by Bob Neale
“When we hear his call we hear no mere bird. We hear the trumpet in the orchestra of evolution. He is the symbol of our untamable past, of that incredible sweep of millennia which underlies and conditions the daily affairs of birds and men.” -- Aldo Leopold.
I’m struggling to put down my iPhone and the ridiculous little news app I’ve been staring at for days … weeks … maybe months, as I try to glean meaning from our political tea leaves, the pundits’ sound bites, and the tweets from the politosphere. Sigh … the true outcome of our elections may not be known for years as the decisions of people so often affect the future more than the present. Looking out the car window, the smoky air is re-traumatizing. Horns, truck tires bouncing over potholes and racing internal combustion engines are filling the spaces between ash and light. My head is imploding; I can’t find a clear thought.
To the marsh, then, to bird tweets and water and nature, to the present. In nature I believe that humans look for their spirit and nourish it, can confront their humanity, can be simple and seek answers to the complex. Well, at least I can … I suppose I should be humbler and not speak for humanity. As I walk into the marsh, the busy street behind me quiets down and more natural sounds come forward … stilts screech, maybe the odd croak of the great blue heron, a phoebe calls. Further into the marsh, further into the subtler sounds, the slight splashing of green-winged teals as they stand on their heads and feed. The sound pulls me into sight. Ripples of water, the reflections of grasses and plants overhanging the banks. Like Aldo, I search for comfort in names … is that pickleweed, over there grindelia? Further into the marsh, I’m aware of my breathing, that I’ve stopped holding my breath and I am breathing. I welcome the simple animal that I am, a mammal breathing air. Turning down the volume of my human thoughts, I become my eyes and ears and skin, feel more animal — like those around me — the volume is reduced and peace settles over me.
After a few minutes, my human thoughts start coming back, more ordered and peaceful, and I am able to ponder the sweep and conditions of our daily affairs, of birds and people. I am so grateful to live America with our currently clunky democracy. I am so grateful to live in the Bay Area with my tribes of nature lovers and human lovers. I am so grateful for the voters of Sonoma County passing Measure M, using our votes and voices to protect our natural lands, care for these special places, and provide each of us with the places to retreat to so that we may listen to the orchestra of evolution and to consider our place in the affairs of nature and humanity. In this beautiful marsh, today, I am grateful.
Bob Neale is stewardship director for Sonoma Land Trust.
Sonoma Land Trust is a local nonprofit based in Santa Rosa, CA, that conserves scenic, natural, agricultural and open lands in Sonoma County for the benefit of the community and future generations. This blog focuses on SLT's stewardship team, whose members do hands-on work to directly protect, restore, and safeguard the land for generations to come.