards of western civilization, it would take two more planet earths to support us - and for how long?!!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The little things creep out...........

As the weather warms we begin having more guests in this old farmhouse. The black ants have shown up to patrol Tinker's cage bottom and the floor underneath. They are polite enough not to get up into his food dishes. They used to bother me but now I just accept them as part of the warm-weather ecosystem here along with these really long-geared, spindly-legged spiders, click beetles and the occasional wolf spider. Later there will be crickets hiking around and the occasional daddy longlegs that gets in, as well as other miscellaneous visitors.

I find the black ants and the daddy longlegs to be very entertaining, going helter-skelter when they are disturbed as they are going about their business. They are sort of my comedy relief around here sometimes. The daddy longlegs are especially goofy-looking. Later I will enjoy the crickets singing until cold weather silences them in the fall. I have been known to bring in some of the last of them so to hear their cheerful songs for just a little bit longer.

Then there will be the lady bugs. I'm told they are not REAL lady bugs but a close relative brought in from Asia to go after aphids on soy beans, but as far as I am concerned, if it looks like a lady bug, trundles along like a lady bug, and smells like a lady bug, then................Lady bug hell is for one to climb up to the top of a cup and to go endlessly in circles around the rim as if stuck in that mode and unable to stop.

These "guests" and others are just part of my community. I can't be rid of them, as I won't have poisons sprayed around, so I have come to appreciate them. Even the tiniest creature possesses life from the Creator, which is something that humans cannot replace once extinguished, which is a pretty big thing. Some may have arrogantly defined humans as being created in God's image, but that's about as far as it goes - wishful thinking. When I look outside at the lush spring growth of myriads of plants tumbling out of the ground, old friend trees putting out their leaves again for a new year, and all of the summer birds coming back to the feeders and then off about their business, and chipmunks out and about and so on, then I know I am seeing the face of the Creator.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Inexcusable Atrocity in Pennsylvania

After talking with someone about Brian May's Save Me campaign to defeat the return of hunting foxes and other wildlife with dogs in the UK, I got to wondering about another barbaric "sport" that some had been trying to revive a few years ago in the USA.

If you have heard of trap shooting at clay pigeons, then you should know that it evolved from the barbaric "sport" of shooting at live pigeons who were in traps on the ground, that would be sprung open, releasing the birds to be shot at as they flew away. Upon googling this I found that there is one state that actually allows this atrocity to be practiced, and it is Pennsylvania. Apparently many of the people of PA have tried to get this outlawed, but the NRA (National Rifle Association) has stepped in to undermine their efforts by supporting those who wish to keep live pigeon shoots on the menu.

SHARK (Showing Animals Respect and Kindness) has released a video showing just what a live pigeon shoot looks like, but be warned, it almost made me throw up:

It is hard to decide which is more abhorrent, the poor birds, (many of whom have been raised inside like chickens and have never even flown) who are sprung out of the traps, where many are shot as they stand, bewildered, or the children whom the organizers employ to pick up these birds, many of whom are still flopping around, wounded. The kids jump on them, beat them, or pull their heads off to kill them, or sometimes just carry them back and throw them in a barrel where they die slowly. It is obvious by the way they handle the birds that they don't even see them as living creatures with feelings.

What are these people thinking? Are they apes who have not yet come down from their trees?What is this disgusting spectacle teaching these kids?

If you care enough to get involved, or at least to send an email to Governor Rendell, go to:

It is just unbelievable that this is allowed to go on.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Save Me Campaign in the UK

Anytime a person wants to put himself out there on behalf of the natural world, well, my hat's off to him. That is what Brian May has committed himself to doing in the UK. He has launched a campaign to keep people out of office who will likely reinstitute hunting foxes with dogs. If you are in the UK, join him at:

He has also been trying to find a way of preventing the killing off of badgers in Wales due to the spread of bovine TB. If you would like to follow this then check in at:

Monday, April 12, 2010


I began this blog to share some thoughts with anyone out there who might also be on the same journey, but it became obvious that sharing my art had to be a part of this because I am enchanted by these gifts that I collect from the natural world. I have been investigating different ways to also sell some of the pieces. I thought I had found one, but as I have been trying to familiarize myself with the way it works, I realize that it just doesn't feel right. There just seems to be too much hoopla attached to it all for me to feel comfortable with the process. Nor do I want to become involved with something that ends up consuming so much time and attention that it cuts into my creative time.

