Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Going to Guyana - Blog on Hold for Two Weeks

Eco-lodge where we will stay (built by donations from Foster Parrots)

The day has finally arrived. Tomorrow I head north to New York to catch a flight to Guyana, where as the guest of Foster Parrots Project Guyana I will see what beauty I may, in the hopes that I will find ways to keep beauty ever present in Guyana in the form of the people, parrots, and the other species there.

In so many ways, this will be a unique trip. One, as I wrote last week, they are home to the Hoaztin, a bird I have always wanted to see. Marc Johnson of Foster Parrots read of my desire, and has so arranged that we will stop at a place where they work with these birds in the wild.  Another special attribute of Guyana is that they are only one of two countries in Central and South America that speak English. (and the other one is...........).  Furthermore, they still allow legal trapping, harvesting, and exportation of their flora and fauna. From 1900-2002 about 175,000 parrots were exported, and 2003 quotas allow for over 20,000 to be exported a year (this does not include in-country trade for birds that never leave the country).

While there I will also be conducting an ethno-ornithology survey where I will conduct interviews that seeks understanding about the relationship between humans and birds in a given country and a given people. For this aim, I am going to win the biggest luggage award because of all the video and camera gear. I'm already practicing my usual reply when people stare at my big blue duffle luggage, "It's all gear, not shoes!"

Along the way there will be only one opportunity for internet access so I don't know if I will be able to blog until I arrive back in the USA on April 13th. There won't be any phone service either so I can't tweet either. However, one of our companions is packing a gizmo (Spot Satellite GPS) that allows you to track where we are in Guyana on Facebook. You can begin tracking now by clicking here.

With beauty before me and all around,


I Worried

I worried a lot.  Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direct, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not, how shall
I correct it?

Was I right or wrong...

Will I ever be able to sing...

Is my eyesight fading....

Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing
And give it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
and sang.

I imagine that all over the world, minds awake with worry, often long before the sun rises and long before enough rest has been gained.  Just this morning I was up in the wee hours, thinking of final arrangements for my trip to Guyana. 

What I wonder is that beyond worrying there exist greater possibilites of what we could do with this day, and all our days.  First off - learn a new song and a new dance step.  Second, go outside and try to outcompete even the melodious thrasher who waltzes over the ground.  Third, repeat as necessary and as often as possible throughout day.

Let us join together and vow to drop one "worry" off our list, and replace it with praise.

How many days have you spent worrying about something, and have missed the chance for greater possibility?

Monday, March 28, 2011

I Own a House

I own a house, a small but comfortable.  In it is a bed, a desk, a kitchen, a closet, a telephone.  And so forth you know how it is: things collect.

…there is the mockingbird; over and over he rises from this thorn-tree and dances-he actually dances, in the air. And there are days I wish I owned nothing, like the grass.

Okay, time for true confessions. I own a house too, well mostly.  When we signed the papers to purchase the house, my heart  felt an ache, a heavy burden.  I did not want to own things.  Yet also I heard the mind saying with its middle-class ways, “Be prudent, be safe, be careful – buying a home will give you a place to live, will guard your finances, and offer security in the future.”

It’s now been nearly 4 years, and things continue to collect in our home.

Things also collect in terms of gear for my wildlife and conservation work. I leave for Guyana in 2 days and I have so looked forward to only taking 25 pounds of luggage, the suggested limit for the small planes and boats upon which we will travel.  With all the cameras and binoculars I am coming closer to 50 pounds.

I wonder, do I really need all this stuff to watch birds dance in the forests of South America?  Then the mind comes in and says, “Take the gear so as to keep the birds safe, and offer security that they and their kind will be there for the future.”

It’s a dance to be sure, this owning, not owning.

How do you dance to this melody?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

In Your Hands

The dog, the donkey, surely they know they are alive.
Who would argue otherwise?...

What about the sunflowers?...

Listen, all you have to do is start and there'll be no stopping....

And, speaking of stones, what about the little ones you can
hold in your hands their heartbeats so secret
so hidden it make take years

before, finally you hear them?

In the recent interview with Mary Oliver, she was asked what she had done with her one wild and precious life. She responded, "I used up a lot of pencils...... What I have done is learn to love and learn to be loved. That didn't come easy. And I learned to consider my life an amazing gift. Those are the things."

The subtext of what I believe she has done with her life,  as this poem suggests, is to listen so that she could see, hear, feel, and know love. 

