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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Fox Tracks (Part 2)

This continues from my earlier post: Fox Tracks

Do we care about those unseen others, our great-grandchildren and generations yet to be born? Do we owe them a chance to live in beauty, to enjoy a secluded hike in the mountains, to drink clean water, and clean air to breathe?

These children are unseen too, but just because we can't see them in our time doesn't mean they won't be here soon. A few human generations -- 60 to 100 years -- may seem like an eternity to us, so far away that we can't conceptualize that time. But it's only the blink of an eye in the history of our own species, or of life on this planet.

You might not think it's important to answer these ethical questions now -- let our kids deal with what's to come. That's what was done to us, after all. But down this road is a perilous journey for our kind.

It's my belief that it's time we all develop empathy and compassion for the future inhabitants of Earth. Part of this harkens back to love too -- not just loving those around us now, but those we cannot see. Those animals who share our world. People on the other side of the world from us. The generations yet to be born. Jesus and the Buddha and other spiritual teachers taught love for everyone, first and foremost. I argue that this doesn't mean to people simply in our own time, but for the future, too.

If we try to extend love to them as if they exist right now, with us, what could happen? I believe we can do anything we set our hearts and minds to, including keeping the planet healthy and beautiful for centuries to come.

We are at a critical point where we can start planning and taking action on behalf of future humanity, as well as the other humans and animals who inhabit Earth now. I believe it's part of our spiritual ethic of compassion to leave the world better than we found it. And some have made great strides toward this: cleaning the air, waterways, and toxic dumps.

But we can continue to do more.

Those little foxes in the park will likely be OK. But what can I do, now, even in a small way, to make things a little better for future generations?

- Limit my family size
- Live more simply ("Need" less stuff)
- Support local, organic agriculture
- Avoid processed foods
- Drive less
- Eat less and exercise, outside, in nature
- Volunteer for conservation or humanitarian organizations

The little fox who graced this meadow last night won't know if we did anything to make a difference in his life. The generations of humans yet to come probably won't know our individual contributions  either. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't do something. There is beauty in taking positive action for the good of others, anonymously. In the end, taking action is all that matters.

Further up the trail, the tracks of a pair of foxes appear out of the blinding white snow. Side-by-side, they trotted along the creek bed, probably mates. It's the time of year for foxes to den up and start another family. I like to imagine this little couple, cloaked in their red fur, trotting along the creek bed in the silvery moonlight, or perhaps through softly falling snow.

A pair.  Trotting side-by-side in their journey through their lives, together.

All content copyright Nancy Rynes, 2015. Please read disclaimer and Legal Notes here.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Fox Tracks (Part 1)

Feb. 1, 2015  Steamboat Springs, Colorado

(This post relates to a chapter in my new book, Awakenings from the Light, that deals with reverence for the Earth and all of its creatures.)

Snow fell overnight.

Across the entire valley, a new coating of white powder drapes the land. Not much snow, but just enough to reveal an entire world that most people never witness.

I start out along a creek on a trail set aside for people like me. I prefer the quiet and relative calm of cross country skiing, avoiding the hectic, steep slopes so popular with alpine skiers and snowboarders. It's early morning and the trail is quiet except for the sliding SHUSH sound of my skis. I'm alone for now. The new snow glistens in the warm, morning sunlight. Gleaming white, with little glints of sparkle from individual snowflakes. The snow's surface looks as though someone scattered small diamonds on it.

The bare, warm-white trunks of aspen guard the trail to either side of me, and the sky burns a deep, cobalt blue through their treetops. The bare aspen tips look almost golden against that impossibly blue sky. The only sounds I hear are the soft gurgling of the stream as it tumbles over rocks and under berms of snow, the obnoxious-sounding cry of a magpie winging overhead, and the soft gliding sound of my skis on the new snow.

Onward, past a stand of tall, mature spruce and out into a meadow. Get away from the creek a bit and its music fades into a soft background chorus. The new snow in the meadow is a canvas upon which a fox painted his tales of wandering and hunting through the night. I stop and try to decode what I'm seeing. Across the trail, from right to left he trotted, dainty little feet barely denting the fresh snow. He pauses. A mouse? Little footprints tell me he walked quickly to the right and paused again. I can imagine him stopping for several moment in silence, cocking his head to the right, left, then right again, listening for dinner scurrying under the snow.

After a while of no success, returns around and trots in a tight zigzag across the little meadow. Still looking for dinner. Finally, his tracks fade off into the maze of a grove of aspen and I lose his movement among the white bark of tree trunks.

I marvel at this little representative of the wild living nicely in a park at the edge of town. Multi-million dollar homes dot the hillsides around the park but that's not enough human activity to deter this little guy. He makes his rounds at night, waiting until most people head off to sleep for a few hours. But in the cold of the night, under Orion's watchful gaze, this little red fox searches for dinner to feed himself and his family.

An entire world of animals lives out their lives at night while we sleep. Mostly unseen, they skirt our towns, venture in along fencerows, creeks, and roadsides. They hunt our yards and woods, raid our garbage cans, and make homes in our abandoned buildings.