So at least for the time being, if anyone who might come here would be interested in acquiring any of these pieces of transformed twigs and tendrils, with even the occasional incorporation of some of my father's collection of odds and ends of clock gears and the like, then please contact me here.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Worm Art

I just went for a walk around part of the woods, and upon crossing a ravine I came to smallish dead elm tree fallen across the path. Most of the bark had sloughed off, revealing a treasure trove of worm art. This is one of my favorite things, and I will be sure to go back and haul it up. I haven't seen such fresh, fine examples in a long time. There is someting fascinating about the designs they leave behind as the larvae of these bark beetles branch out.

The Nature of Reality

After being told that I might be out of touch with reality the other day, I had to do some thinking on that...........

I am sitting here at a computer, so not so awfully far out of touch, but we don't have cell phones because we don't want to have the crazy human world reaching out and touching us at any moment, like being on a leash. I don't like instant messaging either. Email I can answer when it is convenient for me.

Back to the idea of reality. The natural world supports the activities of the human world, but the human world, for the largest and pushiest part, objectifies the natural world and destroys it, as in eating themselves out of house and home. But many have been worshipping at the alter of humans being created in the image of a god who gave them dominion over the Earth. That seems very arrogant and self-serving to me. The kind of reality that relies on the destruction of it's support system has to be a foolish one.

Mother Earth does not need humans. But humans need Her, and have been using Her, and raping Her, and now She is angry and we are having extreme weather and devastating earth quakes and tidal waves. These are warnings from Mother Earth that we had better change our ways or suffer the consequences. Like a hoard of locusts out of the Middle East, we have spread the gospel by nearly annihilating Native Humans who had respect for Earth and all of it's peoples, knowing that each depended on the other's welfare. If the Native Humans couldn't be corrupted and saved by the gospel, then they were enslaved or pushed out, forbidden their own languages and religions, until most died of starvation or disease. Talk about killing the messengers!

The Creator designed the various peoples of Earth so that if all lived in balance then there would be enough to support them. Native Humans still knew that we were not above having to live according to this natural law. We now proceed with our greed at our own peril.

That, to me, is the reality of it. That is why I see all of Nature as being the image of the Creator, and I pay attention to the words of our Native Americans, as well as those of other Native Humans of the world. Theirs was the original understanding of our place on Mother Earth, and still the right, or sustainable one.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Backtracking in the Web

I came here to this place 38 years ago. There wasn't running water or the inside facilities that go with it. That was when I used the old wooden washing machine. It had a wringer too. I haven't yet made the wringer to go with my little Acme Queen because I am one gear short of having 4 for the wringer gears.

Over the years I realize that I have always gone to more trouble to be with the natural world than to be with people. Most all of the pictures I have taken have been of plants and creatures. We have some spectacular old oaks here, but I have also seen a number of them come down. There was an especially beautiful and perfect burr oak on the neighbor's bottom pasture, down along Bear Creek. He stood by himself out in the open and had thus grown to a perfect form. I have a picture of him here, when he was in his full glory. Unfortunately 2 or 3 years ago he just all fell apart. Now he is home to insects and fungus and others who gradually return him to the soil where perhaps another small acorn will take root. But the way things are changing I doubt that a tree like him will ever be seen there again.

