Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Berries and More

The mulberries on the mulberry trees are dwindling now... fewer and fewer berries each day.  But what a feast it has been for the past month and a half!  I've never seen so many mulberries... and the birds love them so... as do some of the dogs!  They actually 'graze' around the base of the trees and happily munch fallen berries.  Such economy in nature.  And I notice that the birds always leave a few within easy reach every day, so I can enjoy them too. 

Blackberries have been in full swing for a couple of weeks now.  I've made endless pies and crisps for family and friends.  And my ever-bearing strawberries are now yielding again.  Such abundance!  There are always a few blackberries with holes in them from bird beaks... I leave those for the birds to finish.  And I always leave the low-hanging ones for smaller creatures.  In the strawberry patch, turtles and mice feast along with a giant preying mantis who patrols the plants like a guardian angel, looking for smaller bugs to feast on.  The birds pretty much leave the strawberries alone, preferring the wild blackberries and mulberries that are everywhere.

Why all this berry talk?  Besides the fact that I have been picking berries everyday and have them on the brain?  Well, the berry patches and mulberry trees here in Sanctuary provide a huge lesson in how the world really works.  Wall Street may think world markets thrive on competition and self-centeredness... but I can see that this is a distortion of how the world works, based on the belief that there is a limited supply, and that we have to take all we can before it's gone.  Like we view fossil fuels, or a real estate boom, or any other economic opportunity in our world... it's take, take, take... eat or be eaten.

Actually, there is a natural rhythm and sharing, if we step back and observe.  There is plenty for everybody, including the rodents and insect pests (the ones that make it past the preying mantis!).  I never spray, I never cover anything with nets, and there is always abundance and balance.  All my neighbors (the ones who protect their gardens and spray everything in sight for insects) have been complaining about grackles and Japanese beetles.  But though there may be a few here and there, they don't really diminish the abundance of berries (or any other vegetable).  Even my roses look good, in spite of the fact that Japanese beetles love to munch their blooms. 

Could it really be so simple?  Could it be that if we respect and embrace all of life, and go with the flow of life instead of battling it, that we are actually included in the abundance and sharing that goes on effortlessly?  Could it be that if we look with larger eyes, the eyes of the large Self that Deep Ecologist Arne Naess wrote about, then we come to know our Self as part of the whole?

According to Naess, every living being, whether human, animal, or vegetable (including fruits!) has a vital and equal need and right to live and grow and blossom.  And it is only when we yield to the flow of the large Self that we (and all of life) experience ourselves as a natural part of the whole, in a natural rhythm and harmony.

Life in Sanctuary is not just altruism.  It's by living in the flow and harmony of life that we return to sanity and oneness.  Loving the plants and animals and people, loving the changing and ever-flowing abundance and variety of life is as necessary and vital to our planetary well-being as economics.  Berries and more berries... that's the way of life well-lived. 

Monday, July 12, 2010

Letting Go...

Life in Sanctuary is a microcosm for the rest of the world.  Animals come here to live in safety and harmony, in as close to a natural setting as possible.  We are a family here, and like all families we have to learn to let go.

Sometimes it's a mother cat, learning to let go of her kittens, as one of them dies, or as they learn to fend for themselves, or as I take them to be spayed or neutered.  Sometimes it's one of the older animals passing on, in the natural rhythm of forms that come and go.  Sometimes it's watching the 200 year old elm tree lose more branches each year, as it gracefully yields itself to the earth.  And sometimes it's counseling pet owners who can no longer keep their animals, and are struggling with letting go.  I have to let go of wanting to rescue, and simply be with them in the natural rhythm of their life choices.  I have to trust that there is an order to things, and that whatever happens, it all works for good. 

I remember the first time I really understood the wisdom of animals.  I was very young, and my grandfather was aggravated at a cat.  He was unfailingly kind to animals, but this cat got into the milk while he was milking a cow.  So he picked her up and tossed her away.  She landed gracefully, and sat and gazed at him, blinking to show non-aggression.  She didn't hold it against him.  Animals naturally let go from one minute to the next, naturally trusting the organic flow of life, even when it appears cruel.  Nothing is what it appears.  Life is unfailingly kind, unfailingly giving, unfailingly flowing and renewing if we can learn the art of letting go.  This cat sat patiently, completely unfazed, letting go and trusting the situation.  And when he was done milking, grandpa gave her a big dish of cream. :-)

Life is like that.  And offering Sanctuary to animals has given me this gift, something I didn't learn from my family, who never let go of anything or anyone!  To my surprise, I find that all true joy comes from this relaxed awareness and trust, even in the face of challenges.  The flow of life naturally takes us back to joy when we learn the art of letting go...