Just because we can't see them doesn't mean they're not around. And just because we can't see them doesn't mean we don't owe them a decent chance to live their lives unencumbered by threats from us. We're newcomers here, making wholesale changes to the landscape, wetlands, and air to suit our own short-lived whims.

The fox and the barn owl and the bobcat live within our sphere of influence, now. They make a living as best they can with the effects of us all around them. And with ever-more people needing places to live and food to eat, these other citizens of the Earth that share our space get pushed out or crowded together.

And what about the other people on this planet, the ones we don't see, those living on the other side of the world? Many try to eke out their survival from abject poverty, wondering how they're going to feed yet another new baby in the family.

To be continued...

All content copyright Nancy Rynes, 2015. Please read disclaimer and Legal Notes here.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Refining and Redefining A Life

Feeling a need to get outside on another gorgeous, sunny, winter day, I checked in with my intuition. Should I hike along a lake and to a Prairie Dog colony? Or would my soul feel better with a walk through a meadow, or perhaps the edge of a pine forest? My heart, instead, leads me to a trail destroyed in the floods of September 2013 -- the Coal Creek Trail in Lafayette, Colorado.

I set out on foot from the newly-rebuilt parking area at the southern end of town. It took over a year for the city to rebuild this section of trail and I waited impatiently for work to commence. Other roads, bridges, and bike paths took precedence though. But today I finally have a chance to see the changes that Nature brought to Coal Creek.

Walking west from the parking area, I immediately notice the creek bed and floodplain appear surprisingly changed. Driftwood and debris that once choked the creek are gone, leaving a sense of light and spaciousness in the little woods along the waterway.

A new "pond" along Coal Creek

The creek channel itself is quite different too. New gravel brought down from the mountains during the flood creates bars, rapids, and beaches. The floodwaters cut off old channels and created new ones. Small ponds interrupt and slow down the water where there once was only swiftly moving current. These ponds provide new habitat for small fish, crustaceans, kingfishers, herons, and other animals. In some areas where the land's slope flattens, the stream fans out into much smaller braided channels interrupted by little islands of vegetation. A good home for frogs.

The old trails dead ends into a new pond.

A mile west of my starting point, the old trail leads off to the left and dead-ends into a new, tiny pond. During the rebuilding of the trail, the city crews rerouted the new path off to the right and away from the creek. I silently thank the them for being respectful of Nature's changes in moving the trail to a safer area. They could have simply reengineered the trail along the old route by filling in the pond, but instead they left the pond alone and put the trail on higher ground. Easier and economical, yes, to put the path in a new location, but we humans don't always take the best path for Nature even when it's the easier one. In this case, though, the economical choice is good for both us and Nature.

As I continue my walk, I mull over the parallels of this newly-redefined creek to my own life.

Hard times give Nature a chance to clear out the old and start afresh. Coal Creek has been renewed and redefined as a result of a disaster. Nature cleaned out the old creek bed during the flood and reformed and redefined the stream channel and its ecosystem. The disaster gave life a chance to change and flourish again.

The stream didn't have a choice in the matter, though. The disaster of the flood forced the redefinition of the creek. But given a chance, Nature heals its own scars quite beautifully.

I realize that I am doing the same right now. My life has changed greatly in the last year and I am in the process of redefining who I am in the wake of that change. My motivations and drivers for living are drastically different. What once was important to me no longer means much, and I find more comfort now in the simple joys of being outside, helping others, and loving. Finding my soul in Nature is important in my life now. Seeking spiritual guidance from Spirit out among the mountains, trees, and prairies brings joy into my heart.

I still struggle with my changing idea of what "fulfillment" entails these days. It used to be that successful projects in the office gave me a sense that my life was important, a sense of being "fulfilled." Now my sense of fulfillment is in transition. Writing about spirituality and Nature feels important and fulfilling. Creating a painting that celebrates my view of Nature fills a void that no amount of perfectly working computer code can. Helping others, and extending love, feels satisfying and right in a way I can't explain.

But I'm only a year into these life changes and a part of me still feels the need to be a productive member of society. I know I am changing my own personal view of what "productive" means, though. It feels impactful and positive for me to be a voice for Nature and Spirit through my artwork and writing. While society may not agree with my own assessment of productivity and fulfillment, I realize that the only person I need to please is myself. If I feel as though I'm living a life of fulfillment, even if it's outside the norms of society, then it's the right life for me.

In a broader sense, we humans may face disasters in our lives too. Divorce, breakups, death, job changes, injuries, and illnesses can overturn the comfortable routine of our lives and force us to consider what's really important. Unlike Nature, though, we can choose how, or if, to use these challenges to reshape and refine our sense of self and our lives.

Some may choose to ignore the opportunity and soldier on, attempting to stay within the perceived comfort zone of what was or what society thinks is right. Others may sense the gifts inherent in the difficulty: the gifts of opportunity, of insight, of contemplation, and the ability to refine, or redefine, who we are and what's important.

All content copyright Nancy Rynes, 2015. Please read disclaimer and Legal Notes here.