Death is Nature

The warm light from the morning spring sun spread over the bay and the mountains like gold dust. The snow up above the tree line was slowly disappearing, the edges of every little ravines and crevasses turning to black – I have always loved the mountains at this time of the year, the contrast of the imagery so dramatic. Everything was magical. The musical notes from a nearby Pacific wren echoed across the bay playing a melody that just reinforced this empyrean moment. As if on cue, a doe and its one year old fawn came out of the woods and started walking onto the beach. The bay was a vast tide flat with a long sand bar that almost geographically cut the bay in two. The tide was rising and soon this landscape of mud, gravel and wet grass would disappear and transform itself. A world dominated by walking and flying creatures would become a world where the ones who can swim rule.

Song of a Pacific Wren

The doe walked confident, heading for the tip of the sand bar while the fawn seemed hesitant as the water got closer and the sand path narrower. As they reached the point, I stared, curious to see what they would do – go back, swim perpendicular and head to the beach or swim straight ahead and cross to the other side of the bay. To my surprise the doe simply stayed on course aiming for the shore across. In the water and having swam half of the distance, the young deer stopped and turned around – doubting its capacity to make the short crossing. Looking through my binoculars, I witnessed the distance between the two increase as the mother stayed on her course. Realizing that its attempt to change the course of action hadn’t produced the goal intended, the fawn turned again bearing across, now trailing far behind its mother. While the head of the mother rose above the water, now her feet reaching the bottom, the head of the young deer disappeared and went under. The doe, after shaking the water off her body, scanned the water in search of the little one – so was I through my binoculars. After more than 15 minutes of finding nothing, it became evident that the fawn had drowned. Its mother waited on the shore for another 20 minutes until it slowly walked into the woods, stopping twice and looking back searching for any sign of life. Basking under the sun, the Pacific wren still enchanting my ears, my hands wrapped around a warm cup of tea, the serenity still permeating the air, I closed my eyes, relaxed and humble, reminded of the true nature of life. Death is an intricate and essential part of life and nature. In the wilderness it surrounds me and is everywhere I look. Yet, where there is death, life abounds. One can’t exist without the other.

“… Nature is not cruel, only pitilessly indifferent. This is one of the hardest lessons for humans to learn. We cannot admit that things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply callous – indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose.” Richard Dawkins ~ River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life

I have written many times of our dysfunctional and gooey perception of nature.

“As much as we want to categorize, compartmentalize, judge, humanize, and beautify nature, for me the “wild” is only one thing – real. Everything is what it is. There are no right or wrong, no bad or good, no judgement. Nothing is pretty, nothing is ugly. A dead tree has as much value as a living one. A fire will benefit some while it will kill others. The prey does everything it can to survive, as does the predator. There are no winners, no losers. No one is more important, yet everyone is connected and interdependent. Nothing is perfect – evolution is this endless chaotic yet harmonious dance where each adjust to the other, over long long long periods of time. Species adapt or disappear. Continents break while others sink. Still, every morning, the sun rises and brings with it life. And even if this sun stops to shine, another one, somewhere else in this huge universe will illuminate another world.” STRIPPED

“Nature is raw, rough, a struggle, a fight, cruel, deadly, strong, destructive, intimidating and yes also amazing, beautiful, relaxing, humbly, and inspirational. Above it all though, it is resilient and a source of priceless teachings. It teaches you about perspective and reminds you that life is not about Us, that there is something bigger than Us, mere little humans. It teaches you about the costs of life, about sacrifices and what it takes to survive. Try to understand what it means for a species to spend most of its life and energy giving birth to hundreds of thousands, even millions, just to have a handful of survivors. While all the dead ones are essential to support a complex food chain that makes this great biodiversity inhabiting the planet possible. There is nothing sad about this because this is life.” WRONG IDEA OF NATURE

“By being so physically disconnected from it, we have totally forgotten what nature really is all about. We even go as far as to personalizing it, characterizing it as a female, “Mother Nature”. This concept of singularity simply doesn’t exist. In the natural world, both constructive and destructive forces are essential. Both the attack and the defense are crucial for survival.” NATURE IS NOT IN YOUR COMPUTER

Nature gives and takes life, it creates and destroys, lifts you up and pins you down, inspires you and depresses you. And this habit of constantly referring to nature as “Mother Nature” totally nauseates me. In fact I truly believe that it sits at the core of what is wrong with our relationship with the world around us and the planet Earth. We see everything separated and unrelated instead of connected and interdependent. We are not nature. Nature is not us. Nature is an entity separated from us. Within nature, we categorize and isolate the elements and the species or create gods and goddesses at our image, so to make sense of what is bigger, bringing everything down to our level – putting the Human as the most important single denominator, the reference to which everything in the universe is compared to. Once we saw the planet earth as the center of the solar system, now we are the center of the universe, of life and of evolution.

The word “nature” derives from Latin nātūra, a philosophical term from the verb for birth, which was used as a translation for the earlier Ancient Greek term phusis which comes from the verb for natural growth. The personification of nature is nothing new but the Greeks were extremely influential for inculcating the myth – Gaia, the great mother of all, the primal Greek Mother Goddess; creator and giver of birth to the Earth and all the Universe; Demeter, the goddess of the harvest, who presided over grains and the fertility of the earth. So in that matter we associated nature primarily with its ability to give and nurture, leaving the “negative” stuff to other gods, usually of male figure. I am not saying that nature is not caring, cute and lovely but it is surely not what defines it. Nature is this dynamic world that surrounds us, it is life, it is a mix of powerful energies that encompasses everything – us included.

A dead Guanaco on the Valdes Peninsula in Argentina
A dead Guanaco on the Valdes Peninsula in Argentina

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