Many of our oaks have so much character that I have named them. Michael and Zeus guard our lane. Gemini stands out front. The birds line up on his limbs, waiting to descend to the main feeders when there is heavy traffic. Twister stands behind the house. His trunk and limbs have grown like a corkscrew, and he sports a gooseberry bush that some bird planted, about 10 feet or so up in a crotch. Knobby grows down by the ravine. He sheds some of the knobbiest twigs and all of the places where other twigs or branches join are large and exaggerated. If they have separated then what is left are two very pleasing large round features, one concave and the other convex, with ridges radiating out from the center. I call the concave ones Fingerprints of the Creator. If you ever need a shot of inspiration, just look at the gnarled bark or grain, or features like these "fingerprints" and see that it is as though the force of life were frozen into the features of trees. They appear to wear their hearts on their sleeves, so to speak.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Star Siren

She is a departure from my more light-hearted creations. I was looking at kachinas and then Star came along. She doesn't evoke a kachina to me, but has her own personality and form. I called her Wood Spirit for a time, until she had completely revealed herself, beginning with the woody base of a large mullein plant, and then the addition of burr oak, woody grape tendrils and fuzzy fungus. The stars in her eyes and on some of her decorations are at the center of every burr oak twig or branch, large or small. The stars on her necklace are at the center of cottonwood twigs. I found this relationship, in the reverse, to be fascinating. Cottonwoods were sacred to the Lakotas. She is 10 inches tall.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

In Memory

My father passed away a little over a month ago. He was just about 10 days short of his 96th birthday. This piece, the old wooden washer, is a collaboration with him. He was the metal worker. A machinist, mechanic, watch repairman, clockmaker, jeweler and the go-to man in town to fix anything that no one else could fix. Give him a pile of scrap metal and he could build you an engine or a firearm. He was awarded a bronze star in WW2 for scrounging up parts, including an old vacuum cleaner to construct a make-shift iron lung for the army hospital he was assigned to.

I inherited his treasure trove of interesting junk and being the pack-rat that I also am I still have most of it, as well as most of his tools. When I first moved here, 38 years ago, there was an old wooden washing machine, and I used it for a time. It wasn't set up quite like this one, but the principle was the same - a handle and a reversible flywheel. I was messing around with a box of old clock gears one day and managed to come up with several that worked in just the right way, so I built a washing machine under them. I guess I am interested in combining a little more of Dad's junk with my creations. It keeps him in my life.

The washing machine is 4-3/4" tall, with the lid closed. The tub is red cedar from this farm. The top is apple wood, from a neighbor whose tree died. Dad contributed the hardware and the genes and the teaching. Thanks Dad. You are part of my sacred web too - gone on now, but never far away.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Music Shop

Just the place the crickets, frogs, birds and so on might go to find instruments to help them out. More burr oak, wild grape, shagbark hickory, goldenrod galls, stones, tree fungus and the like, who wished to participate.

The Great Hoobaroo

I like to have fun with things, so many of my pieces are light-hearted. My burr oak and wild grape friends give me lots of material to work with to make into fantasic things like musical instruments. This one, the Great Hoobaroo, has such a sound that an envious owl has dropped by to get a look while the player has gone on a break.

Greener grass, weeds, and so on......

Bhutan is still stuck in my head. I actually checked about immigrating there (curiously, not seriously), but they allow very few people to even visit. They are wise in keeping we westerners out. There is a Queen song, penned by Brian May, named I Want It All. It is one of my favorites in spite of the attitude - sort of a glorious anthem for globalization: I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it NOW! (I guess I just need to break free now and then.) We seem to feel entitled to everything, and if we could move to Bhutan, then it would become something else.

American is a land of immigrants for most of the population. My heritage is 1/2 Danish, 1/4 German, and 1/4 Bohemian. That said, I have always felt more related to the Native Americans. Vine Deloria said that in America God Is Red in his book by that title. The energy of American soil is Native American. I think I have always felt that, because when I first read Deloria's book it was like I got shot with an arrow of truth. Westernization has not been a good experience for Native Americans, nor for America for that matter. We could have learned so much from these first Americans. We still can, but now the damage is done and undoing it is another matter.

