Upon waking,
I watch a Cottontail rabbit
munching in the yard,
hopping, munching,
hopping, munching.
This is its world,
and I watch it
make the morning round it,
before it goes out of sight
along the row of cedars to the south.
A Mockingbird couple
flitters in and out of the Pecan tree.
Doves are landing in the tree too.
I will carefully look for evidence
of nests
This is the tree where I watched Scissortailed Flycatchers
raise a family
the first year I was back
in their neighborhood.
I know the bird couples
like their privacy.
Last evening,
as we lingered at table
after supper on the porch,
our guest, Jonathon Wooley,
told the story of his encounter
with a bird called a Nene
(“nay-nay,” which is also their call)
whose neighborhood is Haleakala,
an extinct volcano on the island of Maui.
Jonathon and his brother Stephen
are naturalists
leading a workshop here tonight and tomorrow
on the primitive skills our ancestors developed.
Jonathon and Stephen learned how to pay attention
to the natural world
from Tom Brown,
a tracker and naturalist in New Jersey.
As Stephen writes:
“Through the ancient teachings passed from generation to generation across nearly all continents, we truly came to understand what it is to live with the Earth, before we learned to live in opposition to it.”
Here to prepare for the workshop,
Jonathon last evening enchanted us
with his story about collecting water
at a water spout on Haleakala
before a hike.
Somehow, a Nene (a native Hawaiian goose)
got between him and his water bottles
and Jonathon had to read the bird’s body language
to know when to take his next careful step.
It was an amusing and awe-inspiring story
about respecting the bird:
learning to wait for a non-threatening moment
to move non-threateningly the next few inches
toward recovering the water bottles.
Jonathon and Erica Moore,
a recent University of Central Oklahoma
Outdoor and Community Recreation grad
interning with us for the summer,
exchanged stories of their encounters
in the natural world.
And this morning,
as I watched the rather tame rabbit and birds,
I recalled last evening’s stories of Jonathon’s and Erica’s adventures
and felt immense gladness
and relief.
Even as they were absorbed
in storytelling,
they paused when they heard a Cowbird call,
noticed the golden light of the golden hour,
the coolness of the air falling across the porch.
These two young people
are among many we’ve met
who have a deep-felt respect,
sense of wonder
and passion for
the natural world
and are committing themselves
to living in it
in a way that promotes
a healthy life for all.
It is humbling
(how we wanted to be the ones,
but weren’t, so much)
and thrilling
to know these young people—
some of the many in the generation
coming into adulthood now
who have the commitment,
hold the values
and are learning the skills
that can save the planet.