The ruminations of an artist on art & life...art quilts, beading, knitting, drawing, painting, printmaking, bookmaking are all my passions, I love to explore creating....

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

This I believe.....


I have long thought that much of what ails our world is our modern culture's dis-connection with nature. I grew up in Alaska, where I "talked" with the old raven who lived in the trees around our house--in fact, as a child, I just thought everyone talked with the animals in their lives. I really had no idea that most people did not live in such close proximity to the wilderness and wild animals---I just took the nature and wildness that surrounded me for granted.

At age 9, I spent one whole summer trying to catch one big trout in a creek near our house--using string and hook baited with fresh salmon eggs. When I finally hooked this trout, I was moved by some mysterious compassion to gently unhook the trout and return him to the creek. I lived in small town, where the kids were pretty much free to roam wherever we wanted, and we thought nothing of taking off into the woods to explore...where we found natural caves, berries to eat, and had occasional encounters with the squirrels, eagles, ravens, otters, deer and bears. To this day I am still more comfortable in the woods than on a city street.

As an adult in college I wrote a paper about an encounter with a wild animal in the wilderness, and when the prof wrote on the paper "You are very fortunate for having this experience." it finally sunk in to me that most people in the U.S. have not experienced real wilderness---let alone lived in the wilderness, or encountered a bear in the wild.

Now I live in the Bay Area of Northern California where the local news has been dominated by the the killing of a young man by an escaped tiger at the San Francisco Zoo. (If you want to know more about this terrible event, just go here to the San Francisco Chronicle and type in "tiger zoo" in their search field--numerous news stories will appear for you to read)

A few weeks before this, a friend had asked me to go to the zoo with her--and I had replied, "I'm sorry, just can't go to a a zoo. I feel the animal's pain too much at a zoo." I have only been to zoos 4 times in my life--I stopped going when I saw a caged grizzley bear who had worn deep impressions in the cement by pacing back and forth in front of his enclosure. I remember thinking--"That bear really wants out, he is trying to tell us he wants out," and then I felt the bear's despair flow through me. I left in tears.

In 2004, a study by Oxford University in England concluded that large, long-ranging carnivores like lions and tigers suffer horribly in captivity and show signs of serious neurotic behavior. I would conclude from what I saw that day that bears also become neurotic when caged up by humans. Have we outgrown the zoo? Zoos are essentially a 19th century left over, and now many zoos exploit the caged animals for human's entertainment. This tiger had been subjected to daily "public feedings" where its food was withheld until it growled--to please the human audience. Is it any wonder the tiger was angry at humans? and killed at the first opportunity it had?



As a child in Alaska, I learned to hunt the wild animals for food. I regularly accompanied my father on hunting trips. We ate the wild game we shot, but we were also taught to never wantonly kill or waste what we harvested. We were taught to have respect for all animal life; we were taught that if you were respectful of bears, you would be safe. This meant we were taught about bear behavior and habits and also proper behavior and the actions we should take if we encountered a bear. We were taught reverence for the wild animals of the woods and sea, since they provided us with our daily food. Our dinner prayers always thanked the animals for providing our dinner.

In our current culture, most people do not even think about the animal or where it came from when they consume meat---nor do they thank the animal for providing their meal. Most people are so disconnected from the natural world that they never consider where their food comes from, or what tree was cut to make the paper towels they use.


I lived for over 20 years in the Alaskan "bush" where all the items we needed to survive were flown in (if we did not make them ourselves), which forced me to consider the origin of almost everything I purchased. In the bush, neccessity was often the mother of invention---if we needed some practical item to survive--often we made it ourselves from local raw materials. For example, during this time of my life I taught myself to spin wool, weave and make clothing and rugs, and baked 4 loaves of bread every week. These experiences only deepened my respect for our Earth and for human ingenuity---and I formed a reverence for all life. I believe until we all return to a place where we have reverence for all life, we will not heal our Earth and solve the "environmental crisis" our planet is now having.

Note: The art above is my Love Our Earth Perpetual Calendar. The top layer spins so you may choose which animal graces which month of the year. Created on archival museum board with gouache, colored pencils, pen, and copper foil.

The photo is one I shot while visiting my sister in Alaska---this is the trail leading to her cabin.

9 comments:

storyteller said...

Hi - I followed the link from Creative Everyday and found this post of interest. Your perspective is one each of us needs to consider in terms of our own consumption. One of my goals lately has been to simplify my surroundings and get rid of excess "stuph" ... passing what's useful along to those in need ... for it seems the older I get the less I have use for. It's nice to meet you. I'll return when time permits.
Hugs and blessings,

Sarita said...

Wow! I give you my personal kudos for best post of the day, my dear. You've hit every nail right on the head with this one. You lived the life I strive to live and I like you weep for that poor, poor tiger. Thank you so much for this thoughtful post...and the wonderful path to your sisters. If you visit my blog, I have a similar picture taken here in Oregon on one of our excursions. I think it is the first picture on the first post. Its one of my favorite pics because of the intrigue...that path could lead anywhere, the skys the limit, but you know its going to be awesome at the end...:)
http://www.thelaughingparrot.blogspot.com/

Aurora said...

Hello Storyteller, and welcome to my blog! last year I took a pledge at the new year to not buy anything new for 6 months---that sure made me more aware of my patterns of consumption. I'm still a packrat (of mostly used stuff) if i think it will someday go into artwork...

And Sarita--thanks for the positive feedback on this post! I like the photo of the path in the woods so much,I use it as my screen saver.

bettymountaingirl said...

I agree with you on your post today. I have always struggled at zoos myself and believe that if you really love birds than you shouldn't keep them in cages. I'm sure you have read this book but if you haven't check out Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv. He really speaks to these ideas as well. In fact he spends a good deal of time talking about our disconnect with nature and our food.

Aurora said...

hello bettymountin girl---thanks for the book recommendation--I will check this out (I do work part time in a bookstore;-)I had that same reaction to "pet" birds--in a cage as a child.

Kelly M said...

I tried to leave Alaska last year. I was miserable. There's no wild left in the woods where I was...no ravens taunting the dog as we walked.

freebird said...

I feel sorry for the tiger. This zoo has been around for a long time. Makes me wonder what the young men did to make the tiger take the leap; it had to be something.

I remember reading a story about some native nomadic people (I think of Iceland but it was several years ago) who prayed for and gave thanks to the animal and it's soul for sustaining their lives with it's life. I thought that was so profound I have never forgotten it. We "modern peoples" sure don't have it on them for respect and wisdom!

Carole said...

Aurora, It made me so happy to see that spot on the path which is just a short walk from my back door. We've had several inches of snow but the path is probably down to the ice by now as it raining. Moose go by daily over that way. And I love your perpetual calendar!

Gretchen said...

I love the photo - and your blog! I'll be back!