As I've already said somewhere, we live on about 50 acres, most of which is at the end of a dead-end road. Unfortunately Interstate 35 took the other half of this farm. Worse yet, they ran it out of it's straight course to get us, because the Army Corps of Engineers was going to dam the Skunk River, not too far from us, and they wanted this part to correspond with that with a scenic outlook. Fortunately they didn't end up getting to dam the river, due to opposition and changing attitudes, though they were serious enough to change the course of I-35 in the beginning. There is still a scenic outlook, though not the one that was envisioned.

I've always been sort of tethered here, either by keeping wood stoves going in the early days, or being tied to a workbench when I engraved firearms. So I have naturally become well acquainted with the natural features here and all of the other peoples, animal, vegetable or mineral. I have not always been on good terms with every other inhabitant here. But I have observed this place more intimately, as through a microscope. I engraved through a microscope so perhaps I just relate more to small things, though my father was a jeweler/watch repairman, so maybe it has a genetic factor.

The Creator did not make weeds. Humans made weeds. Raccoons are my weeds. If ever I needed to reframe a relationship, it is the one I have with coons. We have both done each other great damage through the years, and I don't yet have an answer. I guess I feel entitled to protect my own here. I don't think that coons see it as mine though. Mostly the havoc that humans wreak on the earth is inflicted on all of the other inhabitants, who don't have a voice in the matter, so I guess raccoons are just turning the tables on me.

I have always collected plants and been very curious about the native plants here. My reward is that my yard turns into a jungle of vines and other woodland and prairie plants every year. Some of our acquaintances look at the greenbriar vines and shudder. I do love vines in particular. I think it is because they are very expressive plants who are always reaching out. I have a very large grape ivy hanging in the kitchen. It has arms that dangle down to touch me, and is always so friendly and welcoming.

I must spend more time and effort this year in learning yet more about the interaction of the web of life here in regard to seeing the truth of those whom I still see as weeds.

Friday, March 26, 2010

To prey.....or not

This is another thing I struggle with. If I had to kill an animal or bird to eat I would be a vegetarian. A lot more people would be. I'm not sure that most urban kids ever think of it any further than that meat comes from the grocery store.

We did butcher a hog here once, many years ago now. Never again. Paul McCartney has a video out called If slaughterhouses had glass walls everyone would be a vegetarian. It is ghastly. I became aware just how bad it has gotten due to a magazine called Orion, several years ago. Conditions in these houses of death have become much worse since the unions were broken, probably back in Reagan's era. Unless an inspector comes to the plant, which is known ahead of time, animals are pushed through hurriedly. If one isn't stunned properly there is no time to do it over. Throats are cut when they are kicking and screaming. Some are scalded alive to remove hair or feathers. Often workers are illegal immigrants who work in dangerous conditions for low pay.

The whole meat business in the USA is disgusting, except for the few who are raising animals the old way on pasture and are not being run through these big packing houses. These animals are treated humanely and not pumped full of concentrated feed, growth hormones and antibiotics. But we have become accustomed to relatively cheap meat. Buying it from these humane producers is significantly more expensive. Odd that doing things the old way, without concentrated feed and drugs, is now more costly. It takes significantly longer. It takes more land. It takes more work.

So in order to have our cheap meat animals and birds are raised in concentration camps under abysmal conditions, often tended by low-paid workers who abuse them during their pitiful lives. They are neither recognized as living, feeling creatures nor treated as such.

Just writing this makes me want to opt out and go back to being a vegetarian. One problem. My husband has no desire to give up meat. I was a vegetarian for 2-3 years, back 15-18 years ago, while my husband and son were not. I still had to deal with meat for them and after a while I gave up the hassle.

