I won’t be banding birds on Thanksgiving, but I will plant the last few trees of the year. And while I do so I’ll think about my family, the people in our community who appreciate trees, the people who support our nature center, and the beings of the forest we are working to re-create. With the hope that we can better learn to appreciate both each other and nature as well.
The things for which I am thankful may be slightly different than those of most people, based on experience. Yesterday when we were banding birds at the nature center, I was grateful to hold a small, soft, warm junco in my hand as I measured it and placed the band on its leg. Then I was thankful to release the bird and watch it fly into the nearby spruce trees- it did not belong to me and it needed to be free to spend the winter here before migrating back north in the spring to nest. When you feel the vibration of its rapid heart beat and look into it’s deep brown eyes you realize that it is a being unto its own, and that your encounter with it is a fleeting gift which can be held in length only in your memory. Our hope is that someday against the odds someone else will also hold this bird, and tell where it traveled and how long it lives.
If you are thoughtful and aware, you realize that this one bird is a very small part of an enormous ecosystem filled with many other beings- animals of all sorts, flowers, trees, fungi- all playing a specific role in a very big world. But not infinitely big- we’ve demonstrated time and time again how we, above all other creatures, can foul things up. But in many cases, given just a little encouragement and repair, nature seeps back in to at least try to re-establish its former self.
Nature starts with plants, and establishing even a small patch of native plants will provide a home for insects or other small creatures, and by linking such places we can build habitats that can become landscapes, even if we are living there, too. People who recognize the value of such places, the plants and the animals, provide a service to others both human and non-human.