The woodpeckers thumping, rapping, knocking rattled me and my neighbors, way before our usual morning coffee. My neighbor crawled along my roof dangling tinsel and shiny objects from the gutters. I bought a big black battery spider that jumped out screaming “boo” when the red-headed peckers landed. I hung yellow, orange, and blue balloons everywhere. With all the glittering decorations swinging outside the house, friends asked if I was having a birthday party.
My handyman, shoveling and purging, dug out thousands of acorns burrowing deep into the dirt to stop them from growing into huge oak trees and tempting the birds to bury them in my walls. One morning I even ran out there with my cup of coffee and hair standing on end and tried talking to them, thinking, well, maybe I can actually get through. “Hey Red, can you give us a break around here?”
I was completely exhausted and needing a break, I lugged a bag of acorns along to meet a girlfriend at the pub. Tossing them on the bar, tangled, with long straggly, persistent roots, to prove this wasn’t just drama I pleaded, “see what I’ve been digging and hauling?” People sitting on both sides of us burst out laughing. I wasn’t trying to be funny, just desperate for empathy.
Two years later, I ran into the kind gardener who had taken some sacks of the acorns to plant on the charred and burnt hills after the terrible fires ravaged them. He said they were now erect and happily popping up all over the mountains! I grinned about the ordeal for the first time – my angst had become fodder for new growth on higher ground.
All life wants to renew itself, just like we do. The deer, bison, mice, spiders, bees, and tulips. But humans insist on hurting nature. Innocent creatures are tortured in laboratories, tusks torn from the lovely heads of living creatures. The glorious Tule Elk at Pt. Reyes are killed or starve because of unresolved human fence issues.
There’s a parallel between people’s inability to have intimacy and vulnerability which also engenders a lack of tenderness towards the earth and animals. As Barry Lopez, author of Horizon, says: “Lack of intimacy seems to cover a lot of the trouble we’re in. You can’t gain intimacy without vulnerability and you can’t have vulnerability without trust… There’s a wall there we can’t get through… I think you’ve got to address some of these things. It’s a part of your social responsibility.”
Human beings have a way to go to learn about caring for our world. I suppose I learned about the sensitivity of animals from my dear mother, now merged in the precious soil. Every Sunday she carried a big bag of bird seed to Nordstrom’s parking lot in Seattle to feed the pigeons. Mom loved them for their unruly reputation and their need to be free, much like us. We threw seeds while they surrounded us, sitting on our heads, we all chuckled together. The locals yelled, but Mom impatiently waved them away, just as belligerent as they were. We drove home joking about how humans were “for the birds.”
And you know, those pigeons never left droppings on us or our car.
Katy Byrne, LMFT, Psychotherapist in Sonoma, CA [email protected], 707.548.8982