We have about 50 acres here. We could raise our own animals for food in a humane manner, but as I mentioned earlier, they would die of old age if we had to kill creatures that we have come to know. I know, this is absolutely cowardly. The best compromise I can come up with at present is to buy from the few producers who raise animals humanely.

Totally on the other side of the issue, I would not begrudge myself being the meal of some predatory animal. This is unlikely to happen in Iowa, so I guess I am pretty safe making that statement. I do wish that we had the choice of something like an air burial though when we die. This is where Buddhist monks who die in monasteries in the Himalayas are put out on ledges for the vultures. I definitely think we should have the choice to give back to nature in this way. I have buried my son, my mother and my father, and all of them were in caskets, inside of vaults. This strikes me not only as selfish and bizarre, but downright creepy. These were their wishes, which had to be honored. I will be cremated and ashes spread. On this, my husband is with me.

I still have seen enough to suspect that plants are sentient in their own way. I do hope they don't feel physical pain, but do they have some sort of psychological pain at being uprooted or cut? There is a book out there called The Secret Lives of Plants that I feel I must read. This makes the subject of vegetarianism somewhat dissatisfying as well, which is why I have opted for the more Native American or animistic view that life feeds on life and there really isn't a way around that, so the best one can do is to be very respectful and thankful at how you go about it. The amount of waste we have in this country is just overwhelming, and treating food animals or fruits and vegetables, and all natural resources, as existing solely for our needs and pleasure is a symptom of that. I have read that if the whole world were to come up to the level of usage and waste of we Americans it would take two more planet Earths to sustain us, which is downright shameful.

I saw a program on Bhutan the other day. Their national priorities are happiness and preservation of their natural world. If only Americans were so wise.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

One more thing.....

I think I should clarify something about living with a wild creature, lest I mislead. It requires a good-sized commitment. Taking on the responsibility for the life of another being, domesticated or wild is not a small thing, but in the case of it being a wild creature, you must maintain the relationship daily. This is especially true if your wild friend can do physical damage. When Tinker becomes emotionally aroused in some way, he doesn't just have and emotion, he becomes the emotion. This can happen quite quickly. Just ask Roy Horn, or the woman who had her face torn off by a chimpanzee, or more recently the trainer who lost her life to a killer whale (Well, I guess you can't ask her). Even when you have years of reading these creatures, they can surprise you, or you may just get a little too complacent.

I'm sporting a rather nasty bite on my upper lip this week because Tinker got pissed at me for trimming a toenail. He got in my face, making threats in the way that cockatoos do, and I didn't take it seriously enough. Next thing I knew I had a gaping hole in my lip. Tinker didn't become angry - he BECAME ANGER! After the damage was done he figured he had made his point and it was over as far as he was concerned. Apparently what I was saying to him at the time was not conciliatory enough to suit him.

At this point many would have blown up at the bird I suppose. My husband would have made soup out of him long ago over episodes like these. If I were to retaliate though, I would make it into something that would be very hard to get past. I tell him that was a nasty thing to do and that he hurt me far more than anything I did to him by trimming a toenail. I can tell by his reaction that he understands what I am telling him, and he will come along, hang way out from my shoulder and look at his handiwork ("Wow, I did that?") and be somewhat apologetic. But his attitude toward me about the whole incident is more like, "Well, don't provoke me again."

I do find it interesting that he does realize to some extent what he has done and even seems sorry, as he comes up and lays his bare eye patch against my lip. That is as close to "I'm sorry" as I get from him. After that it is "Well, get over it. Move on."

So when strong emotions come out, so does the wildness take over. But I think it makes life interesting, and flesh heals. Thank goodness he isn't a tiger!But don't take on a wild creature for a companion unless you are willing to make a big commitment and suffer a few consequences. I wouldn't trade the experience for the world, but lots of parrots end up at rescue centers because people didn't know what they were getting into.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Living in a sacred manner

Black Elk uses the term "walking in a sacred manner" and says "Nothing can live well except in a manner that is suited to the way the sacred Power of the World lives and moves."

