Monday, June 12, 2017

Buzzards and Magnolias: Discovering Humanity in Nature

Photo courtesy of Mike Lewinski/Flickr

Driving to the grocery store and I spot a buzzard soaring near a strip mall. 

She dives, reverses and glides like a biplane in a flying circus. And I have to believe she is playing. Flying for the sake of flying. Because she can. 

Because she was designed to do it. 

Because it's delightful. 

The same reasons I like to sing and dance– though often I don't because maybe it's weird and maybe people will stare. Maybe I'm not all that good at it.

Watching the bird dip and sway and roll on those invisible sky waves gives me permission to sing and dance.

Does nature realize how wonderful it is?

Does it need to even?

Nature's all self-assured in its ballerina birds and lattice-work leaves and flowers that make painters fall apart trying to capture the exact shade of heaven. 


The giant magnolia tree in our new front yard is in bloom. When we first moved here it made me smile. There was a magnolia grandiflora in the front yard of the house I grew up in.

I find myself marveling at the flowers. The precise way the petals spoon around each other. How when they unfold the flowers are the size of a plate. The stamen the color of cranberries, crowned with an intricate lemony headpiece. How the bugs indulge in the pollen. I watched one beetle, completely enrobed in soft, golden pollen, roll among the creamy petals like a drunkard. Once the flowers bloom they only last a day or two before the petals become tea-stained, wilt and fall away. Nothing so perfect ever last forever, naturally.


I wish I could be like the vulture. Or the magnolia. Or the beetle living inside its divine embrace. I think we humans were meant to be this way. We're part of nature, too. We are all made of the same stuff. 

But we feel so apologetic about it. Or embarrassed by it. Or disdainful.

As if its unseemly or uncivilized to be ourselves.

Humans being our most human selves has become a thing of questionable importance almost. Maybe because it's difficult to quantify. It can't be predicted and put into a data set to be analyzed and used for marketing or product development. Or, maybe because it can and as a result self-expression and creativity feel pointless and unnecessary.

Which is frightening and unfortunate. It threatens our survival, I think. And it makes us devalue the lives all all the other species we share this planet with.

All the things we are doing that don't fill us– really fill our souls and bring us joy and peace– are unnatural. They separate us from the herd of natural beings of which the birds, beetles, flowers, trees and all the rest are part of.

Humans were meant to create. We were meant to tell the story of what happened here. It's what drives us to leave our mark. To carve our names on trees and etch pictures on rocks. To write poetry and novels and to build an internet filled with the history of everything and to keep digging and digging into what else there is to know. To unravel the story one discovery at a time. This is us.

This.

The rest? 

 It's just killing time. And sucking the purpose and meaning from our short lives here in the meantime.

I think about this as I watch what might be one of nature's ugliest birds dancing on the air like Anna Pavlova.

Go outside today. Explore this extraordinary world and rediscover your own extraordinary self. Then dance, sing, write, build, paint. Create, create, create.

Photo courtesy of Jesse Wagstaff/Flickr

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