If we listen hard enough I believe that not only will we find beauty everywhere, but also love.  I don't know which comes first or which might be causal, I only know that as I listen in the night, the barred owl asks, "Who loves for you?"

May I answer, "I do."  May we answer, "We do."  Loving is after all in our hands.

How do you listen to love?  

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Heaven knows how many
trees I climbed when my body
was still in the climbing way,
how many afternoons, especially
windy ones, I sat
perched on a limb that

rose and fell with every invisible

every leafy height
a happiness that came without even trying.....

Now I walk under them-
the household of such tall, kind sisters.

Yesterday, thanks to a reader here, I read a recent interview of Mary Oliver. She spoke of her troubled childhood when she has suffered abuse.  I can see her seeking to escape this, and climbing a tree so that she counteracted the violence done to her by beholding beauty within and without from the lofts of trees.  She sought to transcend the world below.

In the interview she spoke of the happiness and healing she had found in her older age. Though no longer a tree climber, I believe, or so project my own life journey on to hers, that she feels truly like she belongs on this world, walking with all beings as her siblings.

May we this day not feel like we need to climb over any body or being, but call them family, kindly.

Who are your siblings?

Friday, March 25, 2011


When it's over, it's over, and we don't know any of us, what happens then.
So I try not to miss anything.
I think, in my whole life, I have never missed the full moon
or the slipper of it's coming back.
Or, a kiss.
Well, yes, especially a kiss.

Just yesterday I was shopping in the food market store, wondering about so many different things, some of them worrisome.  Then I started looking around at what was there in front of me - bright large oranges, people with so very many interesting delicacies in their carts, and a baker decorating a cake.

If I could live with that presence all the time, then perhaps I would not have missed so much in my life - the neglected full moons as well as the chance to give and receive love. 

Mary's poems leads me to wonder...

Is life worth living if you aren't ready to kiss everything and everyone?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

How Heron Comes

It is a negligence of the mind
not to notice how at dusk
heron comes to the pond and
stands there in his death robes, perfect
servant of the system, hungry, his eyes
full of attention, his wings
pure light.

I think how often I have been negligent in my mind.

I watch the juvenile young men gather on the sidewalk at sun set, suspecting their every thought and action as reproachable and full of danger. I cross the street to the other side to avoid any close association with them or to put myself in harm's way.

Oh you say, that is prudent, you know how young men are. There is too much testosterone pumping in their veins to trust them.

Well then what about the person in the car ahead of me who flings trash?  The hunter?  The drug dealer?  The addict?  The wily politician?  My slow moving self this morning who almost forgot to bow to the moon high in the lightening sky?

Are we not all perfect servants of the system?

Our hunger brings us life, our knowing of this brings us light.

May you have such illumination this morning, this day.

For what are you hungry?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Last Word Abut Fox (Maybe)

Where is the fox now?

Somewhere, doing his life's work, which is living his life....

How many rabbits has he caught so far?

Many, many, many...

This doesn't sound very important....

Have you never heard of the meek and what is t o become of them?

What's meek about eating rabbits?...

You know, there's only one thing to say.  I think
you're a little crazy.

I thank the Lord.

Where are you now?

Wherever you are, you are doing your life's work.

Maybe you don't think so as you get up and eat dull toast and do that exercise routine one more time, if at all.

Perhaps you think that today you'll do nothing important.

Whatever you do, I don't think there's anything meek about it.

Maybe I and others are crazy to think so, but your wild and precious life is astounding.

Be like the fox looking for something to catch.

Catch the spirit today!

Are there areas in your life that you do not hold in high regard?  

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Mist in the Morning, Nothing Around Me but Sand and Roses

Was I lost?  No question.
Did I know where I was?  Not at all.
Had I ever been happier in my life?  Never.

Yogi Berra said once, "We're lost, but we are making good time."

I wonder if Mary's happiness while being lost and Yogi's since of accomplishment while in the same predicament might be a way to live our lives?

Let's just go ahead and admit we are lost, and that all our knowing might help in some ways, but not in the ultimate sense.

A few weeks ago I heard a term, "undefending."  To undefend oneself is to live knowing that without the interdependent relationships all around us, we are lost, and to act out of this ultimate knowing in a daily fashion.

So let me begin this day with nothing of me, and everything around me.

I am lost.
Without you, I am nothing.
You are lost, and with me, are nothing.
Have there ever been any happier fools?

Where are you lost in happiness?

