Above and below

If the rain has to separate from itself
Does it say, “Pick out your cloud?”
Pick out your cloud

– Tori Amos, “Your Cloud”

Lyanda Lynn Haupt wrote in her book Crow Planet that “Many human activities are wholly ugly, working against the nature upon which we forget we depend. Still, we do not flip-flop back and forth, now in nature, now in culture, now feeling quite animal like, now wholly intellectual. We are, at all times, both at once. In this, humans may be unique, but we are not less natural. We are the human species, living in culture, bound by nature.”

Today we walked the dogs in Millbrae, just West of the San Francisco Airport, along the bay. To my right, small songbirds flit amongst the condoms, cigarettes, and tossed coffee cups, as tourists and business folk stand at the cement wall and watch the planes come in. We chat with whomever takes interest in our tall dogs. There is something easy about small talk, especially on a Sunday. We are all outside together.

To the East is the San Francisco Bay with its lovely shorebirds. Just down from the Benihana, in the marshes that make a cul de sac from bay water and the cement buttresses, stand three Snowy Egrets, one a parent and two fledglings. They are decidedly stoic, content to stand within the marshes and meditate, all the while silently preening. Then, the adult breeding Egret takes flight to most likely find fish for her loved ones.

I always wonder how the birds fair when situations aren’t idyllic. Each year, thousands of birds get tangled in our plastic bags or eat our trash, and most likely die slowly and silently. Also, in drought years, birds are forced to get creative about how to find water to drink. When someone wastes water washing their car, the crow down the street waits near the drain, and drinks it.

Though I couldn’t help but observe that our walk wasn’t absolutely beautiful it was what it was. The sky above, with its gulls, crows, and songbirds, and the ground below with the same, and egrets and grebes in the water. For me, those birds weren’t out there in nature…we were here together, sharing the same above and below. I maintain a sense of responsibility and respect among them. They are lucky — they don’t have to think or take action about the world and all its environmental tragedies, as the world changes around them they will either live or die.


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