The Djibouti ants never doubted. They live onward in their organized way, their society focused on a communal thriving, perhaps in the same way the necessary microbial communities in your own intestines are. Cell boundaries, exoskeletal boundaries, colony groups, all real enough, but never enough to define the outer limits of a life. Nested into larger and larger systems, the ants belong. Would we deny them the consciousness of knowing the species that evolved alongside them across 45 million years or more?
An ant is sick, or old, or maybe born into a drought year without enough grass seed. The colony must find balance, and surely they recognize the one who balances. Is their word for ELEPHANTULUS REVOILII a sound? Unlikely–but a chemical exuded, then detected as scent or sensation can certainly count as identification. Or maybe, like bees sharing the route to fresh nectar, they dance the name of the beast with the hose-nose designed to vacuum up ants.
“Science” lost track of this particular elephant shrew, who not only shares a sensitive proboscis but also a genetic history with elephants and aardvarks. Djibouti ecologist Houssein Rayaleh, like the local ants, had no idea that wali sandheer was missing, though the last scientific record of this charismatic microfauna was from 1968. He helped organize an expedition and live-trapping research, and even he was surprised when genetic testing resulted in a new genus for the Somali sengi.
“Humans have cut themselves off from nature, even though nature has nourished them and continues to nourish them,” says Rayaleh. Science knows now that these sengis communicate with foot-drumming, sharing insights about their relationships with food, shelter, each other. In our increasingly technological world, remembering and reconnecting within the repeating holarchies of a single planetary life may be the only way for our species to find ourselves.
Of course the world turns on diversity: part of earth’s life forms breathe in oxygen, send extra carbon dioxide back into air, and the other part breathes in that carbon dioxide, splits it up to make calories out of sunlight and to send oxygen into the air. Every in-breath, every out-breath, we are in intricate interconnection with rooted beings.
What do i have to offer this incredible planet in reciprocity for what is shared with me? Sometimes, i think, nothing. And yet: i have ears. Like the burro’s, my ears can amplify what they hear, partly through empathy, and partly through a voice that echoes thru my one permeable body. It may reach a limited area, but what voice i have will rise above those who use their silence as a tool to amplify ignorance. Consider using your voice as a gift, as a way to amplify others’. We are only safe when we risk standing together.
The fruit bushes we planted here have begun to bring so many birds. A Wilson’s warbler was new to me this spring. We feel so much excitement to learn about a new winged neighbor. More discomfiting, a new perspective we may prefer not to hear. In these days of deep despair for many in the U.S., i wanted to share this video–bird watchers who may have different perspectives, but whose love for birds, indeed for our shared LIFE, can lift and broaden us all.
The Wyoming Arts Council manages two writing awards for private supporters of the arts–people who make personal investments in public creative effort. This year my own work will benefit from that generosity. A trio of pieces from a collection in progress i call Familiar: stories earned the Neltje Blanchan Memorial award for writing “informed by a relationship with the natural world.”
The trio included two flash pieces, “Flip” and “Horizontal” along with a longer story, “Two-and-a-Half” all set in a local triangle of western Wyoming and southeastern Idaho locations. The Wind River Range, the Wyoming Range and the Grays Lake National Wildlife Refuge all bring their immense presence into these stories, and i thank them for their generosity as well.
Spring melt and social meltdown might seem in synchrony this year. Global pandemic, climate crisis, 6th great extinction…while up close and personal, our evenings see us hauling hay and water across rotting snow, or where we must cross the driveway, slogging mud. Not easy, and some might complain.
But really? Last week our first mountain bluebirds arrived, early female scouts not as bright as the one pictured, slipping among brief hatches of soft insects. i can’t find it in me NOT to love spring. Falling down reminds me of being a kid. If no one’s looking, i’ll jump in the mud and listen to it gurgle when my boots try to leave. Spring loves me too, and challenges me to broader perspectives.
Where else are challenges pushing us to love our planet? The expansion of the Gobi Desert can partly be blamed on urban smog; deforestation, overgrazing and water depletion all quicken the pace of desertification, adding to air quality deterioration. Dust storms increase, affecting 5 Asian countries. A cornucopia of toxic pollutants, including heavy metals, viruses, herbicides and more, often accompany the storms.
By 2014, solar panels covered about three times as much of the Gobi as three years earlier. And by April 2015, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), China’s capacity from solar panels was over 33 GW. Critically endangered wild Bactrian camels (C. ferus) in the Gobi might benefit from these efforts to cut fossil fuel emissions.
Melting seasons, with all their challenges, carry us into the future.
To study the constituent parts of literary works and thereby understand not just the techniques of creative writers but also the ways their works act upon us as readers…no doubt that study will reveal worthy elements of interest. As with anything, i suspect these elements provide only partial glimpses at a supremely layered truth. To layer meaning upon the mysteries of narrative, to taste the emotive power of art–read literary works with an openness to your own response. Sure, a doctor can tell you that humid air is better for a person living with a harsh cough, but only once you’re out with the hound walking through gray air, its moisture painting your forehead, will you understand this healing. In a way that doesn’t stop at the back of your throat, but which seeps deeper, much closer to your heart.
An anthology of poetry gathered by S.E. Reichert, author of The Beautiful Stuff Blog, includes layers from different perspectives, offered to readers from different experiences as gifts to help us embrace our creaturely selves, and each other. Two of my recent poems are included, drops in this vast ocean of sound, smell and touch.
Like good ole flying Dumbo the elephant, i imagine if i had these ears, my travels would entail no fossil fuels, no greenhouse gas emissions. i wandered across info about this endangered little creature at a website called EDGE. The EDGE of Existence program focuses on threatened species that represent unique evolutionary histories. The long-eared jerboa of Mongolia, like that desert’s Bactrian camel, bears the uneasiness of fitting the criteria. This intriguing rodent is the only member of its subfamily, Euchoreutina. A shout out here to Russian photographer Valeriy Maleev, a CNN Wildlife Photographer of the Year (2019), whose work inspired me to ‘travel’ the web for news of this little planetary companion, so far away.
At the Edge website, i also ‘met’ a conservationist named Madhushri, or Maddie, currently studying an Indian dancing frog with an EDGE fellowship. She promotes the many values of travel, with an emphasis on ethical ecotourism. She blogs at Girl Gone Birdzz, and i was inspired–out of the blue–to write her, a small recognition of her passion and its worth to the world. On this day celebrating ‘love’ one choice is to connect with a stranger whose values you honor and whose work you can help ripple into this one world we all love, together.
A short story called Bull was just awarded an Honorable Mention in Cutthroat: a journal of the arts (cutthroatmag.com). It will be published in an upcoming issue. These are always beautifully put together, with stories i’ve admired, and i am honored to have my work in such a quality endeavor.
The story features an Appaloosa mare named Pia, who helps her person, Milo, be both more courageous and more creative. Theirs is an eco-prankster tale that was my rewritten version of several disturbing bits of actual news. C’mon people, let’s practice turning some of the bad news around!
SE Reichert generously shares her public writing space at The Beautiful Stuff blog to help other writers reach new readers, and to help her readers discover new writers. This is a poem i first read at a small gathering in Howth, Ireland, in response to a challenge from author Breena Clarke to follow our readings of resistance literature with some writing of our own.
Reichert also finds–somehow, without fail–the most wonderful illustrations for her posts. A visual feast, in keeping with the title of her blog. So dig in and read deep beyond today’s offering for some soul sustenance.