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Poet Dreams of the Mountain

Sometimes I grow weary of the days, with all their fits and starts.
I want to climb some old gray mountain, slowly, taking
the rest of my lifetime to do it....

I want to look back at everything, forgiving it all,
and peaceful, knowing the last thing there is to know.
All that urgency! Not what the earth is about!...

In ten thousand years, maybe, a piece of the mountain will fall.

As so often happens when reading Mary's poem, the coincidence of her words with my life events startles me.  For instance, just this morning I was reviewing my itinerary for my trip to Guyana next week, and there in the middle of it is an overnight hike that gains 6,000 feet in elevation and ends at Jordan falls. 

Then not even 5 minutes later I read this poem about a slow, long climb up a mountain.

That image of me, walking up a winding path of a mountain path with nothing to do but to look, think, remember, and place one foot in front of the other brings me solace this Monday morning. 

How did Mary know that we ache for the sense of eternal wholeness that a long slow hike or a long slow life can bring?

Do you have this ache too?  How do you respond to it?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

We Cannot Know

Now comes Schuman down the scale.
What a river of pleasure!

Where is his riven heart_
His ruined mind_
Lying in wait….

The Rhine turges along,
While the Rhine sparkles in the dark,
Lying in wait.

Do you ever wonder what lies in wait for you in the coming day?  Will it be upbeat, or down beat?  Will your fortunes leave you living more upscale, or down scale?  Wanting to know what will happen can take away our pleasure and experience of the moment, unless perhaps we just give in to reality.  There will be suffering, death, loss; there will be no suffering, death, loss; there will always be  beauty.

Last night I awaited on a dock on a  lake for the full moon to rise.  This was to be the biggest moon in decades because the orbit of the moon was at its closest point to us.  We got there around 6:55 p.m. with a clear view of the horizon.  I thought we were a little early for an expected moon  7:15 p.m. or so. This time came and passed, and then more time, and more.  Perhaps some with me were a bit antsy because there was another activity we all were missing.  I was as well.  But then we settled into it, this not knowing when it would happen, only that a beautiful moon would rise and make our hearts glad.

What lies in wait for you that you know is coming? That you don't know is coming?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Living Together

The spirit says:
What gorgeous clouds.
The body says: Good,
The crops need rain.

The spirit says:
Look at the lambs frolicking.
The body says:
When’s the feast?...

The spirit says:  Body,
How can we live together?
The body says:  Bricks and mortar
And a back door.

In Maslov’s hierarchy of needs, we see that the fundamental needs of protection, security and nuturturance are below the higher needs of spiritual development. If the people are not fed and safe, it is hard for them to ponder the beauty of the clouds and the inherent worth and dignity of others.  Notice I say hard, not impossible. 

It is a difficult task though to embody spirit in our daily lives. Aren’t we always in some ways, or at least perceiving so, under threat or at risk of not having enough?  So we look to the lambs to slaughter them, our relationships, our communities, and our earth.

May we look to this day, and not sneak out the back door to meet our desires and our fears, but go boldly through the front door, and leave the door to our hearts open as we journey forward together.

Do you have tension between your body and spirit?  What is spirit?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Wind in the Pines

Is it true that the wind
streaming especially in fall
through the pines
is saying nothing, nothing at all,

or is it just that I don't yet know the language?

The trees are our interpreters. They tell us what the world is saying.  From which direction does the wind come, how strong is it, how variable is it, and how long does it last? From this we know if  a storm approaching, a front coming through, or the breeze rising from the changing heat or from the water.

Once I was in Nashville when there had been storm warnings all day.  Towards the end of the storm I turned off the TV and radio, figuring any tornado possibilities were gone.  Suddenly it got very dark and I looked out at the trees, some of which were bending to the point of snapping in two. The tornado passed by just a few blocks away, though I couldn't tell except for the trees..

Another time I was in Northern California and couldn't figure out what a door had shut in the house and why my clothes were swaying in the closet.  I looked out at the trees, and in seeing their rocking, I knew an earthquake had struck.

So I look often to the trees, for they speak in birds, in flowers and seeds, in wind, and in beauty. Such a lovely language.

What different languages are there in your life?

Thursday, March 17, 2011


I tore the web
of a black and yellow spider
in the brash of weeds
and down she came
on her surplus of legs
each of which
touched me and really
the touch wasn't much
but then the way
if a spider can
she looked at me
clearly somewhere between
outraged and heartbroken
made my say 'I'm sorry
to have wrecked your home...

swung herself off
on the thinnest of strings
back into the world.
This pretty, this perilous world.

