It’s an uncharacteristically cool, windy and overcast morning, and we’re unlikely to get much above the low 70s on this late July day. as I write this.
Our mountain ash tree berries are already ample, abundant, and hanging heavily as compared to previous years living here. The berries, still a greenish-yellowish hue at the moment, alternatingly swayed, brushed and batted against the neighbor’s roof with last night’s winds, at times providing a soothing backdrop to sleep, at other times abruptly waking us up at odd hours.
It feels like fall is already in the air. Birds and squirrels seem to be picking up the pace again, whether it’s collecting and scavenging ripening apricots falling to the ground, or picking over the last of the cherries. Earlier this week, our cat Flo-Jo brought inside a mouse she had killed. We calmly thanked her, then wrapped and tossed her wild gift into the trash can, preferring to feed her “cat food” instead!
In nature, wildlife seems to know when it’s time to step up the pace, to take action, and to prepare for what’s to come.
If one thing’s not in abundance in a particular season or year, something else undoubtedly is. Grizzly bears roam far and wide in search of sustenance in Greater Yellowstone when summer and fall seeds from whitebark pine trees are scarce.
It’s hard to believe that such large omnivores, in good whitebark pine years, can get up to 20 percent of their proteins and carbohydrates from these seeds, and up to 30% of their needed fats. Grizzlies are also adept at raiding caches of whitebark pine nuts stashed by squirrels, so squirrels create multiple caches, knowing that some will inevitably feed Ursus arctos horribilis instead.
Then there’s the chickadee, which weighs next to nothing and lives in cold, harsh climates year-round in places such as Yellowstone.
I remember waiting for Old Faithful to erupt on numerous -20 to -40 F mornings, and in the stillness and silence of anticipation noticing small groups of chickadees emerging from nearby conifers, unflappably confident, upbeat and knowing their needs would be provided for once the sun had risen.
Of course, chickadees also have a back-up plan, that being stashing small caches of seeds between cracks and gaps in the bark of trees throughout their range. Thus on severe stormy winter days when little food’s to be found, they have reliable places to get what they need as well.
Some people say that certain animals such as birds, squirrels, and rats are natural hoarders, that their motivations are driven by avoiding scarcity.
I beg to differ.
They are preparing, they are taking action. They make sure they have enough going into the winter, they allow for contingencies. They likely don’t lose sleep-they wake up each morning knowing what needs to be done, and they’re flexible and adaptable depending on what they’re experiencing every day.
But they also don’t seem to take and grab everything they can find and leave nothing for others in nature. They probably don’t agonize or over-analyze what they’re doing, what they did, or what they might do. I doubt they lose any sleep over things, either!
In the human world, though, hoarding and stock-piling inevitably leads to clutter, which, like kudzu, seems to restrict our mobility, and our ability to seize opportunities that are happening in the moment. It leads to increasing paralysis and separation. It fuels cycles of greed, shortage, lack, distrust and fear. It leads to violence and destruction of communities worldwide.
Do we really need 64-pack toilet paper rolls from a big box store on hand in our already over-stocked homes? Do we really have to go after the last of the fossil and non-renewable fuels instead of embracing abundant and infinite supplies of solar and wind power?
Stockpiling, hoarding and other actions stemming from fear-based, scarcity mindsets have real consequences that impact the natural world, and future generations.
Let’s loop back for a moment to what’s happening with grizzly bears In Greater Yellowstone in particular.
In poor whitebark pine seed years, grizzlies are now way more likely to encounter an abundance of subdivisions in what were once rural valleys they roam in search of food to fatten themselves for long winters. They’re likely to find an abundance of garbage, gardens, orchards, pet food, and occasionally even pets and livestock as potential food sources. These habitats that once provided an insurance policy or back-up plan in poor food years are now gauntlets of death and conflict for bears, other wide-ranging wildlife, and their human neighbors.
It’s fine and easy to have and create an abundant life. Nature shows us this in myriad ways, no matter where our feet are.
But creating and sustaining true abundance requires compassion and vigilance, making sure that that someone or something else’s right to thrive is not diminished or destroyed in the process. Something wild and priceless disappears when we neglect that, when we forget that we are all one. Future generations are robbed and looted when we act out of fear, scarcity, distrust and separation.
I know I am not alone on this, but grizzlies are what make Montana, Wyoming and Idaho’s back country vastly different from, say Colorado’s, for example. There’s something powerful and palpable knowing you’re in a place where you’re potentially part of the food chain-not the other way around.
There’s also a profound sense of awe and humility involved in respecting, protecting and allowing for grizzlies and other wild creatures to thrive, and not just survive, in this world, and maybe even to expand their range again in the Lower 48 states.
In the meantime, grizzlies are largely relegated to several island-like areas of varying protection south of the Canadian boundary. Politicians and government agencies in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming are openly and publicly talking about de-listing the grizzly as an Endangered Species, and allowing for an annual hunting “harvest” (their words) in these states.
Again I beg to differ.
Conservationist and visionary Aldo Leopold remarked on similar challenges several generations back:
“There seems to be a tacit assumption that if grizzlies survive in Canada and Alaska, that is good enough. It is not good enough for me…Relegating grizzlies to Alaska is about like relegating happiness to heaven; one may never get there.”
There’s infinite, incalculable wisdom in being good stewards, and in restoring and healing the natural world in places where we can.
It seems like the only sane path moving forward for all of us-grizzlies included-to thrive.
If we follow a more self-centered and fearful path instead, decreasing numbers of people may still experience abundance for a while.
Yet they too will feel impoverished, and longing for that wild, wise and loving part of us we intentionally extinguished.
I’d love to hear how this article resonated with you-thanks for contacting me to share your thoughts.
It’d be awesome to hear what you’re doing to simplify and de-clutter to bring greater meaning and focus to what you desire to create in your life.
I really appreciate your time reading this longer than normal posting.
It speaks so much to the rapid growth and transformation I am experiencing in my own life through deeper and more consistent connection with the natural world, but also to the powerful, positive and accelerated results my clients are experiencing as well!