This is pretty powerful stuff. I call it "living in a sacred manner." By this I mean living deliberately, like Thoreau, and being aware and respectful of the earth and the other beings around you.

Tinker has taught me that you do indeed reap what you sow. If I treat him with consideration, then in return he will be gentle with me. If I am all wrapped up in my own world and treat him as a demanding interruption, then he will in return be rough and short-tempered with me. He is like a mirror, or instant karma and can be either a closed book if I don't treat him with respect, or a great friend, confidant and teacher if I open myself to him by treating him respectfully. I have to believe that this applies to all of the natural world around me. So my life can either be full of weeds, or flowers, depending on how I define these other beings, but I think the Power of the World believes in biodiversity, not human supremacy. So we humans can be either like a cancer on the earth or as fellow travellers with all of the other beings.

AS to those other than whom we might normally classify as being "living," there are those of the school of thought who believe that when one gets down to the sub-atomic level of matter, that the particles are diffused in pure consciousness, and that material objects or beings are actually the crystallization of individual thoughts or ideas. If this is indeed the case then I can see how a shaman might cure someone of a disease by being able to alter his consciousness so that he can go into this realm and tinker with the underlying structure. I suppose this would also encompass true faith healing.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Where I stand

Lest someone actually read this and accuse me of preaching, let me say that I am far from perfect in my relationship to the natural world. I was raised pretty much as homocentric as anyone else in the western world. I struggle with this daily.

Brian May, Queen guitarist, has made his stand against the restoration of fox hunting in the UK, and culling badgers over the spread of bovine TB, eradicating hedgehogs in areas and so on. He is a vegetarian and against all kinds of animal exploitation and hunting.

I have been a vegetarian for 2-3 years back in the 90's, after Tinker came to live with me, and I still can't deal with chicken in anything but anonymous pieces. But having the animist belief that all living beings are sentient to some degree means that I accept that life feeds on life, and this has to be approached with a sense of respect for the taking of life for food, be it animal or plant life.

We have factory farming here, which to me is like animal and bird concentration camps. I find that to be one of the saddest commentaries on our culture that these are not even seen to be living, feeling creatures. Male baby chicks, unwanted by egg producers, are sorted out at commercial hatcheries and ground up alive to be sold to pet food producers. Grinding up babies alive - are we monsters? When I protest I am told by producers, "These are food animals, not pets." So these food animals don't have feelings then, like pets?

But also I live in the woods and this puts me in an adversarial position with other beings at times. It is not black and white. There are animals like raccoons who are very good at exploitation of human premises and who have no predators who keep their numbers in check. They are quite intelligent and very capable of climbing and manipulating. There are times when I have exhausted every other means I can think of for living with coons and finally just have to start taking them out.

I do try to practice what I preach, and I work toward being better at it, but it can be very complicated.

We are all relatives

Not since Native Americans, in these United States, have we of the industrialized world (to begin with, of mostly European extraction and Judeo-Christian background) seen the rest of the natural world as equals on this earth. We judge all others by our own standards of intelligence and physical nature. If a stone feels neither cold nor pain, can't speak and doesn't move, then it is not alive.

We might study a species or a specimen to learn everything about it, but not respect its integrity as a type of person from another culture, from whom we could learn something valuable beyond the scientific facts, or worse: What can this species do for the human race?

I have always loved the natural world. I grew up in small-town America, and from the time I was old enough I was out in the woods. I have always collected bits and pieces of the things I found out there that appealed to me, but it is only recently that I have learned that these inhabitants of the wild are all other peoples. They don't communicate with words, as I would expect, judging by human standards, but by catching my attention with pieces of themselves. They have no mechanism for speech as we know it, though one could compare the wind in the branches of a tree, or in it's leaves, as a form of speech the same way that our breath, causes speech as it goes through our vocal cords and is shaped by our mouths.