The news reports that the Japanese are being courageous after losing their homes due to the earthquake and tsunami.  They keep at their business and line up for supplies.  I heard someone yesterday comparing themselves to the Japanese, saying we Westerners do not know about order and calm in the midst of tragedy.  Maybe it's because we haven't known so much here on our isolated continent the kinds of terrible circumstances that breed steadfastness. 

Instead we look on, outraged and heartbroken, as if our very gaze and will could take away nuclear perils and return these beautiful people to their homes.

We are such a torn people, wishing to have clean energy and pretty homes, and not knowing what level of risk to take to line our nest with the good life.

To the world today, in all I consume, may I say "I'm sorry to have wrecked your home."

Whose home have you or your lifestyle destroyed?  Whose are you rebuilding?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


I wanted to speak at length about
The happiness of my body and the
Delight of my mind for it was
April, a night, a full moon and-

But something in myself for maybe
From somewhere other said: not too
Many words, please, in the muddy shallows the

Frogs are singing.

I am at the Hippocrates Health Institute in West Palm Beach giving a workshop of Nonviolent Communication. In my presentation I encourage people to use as few words as possible to keep the chance for connection and understanding alive.  Perhaps our brains do best in about 40 word segments.  Mary’s poem today is 51 words, just about right. 

It doesn’t take many words really to say, “Look, there goes beauty.”  “Hey, beauty is dwindling.”  “My heart hurts.”  “Now let’s do something about it.” 

What will you do “about it” – sing?  Change?  Open yourself to death and suffering?

In Provincetown, and Ohio, and Alabama - March 15, 2011

Death taps his black wand and something vanishes.  Summer, winter…branch of an oak tree…three just hatched geese.  Many trees and thickets…violets…

Lambs that, only recently , were gamboling in the field. And old mule, in Alabama, that could take no more of anything.  And then, what follows?  Then spring again, summer, and the season of harvest.  …..

More lambs and new green grass in the field, for their happiness until.  And some kind of yellow flower whose name I don’t know (but what does that matter?) rising around and out of the half-buried, half-vulture-eaten, harness-galled, open-mouthed (its teeth long and blackened), breathless, holy mule.

Not only in Provincetown, and Ohio, and Alabama, but I imagine ever where we looked we would see life sprouting from the ghastly evidence of death.  Why then do we accept life so well, and not so death?

Except that I doubt, given the amount of resistance to death if we are any more accepting of life.

How can we be when we spend the earth’s resources to prolong our lives 6 months more, perhaps, when children, birds, peoples, and forests are dying from our extraction economies?

How can we be for life when we seal our hearts from others, just so we can be safe, just so we can live? 

Living is all well and good, but what if to be safe we kill relationships, possibility, justice, and flourishing for all?  Is that living?

Maybe we just need to do some more timely dying – of bodies, of egos, of assumptions, of separation.

May I this day let the stubborn mule of my ways die.

What is your stubborn mule?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Bird in the Pepper Tree

Don't mind my inexplicable delight
in knowing your name,
little Wilson's Warbler
yellow as a lemon, with a smooth, black cap..

Just do what you do and don't worry, dipping
branch by branch down  to the fountain....

A name is not a leash.

Just two days ago a man came up to me brimming with ideas for a "bird ministry."  He wanted to teach troubled youth bird identification as a means to connect, focus, and move towards wholeness.  Without dropping a beat I said, "Count me in."  I'll do anything to get people to enjoy beauty, so that they can respond to it.  Though I have degrees in birds and they are my vocation and calling, I've never been overly concerned with their names, or teaching people names.   Beauty is beauty no matter what you call it. In fact, I have seen the pursuit of adding bird names to a "life list" detract from the objective wonder of the bird itself as the ego asserts its control in the field.

In this case, however, teaching the names to young people and helping them recognize the individuality of species is a discipline that is liberating.  Identifying birds gives them a choice to contribute as citizen scientists, and is a means to better understand their world.  Naming unleashes the wild possibility within.

Here comes the paradox.  We need to "know" names to contribute to this world, and we don't need to know names to contribute wholeness and healing.  Name it and then let go knowing anything about the bird so that you can meld with pure interconnection. 

Dogen the Buddhist might write (if he were a Birdist):

There is a Wilson's Warbler.
There is not a Wilson's Warbler.
There is a Wilson's Warbler.

What might you un-name today?