Now I use these gifts as the materials of my art, which as it turns out, is more of a collaboration, than something I can call my own. I no longer know how much of an idea for a piece of artwork is mine, or how much of it might have been that of a tree who wanted to express itself in a different way through me, and left a piece of itself for me to find that planted the seed of an idea.

I have already described how Tinker and I can carry on a conversation even though he only whispers a word occasionally. Other people who come to know animal companions very well will know this too. But those who really respect their companions will learn from them as beings with their own wisdom and will naturally think of them as having rights much like any other human they know. Dogs and cats can do spectacular things like predicting when a human might have a seizure or if one has cancer.

Who knows of what else dogs and others are capable? We as humans should be humbled in the face of such abilities possessed by other creatures, and we should have a great deal of respect for them, seeing them not as property or as inferior life forms but as partners in life.

Now extend this to the natural world about you. Suddenly you as a human are not the center of the universe, but just another strand in that Web of Life. You are connected to all of the other strands, and the whole web only works as well as the integrity of all of those strands. As Chief Seattle said in 1852: "Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself."

Saturday, March 13, 2010


My beliefs have been shaped a lot since a cockatoo named Tinker came into my life. He is 21 years old today - HAPPY BIRTHDAY TINKER!! He has been with me since he was three months old.
He is still a wild creature, being of the first generation removed from the wild and still with all of his natural instincts. I always thought what a great honor it would be to really know a creature from another species. I don't try to make him human because I want to know a bird. We sort of meet half-way.
Cockatoos are very astute at evaluating what is going on in the house and he knows english very well so that I have to be careful what I say to him and how I say it. He is not a talker in the sense of, say an African Gray parrot. He whispers things to me. Cockatoos can whisper, and his body language and the way he mimics behavior do the rest. Cockatoos are capable of a great deal of facial expressions, and every expression I make towards him I will find coming back at me at some point. We can easily carry on a conversation.
He teaches me things, like not to swat flies. Not because he is adverse to chasing and trying to catch them himself, but because swatting is violent. He is very opinionated. He also knows just how to run me and will, from my shoulder, grab my ear or cheek, using his beak as a hook, and guide me to whatever he wants, be it a look out the window, or something to eat or play with. He is fully flighted, as I believe that birds should be able to fly, but rarely ever goes after anything on his own.
As far as I am concerned he has nearly all of the rights of a human member of the household. There are times I have to overrule him on the side of safety, but otherwise we are together as much as we want to be during the day. I occasionally take him outside in the screenhouse or in a carrier, but it is cumbersome, and he hates the harness I got for him so he could go out on my shoulder. He is generally uncomfortable outside, due to the occasional hawk overhead, or screaming jaybirds or crows. So I don't worry about it too much.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Beginnings - The Great Mystery

Well now, this is a new venture into the world of blogs. Does anyone read these, or are they just ego trips? Will find out............

I am on a search for the authentic fabric of life. Once it was simple: I was raised a Christian in a small midwestern town and that was that. Ha! Always interested in Nature and all of her features and inhabitants, it began to seem unfair to me that only man was created in the image of God. Questions - so many questions.

Eventually I worked my way through various religions, but they always seemed to elevate human life as being the crowning achievement of creation. Hmmmmm. The most I could see is that humans have the greatest capacity for creativity, but then so often use it for destructive purposes perpetrated upon the natural world or others who had been objectified or vilified first.

I keep returning to aboriginal beliefs. To me these are the original beliefs of the human species before we became so full of ourselves that we began to worship our own image and gave ourselves dominion over the earth. I believe that humans are far more embedded into the Web of Life than we know and if our attitude doesn't change then there will be very hard lessons ahead. Unfortunately all of the inhabitants of Earth will suffer for our hubris.

So this blog will be about my journey, as an artist and an explorer of the web of life and what it means.